Transforming Education—December 2017

Write in your heart that every day is the best day of the year.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Holidays!

As I shared in my last newsletter, the College of Education is very pleased to begin our Brick by Brick, or Mattone Su Mattone, campaign as we journey towards our new home in the beautiful building that currently houses the Christian Theological Seminary (CTS).

Our future is full of opportunities as we continue the work to transform education, but we would not be where we are today without the strong foundation of alumni, faculty, staff, and students who have helped us develop, brick by brick, into a nationally recognized College of Education.

As you reflect on this season of thankfulness, giving, and remembrance, we would ask that you consider honoring those who have paved the way.

  • Is there an educator that started you on your professional journey, even before you came to Butler, who you would like to recognize?
  • Is there a faculty or staff member that you would like to publicly thank for their investment in you and the profession?
  • Would you like to have your own name inscribed as a permanent part of your alma mater?
  • If you are a family member, is there a former or current student you know who would love to always be part of the COE?

The link below will take you to the site where bricks can be purchased and inscriptions can be noted. We are thrilled at the outpouring of interest in this project since the last newsletter, and we cannot wait for the names and stories that we will remember because of this project.

Purchase a Brick

Thank YOU for being a part of the Mattone Su Mattone that has allowed us to build who we are today and lay the foundation for an even stronger tomorrow. We look forward to the many good things ahead in 2018!

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

Transforming Education—October 2017

Mattone Su Mattone (Italian)

Brick by Brick:
Learning from the past as we look to the future of the College of Education

The story of the preschool, XXV Aprile (April 25), in the Villa Cella is an important part of the history of early childhood education in Reggio Emilia, Italy. In Villa Cella after World War II, the village was left with a German tank, a few horses, and a truck abandoned due to the quick departure of the Nazis. In only a few weeks after Italy was liberated, the citizens of Villa Cella sold these items and began to gather the ruble left of the many buildings that had been shattered by bombs. They gathered bricks (mattone) and took them to the river, knocking off the mortar, and gathered sand to begin construction of a preschool for the children. Renzo Barazzoni, author of Mattone Su Mattone wrote: 

“The people of Villa Cella had seen the war up close and had experienced all of its horrors. They could easily have been infected by the repeated barbarities of the long fascist domination. Instead, immediately after the Liberation, not only were they relieved of the weight of a nightmare and lightened by returning hope, they were especially united by the memory of shared suffering and by a spirit of solidarity which had been tested through and through... Everyone wondered how to erase every trace of this dark past from our conscience and from our institutions; the answer was democracy, to be built from the ground up, along with the houses and the demolished cities, with the families, which were split up and mutilated.  The period after the war, therefore, was one of the sunniest moments in our history.

I had the good fortune of visiting April 25, and it was an inspiring symbol of rebirth and hope after one of the most horrific periods of history. I was in awe of the structure knowing that bricks had been placed so many decades ago as they built a future for their children and their country.  The democratic principles that permeate the practices in the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy are alive and well, and the history of fascism has no place in the present or future.

So in the spirit of the Reggio practice of offering questions as a means to provoke dialogue, I offer the following:

  • With the tragedies in our society (mass shootings, natural disasters, etc.), how are we practicing and teaching democratic principles so that our students know about history and understand their roles as citizens in a democratic society?
  • Have you read, or will you re-read, John Dewey’s profound and prophetic work Democracy and Education?
  • How do you respond to what often feels like a never-ending attack on the education system in our country? Can you think of it, like the citizens of Villa Cella, as being tested but creating a spirit of solidarity in realizing that as an educator, YOU are laying one brick at a time for the future of your students?

I am pleased to share with you that the College of Education will be undertaking our own Mattone Su Mattone as we move into a new home in summer 2018. We will move into the beautiful Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) building located on the west side of the Butler campus. As we work with Schmidt Associates in the redesign of several spaces, including the building of a new walkway and patio, we will be selling bricks that celebrate being an alum, honoring a family member, a teacher, a professor, or the memory of a loved one. As we create our own “brick by brick” story, we will be paving the way to a new future for the College of Education by understanding and honoring our past, but looking to a future that is filled with hope and opportunity; renewed with the understanding that education is the foundation to a strong and healthy society where all its members can thrive.

Photo credit:

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

Transforming Education—April 2017


In time of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.
—Fred Rogers

This column is dedicated to children of all ages and the peacemakers in the world. Only a few weeks ago an act of terrorism occurred in Stockholm, Sweden. This followed on the heels of horrific incidents in Syria. The turmoil in the world demands that we embrace the words of Mr. Rogers as educators, parents, and as global citizens.

My dear friend and colleague, Angelica Granqvist, sent me a text on April 7 to let me know that she and her family were safe in their homeland of Sweden. Last May I had the honor of traveling to Sweden to learn from Angelica and her peers as fellow educators. In her school, Vallentuna Gymnasium, I met students from many countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. They had to master the Swedish language first and then English. I was touched to hear the phrase “newly arrived” used rather than “immigrant.” What I observed was a thriving community of high school students who embodied the wisdom of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I had the opportunity to travel with Angelica to other cities as well as Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea. I found the Swedes to be kind and open and the pace of life to be peaceful.

Unfortunately their peace has now been disrupted by a senseless act. But it appears the Swedes are using their ears and hearts as they embrace the questions in this situation. Swedes have placed mounds of flowers and thousands joined hands in a public gathering. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven stated, “This shows that there is strength in Sweden that nobody can take away from us.” I read an interview of a 75-year-old Swedish woman who said maybe there is hope in this tragedy so that “fellow Swedes would become even more open and welcoming.” She is keeping her heart and mind open in the midst of the questions that surround a tragedy.

This May I will return to Sweden—this time with a large group of Butler University faculty. We must continue to realize the importance of the connections across the world, our role as peacemakers, and how education is the way to change the world. While we must take precautions, we cannot live our lives in fear. As adults we must continue to help our students ask the questions knowing that there are many answers, not just one. Sadly the days of the Mister Rogers Neighborhood show are in the past, but his wisdom lives on. Perhaps introducing the younger generation to him on Google would be worthy! As our students and children see the world events play out on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, they could frame it as Mister Rogers did: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” May we each work to help heal the world with our ears and hearts open always.

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

Transforming Education—March 2017

If you’re always racing to the next moment,
what happens to the one you’re in?

A collision of events and observations this month is summed up in this quote. It began with a conversation I had with a friend whose child is in the final stage of the college selection process. The angst of the parent was about what their child would major in and what the job market may be in four years. Having had two children who have completed college, and given my day job, my advice was to make sure their child selected the school that felt like the best fit, encourage them to enter as an exploratory student, and to give them time to find their passion. Only a week earlier I had a young man in my office, a senior majoring in business, telling me he wished he could start over in college because he had discovered a passion for teaching. He shared he had felt the pressure to select a major early and that his parents had emphasized it needed to be a career that would provide a sound financial future. What had been the hurry to make an early decision, racing through the moments of college life without fully embracing the current moment?

A few days later I received an article about the urgency of incorporating college and career readiness standards into the elementary curriculum. James L. Hymes, considered to be a founding father of early childhood education in America, wrote the seminal text Teaching Children Under Six. Over 50 years ago, Hymes challenged the concept of “getting children ready” in the early childhood years. He asked why it is that when a child is four years old the common education practices are to get the child ready to be five years old. Why is it we don’t celebrate all of the wonder of being four, offering experiences for children to learn, realizing they will become five years old on their own? Why is it in American culture we do not appreciate all that each age offers? Why can’t we celebrate, nurture, and encourage without a goal of hurrying to be the next age?

Two days after receiving the article, I began reading the fourth book written by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. In his recent novella, And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, the following dialogue between the Grandpa (G) and grandson Noah (N) reminded me of how Hymes’ message resonates today.

He always wants to know everything about school, but not like other adults, who only want to know if Noah is behaving. Grandpa wants to know if the school is behaving. It hardly ever is.

N: Our teacher made us write a story about what we want to be when we’re big.

G: What did you write?

N: I wrote that I wanted to concentrate on being little first.

G: That’s a very good answer.

N: Isn’t it? I would rather be old than a grown-up. All grown-ups are angry; it’s just children and old people who laugh.

G: Did you write that?

N: Yes.

G: What did your teacher say?

N: She said I hadn’t understood the task.

G: And what did you say?

N: I said she hadn’t understood my answer.

The last collision in the series of events was one that shook me to my core and reminded me of the preciousness of each moment of each day. This month’s column is dedicated to the life and memory of Jackie Kleine Watts, COE Butler 2007 graduate. Jackie lost her life on March 4 as she tried to rescue a lost dog. Her love for animals was immense and her willingness to help others, even those she never met, were qualities to be admired and respected. I was fortunate to see Jackie a few months ago when we bumped into one another at a restaurant. I was delighted to see her and to catch up. She showed me pictures of her pets and we took a photo together. She shared how much she loved her work as an esthetician at an upscale hotel. She asked me if I was disappointed that she was not using her teaching degree. My reply was education happens in many places and in many ways and that the ultimate goal I have for every student is to find happiness. It gives me comfort knowing that she was genuinely happy—she had reached the goal of contentment and peacefulness. Jackie did not race from moment to moment but rather lived each moment fully. She reminded me that life is NOT about what the person will do but rather who they will become. In honor of Jackie, I ask you to pause, be thankful, and live fully every moment. Tomorrow will arrive all on its own.

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

Editor’s Note: In our ongoing quest to highlight best practices in teaching, we present Brandie Oliver. Oliver is an expert in bullying prevention.

Transforming Education—February 2017


Give to every human being every right you claim for yourself.
Happiness is the only good. The time for happiness is now.
The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.

–Robert G. Ingersoll 

Perhaps like me, you are concerned about many issues happening in our country and the greater world. The negativity, regardless of your political affiliation, may be wearing you down and fear about the future can easily consume you. As I began to write this month’s column, I pondered what I could possibly offer that would be of value and support. Ironically within two days of initiating my writing, I received email messages composed by two of my favorite authors and their shared topics were happiness and fear.

The two authors were Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, and Margaret (Meg) Wheatley, anthropologist and author of several books including Walk Out…Walk On. Meg begins with the importance of acknowledging fear, to be curious about it, to investigate it, and to engage directly with it. She wrote, “It is our curiosity that transforms fear. Most often, it dissolves into energy that we can work with.” Similarly, Shawn wrote, “Embedded within every stress is meaning. The best way to cope with stress is not to panic and flee from it, but rather to remember why there’s meaning involved.”

I would propose that directing our energy in a positive manner will enable us to not flee from the fear, but rather be energized with a renewed focus on the important work of being an educator and valuing education in our society. If we continue to strengthen the neural pathways of our brains with fear and negativity, we could become paralyzed by fear and unable to see hope, opportunities, and possibilities. Shawn reminds us of how practicing gratitude daily, offering genuine praise to others, and finding time for solitude helps our brains to rest and renew. He wrote, “When our brains are positive, we are better at solving world problems as well as personal ones. But more importantly, the pursuit of happiness should make us lose our fear of sadness. When we know we can create happiness and meaning in our life by changing our habits and mindset, we are more likely and able to face the things that make us sad in the world. It is also important for people to finally understand that the opposite of happiness is NOT sadness. The opposite of happiness is APATHY.”

I am energized on a daily basis by my College of Education colleagues, our bright and enthusiastic undergraduate and graduate students, and by the profound work I witness when I am in schools. I keep a gratitude journal and not one day goes by that I miss noting how grateful I am for my colleagues, my family, and for being given another day of life. I am working on rewiring my neural circuitry so that happiness and optimism are my most frequent lenses to see the world. And while I am working on my brain, I am thrilled that our students are learning about applied education neuroscience. One Butler: The Brain Project continues to thrive with nationally recognized speakers. On March 29, 10 brain sculptures will arrive on campus for a month-long exhibit. Each sculpture has been created to expand awareness of the differences in our brains due to factors such as aging or depression. Catherine Pangan and Susan Kleinman bravely faced the FEAR of creating this year-long project which had never been done at Butler. It has brought us great HAPPINESS and deepened our understanding of brain health.

On April 29, Dr. Lori Desautels will lead our first Education Neuroscience conference. There has never been a more significant time in the history of education to begin applying the research of neuroscience to our educational practices, assessments, and relationships. We are feeling creatures who think and emotional connection drives all that we employ within our schools, classrooms, and communities. In this Butler University Educational Neuroscience Symposium, we will explore the brain research beneath emotional regulation, the critical executive function skills of attention and engagement, and relationships. Educators, mental health professionals, parents, and students will leave this symposium with:

  • Evidence-based tangible strategies for strengthening self-regulatory capacity essential for building self-reliance and adaptive functioning.
  • A deeper understanding and framework of Attention Deficit Disorder and its implications in our schools.
  • Resources, research, and an understanding that will support all educational practices, K-12 that teach and enhance frontal lobe executive functioning of the brain supporting teaching practices, leadership, and community engagement delving beneath student behaviors and words.

We sincerely hope you will join us for this important conference!

Finally, I would encourage you to join me on February 23 for Butler’s Annual Day of Giving. One of the ways we can tangibly move towards positive action is by giving to those causes that are making a difference. I can’t imagine a force that has the potential to do more good in the world than our next generation of educators.

I encourage you to face the fear, discover its meaning, and to be energized into positive action. Practice gratitude, keep focused on the things you can impact, and keep Robert Ingersoll’s quote in your pocket!

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education