Immigration Lessons, Third Grade Edition

The edu-daughter is learning about immigration this month in her third-grade class. Before things even got started, we made sure she realized she was, herself, an immigrant. She arrived in this country at 13 months old from Guatemala. She was sworn in as a baby U.S. citizen in the basement of the Bush Airport in Houston.

For whatever reason, she has really taken to this focus on immigration. Over the weekend, the edu-daughter went to work on her personal white board to write up what she has learned so far about immigration. (She then asked if we could text the picture to her teacher, so she could see what she was up to.)


My first thought, after reading her notes, was that she is learning about immigration via The Godfather Part 2. There is a rising sense of pride that she sees immigration as Vito Corleone did as he arrived on our shores.

But after further reflection, I was even more proud with how she has jumped into this lesson and how she is not reflecting any of the ugliness that we see on the topic of immigration in the mainstream media these days. It would be very easy for a child, particularly a brown child, to realize that when they talk about “those people” coming into our country and us needing to send them back home, that some of those people carry the same blood and look just like she does. But she’s not seeing that.

One of these weekends, we need to make a trip to Ellis Island. I want to show her where the Finellis and the Perones on my side of the family came into the country. Sadly, the Ricciardellis didn’t come in through Lady Liberty, they arrived via Boston. But there is enough family history on Ellis Island for her to get a sense of things and better understanding of how this country came to be and on whom this country is truly built.



Gaming and the #CommonCore

As the urban legend goes, educators are provided little flexibility when it comes to teaching the Common Core State Standards. Those who don’t quite understand what the standards are assume it comes with a proscribed curriculum, one that teachers must follow to the very letter.

But in classrooms across the country, we see educators empowered with the flexibility to do what makes sense in teaching the Common Core to their students. With learning as the ultimate goal, how one gets there isn’t as important as the final destination.

On Common Core Radio this week, LFA’s Cheryl Scott Williams and I speak with Rebecca Rufo-Tepper of the Institute of Play. In this segment, Dr. Rufo-Tepper discusses how educators are using gaming to help students learn the key tenets of Common Core, and do so successfully.

It’s definitely worth the listen. We are seeing more and more how gaming can be a tremendously effective tool in 21st century teaching. Using it to relay Common Core lessons to students is no different.




Learning from Our Heroes, Accepting Their Flaws

Are we expecting too much from our heroes? As communities look to remove statues and strip names from buildings, perhaps we need to take a step back and really use these experiences as learning experiences. As I write for Medium this week, as part of my Ashoka Foundation Changemaker Education work:

If we truly want to teach empathy, we need to embrace flawed heroes. We need our kids to know that many of our Founding Fathers were both great leaders and slave owners. We need them to know that two of the greatest ballplayers to ever lace up their cleats — Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose — will never be in the Hall of Fame because they broke the rules of the game. They need to know that modern-day presidents can be great world leaders, yet have personal moral deficiencies.

Before we call for another statue to be removed or holiday to be renamed or history to be rewritten, we must remember that mankind was built on a history of sin, fallibility, and missteps. Instead of wiping it from the history annals, perhaps we should use it as a teaching experience, an opportunity to show our children that even the most imperfect of people can do great things. After all, isn’t that the role of a true hero, to inspire us and instill a belief that we, too, can accomplish the impossible?

What Does Math Mean to a Third Grader?

Over the weekend, we needed to turn the house upside down to find the edu-daughter’s math folder. Eventually, we found it. (If you can believe it, the edu-dog had decided to take it. We always knew Jack Russells were smart, but …)

After finding it, though, I was taken with what my daughter had written on the front of the folder. Completely unprompted. And I’ll admit, it is a phrase she’s never heard uttered in the edu-house. “Math is the study of the world.”

I was just so taken by it. Had to share it. No edu-political agenda here. I promise.


Talking Public/Private Partnerships on Twitter #ANPRSA

Just wanted to share this notice from the Public Relations Society of America. On Thursday, September 24 at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT, I’ll be part of a Twitter town hall that PRSA is hosting on “Best Practices in Managing Nonprofit-Corporate Partnerships. Following are all of the deets. Hope you’ll be able to join us on hashtag #ANPRSA for the discussion.

The Association/Nonprofit section’s next Twitter chat will bring folks together to discuss Best Practices for Nonprofit and Corporate Partnership — what challenges to anticipate when building and managing these relationships, what outcomes you can/should expect, and what resources are available for nonprofits who want to engage more in this kind of work. We hope you can join us! 

Best Practices in Managing Nonprofit-Corporate Partnerships

Thursday, September 24, 2015
8 PM Eastern / 5 PM Pacific



Patrick R. Riccards (@Eduflack)
Chief Communications and Strategy Officer, Woodrow Wilson Foundation

Tom Greer (@tompgreer)
Director of Communication, TASBO
Denise Bortree (@dbortree)
Director, Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication

The Loss of a Legend … and a Really Great Guy

Eduflack was deeply saddened this afternoon to learn of the passing of Larry McQuillan. Larry was a colleague, a mentor, a dear friend, and just a terrific guy.

Just about everyone in the education communications community knew Larry. And he was universally liked in our field. That can be a real rarity. 

For those unfamiliar with his background, Larry started off as a reporter. He did the local media grind in a number of small-town newspapers. Larry was a helluva reporter. He worked his way to Washington, DC, where he covered the White House. And the stories he could tell about life as a beat reporter. 

As I came to know Larry, I finally asked why he was always wearing a coat and tie, even when he was working in a business casual environment. He responded with a story of covering President Bill Clinton. The “lid” was supposedly on for the day, and Larry was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Then he was called into work, finding himself in the Oval Office in jeans. He wore a tie every work day after that. He would never be caught unprepared again. 

After he left journalism, Larry worked in communications for groups like the American Federation of Teachers and American Institutes of Research. It was at the latter where I really got to know Larry. 

He was the consummate professional, terrific writer, thoughtful leader, and great human being. Larry had a great sense of humor, coupled with a wonderfully dry wit. I could be entertained for hours each day just by the stories he could tell or the conversations we would have. 

When I left AIR, one if the hardest things was saying goodbye to Larry. My success at AIR was due so much to Larry and his terrific work. After departing AIR, I was fortunate to continue to build my relationship with Larry, really growing to appreciate him as a friend. 

Larry cared about me and my family, always wanting the latest updates. He loved talking about his own son and how exciting the equine world, his son’s field, was by observation. He adored his wife, and was always telling me about her work. And in recent years, nothing meant more to Larry than his role as grandfather. 

Today, I lost a great teacher, great counselor, and even greater friend. Larry was the big brother who taught me what it was really like to think like a reporter. The education world is a little lesser today with the loss of Larry McQuillan. And I know my personal world is as well. 

Larry is what we all should aspire to become. A successful professional, completely selfless despite enormous skill and success. A man who knew his priorities, and never forgot them. 

Goodbye, my friend. Know you will be deeply missed, but never forgotten. Your advice, counsel, and fraternity will forever be a part of my professional DNA. Thank you for all you did, all you gave, and all you cared. 

Kiddos Craving Social Media Love?

Over on my Dadprovement blog, I wrote about an important piece that Parents magazine recently came out with, reposting here, as it is just as important a discussion in education circles as it is in parenting circles:

In my book, Dadprovement, I wrote some about how frustrating it can be to see friends leading these “perfect” family lives on Facebook, complete with perfect kids, perfect family outings, and just, well, general perfection. We all know it is just a facade, but for many parents slogging it out each and every day, it can get really frustrating.

So I was glad to see Parents magazine do a story this week on how social media can affect parenting. Parenting in a Fakebook World: How Social Media Is Affecting Your Parenting is definitely worth the read.

Many thanks to Mackenzie Dawson and the good folks over at Parents for including me in the story. I’m sure I’m not the only dad or mom out there who has a little one who craves the social media spotlight.

It’s What We Teach Our Kids, Not What We Learned As Kids That Truly Matters

As a nation, we seem collectively focused on our differences. Black or white. Male or female. Red or blue. Naturally born or immigrant. Wealth or lack thereof. We are defined by our differences, and relish pointing out how others lack the homogeneity we seem to think we all seek.

Over at Medium, Eduflack writes this week on the horrific actions at Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina last month, and what that experience should teach us as parents and as a community. I’m honored to be a contributor to Changemaker Education, a new series from Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative.

In one of the more personal pieces I’ve written in quite a while, I talk about my own experiences, as a white Catholic, at AME churches, and my hopes for my own children, both of Latino descent. As I write:

As children of color, my son and daughter will have a very different life experience than I have had. They will know just as much of the world in which I was raised as they do of the world from which they were adopted. It may be tough for them to be raised with roots in both communities, but it will define who they are as adults and how they raise their own children.

Ultimately, it is my hope that 20 years from now, one of them will be in the well of an AME church, speaking out on the importance of community and equity. It is my hope that they will speak of how far we have come in two decades to tear down the walls and silos of difference in pursuit of identifying the similarities that define us. And it is my hope that they will mean each and every word they speak.

Please give it a read. And please check out what Ashoka is doing on this important topic.