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A Conversation about Failure

Henry Winkler at the NYSSBA Conference 2007I have a general rule about my public speaking.  Don’t follow kids — and never follow a school board member who’s just read The World is Flat.  After my experiences at the New York State School Board’s Association conference in NYC this week, I have a new one.  Don’t follow The Fonz!

Henry Winkler (actor, director, producer, and author) was the opening keynote speaker for their conference, and it was an inspiring message for this audience — who seemed to be the most enthusiastically anti-NCLB group I’ve ever worked with. 

Most of you know that Henry Winkler suffers from dyslexia, a learning disability that results from differences in how the brain processes written and/or verbal language. What’s especially insidious about this condition is that it manifests itself in people along the entire spectrum of intelligence, including highly gifted individuals. Yet, when a person has difficulty reading, regardless of other exceptional skills, they seem to be labeled, automatically, in traditional classrooms, as slow.

Winkler gave a passionate presentation about his experiences as a student who was not living up to his potentials, resulting in a childhood of feeling that you are doing something wrong.  My own A.D.D. and difficulties in hearing made this an experience that I identify with.  I suspect that many of us do. 

NCLB has achieved much.  There are certainly children who are learning to read and do math, who were being ignored before.  But the real tragedy of the program is the narrowness of its focus, and the lack of vision when identifying skill and talent. 

How many of our children are dropping out of high school because they feel unable. 

How many of our children are being made to fell unworthy!

Oh yeah!  Never follow a kindergarten teacher either…

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  • http://torristravels.blogspot.com Barbara Torris

    As a former kindergarten teacher, mother of three and grandmother of nine (two advanced placement ADD) grandchildren, I cannot tell you how much I loved this blog. I keep your blog on my netvibes homepage so I can follow your comments. Thank you for…well being you!!!


  • http://wlteam.blogspot.com/ Karen Kliegman

    Comment unrelated to your post, Dave, but I hope you will pop in to my blog and read this post: http://tinyurl.com/2nwg9n

    Thank you so much for providing blogmeister for us so that our students have the opportunity to express themselves in a way they never did before. And come up, occasionally, with a gem like this one.
    :) Karen

  • http://www.stager.org Gary Stager

    How exactly has No Child Left Behind “achieved much?”

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com Dave

      I don’t think it can be denied that there are kids out there who are learning to read and perform basic math who were being ignored before. Of course, the costs have been enormous, not only in money but in other equally valuable programs…

  • http://www.stager.org Gary Stager

    Wow! Did you actually follow the Fonz?

    • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com Dave

      Well, he spoke in the evening, and I spoke first thing the next morning…

  • The Tehnee

    I think children with disabilities should receive an education adjusted to their capability. WE just have to be careful to not make it too easy, they need to be challenged just as any other kid does.

  • http://school20.siglersite.com James Sigler

    Good advice for speakers.

    Speaking of NCLB. I just published a letter to the editor in our paper about NCLB and how it will leave schools behind.


Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Books Written

Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
• Amazon
Raw Materials for the Mind

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