Monthly Archives: December 2014

Elves on Shelves Seek Post-Christmas Employment in No Excuses Schools

Yes, Christmas Eve means that Santa’s on his way–but it also means that thousands of Elves are scheduled to leave their Shelves tonight and fly back to the North Pole until next November.

It seems that debates between people who love and hate Elves on Shelves get livelier and more spirited each year (as do posts on social media showcasing Elves in Compromising Scenarios), and last week, a digital technology professor went so far as to call the Elf on a Shelf  “a capillary form of power that normalizes the voluntary surrender of privacy, teaching young people to blindly accept panoptic surveillance and reify hegemonic power.”

In other words, and as the title of the Washington Post article proclaims, “The Elf on the Shelf is preparing your child to live in a future police state.”


How are we, as a society, not employing the services of Elves on Shelves during each and every month of the year?!

As it is now, nobody but Santa really knows what Elves on Shelves do from December 25th through mid-November, but here’s an idea: they can continue their noble surveillance work in “no excuses” schools. After all, their ability to hang from Ceilings and their eagerness to “fly” to authorities and report Bad Behavior make them perfect candidates to work in “no excuses” settings. (Extra bonus: They work for CHEAP, and I seriously doubt they’re unionized. #Winning!)

So, CMOs, here are some ways Elves on Shelves can assist you in your institutions of learning:

  • Hall monitors: Elves can help spot children scholars who stray from or make noise in their single-file hallway lines, which in some schools are conveniently marked with brightly-colored tape on the floor. No talking, because Elves are watching and are ready to issue demerits. Elves should also make an effort to spot anyone leaning against the wall, wearing a shirt that’s not tucked in properly, or wearing the wrong belt and/or shoes. Finally, Elves can be helpful by supervising “TSA-style full-body searches” of students entering the building each morning. (They can’t actually perform searches, though, because nobody’s allowed to touch an Elf on a Shelf. And also because their hands are sewn together.)
  • Classroom monitors: Elves can help teachers identify students who do not employ proper hand-signaling, who do not “track” the teacher, whose hands are folded on their desks improperly, who have poor pencil-sharpening techniques, or who fail to keep up with Whole Brain Teaching techniques. No time for any of that.
  • Cafeteria monitors: This is a fun one. Elves assigned to lunch duty can monitor the “Table of Shame,” which is where students with demerits have to eat–sometimes standing up–for an entire period.
  • Calm Down Room monitors: Another fun one–and a particularly good placement for Elves who can hang from Padded Room Light Fixtures so they’re safely out of the reach of scholars who are being punished for Freaking Out.
  • Teacher monitors: In addition to monitoring student behavior in classrooms, Elves can monitor teachers to ensure that they’re following the scripts from which they’ve been instructed to read and prepping scholars for standardized tests.
  • Population monitors: Elves can monitor demographics in “no excuses” schools, and can alert authorities at once when ELL, special-needs, or impoverished students infiltrate (and consequently corrupt) the learning environment.
  • Political Rally monitors: Some students, parents, and staff members might be slightly uncomfortable with the idea of a field trip to a political rally, and that’s where Elf surveillance comes in, because it sends a very clear message: “We’re watching you, so get yourself on that bus.”
  • Financial monitors: Elves can guard the cash “no excuses” schools rake in when they fine children and their families for things like gum-chewing and non-teacher-watching and possession of “flaming hot chips” (?!).  (They should NOT, however, be let anywhere near the schools’ operating-cost and expenditure records.)
  • Recess monitors: JK…there is no recess.

Summary: students learn best when they’re shamed into submission and obedience and teachers perform best when they feel like they’re being surveilled by people (or Elves) with sinister motives–so it’s obviously imperative to the functioning of “no excuses” schools that everyone be watched at all times. (Except CMOs, of course.)

So if your Elf on a Shelf is looking for a job while he’s not monitoring your children, please consider sub-letting him out to your local, friendly “no excuses” school during the off-season.

The scholars there will certainly thank you.

Merry Christmas!




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#ShakiraEdChat: more evidence of what’s wrong with the USDOE

Twitter users with questions about early education found themselves in luck this morning—because at 10:00 a.m. EST, they had the incredible opportunity to participate in a Twitter Q&A with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and…wait for it…Shakira.

Yes, “Hips Don’t Lie” Shakira. For realsies.

Here’s the info, posted last night by the White House (emphasis mine):

Tomorrow, President Obama will host a White House Summit on Early Education, announcing new commitments and building on his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America.

As part of the Summit, Grammy award-winning artist Shakira and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking to Twitter on Wednesday, December 10th, at 10:00 a.m. ET to answer your questions about early education. Shakira is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and has been a strong advocate for high-quality early education.

Let that sink in for a few minutes.

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Shakira, the Colombian She-Wolf singer, is a member of the Early Learning Subcommittee of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.  She began a charitable foundation in her native Colombia in 1997–and since then, the charity has overseen the opening of eight schools.

Which clearly makes her an expert on early childhood education–just like Oprah, Pitbull, Deion Sanders, Andre Agassi, Jalen Rose, et al.

And which clearly qualifies her to “answer your questions about early education.”

So what, exactly, did Shakira have to say about our littlest learners?

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And, for good measure, here’s a tweet from Arne:

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Yes, early education is important.

But I wonder how Shakira would respond to questions about the chronic underfunding of urban districts, such as those in Philadelphia, where children attend schools without the most basic needs like paper, pencils, nurses, and guidance counselors–and I wonder if she understands the degree to which education cannot be “the great equalizer” when children’s most basic needs aren’t met.

I wonder whether Shakira understands the ways in which the charter expansion Arne Duncan promotes contributes to the underfunding of neighborhood schools and further segregates already-segregated populations.

I wonder whether Shakira, especially since she references the cost of “juvenile detention,” is aware that Arne Duncan’s promotion of charters–many of which implement “no-excuses” or “zero tolerance” discipline policies–contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline,

I wonder what Shakira knows about teacher education programs, and if she realizes that Arne Duncan’s new proposal to control teacher-education programs cites states that have “taken many steps to reduce the status of the teaching profession: Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Florida“–or if she understands the ways in which the Relay Graduate School of Education and other reformy teacher-prep programs Arne endorses perpetuate practices that are destroying public education.

And I wonder if Shakira understands that her well-intentioned charitable endeavors do not make her an expert on early childhood education. 

To be clear: I don’t dislike Shakira. I don’t think her motives are bad. And I’m sure that she has done good things for children in Colombia.

But I’m very disappointed that I couldn’t participate in the #ShakiraEdChat–I was teaching at 10:00 a.m. EST–because the questions above are some of the ones I would have asked Shakira and Arne (who, by the way, have zero years of teaching experience between them).

And my final question to Arne Duncan would have been this: “When will you participate in a twitter Q&A session about early childhood education with an actual expert in early childhood education?”

*ADDING: While we’re on the subject of Arne Duncan and ill-advised USDOE decisions, the NY Daily News is reporting that NY Education Commissioner John King has accepted a position as a Arne’s senior advisor–and will make the transition to the USDOE shortly after the New Year.

Yes, this is the same John King who has only two years of teaching experience in American schools (both were in a Boston charter); the same John King who founded Roxbury Prep (no talking in the hallways!) and led Uncommon Schools; the same John King who predicted and endorsed widespread failure rates on Common Core-aligned tests; the same John King who canceled PTA forum appearances because of criticism from families; the same John King who has been repeatedly called on to resign by New York parents and politicians; and the same John King who oversees a state in which thousands of families on Long Island alone refused testing for their children last year.

Seems like a pretty bad day for public education if you ask me.

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‘Tis the Season for College and Career Readiness

If you’re the parent of a small child like I am, you should really only be thinking about one thing during this holiday season: the welfare of your fellow travelers in life College and Career Readiness.

I’ve done lots of rigorous thinking in recent months, particularly because of mounting concerns that my four-year-old might never be accepted into a respectable college or university and might never have a wildly-lucrative fulfilling career. After all, he has no idea how to operate an iPad or Chromebook, he can only write his letters in cursive (thanks, Montessori preschool, for pretty much preventing him from ever functioning appropriately in life), he has an unreasonable fear of hairdryers, and he only eats from the “starch” food group.

And given that he also firmly believes Santa Claus exists, it’s clear that his ability to reason sucks and that he’ll fail in any attempts to demonstrate Common Core reasoning proficiency in reading, writing, and/or mathematics.

So with another baby coming in just a few months, my husband and I have decided to do everything in our power–starting the moment our second son is born–to ensure that he is College and Career Ready from the get-go. Here’s what we have so far:

  1. No thank you, generic maternity ward blanket. At the event of his birth, my son will be swaddled and capped in College and Career Readiness with a blanket and hat from his grandparents’ alma mater: the University of Pennsylvania. My husband and I both attended wonderful colleges, but neither is Ivy League–which we realize now is completely unacceptable and that we are both failures as a result. Further, we will have our son photographed in this Penn attire, and we’ll display the picture in our house for the rest of his life to serve as a constant reminder that we consider anything other than an Ivy League education to be pathetic.
  2. I have already contacted Shutterfly’s graphic design team to request that they offer birth announcements in the form of tiny newborn business cards; specifically, I have recommended that space for Apgar scores be added below the height and weight fields so prospective employers can compare our son to other minutes-old children. (In the same vein, I have decided to disregard pregnancy weight-gain recommendations, mostly because my four-year-old was only 6 pounds, 14 ounces when he was born. Too scrawny in the eyes of employers looking for a hardier breed of career-ready workers.)
  3. Sitting around in a swing all day is an unacceptable waste of time–so our second son will be directed to walk shortly after he is born so he can Race to the Top before the other babies in the nursery. Let’s all remember that hoofed animals walk within hours of their birth–so…no excuses.
  4. We will request that anyone wishing to send a gift to celebrate our son’s arrival contribute a piece of nonfiction to his personal library, and reading instruction will begin immediately after we arrive at home. Test-prep workbooks, instruction manuals, and collections of Supreme Court decisions are especially welcome.
  5. Or ipads or Chromebooks. We would appreciate those too, as we have already chosen to disregard the irresponsible recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics that advise against screen time for children until they turn 2. For real? How will they pass online kindergarten entrance exams? Our first focus will be on drag-and-drop skills.
  6. Feeding: this child will begin solid foods immediately, because liquid diets are for weirdos and successful people eat real food. (Anyone who fails to understand how eating problems can affect one’s career has obviously forgotten the 1978 Liz Taylor chicken bone incident.)
  7. Binkies: just no.
  8. Potty training begins the day we arrive at home, so if he’s wise, our son will live it up in the hospital while he’s attended to by nurses who are willing to change dirty diapers. Because that’s not happening at my house. Pretty sure no college admissions officers or employers have a favorable opinion of incontinence.
  9. Play: LOL. We have already begun looking for schools that get rid of worthless things like recess, naps, and stupid skits to ensure that every single activity promotes College and Career Readiness.
  10. Child #2 will sleep at night, like a normal person, because naps are a waste of time. Nobody respects a lazy college student who doesn’t wake up until noon, and workers who sleep on the job get replaced by other, more Career-Ready workers. Because productivity.
  11. With regard to newborn screaming: who acts like that? I’ll tell you who: people who want to get kicked out of school or fired from their jobs. This time around, screaming won’t be tolerated in our house–because, again, it’s not conducive to College or Career Readiness. (And FYI: “colic” is a manufactured affliction, the concept of which is obviously perpetuated by incompetent doctors who were just handed their medical licenses after years of rigorless, pre-CCSS education. Seriously…that’s the only explanation they can come up with? “Colic”? Okay.)
  12. We understand that PARCC assessments are only administered in grades 3-11, but we believe that standardization should begin from birth. We are encouraged that PARCC has published K-2 Model Content Frameworks, and we have decided to petition Pearson to hurry up with the appropriately-aligned assessments, for which we will begin test-prepping ASAP. I would also like to formally volunteer to help develop fetus-kindergarten Model Content Frameworks–along with accompanying assessments and data-mining servers on which to store sensitive information.

We will continue to add to our unborn child’s College and Career Readiness Checklist over the course of the next three months in the hopes that we’ll avoid screwing him up in the same way we screwed up our firstborn, who’s obviously destined to live at home, college-educationless and careerless, for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, please enjoy the holiday season–but if you celebrate Christmas and have small children, knock off the “Santa Claus!” and “toys!” and “enjoy your childhood!” and “Elf on a Shelf!” (extra vom) crap before you ruin your kid’s chance at a worthwhile future.

Because more rigorous kids are beating your kids at life.

Start now. It’s not too late.

(Actually, it probably is. Sorry.)


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