Yearend reflections – thank you to 26,000 awesome teachers and four remarkable women

 Yearend is a time for reflection.  And while I took off two weeks off from this blog to concentrate fulltime on all the new chapters and teacher submissions for the 2nd edition of Lifting the Curtain, I kept getting struck by the passion of the thousands of teachers I have “e-met” (is that even a word?) over the past few months.  Deep thanks are in order.

Just three months ago I launched this blog with a singular focus – let teacher voices finally be heard so that we could fix the real issues destroying the education of our children.  I was tired and frustrated that the invaluable views of teachers, from within the classroom, were being hidden—intimidated into silence by bullying and cronyistic school administrators, and drowned out by the loud voices of the same inept career DoE bureaucrats and legislators who were responsible for the disturbing state of today’s education.

Yet, I was always realistic that a “little kid” like me would not have much of a chance to be heard.

But I badly underestimated two things.  One was the passion of so many teachers who felt the same way I did.  The other was four women, three of whom I’ve never met, who took my weak effort and breathed life into it.   Realistically, “…yet another new blog” among the millions of existing blogs should have become little more than a vanity site.  At best, a handful of visitors per day, mostly family and friends, would have been about all I should have expected.

Except four women decided to change that outlook.

Three months after starting, we have dozens of teacher stories from all around the country being included in the 2nd edition of Lifting the Curtain:  The disgrace we call Urban High School Education.  We have received reviews and re-blogs from incredible sites that never before had been aware of what teachers face every day in our classrooms.  We are in the process of being added as a regular blogger on education to one of the nation’s largest news services.  And shortly, also because of a teacher suggestion, we will be the guest on one of the nation’s largest radio station talk shows where real problems in education will be a 3-hour topic – views on education from what Kirkus and Clarion both praised as from “…the unique perspective of a classroom teacher.”

It is exciting!  Teacher voices are finally being heard.  Freaking amazing!  And all because the news site and the radio station liked what they saw when they reviewed the passion of 26,000 teachers, and because four remarkable women made it happen.

First and foremost was my treasure and the best thing to ever happen to me – daughter Stephanie.  No one on this planet has someone who believed more, supported more, and encouraged more.


I never would have started all this without her (sometimes not-so-) gentle pushing!  Just this morning she called me and used her “mommy voice” on me!  “Dad, I know you’re just working on the new book, but you haven’t posted anything for two weeks.  Stop slacking and get moving!”

Then came Robyn Chausse – I call her the “Mighty Book Warrior,” and even made a logo for her in admiration of all she did.  (She is far too professional and reserved to use it!)


Robyn is part of the awesome Wow-Women on Writing website (one of the few sites for authors that are not a scam, really help authors with a ton of free content, and have valuable paid services I have used many times and will use again).  Robyn helped this old curmudgeon navigate the blogging, Facebook, and e-promotion quagmire.  But she went so far beyond just helping – genuinely sharing the passion I had for these children, that I would recommend any author or blogger seek her out for help!  You will never have better allies than having Robin and WoW on your side!  If you need a passionate partner in learning e-marketing of books, shoot me an email and I will pass it on to Robyn, or contact Angela (who runs WoW) and ask for Robyn’s help.  Robyn also has a delightful and insightful blog at A Ponderance of Things.

The third person would have has no clue the impact she had.  At a point where I was so discouraged that not a single one of 50 legislators in Massachusetts could be bothered to respond after I sent them a copy of the book and letters asking for their help fixing education, I was questioning whether to continue or not.


But, by coincidence, author Madeline Sharples read Lifting the Curtain and wrote an unsolicited review.  What struck me was that for the first time in any review, including Kirkus and Clarion, I found a non-teacher that really “got it!”  I don’t know if Ms. Sharples agreed with everything I wrote, but I could see she was truly thinking about the view from inside the classroom.  Hope returned that I could get the message out!  (As a side note – I then discovered she had written a book on dealing with a tragic family loss that really struck a personal chord.  I bought it, loved it, and ended up writing a review for Amazon about it.  Please check it out at Leaving the Hall Light On.)

The final person was one of the people who made a teacher’s submission to our contest for the 2nd edition, a lady named M. Shannon Hernandez.   It probably would have gone nowhere from there other than immediately after a first read of her submission it was obvious that it was sure to be one of the top three winners.  I was struck by the passion of her views, and discovered she had just written a book about education (Breaking the Silence:  My final forty days as a public school teacher.)  I skimmed through the Amazon description, got hooked, bought it, and we swapped a couple emails about administrator bullying of teachers. Shannon is a passionate blogger about education issues at the Huffington Post, and a nationally known writing coach at The Writing Whisperer.


Over the weeks since Shannon has been an amazing encouragement to me – both with ideas and suggestions, recommended people to contact, and by showing that she and others are as passionate as I am about getting parents and legislators to understand the real issues behind today’s education’s failure.

So the year ends, the 2nd edition is almost ready for finally copyediting, and the views of teachers about the real issues with education are being heard more and more.  All because of 26,000 passionate teachers, and four remarkable women.  Freaking amazing!

This entry was posted in Charter Schools, Common core, Education, Education reform, High schools, homeschooling, Inclusion classes, Music and arts courses, Public Education, Standardized testing, Teachers, Teaching, Urban High Schools and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Yearend reflections – thank you to 26,000 awesome teachers and four remarkable women

  1. Robyn says:

    A powerful reminder that our thoughts are worth sharing–one never knows who might be inspired or where the path will lead. Kudos to you, Don, for having the courage to move forward! And many blessing to Stephanie for fanning the flame 🙂


  2. Robyn says:

    Reblogged this on A Ponderance of Things and commented:

    Sharing thoughts; it sounds like an innocent concept, so innocent that most of us never bother speaking up. After all, who wants to hear what we think? But somewhere there may be someone just waiting for a little nudge–waiting for someone else to voice what they have been holding back. And when the writer and the reader connect, magic happens!
    I’m sharing just such a story today from Don Russell, author of Lifting the Curtain: the Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education. Maybe his story will encourage you to share your own thoughts!


  3. Angela says:

    D ~ Thank YOU for having the courage to speak up and fight for teachers, students, and parents everywhere. Authenticity attracts, so it’s no wonder your project is successful and will only continue to grow. I’m so excited to see what you do next. Here’s to 2015! 🙂

    PS. Robyn’s logo rocks!


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