Thoughts, links & ideas from the 2008 National Teacher of the Year

Each time I've taken off in a plane since May (which is a lot), I've been writing in my journal, then adding these journal entries on this blog.

Check in often, or subscribe to get headlines fed to you! Oh, and the views expressed here are not those of anyone but me.  And anyone who happens to share the same views, I guess.

(Note: the blue posted dates are actually the dates I wrote the journal entries, not when I posted them online.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008



Here's the video clip of the segment I taped with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.  The DOE had sent me a list of the questions she was going to ask, so I actually sat down and carefully constructed responses to each one.  My answers were all subtle and respectful, but not beating around the bush about the issues.  Or beating around the Bush.

She ended up not asking any of the questions, and then they edited down the interview from 20 minutes to about 5 (which I was aware of beforehand) and chose to use my worst answer.  Because I'm an expert on how to get teachers into hard to staff schools in the inner city.  Oh well.  I guess the consolation is that hardly anyone has ever heard of this show...

Oh, and by the way, the books on the shelves behind us are just facades.  Interesting.

Monday, May 12, 2008



I think after this gig is over I'm going to open a national chain called 'Rent-A-Child.'  I've realized that I'm pretty much dead without them.  They give me so much energy (and at the same time wear me out!)  I've noticed that while walking through airports, I light up when I see kids.  I think I need to pack one with me in my carry-on bag.

This morning I was hurtin'.  I need a good cup of Jo, or Aspen, or any little person under 4 1/2 feet tall.  Jon Quam [the NTOY director] just wasn't doin' it for me this morning.  But he did remind me that the quicker I get to the stories, the more passionate and memorable my message becomes.  It brings the kids along with me!

That's one thing they seem to be missing around the Dept. of Education: kids and their stories.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

30,000 feet

Seattle, WA

Leaving Seattle now.  It's been raining a bit here (surprise, surprise).  What's nice is that I know it will be sunny once we get above a few thousand feet.

I'm heading to the Department of Education in Washington DC to meet with Secretary Spellings and Assistant Secretary Ray Simon, and to tape a segment for the DOE's monthly TV show.  I watched a couple of episodes of it yesterday and was struck by how rosy a picture they paint of education in America and No Child Left Behind.  It was a bit like living at 30,000 feet.  Always sunny, and everything looks pretty clean and tidy.

But on the ground it can be a bit of a different picture.  Sometimes it's sunny, but sometimes it's raining.  What may look tidy and organized from up high is actually pretty messy on the ground.

But life isn't lived at 30,000 feet, and I wouldn't want to live there if I could.  Life should be a little bit messy.  We need the rain and the sunlight on our faces.  We need to have room to run, explore and dance.

This year I have the opportunity to experience the world of education from both up high and down low.  I'll get to see the big patterns and trends, and I will hopefully get to feel the sun and the rain.  I need to remain grounded, which means I need to be with children and educators as much as possible.  Only then can I be a true voice.

Does this plane have wings?

Redmond, OR

Lift off.  Our little puddle-jumper (we are heading to Seattle, after all) is a dual prop plane with the wings on top of the fuselage.  I remember the first time my son Aspen flew on a plane like this, he was a bit nervous.  After looking out the window at the tarmac, he flagged down a flight attendant and asked her, "excuse me, but I was just wondering... does this plane have any wings?"  He was used to looking down for the wings, not up!

I've been looking down for most of my education career.  My head has been down, focusing on my work in the trenches.  Now I have a chance to look up a bit, to the future, to the big picture.  I need to trust that the wings are there, and that I'll fly when I need to.