I’ve been angry for two years.

Really angry.

I radiated it. Not just anger, but also frustration and indignation.

When casually asked, “Hey Kathleen!  What have you been up to?” Instead of the standard reply, “Not much. How are you?” I would fly into a full-fledged, red-faced rant about any and all of the following:

  • testing companies
  • unnecessary faculty meetings
  • education mandates coming from non-educators
  • school grade calculations
  • VAM scores
  • 10 page Danielson teacher evaluation rubrics
  • testing companies
  • testing calendars
  • closed media centers due to testing (we closed ours Feb-June)
  • remedial reading programs made by the same people who make the tests
  • Jeb Bush
  • Arne Duncan
  • Bill Gates
  • my local school district’s leadership team
  • the superintendent
  • my former boss
  • my local school board
  • every school board
  • governors who don’t know anything about education
  • Pam Stewart
  • legislators, every last one of them
  • unions who don’t support their teachers
  • teachers who complain but don’t vote or stand up for what they want
  • parents who complain but don’t vote or stand up for what they want

I even got with other angry people and we got pissed off together. We took to school board podiums; we went to conferences; we went on the news; we stood on the side of the road with signs; we assembled and mobilized.

I had the pleasure of working with education activists whom I love and respect, women who had been fighting this fight long before I quit my job in public education to join them.

And the ranting worked. We got things done. We got our local School Board to opt out of state tests (they later opted back in). Together, we brought national awareness to these issues and helped hundreds of thousands of people refuse high-stakes assessments.

I put on webinars, wrote blogs, and conducted research. All fueled by my anger.

My anger was energizing. It helped me work harder and longer. It was like a drug that made me clear and focused.  I felt like I could do anything the more and more pissed off I got.

Then something happened.

I was out on a long run, Rage Against the Machine playing through my headphones.

One of my favorite songs to run to, “Take it back! Take it back! Take it back!” was interrupted by a phone call. I looked at the screen and the name of my former boss appeared. He was also a former friend before he made the list. I knew something was up, because it had been a year since he had called me. I had a sinking feeling.


“Yeah, George.” I said cautiously. I missed him, but I was too angry to tell him that.

“Kathleen, have you gotten a call about Coach?”

I knew before I even asked, “No, why?”

He told me that our friend, who was my mentor for the last 10 years, suddenly had a heart attack and died just a couple of hours before.

The Universe opened up and a huge hole appeared.

Coach, who was like a father, brother, and best friend all rolled into one, was gone. He had given me my start in education, had yanked me off the slow, arduous path I was on and changed the trajectory of my life. And in the last year of my angry rebellion, I had pulled away from him because my fight against all things public ed was more important than staying connected with him. He had invited me to the movies, and I passed. He invited to several other outings with his family, and I made excuses why I couldn’t go.

And now he was gone.

While standing there on the side of the road, hanging up the phone, the anger left my body like smoke coming off an extinguished candle.

I tried to be angry but I couldn’t find it anymore. I knew I was done fighting.

My outrage was replaced by anguish and my natural tendency to second-guess past decisions, although he taught me to never look back.

“Make a decision and then move forward.” He’d say. “Don’t look back, Jasper.”

So that’s what I am doing. Moving forward, eyes straight ahead.

Over ten years with him, I learned to empower people to realize their potential and take action to achieve their goals. I challenged young people to look at the world differently and reach beyond their comfort level. He taught me how to do that, and that’s what I want to do.

The absence of anger has made me realize how much I miss working with high school students and teaching them to be part of the solution. How can I expect them to do that when I am busy yelling about the problem?

Resentment and discontent are soul-sucking and toxic. So, I’ve decided to be the solution rather than focusing on all the troubles.

I’m not abandoning my feistiness towards education issues and bad policy. I will continue to bring awareness to those elements. However, I am going to spend my time helping others find ways around these problems.

ConversationED will be a solution to the problems many people face in public education in this country, by helping people hack their education. That’s right, if you are dissatisfied in education and education policies, we will help you hack your education to find ways YOU can make it better.

Here are just a few hacks we are working on:

  • Workforce Essentials: Things you wish they’d teach you in school like organization, time management, professional communication and problem solving.
  • Resume Building – Quick and Dirty Tricks to get noticed in a Sea of Applicants
  • Finance – Understand your loan terms before you owe government-backed companies hundreds of thousands of dollars for your liberal arts degree.
  • Down with the 5 Paragraph Essay – Learn How to Write for Real.
  • The MLA Lie: No one uses it after high school so we’ll teach you APA – the formatting your professor wants you to use.
  • SAT/ACT prep – Skip the FSA, get the concordant score, and move on with your life.
  • Happiness courses. Yup that’s right, how to be happy. This is something we believe everyone should have a chance to learn.
  • Wellness – Nutrition, Exercises, Mindfulness and a more productive life.
  • Academic Courses that don’t Suck:
    • Genetics I, II, & III (Skip the parts of the cell and get to the good stuff!)
    • Math as a language
    • Research
    • Pairing literature with history

We are going to help people circumvent a bad system and decide for themselves how they want to learn and thrive. Maybe you can’t leave public education or you don’t want to. We will be here when you want something different, a solution to whatever problem you are feeling in your learning.

This is going to take us a while. We have a very small team and by small I mean 3 people. But those 3 people are the most creative educators I know.

I’ve missed being an educator. I’m back, and I hope you will join me.

If you want to learn more about what we are doing and how to hack your education, we have a really cool infographic you can download for free. Click Here to get the FREE infographic. Or click the image to the FREE infographic and Hack your ED!

2 Responses

  1. Sandy Stenoff

    Love you so much. I’ve learned so much about me from you, you don’t even know.

    Be well, my friend. I’d wish you good luck, but who needs luck when they’ve got courage?


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