Category: TEACHING

Great #BOOKTok

This 4 minute listen is an inspiring story about the work it takes to get better at reading. Oliver James ( was willing to put himself out there to share his journey from illiteracy to becoming an avid reader. He compares it to exercise/fitness training. 

Even though I’m a visual art teacher, not a language arts teacher I encourage all my students to force themselves to read no matter how much they hate it or how difficult it is for them. Reading is the #1 way to learn. I’ve also begged parents to read to their kids. It’s a cycle; The more you do it, the better you get at it, the easier it is for you, the less you hate it, the less you hate it, the more you enjoy it… etc. etc 

I encourage all of you to listen and share Oliver’s story. Former students need to know that rather than be embarrassed by their poor reading skills and devaluing reading for their kids, they can overcome their deficits and then help their children’s teachers (you) help their children. Current students, esp. 6-12 need to recognize how much powerful and less gullible reading makes them and how valuable it is even if they think it’s boring or hard and as Oliver James says in this interview, it’s easier to learn and build skills when you’re in school than it will be as an adult.

And finally (and I need to do this myself, I’m not being an elitist, judgemental snob, I’ve become really lazy about this, honestly) WE ALL NEED to be disciplined about reading every day and promoting & encouraging reading with our students- even Art, Music, PE, & Math. Reading is learning. There’s very little other critical thinking like analysis, interpretation, synthesis and application without reading.

I bet it takes you less time to listen to this interview than it did to read this email. I DARE you to resolve to make reading matter.


Surf Report

I’m not a computer science teacher or a technology integrationist, but I’ve been trying to use computers in my classes ever since I started teaching in 1990something. My awesome new Superintendent let me attend a great conference this week that our IT Director recommended. I’m really glad I did. I need to make a plan for how I’ll use at least some of what I learned in order to get teaching license renewal credit, but meanwhile (if only to process so much information in my own brain) I put together this list of apps & ideas that I shared with the rest of the faculty at our school. Like most things I write, I’m making a blog post out of it. I hope some other teachers find it useful. If you’re a teacher or a tech specialist, please share one or some of your favorite apps in the comments.

Hello All, I know I’m not Ben or Jeremy, but Shelly & I (Ted)  got a chance to attend the ITEC Fall ‘22 Conference in Des Moines this past Mon & Tues and I thought that I’d share a few thoughts and a few apps with you. If you already use them cool, if you don’t need them, cool, if they’re just what you may have been looking for- great!

Lots of us have been disappointed by conferences or annoyed by sessions that don’t seem to prove applicable for our area. I’ve been there, I feel your cynicism, but I really enjoyed this one and felt like there was a lot to glean. They call it a Tech & Ed ”Connection,” because they really wanted to offer something for K-12 and all disciplines, not just for HS Computer Sci teachers, IT Directors like Shelly or Administrators. I recommend it to everyone. I came away with at least a little professional boost, anyway. Sometimes it’s good to get to be a student again instead of having to be a teacher, at least for a day or two. Not to mention it’s an easy license renewal credit!

Website or AppApplications, Summary or Commentary
https://coffeeforthebrain.comAaron Maurer, STEM Lead for 21 school districts in Iowa helping to expand STEM, Computer Science, Authentic Learning, and Purposeful Play into classrooms K-12 for the Mississippi Bend AEA 9Reminded us that kids need to be taught creativity & mental elasticity (neural plasticity?) In other words, don’t just teach them your subject matter, teach them to become learners. He called it making them “robot proof,” neither becoming a mere robot nor being replaceable by automation because you are so adaptable as a self-learner.
Canva for TeachersCanva for Teachers Inspire learning through the power of visual communication and collaboration with Canva for Education. It’s 100% free for K12 teachers and their students.Not only can you use Canva to create graphics to use on your worksheets & lessons, but you can use it to CREATE worksheets & lessons and so much more. PLUS- you can create “classes” on Canva so that your students can create things for you as part of a lesson. I bet some of you Millennials or GenZ teachers knew about this already.I’m so old, I used Adobe InDesign back when it was called Aldus PageMaker! Now it’s not “desk-top publishing” its “social marketing” on your phone- I gotta catch up.Maybe we should use this in Yearbook class.
https://www.commonsensemedia.orgCommon Sense Media Innovative, Digital Citizenship Curriculum & resources covering key areas like media choices, digital equity, digital literacy, & tech accountability
https://eduvolve.webflow.ioEduVolve is an EdTech company that design games and adaptive tools for learning. We build unique, flexible and adaptable educational aids that allows every single child access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities (in AFRICA!).
Flip (f/k/a Flipgrid)Flip (formerly Flipgrid) is a video discussion and video sharing app, free from Microsoft, built for classrooms and beyond. Learn more. It’s great for having kids respond to prompts as a formative assessment- especially if they’re afraid to speak in front of their classmates; like a spoken book report vs. typed. It works from Chromebook or phone. They’ve made some updates so that it’s more versatile. Teachers can now use it to leave feedback for students on assignments.
History with DoodlesHistory with Doodles by Brett Comegy & Angie Love; Of course I’d love this, being a double major in Art & Hist/Soc.Stu. I’ve been trying to train 6-8th graders in a thing called “SketchNoting” for years. Research says that it increases engagement, relevancy, comprehension & retention. These two don’t show students how to do it & hope they will. They do it with their MS History students step-by-step and have seen marked improvement on both unit and state standardized testing. Makes me wish I still taught Civics. Guess I’m gonna have to use it for color theory, elements & principles of design or some Art History. PLEASE- you don’t have to have ANY drawing skills. Watch one or two of their videos and see if you’d like to try it once or twice for English, Science, whatever your discipline. It’s basically a graphic organizer that you create with kids instead of having them fill out a worksheet. Engage more of their brain. Brett & Angie started it to help reach kids with language & comprehension struggles (ELL, low comprehension scores, trauma/poverty backgrounds etc.) Goes without saying I’m sold on it.
JamBoardJamBoard is one of the Google apps, like Docs, Slides and Sheets. It’s a collaborative tool like a virtual white board where kids can leave comments, pictures etc. Great for think-pair-shares & discussion or writing prompts. Chamberlain is a former Art teacher who’s now a tech consultant & tech librarian for Iowa City Schools She offered a ton of simple design tips for non designers & non art teachers. She also introduced us to many of the new features and uses for the new free teacher program on Canva.
Lindsay Zilly, IDEA; Director of Professional Learning Tinley Park, IL
(She’s Sketchnoter! I thought I was the only person that knew about that) She spoke about ENGAGEMENT which is a huge component of learning. Turns out some AEAs have more dynamic speakers than Green Hills.
#usetech4goodMarisa Dahl, Heartland AEA; Digital Learning Consultant highlighted need of Digital Citizenship, Remembering to be human, Considering practical, appropriate applications, teaching “appropriate use” practices as procedures for classroom teachers & healthy uses for all ages. One of the thing she discussed was helping kids use features of their phones or chromebooks to help them become more organized or with time managements and tasks (great for those with ADHA). 
MoteMote is the audio toolkit for educators and learners across the world – integrated into products we already use like Google Docs. It’s highly recommended for ELL & Foreign Language, but can also be used for feedback, special notes of instruction or explanation, not to mention differentiation & struggling readers. I kinda wondered if some of you Elem folks had already tried this one. It sounded pretty popular at the conference.
https://screentime.meScreentime Research Group; seeking to learn more about the topic of screentime in our lives and society.
ShapeGramsShapeGrams This former 5th grade teacher had either too much caffeine or too much enthusiasm for me, be that as it may, I am thinking of trying these out with 6th & 7th graders. Basically he teaches kids how to make their own clipart out of the shape tools in either Google Draw or Google Slides. He’s got tons of tutorial videos and instruction pages already set up to help. Needless to say, as an Art teacher I’d prefer to teach them to draw but this does introduce kids to SO many manual skills that they’ll use in TONS of other apps & programs- plus it builds persistence. Great for 2-7 at least, maybe older. Not just as an Art thing, but maybe a “down-time” thing like a reward for finishing early or an indoor recess thing. 
Google SlidesSlides Go to File and find Page Setup, go ahead, I’ll wait- DID YOU REALIZE that you can change the size and format? If you make it 8×10, suddenly this doesn’t have to be a slideshow. It can be a wicked-easy tool for creating posters, worksheets, vocab lists, etc. What’s more, if you make a map or a PDF of a worksheet your background- and then attach/share in Schoology under Google attachments- students can fill in the…. Slides continued… blanks on Slides with the text tool or move manipulatives like text boxes you pre-create for them. #MindBlown. My Dudes, if you’re afraid of Canva or Photoshop but you’re used to using Slides- the sky’s the limit. Make newsletters, cards, almost anything you can dream up! (or that your students can dream up)
ScreenCastifyYou may have heard about ScreenCastify back back during the shutdowns when we were using Zoom. Now they have a free Chrome extension. I thought it was for demonstration videos or to record lectures or lessons, but presenters encouraged us to us it as a convenient form of informal feedback, or even having students use it like Flipgrid. 

Finally, if you want more ideas or a way to connect with other teachers trying to incorporate, integrate or implement technology into your classroom, consider joining the Iowa Computer Science Teachers Association– it’s free, gives you access to all kinds of articles, ideas & resources. Most importantly, it’s not just for CS or IT teachers, or even for STEM or Business teachers- it’s for ALL teachers. Of course, if you happen to teach a tech class or two, like PTLW, Programming, HTML, Yearbook, Digital Photography, Commercial Art… it makes sense.

Sharing your Classroom Lending-Library

Fellow Teachers,

This Summer I discovered a great new free app for organizing your classroom lending-library. I know, who has time? It actually doesn’t take a lot since it allows you to scans the book’s UPC code from your phone. 

Whether you’re interested in trying it for yourself or not, I ALSO wanted to use it to offer up 29 years of books about teaching, especially for any of you new to our profession. Browse the “Teacher Ed.” section of my classroom library at Let me know what you’d like to do borrow and I’ll put it in your mailbox or the brown envelope to Dow City, or come on by the Art room and grab it yourself. 

Frankly, since we’re talking about 3 decades of Teacher/Ed, I might even be open to selling, trading or gifting some of them. (SOME of them).

Meanwhile, look at some of the other 16+ categories at, I have books on Art (obviously), Art Education (for K-5 teachers who want something), Photography, Graphic Design & Journalism (for Business or English/ELA types), Psychology, Philosophy, general Literature etc. etc. 

Just because I’m not an English/ELA or Reading teacher, I believe that literacy & reading make all our other disciplines possible and, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I want to do what I can to encourage and promote reading for kids. Hopefully my English/ELA colleagues will be okay with my sharing my extensive Comics & Graphic Novel categories with students!

Have a great Semester everybody; Happy “New Year!”

5 Things that are Essential for Learning

All these & reading. I like to tell kids that there are two kinds of people in the world; those who THINK they know it all, and those that know better. You can always learn at every age, from everyone you meet- but only if you’re willing.

However, just going through the motions doesn’t won’t teach you anything. Copying, cheating or finding shortcuts only teach you how to get away with not having to learn. I can’t tell you how many kids would just watch TV on their phones all day if we let them.

It’s fine to “normalize” going to trade school or getting a job or joining the military after high school rather than going to a 4-year college so long as we also normalize loving learning, making an effort in K-12 school and reading. Too many kids don’t take school seriously and feel like it’s not important to even try in school. How can we as communities & parents work to change this?

I can tell you most teachers bend over backwards to help their students, but part of their burnout is caring more than the people they’re trying to help.

Art is for EVERYONE

User-uploaded Content
The four ‘aesthetic viewpoints,’
or reasons we make art.

Teaching the Whole Artist

There are many reasons to make art. Four of the most obvious are to show things, to arrange and design things, to share feelings or experiences and as a tool to communicate. 

I hope that by helping students see that there are qualities in any artwork that don’t just represent images, but also structural/design qualities, expressive qualities, and technical qualities, they can see that Art isn’t only for those who already have expert drawing skills.

I also hope that they can see that there are skills and concepts to be learned from visual art that are useful in every other class and every vocational field. Art teaches kids to observe, plan, organize, reflect, contemplate, think, scrutinize and make decisions. Learning about Art helps you learn about anything and Art lessons make for better business people, engineers, health care professionals, scientists, mechanics, farmers, entrepreneurs, writers and thinkers.

The 4 DBAE Art Disciplines

Visual Literacy

Learning to Look
& Learning to See

The learning cycle I tend to follow in most of my classes reflects what the J.Paul Getty Institute in Los Angeles used to promote as “Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE).” 

We follow the four basic “Art Diciplines” in order to learn through Art History & Appreciation,  the study of Aesthetics (Design),  Art Making, and Art Criticism. Students are introduced to important artists, artworks, and styles or movements throught history and how culture effects art and how art effects society. We learn about the Elements and Principles of Design and the “Design Process” of problem solving. These aren’t just things that artists use, but are applicable in all kinds of areas of school, life, and work.

Of course we apply what we learn to making art ourselves. I try my best to model this for students by creating with them, not just especting them to make artworks themselves. In Middle School “Exploratory” classes we survey a variety of media; drawing, painting, collage and computers. High School courses tend to be more focused on specific media; Drawing, Painting, Ceramics, Photography, Commercial Art, and Yearbook.

NAEA’s 4 Anchor Standards

Higher Standards

Process vs. Product; National Standards,
but Individual Attention

One of the benefits of teaching at a small community school is the lower student-to-teacher ratios we have. As a membber of the National Art Education Association (NAEA), I have access to current research and important trends in Art and Art Education. I try to integrate their recommended benchmarks on Creating Art, Presenting Art, Responding to Art and Connecting Through Art into my curriculum as much as I can but without losing sight of the learning needs and styles of our local community, each class and particular students.

I think that may be why I try to have the more holistic, and nurturing approach that I do, rather than a more aggressively competitive one. It all goes back to something one of my Art professors at Concordia University, NE once told me. Nebraska artist, Reinhold Marxhausen had been on ‘Late Night’ with David Letterman several times for his amazing sound sculptures, including the popular “stardust” metal stones that made ethereal sound like futuristic music. He taught us that Art isn’t just for famous painters, photographers or celebrity inventors (like himself). “Art is for everybody,” he said. From the farm kid in small town Minnesota like him, to Preschoolers, to adults in office cubicles, to the elderly in nursing homes.

That”s what I try to remember and that’s what I try to remind my students. Drawing isn’t just for photo-realists, it’s a thinking tool. Painting isn’t just for impressionists, it’s for anyone looking to relax or work through their personal issues. And especially these days, photography and graphic design aren’t just for professionals, they’re for anyone trying to communicate, plan, market or promomte something for themselves or their communities.

Art is for Everyone

We all need Art and ANYONE can “Art.” Why not make Art a verb instead of just a noun? It’s not for the privileged few. It’s for all of us. It’s not something to collect or own, it’s something to do and a way to be. Each student is, after all, a work of art.

Ode to Art Education

ODE; A kind of poem devoted to the praise of a person, animal, or thing. 

O.D.E.S.; A way to reflect on and gauge your growth and improvement as an artist.

For any given sketchbook entry,
you may focus on any one,
a combination or all four areas.

FDR & Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms

In the famous conclusion of his January 1941 speech, FDR named four “essential human freedoms”—freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship as one chooses, freedom from fear (of armed aggression, for example), and freedom from want (for destabilizing “social and economic problems,” he pointed out, had birthed the appalling political movements that now threatened American security). In each case the president pointedly added that these freedoms must prevail everywhere in the world.

Each year before Thanksgiving, I have students listen to a portion of FDR’s Speech.


What Do Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms Mean to You? Consider Norman Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms paintings, then interpret each of FDR’s 4 freedoms for yourself, your own way.

Choose just one, or all four. Use large paper (12×16). I permit students to choose whether or not they want to use paint, colored pencil, or marker to color their posters once they’ve drawn them, depending on the age level, teachers can customize this to be full-blown paintings, collages, digital collages, or just sketchbook or art journal prompts.

At one time, I taught both 8th Grade Civics and 8th Grade Art- obviously this is a great way to integrate disciplines or develop cross-curricular projects. History/Social Studies students (including HS, not just MS) could analyze the text of the speech before creating an artwork. When I taught Civics, I liked to have students scan Eleanor Roosevelt’s preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) for influence of or allusion to her late husband’s speech.

Excerpt from President Roosevelt’s 1941 Annual Message to Congress

September 2018 | CBS SUNDAY MORNING–Norman Rockwell’s The Four Freedoms Today

Grading Rubric

Objective/CriteriaGrading Scale
Subject & Elements of Design
(Careful Observation & Accurate Depiction of source materials)
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Formal Principles of Design
(Arrangement of elements effectively capture, maintain and direct attention of viewers)
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Content, Meaning & Impact Invoke Mood, Feeling Evoke Memories, Associations Provoke Reactions, Thought, Discussion, Action
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Improving with or adapting to materials used.
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1Needs Improvement
Engaging, Persisting, Planning, EXPRESSION, Observing, Reflection, & Pushing yourself
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement


  • VA:Cr1.2.8a – Collaboratively shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art and design.
  • VA:Cr2.1.8a – Demonstrate willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, and meanings that emerge in the process of art-making or designing.
  • VA:Cr2.3.8a – Select, organize, and design images and words to make visually clear and compelling presentations.
  • VA:Cr3.1.8a – Apply relevant criteria to examine, reflect on, and plan revisions for a work of art or design in progress.
  • VA:Re7.1.8a – Explain how a person’s aesthetic choices are influenced by culture and environment and impact the visual image that one conveys to others.
  • VA:Re7.2.8a – Compare and contrast contexts and media in which viewers encounter images that influence ideas, emotions, and actions.
  • VA:Re8.1.8a – Interpret art by analyzing how the interaction of subject matter, characteristics of form and structure, use of media, art-making approaches, and relevant contextual information contributes to understanding messages or ideas and mood conveyed.
  • VA:Cr2.3.IIa – Redesign an object, system, place, or design in response to contemporary issues.

4 Aesthetic Viewpoints

Some people think that the only art that is any good is art that looks likes something. The recon the more realistic it looks, the better art it is.

That’s fine if that’s your personal taste, but you’re 1) missing out on a ton of great art which isn’t realist, 2) you probably assume that you can’t make art yourself because you don’t have the skill to perfectly replicate everything you see and 3) why do we need people to draw or paint anymore because we all have cameras on our phones so ANYONE can capture perfectly realistic images without knowing diddly about art.

Just like there’s more purposed to shoes than keeping you feet warm, more purposes to cars than getting from home to work and more purposes to food than just nutrition, there is a whole lot more to art than just accurately depicting things you see.

A short list of purposes might go something like this

  • SUBJECT VIEW- These are realistic images. Their main purpose is depiction
  • COMPOSITION VIEW- The point here is arranging the elements of design (line, shape, color, space, value, & texture) using the principled of design (balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm, hierarchy, scale, unity & variety). In other words, the structure, the layout, the juxtaposition, the design is the thing. This is what Picasso was after with cubism. Mind you, compositional work may be realistic, but not only could it be abstract, it could even be non-objective, because the subject and object and action aren’t the important thing- how things are put together is the important thing. Consider instrumental music. Why do songs have to have lyrics? You can be an excellent designer without being able to draw your way out of a paper bag. But good design makes great art even better.
  • CONTENT VIEW- In Subject view the actors/models are the message- these are people, see the pretty people? In Composition view the media is the message- this is a painting, this is an artwork, see the shapes & colors? In “Content view,” the message is finally the message. The point of this artwork is the meaning, content, idea, concept, feeling, mood or experience that the artist is trying to share. Terry Redlands or Thomas Kincade may depict a tranquil, nostalgic or heart warming scene, but they paint a farmhouse, a cabin in the woods or deer nibbling on a snowman to share that mood, memory or moment. Mark Rothko just sits you in an empty room with a big indigo field and lets the color consume you and transport you to wherever your psyche thinks indigo is and lets indigo do whatever you conscienceless thinks indigo should do to you. Pop artists, Surrealists, expressionists and abstract-expressionists all manage to invoke mood, evoke memories and associations and provoke reactions with or without realistic imagery. Any of us can and should make art for catharsis sake, it’s very therapeutic. And again, realistic drawing skills help, but aren’t a prerequisite.
  • Then there’s UTILITARIAN ART- the art that we take for granted, often people don’t even think of it as art, yet it’s everywhere. In fact, in a post-literate, globalized, and hyper-visual world, this kind of art isn’t just ubiquitous. Frankly, it’s the kind of art that makes visual literacy vitally necessary. I chose to categorize it as a “utility” or tool rather than calling it “commercial” art, because so much of it, even if designed by a commercial artist, may have a public service function, not just a sales or marketing function. Icons, pictograms, placards, logos, labels etc. etc. etc. This doesn’t just include branding and packaging, but warnings and directions too. These are images who’s main function is to communicate quickly and effectively. You can argue that art in the “Content View” communicates too, but I would say that Content view Art is like fiction, poetry and theater, whereas Utility View art is more like non-fiction, news, or user manuals. It’s not about concepts or feelings, it’s about directions and labels.

So how do we expose students to a wider variety of aesthetic views? I put mine on an art appreciation, aesthetics & art criticism scavenger hunt.

Students are challenged to find artworks which fit into each of the four Aesthetic Views.

Insert them onto Google Slide pages and then complete a brief aesthetic scan about each artwork. To the best of your ability, also complete a museum style “credit line” for each artwork. Think about what you think is appealing or unappealing about each artwork, and include it in your four short paragraphs about each artwork.

Example; 4 Coffees

Example; Mr. Mallory’s Demo

Example; 4 of Mr. Mallory’s Former Student’s works

Example; 4 of Mr. Mallory’s own works

Three Women

In this assignment, 8th graders were supposed to demonstrate one of the #PrinciplesOfDesign with a “re-boot” of #davinci’s #MinaLisa. This is my teacher’s demo/example. Watch @bvartdogs & our #Artsonia gallery for student artworks & to read their artist statements, here’s mine:

The radial balance of the clouds and chapel (it looks more like a mesa) draw the viewer’s eyes into Mona Lisa as the central figure, but her side glance at Frida leads our eyes onto her instead.

Part of me was wishing that I had started Mona to the left instead of in the center, because once I added Frida Kahlo, the composition became unbalanced and I wasn’t sure how to fix that. I thought a lot about who or what to put on the left side. I asked students and one suggested adding a third person. Finally I found Georgia O’Keefe’s painting of the mission church in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. In a way, the church feels like a third figure, even though it’s a place rather than a person.

I think Frida Kahlo looks mischievous and maybe a little egocentric. I think that instead of an ambivalent smile, Mona Lisa’s whole face becomes ambivalent. I intended her to be looking skeptically at Frida, like “”what is up with you?”” But instead, I think she looks kind of charmed by Frida, more of a- “”alright, what are you up to?”” As if she’s “”game”” to be part of the mischief. I thought the chapel in the background would be neutral, or at most let you know this is Frida’s territory instead of Mona’s Italy- but I think it got too dark and seems sort of moody, as if things are about to get serious even though the women are both smiling.

Art teachers and historians who recognize the chapel as O’Keefe’s might think I’m trying to frame the famous model painted by a man by two woman artists, which I was.”

I’d give myself a B+ I’m not as happy with it as I thought I’d be. I don’t feel like their faces are quite the right proportions and the chapel looks too much like random mountains or mesas instead of looking exactly like O’Keefe’s painting- not that anyone can match her precision. I did receive positive comments from strangers on Instagram though, so maybe A-.

#artteachersofinstagram #arthistory #fridakahlo

An Open Letter to the (Future?) Secretary of Ed.

Ted Mallory

January 20, 2021

Dr. Jill Biden
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Mrs. Secretary,

I’ve been a middle school/high school educator for nearly thirty years. I believe that we desperately need to alter the direction of our schools in the United States. 

In our rush to standardize learning and testing and demand accountability from schools, we have created a hyper-competitive culture of intolerance for uncertainty, demand for comparison, and homogeneity. We rely on extrinsic, behavioral rewards and punishments, as if students were subhuman animals. These demands have exacerbated already crushing problems of inequity, inequality, discrimination and unrealistic expectations on children. 

Is it any wonder that our nations’ levels of anxiety and depression are reaching unprecedented levels? The Center for Disease Control cites a 2018 article in the ‘The Journal of Pediatrics,’ as reporting that the diagnosis by primary care providers of children aged 6–17 with anxiety disorders increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011.

Meanwhile, a push to privatize education in America promises to increase our racial, economic and ideological divides. According to a 2015 study by Stanford University’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, the proliferation of charter schools in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina led to an increase in “stratification of schools and segregation of students by ethnicity, socioeconomic status, special education designation, behavioral attributes, and neighborhood.” They even found a “decline in test scores by the stratified tiers of schools in the charter system, with the overwhelming majority of white students attending the top tier schools.” They also noticed that due to a variety of admissions requirements, “exclusion methods,” and state educational policies, instead of parents or students genuinely having “school choice,” schools were selecting or choosing not to admit students.

Before the advent of No Child Left Behind in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, what made the American public school system the envy of the world was our innovation and the creativity and individuality of our graduates. We need to return to the progressive education philosophies of the early twentieth century.  Our emphasis should be on nurturing and encouraging curiosity, flexibility, adaptability and a tolerance for ambiguity. Above all we have to find ways to instill intrinsic motivation in children. 

The Harvard Business Review reported on a 2018 study which concluded that “self-initiated and future-focused action to change oneself or the situation, can positively benefit individuals and organizations.” Employers aren’t looking for workers who can successfully answer standardized test questions They’re looking for creative problem solvers.

Just last week, I had lunch with an attorney for a major university hospital and a regional newspaper publisher. The lawyer had been mayor of a city of about 8,400. The publisher has a circulation of about 20,000. She recently became a U.S. citizen after coming here legally from Nicaragua nearly thirty years ago. He was born to affluent white parents in central Iowa. 

They both agree that a problem with both our schools is that we use nineteenth century methods to teach students how to live in the late twentieth century, when we need to be using twenty-first century methods to prepare kids for the twenty-second century.

Instead of an industrial-age, standardized, hierarchical, “assembly-line” model for schools we’ve been pursuing for decades suggested to us by political lobbyists and well intentioned billionaire philanthropists, we need to consider a community-based, organically organized model like the “agricultural” ecosystems suggested by Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D in his book ‘Creative Schools.’

Ironically our conservative, corporate, capitalist inspired model is based on command and control of administrators and governments. What we need are unique, adaptive, “climate controlled,” grass-roots systems relying on collaboration of teachers and local stakeholders, including students and their families. It’s ludicrous how teachers are untapped resources in their own schools under our current model.

Work by education psychologists and theorists as diverse as Abraham Maslow, William Glasser, Jim Fey, and Ruby Payne reinforce Robinson’s contention that we need compassionate communities which support learners and teachers while making them feel included and valued. We need to differentiate and whenever possible, individuate learning so that we stress relevance without sacrificing rigor. And we need to make sure that we open doors of opportunity for learners regardless of their background or their parent’s incomes. 

Opportunity breeds hope and hope yields optimism, which has always been what truly made America “exceptional.” Striving for equality, liberty and justice for all are what have always fed America’s optimism.

We need to open doors of economic opportunity, cultural opportunity, political, social, and personal opportunity. We’ll do that if we holistically promote child development with concern for their health, recognition that all aspects of their development is interdependent and if we care for them as individual human beings rather than regarding them as statistics or mere data figures.

Two excellent concepts which we should use are Sugata Mitra’s philosophy of child-centered learning and Simon Sinek’s philosophy of servant-leadership. These should be required learning for all teacher and school administrator candidates.

Good luck to you and your husband as you repair and rehabilitate your respective offices.


Ted Mallory

Adamson, F., Cook-Harvey, C. & Darling-Hammond, L. (2015). Whose Choice? The Processes and Effects of Charter School Selection in New Orleans Stanford, CA: Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior
Vol. 6:221-248 (Volume publication date January 2019) First published as a Review in Advance on November 7, 2018

Bitsko RH, Holbrook JR, Ghandour RM, Blumberg SJ, Visser SN, Perou R, Walkup J. Epidemiology and impact of healthcare provider diagnosed anxiety and depression among US children. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Published online before print April 24, 2018