art, education, motivation, Personal Success

A Teacher Shortage, You Say?

Incomplete Monochrome  (need a white gel pen for detail work)


What could possibly be the effect should this continue?

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Solutions currently being considered implemented:

  • Hire teachers from abroad (Philippines);
  • Hire unqualified people;
  • Hire long-term substitute teachers;
  • Raise teacher pay



art, education, Personal Success

Education Research (cont’d)

Circle Doodle


This post is designed mainly to hold myself accountable for research. I hope you can glean something from it at the same time. The following are my notes from Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed”:



  1. Simon p. 19


Data has shown (for a long time) that executive function correlates with family income

But why?

    • Childhood poverty affects executive function (Cornell Univ., Gary Evans, Michelle Schamberg)
    • Working memory – ability to keep a bunch of facts in your head at the same time
    • “Simon” – children’s game
    • Kids in poverty for 10 years did worse than kids in poverty for 5
    • Evans and Schamberg also measured biological stress (They created their own allostatic load data) – BP, cortisol levels, body mass index, etc). Of kids when they were nine and then thirteen
    • When they factored out the allostatic load, poverty factor disappeared. Thus, it is not POVERTY that compromises exec-function abilities, it’s the STRESS that went with it!


  • Why is this important? Because in high school, college, and the workplace, life is filled with tasks where working memory is crucial to success.


  • Prefrontal cortex is more responsive to intervention than other parts – stays flexible into early adulthood.


  1. Mush


Early childhood – bodies and brains are most sensitive to effects of stress and trauma

Adolescence – can lead to most serious and long-lasting problems

The reason teenage years are most perilous: incentive processing system reaches full power while the cognitive control system isn’t matured until early 20s.


Thomas Gaston (“Mush”) kicked out and sent to Vivian E. Summers Alternative HS

He didn’t like it, but he did well

Until he carjacked someone

Potential sentence of 21 years was changed to 8 months of boot camp

Mush took his allostatic load and turned outward with violence (fighting, acting up in class). Some kids turn it inward (fear, anxiety, sadness, self-doubt).

Mush decided to “not care” after his 14 year old brother was shot and killed.

Social, economic and neurochemical factors are at play. A 10 year old vs. a 14 year old: we sympathize with the 10 year old.


  1. LG


There is an antidote to the ill effects of childhood stress!

Good parenting.

It is biochemical.

Michael Meaney (McGill University)

Rats and mothering – some were nurturing, others not.

“LG” – Licking and Grooming (High vs. Low)

It is not necessarily the biological mother, but the REARING mother’s behavior that counts.


  1. Attachment


“Methylation” – the way certain chemicals are affixed to certain sequences on DNA

Showed that subtle parenting behaviors had predictable and long-lasting DNA-related effects

  • Researchers studied brains of suicide victims – some had childhood abuse, some did not
  • Showed that childhood abuse affected DNA
  • Clancy Blair (NYU) is reinforcing the finding that high-quality mothering can act as a powerful buffer to abuse
  • Regular good parenting – being helpful and attentive – can make a profound difference for a child’s future prospects.
  • “Attachment Theory” (Bowlby and Ainsworth) 1960s and 70s – The Strange Situation: mothers would bring a child into a room, and then leave and then return. The children who greeted their mothers warmly and enthusiastically were “securely attached”. Those children who reacted with tears or anger were “anxiously attached.”
  • Ainsworth: Reactions were directly related to degree of responsiveness in first year of life.
  • “Early attachment created psychological effects that could last a lifetime.”




  • Waters and Sroufe – set up a Child Development Institute with Egeland
  • Studied 267 pregnant poor women (all first-time moms, 80% white, ⅔ unmarried, 50% teens)
  • Tracked them for 30 years
  • The Development of the Person – book is fullest evaluation of long-lasting effects of parental involvement on child’s development (2005)
  • Found: attachment theory was not absolute – sometimes anxious babies could overcome, BUT it is highly predictive of outcomes later in life
  • Anxiously attached children are more often labeled mean, antisocial and immature


  1. Parenting Interventions


Lieberman (Child Trauma Research Program at UCSF)

Believes two important ideas missing from Sroufe and Egeland study:

  1. Plainly difficult for some mothers to provide secure attachments in overwhelming life circumstances (poverty, violence, mother’s own childhood history)
  2. Parents can overcome their own histories of trauma and can change their approach but most will need help.

Lieberman’s work focuses on strengthening bond between parent and child

  • Dante Cicchetti used Lieberman’s work and took 137 families with histories of child maltreatment. Half were given a year of parent-child psychotherapy the other half given the standard community services. When children were 2, 61% of the children in psychotherapy formed secure attachment.
  • His study proves that attachment-promoting therapies work.
  • Dozier, of ABC, shows that even if just the parent receives the therapy, children benefit


  1. Visiting Makayla


Makayla – a study in focusing on mother/child attachment.


  1. Steve Gates


“There is a very direct correlation between family issues and what the kids present in school.” The focus on creating family attachments where there are none (in Roseland, for example), have many setbacks, but inspirations form and lead to success.


  1. Keitha Jones


Father was a “player” and mother addicted to cocaine.

Sexually molested in sixth grade – didn’t tell mom, afraid mom would blame her

Got angrier and angrier and took it out at school – caused fights

Got a mentor in Lanita Reed, a hair salon owner

Developed a “big sister” bond with Keitha – teaching her about manicures, pedicures, hair…

“My whole outlook on life changed” Keitha said

Instead of fighting, asked Reed what to do about girls picking on her at school

They arranged a talk and it worked – everything was resolved.

Sexual molester started touching Keitha’s sister and Keitha felt guilt – did not want her sister to be removed from home.

Reed arranged to have the man removed from the home.

Mother was not supportive (lost $300 in rent)

Keitha: “I’m not going to let my past affect my future.”

Determined to graduate, she took night classes five days a week

June 2011, she graduated and attended Truman College, a community college

“Five years from now, I picture myself in my own apartment with my own money…and my little sisters, they can live with me.”



art, education, motivation, Personal Success

Risk Factors in Learning

Day 27 of 31 Daily Painting Challenge (

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

[a summary of pages 1 – 20]

ACE Score (Adverse Childhood Experiences) – A risk factor assessment for identifying childhood traumatic incidences. This score provides a probability factor for academic success/failure (as well as life success). You can take the quiz here.  

There is evidence that scoring high on ACE can prove detrimental for life, even if the “victim” does not engage in any self-destructive behavior. 

One shocking statistic: “ACE scores of 6 were 30x more likely to attempt suicide than ACE scores of 0.”

Funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars and replacing teaching and administrative staff are not successful strategies for improving schools. Take Fenger High School in Chicago, for example. They tried every possible strategy from replacing staff to creating a technology program. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even financed them with a $21 million grant. Two years later, little to no results. 

What works? Well, stay tuned.  I will post summaries of my research every Sunday afternoon.










Personal Success


I assigned my 5th graders Powerpoint presentations on the early settlers (New England, Middle Colony, Southern Colony) and the rubric included a MAXIMUM of 5 words per slide.

“Ideally, you will choose an image that represents your topic for the slide – consider a primary source, such as a drawing – and then add key words that will remind you of the content for that slide,” I instructed.


“Five words? Only five words?” They asked.

“Yes. Key words to remind you of what to say.”

Because who wants to read paragraphs on a slide?

They went to work, buzzing like angry bees. This would require them to know the material very well.

The kids had a major cow over this.


But they delivered expertly!


motivation, Personal Success

Set Your Mind to It

Photo by Annie Spratt

When I was five and my sister was four, our babysitter watched us coloring in our coloring books. Where my sister stayed within the lines, I colored slightly (OK, maybe not so slightly) outside the lines. “JoAnne colors nicely and Caroline needs to work on that a little bit.” Her sarcasm was not lost on me, even then.

This bit of criticism colored my world (pardon the pun!) “I am not a good artist.” This was just something I accepted for many years. But I’ve always longed to draw and paint. For someone with no formal art education, I think I am pretty OK. I think I can improve and I very much want to improve.

Thanks to Carol Dweck, we can all sigh optimistically now.

For eons, people believed in the “Fixed Mindset”  – that talents are innate and readily apparent; Believers assert that one should avoid mistakes and failures. In fact, if you find yourself failing at something, people who adopt the “fixed mindset” philosophy say you ought to just quit, because clearly, it’s not for you.

But Dweck, one of the leading researchers of motivation, discovered the truth about achievement and learning: The Growth Mindset. She says you learn from mistakes. You grow! Intelligence and talent are developed and in order to be successful, you must make mistakes. Clearly, this is true. The Wright brothers did not discover how to create a plane on the first attempt and Edison did not discover the light bulb on his first try, either. One needs to make mistakes to learn, grow and achieve.

Growth Mindset believers say “yet”  is the magic word. I can’t draw well yet, but with consistent practice and quality education, I will!

Check out her website: It includes a test to determine where you are on the mindset continuum and ways to change it.

I’m going to start drawing lessons (free) on Go Growth Mindset!










Health, Personal Success

Why I Became a Teacher

Joe Shillington

When I was eight years old, my teacher, Ms. Meretta, told my mother I was one of the hardest working kids she had ever had. Until then, no adult had ever said anything positive about me. Really. My parents were concerned that I showed no genius academically. They compared me to other kids (always unfavorably). My other teachers were either distracted by personal problems, or they just seemed mean (maybe they weren’t, but they seemed unapproachable). One teacher said she liked me, but I rushed through my work too quickly to get to the “book table.” I liked reading too much.

I loved Ms. Meretta. I worked even harder after her comment to my mom. But this time, I worked hard not just for myself..but for Ms. Meretta, too.

When I was a young adult, I worked as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. It was a fun and rewarding job. I loved the energy the kids brought each day. I loved thinking of fun activities and working with them. I laughed every day. I laughed every hour.

I’ve held different jobs but none have had the creative opportunities or the intrinsic rewards of teaching. One of my favorite gifts from a student was a short letter. I had recommended him to go to a school for high-achieving students. He had older siblings who attended a school closer to his home. He always assumed he’d follow their footsteps. It was easy to hold the fastest track time there. It was easy to be the best student. I told him I knew he would succeed at the Academy, a school that was more rigorous and offered both Spanish and Mandarin. “Besides,” I told him. “if you go and you don’t like it, you can always go to the other school.” He went to the Academy and he loved it. He wrote a letter thanking me because he’s so happy and he’s learning so much. His younger sister now attends the Academy, too.

Helping kids is endlessly rewarding.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I wish the media and politicians would stop with the negative talk about teachers and public education. Why pick on educators? Of course not every single teacher is highly qualified, but not every doctor, nurse, accountant, or politician is, either. For every lousy teacher you hear about, there are easily 1,000 fantastic teachers. I’ve had to handle a sixth grade student who slashed her peers with a razor. I’ve had to handle a fourth grade student who crapped his pants every week. I’ve had to handle students who complained of verbally abusive parents and who cried of hunger.

I teach in Arizona. We rank absolutely LAST in teacher pay. Last! 

I did not go into teaching for the money and I will never expect the pay to equal the work or expertise.

My reward is working with the children. Yes, we get summer break, but most of my teacher friends will hold a second job (teach summer school, drive Uber Lyft, etc.) to make ends meet in June and July.

Did you know…

  • Teachers must get a fingerprint card renewed regularly and they pay for it.
  • Teachers must get recertified and they must pay for it.
  • Most teachers pay for school supplies for their students.

Let’s stand behind teachers who work to help students.