The word “Hallowe’en” comes from “All Hallows Eve.”
Hallowed means holy, as in “hallowed be thy name.”
Thus “All Hallows” is another way to say “All the Holies” aka “All Saints Day” which is celebrated on November 1st.
Since we can’t possibly know all of the people who are in heaven, we lump them all together into All Saints Day.
But why All Hallows’ EVE?
Just like Star Wars and Apple fans like to line up on the night before the actual release date, Catholics just can’t wait for the actual day of something. We have all these “Vigil” days where we celebrate the evening before, often with crazy outfits and candles and sometimes even prayers, hence “All Hallows’ Eve.”
But we don’t just remember all the holy people!
There’s evil in the world, too.
Just turn on the news and it’s in your face.
On the Eve of All Hallows, we remember that everyone–saint or otherwise–has a choice between good and evil.
And obviously, the best way to purge your evil desires is to dress like a demon and scare people, right?
(Side note: there’s a psychological and sociological benefit to “purging” rituals where you create a safe space to vent your undesired urgings. Another great Christian example of this purging is “Carnival” or “Fat Tuesday” where you party before Ash Wednesday and Lent.)
Thus beyond the superficial “trick or treat” of Halloween is the potential for a real spiritual message.
Each of us has a very real choice of being “tricked” into hatred, vice and death or choosing to “treat” one another as loving neighbors.
Some folks claim Hallowe’en is not a Christian holiday because it was intentionally celebrated at the same time as the pagan fall harvest festivals.
There is truth to that claim.
But if you can’t celebrate Hallowe’en, then you need to remember that every single Christian holiday has the same problem.
Easter was originally during the Jewish liberation feast of Passover. As Christianity spread it co-opted the eggs and rabbits from the Babylonian goddess of the Sun, Ishtar, among other traditions.
Christmas was celebrated during the Roman feast of Saturnalia. As Christianity spread, it co-opted various winter solstice traditions from around the Northern hemisphere.
You see, Christianity is in many ways the least original religion of all time. It comes in to new spaces, and says, “Oh hey, tell me more about that. That’s pretty cool. Here’s how I would do that in light of my relationship with Jesus…”
Christianity tends to be counter-cultural…
…but that doesn’t mean culture-destroying.
Not all Christians have been gentle, but I would argue that Christianity has largely spread as an organic force, just as Jesus described: a seed that grows, a yeast that rises within. Organic cultural contact is an irrevocable element of being human, and an inevitable part of being religious.
Still, there are limits when “organic” turns to “toxic.” Christianity can only grow as long as it values and redeems the lives and symbols and societies it touches.
Following Jesus does change everything!
But that change comes by transforming our lives with a deeper sense of meaning andpurpose, not merely by external traditions (or their rejection).
I get this idea from the way Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven as:
yeast in the dough
salt (a preservative)
a seed that grows hidden in the earth
a treasure hidden in a field
In light of this “hidden treasure,” how would Jesus view Halloween as it is practiced today?
I imagine He would chide some of its excesses (I mean, do we really need to make every female costume “sexy”?).
But would He declare every last decoration and celebration as inherently evil? I don’t think so. He might even turn some apple juice into hard cider.
Jesus could have created armies from his followers, but He did not choose to dominate and conquer Herod or Pilate or Caesar. Instead He asks us to repent of our own free will. He asks us to choose to return to the path of forgiveness and mercy.
Sometimes the people in authority listen, sometimes not, and all the time imperfectly. That’s why He reminds us not just to follow outer laws, but to reform our inner law and motivations:
Love God with all your mind, heart and strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
But we struggle to live that out in our every day choices.
Which explains why All Souls’ Day (or Dia de los Muertos) follows All Saints Day and All Hallows’ Eve (aka Hallowe’en).
Because not all the dead are holy.
On Oct 31st we remember evil,
on Nov 1st we revere holiness,
and on Nov 2nd we remember all our beloved dead.
We remember the Most of Humanity who left this world somewhere in between, those who made good and bad choices in this life.
These three holidays challenge us to remember and pray for All Souls, known and unknown.
So is Hallowe’en a Christian holiday? It can be.
Like any day of the year, it can be thoroughly secular: lived only for the material goods of costumes and candy and decorations.
But if you want to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve as a Christian holiday, then I say “Trick or Treat,” friends.
Avoid the tricks of evil, and treat each other well.
Christians have many hundreds of years of Hallowe’en traditions to draw from, so enjoy wearing costumes, purging inner demons, and sharing the sweetness of neighborly hospitality.
As you enjoy, I also invite you to join me in the challenge of remembering the central Christian message of this day, and passing it on to our children:
YOU have the choice between good or evil, between love or hatred of neighbor, between worship or mockery of God.
When we remember the dead, holy or not, we remember our own mortality, that we have one brief and beautiful life in which to choose our path.
May you have a Blessed All Hallows’ Eve. And may all your days be blessed.
I haven’t been posting much about the racism, violence, and controversy that have enveloped our nation. I have become convinced this is an historic time, and that we are seeing what the US was like in the 1960s all over again.
But as a white person growing up in a white community surrounded by structural racism, I know my knee jerk reactions tend to be ill-informed, even if they are well intentioned. And quite frankly, who needs to hear from one more “born again” white anti-racist about how holy I am now?
The ugly truth is that I have to constantly question my sub-conscious responses built as a child.
Like any other type of recovery, I do anti-racism work one day at a time. Most days I will have internal voices, and often external voices, flooding me with images and words and feelings that I know are damaging. My job is to identify what is untrue and hurtful and say no… over and over again.
But I have hope for myself, and want to share my process with you.
To rewrite my internal script, and resist the racist vortex I live in, I try to take the advice of this week’s Sunday reading:
“whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.” –Philippians 4:8
It is so hard to find reliable sources that are gracious and just. Lately it seems you can’t get a following if you’re not rude and crass. I try to follow and support and understand black-led efforts for justice and peace, particularly ones I learned about while I was living in the Hough neighborhood for 8 years.
Here are a few sources of information I follow on Facebook (and before that, in real life) that help me focus on what is true, honorable, just, and excellent:
“Why don’t black people talk about black on black crime?” Oh wait. They do. All the time. It’s just most white people don’t listen until it’s about them.
This Cleveland-based organization is one of many similar ones in the country trying to use arts, public forums, outreach, political action, and dialogue to address the underlying issues causing high crime rates in our city/cities. If you’re not in Cleveland, find and support an org like this near you.
I’m Catholic, and was a member of an amazing Afro-centric parish. Our quiet Mass was 90 minutes of spirituals, and the big service was 2 hours with full Gospel choir, African drums, praise dancers… Talk about lovely and praiseworthy!
“I give you praise / I give you praise…” Oh, sorry, did I wander off into worship again? Just thinking about it and I am transported.
The US Black Catholic Conference is a wonderful place to learn about Black Catholic history, news, and how to support justice efforts aligned with Catholic social teaching.
Though this isn’t solely about Hough, I find it to be the most positive and realistic source of news on the neighborhood. Neighborhood Voices used to be my favorite, but it looks like it went under. Sad.
If you want to hear about what’s honorable and excellent in Cleveland, check it out. Support local media that shares positive and honest information about people of color.
Otherwise all you will see is memes and mug shots.
What are your favorite sources for just and true media? Comment with links!
In August 2017, Ohio Department of Education approved all three national exams as official assessments to earn a High School Equivalency Credential:
TASC Test &
Save yourself from wasting time searching, and spend it getting hands-on with the best resources to get you started navigating all three HSE exams.
The Literacy Cooperative has generously sponsored a live training to help Cleveland-area educators learn about working in a multi-assessment environment, and become more familiar with the TASC and HiSET exams.
Like many of you, I love my local library. I also love parody videos.
What do you get when you put them together?
For a laugh, watch “Heat and Cool Our Library,” a parody of “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast. Pay attention for a familiar voice and face!
I live in the most rural county in Ohio. Our small town library is the only one in the county open 7 days a week, but has occassionally closed for furnace repairs. The whole HVAC system needs replaced, plus some ductwork and a reconnection to the boiler. Our lowest quote was $79,500. For all the bells and whistles, the highest price was $120,000.
This once-in-a-generation repair will keep our library functioning for decades. With Ohio’s hot summers and snow-belt winters, we NEED our HVAC system to continue offering:
and much more!
And as a public library, those services are free for anyone–especially important for our neighbors most in need.
Henderson Library transforms lives by partnering with community organizations to offer adult literacy classes, tax preparation, meetings for home school families… the list goes on and on! Along with a warm place to stay, our library is a critical resource for individual and community development.
AND… we continue a 200 year tradition of libraries in small town Jefferson, Ohio. This year we have been celebrating our Bicentennial with fun (free) events for all ages.
Adult educators: consider carefully before investing in more devices and edtech products!
Do students need tech skills for success? Yes.
Do they need to perform well on computer-based testing? Yes.
Will edtech products increase student outcomes? That depends.
The Joyce Foundation funded a study to determine if edtech products would make a significant difference in adulted outcomes. Their conclusion? Probably not.
What does this mean for funders, administrators, teachers, and edtech companies?
First of all: Funders, Invest in Educators
Silicon Valley, and your entourage of investors, please consider throwing money at educators over edtech. Seriously, slow down. ROI in the edtech marketplace is siphoning money away from ROI for society.
Investors who look for quick tech money, do so at the expense of what actually works for education.
Second: Edtech Companies
Having participated in this study from the vendor side, I suspected it would confirm that products or devices alone do not improve outcomes.
This is disheartening for organizations who were hoping the research would give them a leg up on competitors.
But the truth is that programs need to buy the materials that their teachers and students feel comfortable using.
Although some of my colleagues would beg to differ, I really think what matters in the end is the teacher, not the product. The “best” product is the one you actually use.
Teachers: Learn how to troubleshoot
My look at the preliminary study data suggested a correlation between the digital literacy of the teacher and student usage of technology. My assessment of a TEACHER’S digital literacy seemed to line up with their time-on-task reports.
However this study did not measure the variable of teacher’s digital literacy. So how did I know?
I used a quick behavioral assessment: If a teacher did not know how to troubleshoot login issues, then they generally did not feel confident implementing edtech products. The students of less confident teachers showed less time on the product, particularly out-of-class time. If the teacher wasn’t comfortable with tech, their students didn’t get to the point of working independently.
While edtech alone isn’t correlated to outcomes, self study DOES increase success rates. But student self-study requires teachers to be able to troubleshoot their students’ use of materials.
Webinars, out-of-state trainers, and vendor technical support can only do so much in those situations. A part-time teacher who encounters any sort of issue with technology in class will just shrug their shoulders and fall back to paper copies or lecture. Same with students who are juggling other responsibilities to make time to study.
Should we expect any different?
Adulted instructors (in this study or otherwise) are generally not paid for planning time & offered minimal PD. They are rarely, if ever, paid to support students outside of class. So what teachers really need is…
Administrators: Research-based Best Practices
If edtech doesn’t improve the outcomes of adult ed programs, what will?
Dr Carmine Stewart and Omobola Lana worked together on “A Framework for Program Improvement in Adult Education.” This guide, published by The Literacy of Greater Cleveland, offers a list of research-based best practices for adulted programs.
Edtech is not enough. Teachers and administrators matter.
When people ask me how to set up their adult education program, I always recommended blended learning–a mix of student-led use of technology, and face-to-face instruction. It’s gratifying to see the Joyce Foundation make the same recommendation.
However, this study presents a challenge to administrators working overtime to build, purchase, or implement edtech solutions for adult education.
News flash: teachers don’t all know how to use this stuff! And more National Trainers is not the sole solution. Once the Expert goes home, to implement research-based best practices, teachers need:
embedded professional development,
on-site technical support,
local professional learning communities, and
regular reviews of data for accountability.
Adulted teachers are scrappy, creative, passionate… and underpaid. We’ve been doing more with less for decades.
Local administrators can improve outcomes by offering educators planning time, program support, and incentives for implementation… not just more edtech stuff.
The new GED College Ready Plus Credit is a recommendation for colleges & universities to accept a GED Test Taker’s score to count towards college credit.
What does that mean?
If you do well enough on the GED Test, you can save yourself time & money by starting in higher level classes. Skip Math 101 for a more interesting statistics class, for example. GED Test scores can equal up to 10 college credits…that’s almost one entire semester!
But you can’t skip a class everywhere you apply. GED Test Takers who want to make the most of their high scores may want to look closely at where they apply to college.
To find out if your GED College Ready + Credit Scores are worth $$$:
Start by checking if your nearby college or university is part of the ACE Credit College & University Network. I sorted this list by state so I could easily scan which Ohio institutions are on the list. In some cases, I see two branches of Kent State University, but not the branch nearest me. Hmm…
Next, contact the Admissions department. Ask if they accept College Ready + Credit. Even colleges within the network can determine whether or not to accept certain types of credit.
Even after contacting the Admissions department, they will likely give you the name of the department head, or someone else who will have to approve your application to transfer credit. If the answer is yes, then ask for the forms. If the answer is no…
This is when you change from a prospective student to an advocate.
So for example, maybe Youngstown State University’s English department is okay with giving 1 credit for Reasoning through Language Arts, but the History department has not made a decision about the Social Studies credit. Each department or dean the right to make their own decision (more about the process).
However, in many cases, a department chair may have no clue that the GED College Ready Plus Credit even exists, or what it means.
If they say “no,” or they haven’t heard of it, this is your chance to teach them!
If you are a test taker, explain how hard you studied, the skills you learned, and more.
If you are a teacher, share the Performance Level Descriptors, and a press release from GED Test Service about the new passing level.
Want more details on cool new tips and tools for GED® Test preparation?
Here’s a closer look at common adult education program structures (and why I think blended learning is the best):
Business as Usual: Face-to-face Instruction
No matter your student population, some teachers are all about classic face-to-face group instruction:
and now many students ignoring it all in lieu of cell phones…
Okay, Ferris Bueller is a super exaggeration. I mean, I have seen some really excellent group instruction: engaging, interactive, relevant. But… it’s still face-to-face group instruction.
“What’s wrong with business as usual?” you ask.
Well…if you miss a day, you’re behind. Or you show up, but you don’t understand it, you’re behind. Guess what? Most at-risk students already start BEHIND!
Actually, the truth is that a slim majority of high school students actually pass with business a usual. At least, they graduate.
But I’m not worried about “most students,” and neither are you. We’re worried about the ones who didn’t get it the first time, the ones who fall through the cracks.
What alternative programs do high schools or adult education classes offer for the large minority of students who do not succeed in traditional face-to-face group instruction? How do they stack up against
Worst Outcomes: Self-Paced Online Learning
A few years back, some members of the educational press were crowing that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were going to be The Golden Ticket that was going to FIX education!
As predicted, MOOCs did not fix business as usual… follow up studies showed that only 10% of students who enrolled completed a MOOC.
These outcomes could be improved by adding elements of faciliated coursework. But that required removing the Massive and Open parts of a MOOC. Then it’s just an OC (online course), and stops being entirely self-paced.
The high school where I worked fell into a similar trap as MOOCs. The district offered online learning for students with barriers:
teens who had babies,
were ill for extended periods, or
their behavior was too disruptive.
Most of the at-risk online students didn’t have the discipline to complete their coursework. For the 10% of motivated, self-paced learners, online learning is critical.
But purely online learning needs additional support, not less than traditional teaching. It works well for traveling artists & athletes, not discipline cases.
Moderate Success: Dual Enrollment
With the merger of workforce development and adult basic education through WIOA, career pathways are all the rage.
Dual enrollment combines high school level study with post-secondary credentials.
Technical training, classes at a local college campus, and supervised work-study tend to help students persist in learning, and give them a head start on productive careers.
There are plenty of data backing up the effectiveness of these programs for those who enroll.
So why aren’t they top on my list?
These approaches are not scalable because enrollment is limited.
And limited enrollment is a good thing! Specialized technical training is not for everyone, especially when we’re preparing people for jobs that won’t exist a decade from now.
On top of that, the students with the most barriers–OUR adult basic education students–are often the least likely to benefit from highly structured programs.
Best Solution: Blended Learning
What can we do?
How can we consistently improve outcomes for adult education or alternative high school programs?
How do we reach the at-risk adults and teens who lack:
the stability for dual enrollment programs,
the discipline for self-paced online learning, and
the attention span for face-to-face instruction?
We throw in a mix of each with blended learning!
Blended learning combines face-to-face, instructor-led programs with self-paced student use of technology.
Multiple pathways are accessible for students in the same building. Through online learning, students can engage the world… while maintaining the support and continuity of instructor oversight.
Vulnerable students of all ages need genuine human connection to successfully graduate.
But they also need the flexibility and autonomy to make their own choices, and accommodate the messiness of life.
Graduate schools have figured this out: they are expanding their reach by adding flexible, blended learning programs that encourage individual inquiry while developing a community of scholars.
Those at “the top” of their careers share the same barriers as those who are most vulnerable:
work and family responsibilities,
need for increased support, and
an inability to participate in an immersive on-campus experience.
Blended learning meets all those needs, plus it’s scalable. Thus blended learning is the optimal solution to prepare at-risk high-school-level graduates for a 21st century economy.
Graduates will be entering a world that mixes:
oversight and autonomy,
independence and teamwork, &
technology and human connection.
Blended learning prepares students for the “both… and” aspect of our strange new world.
“Blended learning is the optimal solution… for a 21st century economy.”
Next week I look forward to discussing the details of how to implement blended learning in adult education programs. I hope you can join us!
Like grass withers in circles in a field, sometimes we come to a season when it feels like people are dying all around us. In truth, people are dying every day. But in these past couple weeks, I feel the breeze from death’s scythe circling me as people I know are cut down in their prime.
On those days, clouds cover my heart.
Death and rainbows have been a theme of this week. After the spring storms flooding Northeast Ohio, social media is flooded with pictures of refracted light and attributions to the beloved deceased.
What is it about these bright, thin glimpses of color that remind us of our loved ones who have gone before us?
Monday, Memorial Day in the US, was a Rainbow Day. It’s already marked off as a day to barbeque and remember the dead. On top of that Ron Cramer of Jefferson fame had a fatal heart attack while running a 5K, an experience he survived exactly four years ago.
The news added a litany of stories to our extended family gathering, and I just got quiet (which is very out of character!). That evening, our immediate family went cycling, training for a long distance bike ride. Rain was forecast, so we put on our raincoats.
Instead of asking not to bike, our boys wanted to get wet. They laughed about “getting skunked” by the water sprays that soaked their butts. We peddled through a sunshower, when the warmth was on our backs, but heavy drops still peppered our faces.
Then we came out the other side of the storm to a rainbow.
A rainbow by itself is just color, a distortion or mirage. We can’t touch it, but it reveals a hidden truth about the spectrum of light that is hidden from our eyes on ordinary days.
I believe it is the experience of a rainbow that reminds us of dying.
It is the experience of peddling hard through a storm, and being rewarded with beauty on the other side. It reminds us how to be grateful for things that can’t last.
The death of a friend reveals something to us that is usually hidden in our workaday world: that the spectrum of life is more than the sum of our works.
It hints that there is something more, something deeper. There is something in a human life that disappears as soon as we try to touch it or put in in a box, but that stays with us long after the mirage has faded.
I found myself singing:
“Alleluia, the great storm is over,
Lift up your wings and fly.”
The Teacher of Ecclesiastes also put this experience into verse (12:1,5,7):
Remember your creator in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come,
when one is afraid of heights,
and terrors are in the road;
the almond tree blossoms,
the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets,
and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the breath returns to God who gave it.
Grief is a storm that comes in waves. But when mourners gather, we do so to remember the vanity of life with gratitude, and with a hope that at the end, there will be rainbows.