About Me

I started out life in New Hampshire and finished growing up in Northwest Pennsylvania. I attended a non-traditional education program that no longer exists at a small liberal arts college, student taught in Cleveland Heights, and landed my first job in Lorain, Ohio. The year started with a strike and ended with a large workforce layoff, so I came back home, bought a mobile home, and lived in a trailer court while I subbed in three districts.

After a year, I started landing year-long sub jobs with the same school district I had graduated from in the mid-seventies. It was not the plan, but there was a woman... After thirty-some years in that district, I've taught pretty much every brand of English we have here, 7-12. But high school is my home; middle schoolers are, as I said back when I taught them, the emotional equivalent of having someone scream in your ears all day. God bless, MS teachers.

I have a story, but it's nothing special. I was not very good at husbanding, but our two kids are now grown and, I think, exceptionally fine people. I remarried three years ago to a woman who is just beginning her elementary teaching career. My liberal arts background allows me to be busily fair-to-middlin' at a number of things. I direct local theater. I kayak and bike. I advise yearbook, student council, and stage crew. I play trombone in a 157-year-old town band and in a traditional jazz band with my brother and my high school band director. I've been the president of a striking teachers' union. I live in a house within walking distance of my small town's center and with a back porch that looks out over the river. I've been writing a weekly column for the local newspapers for over fifteen years. At various points in my life, I've been a huge jerk. I see former students and their families every single day, and I like it.

I'm not a super-teacher, and I don't suck (most days). But I really care about the work and the profession. I'm not a crazed anarchist, but I don't see a lot of value worrying about coloring inside the lines, either. I'm not a joiner, and I never automatically rule anything out or in just because of the source.

I concluded a long time ago that teaching is a sort of guerilla warfare, where we stay low, do what we can get away with for the students, and pick our battles carefully. But sometimes the battles pick us, and all we can do is respond from the gut and the head. I'm an optimist about the future and a realist about the present, but I live a life of great privilege, and I try never to forget to be grateful for that.

This blog is about blowing off steam and standing up for public education. I am lucky to live in an age when being able to string some words together can be combined with a little tech skill to reach people who need a hand, a reminder that they aren't alone, a word of encouragement. So I'm giving it a shot.

You can find me on twitter as @palan57. I'm on facebook, but all I do there is talk about Normal Daily Things. However, this blog has a facebook page which you can like as  one more way to stay up with Curmudgucation. There is also a Curmudgucation News tumblr which is basically a compiling dump for every article I see that I don't want to lose. And if you want to email me, that's fine too-- I'm at pagreene at outlook dot com.

31 comments:

  1. Hello, Peter -

    A young active sent me your post picked up in Huffington entitled The Hard Part, and I was hoping you'd allow me to post in my blog, which often goes out to younger actives (as well as us older folk) here in Illinois. I am a friend and associate of Fred Klonsky and Ken Previti(FL), but not nearly as pedigreed. What started as a blog for those confused and worried as Illinois politicians try to carve away our pensions has now become a look and a comment on much that is going on in Illinois. You'll find my responses in Pension Vocabulary.

    Wish you well.

    John Dillon
    jdillon4@mac.com

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. You keep pretty good company there. I know I'm late in responding (just didn't check over here), but I'd be happy to have you repost anything you find here as long as it comes with attribution and a link. Thanks for spreading the word.

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  2. Good Morning, Peter!

    I'm new to blogging...how do I subscribe to your blog via email? I thoroughly enjoy your insightful posts through Diane R's site. I am afraid I am missing many! Your assistance will be sincerely appreciated! -Dan Kenley

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    1. Slow on response because it never occurred to me anyone would leave comments over here. I was, in fact, missing that option. I've added it now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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  3. I am teacher who has worked in the trenches in Chicago for 20 years. I was led to this website through a link on Facebook to one of your blogs picked up by the Huffington Post, and I am absolutely hooked. Your blogs are a great way to respond to all the negative publicity about teachers, and to bring to light the truth. I appreciate and enjoy your humor and tell-it-like-it-is writing. I always get so upset when I read all the negative articles against teachers, and usually become even more infuriated when reading the comments that follow. Your blogs are just fabulous! (I especially liked "Memo to 3 Year Old Slackers" and "Directory of Anti-Teacher Trolls.") Please consider publishing a book compiling all of your blogs. I have already invited all my teacher friends to "like" your Facebook page. Keep 'em coming!!

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  4. Hi Peter,

    I've just discovered your blog via one of your Huffington Post articles out of desperately googling "Should I be a teacher".
    I am a writer, mostly of fiction, and I dedicate a good amount of my time to this. I hope to continue devoting time to this pursuit for the rest of my life. I am also, at this point in time, attending University to become a secondary school teacher. I want to do this too, and I believe I could do it well. Yet I am constantly doubting my decision to go into Education. As you are both a teacher and a writer, I am asking you for your advice.
    Can one individual be a good teacher and a good writer simultaneously? How have you found the experience of pursuing both at once? Has being a writer ever posed an obstacle to your career as a teacher? Or vice versa?
    I know most writers have day jobs, it just seems to me that teaching requires a greater personal and time commitment than most day jobs.
    I am very interested in hearing your point of view.
    Thank you.

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    1. Pursuing both at once isn't nearly as hard as pursuing anything and parenting at the same time. I came out of college thinking I would teach and write on the side, and for the first few years mostly what I did was do my schoolwork from wake up till fall asleep. Then I had a breather, and then I had children, and then they got older. So the writing kind of faded in and out depending on the available time. Because every other thing I do in my life involves other people who depend on me to do it, writing has always been the thing that gives way (nobody is counting on me to do that).

      I did some fiction writing. The sending out ms and managing their comings and goings was almost as time-consuming as the actual writing, but I did sell a couple of stories. I eventually stumbled into the newspaper job, and it has been a good fit.

      But I write and teach (and make music) because I can't not do those things. I don't know that I do any of them at any super-awesome level of excellence, but I also believe the world needs both people who live in a discipline and people who commute, or bridge, the different silos. If I'm anything, I'm one of those.

      Because I'm an English teacher, I find that the writing dovetails nicely. Band directors play instruments. Choir directors sing. Why shouldn't writing teachers write (and how do they know what they're talking about if they don't?)

      You're probably not going to be able to do both at once at first, unless you sacrifice other areas of your life (and it's very hard to write well about anything if you don't have a life). But if it's something you must do, you'll eventually land on a way to do it.

      That's all pretty rambly. I would give you a more coherent answer if I had more time. But feel free to contact me for more conversation if you wish, and good luck to you in your endeavors.

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  5. I'm curious as to your response to this article: http://time.com/3612913/standardized-testing-not-bad/

    I think I know...but you're answer will be more concise and a hell of a lot funnier. :-)

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  6. Thanks for your prolific posting and trenchant analysis! Your recent pieces on "Meaning and Standardized Writing" and how the vaunted Common Core tests don't really assess the Common Core standards have vaulted your blog to the top of my daily internet read-around list. While I still make time for Anthony Cody, David Cohen, Schools Matter, At the Chalkface and Gary Rubinstein, your writing has been particularly good for my soul of late. I've shared numerous posts with several trusted English department colleagues as we weather the tsunami of nonsense that is battering the shores of our teacherly sensibilities this school year. I'm in the process of writing a work of fiction about this absurd and soul-sucking moment in public education and I frequently re-read some of your recent posts to get myself energized and motivated to write after an exhausting day of teaching, planning, grading, coping with inane district wide directives and state mandates. Just wanted to say hello and thanks for writing!

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  7. Dear Mr. Peter Greene:

    It's Christmas Day and I'm waiting fort relatives to arrive, so I went to your site and looked at Moma Bear's blog. She is reporting on Tennessee's new Commissioner of Education, Dr. Candace McQueen. Dr. McQueen is a supporter of Common Core, but as Diane Ravitch reports on her site
    http://dianeravitch.net/2014/03/23/common-core-for-commoners-not-my-school/
    she did not install Common Core when she was headmistress of Lipscomb Academy, a private school.
    http://nashvillepublicradio.org/blog/2014/02/10/lipscomb-academy-chief-advocates-for-common-core-but-not-at-her-school/

    In her letter to Lipscomb parents, Dr. McQueen says, “Lipscomb Academy uses the ERB test, not the TCAP, and there are no plans to replace the ERB test with PARCC.” I was not familiar with the ERB Test. I googled it. I discovered that many private schools use the ERB, which stands for Education Records Bureau, an entity which produces what is called the The Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA) the actual test.

    Then I found a little gem which is my Christmas Present to you. Anti-Reformers are always composing descriptions what they would like to see in place of high stakes testing. In the blog I found, the Assistant Head of a private school, Lois Levy, at the The Center For Early Education, located in West Hollywood, writes to parents to explain the school's take on testing. I don't think it could be said better. I don't mean that to disparage current writers on this subject.This woman has worked at this lovely, student centered private school for 37 years. She writes as an expert on what the school does.

    She explains to the parents that a very big reason for having this ERB test is to give students practice taking a standardized test, with the understanding that the student may encounter these types of tests later on in their education. Notice that a big result of these tests will be to see how well the student does taking these types of tests, so they can improve. Notice that she discourages the parents spending money on tutoring. The tests will not be used for judging the school, the teachers, or the student, It will not be used for placement, and in fact tutoring will defeat the purpose of the test to reflect what was covered in the classroom. I looked, also, for where the school will share the data they have gathered with others, and while I might be wrong, I don't think that's happening here. I've bookmarked it in my Standardized Testing folder. (You must scroll down past her greeting and some links.) Take a look!

    http://www.centerforearlyeducation.org/page.cfm?p=774&eid=559

    Merry Christmas!

    Leila

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  8. I wanted to e-mail you about my noticing two outstanding women in education, and I am not yet sure if their paths will cross. Sarah Reckhow wrote a book called "follow the money"...I tried not to pester her with too many questions, as we celebrated Christmas together.....she is married to my nephew, also a professor and writer, named Matt Grossmann. (on facebook, you can see her one year old slapping a red ribbon on my forehead as he takes my hat so he can look like Frank Sinatra). I asked her if being chief academic officer at Pearson would be a generic title, or something genuinely important.....because I wanted her to know about former St. Louis superintendent Diana Bourisaw. She is a superbly talented person, whose last action before leaving St. Louis, as she lost her position due to a very ruthless state takeover in 2007, was to warn the State Board not to allow Texas Can to foist a charter school upon the district. It folded after seven months, leaving hundreds of students stranded. I am not sure what she did at Pearson.....but I am sure they were the better for it, if they listened to her. She does not suffer fools gladly.....she just took a 6 month position at Normandy, (a troubled district, which has a backstory of being bullied by the state board) with an agreement to terminate with thirty days notice. That is part of what I wanted to write to you about......as I told Diana Ravitch....I cannot get past all the google hoops....maybe this is enough....keep an eye out for both these women.....Sarah just published something jointly with her husband which includes a study of how people react when they see the words non union teachers in considering dealing with charter schools......I am amazed that she has time to write as I witnessed her devotion to her 1 and 3 year old kids....women find ways to get things done, thank goodness.

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  9. Dear Mr. Greene:

    I think everyone out here is probably sending you this, but ...

    This is from The Washington Post, The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss :

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/01/arne-duncan-asks-what-if-heres-the-response/?tid=trending_strip_1


    Like the standard episode description of any Situation-Comedy, “hilarity ensues” after Arnie Duncan asks people to respond to:

    “What if every district committed both to identifying what made their 5 best schools successful & providing those opps to all their students”

    I think you are right. The guy obviously signed on for a job that everyone told him was gonna be a piece of cake. Secretary of Education? How hard could it be?

    Sigh,
    Leila

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  10. Hi Peter,

    I've enjoyed reading a number of your columns and was asked today if I was familiar with the author because he resides in my region. Imagine my surprise when I clicked the "About Me" tab and found that these great blogs are from the same author as "Venango Tales" -- which I found very enjoyable, by the way.

    I wish more of your colleagues -- especially those in the retired ranks -- would add to the public conversation (and public conscience) on public education as you have.

    Thank you for your service to your students and community.

    Marcus

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  11. Hi Peter,

    I just completed an illustrated essay on my blog entitled "Martin Luther and Walt Disney as Teacher of Reading." If you think it might be useful to post on your "Reclaiming Public Education" blog site, I'd like that very much. It can be found here:

    https://jlovellsjawp.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/martin-luther-and-walt-disney-as-teachers-of-reading/

    Thanks so much,
    Jonathan

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  12. Hi Peter,

    I came across this video on the YouTube about the Common Core and thought you might enjoy it.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mcIMaU94Ro&feature=youtu.be

    - Katie Miller

    millerkatie1968@gmail.com

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  13. Dear Peter,

    I’m Andrew King, the media and communications coordinator at Education International in Brussels, Belgium where we represent more than 32 million educators in 403 education unions and organisations in 173 countries.

    I would like to let you know that beginning on July 22 we are holding our seventh World Congress in Ottawa, Canada. This is a big event for EI, one which is held once every four years. Two-thousand educators from our affiliate organisations will flock to Ottawa to vote in elections and to set the policy agenda for the next four years.

    Although much of the business does revolve around internal structures, we have some major policy resolutions that may be of interest to you.
    Among them, the launch of our campaign, the Global Response to Commercialisation and Privatisation in and of Education, is a major initiative that EI is leading. Through this campaign we want to end the exploitation of the world’s poorest children by profiteers who are taking advantage of public education systems.

    This initiative, along with our other major resolutions, is attached. Please visit the congress website for the detailed programme and news updates throughout the week on the latest decisions.
    Please feel free to contact me - andrew.king@ei-ie.org - for further information regarding Education International, the Congress and details of our other work. Please visit
    http://www.ei-ie.org/congress7/en/ for congress details.

    Kind regards,
    Andrew

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  14. Hot off the presses...

    http://m.columbiatribune.com/news/education/local-school-districts-continue-to-integrate-student-data-into-evaluations/article_1f969f42-0e6f-5cf5-b1dc-044c2c0a759d.html

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  15. Hello Mr. Greene, I don't see any private way to write to you on your blog. Could you send me your email address, Claudreif@verizon.net. I'd like to send you the galley proofs to my husband, Andrew Hacker's forthcoming New Press book, "The Math Myth," which is about standardized testing and higher math requirements. We will be getting a box of them soon. CLAUDIA DREIFUS

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  16. Hi,
    Do you ever take requests? You are my #1 favorite insightful, smart, snarky commentator on all things education. And you seem to have an unusual amount of time to read, digest/process, and then write to us your interpretation of an amazing array of topics in the world of ed reform. (and I thank you for your time and insights!!)
    On the off-chance you might accept a request, I was wondering what you know about magnet schools (do they exist anymore? Is anyone trying/can anyone create a magnet today? And maybe also, what do you know about the specialty high schools in NYC (Bronx Science, LaG Music and Art, Hunter, etc.) How are they faring in the world of CCSS, charterization, APPR, etc.?
    Does examining these provide insights into anything positive we could explore more as models for a way out of the darkness we're in? If these schools are still healthy and public, is there anything we can latch on to in an attempt to spread something positive? (I'm afraid of the answers but thought I'd ask anyway...)
    These may seem like naive questions. I'm desperately searching for some way to move forward with action. Which action to move forward with is a great unknown. So I thought I would take a chance and ask...

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  17. St. Louis needs help from actual journalists....My niece in law....Sarah Reckhow....would be good, but probably does not have the time or interest.....I guess Peter and Diane probably will not, either. Here is the story.....several years of cancelled raises by the state appointed board...St. Louis teachers decry district for not letting them advance---the reporter refuses to say anything about all the charter schools... http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/st-louis-teachers-decry-district-for-not-letting-them-advance/article_a9cca1d2-335f-5065-a261-fc9cf393162a.html My comments were pretty heated..the last one....3.Write to Diane Ravitch or Peter Greene-------you have to get national attention focused on this.......I am not sure whether there is anyplace else where this krap is being done.

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  18. Hey,

    I respect the good work that you are doing. I am against the testing, evaluations, and understand that the ccss were not created fairly. But I really the ccss - or at least the ela ones (I am not as familiar with the math). It is rare that I see anything specific that makes them so horrible. Which actual standard stands out as damaging? As a teacher in a public school, we have created wonderful assignments using ccss. The students have created creative, insightful, and thoughtful work. I am very reflective, and easily see the other side -- I just want to know which standard is so awful? The only thing I would say is that when our school purchased "common core" materials they were horrible. It only worked when the teachers created the curriculum themselves.

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    1. So, the standards work great once you just ignored the standards-based material and created your own lessons? This is similar to my recipe for liver-- gather all the ingredients for a delicious pizza and then throw the liver in the trash.

      My questions are the same as always for CCSS fans-- what did CCSS make possible that you couldn't do before you had them, and what would you have to stop doing tomorrow if they went away?

      As for problem standards-- there's a ton of material here at the blog, but I would ding all standards for K-3 as being pointlessly inappropriate. The writing standards are designed for teaching bad writing, and the reading standards suffer from the idea the reading is a set of discrete skills that exist separate from any content.

      But CCSS as consistent national standards are dead, so my advice at this point is to do whatever your professional judgment is good practice, and just call it Common Core.

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  19. Hi Peter, I enjoy reading your posts and thoughts on education. I am a teacher wrongly accused in Vergara vs. State of California. Please visit my blog anthonymize.net for further reading on my inclusion in the case. Thank you for your time and I appreciate your continued wisdom! - Anthony Mize

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  20. Hi there,

    I found your blog after one of my friends shared it with me on Facebook and wanted to run a few things by you. I'm working on a home education project, and I think it’s something you could definitely relate to. Let me know if you have a moment to discuss.

    Thanks!

    email: info@futureschoolpr.com

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  21. Well, I found your blog after I read your post about how stupid the idiots in Florida's department of education are. I tried to find out how to communicate with you, and as a person who does not participate in/on social media, I found this to be a way to do so.

    Anyway, I live in Florida and have kids in public schools. My wife and I are just as amazed at all aspects of this as you seem to be. How did these people get elected or appointed? How stupid are we (the constituents) to allow it? How far will they take this? How do we get them out?

    I'm happy that others are witnessing it, if for no other reason than to share in our disbelief/disgust/frustration. I wish there was an easy answer, but it appears to be a problem that may take years to resolve as a gross roots thing. Executive action needs to be taken. Hopefully we can shed light on this to more people so it can no longer be ignored.

    Thank you,
    JG

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  22. I love your article!!

    I'm the parent in Sarasota County right now whose A and B 3rd grader has been threatened with retention even though he participated (minimally) in the FSA.

    Of course, I've never heard Lori White's input.

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  23. Peter - I wrote a not very good poem you might like - at first I was going to send it to Diane R. but I thought it was more curmudgeonly. Liz

    Worksheets in the Garbage
    (Or What Happened to Shanker’s Dream of Charter Schools)
    By Liz Wisniewski


    In my mind’s eye I see
    Al Shanker, spinning in his grave.
    There are two types of grave spinning,
    One, like a pig on a spit,
    The other like a top, whose outer appearance is all a blur.
    Al, is like a top.

    My taste for black humor getting the better of me, I giggle,
    Reading the interview of the public school teacher of the autistic.
    Hearing how she and others would dumpster dive,
    Reaching for costly worksheets,
    Refuse of their neighbors,
    A rich charter school.
    Spin Al, spin.

    It just gets funnier,
    The charter makes a discovery!
    Their neighbors desire their garbage.
    A top down decision is made,
    The coveted worksheets must be disposed of
    At a time when they cannot be retrieved,
    Right before pick-up….
    Stealthily, they are slipped into the recycling bins.
    Spin Al, spin.

    But then,
    The younger charter teachers feel pity,
    Or, perhaps they hear Al spinning.
    They ignore the dictate.
    They start secretly sneaking the papers to the dumpster divers.
    Following a basic human urge(?)
    To help,
    Those less fortunate.

    Al slows down, just a bit.



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  24. I have just read your article "The Hard Part" and was really impressed at how well and transparent your comments are about teaching and what it involves.After more than thirty years teaching in all levels and reading so many insightful articles, I had never come up with someone whose words reveal true experience in this road. Thanks a lot.

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  25. Hi Peter,

    You are pretty much my spirit animal. Thanks and keep standing up for educators and students.

    Thanks,

    Russ

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  26. Wow! Just discovered you through a link on Wear Red for Ed and your ability to call DeVos out led me to read about your "About Me." I'm a veteran and my husband is retired AIr Force. We moved a lot and depended on Public Education to help our kids transition. I'm so angry at the push for vouchers with no evidence they will help those who need them most. Living in San Antonio TX has been a real eye opener as the disparities in a kid's educational opportunities by virtue of their zip code are readily apparent. And don't get me started on what I've learned about Charters since living here. Your About Me touched me and I thank you for sharing your thoughts and wanted to let you know how much I appreciate them.

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  27. To: Mr. Peter Green,
    If I may give you some positive feedback, please read on. I am intrigued by the thoughtful content on your blog. Your content shows the ability to deep think and I assume translate to strong relationships with your learners.

    I am a retired industrial systems/planning engineer. I entertain myself by examining how the Cuyahoga Falls City School District might optimize their operations. So, I do things like visit the BoE meetings of the #1 school district in Ohio. That happens to be Solon - at this time. I especially like your use of the Google Blogger - since I have focused on optimizing the use of the Google tools for the purpose of influencing the CFCSD in a positive manner. I have many websites set up to connect all things related to our CFCSD. But, my blog is weak and not used - within my Cuyahoga Falls community.

    I am not sure if the optimization of one school district using the latest tools, techniques and training fits within the scope of your curiosity - but, I would love to learn more about the direction that you see yourself as moving.

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