My notes from Dr. Lorraine Monroe’s keynote at the KSDE conference on 4-26-2007 in Wichita, Kansas.

That is what we are all about in this room: The cultivation of children

Never ask me to follow a kids’ act. It is too hard!

Good morning, I’ve already run out of time.

Thank you for having me here today, and listening to the focus that we have in our profession

I like the title of your conference: “Know the child, Optimize Learning”
– what else can we add to that, but the experiences that change children’s lives and deepen the way we live their lives

Some readings first from “A Guide to Prayer” from “The Upper Room”
– I really don’t we can do this work without a recognition that this is holy work
– there is no work greater than what we do
– as a young woman I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor
– as a young teacher, however, I came to know that teaching is about the heart, the mind, and the soul of the body: I saved lives

Story of Brother Leo and trip to visit to study at his feet
– one was tired of running to get water, another tired of getting food, another tired of running ahead
– came upon another traveler on the road, who came with them

The servant first, and the leader first are two different types of individuals
– difference between the two comes from taking care of the needs of others first
– best test and one most difficult to admini
– do those we serve grow as persons as a result of what we do each day?
– do people change for the better because of what you do, what you cause to happen?
– as a result of your serv healther, wiser, more autonomous, and more likely themselves to become servants as a result of watching us, working with us?
– what is the effect of our service on the least privelidged in society? The special education children? The kids you might hope are absent some days? The ones with difficult parents? The ones who don’t believe you when you describe their children?
– There is no one here who can’t remember the name of a teacher who was “a destroyer of children,” who said unkind things, made some kids sit in the back
– what is the effect on the least priveledged?

Next part of the reading:
– if we know all that, we know this is holy work, then what do we do?
– the real training of service and leadership is an often painful process of self-emptying
– getting rid of the stuff in your head that says “not these kids”
– the thoughts that say “this kid can’t make it, can’t do it”

We can each turn to each other and share a story about a teacher who told us what we cannot be, who

The main purpose of all this: be the way without getting in the way
– we are teaching even when we are not speaking
– how we speak to the least of these
– how we dress

First thing we have to do: plow the field
– get ready to plant
– stand before the children with a plan

you cannot ad-lib excellence
– I owe you that much, to plan
– to get ready, turn over the soil

Then: To cut the branches, get rid of the things that are in the way of children’s growth and development
– there are often things that are in the way
– our job is to help get rid of those things

Last step and most painful: a child can keep their sanity in the building if there is at least ONE PERSON who knows the children, and wait for the children
– in some buildings, that is the custodian
– if there is at least 1 person in the building waiting for the child
– if there is NO ONE waiting for the child, s/he has virtually no chance to survive

I stand here because I had great teachers
– what I am going to do for your today is teach through stories, and remind you through stories

People ask: how did you get to be so crazy
– neither of my parents graduated from high school
– my parents insisted that we kids go to school and respect the process
– I am here because I had

Grew up in Central Harlem
– by the time I was 15 it would take a sledgehammer to my skull to get me NOT to succeed

I want you to think wh

I didn’t go to kindergarten for some reason
– I went right away to 1st grade
– met Mrs. Katz, and learned to read with “Dick and Jane”
– no one in America had a family like that: corny
– I learned how to read

Gift of Mrs Katz: she saw me sitting there idle and asked me, “Why aren’t you working”
– I said I finished the book
– in some schools, the teacher would accuse someone, “Who told you to finish the book?!”
– instead Mrs Katz asked me to go to the back of the school
– when I became an English teacher, I said you
– you want to develop eclectic readers: what you do what is that they LOVE to read, that they EAT books

Gifts of Mrs. Wife in 3rd grade
– if you don’t get reading by 3rd grade then you are catching up
– Mrs. White had yard duty (anyone requesting that?)
– One day after lunch I attached

Sometimes kids need to be with you
– you are giving them something that they can’t even articulate that they need at that moment
– I remember when I taught senior Engish, the kid who would pack his

Get out of this profession if you don’t understand that “you are on” 24/7
– when you go to sleep, you are planning
– my husband would hear me talking

Fast forward to 6th grade
– Mrs White wrote when I was in the 6th grade, “Dear Lorraine: Hitch your wagon to a star, and you will go far”
– when I was failing quantitative analysis, I thought the college
– teachers have to watch what they say
– you can designate genius, or you can designate failure”
– teachers will say unbelievably crushing things to children, when their job is to be UPLIFTERS
– you are the magicians, you are the change makers
– too often we hear about teachers being the destroyers of children

That’s why I stopped going to the teacher’s lounge
– if you are doing a count down to retirement, you should be counted out of the profession
– what you do to these kids, they will somehow do it at home and it will rub off
– what you do with them and to them they will do to their children

teachers are predictors of hell or heaven

I finished the 6th grade with Mr Cooper
– very handsome
– learned Robert’s rules of order in elementary school, learned how to talk with others the way I am talking to you now
– at that school, expectations were held high

Then I went to middle school
– I had had a taste of leadership
– the school patrol was the leadership opportunity there
– by the 9th grade I ascended to be something obnoxious called “head of heads” of school patrol
– so full of myself, parading before them, pontificating in front of the others

By the time I left 9th grade, I had deepened by love of literature and learned to love foreign language
– I studied the principle and learned how to inspire fear and awe
– people don’t have assemblies any more
– you can’t have a school if you don’t have an assembly
– that’s like a family that never sits down together at the dinner table
– kids CAN behave: it’s called TRAINING
– we were recognized in that school
– you could get 5 certificates
– kids need to be recognized by their peers
– the principal had 5 areas we could earn certificates
— excellent attendance, punctuality, citizenship, service to school, scholarship

My parents expected me to earn 5 certificates
– I found the fine lingerie I had bought for my mother when I went to Paris, and those 5 certificates
– when you think of recognizing children, think of what that means not only to them but also their parents

What does it mean, what does it cost?
– to get kids up on the stage, to be applauded, I can change his/her opinion of themselves, who they are, and where they can go

Many teachers today don’t believe that kids coming from your schools
– you can’t change the history of the child
– you teach the child as they come to you

– we are the people who make the difference
– we are the ones who dress for success so the children will know what grown men and women are supposed to look like when they dress up for work

We read Shakespeare, famous speeches
– how many kids go through our schools and don’t know their parts of speech

Then I learned Spanish: Book “El Camino Real”
– we had to memorize it
– and we learned Spanish songs
– I went to Spain the same year I went to France

When you don’t know the langauge you say it louder and slower

real gift from my Spanish teacher, she took us to watch a foreign film
– “Don Quiote de la Mancha”
– I didn’t even know there were foreign films before that
– I sat next to my teacher as she cried in this film, and didn’t understand [HAD SOME COGNITIVE DISSONANCE]
– later in life when I saw that musical, I realized that my teacher understood her mission

you tilt at the windmills of degredation and poverty
– that is your mission

In those days girls had courses like “housekeeping” and “millionary” (making hats) in 8th grade
– had a fearsome teacher for that class, Mrs. Graves
– one day the teacher told the students she was going to invite some of us to her house for high tea
– story of high tea with her teacher asking us what we were going to do when we graduated from college
– came
– we had the her intentionality and staying power, so we all graduated
– have to have intense and over time, wear them down

I’m telling you these stories because I want to remind you of how powerful you are in the lives of children
– you are not God, but you put it out there and see who gets it, but you pitch it high

My 9th grade English teacher
– the librarian
– what a gift to have Engish in the library, the wonderful smell of all those old books
– sentence diagramming
– taught us that, so we knew the structure of our language
– introed us to Dickens

I didn’t get into either high school because of my math scores
– I never had good math teachers: they just taught the 3 kids in their class who didn’t need them
– one of my teachers told me about Lincoln Park High School, where Lincoln Center is now
– I got into the school, got into student government right away, graduated most likely to succeed

Key was a teacher taking the time to move outside her “job”
– seeing a kid that was in need of counseling
– that is someting I am promoting
– what does a great teacher do, EVERYTHING
– what does a great school do, WHATEVER IT TAKES

I am a certifiable life long learner, lover of reading, arts, and music
– in college, however, no one cared I was failing the math classes
– finally a counselor took me aside, and encouraged me to be an English teacher

I loved it, worked hard with kids, after 10 years I went out of middle school to teach high school
– there was a test you had to take

At Hunter they taught you how to dress for interviews
– I scored 2nd highest in the school

So I was sent to the worst high school in NYC, Benjamin Franklin
– the school wast totally dysfunctional
– I came from high structure, high expectations: that school was crazy
– they gave me the kids who had failed the

I said: “You have met the interrupter. You bring you body in here every day, and I will teach you how to pass that test.”
– all 15 of those kids passed the test at the end of the year

So then people asked me, how did you do it?

In NYC, all the kids stay in their neighborhoods
– I told those kids because you have done so well, I am going to take you all downtown
– we went to the Queen Elizabeth ship
– what I want you to know, is if you stay in school and do well, you can go anywhere your American Express card can take you
– I took them downtown on 5th Avenue at Christmastime, because they had never been there

You want to change children, you get them out of the mindset that “this is where my family has always lived, this is how we have always lived”
– show them a wider world
– took the kids to FAO Shwartz
– we were 15 african-american and
– my job as a teaher is to give children the world, to expose them to everything that they have a RIGHT to

it is about experiences and exposures
– yes it is about math, english, reading, etc
– they can still remain encapsulated by a mindset of poverty
– they can live next to a

The world belongs to you. Be prepared to be in it. That means to be literate. That means to have pieces of paper that tells the world you are qualified. We train them to use the forks, the knives, etc. so students are not self-conscioius when they leave the building

Schools does EVERYTHING to prepare the children for living, for life
– otherwise we are just joking when we say we have a great school
– all the kids get it, because you never can tell

I never dreamed I would live the life I have and am living
– I am here because of people like you

Then I left that school and went to

A good school needs to have teachers who know their subjects
– I have been appauled

A good school has teachers who love children

Has a principal who has the ability to make people weep, both in fear and in admiration

A good principal chooses good assistants

A good principal loves to observe
– the children need to know who s/he is

My mentor told me, “If you don’t go, you won’t know”
– you won’t know who the great teachers are, and who should be packing groceries in the store
– there are some teachers in our classrooms that should never be there
– some of them are killers of children’s dreams, the collect checks and kill dreams
– I rolled them out of my building as a principal
– If they wanted to know how to teach, I taught them, but if not I showed them the door

A good teacher is looking to cultivate good people who could replace them

Then I had a chance to run my own school, that was a gift from God
– you have to be crazy to be a principal
– got a phone call from a superintendent: Taft High School in The Bronx

LOTS of challenges at this school, but I was prepared, knew my strengths
– school had 3,200 kids, I had 11 assistant principals
– assistants said the problems ere: kids don’t want to come to school, there is chaos in the halls, kids won’t

I know how to bring order, we will lock the bathrooms
We made a new rule, if the kids don’t have a large notebook they can’t come into the school

When you are a principal the first day, you put your body where you want the action to be

The kids were waiting for someone to say cut the nonsense, what goes down in the street doesn’t go down in this building

We had a “Do Now” at the start of each lesson
– 3-4 min pen to paper work that required no moving or talking
– so that is how the school sounded
– it is called “universal compliance or I will kill you”
– kids respond to routine

A kid put a note on my desk, and said thanks for giving us back our school

Great school when the teachers say: NOT UNDER MY WATCH WILL I ALLOW YOU TO BE DESTROYED

We didn’t tolerate “swivel teachers”
– how can you teach 45 minutes sitting down?
– how can you reach those kids back in the Siberia row
– you know the whole room belongs to the teacher
– it wasn’t rocket science, it was being prepared for 45 minutes
– teach, practice, test
– you are striking fire
– when I stand up and look fierce, you better be ready to get started

Bell to bell teaching
– that is what I teach teachers
– there is no administrivia in a faculty meeting
– put that stuff on a piece of paper
-all faculty meetings are about instruction and improving instruction
– let gym be much more than throw out the balls, and lean against the walls
– in some places the PE teacher just wears the outfit, but doesn’t do anything
– PE teacher says “do you want to see my plan” and I say “no, I want to see that plan in action”

I love to observe
– I want every experience in school to help improve children’s lives
– So under this leadership, the teachers focused on teaching except a few who were “counseled out of the profession”

If you don’t have assemblies you really don’t have a school
– you have to train them, one class at a time
– the children always wanted order
– chaos is very scary for kids
– there are not going to say “please bring order” because that is not in their constitution
– but chaos makes them crazy

I increased the numbers of clubs and teams
– that allows kids to be fastened to someone who does not give them grades
– we had a fencing team that outfenced all the schools, who didn’t think black and Latino kids could outfence them

When you are a principal you are supposed to protect your kids
– if there is any job I would

– you want to create a great school, that’s what you do even if it means

What’s good for the best is good for the rest
– and if you give me the rest then we’re going to kick your butts
– the #2 pencil doesn’t know what color you are, where you came from, where you live, it just knows if you know the answer


Story of school in Harlem
– our school was 179th out of 179 in reading and math
– had to spend a lot of time putting that school together, it had had 6 principals in 6 years
– the kids had pretty much destroyed the school, all in frustration: the principals they had didn’t know how to run a school and were afraid of kids and teachers
– I felt it was very important we wore uniforms
– I said you bring your body here every day and do what I say, and you will go to college
– I interviewed and hired all the teachers, and with about 2 exceptions we got great teachers

We had planned this place so well, we had gone away and dreamed this school
– I handpicked my people,
– had 12 non-negotiable rules and regulations
– because were

You give me this, I give you college

So we had the blackbelt…. (her recommendations for leadership)
– putting instruction on the board

I wanted every kid by the end of September to be attached to someone who did not give them a grade
– all our faculty meetings about instruction
– I was highly visible and observed every day
– “teach don’t talk to me”
– community service for all the kids, because they had to know you had to give back

We did deep test prep
– we started right after Christmas
– so people came early, gave up lunch, stayed late, came on Saturday for test prep
– worked with schools that were going to be closed (on SUR list

We went from #179 to #11 in 1 year, 100% of the kids passed the writing test
– next year we went up to #4
– almost 97% of the first graduating class were accepted to college
– I don’t play
– We decided to give to poor kids what rich parents pay for: academic rigor, all the clubs and teams

Our kids traveled all over, nationally and internationally
– because people were amazed and came to

Monroe Definition of the purpose of school:
– “The purpose of school is to teach ALL the children, not some of them, to read, write, think, compute, speak well, love the arts, behave in socially acceptable ways, in order to become economically independent, contributing members of society.”


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