Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Silent Majority of Teens

Written by Tonia Berman and Susan Sherman
When did we become a performance-based society?   It is one thing to be judged by performance in the workplace, whether it be working in the medical field or at Subway.  But now children, especially teenagers, are measured in all aspects of their life by their output.   Parents, teachers, college counselors, coaches, peers, etc. are all casting judgment on children every day, sending the message they should be achieving higher standards at a more efficient pace.  "It's all about time management," we tell them.  Should the primary focus of a 15- year- old's life be managing time or experiencing it?
These kids are working so much harder than the preceding generation.  How much more can they be expected to give?  They must constantly perform at the highest level. To begin with, academically there are the standardized tests, the CST's, the IB tests, the  SATS, and the classroom tests.  Then there are the  extracurricular activities, often a financial requirement to maintain a job, community service hours and athletics.  Where on the list is there time to discuss feelings of happiness, sadness, mixed emotions?   Just to feel at all?  To share thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears?   Emotions don't fit into any these categories.  In the quest to be the perfect child, the perfect college candidate, the perfect employee, the perfect everything, do feelings even make the top ten list?
This generation has lead to a group of students who think they are expected to appear problem-free, as it is in alignment with the perfectionist illusion each person feels pressured to portray.  It makes sense that teens would work to fit the mold for the public at large, but why do many of them feel unable to share their feelings with their closest friends?  Perhaps they don't want to be a burden, for the little free time they do spend together is supposed to be fun, not for sharing their deepest thoughts.  Do they fear people wouldn't want to be their friends anymore?  It seems as if holding up the mask has become so familiar, it is all they know.  It is easier to play a role, and they do it so well, then to let down their guard and expose their true selves.  Will people still respect them if they learn of their flaws? 
The irony of this dilemma is that although each student feels isolated and unique living inside his/her hidden self, the majority of the students are living under a similar pretense.  I believe it is driven by our performance-based society.  Not only will revealing one's inner being break the illusion of perfection, but it will disrupt the brain pathways and interfere with personal productivity.  Reflection takes time, and we did not budget for this process when we starting over-scheduling our children at the age of two.  Although it is easy for me to recognize this flaw in the system, I am a part of it, and I must admit to the role that I played in its creation.
An I.S. senior recently said to me: "I now realize that I have to make my personal happiness my number one priority.  Without it, all of this work, the IB Diploma, getting into a good college, has no meaning."  I told the student that to come to this epiphany at this early point in life is phenomenal; some people never get there.  A person may appear successful, but it is all irrelevant if he/she isn't happy inside.  For most people, one aspect of personal contentment is validation.  In order to feel supported and validated, feelings need to be shared.  For S. and J. (read "S. Writes about her Secret") writing in this blog was but the first step.  For anyone who has a tendency to withhold sharing feelings, talking with a TLC peer mentor, a teacher, or an I.S. counselor are all, of course, other options. 

Our message to all students: You must make time for the most important thing in life... you.  Know that you may be among the silent majority of teens who have yet to learn the art of communication.  Rather than living a robotic life with the emphasis on productivity and performance, consider making self-expression and personal contentment life priorities.  Although there is a place for time management in the life of a teenager, living life should set the precedent.
Dedicated to: Lauren, Jillian, Meghan, and Chasen:  We know that we are not perfect, and we do not expect you to be, either.  May you find happiness and contentment, wherever you go, whatever you do.  You always make us proud.

S. Writes about her Secret

Written by an I.S. student

I didn't grow up in a poor household, I was never faced with addictive drugs or abusive adults. For the most part I consider my life to be pretty easy. At least that's what I was molded to think. Everyone pays attention to those who have had the most difficult pasts, the ones know need more than moral support to continue their lives. I'm not saying we shouldn't help them, everyone could and should try to help one of them. But that still doesn't mean that I don't need any help. "I" could be the girl who plays 5 different sports at the same time, or the girl who has straight A's and is loved by all her teachers, the girl who doesn't do so well in school but has the prettiest hair, and the best sense of humor, or, finally, probably the most popular example is me, I am kind of attractive, kind of smart, kind of athletic, kind of funny. "Kind of" everything. And even though I seem to have everything on track, I can assure you none of us do. I still need as much help as the drug addict downstairs, or the abused wife down the street. As you read this you might think I'm crazy; "who is this middle class white girl? What right does she have coming here and telling me she needs more help than my sister who cries herself to sleep every night because her parents found out about her stash, and she is now suffering from severe withdrawals, because they didn't know what else to do but to throw it all away?"

My name is S. and I need as much help as your sister. In some ways I might even be harder to help. You see, your sister could be helped so easily (though it won't seem easy as you go through it); a doctor would prescribe something to help with the withdrawals, and she would probably go to live in a group home or rehabilitation center for a while. She would come back a new woman, granted things would never be the same, but she would be so much more appreciative of life. I on the other hand, would not be so easy to help, considering even I don't know what I need help with. I know I need it, for I feel trapped, helpless, and terrified at times. I procrastinate, I lose focus in class, and worst of all I treat my parents and friends terribly. I have all my secret issues, to help me would be the most arduous task. One would have to first get to know me well enough to know my secrets, because without knowing them, I’m sure you would assume that everything was fine with me. Even if you learned the truth about me you still would have no idea what to do. That is what makes helping me just as hard as helping any problem child. The challenge is in finding the pain.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: Don't search for the pain, unless you're looking to help a  troubled teenager. Everyone has the pain, and surprising as it may seem, the ones who have it the most are often the best at hiding it. If you want to help someone, just choose the girl who seems the most normal, talk to her a little, observer her mannerisms, then you'll know.

Dedicated to all of you out there at I.S who are told that you have a great life, and often feel guilty when asking for help over those whom society tells you need it more than you. It is just as important to ask for help than it is to give it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Popcorn and Hot Chocolate

     Written by Ms. Berman
      I wish everyday in the classroom could feel like today.  I have my daughters to thank for this one.  They are both going through reflective periods at the moment, which typically triggers "comfort" strategies, whether it be eating a frozen yogurt or reading a family favorite such as Ender's Shadow.  Somehow this catalyzed my decision to make this "popcorn and hot chocolate" day.  The rain certainly added to the ambiance.  When I first made the announcement, K. was incredulous.  Initially I couldn't read her response and then I realized that she wasn't sure if I was joking or not.  "I never tease when it comes to teenagers and food," I later told her.  "Teachers just don't do this,"  she replied.  (She hasn't taken AVID with Mrs. James yet.) 

      There is this thing called California State Standards that kicks off my moral compass every time I come up with one of my atypical ideas.  But life has a way of working out, especially when teaching intelligent students.   CST Standard 6c: Students know temperature, pressure, and surface area affect the dissolving process.  Okay, I can disseminate just about anything and my students will grasp, process, and memorize it.  But near the end of our review session for the upcoming exam, everything came together when L. said, "Hey, so solubility relates to the hot chocolate... we heat it up so it will dissolve faster!"  This lead to the fact that the hot chocolate comes in powered form in order to increase the surface area to volume ratio, also increasing solubility.  "I'm going to make a free response question about hot chocolate," I told the class.  "You just wrote part of the exam."  I don't think they knew I was serious.  So CST 6c, you're not so bad after all.  Real life application.  Works every time.

      Even more important, however, was the change in the mood of the students as they stood around drinking their hot chocolate, thrilled with the fact that I bought the type with mini marshmallows. What was it about having popcorn and hot chocolate that made the day feel so special?  Was it the ten minute break in the routine of high school?  Was it the element of surprise?  Was it eating those delicious comfort foods?  Or was it just knowing that someone cared enough to say with their actions, "Hey, you got out of bed today, came to school in the rain, faced the rigor of Honors Chemistry, and that makes you amazing?"   Yes, I wish everyday in the classroom could feel like today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Burden I Feel Privileged to Carry

Written by Ray Sugarman (c/o 2007)   
I don’t know if the motivation I possess today began the day my friend saw my mom and me submerged in thrash while dumpster diving; or the day I witnessed my grandparents murdered while watching the news; or it could have been the first time I saw a man hit my mother. Regardless of when it happened, the fear of failure and having to return to the life I left behind has fueled me to overcome anything that would hold me back. I recognize I come from a life most people would cringe at. Society has thrown its worst at me and even though I’ve overcome so much, my story has been one I’ve carried with such disgrace and embarrassment for the majority of my life.
My mom to this day tells me, “Boy, have no shame, ‘cause that’ll only slow you down.” Yet shame was all I felt. My mom exemplified that motto well though and always did her best for my sister and I, even if that meant having us live out in the middle of a desert in a shack run by a generator or moving around so much I thought changing schools once or twice a year was the norm. My mom taught me one thing though, if nothing else, and that is perseverance.
The willpower my mom embedded in me has carried me through one life tragedy after another. I’ve come face-to-face with death more times than I can count, been on life support, had a gun placed in my face more than once, and lived in a family where suicide was viewed as the only way out. Yet I’m still here, still managing to make the next day a little better than the day before.
Although my drive to persevere didn’t come until much later in life, it’s brought me from living on welfare to working more hours a week than sleeping and being in class combined. Working full-time throughout college is something I’ve grown accustomed to. Since I was the first in my family to graduate high school, let alone make it to college, I never took it for granted. I realize it was my mom who laid the foundation that set me on this path yearning for more out of life than she was able to ascertain. Still, there were many things she was incapable of preparing me for or teaching to me.
Being a black male, while growing up with a white mother, created much confusion for me. That confusion didn’t fade but actually grew as I got older. Without ever knowing my father, who was black, I didn’t know what it actually meant to be black, except for what I had seen on the media. By the time I reached high school, I let other people’s stereotypes and opinions of me dictate who I was. I covered up my insecurity with my passion for basketball. Even though I was on track to an International Baccalaureate degree, I couldn’t escape the stigma of being just another dumb, ignorant jock. Fortunately, I had a teacher, Ms. Berman, who saw the potential I had and helped me identify my self-defeating ideology. She forced me to not only recognize and confront it, but to challenge it! No longer did I want to be seen in the same light as my peers who were drug dealers, gang bangers, or slackers.  This was the first step in my life down a path of overcoming stereotypes, racial profiling, and discrimination; which continued on when I got to college.
At my university, I quickly realized I was just one out of a handful of black males on campus and I soon recognized just how privileged I was for even making it this far. I wanted to help others do the same, especially other young black males. I started being an advocate and a leader on campus and in the community. By simply being an example of someone who has overcome and persevered through many tribulations, I realized that I could inspire and show those who don’t believe it’s possible that they can do it too.
I feel that giving up is a luxury for the privileged and financially secure. I hope to get to a point where I can help others who come from a background similar to my own to succeed even further then I have. I’m often told I’m a miracle for having just made it this far but I refuse to stop now. I see becoming an attorney, and then eventually a policy-maker as my goal, and won’t accept anything short of reaching it. I realize now that my story is worth being told and it can be used to contribute to the community that feels like it doesn’t have much hope. It’s a burden that I feel privileged to carry.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Brain Versus Mind

Written by Jake Miller

We cannot begin to understand the world because there are things in all of our lives and minds that we are afraid to honestly look at. We can’t figure out the answers to the questions we have because there are regions of our mind that we cannot use. These regions cannot be used because of pain.

Our brains are constantly figuring things out our whole lives. That is how we learn. Our natural, primitive brain looks at an arbitrary number of different truths it can perceive, analyzes the truths, and then figures out the singular pattern or entity that they all have in common, and then makes a conclusion about the world based on that pattern or entity. It then uses that conclusion to help us know how to survive.

Throughout our lives, our natural, primitive brain makes conclusions like this about the world that go against certain conclusions that our conscious, intelligent mind has already made about the world.

Once this happens, those regions of our conscious, intelligent mind which are now tarnished by the opposing conclusions our natural, primitive brain has made, become painful to enter.

So our natural, primitive brain trains our conscious, intelligent mind not to enter these regions.

You asked me WHY?

Written by Tamara Cornett
c/o 2003

You asked me WHY?
You asked me why?
The simplest answer I gave you was because it is who I am, while likewise the most complex answer I gave you was because it is who I am.
There are so many answers, so many reasons, so many truths that I can provide while all are correct, the truth of all truths is that there are so many words to explain …
To me I have no importance; I am of little concern in the grand scheme and am merely a spec within the dust of life.  From my childhood I resigned myself to a world of dark, a void, a place where no one could reach me but from where I could observe and reach out.  I placed myself behind a wall to protect myself from intentionally hurting others; which more than not unintentionally did far more damage. I placed my innocent child self within a castle to be imprisoned and watched over while leaving a hardened protector before the door.  A protector who was to be the me I was when alone, the me I would know was the rawest truest of myself, one that would never let the world inside.
However I also darned and sewed and garnered myself another façade, a lighter emotionally controlled me; the shadow, the guardian.  As the shadow I granted myself the ability to always be there for those around me that I cared for.  I would be the one who would walk before them to protect them, I would walk behind them to always have their back, I would walk beside them so they would never be alone, and I would extend within them to give of them all of who I am. 
To the world my guardian would be the face that I knew everyone deserved, a person they would know was always there for them no matter what.  I would be there to laugh, to cry, to hold, to build up, to protect them.  Yet I would also respect, honor, devote, be loyal, sincere, honest, and accepting of who they were for the perfection of exactly who they were; because by them being who they were I could and would become myself.  And regardless of what they showed in return to me I would be her because it is what I wanted, it was what I needed.  At least perhaps that may have been my intent with my shadow, but I’m truly not sure how well I played her.
But despite the outcome I knew I would always be her for them, because to be her was ultimately being for them the person I unfortunately needed so dearly for myself, but could never allow myself to face, embrace, and accept.
Though with time and help I have come to destroy the wall that hid my innocent child from the world; blending her with her protector, to age, to wizen and to see the world for what it is and survive within it.  To find a peace to accept the shadow guardian within others into my life and allow them to be who they need to be for me, because I realized that by denying those who cared for me that right I was asking them to do what I would never do myself … to not be there.
And with time I have also grown, changed and transformed who I am so much that instead of guarding my true self from the world, I no longer hide behind a barrier to reel in what I feel and want to express.  A difficulty, nonetheless to overcome, that is exacerbated when the protector of me still wants no one to care for me and the shadow guardian wants to let others in.  A difficulty because the two opposing forces tend create a duel of my emotions, wherein one moment I am highly emotionally charged in one direction and the next I am completely emotionally charged in the opposite direction or I’m completely overtaken by a moment of logic that says take a step back. 
Yet, though these light and dark sides of me provide a constant contradiction of back and forth uncontrolled and controlled emotion, both seem to work together at making sure I express myself.  Both seem to know the immediate importance of making sure others know what they mean, because the truth is there may not be another time to tell them. They know that time; a thing that supposedly is seen as plenty and a thing that so many say must be treated with patience, is really one of the most elusive things.  For them, for me, a truth is that life is really a momentary gift and you don’t get to choose what moments you are gifted; so it is beyond necessity to speak, to say, to voice, to show the value others hold in your heart.
But most important and perhaps in a strange way of what may seem as desperation I have always wanted and still want everyone to know what I feel for them and what I see in them, so that perhaps they will see it too.  The greatness, the kindness, the endless everything they can be; because every person being exactly who they are will shape everyone else for who they can become. 
People have SO much potential they only need to realize it and I so gladly would be the one to help them see it because that is what I see in them every time I look or think about them. I want others to know that no matter how dark they think life or times becomes they themselves are a spark; a spark that can ignite a blaze that could conquer anything.  And I want so much for them to never see otherwise.
So you asked me why?
My choice, my behavior, my character are by no means something that make me better than anyone else or perfect; but they do however make me frustratingly perfect at being me.
This is just who I am. This is just who I want to be.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gender Image

Written by Ms. Berman

Words thrust at me before I can process
”This world is so messed up,” you say.
I want to be honest but encouraging as well,
How do I convince you it will all be okay?
“You don’t get growing up in this generation;
There are no women role models for me.”
I cringe at this thought, where did we go wrong?

The female spirit has yet to be set free.
I am partly to blame for not facing the truth
that feminism has become a muddied illusion.
For not seeing the angst this young woman was in
growing up in an era of contradiction and confusion.
But I now see the courage you cannot see in yourself
as you can’t see the forest from the trees.
You will grow through this phase and come out altered but strong
and you will then start to feel more at ease.
To face this troubled world with all of its ills
drives many people to put up a mask.
But to take on each day with a benevolent goal
is a reasonable, achievable task.
Remember that processing all problems at once
from the future to the present to the past.
Will be too much to bare, so bite off small chunks
at one time so your stamina will last.
You’re a goddess of sorts but don’t see it in you
and all that you do every hour.
Makes an impact on those all around you if chosen
the control is within your own power.
So remember the starfish, the one who is needy
and know it's an honorable act.
To reach out to make changes to bring pride to your peers
and focus on this well-hidden fact.
For the strong female you search for is within me and within you,
and united we will find how it works.
In this adventure called life which is riddled with doubt
especially when we have our own quirks.
But let’s start slow together one gesture one moment
in trust that goodness will abound.
And we can pool our strength and be there for each other
We must turn our gender image around.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Best-Laid Plans

Written by Sean Hoffman 
c/o 2010
There’s something to be said about the old line “The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry.” Something gets lost along the way. Something gets overlooked. And how often when we are left with broken plans and unfulfilled expectations, we find little more than excuses and not so much as an  explanation.  Sometimes we become warped in confusion, our brains trying desperately to find the problem, the kink that went wrong, the mistake. And often the brain comes to a similar conclusion each time, that something wasn’t taken accounted for properly, a variable that was not so much as lost and forgotten, but merely misplaced. 
I wish to convey a case in which the plan in itself remained quite intact, but what was misplaced, was the very core behind the idea of the plan: a desire. Often in my life I was regarded by friends, teachers, and family members as an adult before my time. So much so, these relatives and mentors granted me their expectations and plans at a young age that at the time I accepted with pride. “I could handle it,” I said to myself. But something wasn’t accounted for along the way. And it was simply, that I wasn’t able to. And the years began to show it.
 My mother used to say I had an “old soul.” I felt that this was accurate but far from the meaning which was meant. My mother had meant that I held a sort of reverence for the composites of everyday wisdom; in reading, conversing, and living. That I was sensitive to  the subtle struggles one faces in a daily basis in which form that very essence of character that this blog wishes to address. She, along with many others, belived I would meet any challenge and be victorious. But in truth what I saw in the mirror was a tired, empty shell beyond itself in the masking of what had used to be an energetic and warming character, one that had so often been alluded to after it was gone and so often shrugged off by myself as my eager past life, forgotten only so that I may not wrap myself in the guilt of “what had gone wrong.”
I lacked any real sense of my own desires. I lacked motivation and energy. And the excuse I got was: depression. I was able to maintain a superficial appearance for plans, which allowed me to mold in with what would be aspiring classmates. I had like any person wishing to make sense of his or her life, compiled to-do lists, and prioritized the everyday duties but the only difference was that  my name was listed as number one. I had hidden myself from head to toe with this and other imitated methods of organization, making sense of what exactly had made everything so overwhelming and me so useless. But nothing changed, whether I completed any of the tasks or not. Nor how many plans I concocted to free me from myself.  I began to feel isolated and absent, and so I began to act in that manner as well.  Hope, cheer, ambitions, pain, and exhaustion were what I saw in my classmates as they carried themselves with dignity throughout the time in school and through the pivotal moments that were theirs to command as their hard work had come to fruition in the form of a diploma and acceptance letters. Their first major chapter was met with applause and congratulations and there I was right next to them having made it through, without any sense of victory, and a tired shell. At most I had survived without meeting a greater number of the expectations I had promised to make.
But if I am going to be true to my mother’s words, then I must be able to find some meaning behind this, some sense of wisdom, some victory. I have imitated those who have wisdom and have experienced an emptiness I wished no young person to feel, so lastly some reflection must be surmised. I looked in hopes to find an explanation instead of excuses. But I felt I lacked in gaining any sort of character out of this nonsensical misplacement of belonging and felt no freeing of guilt. I’m still looking only now in the nonsense and without a plan.  Not back to the expectations, but to my own.  I knew well that if any change was going to be made I needed to start desiring a change in myself, not hiding behind notions of how others which have kept me from seeing myself a path. I am misplaced. Not lost.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Save I.S. (Letter to the Board of Education)

1 February 2011
Dear Mr. Barrera:

I appreciate the fact that you have taken a personal interest in the welfare of the School of International Studies.  It was a significant evening for our students who spoke before the Board of Education last month and I am grateful that you allowed the speeches to extend beyond the normal 30 minute period.  Please allow me to share my insight as an educator who was on the leadership team during the transition from the San Diego High School Complex at large to the configuration of small schools.

The I.S community spirit is currently at an all-time high, from both an academic and social perspective.  Evidence of the academic dedication was apparent last week when Ryan McCabe organized an IB Biology "Study Sesh" at my home on Sunday evening and thirty one students arrived promptly, eager to review for the final.  Sophia Martinez made pasta for the entire group and three rotations of small group tutorial sessions were conducted.  Inspired by the student enthusiasm and gratitude, I decided that I should offer the same opportunity for my Honors Chemistry students.  Tuesday night, 25 January,  forty five students spent two hours in my classroom (7-9 pm) working through review problems for the final.  45 students!  It is important to remember that many students came straight from work, athletics, and from taking care of family responsibilities.  It is easy to overlook the fact that I.S. students indeed have personal, physical, and financial struggles just like many other students in SDUSD.  Reading over their college essays is a painful reminder that many of our students have lived in group homes, been abused, been homeless, endured medical problems as serious as cancer, and yet have overcome such obstacles.  The environment of collective support, the peer mentoring programs, and the tolerance of people from all ethic and socio-economic backgrounds are the key to our success.  There is no other school that I know of that provides this level of support, and thus yields the outpour of enthusiasm in the manner that I.S does.  Make I.S. a model school for the district, the county, the country.  We are a success story.  Speak with our students.  Hear what they have to say about their teachers.  Ask them why they would choose to spend a Sunday evening at a teacher's home.  Why they have their teachers' cell phone numbers on hand, and feel comfortable contacting them immediately when they get their college acceptances.  Speak with our alumni.  There is a reason they keep coming back to visit, emailing us, and inviting us to visit them at their respective colleges.  For many, we are the family that they never had.  For many, we are the reason that they avoided substance abuse issues and/or incarceration.  Ultimately, we are saving the city money as we send multitudes of students off to college on scholarship, many of whom have parents in prison or rehabilitation facilities.  Finally, looking down the road, there are I.S. graduates I am currently working with, from the class of 2007, who are now applying to graduate school.  One such young man who was "at risk" during high school is in the process of applying to law school so he can advocate for other students like himself.  He cites I.S. in his personal statement as his reason for believing he could overcome societal stereotypes cast forth upon him and view himself as a competent person capable of attending college.  The effects of I.S. are everlasting.  May our school be everlasting.

Tonia Berman
IB Science teacher
Yale Educator of the Year Recipient, 2010

You listened, which is a lot

Written by Ms. Berman

"You listened, which is a lot."  These were the words spoken by one of my students today.  They struck a chord with me as I have been reflecting upon the concept of Connection Bids, a term coined by Dr. Stephanie Rico when she wrote her PhD dissertation.  I was one of two teachers she studied by videotaping and transcribing everything that we did in the classroom for an entire semester.  Concurrently she was secretly meeting with my students from the onset of the semester and throughout, trying to define how the teacher-student connection develops.  She explained the process as follows: students put forth Connection Bids on a daily basis.  They come in many forms, both verbal and non-verbal and in positive and negative manners.  None-the-less they are all gestures in which the student is reaching out to the teacher, asking for assistance of one kind or another.  It is up to the teacher to first pick up on these bids and then determine how to respond.   For some students it is easier to reach out and directly ask, "Can I speak with you about something?" whereas others may begin with a more innocuous phrase such as "Do you have any Wite Out?"  It is usually a look or a pause after the latter comment that lets me know the question is just a ruse to start up a conversation.  What is it that these students are looking for?  While hundreds of thousands of dollars are being poured into studies on education, trying to determine what factors make for a positive classroom environment and successful school districts at large, any teenager can tell you that he/she is merely asking for mutual respect.  To be listened to.  To be considered of value.  To be thought of as more than a student ID number.  The pending threat of larger class sizes chills me to the core of my soul.  With current classes of 38, I know that I am missing Connection Bids multiple times a day.  I know that students are overwhelmed with life and thus making poor choices, which could possibly be dealt with proactively if I directed them to the proper resources.   I ask that anyone who took the time to read this post to take a few moments to write to Mr. Barrera ( and Mr. Kowba ( and remind them of the importance of maintaining the integrity of our programs at I.S.  We simply cannot tolerate increased class sizes.  We must find the means to make education the number one priority.  We should ensure that all children have the opportunity to connect with at least one core teacher and be able to say "You listened, which is a lot."