The things we learn in a bicultural marriage…
Last night, we had Indian food delivered, with great Sag Paneer. Since a little baby took the space where my stomach used to be, I was only able to eat three bites. What a waste… I was ready to toss it in the trash, when Alvin suggested I’d eat it for lunch the next day.
I’m sorry? Reheating spinach, and poisoning myself and our unborn baby with nitrates? No, thank you. He looked at me like I was crazy, grabbed his phone, and this is what he found…
(Next to me on the couch I hear a sly, subtle shout of joy)
Oh wait honey, there’s more… “Except after two girls, when a third girl is more likely“.
Due date #3: July 21st.
It wasn’t until she went to college that twenty-seven year old Katie Miller started doing online research on her symptoms, and found out she was autistic, as she tells in Marie Claire‘s latest issue. Growing up, experts think it may have helped her focus on painting more intensely. Her obsessive drawing lead to this impressive photographic painting from the collection ‘The Fancy of Babes’, called ‘Portrait of Duke as the Pacifier Punk’.
“They have the same piercing eyes. The same color hair. One may be shy, while the other loves meeting new people. Discovering why identical twins differ—despite having the same DNA—could reveal a great deal about all of us.“
I read this interesting article about DNA research in the latest National Geographic issue, and was intrigued by the portraits shot by award winning photographer Martin Schoeller. Spot the differences!
Six-year-old Johanna Gill puts a protective hand on her sister, Eva. The twins both have mild autism, a disorder linked to genetic inheritance.
The 15-year-old sisters want to go to the same university and become opera singers. They both like to draw as well but have a different approach to their art. Marta depicts finely detailed faces, while Emma prefers more expansive images: the sky, the rain, objects in motion.
As infants, Ramon and Eurides looked so much alike that their mother gave them name bracelets so she wouldn’t get confused and feed the same child twice. Today at age 34, the twins are next-door neighbors in Florida, living in identical custom-built houses. A topic of family debate: Who has the fuller face? Ramon says it’s Eurides. Eurides (and the mother) say it’s Ramon. Mom thinks it’s because she mistakenly gave Eurides’s portion to the other twin.
When Loretta was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, Lorraine was in the doctor’s office with her. Loretta asked if Lorraine should be checked as well. The doctor discovered that Lorraine also had breast cancer. After receiving treatment, the sisters are both in good health.
The nine-year-olds get along well and also have a psychic shopping bond. Their mom sometimes takes them to the mall on separate occasions. Even when one twin doesn’t know what the other twin has selected, they typically want to buy the same clothes.
In kindergarten Spencer was too shy to pose on picture day. He gave his shirt to his brother, who sat for both portraits. Their mom wasn’t fooled: She spotted the mosquito bite on Skyler’s forehead in both. In high school the brothers were wrestlers; the ref would sometimes tell one, “You can’t come back out—you just wrestled.” Now 19, they attend Ohio’s Lake Erie College, one of the few that offers a scholarship to twins—one pays full tuition, the other is a freebie.
Jessica and Jackie Whited, 20, both go to the University of Akron, share the same friends and jobs, and even teach Sunday school together. When they were younger, nail polish distinguished them—Jessica wore purple and Jackie wore pink. They look so alike that their boss at McDonald’s gets confused, but their personalities aren’t identical. Jessica says Jackie, who will do things like dye her hair impulsively, is “more of a thrill ride.”
Five-year-olds Carly and Lily Ayer of Ohio are so inseparable that their mother, Lisa, occasionally worries: “I wonder if they sometimes think they are the same person.” The girls are in the same class at school and in swimming. When teachers tried to move Carly up to a more advanced swimming class, Lily protested: She didn’t want to be left behind.
When Christopher Griffin got the number two tattooed on his wrist as a symbol of being a twin, he thought his brother Cole would get a matching tattoo. Cole did, sort of. “I was born first, so I got a ‘one,’ ” he says, laughing. At 20, the twins say they now share more and get along better than they did growing up. They go to different Ohio colleges but have a daily reminder of each other: Each has the other’s name tattooed on his inner lip.
Back home in New York… Hoping these pictures of a morning at Saline Plage, St. Barths, last week make me feel a little warmer!
All you need is an old friend, mommy’s hat, and some fresh fish…
I remember the centerpiece of glass vases in the dining room of the Mondrian Hotel, feeling good about my new skirt that was actually a little too short, and being excited about the table for two on date night.
Then a Dutch number shows up on my phone. It’s 3am in The Netherlands. I laugh, assuming it’s my niece, who has the habit of calling when her alcohol level exceeds her limit, to tell me how much she loves us. It’s my sister. And a few minutes later it’s my mom, calling from France. The rest of the night goes by in a blur, all I can remember is not being able to stop shaking, and arriving to an empty house in Leiden, the next day.
In exchange for granting his wish of going peacefully in his sleep, next to the love of his life of over fifty years, Death found my father in St. Tropez a few years too early.
It made me wonder why life goes this way. Why do we grow up slowly to prepare for life, why does a pregnancy prepare us for the arrival of a child, while death comes so sudden? How could I have prepared for this? And how was I going to say a final farewell to my father, a week later?
Never in my life had I felt so proud as I did on that last Saturday in September. It wasn’t until that day that I understood the true meaning of celebrating life.
The sun was shining, a fleet of boats ready to have friends and family guide my father to his final resting place on his self built wooden boat. We drank and ate in his spirit until it was time to light the fire place, dad’s nightly tradition.
I’m grateful my mom got to experience one of the most beautiful days in her life, a day we can always look back on with smiles on our faces.
The passing of my dad, the big rock in my life, marks the end of a beautiful, mostly carefree period. But the rest of my life will be beautiful and filled with love because of him. In his spirit, it will be filled with lots of photographs to capture the beauty of life, lots of Sunday night dinners with extremely slow cooked braised beef, good wine, and a (soon to come) burning fire place. He will never leave me but always live on in me.
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year, to new beginnings and to new life. With lots of love from a beach chair on the island of St. Barths!
(Thank you Anna and Andrea for great photography)
This article, written by my husband, was published last week in Education Week, “the single must read news source for K-12 leaders and policy experts”. Please read it and tell me what you think.
By Alvin H. Crawford
Our school systems are broken, but everyone seems to have his or her favorite villain rather than a strategic approach to producing positive student outcomes. Unions, teachers, districts, parents, politics, school choice, and competition all play a role, but the blame game doesn’t address the core problem. Here’s the reality: If we fix public education, every child will have an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, and the United States will have an opportunity to play a role in the global knowledge economy. The challenge is determining the real source of the problem and providing a solution that works for every school in the nation. And those are no small tasks.
Research suggests the problems lie not with the students but with the adults. Teacher-performance research clearly illustrates we have a teaching problem in school districts. It suggests the quality of a classroom teacher is the single most important element in a child’s success. Given such data, one might conclude there are more suboptimal teachers than great ones. But let’s not immediately point fingers at teachers. Arguably, most enter the profession hoping to have an impact on children, yet a third leave after three years, and 50 percent after five years. The heart of the problem is that there are too many poorly trained administrators, principals, and teachers. In most industries, people are considered the most important asset, and corporate leaders ensure they are trained to do their jobs effectively. Public schools should be no different.
However, most foundations and policymakers have focused on accountability and evaluation rather than training. The assumption: If we measure teachers more effectively, we can get rid of the bad ones. The problem is too deep and systemic, though. In short, we cannot fire or hire our way out of this problem. The statistics suggest that if we develop a support system for principals and teachers to train them effectively, we will change education culture, retain new educators more effectively, enhance the performance of existing staff members, and identify those who, despite effective training, can’t meet standards and should pursue other careers.
According to several studies, school districts spend more than $10,000 on teacher professional development per teacher, per year. The number is startling and, in most cases, represents an amount far greater than any district budgets or believes it spends. In most instances, staff development is funded through a combination of federal funds (Titles I, II, III, and IV, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), several district-level departmental budgets (curriculum and instruction, accountability, professional development, and human resources), and school-level budgets. In most instances, no centralized accounting exists for those dollars, either in how they’re spent or their overall impact.
But the body of research reveals that staff-development costs, including central-office and local staff, hours of teacher time, stipends, salary increases, substitutes, facilities, instructors, and material expenditures hover in the range of $8,000 to $16,000 per teacher, per year, especially in larger districts. Most districts have no idea they spend that much on staff development. Sadly though, most administrators agree their professional-development outlay has no correlation with student-achievement results.
The $10,000-per-teacher cost could be justified if a significant change in teacher practice or student achievement were the result. But most professional development today lacks alignment to student-achievement needs, fidelity of implementation, and scale or reach. Professional-development days are historically spread throughout the year and delivered by internal resources through one-day trainings with little or no follow-up. In most cases, the inch-deep and train-the-trainer approaches to professional development won’t transform practice.
Scaling effective practice is also a significant issue. Most training takes place outside the classroom, an arrangement that requires coordination of days, substitutes, trainers, and facilities. This means many initiatives take six to eight years to reach all teachers in a given school or district, creating isolated pockets of knowledge but no systemic change in overall teacher practice. Research should dictate the model and methods for training all employees, but curiously, over 15 years ago, theConsortium for Policy Research in Education, or CPRE, wrote a report on professional development that largely echoes the same problems we have today: lack of alignment, fidelity, and scale.
There is a “paucity” of solid research on the impact of professional development on student achievement, the U.S. Department of Education has found. In reviewing 1,300 studies on the subject, the department found that only nine of them met What Works Clearinghouse standards for research. However, the nine studies agreed that “teachers who receive substantial professional development” can raise student achievement “by about 21 percentile points.” A report by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education concluded that to be effective, professional development must be focused, engaging, intensive, linked to student learning, supported with coaching, and integrated with other school initiatives, and continuous for “an average of about 50 hours or more on a given topic.”
Given the challenges and the evidence, how do we deliver effective professional development to teachers in a way that aligns to strategic objectives, provides the fidelity and rigor required to change instructional practice, and offers the scale required to address the needs of more than 50 million students?
The only effective way to scale professional development is to leverage online learning. Online professional development can deliver dozens of hours to teachers within eight weeks and includes collaborative learning environments supported effectively by coaching, modeling, mentoring, observation, and feedback. Online professional development works because it reduces travel costs and coordination, minimizes time out of the classroom, and allows educators to learn at their own pace. In fact, research suggests that online learning happens faster than face-to-face learning, with increased retention of the material.
Online professional development engages educators in high-quality learning by adhering to best practices in adult learning. It promotes differentiated coursework while enabling teachers to engage collaboratively with colleagues who share their learning needs. By delivering effective, differentiated online professional development, districts leverage the powerful advantages of technology and the online-learning environment. Districts delivering online professional development realize cost savings, scale critical instructional practices, differentiate teacher learning, advance strategic human-capital management, maintain intentional fidelity, and transform teaching.
Building educator capacity this way allows districts to focus on fixing the problems, immediately. Imagine if a district could effectively train 5,000 teachers in the common-core curriculum, differentiated instruction, cultural competency, effective teaching, instruction of English-language learners, formative assessment, and highly engaging classroom practice. Those courses could be delivered in less than six months to all teachers by the nation’s leading practitioners, with research-proven practice.
Imagine the dialogue. Imagine the engagement when principals, teachers, and coaches go about their work. There would be a common language and culture focused on addressing the problems. There would be a support system to help transform learning into practice. There would be a way to evaluate whether teachers who receive training and face-to-face support can meet the demands of rigorous instruction through end-of-year evaluations. And there would be transformational improvement in the ability of teachers to meet the needs of their students.
It’s time to take action and invest in developing our educators to meet the needs of 21st-century students by becoming 21st-century teachers. We can solve this problem by focusing our efforts, our investments, and our school districts on building capacity through online professional development.
Alvin H. Crawford is the chief executive officer of Knowledge Delivery Systems, in New York City, a national provider of strategic professional development for teachers, schools, and districts. He has worked in education and media for more than two decades.
I’ve had a hard time finding hamman towels in the US for a reasonable price. Luckily, One Kings Lane had a sale just recently, so I stocked up…
I love the look of the different colors rolled up together. Not only are they great as bath towels, I also use them as beach towels, bed spreads and Mia loves taking them to school for nap time.