Friday, December 30, 2016

New Superintendent Search: Wayland Public Schools

Our school system is seeking a new superintendent. The current superintendent is retiring. Citizens, educators, and other interested parties have been invited to attend forums, apply to serve on a screening committee, and write letters to support the search. After teaching in the Wayland Public Schools for 31 years with several years to come, I am interested in this search.

I believe that our system is an ideal school system for a seasoned, creative, and dedicated educational leader. The citizens in the community are thoughtful and committed to strong schools. The families and students are invested in successful schools and learning too. Educators in the system have served in the system consistently for years. People stay due to the tremendous community support, access to good resources, fair salaries, and opportunity for innovation.

I believe our system is the kind of system that can lead the way in education since we have what it takes to try out and implement the best blend of traditional and modern education efforts. We have the kind of system that can well educate future leaders, citizens, and individuals towards good lives of care, collaboration, and contribution. It's the kind of system where a bright, thoughtful leader invested in the promise education holds can truly lead in meaningful, positive ways.

In many ways a superintendent is called to be an "everyman" or "everywoman" in a system. This is an enormous and unrealistic expectation for any individual, yet it's the expectation systems seek when looking for a new superintendent. As I thought a lot about this today, I came up with the following attributes that I believe are important when it comes to being a successful superintendent of a school system:
  • A leader who is committed to teamwork and sees his/her role as one of creating strong, collaborative teams focused on service to students and families. Teamwork is a key concept and aim of all in our increasingly interdependent world, and a new superintendent who advocates for and models effective teamwork will be able to lead students, families, educators, and other staff members in this way.
  • Inspiring leadership who has a strong, broad, and deep vision for what education is and can be. I believe a superintendent that is well versed in deep, meaningful, and comprehensive curriculum leadership will serve the system well. In many ways, I believe curriculum efforts that reflect a blend of tried-and-true traditional methods and progressive, modern, knowledge-age efforts strikes a good balance.
  • Bright, well educated leadership that has a strong liberal arts background. A superintendent who has a broad view and value for education and knowledge at all levels serves a system well. It's important that leadership both embeds and surpasses business models, and leads education as the holistic, enriching human service that it is.
  • Ethical leadership that respects laws, protocols, and honest strategic process. It’s in the best interest of schools to have leadership that is ethical and respects laws and protocols related to education work--an ethical leader will be a good model for all he/she leads.
  • Transparent, inclusive leadership that respects and understands current trends towards greater distributive leadership that focuses on autonomy, mastery, and purpose with regard to inspiring, empowering, engaging, and educating all stakeholders.
  • A leader who communicates in timely, transparent, positive, and inclusive ways. Robust, transparent, inspiring, and timely communication serves school systems well.
  • An organized, fiscally responsible leader who utilizes successful, modern-age fiscal structures.
  • A leader who “walks the walk” with regard to our most disadvantaged and challenging-to-teach students. Leaders who seek to teach the most challenged students well will, in turn, teach all students well.
  • A leader who listens to all stakeholders and regards their points of view, needs, and interest with fair strategic process.
  • A leader who is well versed with technology and promotes meaningful tech integration to promote creative, meaningful, modern age tech integration in our schools.

It takes time for good leaders to develop. Leadership development profits from substantial mentoring, quality education, and practice. As I think about this, I believe that it's time that educational organizations at the state and national levels begin to focus more on developing strong leadership in and for schools. Leadership training should begin earlier rather than later and current efforts to develop teacher leadership is a good direction with this in mind.

Lots of attention has been spent on developing strong educators. I believe these efforts, particularly in Massachusetts, have resulted in an exceptional professional community of well educated, dedicated, and effective educators. The shortage of administrative candidates and the need for schools to still become stronger and better points us in the direction of looking for ways to strengthen and increase the numbers of leadership candidates.

If you are an education leader and want the opportunity to lead in a top-notch school system, then you may be interested in applying for the position in Wayland. I am thankful for the good process put in place to choose a new superintendent, and I am confident that a good superintendent will be chosen to lead our schools.

Thankful for the Teachers Union: Planning for the Year Ahead

Truly the teachers union has come to my rescue with respect to needed support with regard to freedom of speech, professional learning, academic challenge, and collegiality.

Years ago I was challenged for speaking up. As I've noted numerous times I did speak up with a lot of passion and a strong voice, but essentially I was sharing my opinion about teaching and learning and was chastised heavily for it. The teachers union supported me essentially noting that I had the right to my opinion. My impassioned plea was related to gaining better access to good resources for student learning.

Not only did the teachers union support me, but they challenged me to develop my ability to advocate in ways that are respectful and influential. That challenge came in the way of good programming including The Teachers Leadership Initiative, The MTA Summer Teachers Conference, The Next Generation Leadership Program, and the MTA's Presenter Bootcamp. All of these programs respectfully welcome educators and positively challenge us too.

This fall the Massachusetts Teachers Union (MTA) contributed substantial dollars and time to keep the cap on charter schools. The efforts of countless teachers contributed to this action which served to support our public schools in ways that matter. Rather than giving away public money to private enterprise, keeping the cap on charter schools essentially kept public money within the hands and decision making of public bodies. In other words, keeping the cap, allowed the public to maintain control over the dollars they collectively contribute to support good schools for all children.

The teachers union is continuing their commitment to quality public schools with a host of regional forums. I recommend that every teacher in Massachusetts plan ahead to attend one of those forums. Our busy lives as educators make it difficult at times to contribute outside of our work at home and work in school, yet our teachers union is making it possible for us to learn and contribute in cost-effective, time-sensitive ways. Attending a regional forum is one way to get involved in making our public schools in Massachusetts the best possible schools--Massachusetts is leading the way with our strong unions, terrific state leadership, and the contributions of almost all citizens. We have what it takes to continue to be international leaders in education, and this is cause for celebration and continued commitment and contribution. It won't happen without the efforts of every educator.

Further, I recommend that every educator in Massachusetts and beyond make a commitment to get involved in worthy teacher organizations such as their unions in one more way, a way that will stretch and challenge their current practice. This could mean applying to present at a conference, attending a leadership program, signing up for a professional development course, or serving on your local union. As educators, we are also child-advocates, and as advocates it's essential that we contribute to the development of schools that serve children and their families well. There's lots of work to do, and one thing we know about teachers is that they have the heart and energy to do this work.

How will you get involved?

What will you contribute?

Where will you stretch and challenge yourself?

I'm planning to attend the Central MA forum on January 24th. I hope to see many of my teacher friends and relatives there as well.

We can do this!

Planning for a New World, Not the Old One

Too many make plans for a world that no longer exists.

It's imperative that we take note of the changes in society and plan ahead for what our world is becoming.

With regard to employment and schools, this could mean doubling staffs in every school and utilizing the best possible resources to provide every child with a top-notch holistic education--the kind that will forward our world in ways that matter.

The public needs to bring their best strategic processes and the voices of our diversity together to craft the plans for school growth and betterment. When we leave these decisions to a few, we minimize what's possible and lose out on potential.

Since the Trump victory, I've been telling everyone I meet that this is a wake-up call to get involved, use your voices, and contribute. It's been surprising to me how many agree, but have little intent in doing that. So many have given in to inertia and remain silent. Others are busy squirreling away their assets, time, and goods to protect themselves not realizing that it's not enough to protect one's self since the way the world moves will affect all of us.

We have a lot to do to move towards greater collaboration, contribution, and care. We are behind ourselves with regard to what we can do for each other to move our country forward in ways that matter. We need everyone's contribution in this regard.

Seriously, what will you do to make a difference in your spheres of influence?

Will you write a letter to leaders to speak up about what matters?

Will you attend meetings that involve decision making and change?

Will you sacrifice time and dollars to support a cause bigger than yourself?

Will you ask the difficult questions and share the life changing information and research that matters?

Will you speak up with unethical events occur?

Too many of us are satisfied to stay silent and passive in the face of opportunity. We cannot do that. It's within everyone's responsibility to contribute in some way to the new world we are creating for ourselves, our children, and grandchildren. This is a critical consideration.

Charter Camps: An Alternative to Charter Schools

For those who support charter schools, why not direct that money and effort into charter camps: summer and vacation programming for children.

Charter camps have the potential to introduce a whole new way of learning and thinking with innovative summer programming for every child who is interested.

Programs like these have the opportunity to elevate communities and inspire students.

Also, we know that schools with strong union, community, and government support do well. Massachusetts is an example of this. While we direct charter efforts towards summer programming, we can also continue and better direct resources towards building dynamic public schools for every child.

Better Learning: More Breaks, Better Study, and Wonderful Summer Programs

Breaks are essential to good teaching.

Once you get beyond the exhaustion, you really have time to think about the students and the teaching and learning to come.

Without adequate breaks and time for think, schools run the risk of getting caught in the hamster's wheel of ineffective practice, practice that goes round and round without adequate refinement and revision.

The more I teach, the more I like the private school model of more breaks throughout the year and a lengthy summer break for other kinds of teaching and learning, the kind that so many children enjoy at summer camp, vacation, and exploration.

Full-year school would simply be more of the same, and I don't think that's what we need. Instead focus on bettering the school year with more breaks and better study, and then build up better summer camp, exploration, and project-based programs in beautiful places throughout the nation. That would create more jobs and foster better learning.

At an age where there are fewer jobs due to automation, we should be looking at ways to build up our ability to serve one another by employing more people to teach, care for one another, provide health services, create beautiful communities, and more. I like the idea of communitarianism, a movement towards building stronger communities, and believe this is a good focus for our new age of living and working.

As for me, I'm ready to teach my students with a renewed schedule and intent, one that is aimed at providing a strong holistic lens and effort and one that teaches for life as well as the next day, week, month, and year. Every child I teach is extraordinary. Every one of them brings wonderful gifts to their own lives, the lives of others, and our communities. The goal is to acknowledge and develop their gifts while also giving them the tools they need to navigate their challenges. I want every child to leave the grade level with a confident, happy outlook about the next year's learning and endeavor.

That aim will take continued outreach and teaming with colleagues, health professionals, administrators, families, and students. Together we'll craft, revise, and refine programs to meet that aim. That aim will also require continued advocacy with regard to providing schools with the time, money, staffing, environment, and structures they need for success--good schools profit from substantial positive support, and it's the community's responsibility to provide that support since quality communities profit from good schools too.

There's lots of good work to do, and doing that work with a positive attitude, realistic schedule, and continued growth and development is the way to go. Onward.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lift the Quality of Care and Service in the New Year

As I think ahead to the new year, I'm thinking about lifting the quality of care and service to self and others rather than taking on a number of new initiatives. The past year was filled with new efforts and endeavor, and now it's time to let that new learning sink in and lift up the work I can do for students and family members in 2017.

Quality living is important and to lift the quality means slowing things down and digging into the details that matter, details like healthy food, a welcoming classroom, thoughtful celebration, and meaningful contribution. Listening well to attend to important needs leads one in this direction. The new year is likely to bring many changes in my life given the multiple events happening all around me, and it's a good aim to meet those changes with quality care and response.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What You Don't Like

It's rare that I sign on to a project that I truly don't like, but that's just what I did recently. I hope to honor my commitment, however, I wonder if I will be able to do that since I've met with a lot of failure in that regard. It's good to not succeed now and then though it's not easy. Not succeeding helps you to appreciate those times you do succeed and the times you are doing work that you truly like and feel success with.

I met with a friend recently who experienced a similar downturn. This friend has experienced tremendous success, but recently got involved with something that was less successful. It was interesting to hear how he rerouted his path to change his commitment somewhat in order to finish the task.

I'll put my commitment in a "box" which means I'll structure the time, energy, and effort I give it and then let it take its course. Onward.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Peak

I've been traversing the wonderful mountain range of teaching and learning since my earliest days when I played school in the basement of the little green cape I grew up in. The range is filled with hills, small peaks, and larger mountains too. For the past twenty or so years, I've been climbing the Mt. Everest of professional peaks. It's been an arduous ascent, and only in the past few days have I neared the summit. I am so happy to be at this place, a place I've worked hard to get too and a place that's resulted due to the help of many, many colleagues, friends, and family members.

There are other peaks to climb ahead, but for a while I'll rest and enjoy this view--a good place to be as the holidays begin.

What's Your Role on the School System Team?

I have a terrific role on the grade-level teaching team. Together with my grade-level colleagues, special educators, specialists, students, administrators, and family members we care for the teaching/learning related to 74 fifth graders. It's a great role and great model for collaboratively teaching well. In the past month we navigated a number of challenges that resulted in an even stronger, better teaching/learning team.

I also have a role as a member of the overall teaching/learning system. That role has continued to change over the years. I've reached out to learn and have spoken up a lot with regard to this role. Some of this work has been well received and other work less well received. In many ways this is a turning point with regard to my system work since there are many more educators who are speaking up and stepping forward at this time--many who are working in positive ways to continue to build a strong teaching/learning system.

What roles will I embrace in the coming days related to systemwide growth and development?

Local Union Secretary and Representative
As the union secretary it's my role to write/share meeting notes and keep the website up to date. I also listen to school committee meetings regularly and publish notes related to the issues that affect educators from the meeting. My focus in this area is to share opportunities and helpful information in timely, transparent ways--ways that will help my colleagues access all needed information and opportunities that will help them balance positive work and good living. As a representative, I work with two other building level representatives. We have a good balance of skill and insight together and work to represent the needs of our school building's union members well. My role on DESE's Teacher Advisory Board, the MTA's Professional Learning Committee, and ECET2-MA2016 team in addition to my social media share with my rich Professional Learning Network (PLN) support my work in this area.

Researcher and Teaching/Learning Advocate
I spend a lot of time reading and researching with regard to teaching well. I enjoy this reading and research and have found that it has served to strengthen what I can do with and for students and colleagues. I plan to continue this work in the days ahead. I am mostly focused on the following areas in that regard:
  • Cultural Proficiency
  • Meaningful, brain-friendly, responsive, integrated math teaching/learning
  • STEAM teaching/learning
  • Integrating social emotional learning with academic teaching/learning
  • Distributive leadership models, teacher leadership, and educator voice and choice
  • Use of organized, well-communicated, rich, deep, inclusive, and transparent strategic process with regard to initiating and developing teaching/learning programs.

Teaching in the New Year: 2017

It was such a nice, warm end to 2016 in the classroom. I had the traditional end-of-year safety and team talk with students, and this year's talk was richer than ever. Students listened and shared carefully as we discussed ways to stay safe and ways to continue to build a strong teaching/learning team.

Later there was time to make holiday cards, build with K'nex, play games, and shared a wonderful movie, The Little Princess, together. As we watched the film we focused on anti-bullying, compassion, empathy, and history. You know it's a good movie when it's silent during the sentimental parts and everyone is laughing aloud while watching comic relief scenes. I received many wonderful cards, cards I put aside to read here and there during the year for inspiration.

Today before I get ready for the day's holiday events, I want to focus for a a few minutes on the New Year of teaching, a year that will begin with the following math emphasis:

  • Tuesday 1/3: Review of division/problem solving
  • Wednesday 1/4: finish division test, work on That Quiz practice exercises online
  • Thursday 1/5: Decimal Problem Solving
  • Monday 1/9: Collect Math homework and review homework review packets.
  • Tuesday 1/10 - Symphony Benchmark test
  • Wednesday 1/11 - Tuesday 1/17- Decimal Computation/Problem Solving
  • Wednesday 1/13: Decimal/Problem Solving Assessment
  • Thursday 1/14: Fraction Introduction: Bridge decimal/fraction units
  • Friday 1/15: Hands-on fraction exploration

In addition, all students will become part of new RTI groups, groups that will focus on problem solving, computation, and mathematical thinking exercises. Those groups will meet twice a week.

Finally we'll spend January and February introducing students to Frederick Douglas and the spring Global Changemakers project. We'll host Guy Peartree who will give a living history presentation of Frederick Douglas.

The students created a list of New Year's resolutions to make our team stronger. We'll review that list when we return and make those resolutions the objective of teamwork discussions and work.

It will be a good teaching year, and now it's time to focus on the holidays.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Day Before the Holiday Break: Teach Well

Students are clearly excited about the holiday break, and the key is to work with that energy rather than against it.

Today we'll spend some time at a class meeting, reading aloud, playing with teaching/learning materials such as K'nex, craft materials, technology, and more, and watching the movie, "Little Princess," which is beautifully done and sends a wonderful message about compassion, anti-bullying, and teamwork as well as providing a historical and world lens for children.

It's a good way to start the holidays.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

There's No Room for Negativity

It is sometimes easy to become negative at school.

Generally negativity arises from repeated instances of lack of support, communication, resources, voice, and choice. Negativity arises when you feel like you try and try and try with no gain.

But there's no room for negativity. Instead we must face the issues head-on with a balanced view and strategic process.

For example, if a teacher is negative about having no time during the day, he/she has to advocate for more time. I know an educator who only has about a 20-minute break to eat lunch during a whole school day where she's responsible for teaching 25 very needy students. That's ridiculous. There's no way that teacher can teach well with that little time for planning and for personal needs.

Over the years as I've spoken to this teacher, the conditions for teaching well have collapsed in her school. Leadership turnover, lack of staffing, outdated buildings, little to no technology, health/social problems, and lack of community support have challenged everything that happens in her school system. The students from this under-cared-for system will be our neighbors and fellow citizens someday. Our lack of support for them now will result in troubling social issues later on. Why can't we support them now?

That teacher complains, but stays positive. Yet she doesn't feel she has the voice to advocate. Yet the students miss out due to that lack of advocacy.

Truly it would be great if she and her colleagues could get together and start a movement towards betterment. It would be even better if the state was on the lookout for these systems and help them to get what they need. Do they truly lack the support needed or are funds being misused in ways that don't result in student support?

In the system where I work, we have good time for planning and personal needs. I have a super schedule which has become better over the years. As a result I am able to do more for my students. We are also mostly well staffed, so I have the human resources to help me teach all the students. And, compared to other systems, our students' needs are small overall. Some systems are working with dramatic numerous needs.

The issues that I sometimes get negative about include timely, transparent, and inclusive communication--I find that the more I know, the better I can do and when I hear of new initiatives late and don't have the details, my work with children suffers. I also can get negative about my desire for greater voice and choice. I wish I had more freedom to use my experience and education to teach well. Sometimes I'm directed to do work that doesn't match the research I've done or experience I have and that's frustrating. I can also get frustrated about wasted time and resources when I can see a better way. I try to express the ideas I have in respectful ways. I also understand that I don't know it all and it takes all of us working together to do the best possible work. With little time for collaboration that can be frustrating, but we keep working towards better and better collaboration to support our programming.

Truly, negativity typically takes us backwards rather than forward. When people are very negative it's usually because they feel that they have no voice or choice--they feel powerless, and that feeling can lead to negativity.

Turning that around starts with the questions:
  • What do you need? 
  • How can I help? 
  • What can we do differently? 
  • How can we employ strategic process to make positive change? 
There's no room for negativity if we want to build positive places for teaching and learning.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Teach Math Well: Can I Afford a College Education?

After vacation I will focus the math teaching and learning on problem solving and decimal computation related to fifth grade common core standards. As I do this, I'd like to tie the activities together with a theme. A great theme for this unit is financial literacy, and a great topic within this is how to afford a college education.

Just this week Massachusetts' Governor Baker announced a new way to afford a college education (described below). Then I was looking up other ways to afford a college education. I'll do more research and then created a host of activities that match the standards as well as teach students this information. I think it's a good idea to let students understand financial considerations such as a college education at a young age. Just think I may have a student that is so inspired by the prospect of receiving a college education for free or a reduced cost that they work smarter and better. There could be others that open a UFund earlier than later and watch their savings grow.

There's many opportunities to make math learning rich and deep and meet the standards too. When we miss out on these opportunities, we miss out on the opportunity to show students just how important and valuable mathematical thinking, knowledge, and skill is.

College Funding News from DESE:
Governor Baker has a message for graduating high school seniors and their families: The state will help them save an average of 40 percent off the cost of a traditional bachelor's degree if students can attend college full-time and graduate within four and a half years. Through the Commonwealth Commitment, students start at one of Massachusetts' 15 community colleges, then transfer to a state university or UMass campus and continue full time. Students who enroll receive a 10 percent per-semester rebate, a tuition credit worth an average of $1,200, and a freeze on mandatory fees — leading to an associate degree and a bachelor's degree at an average cost of $28,618 before financial aid. Help spread the word!

Teaching Well: That Just Right Challenge

Children were asked to leap about four grade-levels forward.

Behavior issues began. Discouragement and depression observed. Whining and complaining too.

That's not surprising as when I read about cognition and how we learn, the importance of the "just right challenge" is evident. Few of us can leap ahead four grade levels or increments at a time. That would be like asking me who has no dance experience to compete in Dancing with the Stars. I too would be discouraged and defeated.

This is one of the big issues with the common core standards at the elementary level--the leap is too great for some students for multiple reasons.

I am actually a fan of the Common Core Standards, but would like to see them associated with progression rather than grade level. A progression focus would help us to positively teach every child at a just right challenge level. A progressive approach would mean that students would take tests that level up as their skills grow.  The progressive approach would also help to leap schools forward to more authentic models of teaching and learning.

Our teaching team met at our PLC to discuss this issue. We discussed cognition, programming, and support models. It was a very good conversation. Then today when I was able to differentiate to a better challenge level for a number of students, there was little whining, complaining, discouragement, and despair--as with most children, when the challenge is just right, the eagerness to learn is there.

Forgiveness Leads Forward

We've all been wronged at one time or another. Betrayal and wrongdoing hinders the good work possible, but it happens.

It's most difficult to forgive when we have been wronged or betrayed, but we know that if we don't forgive, we can't move on.

A great holiday gift is the gift of forgiveness. It's a gift you give to others and a gift you give to yourself too.

Make a Commitment to Contribute to Strong Schools and a Dynamic Democracy in 2017

Massachusetts educators contributed substantially to supporting our public schools this fall with the Save our Schools campaign to not lift the cap on charter schools.

I supported this effort after reviewing the research and thinking about the terrific impact and potential public schools have for children and our communities. Strong public schools result in dynamic, free schools as well as an educated populous. And we know that an educated populous holds the best potential for peaceful, positive communities.

I believe that public money should be spent and managed by transparent, open, public process. I don't believe that public money should be handed out to private organizations to use as they will. I believe in our democracy and the potential it holds for the greater good.

Though many citizens feel overwhelmed with the day-to-day work, I believe that if everyone does their part, our democracy will continue to thrive and our public schools will benefit from this.

How can we as educators continue to speak up for and contribute to the greater good and the continued growth and strength of our public schools?

Here are a number of opportunities that are easy to access and contribute to:
  • Reach out to your local union and get involved. In my local union there are several unfilled and not too time consuming roles that people can sign up to participate in or lead.
  • Reach out to your state union and get involved. If you teach in a Massachusetts public school, plan to attend  regional forums in January 
  • Continue to do the good work you do, and continue to develop your craft by taking advantage of the countless professional learning opportunities that exist at the state level, within the union, via online communities, and elsewhere. This list could serve as a starting point for your professional learning search.
  • Reach out to local officials, neighbors, and friends to build the conversation and contribution to strong communities including dynamic student-centered schools. Teachplus offers a terrific online advocacy course and the MTA also offers a number of great leadership courses as well including Teacher Leadership Initiative and the Next Generation Leadership Training.
Sometimes More is More which means that sometimes if you reach out and get involved in a few more activities than you would normally engage with you actually gain more including more great colleagues, more professional learning, more avenues for terrific teaching and learning, and more vibrant, dynamic, and democratic communities. 

I encourage every citizen to make the commitment to get involved in 2017. Share your voice, talents, opinions, energy, and actions with others as one way to contribute to our democracy, strong communities, and care for each and every child we teach.  

Massachusetts is rated amongst the best schools in the country and world. This is due to our committed citizens, strong teachers union, and our strong state support and leadership in education. We are leaders when it comes to democracy and education, and as leaders, we have to continue to develop and grow the good work we do in ways that matter. 

Readying the Classroom for the New Year

Students will take a unit assessment today. While they test, I'll answer clarifying questions and work at readying the classroom for the new year. Yesterday after our field trip, students cleaned their desks and helped clean up the classroom too.

The focus for my room until April break will be mostly math, math, and more math. We'll need plenty of space for splitting up into groups, spreading out, and working individually at desks. Maximizing space will be important.

We'll also use lots of materials as we make models, solve problems, and demonstrate thinking. Materials such as white grid boards, markers, tape, pencils, manipulatives, scissors, and more will help us to achieve the mathematical thinking tasks and activities.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Do Your Part, Then Accept the Result

I am a collaborative member of a number of teams. In each of these situations, I have a role to complete. I trust the many dedicated members of these teams, and recognize that once I do my part and they do their's, we will accept the result of our best efforts, time, and energy. Doing our best and contributing what we can when we can is the best we can do.

New Year's Resolutions: Teaching Well

As my focus shifts in the education world, I am thinking of my teaching/learning New Year's resolutions--resolutions that include the following:

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
I will continue to work my SEL study group and use the information I learn and detail to better my teaching/learning. This is good learning that impacts my teaching well.

Parent Communication
Our team does a good job communicating with families that read our newsletters, attend parent conferences, and email us with questions and ideas. In general, we meet the needs of those families well. I want to work at reaching out more to families that don't regularly access our conferences, newsletters, or email to support their children better.

Classroom Set-Up and Organization
Now that I know this teaching/learning team well, I want to reconfigure the classroom in ways that will better support their daily teaching/learning needs.

Greater Differentiation
Also with the greater knowledge I have of all the students, I can more easily differentiate the curriculum to meet the various needs and interests of the students.

Culturally Proficient Program
Our team will dig into our goals to teach a culturally proficient program with a number of events.

Union Representative/Local Union Secretary
Now that my role on the salary and negotiations team is mostly done, I'll focus on my work as local union secretary by keeping the notes and website up to date as well as doing my work on the MTA professional learning committee.

I'll continue to play a role on the Department of Education's Teacher Advisory Committee

I'm looking forward to the new year's resolutions which are really goals instead.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Social/Emotional Focus

Students display a fair number of social/emotional needs during the school day.

Getting along with one another is a large focus of the job. They are learning to be citizens of larger communities and with that comes lots of teaching.

It's critical that these needs are addressed as well as the academic needs of children.

It's imperative that we're sensitive and typically we are. Once in a while there may be times when you make the wrong call, and when that happens it's good to be frank by explaining why you did what you did and how you will do it next time.

I slowed it down today in light of the holidays. We had a more structured, slow, and focused day, but still it could have been slower. Hence, I'll bring it down another notch tomorrow leaving enough time to respond well to the typical seasonal social/emotional needs. Onward.

Introducing Volume: Snowcube Math

Although the curriculum scope and sequence does not introduce volume until late in the year, students are required to answer volume on a number of standardized assessments during the winter and early spring. With that in mind, I'll introduce volume through a number of fun activities.

The first will be the activity above. Students will make a number of cubes or rectangular prisms from nets. We'll discuss the volume of each prism or cube. Make the snowpeople and then figure out their total volume. Later students will be able to make their own nets and snow people, then find out the volume of those creations. 

We'll build out this learning in a number of other ways too, but this is a fun way to introduce the concept just before the holiday break. 

RICE: Staple Problem Solving Acronym

I started using the RICE acronym as a quick way to remember important problem solving steps. Students will review division problem solving and computation today using this acronym. On a recent practice test, it was clear that students weren't taking these steps seriously and today I'll remind them of that and tell them that this acronym will lead their good math problem solving work.

In the weeks ahead, we'll solve a lot of math problems using RICE. I'll weave lots of math facts and information related to measurement, geometry, and other areas related to fifth grade learning/teaching goals into these problems.

Fake News: Whom Do You Believe?

I remember that there was a post on my Facebook that I couldn't believe this fall. I didn't look that closely, and now I realize that post was probably fake news. I guess I hand't thought a lot about fake news with the exception of the truly crazy reports one can see in certain publications known for fake news. But now fake news looks a lot like real news so we have to pay more attention about news sources, writers, and publishers.

How do we avoid fake news?
  • Read/watch a regular diet of reputable news
  • Collect and consult reliable professionals in real time and via online threads--people you can trust based on their experience, daily effort, and reputations. These are your "go to" people with regard to questions and analysis related to news and information
  • Continue to develop your own philosophy, perspectives, and ideas with regard to policy, practice, and advocacy. A strong and well researched personal foundation in world events and news will help you to see the news with greater understanding and discretion
It's important that children are aware of the fact that fake news exists, and it's important that they learn the difference between reputable sources of information and false sources. We can teach this to students as they work on research projects and reports. We can also model this with students as we show news reports and other information from reputable online sources. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Care and the Will to Do Better

Learning profits from care and the will to do better. 
It's frustrating to work with the "know-it-all." an individual that has all the answers and rarely admits an error, asks a question, or looks to others for help. This kind of "know-it-all" is always "right" and clearly feels he/she has no need for further learning or growth.

We can all be this "know-it-all" at one time or another, but it's never the person to be.

Instead the colleague we typically honor is the one who continually and kindly works for betterment. He/she acknowledges areas of knowledge and areas of need. This person is humble and collaborative. Even if he/she erred in the past, it's easy to forgive the misdeeds because this is a person who owns past challenges with an attitude of moving on, getting better, and being more compassionate.

None of us are there or know it all. We can all, however, point to people who far surpass our abilities and efforts in particular areas--we marvel at these people's experience, skill, and effect. We learn from those individuals. We also work with people who are looking to us to lead them in our areas of competency and success. We're all on that learning path somewhere.

Care and the will to do better empowers our paths, collaboration, and result. This is an important consideration.

The Confidence to Speak Up

It took a lot of courage to speak up, and it took a lot of strength to read the resulting negative emails that essentially chastised me for speaking up.

Speaking up is not always easy.

The resulting action of speaking up varies a lot too.

Sometimes when people speak up, the resulting action is harsh and uncomfortable for the one who spoke up and/or for the ones who are impacted by the speaker's words. Sometimes the resulting action is more compassionate and empathetic. Of course this depends on the topic spoken about, who receives the message, the relationships/experience involved, and the severity of the act revealed.

Also how you speak up matters. What words do you use? How much emotion do you share? Who do you speak up to?

In general, it's best to speak up with compassion and care when small infractions occur to mitigate any need to speak up about bigger, more problematic actions. For example if a colleague doesn't follow through with his/her word, you could simply say, "Hey, did you forget about ___." That reminds the colleague and deals with the issue upfront rather than waiting until the event is overdue and that overdue effort impacts the good work you and your colleague could do.

When we let issues grow over time without speaking up, it only gets worse and more confusing. Recently I worked on an effort where paperwork and details were missing over a considerable period of time. The efforts to retrieve the missing information would be extensive and is possibly impossible to do. Had people spoken up for the details in good time, this would not be an issue, and what's quite confusing now would be much more streamlined and accessible had the information been shared in a timely matter. Greater accessibility and streamlining supports better work and result too.

When learning community members get used to speaking up regularly, this advocacy and voice becomes a positive part of the community's culture resulting in the kind of transparency, camaraderie, and collaboration that supports good work and effort.

I think that the fear to speak up probably has its roots in old time classism, racism, cultural prejudices, gender bias, and hierarchical structures of effort and action. I'm sure there is research out there that tells the story of "speaking up" including where it is well received and where it is less welcome or not welcome at all.

As educators we have to promote our students' sense of voice and choice. We have to use our best abilities to teach children how to speak up with effect, empathy, care, and purpose. Many of us in education have to learn that too. Some of us weren't accustom to using our voices well to promote our best work and the best work of the collaborative teams and groups we work with. It takes skill to speak up well. TeachPlus's online advocacy course is a good avenue to gaining these skills (I completed 3/4 of it to date and want to finish the rest when time permits - yet the course is only a first step since effective advocacy also requires practice).

In the meantime, I encourage all members of the learning community to develop the confidence to speak up. All voices matter when it comes to teaching and learning well.

Fair, Just, Transparent, and Timely Practice and Communication Saves Time and Money

Injustices occur in my midst from time to time. These injustices create a timely impact on the day-to-day routines. Many had to spend multiple hours researching the injustices and then advocating for change. I have seen this happen before, but as I experience unjust acts over time, I have become cognizant of the time, money, and potential collaboration those acts cost and impact--time, money, and collaboration that profit from just, fair acts.

If the injustices do not occur and laws and/or protocols are followed, many would not lose time and/or experience anguish. In fairness, there probably should be compensation and/or consequences for those that break the law for the time and energy injustice creates.

Injustice takes time and creates havoc. On the other hand, fair and just policy and action saves and adds good time to our schedules. Therefore as much as possible we have to advocate for just, fair process and effort. Of course unjust acts will occur and when that happens intent and details need to be investigated. Did the unjust act occur due to lack of understanding, ill intent, poor skills, or confounded process. There's variability here that needs to be considered, and with that consideration comes the level of compensation and/or consequence.

Similarly secrets and lack of transparency cost us time and money. When people don't know what's going on, then it takes time to find out. That time translates into money--time and money that could be spent on positive endeavor.

Recently I listened to the systemwide budget presentation. I looked over the budget. It seems quite transparent and easy to read--a good document. There were a few areas I was curious about and was interested in seeing more detail--areas that seemed to be somewhat vague or possibly repetitive. But in general, the budget looked mostly easy to read and transparent. That's positive as all those who are concerned with the budget are now able to look closely at the budget to see what they support and what they think could be better.

The more the budget becomes as transparent, easy to read, and rightly detailed as possible, the better the conversations will be about the best use of the funds with regard to running a top notch school system. Transparency leads to good problem solving, communication, and collaboration.

At my level our team is transparent about our efforts with our weekly newsletter and team website. Almost every decision we make and action we take is listed on those documents. This supports the optimal teamwork of educators, administrators, students, and families. Similarly the principal's weekly collaborative newsletter invites helpful information, important timelines, and needed updates which serve to bring our school-level team together. This transparency helps everyone to communicate well and do their best work.

When fair and transparent process is timely too, that's a great benefit as overdue, outdated, or late work also costs extra money.

Of course if you are going to advocate for fair, transparent, timely, and just practice, it has to be a priority in your daily work too. While most of us do this kind of work, it's important to audit your own work regularly to make sure you are meeting the mark in these areas.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Don't Be Fooled

Don't be fooled by narrow scope and limited vision.

As much as possible take the time to get a broad view, look deeply, and find out the facts of the matter.

Also don't be satisfied as better and optimal are out there.

Don't be satisfied because of ease or familiarity, but instead reach for what holds promise and potential for a better job, effort, contribution, or vision.

There's much to know out there, and there's good reason to take the time to collect the details in order to make a good choice.

Generally I try to stay abreast of the information available.

I follow many good thinkers, readers, and active citizens to see what they say.

I consult those I trust with questions such as, Am I the only one who sees this or thinks this? What other points of view are out there? Am I mistaken? Can you clarify?  I don't want to promote or travel down paths that are not true or right--I want to go in the best possible direction.

So don't be fooled, satisfied, or hasty with regard to important decisions. Make the time to find out all you can before making your decision.

Focus Forward

Before any big event, I like to look forward. It serves to clear my mind for the big event to come. In this case, the big event is actually a number of wonderful events related to celebrating the holidays with those I love.

The focus forward finds me with the following goals, goals I've had for a long time:
  • Learning as much as I can about teaching and learning math well. 
  • Learning about and advocating for the best possible school programming--programming that's equitable, engaging, empowering, and successful with regard to academic, social/emotional, and physical success and well being.
  • Contributing to and participating in positive professional learning and organization activities and events with good energy, positivity, and collaboration.
  • Making time for the personal and professional events and activities that boost energy, knowledge, and effect.
Keeping a good balance of the activities above is essential to reaching these promising, ongoing goals. 

Advocacy Matters in Education

As I learn to advocate for topnotch education organizations, I am reminded of the following points:
  • Teamwork is critical. When administrators and educators are open to teaming in transparent, inclusive, and focused ways, we can do tremendous work. When all members of the team are considered with respect and acknowledgement, our efforts to teach children well benefit substantially. (Too often decisions are made without the voice and choice of stakeholders)
  • Transparency is Essential. Secrets and backdoor deals do nothing to promote the dynamic teaching/learning efforts possible. In almost all cases, transparency leads to strong teaching/learning teams. (Some still believe that good leading and learning requires secrecy and no transparency. Some think that stakeholders can't be apart of the big think and decisions required to teach and learn well. I believe that good teaching and learning benefit from greater transparency and openness with regard to all stakeholders)
  • Responsible Risk, Respect, and Commitment Matter. Good programming requires responsible risk at times. These programs profit from respectful effort and visible commitment. (It's not easy, but administrators and educators have to put their ideas, thoughts, and experiences out there to model and lead learners and others with regard to teaching well. When administrators and educators are silent, stakeholders don't know what they believe in, how they are doing their work, or what matters--it's not good enough to stay silent, it's important to be good communicators)
  • Actions Matter: While it's essential to be a good communicator as teacher and administrator, it's also important that your actions reflect your effort, philosophy, and commitment. A teacher or administrator who writes well, but then doesn't follow through with regard to what he/she says, does not earn much respect. What we do and how we do it matters. (We can all look around us and see those educators and administrators who "walk the walk" of respectful, kind, dedicated, and professional action--these educators and administrators are the true leaders in our midst).
Advocacy for betterment calls us to be our best selves and professionals. This is a challenging call as there's always room to better our craft and commitment. Despite the challenge, however, it's a worthy call, and a call that all educators need to heed in order to do our jobs well since a large part of our job involves advocacy with regard to what will help children succeed. 

Teaching 2017: Next Steps

After feeling quite defeated by what seemed like too-tight parameters for good teaching, we had a great meeting yesterday that essentially enabled us to revise those parameters a bit in order to teach all the students well. That feels really good because now I can be creative once again and work with my colleagues to sensitively and responsively teach all of our students. In a sense the dam that was holding back creativity and good teaching has been adapted so that we can work together to use our creativity, knowledge, and experience to teach well.

How does this translate into action?

Room Renovation
Once again the room needs a good renovation since there's been considerable revision in the teaching/learning program in order to respond to the students well. This will take some hours, and will probably take place over the holiday break or as soon as school starts again.

Math RTI
Essentially all of our RTI groups will work on activities related to building number sense related to problem solving and multiplication and division of whole numbers and decimals. I'm excited about the opportunity to embed financial literacy lessons into this work.

Math Core
I'll intersect problem solving skills and strategies with lessons related to decimal computation, skills, and concepts. Then we'll move into the study of fractions which is a lot of fun.

Field Study
We'll embark on a few field studies which require some prep and organization.

Frederick Douglass and Cultural Proficiency
Our team needs to make some time to focus on the next steps for the Frederick Douglas and Cultural Proficiency study goals. We'll likely focus some time on that over vacation and when we return to school in January.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Study Group
After the holidays, I'll refocus my efforts in this direction. I have a lot of catch-up study and writing to do.

Once I finish the SEL study, I'll do my homework for the Teacher's Advisory Council

I'll use Educon as the focus for a weekend of professional study at the end of January.

Resource Organization
I want to organize the many, many resources I have for teaching well--resources online and offline. I suspect that this will be a focus task for the summer months.

The teaching/learning route has been reset thankfully and now it's time to focus on the holidays ahead.

Program Planning, Preparation, and Design

An error educators and administrators can make is not to realize just how much planning, preparation, and design goes into good teaching. Good teaching does not fit set patterns and routines, but instead relies on positive strategic process.

In the best of circumstances good program design profits from the following efforts:

It's critical to assess well and then to use those assessments in strategic and timely ways. Spring standardized assessments and early fall tests, conversation, and observation can be used early in the year to determine what students know and need to achieve the standards and teaching goals set.

Program Structure and Routines
It's essential to create a good schedule, structure, and routine in the days prior to the school year to begin the year with strength. As the year moves ahead, that schedule, structure, and routine can be tweaked for best effect.

Materials, Resources, and Support
It's essential that almost all materials, resources, and supports are in place at the start of the year. For the most part I believe that the planning for one year should be started in late winter/spring of the year before and solidified during the summer so educators and students are starting the year with what they need for success. Materials, resources, and support can include the following:
  • Essential student supplies. Make sure that the school has the necessary supplies for students who cannot bring their own.
  • Adequate technology for all students. I believe every students should have one-to-one technology today and there are many ways that can be funded and provided, but on day one I believe this should be in place.
  • Adequate teaching support. Teachers should be hired and ready to go on day one. I believe that the school year profits from at least a week of prep time for educators to prepare for the school year ahead. 
  • Funding allocated and spent to support the program. All grant money should be designated and used to support student learning. Of course needs do arise during the year so it might be a good idea to reserve some funds for those unexpected changes that always arise.
Research and Development
Programs should continually grow to reflect our best collective knowledge as well as new research. 

Regular Program Review and Revision
Regular meetings such as PLCs should occur to review and revise programs as needed. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Talented Leader/Mediator

I was led recently by a talented mediator and leader.

His leadership served to bring a group together to focus on what's important for children.

His skill at this was tremendous and really resulted in good work.

We need leaders and mediators like this--they are important to the good work we can do.

Today's Teaching: A Cold Friday in December 2016

Students continue to reach for computation mastery.

Today we'll begin the lesson by looking deeply at two division problems that students struggled with. The problems are rich and deep, and will foster some good discussion. As I think about this, I realize we'll have to start the lesson with a review of Math Talk protocols.

After that, students will have the chance to practice a division algorithm--an algorithm that simply takes practice to learn.

The principal reminded us to be gentle with our learners today since they've had such a busy week of special in-school and evening concerts and other events. They're tired and filled with holiday excitement. I welcomed his reminder and will follow his words.

It will be a good day.

Ownership and Good Work

Last year I was so inspired as I co-led a team effort with regard to math teaching and learning. In all, it felt like we worked as a team to support our young learners.

This year that task and the way I completed the work were removed from my charge in order to mirror our efforts to efforts directed and used throughout the system. Now I am charged to follow the lead and process of others in this regard. In a sense this change removed my ownership of the effort. Instead of co-leading, I am now relegated to following the directives of others who do not know my students or work in my classroom. I am allowed to add a few comments, however.

When we remove ownership from educators, it has a challenging affect. When you move from leading to following, it's difficult, yet I will do as I am directed.

Experiencing this change makes me realize once again how important ownership is to our students too. Do they feel like they own their learning? Do they have choice and voice in the process? Are they creating their own goals and accessing our support to reach those goals?

Ownership matters when it comes to effective teaching and learning. To lose ownership is to realize how important it is. Tough turns in the road build compassion, empathy, and understanding, and can be looked at as positive in that regard.

As the quote above suggests when teachers and learners have a sense of ownership related to their work places and efforts, those teaching/learning institutions develop with strength. When that ownership does not exist, then we risk the demise of our schools and systems.

Quote Reference

Teaching and Oppression

At times in the teaching world, I feel oppressed.

As initiatives, dictates, and decisions circle around and affect what I can do, the oppression continues.

It's a kind of oppression that makes me invisible, voiceless, and without substantial power over the work I do related to the experience, research, and reading I've done individually and with others to forward my craft.

I've thought a lot about this oppression and why it occurs.

Lack of information share and transparency, backdoor deals, hearsay/conjecture, inequity with regard to the use of time, and little true collaborative focus or effort by many contribute to this.

I've tried countless different ways to overcome and move beyond oppression, yet what feels like oppression continues to exist. Why?

Mostly I believe this oppression continues because the structures that lead educators like me rarely include our voice and choice in authentic, meaningful, and impactful ways. Mostly decisions are made for me without my input, and the opportunities for voice are structured in ways that dilute the voice and choice possible.

There are others in my midst that probably feel this oppression much more. There are people who have less voice and choice than me. It's a hierarchical system. Yet, I notice that at Middle School and High School the structures give way to greater teacher voice and choice. I believe this difference has its roots in the history of elementary education and the fact that it's been traditionally a female profession.

What I desire is an authentic landscape of distributive leadership with greater voice and choice for all. I believe this would empower educators while mitigating the oppression that exists. I support democratic models for schools and education institutions.

I've thought a lot about this. I've worked towards it in many ways with some success, but not enough success to eliminate the oppression.

What's a teacher to do?

For now, I'll give into the structures that exist. I'll work within my role to the best of my ability. I will observe, think, and contribute as I can. I will speak up when I believe a child is not receiving the care and attention he/she deserves, and I will support my colleagues too if they are treated unfairly or need my help. Essentially I'll follow the wise words of Robert Kennedy I placed at the top of the page.

As for the big ideas, I've expressed those ideas many times to little gain. I've tried to analyze and improve this lack of success, but for now I'll put that effort on hold too while I carefully observe the environment around me. What exactly is happening? Where is there strength and where does challenge, inequity, and weakness continue? Whose voices are honored and why? What mission is honored and supported?

Oppression hinders the potential possible for humanity. When we come together as a people to honor each others' voices, experiences, efforts, dreams, and vision, we are all stronger.

I will listen carefully. I will respond with the best of who I am. I will follow the directives set, and speak up when the directives do not serve children well. I will continue to hone my craft so that I teach children well. Onward.

Quote Reference

Update 6/2018: Note there has been positive change in my work environment which has lessened the oppression. I still think there's more that we can do to flatten the hierarchy and give greater voice to all stakeholders, but there's been improvement and for this I am grateful.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Where's the Support?

I've noted recently that a number of long held traditions have garnered less support.

Why might this be true?

I think it's important to revisit long held traditions with new family members, colleagues, and friends. What was at one time the best solution, tradition, or event may no longer work. It may be time for a new way.

Too often people forget to introduce an old tradition in an inclusive way. They don't realize that it may be important to discuss the issue with the new people as those people may not know anything about the tradition or may think it's a tradition that no longer applies to a family, group, or organization.

Traditions can be well loved and terrific, but some traditions may have outlived their use due to a number of other issues.

So if support is lacking, it may be because no one ever made the time to talk about the event, ask questions, and potentially redesign to meet new needs and interests.


The belongings were lost and to their surprise the vacancy opened their lives to wonderful new possibilities.


Adam had been carrying the stone for a long time.

It was a polished white gem with smooth edges and specks of gray.

When wondering, he'd caress the stone as if it had magic powers, and it seemed to enrich his ideas.

Once, though, at the top of a high hill, Adam looked out at the field all around him. He spied towering trees, old houses, children playing, gardens, and even a worn out office park. He lie down on the hill top and looked up at the clouds. He took a deep breath and wondered.

It was time to leave the rock for another passerby, he thought. It had brought him the magic he needed. So he gently got up and placed the rock on a nearby boulder, and then picked up a jagged gray rock the size of an orange. He held the rock over his head and thought, I'll carry this rock for a while. It's heavier, awkward, harsh and heavy to hold, but as I look into the shadows of each crag, I see a different design and curious shapes.

Tossing the clumsy rock from one hand to another, Adam skipped down the hill. He was glad for the days he had with the smooth white wonder rock in his pocket, and he also looked forward to the challenge the new stone would bring.

Don't Judge

I told a young student today that it's not my job to judge, but instead it's my job to make sure that my students are safe, happy, and learning.

It's a big, complex, and diverse world out there, and we all face different challenges and events throughout our lives. I have no idea what it's like to stand in another's person's shoes or live the life they have. I trust that most people are good, honest people who do the best they can each and every day.

I actually like the fact that my job is not to judge, but instead to care for my students in ways that I can. This is important to me and to the colleagues I work with--we want to do well by children, that's our call.


I'm at school and the room is quite cozy.

It's been a busy, but mostly wonderful day.

The children sang beautifully during the chorus concert. Most worked diligently on math study too.

There was a moment of serious conversation about the fact that good learning doesn't come without practice and one has to sometimes put their pride aside to ask for help when they don't understand. Questioning is a sign of intelligence, and we also have to let our classmates and friends go through some productive struggle in order to learn too. We can't just give them the answers.

We're learning lots of content, and we're also learning to learn.

The next few days essentially mark the end of the first chapter of the school year. Children are a busy team now, working and learning together. We've already done a lot since September.

The changes in staffing, priorities, and curriculum continue to occur, but many recent changes are now somewhat understood and embedded into our work.

I wish every afternoon could be as peaceful as this one. Time is critical to educators. Our time-on-task is so intense each day as we work mostly with large numbers of children all the time. Many teachers will say that when they're out of school, they look forward to the quiet and peace--a time to think, relax, and be with their interests, thoughts, and loved ones.

It's also been a disconcerting time in the world. The horrible violence we hear about in the news is atrocious and frightening. The disruption with regard to our country's values and freedoms has been worrisome too, and the new President-elect's hurtful rhetoric and worrisome decisions add more to our plates too as we wonder what we need to do to support the America we know and love--an America where everyone is free to take advantage of the rights and privileges we have always known and valued.

Today's reset is one of backing into this nest of a classroom I've created with colleagues and students--a safe place for learning, share, joy, and challenge too. Every day is a new day here, and I can't forget the value that this is to my life. As for all the extraneous efforts, directives, impact, and challenge that circles around me and my work each day, I'll have to pick and choose with regard to what's most important to consider and what can be left aside for the time being.



Don't give up or give in in the face of patronizing ridicule, amused disdain, or being ignored. 
- Meryl Streep
A heartfelt letter was penned and then ignored. From my position, ideas are seldom given any attention beyond the school building. I work with children, and similar to the children I work with, many feel that I should be seen, but not heard. Hence when I feel strongly and share ideas, those ideas are typically ignored. 

Others might say that I need to better my advocacy. Make the time to sit down to talk it out with the many administrators that lead my work. If it matters, why wouldn't I do that. I've tried that route before beyond the building level only to be met with disdain and little to no support. Clearly, my ideas and speak are not welcome at that level. Mostly ideas are welcome if they fit the parameters set, but ideas that fall outside those boundaries are generally not well received.

Yet why would anyone take the time to speak about ideas if they thought it would end up on my blog--where's the privacy in that? Yet when ideas stay dormant, unheard, and ignored, they go nowhere. At least on the blog they get a life, and help me with my work.

Blogging began for me when I was represented in ways that were untrue. I needed a place to tell my story. Later when my ideas were used and no credit was given, I was prompted to write again. I love to share ideas, but I also like to get some credit for ideas that I'm apart of. To see your ideas used without any credit is a disheartening experience. Now I blog to figure out this journey of a school teacher at this time in American life. There's so much I truly love about teaching, and there are also many, many roadblocks with regard to doing a good job. I believe the biggest roadblock is the lack of authentic voice and choice teachers experience regularly. Too often our voices are not heard or respected with regard to the work we do.

Fortunately my colleagues, some administrators, family members, and the students are terrific supporters and collaborators. They are the pull that inspire me to come to school each day and do my best work. I love the challenge of teaching children well, and truly enjoy most of my time in that pursuit. I find it to be meaningful work.

It seems that some of the biggest challenges are not going away. They occur again and again and I just have to resign myself to those at the time being and instead work on the parameters I am able to have some control over. It's disappointing, but there's other paths to explore that may bring more light and joy as I do my work to teach well. 

School Concert: Happy Tears

Our extraordinary music teacher led a beautiful school concert today. To hear young children sing one wonderful song after another truly brought tears to my eyes. Noticing the way that the music teacher creates harmony of voices and children is exceptional. I was honored to attend such a wonderful event.

Step-by-Step: The Math Year Continues

As I recalibrate the math program to meet systemwide directives and students' needs, I've once again charted the course for the days ahead including the following steps:

  • Division/Problem Solving Focus
  • Decimal/Problem Solving Focus (embed number facts/information students required to know)
  • Fractions (embed geometry figures w/regard to fraction model making)More 
  • Order of Operations/Algebraic Thinking/Systemwide Standardized Test Review
  • Systemwide Standardized Test
  • More fractions, Volume, Measurement, and Geometry
There's lots and lots to teach in the time given. 


Today we'll begin the lesson with inspiration.

The inspiration will begin with a few short videos, a reminder that everyone can learn, and then looking at the learning choices and options today.

As students continue to climb the computation ladders, students will do the following:

  • Some will complete and/or correct assessments
  • Some will work with partners or in small groups to learn skills, mostly skills related to division with large whole numbers and decimals
  • Others will work on a number of online programs to practice
The students have been terrific--everyone is giving it their best each day. The goal is to keep the positive momentum and learning going.