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Faces of Learning — Portland, Maine

On October 14, hundreds of Mainers came together for an evening of storytelling, in conjunction with the Faces of Learning campaign. To hear the stories yourself, visit this link and scroll down for direct links to each of the featured storytellers. Want to organize something similar in your community? Visit our “Events” page for some tips and then keep us posted so we can celebrate your success!

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E Pluribus Pluribus?

It’s not even Noon, and nine-year-old Harvey is already back on the floor. His three tablemates, their efforts at independent reading on hold, watch and wait for Ms. Serber to arrive and restore order. Harvey’s pear-shaped body writhes on the floor, animated by neither malice nor mischief. He chews absent-mindedly on his silver necklace and gazes at the ceiling until she arrives. “Let’s get up and get back into it,” Ms. Serber implores, her hand gently rubbing his back to coax him up to the table. After a few minutes, Harvey picks his book back up, and Ms. Serber resumes scanning the faces of her other twenty-eight 3rd graders to assess their needs. Mid-morning light cuts across her eighty-year-old classroom from the large windows that line the west wall, casting strips of shadow on the homemade plates to which each child attaches a clothespin to register his or her daily mood: sad, angry, worried, frustrated, frightened, excited, bored, happy. This morning – most mornings – most pins clasp the same plate: sleepy. Nearby, a reed-thin boy named Elliott keeps working. Pale and quiet, his hair still bearing the shape of last night’s sleep, Elliott is an avid reader; this summer

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The Many Faces of Thea

It wasn’t until the end of her tragically short life that Thea Leopoulos first discovered the depth of her talent as an artist. A buoyant, beautiful girl with dark eyebrows and sharp brown eyes, Thea spent her childhood believing the experts who first told her, back in third grade, she was unworthy of acceptance to the local program for “gifted and talented” children. Since then, Thea had struggled in her coursework and felt uninspired by a stream of classes that focused too much on academics, and not enough on other forms of learning, like the arts. Then, in her junior year of high school, she produced a finger-painted portrait of B.B. King and removed any doubt of whether or not she was talented. Soon after, her capacity to excel in every area of her life changed dramatically. She had discovered a new source of confidence and calm. She had found her path. A few months later, she was killed by a drunk driver. Along with 400 others last week, I learned about Thea’s story at a statewide conference of Oklahoma educators titled Faces of Learning: The Power and Impact of Engaging Curious Minds. On hand was Thea’s father, Paul, who

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How Many Sacred Cows Does It Take to Sustain A Movement?

How do we transform the quality of teaching and learning in America? Like a lot of people, I’ve been wrestling with that riddle for the bulk of my career. And this month, three separate events are making me wonder in a new way about how to bring about such a shift – and sustain such a movement. The first two were meetings that represented parallel, powerful constituencies and ideas – an Imagination Summit hosted by the Lincoln Center Institute in New York City; and an Empathy in Action working group, hosted by Ashoka in Washington, DC. At each gathering, I heard stories and insights from some of the world’s most influential thinkers – from Sir Ken Robinson to Deepak Chopra to Kiran Bir Sethi. I heard compelling cases for helping our education system become more effective at ensuring that all children become empathetic, and develop the ability to think imaginatively, act creatively, and behave innovatively. And I left feeling impressed by the energy and the motivation that was driving each group to push its work forward. In a few days, I’ll also be attending the Save Our Schools (SOS) March, a grassroots-led movement of teachers and parents from across the

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What DC Can Teach Us About New Teacher Policies

This weekend, an article in my local paper crystallized three things we need to stop doing if we want to transform American public education for the long haul – and three things we should start doing instead. 1. STOP having a national debate about labor law; START having a national conversation about how people learn. The article I’m referring to was written in response to the July 15, 2011 announcement that 206 teachers in the D.C. public school system had been fired for poor performance, “a rarity in a big city school system and an extension of former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s aggressive drive to upgrade classroom instruction in the nation’s capital.” Indeed. For the past four years, ever since Ms. Rhee first took the helm of the D.C. public school system (DCPS), the tenor of our national conversation (and my local one) has been squarely fixed on teachers, on teacher evaluations, and on the role teachers unions have played in our ongoing efforts to guarantee each child an equal opportunity to a high-quality public education. On one level, this makes sense: teachers are clearly the most significant in-school factor to a healthy learning environment for kids; teacher evaluations are

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