Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I can't believe it's already September. Labor Day's when I usually lament summer being over, yet rejoice that school has started!


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Labor Day is when I stop wearing white shoes. However, due to Texas heat, I will not give up my white jeans for at least another month or so. But, thanks to COVID-19, I barely go out.


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Oh yes, the coronavirus has definitely changed everything, whether going out or going back-to-school. I know the last few months of school were online but I'd hoped the new school year would be back to normal.


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That was wishful thinking. I know this is not how Sawyer planned to start her senior year. The good news is she already completed most of her critical classes, although the spring semester was a mad dash to convert to online learning, and may have been less rigorous than usual.


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At least, like many teenagers, she's comfortable being online. But I can't even begin to imagine how schools that have always centered on in-person learning can make the shift to online teaching. How do you spin on that dime? And what about elementary school, where so much of it isn't book learning, but actually doing things in the classroom?


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Educators – with students of all ages, including adult education – will have to be creative and innovative.


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Now there's an understatement! Especially as sitting in front of a computer all day can get tedious. Well, for anyone except you.


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Sawyer is very lucky. She has a laptop computer with all the software she needs and, minor interruptions aside, reliable Wi-Fi at home. What about all the students who are not as fortunate? What about the school districts without the manpower and expertise to develop and offer online teaching and online resources?


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Gee, I hate to admit it, but there are so many things we, no make that I, take for granted, until something happens. So, how are those students coping?! It seems so unfair.


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There definitely is an education inequality, and there is no quick fix. Meanwhile, schools are scrambling to get computers they can lend out, Wi-Fi is being made available by non-educational entities, and learning to teach using "less- than-smart" phones is being done by very creative and dedicated educators. They are our new front-line heroes.


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Absolutely! Can you imagine what going back to school would have been like if the coronavirus had struck decades ago when we were in K-12? Or, even 20 or 10 years ago?


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I hope that is a theoretical question, as you know that I prefer to look forward, not backward. Anyway, before the internet and social media, things would have been very different. On many fronts.


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All I know now is that the coronavirus is not only impacting learning, but also grades and testing, which is a HUGE part of what school's all about.


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Actually, in that regard, COVID-19 might be a good thing.


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Excuse me? I know you can spin anything, but really?! How can the coronavirus be good on any front?


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I will not get on my soapbox, but the focus on grades, standardized testing, and teaching to the test has not made education better. The lack of preparing students for life, but instead preparing them for grades and test scores, has led to a ripple effect that impacts not only students in terms of becoming productive individuals, but businesses seeking employees that possess more than just book knowledge.


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Yes, I know. Well, after years of listening to you talk about this, I know. I certainly didn't when I went off to college. You, of all people know my story – great grades, great college, but totally clueless about life. But whether you like it or not, students need grades and testing scores to move to the "next level".


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Really? Not this year. Standardizing testing, including the SAT and ACT tests, are not happening. Even class grades are being impacted. Since Sawyer is a senior, how she "presents" herself to colleges will have to be more than her GPA (Grade Point Average) and test scores.


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No kidding! The original plan was to take the SAT this past spring and again in the summer/fall. Now, I can't help but roll my eyes. For years, all we heard about is how critical the SAT (or ACT) is and now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, it's gone by the wayside.


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Which should help students who do not do well on standardized tests. Not to mention, the ones who are so much more than their grades and test scores.


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That's what we're hoping. Sawyer, although a very good student, knew some of her course selections might be considered "less-academic" than traditional college prep classes. So, last year she put together what I call a "marketing document" for college volleyball coaches to share with admission offices that explained how and why she selected her high school classes, as well as identified her skills and strengths. Things like leadership, communication, teamwork, etc.


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Guess she has been eavesdropping on much of what we have been saying for years.


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Technically, you started it. But once you explained it to me from a business perspective, it made perfect sense. Personally, I think that if students had the flexibility to focus on being well-rounded individuals with strong skills sets and not just grades and test scores, it would be a huge improvement,


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Which further supports my comment that COVID-19 could be a blessing in disguise. It is forcing the education world to come up with alternative ways of doing things. Some may be an improvement over how things had previously been done. While others will show how desperately things needed to be changed.


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I couldn't agree more. But do you think change in the education world is possible? After all, it's human nature to just revert back to the way things have always been done.


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There is no going back to the pre-pandemic world. COVID-19, and the associated economic upheaval and use of technology, has changed everything. Not just education.


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I guess, in one way or another, we're all going back to school in that we have to learn how to do things differently. Although I'm not sure I want to as I really don't like change.


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Well, like it or not, change happens.


Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Image by osbkin on iStock


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I love history and understand that “Lincoln freed the slaves,” but the Civil War was about more than slavery. It was about preserving the Union, and about states’ rights (some things never change) and westward expansion. However, once President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the war between the states would be forever remembered as a war to end slavery. Although I’ll admit that I’d never of Juneteenth until I moved to Texas. And I was surprised to learn it took two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation for slaves in Texas to be set free, but that explains why Juneteenth’s celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States. And why it was declared a federal holiday in 2021.


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Change is never as simple as issuing proclamations. Especially since slavery represented systemic racism, inequality, and inhumanity. Real change requires words and actions, and a change in mindset. Celebrating the end of slavery is noble, but it should also serve as a reminder of where we are and how far we still have to go. Ending racism is not as simple as saying it is wrong but recognizing that it still exists is an important start.
Image by Kenishirotie on iStock


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Every Father’s Day , when I think of Daddy, I think about alligators and turtles. I know that might sound crazy, especially as there are so many wonderful memories, but those stand out. As does the fact that every day, he taught me about unconditional love and was always there for me. And even though he passed away over 20 years ago, the memories are as strong, both emotionally and “visually”, as if it was just yesterday. And for that, I’m so grateful.


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I know you are probably expecting me to talk about how Father’s Day is, in many ways, a form of “equal rights" since Mother’s Day was already in existence , or maybe the business aspects of it being a “ retail holiday ”. Instead, at the risk of sounding warm and fuzzy, I will just say that dads always have a very special place in the hearts of their “little girls” … no matter how old those “girls” become.

Wishing all dads a very Happy Father’s Day!

Photo by nycshooter on iStock
It seems most appropriate that Flag Day falls during Effective Communication Month, or at least it does to Black, who years ago had suggested Red use race flags as a fun (and “safe”) way to communicate with her teenage daughter. From that point on, Red never looked at the “Stars & Stripes” the same way again … because she learned flags might be one of the most straightforward and effective ways to communicate – whether feelings of pride and support, messages to racecar drivers, or even to indicate your moods.


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This past weekend, I noticed a bunch of flags on my street and wondered why since July 4 th is still almost a month away. But this morning, I learned that today's Flag Day.


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Well, for someone who likes to decorate for the holidays, I would have thought you would have known all about it.


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I've heard of it, but I never really thought much about it, let alone when it is. I knew it had to do with the American flag, but it surprised me that it has nothing to do with Betsy Ross, which legend has made the first flag, although it seems there's no evidence to support that.


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If you want an interesting "story", read about why the American flag is called Old Glory . Regardless, the American flag, like all flags, communicates a message.


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I know you like to connect odd dots, but only you would see a connection between flags and communications.
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