The Power of ASK

My VC friend and colleague, Sue Porter, just received letters for author Ethel Footman Smothers in response to the videoconference we did in November on her book The Hard Times Jar. Sue coordinated the program and is collecting all the letters from the participating schools to send to Ms. Smothers.

These letters are an incredible testimony to the power of ASK programs! Get out your Kleenex box!

Dear Ms. Smothers,

I cannot tell you how much our videoconference meant to all of us. Paris, Texas, is a small town, and many of our students have never been outside the city limits. Opportunities for low-income and minority students are limited.

In one stroke, this videoconference enlarged these students’ world. They loved the snowball! (It rarely snows here, and it was about 60 degrees that day.) Although we had already located Grand Rapids on the map, the moderator’s comments really made distances understandable to my students. But the most wonderful event for my class was seeing an African-American woman as a successful author.

I am sending letters that my students have written to you. One of the African-American girls in my class states in her letter that she was surprised to see that you are “chocolate brown and not buttermilk.” (She paid attention!) It shocked me that after all of our class discussions on the book, that she imagined its author to be white. She simply couldn’t imagine it.

This videoconference opened my eyes as well. It brought home to me the importance of putting before my students images of successful adults who look like them. Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories, your home-made toys, and your time with us. Please continue to visit students through the technology of videoconferencing!


Nancy Bratteli

Third Grade Teacher

Aikin Elementary

Paris, Texas

The first letter written by a student was difficult for me to read, but was followed by the following letter from the teacher with the note at the bottom.

Dear Mrs. Smothers,

You inspire me in many different ways. You are an African American and fulfilled your dream. You have courage, and you stick to what you say. You care about children. You are my role model, just like my teacher. You are an encouragement!
Your friend, *A*

Note: *A* struggles with severe dyslexia, but as you can see, she is a very bright young lady. She also just lost her “best friend,” her grandmother who lived with their family. Your book, and our visit with you, came at a wonderful time for her.

Incredible! To read more about the ASK process, visit See also the ASK programs we’re doing in Berrien County, the ASK programs TWICE is running, and the ones that Polycom is sponsoring.

If you are coordinating distance learning for a large district or an educational service agency, you too can offer these types of programs to your schools. Start with the book list on the website or with books suggested by your media specialists. Look for local authors or local specialists you can interview related to the books. Start with local presenters so that the cost is less than with nationally known authors. Your districts will greatly appreciate the service, and as you read above, with these programs you can make an astounding impact on student learning!

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