Let’s Talk About Suicide – TED Weekend Starts An Uncomfortable Conversation


TED and The Huffington Post have made suicide and depression the focus of this weekend’s TED Weekend.  There are articles by friends and family members who lost loved ones to suicide and a great talk (above) by JD Schramm, a suicide survivor.

As someone who lost his father at the age of 12 to suicide, I am comforted by those who seek to encourage discussions of depression and suicide. While we have made progress in this area since my dad’s suicide 33 years ago , we still have quite a bit of work to do to support those individuals struggling with the stigma of depression and those families struggling with the pain, guilt, and perceived disgrace that is associated with suicide.

I have always been bothered by the fact that there is far less discussion about mental illness than so many physical illnesses. I am struck by the irony in the fact that the families of those fighting mental illness have had to historically hide their experience living on an emotional roller coaster, immersing them in a similar silent struggles to the victim themselves.  My biggest frustration is with those who see people who commit suicide as selfish, weak, or someone who”took the easy way out.”

Gosh, how ignorant and insensitive can you really be!?  I think we can all agree that mentally healthy do not end their own lives.  Be thankful that you can’t comprehend feeling a sense of despair that would ever have you consider this for one moment! Anyway, I agree with JD Schramm’s concluding remark in the talk above which alludes to the TED Talk theme of discussing “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

Raising awareness and comfort levels for those who are impacted by mental illness and suicide is certainly at the top of my list! I encourage others to help in this cause by sharing this video and the accompanying Huffington Post articles below.

What I’ve Learned From My Best Friend’s Suicide –  by Lea Lane  

Faith-Filled Responses To Suicide  – by Reverend Mary Robin Craig

Goodbye Darkness My Old Friend – by Robin Bobbe

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Appreciating Educators, This Week And Always

In case you didn’t know it already, this week is Teacher Appreciation Week.  With this in mind, I have been reflecting about the educators who contributed so much to my success.  The first and foremost was my mother who was an elementary teacher for 30-plus years in Milford, MA. Then there were a number of others who played a critical role in my development after the death of my father when I was in the 7th grade.

In the past few days, there have been some great examples shared online which highlight the importance of passionate educators in the lives of students.  One of the most popular pieces making the rounds has been the phenomenal TED Talk by Dr. Rita Pierson (check it our below), an educator for over 40 years.  Dr. Pierson’s essay also appeared in the Huffington Post and the excerpt below is one that strikes me as most critical.

Unless there is a connection between teacher, student and lesson, learning becomes tiresome to all involved. Veteran educator, James Comer, states that, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”

In a day and age where so much time and energy is spent on debating a misguided education reform agenda that equates standardized test scores with quality teaching, I am thankful to work in an educational community that mirrors the one I attended as a student.  My thanks go to the educators who connected with me as a student and the wonderful teachers in Burlington who share this student-centered philosophy!

There is no test that can truly show what you mean to your students!


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Why School? Will Richardson Leads Us Towards Answers To This Critical Question

Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information are Everywhere is mandatory reading for anyone who cares about the education of their children. It is the perfect jumping off point for anyone interested in beginning or continuing a conversation on the long overdue changes that our schools need to undergo in order to provide a relevant learning experience for our students. Will Richardson speaks as a parent, a teacher, and a learner regarding the fundamental changes taking place outside the walls of our schools and he makes a compelling case as to what we need to do inside of our school walls to adjust to what he describes as “a shift in the way we define and acquire an “education.’”

I encourage school communities to read this book together as a tool for creating a new vision about why our kids go to school.   At just $2.99 a copy, you will not find a more cost effective resource. 

Will presents straightforward questions that we can present to parents and other stakeholders to help us make this much needed shift.  We need to help parents and community members engage in a narrative that will help them see clearly that the test scores that our country’s education reform movement are focused upon “tell us little if anything about our children’s chances for future success.”

Will also provides concrete examples of how and where there are schools that are starting to make this shift.  These schools have stepped away from the teacher-centered mentality that dominates most classrooms and moved to a learner-centered approach where students and teachers learn together about our rapidly changing world.  

The moral imperative for those passionate about the education of our children and their children is clear. He leaves us with this final thought:

“Just imagine the learners they could become if we made that the focus of our work, if instead of passing the test, we made those ever-more important skills of networking, inquiry, creation, sharing, unlearning and relearning the answer to “Why School?”

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