Learning Issues


Authentic Assessment

The emergence of PBL (Project-Based Learning) has accelerated interest in “authentic assessment”– the evaluation of student work by rubric. This practice makes it possible for students to spend their time learning and for teachers to spend instructional time in support of student learning and progress rather than interrupting learning for testing or test prep.

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Learning Together with Teach to One Distance Learning Partners

MAY 27, 2020  NEW CLASSROOMS   BLOGCOVID-19SCHOOL PARTNER SPOTLIGHT

There is nothing ideal about implementing an emergency transition to distance learning. Over the last several weeks, we’ve had the privilege to help school partners apply unique aspects of Teach to One’s school-based design to ensure learning continues in a personalized virtual learning environment. 

This work with new and existing school partnerships is also helping our team better understand students’ multifaceted distant learning challenges. Our close collaboration with partners is providing important data-driven learning insights about what works best for students during this time. 

An example is Beginning with Children Charter School 2, an elementary and middle school in Brooklyn. Working with math teacher Nicki Lowell and school/district leaders Esosa Ogbahon, Martine Louisma and Edwin Santiago, we’ve worked closely to support students, track daily learning progress, and make refinements along the way. Our teams have been experimenting with how much structure and synchronous learning to offer students. We’ve learned that some students need more flexibility around taking assessments, and we’ve been able to adjust testing windows to keep them open all day. Other students, we’ve learned, seem to do better with additional scaffolding and more structured lesson times. These kinds of close working partnerships – and the timely insights and feedback they yield – are what helps us provide a better learning experience for all TTO partners.

We’re updating this page with stories on how New Classrooms and our partner school are navigating the COVID-19 crisis.

Pandemic Drives Statewide Learning Management Adoption

Education Week’s blog this week focuses on the movement of states towards offering statewide learning management systems. Idaho, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Utah have chosen or are in the midst of implementing statewide design of learning management using software from Canvas, Egenuity, Desire2Learn and others. Click here for G2 software review’s good comparison of major LMS providers. The summary grid is below.

The blog does not mention Hawai‘i, the only district that is a state. While some statewide systems have been in place in Hawai‘i, there is a current effort to choose an LMS, and we would assume, to design an integration with SIS and clear guidance on complex area and school level use of the LMS as a parent portal as well. In Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i recent parent survey, there was a remarkable variety of ways the parents get information on the schools and on their student’s learning.

Satisfaction is highest with Google Classroom (though it is more limited in function) and Canvas from Instructure.

Pandemic Academic Regression? School Budget Shortfalls?

Across the country district and school leaders and staff, teachers, families and students are suffering the sudden change to staying at home. One of the very painful realities is that this pandemic is limiting learning for students from less affluent families more, widening the already unacceptable equity gap. Families with less income are more likely not to have Internet connections, or to have weak connections. The student may have no computer or tablet for their study, or they may have a device that cannot handle the challenges of web conferencing, advanced software, or rich media. In some families many children share one device and cannot complete their work or meet at the times teachers give lessons online. Parents in those families are less likely to be able to guide the students with the technology or the academics. Meanwhile, IB, AP, Honors, and self-motivated students with Internet and devices may actually speed ahead of the rate of learning they would have achieved in the school building. We have much to do to address these challenges.

In Hawai‘i, the only district that covers the whole state, it is difficult to measure given the district’s effort to leave decisions and implementation to the schools and complex areas. Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i surveyed parents and received a wide variety of responses on accessible Internet and devices, and in the ways in which technology is being used to support students and families during this shelter-in-home time. Honolulu Civil Beat reported on the difficulty getting data on the district’s pandemic response comparing it to efforts in Miami, Los Angeles and other cities.

As Miami’s school buildings closed, the district rushed to provide 90,000 more devices and around 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. 91% of Miami Dade students have logged in for virtual lessons.

“We are bracing ourselves for an unprecedented, historic academic regression experienced by our most fragile population of students.” — Alberto Carvahlo, Superintendent, Miami Dade Schools

The Los Angeles, CA Unified School District is spending $95 million to deliver hot spots and laptops to students to address the digital divide. The impact of technology and training needs on the budget is staggering. Overall effect on the LAUSD budget is pictured below. Click here to get to the EdSource article providing that chart and information on other districts facing these challenges.

Pandemic – Learning Side Effects

1 in 5 teachers in USA Today poll say they may not return to school in the fall!

Click the image above to read the article.

This pandemic gives public education a multi-dimensional wake-up call.

A major rethink, redesign, and massive implementation is needed.

How we can better use our network of real estate, buildings, administration, teachers and staff, learning content, and communication capabilities to support preK-12 and lifelong learning in today’s world?

> Schedule appropriate to the physical, emotional, economic needs of learners,
relevant to our times.

> Respect teachers in status, compensation, working conditions, professional regard and authority.

> Enable authentic learning work rather than make work.

> Assess progress as learning work happens, rather than interrupting learning for “tests” that waste the time available for learning ,respect and elevate teachers.

> Implement innovations to make learning more personal, effective, engaging, and timely.



Emotional Intelligence in the Pandemic – Dr. Marc Brackett of RULER

Cover of the book titled "Permission to Feel."

Dr. Marc Brackett is the founder of RULER is an approach to social emotional learning from the Yale University Center for Emotional Learning, I will make notes on his webinar as he speaks today:

The RULER Skills

RULER is an acronym for the five skills of emotional intelligence:

Recognizing emotions in oneself and others
Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
Labeling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary
Expressing emotions in accordance with cultural norms and social context
Regulating emotions with helpful strategies

The first way to create peaceful environment for our children and students is to learn our own emotional regulation. It is about everyone– not about the coach, teacher, aid, parent, children– it is about all.

What is the climate in virtual learning world? What does good emotional health look like?
To think about this, we will look at Emotional Regulation and Emotional Co-regulation.

Maya Angelou’s quote “As you grow older, you will discover, you have two hands. One for helping yourself, and one for helping others.”

To start today, as we should at all times, notice how we feel. Where are you on the Mood Meter?

This pandemic has us feeling stressed in many ways. When we are anxious, it feels like these feelings will last forever. Our worst selves can come out. Too many of us feel in the red and blue– when we want to be in the yellow and the green.

What comes before the development of the skills to lead in development of emotional intelligence? I wrote the book “Permission to Heal”– what does that phrase mean to you?

We have to give ourselves and others permission to feel?

I was bullied. My parents did not know how to help me. But I had an amazing uncle who gave me permission to feel. Did you have someone?

Think about the characteristics of the person who gave you permission to feel?
What are the characteristics of that person?
Understanding? Warm? Caring?

Are you becoming that person?

Our vision: To use the power of emotion to build a more equitable world.
How children feel is important for 5 reasons.

How do you initiate feelings?

Today we will look at Co-Regulation. We will learn to take 4 steps now to avoid the 12 steps later. (joke)

How would you describe your best self? How would you like to be seen, to be described. Here is how the webinar attendees answered:

A scientist is curious and explores, listens for the stories, find out how they are actually feeling. Instead of judging. Are you the scientist or the judge?

Some folks say “I am the emotion scientist with the kids I care about the least and the emotion judge with the kids I care about the most.”  It cannot be about you– you need to become “emotion scientists”.

What is the psychological difference between anger and disappointment?

Anger is about injustice and unfairness. Often anger is interpersonal Danger, anxiety, uncertainty, jealousy, too much demand not enough resources. Disappointment is about not living up to expectations

What are our strategies to help children develop emotional regulation?

The truth about our role in helping our students/children: We are not the knowers, we are the learners??
Are all strategies permitted in your home? Use self talk and re-appraisal to gain balance.

Feelings are impermanent. (The yogic view– Vipassana kernal) There is a way to get better at it.

Ask your child– what would you tell your best friend if he was in this situation? The child then comes up with good solutions. Do not be the knower, be the listener. Go in as the scientist, note hints, ask…

Chronic overwhelm— we say “yes” to too much. What works for me may not work for you. Specific to the relationship. It is all about building the awareness.

There is no correct or incorrect. Is it working for you? Is it working for your child?

Follow up. Reinforce the benefits. Create for the success. The goal has to be about building a habit.
In my difficult chlldhood, so many people defined my reality for me.
Remember you are co-creating the realities for yourself and your children.

What was your biggest aha from this webinar?
(for me:”Be a scientist and a listener, not a judge.”)

Set an intention, right now. What will be different for you as a result of using these strategies.
(for me: asking my children instead of expecting)

What might get in the way?
Are there larger structural problems?

If you fail, forgive. This is a life’s work. Everyone’s health depends on it. Join my free book club on my website. Read about my book. There are apps. If your school is not yet committed check out support at rulerapproach.org

Welcome to RULER

Parent-Teacher-District Communications for Learning Progress

Parent engagement has a significant impact on student learning progress, comfort, and happiness.  Yet few schools or districts have yet designed systems that support ease and variety of two-way communications between district and parent and teacher and parent. We are gathering resources here to see how easy, empowering communications can be integrated into the learning management systems.

Given the explosion of virtual learning during  the pandemic, parents have been more involved in student learning providing a possible increase in the impact of parent engagement on student progress as well as an increase in utilization of technology learning tools  by teachers, students and parent.

A serious equity gap has widened given the disparity in student devices, Internet access, student, teacheer and parent technology app savvy, and parental knowledge of school processes and the curriculum.

We are gathering research and solutions here with an aim to find or create effective home-school communication to support student learning and family engagement.

How Two-Way Communication Can Boost Parent Engagement

Link to Waterford.org website– information and links to research on Parent/Teacher/District communications.

Communication Between Educators and Parents in Title I Elementary

A dissertation on parent/teacher communications, types and impacts,  in Title I schools.

Link to comparison of Schoolology, PowerSchool, and TalentLMS– learning management systems with extensive school-home communciations. https://comparisons.financesonline.com/schoology-vs-powerschool

Eric Paper on Two Way Parent Teacher Communication

Enhancing School–Home Communication Through Learning Management System Adoption: Parent and Teacher Perceptions and Practices, by Nora S. Laho (This paper examines usage of various communications methods after implementation of Schoology LMS.)

Soulful Learning in a Wired World

Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, Bellingham, Washington, September 2012 Sermon.

Do you know, has Lee told you, that Aloha means that I breathe in God from your breath and you breath in God from mine? In that spirit let me say: Aloha!

You are the people who are with my husband while I am an ocean away working on my education projects. So when Lee invited me to share with you my passion, the education urgency that I feel for the welfare of our children, our country, and our world, I jumped at the chance.

I do what I do because I think it is the best use of myself to further the values you and I hold in common, our 7 principles. And Lee does what he does here with you for the same reason.

The most likely people to understand, agree, expand and create needed education changes that lift our young people and protect human dignity and value, I believe, are Unitarian Universalists, and nowhere better than here at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship.

It is in our genes. It is in our beliefs. It is in the highest moments of our history as a movement, like when with these words Emerson addressed the 1838 Harvard Divinity School seniors, about to become Unitarian ministers:

But when the mind opens and reveals the laws which traverse the universe,
and make things what they are, then shrinks the great world at once into a mere illustration and fable of this mind.

What am I? and What is?
asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched.
 

Emerson says that once we truly open ourselves to learn principles, laws and science, which guide the universe, we then wonder, “What am I” and “What Is?” and then our learning is ignited without end.

Yes! My forty years in education affirm his view. I see that ontological and existential questions of being are a vital part in the virtuous cycle of mindful engagement and learning.

But, because I write in 2013 instead of 1838, and because I am looking at learning for the broad spectrum of learners, rather the highly educated group Emerson addressed, I see this virtuous cycle turned around. Emerson sees that if we learn widely and deeply, we ask questions about our own being.

I think that if our learning addresses our being, if I, the learner see the relation between my self and the knowledge or skills I seek to learn, my learning accelerates and deepens and I have a higher likelihood of mastery. If I engage this way, the laws of the universe are then penetrable to me and I am urged forward in learning.

When the student is asked to memorize the state capitols, some will do it quickly to prove they can and because it elevates their sense of self to prove it. If a student sees no relation to their self and sees no hope of acknowledgment of them personally, they will likely not be successful.

Personalizing learning makes it more effective and bonding teacher with the learner accelerates the learning.

We now have the ability through technology, connectivity, cognitive science, learning media, and reorganizing resources accordingly, to give each child a customized learning path and personal attention.

Can you imagine when you took your first step?

The first feel of a square of jello or a piece of ice?

Riding your bicycle and staying up?

Mastering the reed in your clarinet?

Making a perfect pudding?

Learning was a delight. 

We learn what interests us …
Thank you, Socrates and Plato, for engaging us, with inquiry, in learning.

We learn when we are respected …
Thank you, Jesus, for proving our worthiness to learn by sharing your parables and proverbs with all.

We learn where we find peace and focus …
Thank you, Buddha, for teaching us mindfulness and to resolve suffering with happiness

We learn by doing …
Thank you, John Dewey, for bridging learning from academic to authentic

We learn when we have dedicated, bright, professional, inspired teachers …
Thank you, teachers, for giving generously of your concern and talent regardless of pay or conditions

We learn when we are in nature and see ourselves in nature …
Thank you, Thoreau, Darwin, Richard Louv—writer of the Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle—and all the environmental educators working to teach us to save the planet and ourselves.

We learn in environments that promote learning …
Thank you, to those local communities who have found a way to build and sustain modern, comfortable, connected schools. Let’s fix the rest of them!

We learn when we have the current tools …
Thank you, IBM, Apple, Google, and even Twitter for inventing these.
Let’s get them to all students!

We learn when we are connected …
Thank you, President Obama, for pushing for “ConnectEd” the new E-Rate program to get high band-with Internet connectivity to schools.
Thanks to the FCC who voted for it in July, but seeks comments. Communities will need to support this initiative which addresses the problem of the average school having about the same connectivity as the average American home, but serving 200 times as many users.
Let’s turn on the juice!

We learn when we have effective standards and tests …
Thank you educators, governors, and state chief school officers for 10 years of struggling to develop and agree on Common Core Standards. For the first time, our standards now may have the depth and rigor to raise performance instead of driving it down. And using national common core standards may direct otherwise wasted funds into more advanced assessment and instruction to benefit students.
Let’s support the implementation of the Common Core!

In spite of the old philosophers’ deep thinking about learning, today’s connectivity and technology, and common core standards now being implemented for the first time, which offer affordable forward movement, despite all that, enormous gaps in education persist in our own country and around the world.

And we have no assurance that those making the decisions will do so from values that support each learner.

Public attention has been riveted by media’s report of the U.S. plummeting math and science scores relative to developed and even some developing countries. After ignoring education for decades, the public is riled up by scores that evoke a world cup competition in which we are losing.

But where is the interest in serving the needs of students and our global common interests with advances in education not measured by those math, science and literacy tests?

And who will stand up for providing the support to each student so that they can develop their own individual gifts, enjoy harmonious lives, and become innovators for tomorrow?

Will we ignite and satisfy curiosity in our students?
Or will we dampen interest with our one-size-fits-all curricula, graded to reward those most gifted?
Will our tests and our instructional design support our students’ learning?
Or will we continue with the classroom model developed in 1780, of large classes lead by one teacher, grouped by age?
Will we educate our populace to achieve rewards in their own and shared accomplishment?
Or will we persist in a competitive model that undermines collaboration?
Will we humanize our education model to advance against the twin evils of ignorance and greed?
Or will we continue the education model that matches our economic model of inequity?

What got us to our current slump in education?

For twenty years education in the US has backslid
We thought we were leading the world
That our scientists would invent more
Our businesses would thrive more
Our schools would educate young people better
The world would continue to come to America to get educated.

We let ourselves get into squabbles about state standards
We underpaid our teachers
We failed to honor teachers and students
We did not bring talent into our schools as our top priority
We were stuck in old learning models

As technology entered the workplace--and the play place-
We did not keep up with it in our schools.
Many of our teachers were afraid of technology
And we slowed teacher progress by miring technology in bureaucracy
Kids who had computers at home
Had to work at old desks at school with pencils
Kids who had no computers at home
Were sent to computer labs to drill, drill, drill

Lessons bored students
Violence and discipline sapped resources
Gone were the arts and sports
Gone were music and drama
After sputnik’s science surge,
Gone were budgets for science.

Harvard’s Project Zero found US schools erode genius:

Of 4 year olds 98% rank genius in divergent thinking – being able to combine things in new ways

9 year olds are down to 32%

14 year olds drop to 10%

and by 25 years only 2 % are divergent thinking geniuses–

The kind we need in today’s economy.
No wonder US patents are now issued to more non-US than US inventors!

Math and reading, reading and math
Skill and drill and drill and kill
We took the students’ time
We removed the joy from learning.

With the US 20th of 28 developed countries in HS graduation rate
Dropout rates reaching 50% for urban blacks
Yielding a 54% jobless rate for all young high school dropouts
Who are 63 times more likely to be incarcerated than college grads
$82 billion in lost lifetime earnings
$37 billion in decreased tax revenue
$12 billion in losses due to poor health
$8 billion in losses due to increased crime rates…
The ROI (return on investment) to give every child an effective education is estimated at 250%

Lee and I built an inquiry science program – Galaxy Classroom–and delivered it to the lowest performing schools in Miami. The results of our project were stellar and the students and teachers loved it.

But the budget was cut, so the program and others like it, were cut.
We run pilots and contests to encourage innovation,
Then we de-fund innovation that works, along with the rest.

Imagine the gap between what is and what our kids could have done,
if they had great schools.
If we actually put our future first,
Put our best efforts into guiding the minds that will guide our destiny,
Put our children first,
Investing in learning and innovation first.
Imagine teacher time spent on the student.
Not the paperwork.

Imagine assessment, from the French “to sit beside”,
As a serious, personal and learning interchange.
Sitting with the learner to see what they know,
Breathing the same air, dignifying the student work,
Learning how they learn, knowing what they want to know, and caring about what they care about.

We know how to ask questions to discover not just what a learner knows,
But what critical knowledge the learner missed 2 years back.
Fill the hole and enable the student trajectory to rise!

We can ask questions via computers in many different ways,
In a video game, or in an audio interview, or in an essay, or multiple-choice question—discerning how our learner learns.

We can examine the student’s work to infer the student’s knowledge and perspective as well as writing and other skills.

In fact my team and I built online courses with teachers, partnered with the Ohio Learning Alliance,
Delivered by teachers who spend no time lecturing,
The best lecture, recorded for anytime viewing
No time collecting, little time correcting papers
Little time on discipline
Much time coaching group projects
Much time one to one—with students
Asking and talking
About what the student is learning
About what the student knows.
About the student’s interests.

With computers grading essays,
Media providing outstanding teaching of a physics principle,
Our teacher’s precious time is spent on personal conversation with the student.
Each student can feel respected, have access to personal feedback, and imagine themselves participating in the future.

The student in this “blended learning” project said
“I never had a teacher talk to me about how I think before”

If the lesson is authentic,
If it represents learning of value to the student,
If the link to the student’s context is made explicit,

Then the student can come to care about the lesson,
And the student will realize we care about her.
We can build personal relationship into learning.

A national trial attorney, Carole Bos, uses the same techniques she uses to research cases,
And the methods she uses for presenting cases to juries,
To create the Awesome Stories website that bridges stories to learning.
I’ve been working for the past year to support and extend this breakthrough in online learning.
Teachers and students explore the “story behind the story”, whether the story is fiction or non-fiction, Awesome Stories provides non-fiction original written context and a plethora of primary sources.
Students are interested, compelled by the story, to cut their own path through the wealth of provided, vetted, reliable, related content.
Students delve deeply, think critically, collaborate, and respond to essential questions and common core tasks, meeting 21st-century research standards.

Our support of the student in the lesson,
Collaborating in their exploration,
Observing his growth and
Communicating how we see his growth,
This will convey our care and respect and love
Engendering the student’s sense of self and love of learning.

In this time of classroom depersonalization,
With bullying amplified by social media, results each in
16% of teen students report seriously considering suicide
13% report creating a plan
8% report trying to take their own life
157,000 youth from 10 to 24 are treated in ERs for self-inflicted injuries.

91 schools in 13 states have daily meditation practice, reporting
25% fewer absences
30% fewer suspension days
50% fewer rule infractions
But most schools have not made time or budget for meditation.

Studies on Yoga now practiced in elementary, middle and high schools point toL

  • fewer fights and arguments among students;
  • better student decision-making;
  • increased self-awareness and self-esteem;
  • improved concentration and retention; and
  • more efficient use of class time—

Yet yoga is banned from many districts out of concern for religious freedom.
And meditation and yoga champions are not a match for test score alarms.

Industry seeks innovative thinkers for new careers,
Careers we do not even recognize today.
In these times of stress, digital cacophony, and familial complexity,
Students need more than a basic skills and knowledge curriculum to reach even yesterday’s goals.

In order to wrap their minds around the growing universe of knowledge and to prepare themselves for roles in the economy and social system of tomorrow, our students need more soulful support.

Even if we cannot use the word “soul” in schools,
We need to see that each child’s essential self, each child’s soul is respected.
Standardized test scores should not be allowed to define students—regardless of percentile.

That approach is backward for the child, and it is backward for our society.

Learning is autobiographical.
We learn to the degree we see a relation between the lessons and ourselves.
Sometimes we struggle to see that relation.
For some of us the relation to almost all learning is quite clear.
But I have seen students who cannot read a simple primer,
but quickly grasp the meaning of a car repair manual.
That car repair manual is Greek to me.

Learning is autobiographical.
And if we learn much across a wide spectrum with an open mind,
if we learn deeply with attention and rigor,

if we learn from our daily life as well as school with alertness to natural as well as academic lessons, if we integrate our learning from multiple sources, then this learning is integrated into our being. Then as we learn, more and more is in our frame of reference.
More knowledge is accessible to us.
We can master more skills.

Socrates believed in the reincarnation of an eternal soul, which contained all knowledge.
That we lose touch with that knowledge at every birth,
and so we need to be reminded of what we already know (rather than learning something new).
Approaching each learner with loving respect,
Using technology, media, and assessment in new ways,
Supporting each student to respect her own consciousness,
Learning can be delightful like our first time.
And each learner may access knowledge from her deepest self.

Plato said that he did not teach, but rather served,
like his mother, as a midwife to truth that is already in us!
Making use of questions and answers to remind his students of knowledge is called dialectics, or the Socratic method.

Luckily, with learning management systems, flipped classrooms, blended learning, adaptive assessment and great teachers—if we use them with radical respect for the learner—we can provide a level of Socratic method that Plato and Socrates could never have imagined.

Emerson’s last words in the Harvard Divinity School Address were:

I look for the hour when that supreme Beauty,
which ravished the souls of those eastern men, and chiefly of those Hebrews,
and through their lips spoke oracles to all time, shall speak in the West also.
The Hebrew and Greek Scriptures contain immortal sentences, that have been bread of life to millions. But they have no epical integrity; are fragmentary; are not shown in their order to the intellect.
I look for the new Teacher, that shall follow so far those shining laws, that he shall see them come full circle; shall see their rounding complete grace; shall see the world to be the mirror of the soul; shall see the identity of the law of gravitation with purity of heart; and shall show that the Ought, that Duty, is one thing with Science, with Beauty, and with Joy.

We can:
Provide a safe and encouraging environment for learning.
Know what our learners know.
Learn how our learners learn.
Care as our learners care.
We can fix education.
We can teach every human on the planet what they want to learn, in the way they learn best,
Approaching each learner with loving respect
Using technology, media, and assessment in new ways
Learning can be delightful– like our first time.

May we unite, invigorated with our freshest thinking, most strategic views, steadfast commitment, innovative re-casting, and soulful connection, to change the world through personalized learning for all.

Closing Words:

Visionary Unitarian Buckminster Fuller saw our current conundrum then:
Only the profound inertia of ignorance… now withholds the practical realization of successful physical survival of all of humanity, all at higher standards of living than have as yet been conceived by any man.

It is indeed a comprehensive educational problem.


Buddha taught that the twin sources of suffering are ignorance and greed and we are struggling against them now.

For as Channing said “There is but one essential good, and that is the health, power, purity of our own soul.”

And so let us bend our efforts to protect our souls and all souls from ignorance and greed, with education as our best means to do so.
Let us bring a message of radical respect for each child to the children of the world.
Let us put that reverence for individuals in our learning system…
To reinforce that most important component of learning—the unique value of each individual.
Seeking knowledge and inspiration to overcome ignorance, understanding the impact of overuse of our planet, abuse of humans and animals,
Let us overcome greed,
and savor the pleasure of connecting with those unlike us
enjoy mindfulness and peace
and unite in tolerance and love.

Amen.