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Life Preparedness
Life Preparedness

Giving thanks in a socially distanced year

by Gary Kaplan

This will be a Thanksgiving like no other.

Our customary rituals of gathering and sharing will be at best constrained, at worst cancelled. The very idea of social distancing is antithetical to the spirit of the season.

But thanks has many dimensions. Even in our current global health crisis, we can find occasion for thanks. Consider the selflessness and dedication of our health workers who put their own lives at risk to help save the lives of others. Just as much as the “greatest generation” who answered the call to World War II, these doctors, nurses, medical technicians, ambulance drivers, maintenance crew members and countless others are demonstrating every day and every night what service to others means. In the fractured, antagonistic state of our polarized society, their selfless behavior demonstrates that the bonds of social cohesion can still be activated.

The rapid emergence of a Covid 19 vaccine is another cause for thanks. Readers who remember the polio epidemic of the early 1950s and the miraculous deliverance of the Salk vaccine are experiencing déjà vu. Once again, faced with an existential threat, human creativity has risen to the challenge. Human creativity has always risen to the existential challenge. QED: Here we still are. Existential challenges are accumulating and gathering increasing gravity. This current scientific triumph gives hope that the power of human creativity will prove equal to the scale of our other looming challenges.

In the field of education, the Covid shutdown has pushed us to find new ways of teaching and learning. Technology, a constant example of human creativity, has provided the tools that are being used by teachers, students, parents and all strata of the education enterprise to invent new ways of communicating in the expanded online classroom. Though not as immediately lifesaving as medical care and vaccination, education can claim existential status as the fundamental culture-defining and socially unifying process. Education establishes norms and values as well as imparting practical skills. In this time of social fragmentation, now aggravated by enforced social distancing, online education performs a convening and bonding function that may be even more crucial for our post-virus recovery than academic skills. Digital cohesion may offer an antidote to the alienation of social distancing.

In these fragmented times, we are more appreciative than ever of the creativity and commitment of the extended community of educators, to whom we give our heartfelt thanks.

Gary Kaplan is the executive director of JFYNetWorks


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Cracks in the Bedrock, The destabilizing effects of inequality

by Gary Kaplan

History doesn’t repeat itself, Mark Twain observed, but it often rhymes.

Because of our peculiar history, the current calls for redirection of police funding to social programs fall with a familiar cadence at JFYNetWorks.

We are often asked what JFY stands for. It stands for Jobs For Youth, the original name of the nonprofit organization. Jobs For Youth was founded in 1976 with a Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grant from the US Department of Justice. Our original mission was to help high school dropouts find jobs. Low-income youth were dropping out of high school at rates rising toward 20% nationally and 40% in the cities. In the early 1970s the Nixon Administration, predating Reagan, thought the best social program was a job. And so, our history began as a juvenile justice delinquency prevention program.

Math skills. Not just a passing grade requirement, but essential for life after school

These skills are essential for life after school

There are basically two types of people in the world: those who already love math, and those who don’t love it yet. In this webinar, we explore why math skills are important, not just to pass required math classes, but also for jobs and for life after high school in our data-driven society where almost everything eventually turns out to be a numbers game.

Star Light, Star Bright… Use the Force

Is it the end? Or just a pause for regeneration?

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

On the night of December 18, 2019, a piece of my childhood came to an end. Though I would not be shocked if Disney found a way some day to resurrect the Star Wars saga, it seems that the storyline which began when I was seven years old, in the back of my parents’ car at the drive-in theater, has come to an end.

My friends and I grew up with Star Wars. Though we learned at some point that the first movie was not actually the beginning of the story, still the release of the first three movies enthralled us. I had a Luke Skywalker poster hanging in my bedroom, complete with fuzzy edges, well into my early teenage years. The action figures, which today would be worth hundreds of dollars, were scattered around the basement.

Stress and Pressure: Helping Students Navigate

We need to help them manage expectations effectively.


by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

Growing up, I remember there were high school students around me who had either attempted to take their own life or had done so. As a teen, it shook me to think that anyone felt that alone. It was sad, but it was also an anomaly.

In the last few years, a community near mine experienced a spike in suicides among high school students. It was enough of a crisis that the Boston Globe wrote about it in the article “After suicides in Acton and Boxborough, A Communion of Sorrow.”

Philosophy in a Traffic Jam; Pondering Uncultured, Aggressive, Rude Behavior

Acrimony and outlandish behavior the new norm?

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

Adults are not always on their best behavior. One need only drive on the Expressway during rush hour to confirm this truth. We do the best we can, especially around children, but sometimes we’re forced to explain the behavior of other adults who should absolutely know better.

The teacher must be sensitive to the student’s strengths and weaknesses.

by Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

Every educator is familiar with differentiated instruction and blended learning. We are bombarded by multiple options for digital learning. There is a glut of high-quality digital content, but do we know how best to use it to serve the needs of our students and make learning accessible for everyone? As teachers, we want students to be engaged and build foundational skills. One of the best ways to engage students is to deepen differentiated instruction with personalized learning.

Labors Twilight-The Changing American Workforce

The Changing American Workforce

by Gary Kaplan
photos by Matthew Kaplan

Labor Day 2019

In the 1800s the Calumet region of northwest Indiana was Chicago’s Cape Cod. The baltic blue crescent of Lake Michigan swung serenely eastward from the state line. Tawny beaches and rolling sand dunes offered refuge from the raucous, brawling city of the big shoulders. Windwarped swale and reedy marshland attracted hunters and fishermen, birdwatchers and botanists. The lowslung lakefront lured industrial land scouts.

The Importance of being a teacher

It’s More than Imparting Subject Knowledge

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

Schools are people— students, principals, deans, librarians, janitorial staff, office staff and teachers. Of all these groups, the teachers are the most influential. They are the largest constant bloc, staying largely intact as students pass through, and they have the most direct contact with students. They are the ones who make the school what it is.