Bringing Joy to Others Raises an Awareness

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions,

and the roots spring up and make new trees.”

-Amelia Earhart

“I believe with all my heart that kindness is the key to happiness.”

-Jacob Cramer


 Many children have inspired me throughout the years I have been in education, but one young man will always hold a special place in my heart.

Jacob Cramer has brought so much joy to the lives of thousands of senior citizens through the recent implementation of his project, Love for the Elderly. I write this post today hoping his words and message will spread even further,  bringing joy to many more.

I have known Jacob since he was in kindergarten and have had the privilege of not only teaching him but watching his many creative endeavors over the years.  Sharing positivity has been a mainstay of Jacob’s existence.

While juggling a hefty AP and Honors course load at his high school, this amazing sophomore still manages to find the time to maintain an extensive website, post on Facebook and Pinterest, tweet messages of kindness (@lovetheelderly) and answer numerous emails from his many contributors and fans.  He even found time to compete in the Future Problem Solving International competition in June of 2015, winning second place in the Community Problem Solving category.  In addition, Jacob has had the privilege of participating in two Ted Talks- one in Cincinnati, and an upcoming TedxCSU at Cleveland State University in October.

Please take the time to view his Tedx Talk and visit his website!  Just reading through Jacob’s extensive website is guaranteed to brighten your heart and put a smile on your face.


Visit Love for the Elderly website

Watch Jacob’s TedxYouth talk

Send a letter!

P.O. Box 24248

Cleveland, OH 44124


A Community’s Struggle to Preserve a Neighborhood School

“In the struggle for justice, we meet new friends.”

Jaribu Lee, educational activist


I attended a vigil the other night- a candlelight vigil to support the 12 educational activists fighting to reverse the closing of the last community high school in their neighborhood by embarking on a hunger strike.  

I met these brave people.  I shook their hands and I hugged them- I hugged them hard.  I let them know that we, as fighters for the rights of our students and public education, stand with them.  And I let them know that they have the support of many in my own educational reform-torn state.

I attended this vigil cautiously, and I knew why once I got there- it was evident in the faces of the children.  These children might never know the joy of belonging to a community of learners, a neighborhood school.  They proudly held the signs created by other Chicago Public School children while gazing at the crowd and played with the tea light candles handed out to the attendees. Their innocence was a harsh reminder that we must continue to speak on their behalf.

You see, these children might very well be the next victims of the ghastly educational reform policies which cause children to attend schools miles away, supposedly in the pursuit of a better education for children.

They deserve a better future.

If you’re not familiar with the situation of Walter H. Dyett High School in the Chicago Public Schools, read about it here.  In my opinion, this is the most accurate information to date.  This has made national news, and will be a long fight.  And these 12 heroes will not give up.  They have submitted a plan for improvement to maintain an intellectually progressive, rigorous, open-enrollment community school, supported my many educational leaders in the city.  The other plans, briefly discussed here, will not meet the needs of the neighborhood or desire of the community members to keep Dyett as a neighborhood school. Let me be clear:  these other plans call for a selective enrollment school; one that requires students to apply to attend.  That defeats the purpose of a neighborhood school, an anchor in the community.

No need to let you know how disastrous this can be for the children of this community, just read the support here, here and here to hear the cries of many.

This story has consumed me all week.  I just happened to find myself in Chicago these past few days, but quickly found myself swept into the politics of the Chicago Public Schools.  The heartbreaking story of the children of the Bronzeville neighborhood reflects the unfortunate stories of many children in this school district, the third largest in the United States.

I continue to be haunted by the horrific words one alderman from another ward in the city shouted to one of the strikers as I spoke to her outside of City Hall on the 18th day of the strike.

“This is not my fight,” he shouted, “your school is not in my ward.”

His comment left me speechless.  These very words were spoken as communities deal with the aftermath of the largest number of school closings ever in CPS.  Many closed were in his own ward

I disagree, Alderman.  This is a fight for all of us, because, you see, children deserve a right to the best public education.  All children.  And that’s all this brave crew of 12 is asking.

An attempt at a compromise was presented on the 18th day of the strike    Only time will tell whether or not the community will accept all or part of this newest proposal, but rest assured this group will not welcome any proposal until they are convinced their children will be served in the best way possible.

#fightforDyett    #weareDyett    #saveDyett


Day 19: Press Conference with Jitu Brown

Day 20: Washington Post article by Valerie Strauss

Day 20:  Melissa Harris-Perry interview on MSNBC

Day 23: Twitter Storm


The Arts in Education: a vital component for student success

To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”

Georgia O’Keeffe

“The arts, sciences, humanities, physical education, languages and maths all have equal and central contributions to make to a student’s education.”

Ken Robinson


I recently wrote about a former student who has continued to pursue his love for theater by directing Tommy as part of his Senior Project, and now Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida while a sophomore at Fordham University.

I was privileged to be a member of the audience, witnessing the launch of the much anticipated non-profit organization, Cleveland Musical Theatre (CMT).

To say the performance was incredible is an understatement.  The talent that emanated from the stage more than made up for the lack of costumes, props, and scenery in this workshop production.  Each and every participant, many from the area, put forth a tremendous effort to recreate this much-loved adaptation of Verdi’s original story.

I begin to think about the opportunities these adults most likely had when they were students in school- exposure to music and art, opportunities to perform in school plays and community theater, and support from guidance counselors to pursue the arts as an viable educational option in their college years.

Ohio’s recent elimination of the mandated 5 of 8 rule  has all but removed this option for many of our public school children.  Hardest hit, as one might expect, will be our students from impoverished areas- some of whom will most likely not have an opportunity to seek these experiences independently.

The 5 of 8 rule, in existence in Ohio since the mid 1980s, required school districts to provide at least five of eight of the following school positions for every 1,000 students: music, art, physical education teachers; counselors, librarians, nurses, social workers, and visiting teachers.

This support will be gone for many of our public school children, despite the objections of many in Ohio.

I am curious about the opportunities and influences these talented actors and musicians that performed so brilliantly in this production may have had in their schools.  Many are from the Cleveland area. Will we continue to be able to provide these kinds of experiences to our young children in our schools, and instill a passion for the arts to build upon in later years?

What do we know about a strong arts program in school?

The list goes on….

So, again I ask, why would we eliminate a mandate that does nothing but enhance a child’s education?

I am fortunate that my own child had these experiences while in public schools-  opportunities to join band, orchestra, and choir; art lessons beginning in kindergarten, community theater programs throughout elementary school, two periods of physical education every week, guidance counselors and nurses to contact as needed beginning in kindergarten. These experiences have given her the courage to pursue a career in the arts in her college years.


The hope of CMT is to showcase high-quality musical theater talent in the Cleveland area, with local talent joining forces with Broadway talent.  The performance of Aida officially launched the presence of CMT in the Northeast Ohio.

Students who are exposed to the arts… who are given opportunities to immerse themselves in something they are passionate about…can make a difference.

So congratulations Miles Sternfeld, Creative Director, and Musical Director, Sean Patrick, for a stellar workshop production of Aida. Your experiences are helping to make a difference in Northeast Ohio.


-posted by Beth Wilson-Fish 7/27/15


An Exciting Return to a Previous Post

Good things come to those who wait” -Proverb

“All things come to those who wait” –Violet Fane, 1892

FullSizeRender (1)

I am pleased to share the final YouTube posts from the TEDxYouth@NAHS event in February. The team has worked diligently to upload individual TED talks.  My original blog post from March celebrating this extraordinary student-led event (with updated links) is available here, or access the TEDxYouth@NAHS YouTube playlist below. 


TEDxYouth@NAHS 2015

Spread the Word- Creativity Needed

“The answer is not to standardize education, but to personalize and customize it to the needs of each child and community. There is no alternative. There never was.”

Sir Ken Robinson


I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Sir Ken Robinson speak at a recent Cleveland Foundation meeting.  I listened eagerly to Robinson’s message, an interesting analysis of the public school system sprinkled with his usual witty and humorous anecdotes.

His words reverberated through the auditorium, their echoes generating head nodding, laughter, and smatterings of applause.

Yet I left feeling incredibly unsettled.

I just listened to one of, if not the, greatest leaders in innovation and creativity in education, renowned for delivering the most viewed TED Talk ever, How Schools Kill Creativity, encourage us to abandon the plethora of standardized testing and focus instead on the creativity in the classroom, yet our public school system continues to condone the use of excessive standardized testing as a “valid” measure to determine mastery of a particular set of skills and predict future success.

I don’t understand it.

Our public schools should celebrate the diverse and unique talents of our children, drawing on what they know and expanding upon these unique attributes.  These diverse skills are critical to the future success of our society.   Instead, our system is moving toward one of conformity and standardization, spewing out a collection of thinkers who all look and act the same.

It reminds me of an illustration from Hooray for Diffendoofer Day (Seuss, Prelutskey, Smith) of students marching to their “new” school if they don’t “pass the test”. This illustration haunts me daily.

We’re not going to make it if we keep this up.  We are not going to produce innovative, forward thinkers who will secure our future workforce.

Sir Ken Robinson ended with a quote from H.G. Wells-“Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe.”The quote continues with, ”Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.”

Let’s continue to spread the word.

How Schools Kill Creativity TED Talk- Sir Ken Robinson

This video was shared By Sir Ken Robinson during his speech.  The Landfill Harmonic has received much publicity recently.  Watch…you’ll be inspired!

Landfill Harmonic – the “Recycled Orchestra”
The Landfill Harmonic Movie

An Invitation to Embrace Creativity

I first met Yong Zhao the summer of 2011 when he discussed his book Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization. I was instantly smitten.

Yes, smitten- with his words, his message, his passion for the importance of nurturing the creative mind.

We who work in the world of gifted education are continuously aware of how drastically our world is changing with the top-down push to “standardize” education for all.  Long gone are the vast array of creative opportunities for our children, only to be replaced with an unrelenting preparation for high stakes testing.

I have admired Zhao’s work ever since that first meeting the summer of 2011, and he continues to inspire me with his logical, yet passionate plea for education reform.

In honor of our educators this week, I share this video of Zhao’s keynote presentation at the Network for Public Education conference in Chicago.  Watching Zhao’s presentation is a lesson in divergent thinking itself, as he seamlessly transitions from picture to video to graphic on his iPad, never skipping a beat.

Zhao speaks to those of us working to improve public education on a daily basis.  He will inspire you, I promise.  It will be the best 55 minutes you have spent in a long time.


Yong Zhao Keynote NPE Conference

-posted by Beth Wilson-Fish 5/4/15

In Awe of Dr. Seuss

         We’ve taught you that the earth is round,

That red and white make pink,

And something else that matters more –

We’ve taught you how to think.”

-“Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!” by Dr. Seuss


I was inspired by a recent post about games of strategy to revisit some of the amazing games taught to our youngest creative thinkers while working in a public school.  I reflect fondly on those days…the days when thinking and engagement and problem solving were the crux of the public school curriculum, not the test taking skills and standardization of curriculum we witness today.

It was okay to be different…winning a game was respectfully celebrated, and losing the game was presented as an opportunity for learning.

We learned from our mistakes.  And we, the teachers, learned a lot…for many times our students were beating US!

I used to start the school year with one of my all-time favorite Dr. Seuss books, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day.  If you’re not familiar with the book, get it.  Read it.  Buy a copy for yourself to keep to read in those moments when you’re questioning what you are doing.

Dr. Seuss has the answers.

bonkers      bonkersquote

History was made when editor and author Janet Schulman found a partial manuscript started by Dr. Seuss and reached out to Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith to complete the project.

The story is about creativity, engagement, problem solving, and individuality.  The school epitomizes exactly what our schools should be…creative and challenging environments where children can thrive.

Teaching games of strategy to our young children can be a vital component to continue the development of thinking strategies to foster higher level thinking and problem solving skills. Research indicates that strategy games are highly cognitively oriented (Van Eck, 2010).  What better way to integrate stimulaing, yet engaging activities into the classroom that will teach our students how to think?

Below are a few of my favorites that young children should begin exploring.  Let’s not only nurture, but celebrate those amazing problem solving skills which just might be a bit different-er than the rest!

katamino  mancala   dominoes             Katamino                                            Mancala                                Dominoes

connect4batik         blokus

            Connect Four                                   Batik                                             Blokus

More ideas:

Best Strategy Board Games

Find out about any game you want to explore at this site!

Board Game Geek

-posted by Beth Wilson-Fish 4/20/15