28 November 2008

Taking False Comfort in Numbers

I think that the comfort many teachers find in calculating percentages, averages, category weighting systems, and other mathematical manipulations while grading is a belief that these practices are indisputable. "Your child has a 78% average because..." It's there in black and white. Can't argue with the numbers, right?

I was thinking about this again after the NSTA presentation I did last week. Some of the participants mentioned that they are required by administration to update student scores in an on-line gradebook each week---which automatically calculates an average, etc. How are you supposed to implement best practices when the tools and expectations are "old school"? Excellent questions, with no simple answers. The kind of change they're needing is a systems approach---and I'm more focused on the classroom. There are likely some ways to manipulate the weighting system in those soulless automatons of grading software such that categorizing things as "formative" gives it an insignificant impact. Perhaps there are other workarounds, as well.

The other part of the question that was worth noting was simply the idea of the audience for these automated grades. An on-line grading system bypasses the student for delivering information. I can see certain advantages to that (depending upon the student) and know that other stakeholders (parents, administrators, athletic coaches...) have their own needs for student grades. However, there is no way to guarantee that these outsiders to the classroom understand what the grade represents. I was reminded of two recent articles (one in ASCD and one in the Washington Post) which compared parent tracking of grades to watching the stock market. From the WaPo:
Parents and students in a growing number of Washington area schools can track fluctuations in a grade-point average from the nearest computer in real time, a ritual that can become as addictive as watching political polls or a stock-market index.

The proliferation of online grading systems has transformed relations among teachers, parents and students and changed the rhythm of the school year. Internet-based programs including SchoolMAX and Edulink are pushing midterm progress reports into obsolescence. Prospective failure is no longer a bombshell dropped in a parent-teacher conference. A bad grade on a test can't be concealed by discarding the evidence. A student can log on at school, or a parent at work, to see the immediate impact of a missed assignment on the cumulative grade or to calculate what score on the next quiz might raise an 89.5 to a 90. Report cards hold little surprise...

"You can walk around this building and every kid knows exactly how they're doing," said John Weinshel, a teacher who administers EdLine at the school. "The curtain has been stripped from the wizard. There's no more mystery. The grade book is open."
It's the last paragraph that bothers me. As long as there are zeros for missing assignments, points taken off for late work (or added for bringing boxes of Kleenex and cans of food), averages, and so forth---how does a kid know how s/he's doing? The grade book may be open in terms of scores, but how those scores are derived is still very much a mystery in most schools. I think that schools may be giving themselves a large dose of false comfort in assuming that just because gradebooks are on-line that the grading process is less of a crapshoot to most observers.

Are we afraid of using professional judgment when evaluating students? Why is that? Is it because we, as educators, lack enough training to discern which student work meets the targets...but don't want to admit that? Are there other reasons why we take such false comfort in the numbers representing learning?

26 November 2008

The Long and Short of It

For the first time in several months, I have a bit of a break. Since I worked on Saturday, I was allowed to take today off in exchange. Since tomorrow and Friday are state holidays, I have a mini-vacation to enjoy. I have to say that for a short work week, the two days at the office were long.
  • State budget cuts claimed three people from our department...and our boss will be gone in two weeks. I understand the financial bottom line, but the human element makes my heart hurt.
  • I was more or less next in line to lose my job...and am still not 100% safe. However, I made a proposition to split my position with another department in the agency. I am now the state test queen (as half my job). I understand that this looks a bit crazy from the outside, but I've been pondering this for several weeks now. I could read the writing on the budget wall and knew that I had to make my own destiny. There are aspects of this deal that bring a smile to everyone who is involved and once I broached the topic, it went through in a week. What this means that the part of my "old" position that was funded with soft money will go away (breathe a sigh of relief) but the new part is "exempt," meaning that the new boss can decide to just fire the 160 of us in that position on a whim. All that being said, I'm still less likely to be standing in the soup line come Christmas. How long before the budget cuts get me is anyone's guess. If I'm still hanging in there by the end of June, I think I'll be okay for the next year or two.
  • Someone from NSTA read the previous posts and contacted me about writing a book for them. We'll see if I'm ready.
  • Several of my major projects were put to rest this week (all two days of it). I'm always glad to get loose ends wrapped up.
That's about the long and short of things at the moment. Best wishes to you and yours, should be celebrating American Thanksgiving this week. I am ready to snack, watch football, and ponder the Black Friday circulars.

23 November 2008

Peeking Around the Corner

So, I did my presentation at the NSTA conference yesterday. Truth be told, I was a bit bummed about things leading up to this. I knew I had the last time slot on the last day of the convention. Even if it's been a few years since I've gone to one of these events, I remember getting "Conference Fatigue" all too well. By the last day, you're ready to just go home. Meanwhile, I also discovered that my presentation was scheduled way off-site from the conference. Anybody who wanted to sit in was going to have to schlep their way over from the comfort and convenience of the main convention. So, I made 25 handouts, but figured that 10 people sitting in would be a worthy turnout.

That isn't what happened, however.

Instead, I had well over 100 people crammed into the room---sitting in the aisles, up at the presentation table and standing in the doorway straining to listen. I'm not sure how many others turned away when they saw the throng...and I know the fire marshal wasn't poking around because the number of people was well over the posted room occupancy. Wowser.

The experience was very validating---not so much for me personally as for the topic itself. Grading has arrived. When I talked to a few of the attendees about their "hardcore" attitude of staying to the end, they said that this was an area of need for them and I was the only one on the schedule talking about it. Others who chose to stay after the presentation to talk to me mentioned that they were trying to do some of these things at their schools---but it was a lonesome experience. It is indeed hard to implement something like this on your own. I got asked about presenting at other schools. Would I come? Would I talk to more than just science teachers? Would I answer the phone/e-mail if there were questions? Of course. But how sad is that people are all out there struggling on their own little islands of grading.

I had a friend mention earlier in the week that leaders should always be up ahead, peeking around the corner. From my experiences yesterday, I got a good look around the corner at two things in particular. First of all, grading practices are about to reach the tipping point in secondary schools. I expect a lot of growing pains. Secondly, the role of data visualization in all of this is going to play a major role. Every time I pull out microcharts, dashboards, and other tools, people go nuts. I can see them spark---you can see the epiphanies happening all over the room. Makes me smile every time.

What I had to share---and what people needed---does not fit neatly within a one-hour session. An hour is barely enough time to scratch the surface...and, of course, the more resources and knowledge I accumulate, the more I want to share and support. If the economy was better, I would seriously think about hitting the road as a consultant. After all, I can see what's around the next corner.

22 November 2008

NSTA: Days 2 and 3

Yesterday (Day 2) got off to a good start. I met @MissBaker of Extreme Biology, who had made the cross-country trip from Maryland to talk about blogging in her classroom. There was quite the variety of familiarity with blogging and grade levels taught in the audience, but she did a nice job of differentiating. It's always good to meet someone from the cyber world.

The rest of the day wasn't really worth writing home about. There was a presentation of one guy's work he does with pre-service teachers where I wanted to scream "Why are you wasting their precious time with that crap! Help them learn good instructional techniques!" I went to cheerlead a colleague, whose presentation seemed to be well-received. And at the end of the day, I sat in (for a very short time) on a session about facilitating conceptual change in science. Holy cow. This guy whipped out his transparencies and waxed rhapsodic about the post-Sputnik era. He even asked if any of us remembered some curriculum that came out just after Sputnik. Um, look around, dude---most of us in the room weren't even born yet. After he asked if anyone had heard of "the learning cycle," I bolted.

As for today, there are only morning sessions. Lucky me, though, I get to present during the last time slot of the last day. Will anyone be around to participate? I think not, but that's all right. Certainly a lot less stress that way...and I can head up the road for home soon after.

It's been a different sort of conference for me. It's not been packed with learning, but the goal was really just to connect and support different people. So, mission accomplished. It will be hard to back to the grind on Monday---away from a big comfy hotel bed and open schedule. But hey, there's always next year.

20 November 2008

NSTA: Day One

First of all, I'd just like to address the rumors. I would like to assure you that I did NOT throw my panties at the Mythbusters. Sure, I thought about it. Who hasn't? I also recognized the danger of squealing like a pre-teen at a boy band concert when they came out onstage, but my dignity remained intact throughout the presentation. My BFF assured me that this was a "wise choice."

As for the rest of the conference, well, hey, anything would pale in comparison to spending time listening to Jamie and Adam talk about their professional and personal experiences. It's a different sort of conference for me---the first I've ever been to where I know lots of people: both presenters and attendees. This makes things nice. I get to meander around and be the cheerleader for any number of people. It is also nice to be someplace where I don't really have any responsibilities. I can just learn and enjoy like anyone else.

My favourite t-shirt slogan I saw today? "Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic."

Tomorrow, it's back out to the Oregon Convention Center for another day of concentrated science geekdom...panties included.

19 November 2008

What I Could Do for You

I don't know if you've seen Zuiprezi, but you should definitely have a look. I am totally prepared to do something morally ambiguous just to get my hands on a login for beta testing. Go see this presentation in action---even if the content is like Greek to you, the format is very engaging.

Now, does anyone know what a gal has to do to be invited to play?

16 November 2008

Rage Against the Machine

My hunch is that every subject area (math, reading, science...) has its own infrastructure in terms of special interest groups. There are, of course, schools; but there are also parent groups, business interests, publishers of instructional materials, test-writers, professional organizations, and so on. The composition of the mob can vary---as can where the ultimate power lies---but there is no getting away from the sad truth that outside the safe confines of the classroom walls, education is a very political business.

I, however, am not a very political sort of animal.

I worry that while we say we are about leading change in science education, that the same voices keep being invited to the table---and therefore, the message is also the same. Not very changey, is it? And yet, if you appear to slight the establishment by not including them in various conversations, this can also be a danger. So, how do you get new ideas and broader participation without the old school turning against you?

I'm thinking that there has to be some way to honor the regular contributors---perhaps ask for their "help" or participation with some things while bringing in others for different meetings? Do we slowly introduce new to the old---adding one or two new voices to the entrenched PTB? I just keep thinking that as long as we continue to conduct business as usual, we're going to get the same old results. How do you nicely tell the old guard that they've had their opportunity, and "Thanks, but no thanks" for their continuing offers...that we're going to go in a new direction? Is there a diplomatic way to rage against the machine?

Non-Sequitor P.S. I haven't been to a National Science Teachers' Association convention (regional or national) in a few years, but there is one in Portland this week. Are you going, too? Drop me a line if you're interested in getting together.

11 November 2008

So, Tell Me What You Want

We've kicked Professional Development around quite a bit here and elsewhere in the Eduverse. "PD" is one of the most dreaded events in any school year---not only do most teachers hate sitting through it, they're not so hot about leading it, either. Ditto for admins. As for me, I've had my own horrendous experiences and I've had a few jewels along the way, too. For those sessions I've been asked to deliver, I would say that my range of experience runs along the same paths. I've gotten significantly better in the last three years, although I still have a lot to learn.

My own improvements have been coupled with higher expectations for others. If I can figure out how to avoid Death by Powerpoint, so can others. If I can find a way to incorporate best practices, other presenters can, too.

I put this out there because an upcoming project of mine means packaging a whole bunch of PD for teachers. So, here's what I need from you:
  • The name(s) of any PD providers who absolutely rocked your socks, and/or
  • A description of what it was about a particular PD session that made it so powerful for you.
If you knew that training was coming, whether you wanted it or not, what would you hope would be the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down?

10 November 2008

A/K/A Mental Health Day

Education Week recently reported on how teachers use discretionary time, which is a fancy way of saying mental health days. The cited study noted that "Like professionals in other fields, teachers appear to be dipping into their sick time in order to take care of errands, do the holiday shopping, or extend a weekend." Okay, Readers, put your hands in the air if you've ever used a discretionary absence. (Yes, my hand is raised, too.)
Teacher absence is correlated with a small but significant decrease in student achievement, and it tends to occur disproportionately in low-income schools. It is also costly: Data from the National Center for Education Statistics put expenditures on substitute teachers at about $4 billion annually—costs typically borne by individual schools’ discretionary budgets.

The pattern detailed in the analysis suggests that teachers exercise “some amount of volition or control ... in the placement of those absences,” said Raegen T. Miller, a senior policy analyst with the center and the analysis’ author.

Armed with better information on those patterns, policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels can craft incentive programs to keep teachers in school, it concludes.

The discretionary absences made up 56 percent of all teacher absences. And while percentages of nondiscretionary absences, including long-term illnesses, jury duty, and bereavement, stayed relatively stable over the course of the school year, the percentage of discretionary absences changed seasonally. Absences rose throughout the fall and peaked in December. They fell in January and February, only to rise again by the end of the school year. Discretionary absences were also more likely than other types to fall on Mondays and Fridays.

Although the article goes on to suggest ways that districts address this issue, none of them get to what I think is the heart of things: teachers see these days as time they are entitled to have. As long as teachers work outside of contracted time (evenings, weekends, holidays, summers) to prepare lessons, grade papers, engage in professional development, or anything else which forces them to trade personal time for the rigors of the job, then they will take mental health days. It is a trade. "I have to spend my Saturday giving feedback on these essays...but I can take off next Friday to catch up on the chores." I'm not saying that this is the right thing to do, only that this is how these things are often reasoned.

I do think that teachers who use discretionary leave and then head out on the golf course or generally make the fact that they're playing hooky known around town are making a poor choice. If you're going to be "sick," then at least have the good sense to stay home during working hours. Or, if you have to be out, be sure to be traveling far far away where no parents or administrators will see you.

So, what is the answer then? Kids are in class from Monday to Friday. Teachers need to be present when the kids are (and oh, how we complain about chronically absent students)...and yet, it is ignorant to assume that excellence in the classroom (including grading, planning, and collaborating) can fit within the 7.5 hour contract day. Do districts need to create a new form of leave---one that is for planning time? Perhaps instead of offering 10 sick days per year, teachers could have choices within that. For example, 5 assigned for sick leave and 5 for planning, depending upon your needs. There needs to be some way to recognize the outside work that is to be done and provide an honest avenue for teachers to complete it.

09 November 2008


Clix hasn't given up on me yet, apparently---although my blogging has slowed down quite a bit in recent months. I don't know how "Uber" I am, but I feel like one of the old guard. In a couple of weeks, this blog will turn four. It's not old enough to send to kindergarten, but it has outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed a lot of the eduspheric field. Little notices like this one will keep me going for awhile longer.

There will be several interesting weeks ahead. As noted elsewhere, our state has a new education leader. This has a very direct impact upon me and the work I am involved in, so there will be a period of transition and also one of preparation for the legislative session that begins in January. Will the WASL go away? Will I be called to provide testimony on other potential changes to science education? How will I support the implementation of our new standards and their impact on over a million children?

America appears to be poised for change these days...embracing it, even. Amongst all of this large scale and personal level change, I'm glad to be able to have this constant steady space. So, thank you, Clix, for staying on.

06 November 2008

When Advocacy Ends

I've worked with all sorts of parents over the years. I expect them to advocate for their children...and I also expect that advocacy will evolve over the years. Supporting your seven-year old should be different from supporting your seventeen-year old. It doesn't mean that your love for the child changes. Instead, parents should be looking to help students develop problem-solving skills throughout the years. I always worried the most about those rare students who had parents that excused everything---who had children who could do no wrong. I wondered what would happen to these kids in the workplace. Was mommy going to show up and tell the kid's boss that s/he shouldn't expect the worker to show up on time every day or focus on their job instead of playing games?

For other students, however, there is a different kind of transition. I'm talking here about students with 504 plans or who have IEPs (and are high-functioning). These children often have highly-involved parents (and not necessarily in a bad or overindulgent way)...but once they leave the cocoon of the public school system, they don't always have access to the accommodations that they have been previously given.

There was a recent article in the WaPo about students in this situation who are trying to transition from high school to college.

A generation of students accustomed to receiving help for special learning needs is entering college. The percentage of students identified with learning disabilities who graduate from high school and go on to four-year colleges jumped from one in 100 in 1987 to about one in nine last year. And those who go on to any kind of post-secondary education went from a third to almost three-quarters by 2003. But some are finding that the transition isn't easy.

Many students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or memory troubles have had years of education shaped by intense parental support, involved teachers and legally mandated school safety nets.

But what colleges must do is far less defined legally, and professors and administrators at some schools seem to remain skeptical about the needs that students might have. Schools must provide assistance to students, but only if the students disclose their disabilities.

Most students don't. Some are tired of being labeled. Some are unable to afford the extensive and recent cognitive testing that most colleges require as proof of disability. Some just don't get around to it until they start failing classes, at which point it's often too late to salvage the semester.

Even if colleges and parents continue to provide support, I still wonder if there is some sort of point where these accommodations end. While I am sure that the ADA could have an impact on employment---are there employers out there who will oblige Attention Deficit Disorder? Or will there be an assumption that a 30-year old has acquired the self-management skills to work in their chosen career? Is society at large as tolerant as we must be within the confines of the public school system? If not, what do we do to ensure that when advocacy from outside ends, students are ready to move forward on their own?

04 November 2008

Get Thee to a Voting Booth

Or Post Office.

Or City Hall Drop-off Box.

Or wherever you vote.

Yes, it's (finally) Election Day 2008, and while I don't vote (I'm Canadian), I do encourage those who have such privileges to exercise them. I'll be watching several races closely, for my own personal and professional reasons, and will be anxious to get home from work, pop some corn, and settle in with the news programs and Twitter.

May the best candidates win (click to embiggen).

Image Credit Unknown

03 November 2008

What Shall We Test?

In Washington, we've had a statewide assessment for Writing (grades 4, 7, 10) for as long as we have had state tests. I have been ambivalent about this test for several years now. As much as I believe in graduating students who have good writing skills, I don't know that this belongs as a performance area to compare schools and growth. There is also the question of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent developing and scoring the tests each year. Finally, the feds only require that we test reading, math, and science (with the first two currently figured into AYP). Why lump more expectations upon schools than is necessitated by the legislation? I'm guessing that I'm not the only one thinking about this. I see that Maine is looking to cut its statewide tests for writing.

I was thinking again this week after reading a WaPo article about the decline in time spent on science in elementary classrooms due to focus on other tested subject areas:

Science advocates recommend 45 minutes to an hour of science instruction daily starting in upper elementary grades. But many elementary and middle schools now offer half as much science as they did before the law was enacted. Middle schools that used to teach a full year of science and social studies now may offer a half-year of each. Elementary schools have squeezed the two subjects into one block of time to make room for more reading and math.

While this observation might not really qualify as "news," what is new is the realization that NCLB requirements in science may well lead to a positive impact. "Science advocates predict that school systems...under pressure from the new tests, will begin to restore lost hours of instruction."

I'm not sure where the time will come from. Personally, I am a great advocate for integrating more non-fiction reading (science topics) and using experiences in science as a springboard for writing in elementary classrooms. Many elementary teachers agree with that philosophy...but lots of administrators do not. "Reading" and "Math" mean using the district programs (e.g. Open Court, Investigations...). To "implement with fidelity" (a la Response to Intervention) means no mingling can occur. There is going to have to be some sort of detente between the teacher and admin camps before we can seriously look at restructuring the precious bits of time we have available for student learning.

It is a shame, to say the least, that subject areas are left scrapping for time based on their importance to testing. I've heard many a social studies and world languages teacher musing on what it would be like to have a tested area---how they might have more serious consideration if that happened. It's sad to think that the answer to the question "What shall we test?" is leading to such narrow curriculum options for children.

02 November 2008

The Symptoms of Grading

Does a dislike of grading indicate a "symptom" of the lack of fit between what teachers are asked to do and actual practice?

Susan Brookhart's (1994) observation is one of my favourite quotes on grading. I remember it every time I see something on Twitter concerning a teacher who is fussing about stacks of papers or have a conversation with an educator about classroom frustrations. I think about the years I viewed grading with the same amount of disgust.

In the last few years, I've changed my outlook. It doesn't mean the paperwork went away, but the way I used it shifted. Grading became an exciting proposition...and why shouldn't it be? It is a teacher's opportunity to find out what is and isn't working---and get creative about how to reach more students. Those assessments are gifts to be unwrapped: the ultimate surprise party.

I think part of the reason teachers tend to view grading with disdain has to do with the traditional approach: mark answers incorrect, count up points, calculate a percentage. This is incredibly tedious and the bang for your buck is pretty small. Unless you're going to track how many students missed each particular item and then cross-reference that with the standards each item was targeting, who cares that the class average was 82%? That approach really doesn't provide you with anything useful in terms of adjusting instruction. And yet, we're stuck in that mode for the most part. This is the disconnect observed by Brookhart. Actual practice doesn't get us toward the goal of supporting student learning in this case.

Can we change what's happening? We can---but there are really two pieces here that we have to work on. The easy one is getting teachers away from counting points and calculating averages. It doesn't mean that marking papers is going to go away (especially when those marks help kids understand what was done right/wrong), we just don't have to be nitpicky and engender habits in students which cause them to focus on points instead of learning. The second piece of changing practice here is more difficult, because it is the most precious commodity in education: time. It's not that the grading itself is more intensive, it's the opportunity to reflect on what you see and think about what course corrections need to be made. Classroom work is often based on submitting yourself to the tyranny of the urgent---and the simple truth is that students will be showing up again in the morning and you need to be ready. We tend to frontload our thinking that way, as opposed to increasing our focus for after the lesson.

This leaves me wondering about whether or not there are any public schools out there which have been able to restructure their resources so that student contact time is maintained, but opportunities for teachers to plan and reflect are increased. Is the answer smaller class sizes? Four day weeks with students with extended class periods...and one day per week as teacher workdays? Is it possible, I wonder, to assign 1.5 teachers to a group of kids so that every teacher could have some extended release time for planning and collaboration while their partner worked with students? None of these solutions are cheap, but I wonder what the collective costs are in terms of loss of learning for students. How does it impact their earning opportunities over a lifetime? How much extra might society spend building and staffing prisons? Is there a point where things start to break in the direction of schools?

In the end, grading is just one symptom of schools which are in need of better support. Perhaps addressing what we can within this realm is only piece of healing classrooms, but it represents taking one step in the right direction...a place to start.

01 November 2008

Searching for the Muse

Here it is, November, and I'm still trying to get my poop in a pile. The new job is not conducive to blogging, for several reasons...but I hope to massage this space into something that works well for everyone. I'm still looking for the right muse.

By far, the worst aspect of my new job is the amount of time I spend on the road. I have quite the commute, but with the economy as it is...and housing market not so rosy...well, it doesn't make a lot of sense at this particular time to move (even with the price of gas). At the same time, I'm also finding it nice to have physical space away from the office and closer to my familiar "old" life.

When I first started this job, I was warned about the E.F. Hutton aspect to things. And during the week, I'm very mindful of that. But when I get out to lunch with my friends or exchange some playful text messages with people I used to work with, or even just grab a late night bite to eat at my favourite hangout, I am very glad that I don't live where I work. It keeps me from becoming my job. At least I hope so.

At the same time, having 2.5 hours of windshield time everyday creates a whole different sort of "tired." By the time I navigate my way through the rush hour maze to get home, I'm not finding a whole lot of mental energy is left available for blogging.

Meanwhile, the kinds of things I run across would be wonderful to write about---trust me, I'm enmeshed in all manner of tall tales with this job...but, the information is often privileged. I have to really pick and choose the specifics of the projects I share here. There is also an awful lot of Kool-Aid I'm asked to drink: the special interest groups all have their own concoction. I have to tell you that I'm not much of a Kool-Aid fan. It goes against my "Every Kid. Every Day." philosophy and my frustration with adults who are only looking out for their own interests. The Kool-Aid sellers are specialized around a particular cause or approach (hence the cult-like Jonestown reference). And, man, are they are out to tempt me with their wares.

I find this a rather curious position to be in. I am not someone who is able to give special favours to anyone else...and the fact is, I wouldn't even if I could. If anything, the presence of so many special interest groups where science education is concerned is a sure sign of Darwinian forces at work. Their diversity is astounding...as is their competitive nature. Playing favourites would seem to be a very dangerous kind of game.

But, oh, the Kool-Aid I'm asked to sample.

The days have a variety of roles for me to fulfill. Sometimes, I'm just an appendage, representing someone else at a meeting or sitting in with a process. There are other times when I feel like the person in the parade with the trash can and shovel who has to clean up after the elephants---the result of promises made by others and not kept translates to me trying to make things pretty again. I don't know that I'm "old," but I am "experienced," and this translates to different things in the office---especially when it comes to mentoring young women who are starting out with their various careers. It's not a role I've had before. And amongst all of this, there are a few flashes of brilliance here or there---the times I get to work alongside teachers in schools or really dig into the kinds of work that will make change happen in this state.

In the past few years, many good people have left my former district. I have yet to find a single one who has any regrets. Sure, you miss certain individuals, but to get a different view and see that there are educational arenas out there which are not dysfunctional (and in denial about what/who created that) is a relief in that you know you made the right choice. Whatever sacrifices and changes to your life the decision had, no matter the ripple effect, the current situation is the best of all possible worlds. At least for the present.

Perhaps somewhere in developing that happy state of mind, the Muse to blog will return.