In Defense of WalkUp My Segment on the Michaela Show on HLN

Yesterday I had an opportunity to talk about #WalkUp on national TV. I was invited to be on the Michaela Pereira show on @HLNTV.  The idea behind #WalkUp is not mine.  In fact, I saw it on a Facebook post from a friend of a friend.  Here is what inspired me:

Instead of walking out of school on March 14, encourage students to walk up — walk up to the kids who sits alone at lunch and invite him to sit with your group; walk up to the kids who sits quietly in the corner of the room and site next to her, smile and say Hi; walk up to the kid who causes disturbances in class and ask how he is doing; walk up to your teachers and thank them; walk up to someone who has different view that you and get to know them – you may be surprised at how much you have in common.  Build own that foundation instead of casting stone.  I challenge students to find 14 students and 3 adults to walk up to and say something nice in honor of those who died in (Parkland) FL on the 14th of February. But you can start practicing now! #walkupnotout

The controversy that led to my invitation to be on HLN started when I posted this on Twitter:

It seems almost unbelievable to me that we as a society would debate the importance of being kind.  Unfortunately, the #WalkUp movement is often misunderstood and mischaracterized, sometimes purposely so.  I’ve seen several attempts to label #WalkUp as “victim blaming” or misrepresenting the impact that being kind can have on a disaffected and potentially violent youth.  Do I believe that the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas could have been stopped if the students had been more kind to him?  Of course not.  In meetings last week with the Director of the Secret Service and the head of the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), apart of the Secret Service, I learned that there is a path along which disaffected & troubled youth travel called a “Continuum of Violence”.  A few of the key findings & implications are:

Students who engaged in school-based attacks typically did not “just snap” and then engage in impulsive or random acts of targeted school violence. Instead, the attacks examined under the Safe School Initiative appeared to be the end result of a comprehensible process of thinking and behavior: behavior that typically began with an idea, progressed to the development of a plan, moved on to securing the means to carry out the plan and culminated in an attack.

An important element in preventing these attacks is information that can be provided by students.  These are often key pieces of a puzzle when pieced together can aid school officials and law enforcement in stopping the attack.

First and foremost, this finding suggests that students can be an important part of prevention efforts. A friend or schoolmate may be the first person to hear that a student is thinking about or planning to harm someone. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, those who have information about a potential incident of targeted school violence may not alert an adult on their own. Schools can encourage students to report this information in part by identifying and breaking down barriers in the school environment that inadvertently may discourage students from coming forward with this information. Schools also may benefit from ensuring that they have a fair, thoughtful and effective system to respond to whatever information students do bring forward. If students have concerns about how adults will react to information that they bring forward, they may be even less inclined to volunteer such information.

By fostering an atmosphere of kindness as embodied in the #WalkUp movement, imagine the impact a student may have after having befriended a troubled classmate and felt if that student felt comfortable sharing that information with an adult.  It is not the responsibility of the student to intervene, just to share information, their piece of the puzzle, a piece that could ultimately stop an act of violence before it starts.

Several key findings point to the fact that kids send signals–both directly and indirectly–to others regarding their problems. The boys who engaged in the targeted school violence examined by the Safe School Initiative were not “invisible” students. In fact nearly all of these students engaged in behaviors–prior to their attacks–that caused concern to at least one person, usually an adult, and most concerned at least three people.

This finding highlights the range of behaviors in a student’s life that may be noticeable and that could prompt some additional probing by a caring adult. A student’s family, teachers, friends and others may have information regarding aspects of a student’s behavior that has raised concern.

So, #WalkUp can help change the school culture and create an environment of trust and safety as well enabling the sharing of vital information that could help protect students and teachers at school.  If the #WalkUp effort is done early enough on that continuum, a life can be changed in a positive way forever.  I’d say it’s worth more than a try.

If you’d like to read more about the research Secret Service has done on making our schools safer, you can find it here:  THE FINAL REPORT AND FINDINGS OF THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE (pdf)

A Day of Kindness at Wilder Elementary

Tree of Kindness

Our daughter Alaina Petty attended Wilder Elementary when we live in the Seattle area.  Mrs. Tavener, one of Alaina’s teachers at Wilder Elementary, heard about our call for kindness in the wake of Alaina’s death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  As a family, we believe that creating a culture of kindness and inclusion in our schools is vital in stopping the threat of school violence and keeping our children & teachers safe.  This is what Mrs. Tavener had to say about the Day of Kindness.

“A Day of Kindness” was enjoyed at Wilder Elementary, School on Wednesday, March 14th. This school-wide theme was chosen to promote compassion and enhance a sense of belonging for all our students and community. Everyone at school was encouraged to wear blue to represent kindness and show unity. Teachers and other school staff were outside that morning greeting students as they arrived via car drop-off and from the busses. The extra smiles, waves, and hugs went a long way to establish a positive start to our day. Here are a few other examples of activities that focused on kindness.

A school-wide read-aloud was enjoyed by each class. The school principals, counselor, and office staff went into each classroom as a guest reader of the book, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed. This wonderful picture book illustrates how a small act of kindness leads to more and more acts of kindness. A special video was also created featuring students from all grade levels speaking their own ideas and examples of kindness.

Wall of Kindness Cards


A patchwork art project was started by a second-grade class where students drew and wrote about examples of kindness. Together their paper squares created a beautiful kindness quilt display in the hallway. This project was inspired by the book, The Kindness Quilt. The book was then passed along to other classes who were invited to add to the kindness quilt in the hallway. Our display keeps growing just like kindness does.

Tree of Kindness 2


First graders started a Tree of Kindness by writing acts of kindness on green paper leaves and hearts. These are hung on a giant paper tree in the school hallway. Leaves are being added as more students notice or think of new acts of kindness.  What a wonderful visual to illustrate the idea that kindness grows and spreads!

Anna Tavener
2nd Grade Teacher
Wilder Elementary School



The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victim’s Families Unite on the STOP School Violence Act

UPDATED 23-Mar-2018: All families have now had an opportunity to sign the letter.  See updated link below.

Once again, the families of the victims of the senseless violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School unite in support of legislation to improve school safety and ensure this time will be different!  #STOP School Violence Act

March 16, 2018

The Honorable Senator Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Senator Chuck Schumer
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Representative Paul Ryan
H-232, The US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Representative Nancy Pelosi
H-204, The US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Senators McConnell & Schumer, Representatives Ryan & Pelosi,

We are the families of the victims killed in the tragedy in Parkland, FL on February 14, 2018.  We strongly urge you to support the inclusion of the STOP School Violence Act and the Fix NICS ACT in the upcoming Omnibus spending bill to be debated and ultimately voted on in both chambers.

At the Federal level the STOP School Violence Act is a first step in a long journey to improve the safety of our children and teachers at school. This Act will make schools safer by funding the creation of and providing training for Threat Assessment Teams (TATs), teachers and students. It also includes security measures and provides for the creation of anonymous reporting systems. All of which will help make schools safer.

The Fix NICS Act is desperately needed to improve compliance with firearms purchasing background check systems which are already in place.  These are systems that all US citizens rely on to keep firearms away from those that should not be allowed to purchase them.

Frankly, much more needs to be done to prevent mass murder from ever again occurring at any school. This issue cannot wait. The moment to consider these key pieces of legislation is now.

We must be the last families to suffer the loss of a loved one due to a mass shooting at a school. We demand more action to keep our schools safe.

This Time Must Be Different!


Lori Alhadeff, Max Schachter, Ryan & Kelly Petty, Linda Beigel Schulman, Fred Guttenberg, Damian and Denise Loughran, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, Mitch Dworet, Jennifer and Tony Montalto, Kong Feng Wang and Peter Wang, Andrew Pollack, Tom and Geena Hoyer, Vincent and Anne Ramsay, Miguel Duque, Debbi Hixon, April Schentrup, and Melissa Feis


Senate Judiciary Committee Statement of Ryan B. Petty


March 14, 2018

I will read a short statement from the families, and then I will begin my personal statement.

We, the families of the amazing children and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, would like to recognize the first responders who were witnesses that day to an unspeakable evil.  Many acted heroically, putting themselves in harm’s way, and saved many lives that day. Thank you.

To the caring & gracious people of the cities of Parkland & Coral Springs, the citizens of our home state of Florida and those across America who have shown support for us in our time of sorrow and loss, we can only say, thank you.  Please know that your kindness and support is deeply appreciated, and has made a lasting impact on our lives.

As families, we came from different backgrounds, and we hold a variety of viewpoints; yet we united around this simple idea: our children and teachers should be safe at school.  We rallied to the battle cry: This time must be different!

We implored our state leaders, and specifically the Florida Legislature, to take action.

We came together to build on common ground, and we made history in Florida by passing legislation to achieve the first step in just three weeks.  It was a good start, but it is not enough – there is much more to be done.

Now my personal statement.  

In a season of loss, it is difficult to find meaning in tragedy. The senseless murder of so many — including my own beloved daughter Alaina — tests the limits of faith, and demands more endurance than we thought possible. It is a test abruptly forced on us, and we bear it as best we can.

Each of us — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives of those lost and loved — strive to find that meaning. I believe we will be seeking it to the end of our days.  However, our abiding faith tells us that our Father in Heaven has a plan. Although the loss of our daughter Alaina, was to us unforeseen, it was not a surprise to Him. This gives us comfort during this difficult time.

Our knowledge that at the end, when we each return to see our God, as we most surely will, He will grant us a full understanding — that when we see His face, we will, at long last, see the faces of our loved ones, taken from us too soon.

We will not know what all this means until that time.

But we know what this thing that has happened does not mean:
It does not mean evil will triumph.
It does not mean we may do nothing.
It does not mean we should turn against one another.

We must not struggle over ashes in the shadow of our grief.


Forget the A-List After All

You’ve got to read “Is the Tipping Point Toast?” by Clive Thompson in FastCompany. The gist of Thompson’s piece, based on the work of Duncan Watts of Yahoo Research, is that the theory that a select few “key influencers” matter more than “the rest of us” when it comes to viral and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns is flawed. Said Watts:

“It [achieving marketing success through influentials] just doesn’t work. A rare bunch of cool people just don’t have that power. And when you test the way marketers say the world works, it falls apart. There’s no there there.”

In contrast to influential marketing, Watt’s believes the key factor is the readiness of the market: “If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one—and if it isn’t, then almost no one can.” There will be first movers, but almost anyone can be this first mover—and therefore what Watts calls an “accidental Influential.”

My money is on Watts. If you agree, it should change your perspective on marketing:

  • Spend less time and effort on industry events and other focused PR and marketing that involves sucking up to journalists, analysts, and experts. Spend more time and effort pressing the flesh of real customers. Typically, you won’t meet too many customers at a Ritz Carlton.
  • Try mass marketing because you never know who will be your “accidental Influential.” Or, as the saying goes, “Let a hundred flowers blossom” to determine who “gets” your product. Admittedly, the challenge is to find a cost-effective way to do mass marketing.
  • Forget A-list bloggers. Lousy reviews by them cannot tank your product. Great reviews cannot make it successful. Focus on big numbers—any Technorati 1,000,000 blogger can be a channel to reach people. If enough people like your product, the A-list bloggers will have to write about you.

How does Watts’ thinking square with evangelism? I don’t see a conflict because evangelism is about “bringing the good news” to everyone and then supporting the people who “get it.” Evangelism is not about sucking up to only people who are famous and self-important. To wit, few Fortune 500 CIOs helped make Macintosh successful. It was unknown artists, designers, hobbyists, and user-group members who made the Macintosh successful, and we could not have identified them in advance.

Man learns to read after 17 years of teaching high school

John Corcoran, 77, spent the first six years of his life being honest. But from age 6 on, he started dodging the truth about not being able to read and write.

Standard teaching methods didn’t work for him because – like millions of other children – he had auditory-discrimination problems that interfered with his ability to process language. John didn’t understand this until decades later, once he finally revealed his dark secret and learned to read – at age 48.

What he learned from that point forward led him to start a foundation to teach others with learning difficulties to read. For nearly 30 years, John has devoted his life to sparing other children – and adults – what he went through.

In his early years, adults figured it would just be a matter of time before John would make needed brain connections and be able to read and write. Teachers reassured his concerned but busy parents that “Johnny would get it eventually.”

By middle school, the young teen was frustrated and angry, acting out, and his bad behavior became the focus of teachers’ calls to his parents.

John moved a lot – living in a whopping 35 homes and attending 18 schools, as his father, a teacher, struggled to provide for his wife and six children. With each new start, John continued to hide the truth.

By high school, John had devised more creative and deceptive ways to cover up his secret. He hung around college-prep kids and dated the valedictorian. Fellow students did his assignments, and he cheated in other ways. He excelled in sports and was popular.

When basketball skills earned him a full scholarship to college, his fears deeply set in.

“I was so desperate to hide the truth and keep my eligibility that I crossed the line,” John says. “I was scared to death. I did some extraordinarily risky things,” sneaking into professors’ offices to steal tests, passing assignments and exams out windows for students to complete, and more.

Astoundingly, John got a teaching job when he graduated. He was the well-liked social-studies/driver’s ed/physical education teacher known for giving oral exams and assignments. He relied on smart students to help him complete some tasks, and frequently invited guest speakers to his classes.

He says he was deeply ashamed of his time teaching, always morally conflicted. But, of course, by that point, no one questioned him – everyone assumes that someone who goes through college and is a teacher can read and write. But how did he manage it? What about grading, and report cards, and even simple tasks like taking attendance?

“Well, as you might imagine, I wasn’t very big on grades, given my history, and didn’t give term papers. To take roll, I’d have a seating chart and ask kids to repeat their names every day as ‘a way for them to get to know each other.’”

His wife, Kathy, didn’t realize he actually could not read until she overheard John struggling when their young daughter asked him to read her a book.

“You know how they say love is blind? Well, it’s also deaf. Before we got married, I did try to tell my wife that I couldn’t read, but I was a highly functioning person, and she didn’t really hear it.”

Once Kathy knew, she became “my secret secretary,” helping with report cards and other tasks that required reading and writing, says John, who has a son, daughter and five grandchildren – all of whom are avid readers who “escaped my curse.”

John left teaching after 17 years and became a real estate developer. He finally had the courage to reveal his secret when he heard former First Lady Barbara Bush on the radio, advocating for adult literacy. Around the same time, he overheard a conversation at the grocery store about adult literacy lessons being offered at his local library.

With great trepidation, John “fearfully and tearfully” confessed to his tutor at the library that he’d been living a lie.

Learning to read, at long last, filled him with enormous joy. He revealed his secret to 200 CEOs about a year later in 1988, at a literacy conference in San Diego. Local newspapers covered the event, and the stories were picked up nationally. Suddenly, “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” was revealed. John later wrote a book with that title, chronicling his life.

From there, John “hit the road” to tell his story and bring attention to the problem of adult illiteracy. His many speaking engagements led him to meet Barbara Bush – who he continues to stay in touch with – and to the White House. The response was mostly supportive, though some educators were understandably confused and angry, John says.

“I owe the world an apology for hiding this as a teacher. That was so very wrong.”

Creating the John Corcoran Foundation was “an evolution because I realized it was time to do more than raise awareness. I wanted to provide instruction.”

Kayla Mertes was moved by her grandfather’s story, realizing that “literacy could solve so many problems. I believed that if we taught people to read the best way, as quickly as possible, it could empower them.”

She started helping John with tutoring and is now executive director of his foundation, which runs an online tutoring program and a learning center in Oceanside, Calif., where they both live. So far, she says, the foundation has helped thousands of children avoid the problems her grandfather faced, and the efforts are expanding, with teacher training at the core.

“It’s never too late to learn to read,” John says. “Illiteracy is a huge, underestimated problem. I consider it the most important civil rights and human rights issue of this decade. The nation doesn’t understand the negative impact not knowing how to read has on people’s lives.”

Learn more about John Corcoran

John Corcoran’s professional career represents a merger of his life as a teacher, real estate investor, his building and development experiences, and his passion for a literate America. His background in teaching demonstrates his commitment to sharing his knowledge and experience with others.

The Honorable John Corcoran was appointed to the National Institute for Literacy by both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. He has testified before the U.S. Congress Sub-Committee of Early Childhood Education and Family and to the Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigation for the Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities. In addition, he has served on numerous advisory commissions and corporate boards, has been a member of the board of the San Diego Council on Literacy and past member of the Executive Board of Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles. John is also the author of two books, “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” and “The Bridge To Literacy”. His third book, “My Literacy Manifesto” (working title) will be released in the summer of 2017.

John’s responsibilities in the building and development process involve interfacing with investors, lenders, attorneys, accountants, government agencies, architects, engineers, contractors and brokers. John’s entrepreneurial spirit and management experience have been well represented in his various professional roles for the past 50 years.

John is also a nationally known and respected speaker and lecturer who has given presentations in forty-four states, in Canada and Europe to students, professional and volunteer teachers, teacher candidates, service groups and organizations, policy makers, and prison inmates, as well as numerous small business and Fortune 500 companies. He has appeared on 20/20, the Oprah Winfrey show, Larry King Live, CNN, Fox News, ESPN, Phil Donahue, The Joan Rivers Show, To Tell The Truth and The Travis Smiley Show and has done over 200 radio and television interviews. John was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2002 Literacy in Media Awards, Encore Purpose Prize Fellow in 2013, the 2016 Daily Point of Light Award, and the 2011 National Coalition Literacy Leadership Award Received at the United States Senate.

John’s independent voice is rooted in his own incredible personal story and his passion for informing, challenging, and inspiring others from political leaders to gang members. For these people and everyone in between, his message is simple: “It is never too late to improve one’s literary skills. We are not learning disabled, we are learning able. The key to teaching us how to read is proper instruction by properly trained instructors.” John is an excellent example of the value of keeping focus on lifelong learning in every aspect of one’s life.

John is presently the President of the non-profit organization, the John Corcoran Foundation Inc. He and his wife have lived in Oceanside, California for over 52 years. They have two adult children and four grandchildren.

More articles about John Corcoran and the John Corcoran Foundation Inc.

Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?

On one thing, the experts seem to agree. The differences between and can be summed up this way: Barack Obama is a Mac, and Hillary Clinton is a PC.

That is, Mr. Obama’s site is more harmonious, with plenty of white space and a soft blue palette. Its task bar is reminiscent of the one used at Apple’s iTunes site. It signals in myriad ways that it was designed with a younger, more tech-savvy audience in mind — using branding techniques similar to the ones that have made the iPod so popular.

read more | digg story

Seattle Taps Its Inner Silicon Valley

Many communities dream of becoming the next Silicon Valley. But Seattle is actually doing it. The influx of entrepreneurs and of venture capitalists to bankroll them is slowly reshaping this city and a regional economy long buffeted by the booms and busts of the aerospace and timber industries. A start-up ecosystem needs social networks, support businesses and a business culture that views failure as a badge of honor, not shame. All of that is in place in Seattle.

Money is pouring in. During the last 12 years, venture capital investment here has more than tripled, to about $1 billion annually. Last year Washington tied with Texas as the third-largest destination for venture capital money nationwide, behind California and Massachusetts.

read more | digg story

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