Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why schools are hurting our children

School is not just about the grades:  

Grades are supposed to be the result of hard work, sweat and tears; yet, again and again, schools are perpetuating the myth that grades are all that matter while, ironically enough, squandering the importance of independent study or, as everyone knows it, homework.  Because of “educational experts” like Ken O’Connor and Rick Wormeli, coupled with the band wagon mentality of so many school districts nationwide, school districts are continuing to hold onto the idea that teaching students to be truly ready for the real-world, for college, for jobs, for life is not the public school’s job.  Instead, public schooling is living in the “now” and only focusing on the data students provide to justify their jobs.  Needless to say, we have lost our way and we have lost what is best for our children in an attempt to reform schools. 

Let me explain...

“Homework is now considered practice for tests. Assignments that are half done, handed in late or missing all together will be noted, but will not hurt a student’s grade. Nor will showing up late for class, forgetting to bring your pencil, failing to raise your hand before shouting out an answer or forgetting to bring in a permission slip for the class trip…” 
As an old journalism adviser and current high school English instructor, it is hard not to cringe, even scoff at the date of the article; however, I did this purposely.  We are now nearly to the end of 2014 and scores are stagnant despite “educational reform” attempts as described in Tyre’s article, which is dated 2010.  Take special notice of the first sentence, “Homework is now considered practice for tests.”  Unfortunately, for many administrators, not all, that translates into a one-size-fits all curriculum that consists of the same assessments that ultimately “prepare” students for state and even national assessments, not for life outside of high school.  So, students are already unintentionally being conditioned to focus on the end product rather than on the process of learning, which is a destructive, fixed mindset. 

Standardized testing and grade weighting that places the majority of a class’ credit on summative tests are examples of what is fueling grading debates nationwide.  It is also something that continues to shake me to my philosophical core.  The whole student counts. Teachers, administrators, even O’Connor and Wormeli agree. What is ironic is how that translates into our classrooms.   According to O’Connor, students should not be punished for their behaviors and that all students should be given as many attempts as they want when “mastering” a subject, assignment or even a test.  For example, if a student chooses not to turn in a homework assignment when it is assigned, it would be considered wrong to deduct points from their grade because the teacher is penalizing a student for her behavior rather than focusing on what she actually knows.  This notion is absolutely absurd.  It is impossible to separate behaviors from learning, because how a student behaves forms his or her learning experience.

New trends in grading sabotage our children: 

As a sophomore English teacher, my primary job is to teach critical thinking skills and to teach such skills, students have to be patient with unpacking text.  Finding symbolism, understanding author’s purpose and relating their discoveries in the text to everyday life are the focus of everything we do in my classroom. They need to be able to analyze their own worlds to be able to purposely live in it as adolescents and as adults.  However, none of this can happen if students do not read the assigned literature. 

Seminars cannot happen, discussion cannot take place and learning is stalled because, under the philosophy above, students cannot be punished, because the actual choice not to read is a behavior, not an academic concern.  Well, if they do not read, they cannot learn and that “behavior” impacts the student and everyone else in the classroom, because that is one more perspective that would not be added to the discussion.  And, unfortunately, our students are human, which means if they know they cannot be penalized for not doing their work and redos are always a possibility, there is no impetus to do it in a timely manner.  Then teachers are forced to focus their energy on chasing students down for missing work, and learning gets lost because the class is unable to move forward as expected, because student apathy reigns. Why read, why study, why work hard when there is no penalty for asking to redo everything for a better grade?  Could you even begin to imagine how this would translate into the adult world? Additionally, the cognitive load alone associated with trying to keep up in this kind of environment devalues the process of learning altogether.  Like teachers, students need to be invested in the process of learning to truly learn. They also need to see their teachers are invested, but all of that gets lost when eyes are only on the end result.  While my experience is solely in the Language Arts, the Nation’s report echoes the same grim picture I painted above.

Big business and "educational reform" do not mix:

Here is where it gets really troubling. According to The Nation’s Report Card for 2013, we have had some gains in math between 2005 and 2009; however, the scores have been stagnant since.    

What is more troubling is that reading has decreased since 1992, with no changes since 2009.  Schools are still holding onto “experts” like Wormeli and O’Connor despite the fact that we are failing our students on a national level.  In the meantime Wormeli and O’Connor line their pockets with our nation’s ignorance.  For example, Ken O’Connor is making millions because Pearson Prentice Hall has partnered with him. What does that mean?  Big business is controlling our educational trends. Changing our mindset as a nation would mean saying big companies like Pearson Prentice Hall were and are wrong.  That means massive economic losses for corporate America. Also, Pearson is the parent company of smaller companies that author standardized tests internationally, so it is easy to see why Pearson is so invested in maintaining the culture of standardized testing.  As a result, our students, our children are just money-makers for big business and public schools are being manipulated.

Also, please take notice that “educational experts” like Wormeli and O’Connor are still making their rounds, being paid millions of tax-payer dollars.  The question lingers, “Why?” Even O’Connor struggles with teacher and parental concerns on his Ask the Grade Doctor website. For example, he says, “I have responded to Joe Killoron articles before and he is still wrong on so many levels and in so many ways it is hard to know where to start to respond” and he continues to ramble on without offering any solid evidence, just emotion and “practical” knowledge.  

Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset:

Despite more timely, more thoughtful insights and research like what has been offered by Carol Dweck on the fixed vs. growth mindset, schools continue to put their blinders on and ignore new evidence that disproves the very grading initiatives they are pushing forward.  Dweck highlights how important it is to experience failure, to learn from failure and to praise effort rather than praising intelligence.  She emphasizes how it is imperative to not praise grades, but to push children to figure out what they can do better.  She focuses on the importance of the process, not the end result. The process of learning is much more valuable than the end result, because the learning process never ends.  So, why then would we have a student’s grade be something like 80% summative and 20% formative? Does that not in its very nature bastardize the growth mindset Dweck explains is necessary to be a successful, resilient adult? Instead, educational institutions insist on riding the coat tails of an outdated, ineffective fixed mindset that claims students should primarily, if not only, be graded on summative assessments, because formative assessments are merely practice and, as a result, should not be used to “penalize” students.

Yet, teachers are supposed to carry on class discussion or instruction without being able to hold students accountable for doing their work?  Without homework or, shall I say, Practice (as defined by Wormeli, because homework is apparently a dirty word), learning does not happen.  Without true learning, there is no motivation to continue the process at all.  Then what do we have?  We have stagnant scores, just like the ones displayed above.  But that is merely what is above the water.  What is below the water is the future of our country.  Could you imagine living in a world where our leaders always expect redos, who disregard deadlines, who live day-to-day with little reflection only to lose it emotionally and mentally when faced with convoluted issues that require even more complex solutions?

There is hope, but we need to do it together: 

We have to first undo the damage that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) did by making high-stakes testing the primary means of assessment and funding. Then we need to address the serious flaws that revolve around grading students primarily on final assessments.  However, we cannot do any of this without addressing the fixed mindset that rules so many policy decisions.  Common sense and teacher experience need to be utilized, and their voices need to be heard when it comes to student achievement. 

In Mickey Goodman’s article, “Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?” she explains, “When a college freshman received a C- on her first test, she literally had a meltdown in class. Sobbing, she texted her mother who called back, demanding to talk to the professor immediately (he, of course, declined).” She continues to explain how Generation “Y” kids have shorter attention spans and rely heavily on external motivation rather than finding intrinsic motivation. The reason? The current educational climate gives students a way out of failure.  With failure comes the greatest learning and our educational system is taking that away from our students. Rather than being inspired to work harder, students simply give up because they do not have the emotional skill set to handle life, which is precisely why separating academics and behavior sabotages our children’s futures. 

Because students are lacking a growth mindset, they also lack resiliency because they are often not allowed to experience getting in trouble and having consequences without parental and/or teacher intervention. In our schools’ attempts to help students under the “no failure” and “redo” policies, they are actually crippling them intellectually, emotionally and socially. Knowing this, how can we expect students to access their intrinsic motivation when they know they can fail a test or homework again and again without any consequences?

In fact, students are rewarded for NOT doing their homework because they know they can simply continue to redo the assignment or test until they get their desired grade, which means there is no focus or emphasis placed on actually learning the material.  Instead, their attention is focused on manipulating the system, wearing teachers out with inordinate amounts of grading, unleashing helicopter parents and questioning teacher efficacy without even addressing the actual content. Rather than teaching students the importance of resiliency through deadlines, consequences and scaffolding, we sabotage them by not teaching them boundary setting, and the joy and the subsequent intrinsic motivation that comes from overcoming something difficult all by themselves.  It is time to take back our children’s right to learn and affect change.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Doing what is right, not what is expected

“I’m not the kind of guy to rat people out, but some things just cross the line.  Ignorance is bliss, they say, but you just can’t put up with things like this.”

-Soldier Joe Darby who discovered and handed over Abu Ghraib prison pictures
(Margaret Heffernan’s Ted Talk, The Dangers of “Willful Blindness”

It was early in the first quarter when I showed my sophomore English class Margaret Heffernan’s Ted Talk,“Willful Blindness.” We had just completed Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, “Harrison Bergeron,” a story in which the average and the gifted were handicapped by cumbersome weights and mind deafening jolts of sound. The imbeciles on the other hand were left to live and reign without any such burdens or consequences.  I remember one unintentionally poignant series of questions a student (I’ll call him Joe) asked. The sweet sad irony unfolded,

“What are Hazel and George thinking? Why can that stupid Diana lady with a gun just take everyone out? It’s just so fake. This story’s stupid and doesn’t make sense!” Joe was clearly irritated by what seemed to be a waste of his time. 
“Can someone tell me what happened in the Freshman Commons the other day?” I asked.
“What do ya mean?” said Joe
“Wasn’t there a fight the other day and everyone circled around to watch?”
“Uh, yeah.  That was crazy,” Joe’s comment elicited a couple chuckles from the other kids and a few others tried to give some quick synopses of what they saw.
“What was everyone doing who was there?”
“Cheering it on, being loud,” he said
“Did anyone go get a teacher?”
“No, of course not!  Snitches get stitches! One ended up showing up though.”
“So, not only did some people just watch it happen, others even encouraged it to continue and even worse, if you told then you were the biggest villain of them all?”
“Yeah!  We don’t like snitches!”  Again, a soft chuckling rolled around the room.
“Then would you say that Hazel and George did the right thing because they didn’t ‘snitch’?”
“No, that would be stupid,” Joe said deeply conflicted.
“So, then how are those kids who allowed the fight to continue any different than Hazel and George?” My words were met with silence and even some open mouths.
“That was deep, Ms. That was deep.”

     It was at that moment my students realized they were potentially as much the problem as the two kids who were throwing fists.  It was at that moment they understood they had to take responsibility for choosing to be “willfully blind” in the literal and metaphorical fights in which they’ve participated.  It was at that moment they began to understand what it truly means to be an independent thinker and that there would be consequences for doing what’s right; but those consequences are absolutely necessary if they want the world to be a better place.  

     Heffernan’s talk continues to come up in class even though we’ve moved way beyond that unit and one student even accused me of making her “think too much about stuff.”  I’ll happily take the blame, because what we don’t need are a bunch of Hazels, Georges and Diana Moon Glampers (imbeciles), and we’ve got to help mold our Harrison Bergerons (the most gifted) rather than leaving them to their own devices and ultimately, their own demise and/or misuse of power.  To do that, we must teach our children and our students the value of reflection and ultimately, the value of life.  We have to teach them that to do the right thing most certainly will result in pain and suffering, but that pain and suffering is precisely what gives us the ability to appreciate life and without it, no true learning takes place.  We have to teach them to be brave. As Heffernan stated in her talk, “freedom doesn’t exist if you don’t use it” and so we must teach our youth to have the “determination not to be blind and not to be silent” when it comes to doing what is right, not what is expected. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 10 Things Teachers want Students to Know

10 things teachers want students to know:

    10. We don’t give grades; you earn them.

  9. We are not your parents or your friends.  We are your mentors.

 8. We’re always willing to help, but we’re not doing your homework for you.

 7. You’re not the worst class this school has ever seen.  There’s just a lot of room for growth and we’re patiently waiting.  :)

  6. I don’t care if your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa or parole officer is texting you. They can call the office if they want to get ahold of you. You will survive.

  5. We make mistakes and so do you, so let’s learn from them.

  4. We have favorites. If you work hard, ask questions and share concerns constructively then of course you’re going to be more likable, because you genuinely care about your education as much as we do.

 3. Question everyone, everything and think for yourself; however, do it kindly and with respect.

 2. Don’t be fooled by No Child Left Behind, because it’s pretty likely that if you’ve bought into it, you’ve been left behind.

       1. Teaching is the best job in the world and thank you for the laughs, tears, frustrations and constant reflection.  We’re better people because of you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Technology in schools: Facebook should be embraced, not feared

I had to do it. I had to say that filthy word multiple times at conferences so parents and students could have another way of reaching me.  It's been smeared in the news, teachers have lost their jobs because of it and parents try to protect their kids from it while others ignore it entirely.

Facebook.  It has been added to the list of words teachers aren't supposed to speak of in front of students unless, of course, it has to do with the Dean's Office and an investigation  In fact, Missouri nearly went as far as banning teachers from being able to "friend" students, making it a fireable offense.  Thankfully schools are there to protect their employees from themselves...seriously?  No thank you.

Despite its demonization, facebook has become an indispensable tool I use to help kids outside of school. And all that is needed is a little commonsense, defined rules and clear boundaries to safeguard students and teachers.  I made an entirely different account that is designed to only be used to help my students and parents.  I don't post status updates, I don't go onto other people's profiles, I don't friend kids, I don't write on other students' walls; and most importantly, I unsubscribe from every student's newsfeed so I don't know about any part of their lives outside of school.  I don't know and I don't want to know what they are writing about, but they can ask me questions on mine and chat about assignments or ask for homework clarifications.

Like everything in life, it just comes down to explaining the rules and defining boundaries. I've been using facebook for two years as an instructional tool and students say time and time again they appreciate getting one-on-one help after school and it saves me quite a few headaches the next day. The questions are usually pretty easy and chats last a couple minutes, allowing students to keep pushing forward with their work instead of getting overwhelmed and anxious.  I've also found that students who normally don't ask questions at school find solace in typing their questions in the comfort of their own homes.

Some of my colleagues have expressed concerns about allowing so much access beyond the school day, that teaching has become a profession that demands 24 hour surveillance and personal family time is consequently lost.  It's truly a valid concern, but one thing my students know (because I talk to them about it at the beginning of the year) is that when I'm at home, my family comes first. While I'm pretty good at getting back to them quickly, sometimes it just might not happen and they have always understood.    

Fear should never determine how technology should be used in and outside of the classroom.  Rather, teachers as well as students need to be taught the boundaries, safeguards, benefits and the opportunities afforded by social media of all types.  Teachers need to consider their "student-friendly" facebook accounts as extensions of their classrooms, and apply the same professionalism and rules to their wall/chats that they would exercise in their own classrooms.  Social media needs to be embraced by educators and educational institutions, not feared or over-regulated by paranoid overseers. Nearly 21% of facebook users are ages 13-17, according to statistics compiled by Ken Burbary, so why not use a resource students are already immersed in as a way to encourage learning? 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"An Open Mind is not an Empty Mind"

I was thumbing through one of my books for graduate class when I ran across that quote and I haven’t been able to let it go since. Sure, its importance is obvious when it comes to teaching because we need to teach our students how to use their minds, create their own ideas while being open to dialogue, new perspectives and personal growth.  But what about the other adults who surround us in the very place we teach?

I’ve noticed two camps forming within the teaching ranks…the teachers on the administrative track and then there are the “others.”   Well, I’m certainly an “other” because I have absolutely no right or will or want to be an administrator--at least not in today’s educational environment, because we’ve lost our way. I hope that will change. I hope that someday I will have an opportunity to be in a leadership position that truly would revolve around the students' needs, not the adults.  

Oftentimes it seems building administrators, at least in larger districts, seem to be in place to perform reconnaissance missions. They simply have to carry out the orders given from downtown and those orders seemingly originate out of the need to: 1) meet specific standards to increase or guarantee funding; 2) quiet down and manage unruly parties (teachers, parents and/or community members) by executing damage control; and/or 3) to maintain a specific protocol that has been or possibly could be breached. Their plates are so full that they have very little time to do any more than that.  The system is struggling to survive. 

Ironically enough, the focus seems to shift from concentrating on what kids need educationally to obsessing about what the adults need locally, statewide and nationally, all under the guise that they’re doing what’s right for kids.  It’s all a big sham, but everyone needs to make a living and I get that. 

And more often than not when I stop and ask teachers en-route to “crossing over” why they are choosing the administrative path, their response usually is “the money.”  I can’t say I blame them. They’ve got families to feed, responsibilities, they’re focusing on home, not on the plight of education because it’s bigger than them and because they can’t make a difference. I get it, but I just don’t believe it.  If I could I would do the same, but I haven’t been able to blot-out my original purpose for entering this profession, which is to help kids. Every big movement starts with small steps and wouldn’t it be amazing if we all got in synch?

Just the other week I asked a professional development trainer if she ever felt conflicted about what she’s being told to teach verses what she feels morally.  Her response was that there were many times she couldn’t believe what was coming out of her mouth, because she didn’t agree with it. She went on to explain that it’s simply the nature of teaching and the nature of education right now, that “we have to make due with what we have and wait it out.”  I’ve had the same conversation with multiple members of administration from various schools and the sentiment seems nearly identical.  All have justifiable reasons, but that brings me back to the quote at the top of the page, “An open mind is not an empty mind.” It takes courage, but imagine the benefits we will reap if the system were to change even a little bit at a time.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Differentiation: At what cost?

It came home in his backpack.  It wasn’t really a big deal. I mean, jeeze, it was a spelling pre-test, right?  All of those check marks were wide-eyed with sideways grins. And at the very top, next to the percentage, was a note saying he was on the “purple” list. In other words, he was just average.

Yes, I’m biased because he’s my son, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  He’s not a genius, but he’s pretty smart and so why is he doing this poorly?  When I asked him about it, he said his teacher went through the words too fast and that he was unable to write quickly enough, so I knew I had to start digging for the truth.

All in the name of differentiation, Connor was put on the “average” list because his pre-test didn’t earn him the “honor” of being on the “challenge” list, and he knew exactly what that meant. Ranking the tests by colors doesn’t hide the implications. At the tender age of 8, he’s already aware he’s being tracked as an “average” kid rather than being pushed beyond.  The teacher had even written a blurb on the test noting her surprise when she saw his score because his reading fluency was solid, and the two didn’t correlate.  

To make a long story short, we exchanged a few emails and she discovered (after another spelling pre-test) that if she had him spell the words verbally he only missed one on that particular pre-test.  So, as I suspected, Connor’s anxiety was the issue behind his poor scores. He couldn’t write the words fast enough while she was saying them. Despite his poor performance on the pre-test, she decided to put him on the “challenge” list, which is the most difficult list. He scored a 94 percent and I was so proud. 

Connor is currently in the third grade and a hard little worker. Sure, he picks on his sister, sometimes cries about giving-up playtime for homework time and doesn’t always listen that well, but when it’s time to buckle down and get the job done, he’s always up for the challenge.  It doesn’t matter what spelling list he gets, he’ll do well on the final assessment. 

Unfortunately though, since that 94 percent, he has taken another spelling pre-test and not surprisingly, he didn’t do well. And here he sits, back on the “average” track despite his gains on the “challenge” list. His teacher ignored his progress and her instinct for the sake of staying true to the numbers.  Needless to say, I’m feeling a bit defeated.  He worked hard, proved himself and was kicked out of the high-ability group nevertheless.

So what happens when we lower the bar from the get-go?  What happens when students start getting separated into groups based solely on pre-tests, based on numbers, not based on what is truly best for the students? We start standardizing mediocrity even at the kindergarten level.  Connor will rise to the challenge as most kids will at his age, but instead of pushing him, challenging him to be his best, the pre-test/post-test system is set up to only make students comfortable so they experience success at their own level.  It sounds so nice and politically correct; however, the irony is this process leaves children behind because it widens the gap that already may exist between different groups of children. 

Pre-tests, from my understanding, give teachers insights into how they should approach their curricula.  It’s not supposed to be another form of tracking.  All students should be on the track for the “challenge” list, and not deprived simply because they panic with words they’ve never been tested over before that moment.  Will everyone be able to get all of them right? Of course not. However, building from those mistakes while keeping an eye on the prize is more important than jumping from platform to platform, gaining no real ground.

It’s never any fun to always know you’re one step behind because, by high school, that “one step” oftentimes becomes years and we wonder why kids are bored.  We allow them to get comfortable with just getting-by all in the name of  “differentiation.”  Differentiation isn’t just about numbers or meeting proficiency; it’s about the kids and about knowing what is best for the whole child.

Friday, September 16, 2011

State Testing Scores: Numbers come between education and our students

Now here’s a familiar scenario for many of you: state scores came in and everybody’s in a tizzy. Reading scores have gone down a few points and math scores (the first year ever given) are way below proficiency levels expected by the state. To combat the problem, we had a building-level day of professional development, some of which focused solely on data analysis, brainstorming and the hopes of a plan that will turn the numbers around. 

You’ll notice the word “students” isn’t mentioned anywhere in the above paragraph. While the children we teach are naturally the center of our world and our curriculum, they have become secondary to the numbers presented by the state and second to the numbers expected by the federal government. In fact, today at the meeting one of my colleagues asked if it would be worth sacrificing the students who “exceed expectations” on the tests so those who are “below the standard” can “meet the standard,” and an administrator responded, “If that’s what it takes, I guess that’s okay with me!” 

There was a collective gasp and the silence was deafening.  My mouth was open and I couldn’t help but think, “Did that really just happen?”  Are we really becoming so blind we only see numbers, not students?  Then there was talk about how we need to provide remediation to prepare kids for “the test,” and we need to know if students are at risk as soon as they enter ninth grade so we can get them ready for “the test.”

It’s no longer a matter of preparing them for their future; it’s a matter of getting them proficient on these red-horned, triangle-tailed state albatrosses.  Teaching the “whole” student is becoming a lost art because proficiency, mediocrity, has become a new kind of merit pay for schools—ironically all at the expense of the kids.  

One of the many reasons I asked to be moved from teaching junior English to sophomore English is because it was hard not to feel trapped by all the state testing preparation and its overwhelming impact on curriculum. For example, the state persuasive writing prompts have nothing to do with critical thinking and everything to do with the mechanics of a five-paragraph-essay, an essay that would be laughed at in any collegiate setting.

The reading test, for example, has approximately 3-5 (out of 60) questions based solely on decoding vocabulary based on origin, prefixes and suffixes and even more that simply ask for definitions. The questions that deal with more abstract concepts like tone and theme are incredibly subjective, and the tests fail any test of objectivity because by nature, English is subjective. As a result, the tests act more like speed bumps than bridges in our curriculum because shared inquiry, analysis and the questions/ideas kids get from it aren’t up for discussion and the material is independent from what we teach. However, despite the obvious flaws, every school’s future rides on standardizing students so they can get their funding and “stay off the list.”    

But the problems just begin there. Not only do the tests have very little relevance in terms of content, the amount of time it takes out of our curricular time is mind-boggling. Not only were kids pulled out of class for two days for the NeSA State Reading and Writing tests, we had to spend approximately three days first semester and three days second semester to administer practice writing tests. Then the same applies again for state writing.  What that means is at the minimum, 16 days of classroom curriculum has to be put on hold for testing.  And that’s just where it begins. 

Now add state math testing, which means two more days down at central office. That’s two more days out of everyone’s classes and then, of course, there will be a science and social studies assessment in place sooner than later, which means four more class periods.  So here’s what it looks like:

State Writing Test =                  2 days
                (Practice Tests) =                  6 days
State Reading Test =                 2 days
                (Practice Tests)  =                 6 days
State Math Test      =                 2 days
                        18  days

Then you need to add what is to come:
State Science test  =                        Add 2 days
State Social Studies test =               Add 2 days
                                                              22 days

                  Approximately Twenty-two days, over four weeks of class time, will be taken up or interrupted by state testing once all tests are put into place junior year.  The question is, in the long run, how will this benefit our students?  In a desperate attempt to create quantifiable data, the government has decided to focus on numbers rather than the kids and consequently, kids are becoming the collateral damage. As a student, imagine spending 22 days in one year working on test after test.  

              Let’s not forget trying to work meaningfully through all the curricular expectations while knowing most districts care most about test scores. It’s all incredibly overwhelming, but as teachers we must work through the problems, not around them and demand change. I’m just not sure how and where to begin. All I know is that we need to figure out a way to do it together.