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Sunday, August 20, 2017


There will always be challengers in your midst.

If you listen carefully to their words, you will improve your work, relationships, and commitments.

New School Year Prep Continues

As the new school year approaches, there's more to do in the days ahead to prepare:

Revised orientation efforts
Our team is revising orientation efforts which we'll continue to work on in the days ahead.

Schedules, spaces, and routines
Prepping materials, spaces, and routines for positive school routine

Paperwork and materials prep
There's a host of paperwork and materials to prepare which are outlined on this post.

Intersect classroom, grade-level, school, and system-wide goals/vision
I've worked carefully on classroom/grade-level goals with colleagues, and in the days ahead I'll work to intersect and develop those goals with all stakeholders as I hear their words related to the outlook for the year ahead.

Observe. .Orient. .Decide. .Act

As I listened to Colonel Williamson speak to the parents of Marine Officer Candidate School (OCS) graduates, I heard many words of inspiration and instruction that I can use with my young elementary school students.

What stood out most were the words, Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

I will tell the students the story of the OCS graduates. I will explain that for six weeks they dedicated night and day to testing their endurance, building their physical, academic, and leadership skill, and working as a team to meet the requirements of graduation.

I'll tell them that they learned to observe, then orient themselves, decide, and act. Then I'll explain how that might help their learning all through the year.

First, observe. What's happening? What is important? What is the goal?

Then, orient. What do I need? Where should I sit? Where shall I place my attention?

After that, decide. What will I do? How will I do it? With whom, will I work? What materials do I need?

Finally, act. Do the work, and do it well.

Then of course, I would add, reflect. How did I do? What could I change to do better? Do I need greater supports next time? Who might be a good mentor for me when I attempt a similar task in the future? How can I build my skill more.

As I watched the OCS graduates and the pride that they exemplified yesterday, I thought a lot about my young students and the ways that I'll mentor them through "productive struggle" to achieve a similar level of learning and pride.

I thought a lot about the dedication, strategy, and leadership demonstrated by the many leaders who led these young men and women. They stayed true to the course and commitment. They made sure they did the job well.

I also paid attention to the ceremony and how that event acknowledged the many who worked tirelessly to get to that moment of accomplishment and pride.

Everywhere where individuals commit significant effort, ethics, and teamwork towards a noble and positive cause, we see promise, potential, and work well done. I want to replicate that with my work.

As one who supports peace, I hope to see our military continue to work towards peace over aggression in every way possible, and in the meantime I respect the deep care and attention that goes towards protecting our nation in ways that matter. Onward.

Travel Lends Perspective for Good Living, Kind People

Happily spent time with some of my former fourth graders.
I've been touring a number of states in the past few days, and I've noticed a lot.

Lots of Good People
First, as most will probably agree, I've noticed that there are a lot of good people out there. In general people are kind to one another and help one another out. This is the kind of country, I believe, that we all support.

Build Respect and Good Wages for All Jobs to Foster Better Communities
Next I noticed that there are areas that are thriving as well as areas that are challenged. In areas where there are thriving businesses, beauty, and lots of seemingly happy people, there's a lot of positivity. Yet, in areas that are challenged, you see people who are downtrodden and troubled. I do believe that we have to uplift the pay and respect for service workers and those that do some of the most challenging jobs in our society. As long as there is a great divide between those who have and those that don't, our entire country will suffer. We have to uplift respect, pay, and working conditions for all service workers and others who work for low pay and endure what seems like inhuman conditions.

Protect and Preserve Natural Beauty
I also noticed that there is more peace than trouble in areas where the environment is well protected and cared for. Beautiful, natural and manmade environments lead to greater peace.

Commit Reverence and Good Effort to Your Chosen Pursuits
Further I witnessed the pride that comes from dedicated effort, learning, engagement, and reverence for the work we do and professional respect and responsibility. It's important to take seriously the organizations/goals we commit to and work we do to forward those organizations and goals. Our good work matters to our own self respect and the betterment of the greater community too.

Revere Relationships
Finally since I spent a lot of time with others this weekend, I recognized the need for strong, respectful, and caring relationships. We need each other, and as much as possible, we need to revere relationships old and new with kindness and care. It's important not to be callous with our relationships.

Every time I travel outside of my home community, I realize that this kind of travel is so good for perspective. Getting away really helps you to see what's important. This short get away led to the perspective relayed above, and leads me forward too in the new school year--a year where I will work with reverence, respect, and relationship-building to foster students' best learning, care for one another, collegial respect/collaboration, and building a dynamic learning environment.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Troubling, Tiring Trump Times are a Call to Action

Trump stirs us into a frenzy daily with his callous, disrespectful tweets, war mongering statements/acts, and unwillingness to lead well with a thoughtful measured approach, reading, research, collaboration, inclusivity, transparency, and care. This is all so disconcerting and worrisome. Simply put, Tiring Trump Times are a Call TO Action!

So what's a person to do?

It's clear his unhinged actions and speak are not going to end. Every time I think he may be starting to be presidential, he resorts back to childish name-calling, bullying, quitting when he's not winning, taking sides, and not telling the truth. As an elementary school teacher for more than three decades, I'm well aware of these behaviors. These are natural, developmental behaviors for young children in elementary school as they move from only noticing themselves and their needs in the world to becoming more collaborative, generous, and broad-minded individuals:
  • Young elementary school students often name call. We talk about that, and learn better ways to resolve conflicts. 
  • Young elementary school students don't tell the truth sometimes, and we work on that with the idea that the truth frees us to move forward and do better. 
  • Young elementary school students may tip over a game, give up, or quit when they are not winning, and that's when we talk about the fact that none of us win all the time, and there's lots to be learned by losing and compromise too. 
  • Young elementary school students sometimes form exclusive clubs for some, not all, and we work against that by building empathy and care for one another so students know what it feels like to be excluded as well as the great excitement of collective goals and action. 
Trump Does Not Show Responsibility or Reverence for the Role of President
All of us resort back to childish behaviors from time to time--we resort to our "primitive selves" rather than our intellectual, rationale selves. This is a challenge for us as people. Those of us who may not have had good mentors, loving relationships, empathetic coaching, or good friendships, perhaps, have to tackle these developmental hurdles as adults too. Nevertheless, we don't expect childish behavior from leaders, particularly the leaders who have the grave responsibility that a President of the United States has, a leader who has the responsibility to forward a country where all people are "created equal" and deserve the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Trump Leads for His Ego, Wealth, and Cronies
Clearly, President Trump leads with and for his ego, wealth, and cronies. He doesn't appear to demonstrate any true empathy or care for the rest of us. He rallies up his white supporters with talk of the past, making them think that they don't have to develop themselves, learn more, and change to live in the global, diverse, technological, and threatened world we live in. Instead, his rally calls tell them that we can return to the Mayberry RFD and what many whites remember as a simpler, more empowered past. He forgets that his rally call may harken the privileged, prejudice past--a past where people of color, women, LBGTs, the poor, disabled, and medically unhealthy individuals didn't have the privilege that many white men enjoyed. His rallies forget to mention the ways that many companies in the USA and other western nations made money, destroyed lands, and created unrest and poverty in countries overseas to become wealthy here in the United States and to seed the immigration problems we face today. Even his own families' wealth, in part, comes from slave shops overseas. 

Becoming President was a Marketing Challenge for Trump
It was a marketing challenge for Donald Trump to become President. He used what he learned as a real estate shark and television producer/actor to rally-up the angst and anger among Americans who are afraid or unwilling to see the world as it is--people who prefer to work for their own privilege rather than what is right and good for the whole country--a country that depends on good health care, quality public schools, fair wages, regulations that protect their rights, good social programs, a strong infrastructure, access to recreation, and equity to succeed. It was also a good opportunity to demean women which he clearly had a history of doing and continued throughout the campaign and now while in office as we see few to no women in leadership surrounding him. It was also an opportunity to make fun of America by playing us since almost every time he does business as the President, his personal wealth increases due to the fact that he mostly does business or promotes policies that support his own family's investments, places of business, and business plans. I can imagine the talk at the dinner table, Just think how stupid Americans are, they let me serve as President, and I use the role to advantage my family's companies so we become the most powerful and wealthiest family in the world--it's all about us in the end, no one else really matters. 

"Make America Great Again" is a catchy slogan that plays to the desire of many white Americans to return to what they think was a time of greater advantage and prosperity. It's easy to fool the psyche with marketing claims, and Trump knows that. What's strange is that while many white Americans follow Trump's claims and rallying cries, their support leads to greater wealth and power for the few like Trump, and less good living for the many like his supporters and others. We're not going back to old times, and guess what, for many Americans old times were not as good as today. Instead the rallying cry should be, Make America Great for All!  That's a real challenge. Trump's backward slogan suggests that we should make American great for the few who enjoyed privilege in the past, but "MAKE AMERICA GREAT FOR ALL suggests that we work for a country that provides everyone with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--this is a positive challenge, and a challenge that cannot be met without good global partnerships too. We do better together and if we grasped this call, we would find that our collaboration to make our communities strong and positive for all members would result in an invigorated, dynamic America that exemplifies our core ideals as a country. 

Each of us can join this new rallying cry, MAKE AMERICA GREAT FOR ALL, by demonstrating reverence and responsibility towards those we love and care for, our professional responsibilities, and the communities we live in. If each of us does that, we will be on the right path to MAKING AMERICA GREAT FOR ALL!

President Trump is an Overcorrection
What will you do? How will you respond? President Trump, in the best light, serves as an overcorrection to our docile ways of the past. His poor performance has demonstrated that democracy requires hard work and constant attention. This is the promise his dismal presidency gives to us if we are willing to respond with good action, collaboration, and speak.  His bad example of leadership and governing is awakening a spirit and action of needed renewal, revision, collective action, and good direction for the United States.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Affirm the Positive Course Ahead: Teaching Well

It's good to acknowledge the challenges and potential that exists as we begin the new school year.

Amazing TeamFive
We have an amazing team teaching model in place. It is a model that aims to maximize the intersection and collaboration of all stakeholders including students, parents, educators, specialists, administrators, and community members. Yesterday our team met to review all the nuts and bolts of the teaching year. Together we made a number of great decisions and plans that we'll work on to forward the best possible education for every child as we work with all stakeholders. We're already off to a terrific start that maximizes our individual and collective talent, experiences, knowledge, time, and outlook.

Systemwide Team
I look forward to incorporating systemwide goals expressed at the district-level, school-level, and discipline-area levels into our overall team goals. We'll learn a lot about those goals in the early days of school. As part of the systemwide team I'll do what I can to forward, support, and contribute to those evolving goals.

Union Team
We have a wonderful and diverse union team at the local, state, and national level. At the local level, my main job is to communicate our union efforts via the website and notes. I will also work with colleagues and the executive board to forward the kinds of teaching/learning conditions that support good work and good living. I know that happy, well-supported educators who have what they need to do the job well, serve students well. I want to contribute to that reality.

As far as the state and national levels, I'll support advocacy and efforts to support optimal professional learning and policy/political decisions that support a quality public education for every student.

It's a time of change, investment, and care for all my family members. There's a lot going on, and I just want to be able to support my family members needs and interests in any way that I can.

DESE/Teachers Collaborative/ECET2
I honor my connections to these positive groups of teacher support. I will work with these teams to forward positive ideas for teaching and learning well.

The course is set, and now it's time to prepare the details that support this work, work that holds wonderful promise and potential. Onward.

Opportunity Lies in that Space Between Order and Chaos

When we find ourselves in the space between order and chaos, opportunity exists.

For example when the protesters started their tiki-torch racist march in Charlottesville, there was order. Most knew chaos was inevitable. The space between that order and the eventual chaos provided an opportunity. Good leaders may have spoken up right then.

Right now there is space between the chaos that racism and hatred presents and the order that exists in so many good organizations and institutions presents an opportunity for betterment.

Hosting Conversations demonstrates the chaordic field, a place that sits between order and chaos and a place where creativity and innovation emerges if we let it.

How can we apply this knowledge to our current situation in the United States, and how can we apply this knowledge to our own places of work and living. How can we maximize the opportunity that exists between order and chaos--what can we do?

Act in Contrast to Trump: Put America on a Positive Course

Trump clearly defends those who support hate and racism in the United States.

He had an opportunity to support a humane and dignified course for the American people by condemning the racism, violence, and hate displayed by White Supremists, neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, and other bigots in Charlottesville, but instead he defended their actions and protest--actions and protest that clearly used language and violence to demean and disrespect Americans because of their skin shade, religion, and support for American ideals.

Yes, counter protesters clearly acted out, but of course they were angry, upset, and worried about the racists who marched against American ideals--racists who have a long history of prejudice, disrespect, and violence in American society, and whose aim, in part, is to forward a segregated America.

President Trump Supports Prejudice, Hate and Racism
A good President would denounce all racism, hatred, and any groups that march in support of that hate and racism in America. He or she would empathize with those whose ire was heightened in the face of indignity, hate, and oppression, and tell them that we will work as a nation to create laws that work against all White Supremists, Neo-Nazis, KKK, White Nationalists, and other groups that work in opposition to America's central ideals of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all. A good president would have asked all Americans to pray for Heather Heyer and support her family. He would have championed her efforts to stand up for what is right and good. Also, a righteous President would have looked at the sorry life of Alex Fields, Jr., a man who chose violence over peace, a man who killed a peaceful protester, and a man who used his free time to support racism, violence, and prejudice instead of working for betterment, family, and equity in the United States. He would encourage all teachers to teach well so we have more people like Heather Heyer, and to be compassionate to young children who suffer and are filled with hate like Alex Fields, Jr. in hopes that we can help those individuals grow strong with peace, promise, and possibility rather than hate and violence. But instead, President Trump, a worrisome and potentially insane individual, spoke in defense of these hateful groups with passion.

The President's hateful rhetoric about Muslims in the past has also demonstrated his racism and hate. His demeaning words and acts towards women and the handicapped similarly show his prejudice and hate. His lack of support for public education and good health care demonstrate his prejudice and disregard of average Americans who depend on these services, and his speak and policies continually support the wealthy over average and poor Americans. In fact, Donald Trump demonstrates contempt and hate for almost anyone who disagrees with him. Donald Trump clearly leads for himself, his pocketbook, his family, and a few rich cronies. No one else matters to him.

President Trump is Short Sighted
Donald Trump is also short sighted. He doesn't lead with the future in mind. His policies are quick fixes to long term problems. His lack of support for regulations and positive environmental policies deny the research that tells us we have to take better care of our planet. The way he incites aggression and works against good partnerships with world leaders, denies the truth that we are increasingly a global society that requires working together to solve common problems and forward all people of the world. His unwillingness to support a high quality education system that supports equitable practices and progress for all students demonstrates his denial that education matters, and that quality education is a critical element for any successful and peaceful nation. Further the fact that he spends all of his time in protected clubs, the White House, and with foreign dignitaries furthers his narrow vision of our great country. Why doesn't he get out and see America, work with the American people, and learn about our great country. Just think of the affect a family visit to a national park, seashore, or small towns and amazing cities across our nation would have on his outlook, family life, and health.

President Trump is Uneducated and Untruthful
President Trump's speak demonstrates his clear lack of understanding of American history, geography, and ideals. He misstates facts and figures all the time. He also often does not speak the truth. I don't expect any American leader to know all or be all, but I do know that bright, educated leaders understand that they have to reach out to embrace and learn from the diverse, intelligent expertise all around them to lead with as much truth, knowledge, and wisdom as possible. Instead Trump just spits out whatever comes to mind from his narrow education and experience, rather than leading with the collaboration of a diverse teams of experts in the fields of history, policy, environment, health, economics, and more. He believes he has to have all the answers, and then simply pulls from his limited experience, knowledge base, and cronies/confidants to speak and lead--this is dangerous and evidence of his lack of skill, intelligence, and experience as a public servant, leader, and President.

Day after day President Trump disappoints, demeans, and disrespects the American people. Only a few like former KKK leader, David Duke, and other racists as well as the wealthy who choose money over the betterment of the United States and all Americans stand in support of this President--a President who continually embarrasses and worries most Americans.

It's time for the United States House of Representatives and the Senate to appoint a team to look seriously at impeachment. That team needs to look carefully at the President's mental health, the Mueller investigation, his daily actions/leadership, his taxes (has he evaded taxes, a reason for impeachment), his financial dealings (are they legal?), his international actions, and his ethical behavior including use of his own businesses for public work and political dealings that support his private business and personal wealth.

This is a troubling time for America. We all have to do what we can to put America on a positive course ahead.

The Intersection of Advocacy and Education

I had hoped to separate my teaching and advocacy Twitter threads, but that's not possible because education and advocacy are intertwined--they feed and impact each others.

As our President supports those who march and speak out to deny Americans their rights and dignity due to religion or skin shade, I am thinking of the young children I teach and how they will speak about a President who does not support who they are or the rights they have. While I don't support any one politician or political idea in the classroom, I do support the American ideal that all people are created equal and everyone, no matter what their religion, culture, race, gender, or lifestyle is, has equal rights in the United States. All Americans deserve respect and there is no room for hateful prejudice or racism in the United States.

Also American children have a right to a good education. The fact that President Trump has named a Secretary of Education that has no experience in education and no will to support public schools is an affront to every public school educator and student in the United States. Just think we could have a highly experienced, well educated, and devoted Secretary of Education, but instead, since President Trump has little regard for education or equal rights, we have a political appointee who is not doing anything of worth to forward a quality public school education for our nation's children. Secretary Devos is sadly a waste of federal money and time. Just think if our Secretary of Education was someone who has really done the hard work of teaching, studying, and leading education, someone like Chris Lehman or Linda Darling-Hammond. Then we would see schools rise with support for equitable, research-based programs that support all students, not just some.

President Trump supports an agenda for wealthy white men and the beautiful women they choose to live with. He demonstrates little to no regard for anyone else. If you're middle class, poor, a person of color, gay, transgender, non-Christian, Jewish (unless you're related to him), ill, Muslim, female, or nature-loving, forget it--he's not your President. On the other hand if you're a wealthy, white male that doesn't fit the descriptors I just named, then he'll probably invite you into his fold and his policies will support you.

That leaves teachers with me the need to advocate because I need to stand up for the rights and supports for my students, myself, and my family since we all fall into the category of non-support by President Trump and his policies.

If we want strong schools, successful students, and a peaceful country, we need a President who is willing to lead for what is right and good for all people, not just a select few. President Trump's speech yesterday clearly demonstrated his weak understanding of history, humanity, and leadership--he is the worst President I've ever encountered in my life, and he's a threat to the United States, a country most of us love and are proud to be apart of.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Teaching/Learning Challenge: When Information is Not Forthcoming

One of my greatest challenges as an educator is working in situations where "manage the message" rules. When this happens, stakeholders are generally left out of the speak and planning related to the learning/teaching community(s) they belong to, and are only included in very scripted, narrow ways., and sometimes outdated ways. For a teacher who enjoys learning and likes to continually improve my practice, it's very difficult to have people always planning for me, but rarely sharing the information related to those plans in broad, encompassing, transparent, inclusive, and evolving ways.

When"manage the message" is the mainstay of organizational communication, planning, and share, what happens is that you generally hear about information that impacts your work via hallway conversations and indirect communication. That leaves one with partial information and the feeling that you really aren't a respected or valued member of the team, but instead a do-it--someone charged with carrying out the big think and collaboration from others without your voice, choice, experience, or leadership. "Manage the message" generally uses a very static hierarchical process that lasts a long time, and the problem with that is that in today's world learning and teaching is changing at a tremendous pace hence when decision making depends on yearly patterns or long-term strategic process, by the time you finally make a decision is is outdated. Instead, what's preferable in today's world, is a more organic, living system process that embraces ongoing communication, share, and change. This better meets today's world and potential, and generally saves time and money too.

So how does an educator deal with the feeling of being left out, not consulted, and managed rather than embraced, included, and valued? That's a tricky question to answer since every situation will be different, but as I think about this quandary this morning, I have a few ideas.

  • Ask questions
  • Suggest and use new processes of inclusive, transparent, evolving share/decision making
  • Work with colleagues to promote more modern processes of communication, share, and decision making
  • Reach out to work with others who value and utilize modern processes, and learn with and from them.
It will take time from "manage the message" systems and processes to change to more inclusive, evolving, and organic systems of growth and change, but it will happen as that's the way the world is moving and to keep up with and respond well to the world we live in, it will be important to make this change. 

Bettering Orientation to Foster Student Success

An important aspect of welcoming all students into the teaching/learning community is to
co-construct the environment with students. 
Inspired by research, and the observation that colleges do a lot more to orient their students than your typical elementary school, our team has been working to better orientations and relationship-building practices for all students ,and in particular, our students who live outside the school neighborhood and/or are new to the school. Today the team will meet to organize those efforts. Rather than one event, I suspect that our work will result in a number of orientation events.

Small-Group Introduction to the Classroom
Many neighborhood students drop by the school in the late days of summer to take a look at their classrooms. They also spend time with lots of other school students and families which helps them to know about any information that pertains to the upcoming school year. Students who are new or distanced from the school neighborhood, may miss out on those informal ways to prepare for the school year. With that in mind, one orientation we can provide is a small group pre-school morning to visit the school and classroom. During that morning students may have the opportunity to meet classmates, review their supplies, organize their desks, talk with the teachers, ask questions, and get ready for a great year.

Family/Student In-Take
I believe it's important to make our start-of-the-year surveys more comprehensive. We have found, as a team, that families are more open and responsive with paper surveys than online surveys. So we'll likely update our paper student and family surveys to include the kinds of questions outlined in this post.

Tech Connect
Our team does a lot to offer students tech access to all class materials and information via our TeamFive website. It's important that all families understand how to access that information, and that they have technology available to access the information. With that in mind, our orientation efforts may include the following:
  • Device-lending to students who do not have an adequate tech device at home
  • Information related to low-cost WIFI
  • Tech meetings with families who want to understand more about how to access the class tech sites and information. 
  • Explicit tech connect teaching to all students so students are able to access all aspects of the class website and more. 
Selfie Project
Through our research, we have learned about the importance of recognizing students' individual identities and names. With that in mind we'll foster the "Selfie Project."  and focus specifically on names. We will also forward a number of lessons about our individual and collective culture to foster a positive sense of belonging and community as well. We will show a video of all the student selfies at Curriculum Night. 

Co-Construct the Classroom and Develop Community
During the first six weeks of school we will co-construct the teaching/learning community with students by hosting many conversations and efforts to create, learn, and practice norms, protocols, routines, use of tools, teamwork, names, and other learning mindsets and behaviors outlined on this website and elsewhere. 

Curriculum Night
Families who live close to the school, generally attend the start-of-the-year curriculum night. Families who are new or live far from the school sometimes don't attend this important meeting that introduces the curriculum program. There is a lot we can do to help families in this regard including the following ideas:
  • call each family to introduce ourselves, answer questions, and invite parents to curriculum night. Also tell them how important this night is with respect to meeting other families and learning about their child's school program. 
  • provide transportation support (this can be discussed during the phone call)
  • add the curriculum night presentation to the grade-level website
  • if child care is an issue, invite parents to bring their children
Family-Student-Teacher/Administrator Social Event
In the early weeks of school, host a social event for new students and students distanced from the school neighborhood that includes food and fun. Reach out to local agencies for funding and support for this event. We had a similar social event last year which was very successful. We may want to host this event in conjunction with other school events. 

Family-to-Family Relationships
Find ways to develop family-to-family relationships for families who live close to school and/or are familiar with the school with families who are new or live far away from the school. I want to think with my team about ways that we may do this.

I look forward to updating what we can do to orient students to school and the teaching/learning team in ways that make them feel like full and welcome members of the school community. I know that these efforts will help to set the stage for student success.

Parent/Family Conferences
We want to make sure that reach out to families to ensure that every family and student attends parent-student-teacher conferences in both the fall and spring. If families need more time to meet, we'll provide that.

There's a chance that we can reach out for some financial support to forward this work as well via the NEA. We'll look at that grant option when we meet too. 

The Selfie Project: Building Community and Belonging

As part of our overall orientation process at the start of the year, we'll have students complete a "Selfie" collage with Google Draw like the one I created above. We'll use this video to support the work. Then we'll add all of those collages to a class movie similar to the movie shown on this post. The project is meant to celebrate each child's unique identity and through project work help the students and family members get to know and value one another.

Teach Math Well: DESE Guide

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has created, published, and posted a number of grade-level and content-area guides to support educator effective effort and evaluation. I find it helpful to use a guide like this as one way to prepare for the math teaching year ahead.

I took a close look at the fifth grade math guide, and noted the following ways that I'll utilize the guide in the year ahead:
  • I'll print the guide and hang copies by my teaching/coaching areas
  • The guide highlights the critical areas that require the most focus. I'll make sure that we spend substantial time on those concepts, skill, and knowledge points.
  • Use classroom website, signage, books, tech sites/computers and opportunity to work with classmates and educators to make math learning/teaching information accessible to students.
  • I'll add the guide to the grade-level math website as a reference for colleagues, parents, and students. 
  • Introduce standards explicitly with high expextations w/rich language, cultural proficient lessons, routines that focus on student math talk, debate/discourse, presentation using hands-on concrete concepts and visual models. 
  • Focus students' active learning on hands-on meaningful, challenging, and engaging real-world problems.
  • Use the classroom supports, explicit teaching, and the editing process to help students use precise language for arguments, presentations, and problem solving. 
  • Regularly use visual models, number sentences (expressions/equations), diagrams, manipulatives, number lines to demonstrate mathematical thinking and problem solving. 
  • Personalize and differentiate instruction in ways that empower and engage students.
  • Teach children the meaning of conjecture, then foster conjecture-making, hang students' conjectures around the room with their names on it (example: "Sophia's Conjecture) and refer to those conjectures during teaching.
  • Provide actionable feedback regularly. (Example, I noticed that you listed all the important information, now you might want to underline the key data you'll use to solve the problem.)
  • Assess regularly using formal and informal assessments.
  • Create and/or save exemplars, and then use them to guide student work. 
  • Took-building: The first 25% of the lesson. Focus on the tools you will use to teach/practice the skill. Home study should be about the work you did that day in three levels. (information from Mahesh Sharma)

  • Support and encourage students' optimal learning with phrases like this:
    • I notice how precise you are when you ________________________________
    • What does this pattern, structure, number sentence, and/or model show? What kind of conjecture can you make about this?
    • How many different ways can you solve this problem?
    • I noticed how your perseverance helped you to see this problem in many ways, solve the problem, or understand the patterns related to this problem.
    • I noticed that your argument benefitted from your collaboration with classmates, past units/experiences, observation, and/or good listening.
    • When solving problems ask students, "How many different ways can we solve this problem?"
    • What does high quality work/effort look like for this endeavor?

Building Capacity with Good Process: The Art of Hosting

I woke up in the middle of the night after a somewhat troubling, but also inspiring dream. I always take those middle-of-the-night dreams and the follow-up wide-awake feeling as a sign that it's time to read, think, and write for a while so I'm spending a bit of time putting the most recent ideas in order--ideas that all were present in that vivid dream.

First, I put the latest Trump tweets and times in order with a post about leadership, and now I'm responding to that post with some of my own thoughts related to the way I collaborate and lead within my own profession as an educator.

I was so inspired by the hosting conversations workshop I attended last year, and I still want to better understand that and put it to use in my own work as an educator because I believe The Art of Hosting has great potential for collaboration and betterment. In fact, I changed my main Twitter feed heading to one that will inspire my future work in this regard:

I created the header with a combination of images I found as well as a new avatar. I was struck by the great visual demonstrating The Art of Hosting process too which I included on the right as a reminder and below with more clarity:

I will begin to deepen my ability to employ The Art of Hosting by re-reading the materials I obtained at last year's MTA Summer Conference Art of Hosting workshop which was run so well by Rich Wilson, Mike Ritzius, Dan Callahan, and Charmaine Champagne. Then I'll employ the process above with my fifth grade students as we set class norms and protocols. That will be a good testing ground. Then during the year, I'll think about where and how we might invite Dan Callahan in to lead us in The Art of Hosting to work on a significant topic, and I'll also look for ways to forward this work, in part, or in its entirety in other areas where I team, create, and collaborate. 

To return to school each year with a number of new promising practices, projects, and ideas is to make the year exciting and positive. Today I'm meeting with my grade-level colleagues and I'm sure they will have a number of good perspectives, ideas, and questions to forward as well. This kind of creativity, collaboration, and progress is what continues to keep me engaged and enthusiastic when it comes to teaching children well. 

Leadership: It's Not About You

Great leaders lead for others, not themselves. For these leaders the overall mission is clear, and works as their compass for the work they do.

Leaders who struggle are leaders obsessed with themselves rather than the mission at hand.

Challenged leaders always bring you back to how they feel and how events affect their direction, life, and relationships. Strong, good leaders, instead,  bring us back to the mission--what is important to the team and what team has to do.

Great leaders surround themselves with trustworthy staff who are committed, reading, and willing to lead with good research, attention, focus, discipline, and collaboration. Those staff members bring their expertise to the table to support, guide, and debate with the leader in order to make important decisions that match the mission. Good staff are also willing to acknowledge shortcomings and the need for greater consult and information.They continually reach out beyond the consultant group to learn more, be inspired, and understand well the complexity, challenge, and potential of situations in order to make good decisions.

For great leaders, ambition serves mission, and not the other way around.

In recent days, President Trump initially refused to stand up by condemning the hate groups whose protests and aggression supported racial prejudice and hat and led to death, harm, and destruction in Charlottesville. Fortunately, he eventually heard the cry of the people, and did respond with this statement and more:

Yet, as has occurred in the past, he move towards a positive statement was then overrun as he tweeted countless follow-up negative, finger-pointing, and self-interested messages. For reasons I cannot understand, he refuses to speak and act in ways that demonstrate good leadership, and this is very concerning. It appears that he can't grasp the magnitude of responsibility, decorum, collaboration, humility, and service that is required of the President of the United States, but instead continues to see his role as that of a reality television or game show host.

The advice and efforts he used to forward his businesses is not good advice or effort for running a free and democratic society. In fact, it appears that his leadership actually challenges the free and democratic society we value so much.

So what's an average American who wants to do his/her part to do in the face of these troubling Trump times?

Speak and Act Against Trump's Worrisome Leadership
First, it's clear that Trump is not hearing the message. Even when he eventually does the right thing in a situation like calling out the KKK and other White Supremist groups, he quickly reverts back to his name-calling, vindictive, and sensationalist ways--the kind of behavior that has spiraled the North Korea situation into a frightening, costly, and time-consuming situation, the kind of situation that could result in the loss of innocent lives in the United States or in North Korea. It seems the President never made time to look for or act for peaceful solution with global partners in this regard. Fortunately it looks like some on his staff are stepping in to try to remediate the situation. Let's hope they are successful and no harm will be done to anyone.

Next, as citizens we have to continually step up and speak up against President Trump's condescending, negative, and self-serving speech, the kind of language that truly trumps up situations in harmful, dangerous, costly, and time-consuming ways. He's leading a national argument that stirs things up in negative ways, but does not lead us together or ahead. With his power, he could be using his influence to forward terrific, positive national debate about issues that matter, but instead he's unwilling to ask questions, seek advice, work with others, and with humility, relay issues in positive, proactive ways.

Reach out to enlist time, money, and support for what is right and good.
Third, we have to reach out to the many powerful people in our country and make sure that they use their  money, time, and influence to do what is right and good. All those we've elected into office have a responsibility to work for the public good--that is their job . Also the many wealthy Americans who have tremendous power due to their wealth, also have a responsibility to advocate for what is right and good with their voices and their money--it can't just be about them, but they have to give back both formally through our tax system and informally through the way they use their time and effort since they are reaping the rewards of good fortune and tremendous material/monetary wealth.

Promote voter registration and voting
Further, we have to make sure our friends and neighbors register to vote, and then vote. To not vote, is to leave our laws and leadership up to chance. Further, if possible, we should get involved in elections at the local, state, and national levels to influence good leadership and positive action.

Do your part, and do it well
Finally, and probably most importantly, we to do our own good work in the fields where we work, support and contribute. In this end, we have to focus on our actions and words. Since actions send a stronger message about whom we are and what we stand for, we have to be clear about our work's mission and what we will do on our own and with colleagues to forward that mission. For example, simply put, my mission as a teacher is to teach children well, and that's where I have to focus my energy. As a parent, my mission is to be present, supportive, and a guide to my own children to help them do their best by themselves and others in their own pursuits and choices.

Monday, August 14, 2017

How Do You Foster an Earth-Friendly Classroom?

I just reached out to an environmental expert, Patrick Conaway, to see if he might want to write a guest post and/or visit our classrooms to talk about Earth-friendly classrooms, learning, and living. Every year I say I am going to commit to this more, and I end the year not satisfied with my efforts. Hopefully this year, I'll do a better job as I know it is critical to foster stewardship of our land, water, and air for sustainable living and growth.

I ordered the stickers above and have been more mindful about not ordering plastic materials for the classroom. I'm also going to encourage children to bring water bottles, and work for colleagues to look for ways to meld our science/STEAM learning with conservation and local environmental efforts.

I noticed this article today which I'll read with care, and reach out to others for good ideas in this effort. Please share any advice or suggestions you have.

See With New Eyes

Too often we see with past prejudices, interactions, stories, and experiences rather than taking a fresh look.

It's important as the new school year starts that we see with new eyes.

What does that mean?

It means listening to people without past notions, but instead hearing the words with clarity, positivity, and an open mind.

It means observing those around you as if you have never seen them before, and truly looking at who they are now and what they do.

It means fostering new relationships with both new people and those that you have known with an attitude of enthusiasm and opportunity.

It's easy to see with old perspective, bias, attitude, and thought, but it takes intention to see with new eyes, and that perspective will avail you to greater growth and more positive relationships, experiences, and results ahead.

Students, I'm Here For You

This morning I looked over the 2017-2018 prep/goal list. I've worked away at that list all summer, and have completed many items. At the very bottom of the list is the poster below. I'll hang this poster in the room and use it for an explicit lesson at the start of the year.

During the lesson, I'll say to students, "I'm here for you." It's my job this year to do all that I can to help you learn in engaging, successful ways. During the year, I want you to think about the questions on this poster, and use the questions to help me help you.

Then we'll review question by question and discuss how I might answer those questions in terms of helping each child. I'm looking forward to hearing their responses then following through.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Senseless Death: Charlottesville - What will you do?

I often tell the story that as a young child I would lay on my living room rug reading the death list from the Vietnam War. I was so sad about those deaths, and I wondered why did that have to happen. I felt a similar yank at my heart and soul as I read Anne Frank's diary, and when I learned about the violence related to the Civil Rights Movement. Why, I thought over and over again, would anyone let those events happen.

Now many years later, I can't sit back when horrible things happen. I have to speak up. I have to follow Martin Luther King, Jr's words, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." That's why I was so "vocal" on Twitter yesterday related to my belief that there is no room for White Supremacy or White Nationalists in American culture because racism and prejudice is a crime against humanity--every human deserves the right to live as well as they can with as much support as we can provide to one another. As the Washington Post so eloquently and intelligently wrote yesterday:

 "Under whatever labels and using whatever code words -- 'heritage,' 'tradition,' 'nationalism' -- the idea that whites or any other ethnic, national or racial group is superior to another is not acceptable. Americans should not excuse, and I as president will not countenance, fringe elements in our society who peddle such anti--American ideas. While they have deep and noxious roots in our history, they must not be given any quarter nor any license today."

So today families weep at the senseless death of one and the tremendous harm to many others because as a nation, we have not adequately stood up to prejudice and racism. Again and again we see evidence of destruction motivated by racial prejudice and hate. We can no longer sit back and accept this. We have to speak up against all acts of racial prejudice and hate, and we have to also act to end this by advocating and acting for more equitable education and health opportunities, no tolerance for slurs and hateful acts, new laws to support greater equity and respect, and more discernment when choosing new leaders and supporting new policies and laws.

What will you do?

As for me, I will send this note to our President as I believe that President Trump and his staff need to read the ADL's report about White Supremacy and speak out against this group and the hate and prejudice they support.

I will also support a change in our Massachusetts Constitution which presently reads, in part:

Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.[10]

I will suggest that our legislators change the wording to "All people" rather than "All men" as I believe that will bring attention to this important Article and the fact that we must forward equity and respect for all people in the Commonwealth and beyond.

Further I will work with colleagues at school to foster greater equity. Last year we found a way to do this with regard to giving every child access to technology at home. We also worked at making our programming more welcoming and culturally proficient. This year we'll continue this effort by looking deeply at what worked last year, and what we can do to build upon that this year so that every child we teach feels welcome, and receives the coaching, mentoring, and support they need and desire to reach their potential.

HBS Inspires Positive Path to Making Change

Why not support the status quo? Wouldn't that be peaceful?

I am a fan of both supporting the status quo and working for change too. It's the combination of the tried-and-true traditional ways and new, researched ways. You can't just give up on the past, but you can't ignore the need for change too.

Yesterday I came across a great article from the Harvard Business School, "Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate" by Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule, that speaks about making good change. I want to apply parts of this article to my work to advocate for positive change in schools.

Frame change in ways that gives meaning to work, conjures individual emotion, and incites collective action
The change I want to support is change that creates greater distributed leadership in schools so that the voice, choice, and leadership of all stakeholders is elevated. I often feel that the fact that educators' voices, choices, and leadership is not regarded with strength and respect, hinders the good teaching and learning possible. With greater ability to share ideas, problem solve together, and lead their work, I believe educators ability to serve students will deepen and grow. This, in turn, will help more children get the thoughtful, targeted teaching they deserve. I can't capsulate this in a sound bite yet, and will listen carefully to what others have to say with regard to this change.

Demonstrate quick wins
This is an important point for me as I often dismiss the quick wins and stay focused on the big picture. There have been many quick wins close to home when it comes to the change to more distributed models of leadership, a change supported by many educators and leaders throughout the country. Our grade-level team was able to change to a more collaborative model of teaching and learning, this has helped us to serve students better. We've received financial and time support to forward better orientation and cultural proficiency efforts to better welcome and support our diverse student group. Further, our union has stated teacher-administrator groups to study new initiatives together as well as to streamline and better our evaluation process. I want to listen carefully to my colleagues and think about my own needs to when it comes to this shift--where is the shift halted and where is the shift to a more distributed leadership culture supported. What quick wins are within our grasp, and what areas of positive change elude us.

Harness networks
The concept of positive, proactive networking was a main theme at this summer's NB Academy where we looked at countless ways that networks of committed NBPTS educators could work together to encourage and support more NBCTs. At the MTA Summer Conference, support for more networking was evident in the many organizational, academic, and leadership trainings available and open to teams of teachers. There are many ways to grow positive networks at school as one way to move towards greater distributed leadership. Deepening the work we do as a broad grade-level team that includes specialists, teaching assistants, administrators, students, and family members is the first network priority. Also work on systemwide, union, NBPTS, MTA, and other committees helps to build greater networking. I will listen carefully to the systemwide vision and goals at the start of the school year and think about how that matches colleagues', parents', and students' desire and enthusiasm for change. I wonder if a theme will emerge, a theme like the "good health can't wait" theme exemplified in the article.

Create safe havens
Safe havens for positive change exist in our classrooms, at union meetings, during parent conferences, and at state-level union and department of education committee events. Our grade-level collaborative approach in many ways is essentially a microcosm for change since our collaborative approach is an example of how distributed leadership can work to support student learning and family support well. As the article suggests, this collaborative team is a "space where it's easier for people to embrace new beliefs and perform new behaviors." Also the new structures afforded by our new teachers' contract is creating spaces for greater distributed leadership and this is positive.

Embrace symbols
We created a symbol that quickly identifies the big ideas of our grade-level team approach. The symbol is a way to remind the educators and students of what matters with our efforts and how we integrate our work and time. Our symbol, as the article suggests, sends a message of "solidarity and unity." I wonder if there will be symbols shared to support our greater systemwide unity as a dynamic learning/teaching team. I will be thinking more about symbols as I move forward in this way of thinking and acting.

Challenge to leadership
The article states that "It's easy to overuse one's authority in the hopes of accelerating transformation." As I think of my desire for change and investment in vision-making and dreaming, I can see how I can be accused of this, yet also as the article states, "a moderate amount of friction is positive." So as I think about descriptors such as "overwhelming" and "causing tension" which can be found in my evaluations, I recognize that I do contribute to that positive friction, but I have been too singular in this, and not as conscientious of focusing on letting the actions speak more than the words.

The article essentially discusses what The Art of Hosting describes as the chaortic path where innovation arises from that space between order and chaos or as the article describes as the place where the movement faces "resistance and experiences friction."

When I look at the work ahead, I can identify these places of potential innovation which are places of heightened stress and potential too, and as I identify these places, I will look for opportunity to work with others for positive change. Those areas include the following:

  • processes for curriculum development, decision making, and change - how can we grow our programs with greater distributed leadership including substantial voice and choice from all stakeholders. It's possible that we may want to focus on one area of change and invite Dan Callahan in to lead us in The Art of Hosting Conversations to forward this kind of change in modern ways.
  • processes for building more dynamic, inclusive, and transparent teams - how can we establish processes and efforts that maximize individual and collective voice, choice, and leadership that builds a more inclusive, transparent, positive, and successful learning/teaching team. Too often the voice, choice, and leadership of educators, parents, students, and other staff members is diminished due to outdated processes, ineffective structure, less transparency, little inclusion in decision making, minimal communication, and irrelevant, insufficient, exclusive and/or insignificant goals and vision. I have the chance to develop my own work in this regard as well as to support greater team building in the many teaching/learning groups I belong to.
This was an excellent article. It basically summed up a lot of the learning I've done in the past years with regard to teacher leadership, advocacy, organization, and good teaching and learning. I suggest that anyone who is interested in educational change and development read and apply this article to your work in positive ways. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dragged Down the Trump Hole Again

Last night I saw images of the White Supremist March in Charlottesville. I was troubled, but hoped it would end quickly. Then today I heard more about it. The story didn't end. It got worse and worse until three people died. Then our President didn't even respond. Once again President Trump disappointed when it came to human dignity, respect, and care for the average Americans.

He has the whole world on edge as he bullies, name calls, and disrespects so many hard working, good people throughout our country and world. It seems like all that he cares about is himself, his family, and a few cronies. To think that he wouldn't even speak up against the hate espoused by White Supremists, hate that results in great prejudice and worse as noted in this description by the ADL:

We're not a perfect country or a perfect people, but everyday I meet countless good people that represent a great diversity of race, culture, gender, age, profession, and geographical location, and it's rare to meet people who stand up for or exemplify hate, violence, or disrespect for others. Most people in the United States and elsewhere work really hard to have a good life and do well by others. There's few that just throw up their hands and not care at all, and hopefully there are few who are so greedy and self-interested that they continually defame, demean, disrespect, and potentially harm others.

Our President continually refuses to think of the American people and use discretion and discipline to lead with respect, intelligence, and care. Instead he daily name calls, bullies, demeans, and sensationalizes creating all kinds of drama, fear, prejudice, hate, and then violence like today's troubles in Charlottesville.

There are always going to be problems. There are always going to be complex challenges to solve, but I've never experienced an America where the President is inciting a lot of these problems. Throughout my life whether I've agreed or not, the President has used decorum and a good demeanor to lead. They've stood up with respect for the American people and seemingly tried to do what was right and good. This is the first time in my life that there's been a President that breaks all the grade-school rules of kindness, respect, truth telling, and civil discourse. It is extremely disheartening.

But when he reacts in ways that are indignant and disrespectful, we have to speak up, but we have to watch out that we don't fall down the Trump hole by getting caught up in his explosive, troubling, and disrespectful tweets, speech, and action. I fell down the Trump hole tonight, and now I'm climbing back up to take a bit of a break from this troubling President of the United States.

Considering the Big Picture: Where Will You Devote Your Time and Energy?

The big picture of possibility and obligation may be overwhelming at times, but it's worth making a bit of time to consider what that picture looks like and where you fit in.

As I look at the big picture, I am most moved by our country's direction, school responsibility, family, and a few personal areas of interest too.

Trump times are troubling times for me. So much of what our President does and supports is in contrast to what I believe in and support. I could choose to sit back and not act, but I am not satisfied with that since I believe that good effort and change depends on personal and collection action and effort. Can we sit back when their are prejudicial marches, remarks, and policies. Not at all. So I'll continue to write about this, and find ways to get active for what I believe in most which is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every American and every person in the world.

Thing Globally, Act Locally
Our city is electing a new mayor. I want to get involved in this to support what I believe in. The city I live in has the potential to be a model of good living for a diverse population. I want to support a candidate who shares this vision.

Environmental Care and Protection
I value the world's wonderful natural resources, and want to contribute to protecting those resources including human resources. I'm so concerned with the President's lack of concern about the natural world. He doesn't appear to value our natural resources, and demonstrates little activity in the natural lands beyond golf courses. Locally, I can support this movement by teaching students about it, advocating and supporting local environmental protection activity, and utilizing good environmental practice at home and at school.

I've clearly outline those goals which are centered on positive, student-centered leadership and teaching.

Continue to foster and support strong family values, support, and care for one another.

A positive routine will help me reach those goals.

While some of the world's problems seem overwhelming, the best I can do is do my part and connect with others to forward the greater good in ways that matter. Onward.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Professionally Speaking

In the old days, many educational organizations were low-key, relaxed, and easy-going, but today, with business models in place in many schools, there's more formality in school life. What does this mean?

The relaxed atmosphere of many schools of old was positive in that people didn't feel the great burden of test scores, so much paperwork, and layers of authority, but on the other hand, sometimes it was too relaxed in ways that may not have fostered the urgency needed to support some of our students well. As in any work we do and in relation to evolutionary process, balance is mostly a good goal to seek--balance of old and new, balance of informal and formal, balance of loose-tight protocols, balance of individuality and uniformity, and so one.

Typically when reaching for better, though, we sometimes purposely create imbalance so we can push a lot of energy and focus into the change. Good change demands that, yet it also demands the measured, disciplined balance of moving forward and looking back with reflection, debate, and discussion to make sure that we are well directed.

As I think of old schools and new schools, however, I am reminded of the need for professional speak and action. Too often the evolutionary nature of school and the push-pull between new and old can fire up emotion, make people nervous, and create disruption. This will happen in any institution that is constantly responding to change and the challenges change brings. In light of this, though, it's critical that educators remain professional in the work and speak they engage in.

How can we do this?

First. steer towards ethical, professional, and well-directed colleagues, initiatives, and effort. Avoid as much as possible unprofessional, unethical, and ill-directed efforts. It may be that you will encounter efforts that are not positive in nature, and when that happens you have to take some time to think about how you'll react. Often, these situations may profit from the combination of humor and straight talk. For example, perhaps you see a colleague or student about to make a  not-so-positive choice, and you reach out with a comment such as, "I've been tempted to do that too with a bit of light laughter, and I learned my lesson a long time ago it's never worth making that choice. . ." Without deep controversy, blame, or contempt, you can easily diffuse a lot of not-so-positive expression and acts with humor and commentary that send a message, but retain a relationship and dignity. Often you also can get your point across with simple, straight talk too. My most trustworthy colleagues always use this approach with me by simply saying, "Maureen, don't do that." A simple statement like that typically leads to a good interchange of rationale and resolve.

If issues are deeper and more troubling, it's likely that you'll have to join with others to make positive change. I recommend not going it alone when it comes to deep and potentially harmful situations. My first course of action with situations like this is to question, What could happen if I speak up or act, and what might happen if I don't speak up/act. If anyone is going to get hurt because of a lack of action, I'll always speak up, and I'll use safety as my rationale when speaking up or reaching out to work with others. There's all kinds of collegial practices, groups, unions, and agencies to support collective advocacy and speaking up for what is right and good, and it's good to be strategic, authentic, and well-purposed when you do work with others to combat what you think is harmful or problematic efforts. When working for change, you also have to be ready to hear the other side, compromise, and change your mind. Sometimes what you think is right and good actually may lack critical information that, in the end, makes you think differently and change your mind about the advocacy. That's why it's important to face big issues with others in a professional, strategic manner. Of course if an issue is very troublesome and requires quick action, it's best to err on the side of safety for others, then back track to see how the issue may not have occurred in the first place.

Other tips for professional effort include the following:
  • Teaching well is intense work so make sure you have identified private spaces where you can do your deep work without interruption.
  • As good colleagues always demonstrate, keep the sensitive issues private. When issues occur in the classroom as much as possible quietly pull a child or colleague aside to talk it out rather than make it public. This can be challenging in large groups with many demands, but it's always the right thing to do. 
  • Choose how you spend your time wisely. Don't over or under commit. Working with others is energizing and moves your work forward, but not making time for yourself can compromise your professional work.
  • Always assume the best. Sometimes school climates lack good communication so conjecture, rumors, and hearsay rule. Instead of believing what you hear, always seek the source with respectful questioning, inclusivity, and transparency. No one should be made to feel inadequate because they are trying to figure things out, get to the truth, and develop their work and collaboration in ways that matter. Assume the best, and question to figure out what's going on rather than rely on the rumor-mill for your information.
  • Use professional, positive, and proactive speak as much as possible to forward the individual and collective good. Bad language, condescending remarks, and insensitive jokes are never professional. 
  • While at work focus on your professional responsibilities, and mostly leave personal issues and interests for your private life. In every workplace there's a right overlap of professional and personal lives. We would be too cold if we drew a hard line between the two, but mostly, at work, keep the focus on the professional efforts, goals, and camaraderie as that will help you to do the good work possible and enjoy your personal life outside of school too. 
I write this post as much for myself as for anyone. No one introduced me to professional work and demeanor as a young teacher, and in many instances I learned about this the hard way. Yet as I look forward to the year of teaching and learning ahead, I have many exciting professional goals for my own work as well as the goals the collective learning community is directed towards meeting. It won't be a problem to stay focused on those goals as we do well to lead and serve students and support family members, colleagues, and others who work with us towards this goal. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Family Email - GMail

I recommend that families of elementary school students create a family email or GMail. Since we're a school system that uses Google apps, I recommend a GMail account. It's very helpful for families to have one email that all family members share since it becomes a good teaching ground for young children as they learn to use email and other sites that require an email.

I suggest creating the email with an easy-to-remember family name and password. I suggest sharing this email with organizations that your whole family participates in such as school and the local library. As students become older, I recommend that parents begin to encourage their children to communicate with teachers and others via the family email with parent oversight. Again, this is a good way to teach children how to use technology. I also suggest that parents recommend that their children check the email regularly and read messages that relate to them. Since it's a family email, parents can oversee this use.

I have found that the family email is very helpful right up and through the college process. If parents and students are receiving important information that relates to your children, then you can discuss and make decisions about that information together.

Of course, in time, your child will be ready for his/her own email accounts, but hopefully by that time, your child will know well how to navigate the world of digital communication and share.

School Year Focus Gains Definition

I write often about this because it's so easy to lose focus during the school year when there are so many pulls for your interest, time, and attention. Hence the priorities:
  1. Classroom community: Doing all that I can with colleagues, students, and other learning/teaching team members to build and support a dynamic classroom community. 
  2. Healthy Routine: A positive routine that maximizes energy and effort.
  3. Math teaching/learning
  4. Collegial collaboration: working with the school team to forward a dynamic program with and for students
  5. STEAM teaching/learning
  6. Local union efforts
  7. Professional Learning
  8. MA DESE Teacher Advisory Cabinet
  9. MTA Teaching and Professional Learning Committee
  10. MTA National Board of Professional Teaching Standards Initiative
  11. Teacher Collaborative support and effort as I engage in this exciting new teaching community
When the priority list becomes a simple as this, you know that you've done the prep necessary for the next steps. Onward. 

Summer Study and School Year Prep: Update

It's been a great summer of fun and school year prep/study. There's still a bit more to read, but essentially I've met my study and prep goals. I'm ready for our collegial meeting and direct efforts to set up the classroom, prepare early year learning materials, and teach. I'm really looking forward to meeting our TeamFive students/families and working with students with both known and new materials, learning experiences, and special events, projects, and field studies.

With a few more weeks left until the year begins, it's time to enjoy a few family events, continue to prepare the house for the busy school year, and get ready for lots of listening and sensitive response.

The listening involves hearing all about my colleagues' summer events, study, and efforts for the school year ahead. I'll learn a lot about reading/writing projects, standardized test results, new field study/special project ideas, school and systemwide goals, and curriculum schedule/content additions/changes.

I also have to shore up my flexibility muscles as the start-of-the-year is always filled with a number of unexpected events such as staff changes, structural considerations, material challenges, information delays, and expectation changes. There's little correspondence during the summer months, so generally there's a lot to contend with during those first days of school.

Overall I know I'll be returning to a school and system that is well-staffed and supported. The community cares about the schools and continually supports the work we do. The staff is highly experienced and wholly dedicated to the success of the schools and care for every child. The town where the schools are located enjoys substantial natural beauty, and the materials, structures, and programs in place are generally good and continually moving towards better.

The areas that I hope to see more change and development include the following:

  • Greater teacher voice, choice, and leadership at the elementary school level
  • More modern processes of research, development, and application of new ideas, research, and practice
  • Greater attention to the value of networks and communication with revised processes for sharing news and information in steady, inclusive, and transparent ways with all members of the learning/teaching community: students, family members, educators, specialists, administrative/custodial/food service staff, administrators, and community members
To be in a place where what I want to advocate for is betterment rather than basic needs is a true advantage and another reason why our school system is such a good place to learn and teach. 

School Facebook

A kind and committed parent in our school started a school community Facebook page. It's such a great page when it comes to sharing the news that affects the families in our school. She manages the page with sensitivity and has made important information readily and sensitively available to all members of the community. This is positive.

Unfortunately the school system has not updated their Facebook policies, so teachers and students are unable to access Facebook at school. At this point, I think it's time to change that rule since so many worthy organizations and individuals have valuable information on Facebook, and that information can support teaching and learning well. For example at the start of the year our students will complete a "Selfie Project" that requires photos. It would be a lot easier if students could access family Facebook pages to pull specific photos for the project.

Of course, every time you open up a page or platform at school you run the risk that students and staff will misuse the privilege. I think it's better to open up good sites like Facebook and teach how to use and monitor the sites' use in ways that matter. It's better for students to be able to learn how to access/use many of these sites in a safe environment with a developmental approach than to let them navigate the complex Internet choices on their own. Of course, it's also important to follow the rules set for Internet use including the fact that students under 13 are not allowed to create their own Facebook or interact with a number of sites due to their age.

Digital literacy involves learning how to navigate the Internet with intelligence, responsibility, and care. The Internet offers so many valuable learning tools and sites that increase our learning/teaching potential tenfold. The Internet also offers easy access to dangerous and destructive sites too, and it's important to teach students how to avoid those sites, and what to do when one of those sites pops up accidentally. Just recently I typed in the name of a site I visit often incorrectly and up popped something very inappropriate, I was able to quickly leave the site, delete my history, and restart my computer as I didn't want that site popping up again. So far, I've had not trouble with it.

In many ways, the Internet mirrors the landscape of our neighborhoods, natural landscapes, and urban communities. For example, we wouldn't let students hike through the dense forest or unknown city street alone without support, training, and/or purpose. The same is true for the Internet. We need to gradually allow students more and more freedom with the Internet, and we have to match that developmental gradual release with good teaching and training so students are savvy tech users who make good decisions about what they do online.

It's also important for family members and teachers to work together on this teaching and gradual release of responsibility. It's important to discuss issues as they occur sooner than later so teachers and parents can respond appropriately to redirect, teach, and keep students safe.

Safety and Health: School Responsibility

As I watched the sad story about the "hot water challenge" on the news today, I wondered about school's responsibility to teach about health and safety.

As we think of health and safety teaching, how deliberate and explicit are we?

It's a good idea to do the following:
  • Invite the local fire educator in earlier than later to discuss fire safety.
  • Invite the local law enforcement educator to come in early to discuss safety related to where your students live.
  • Work with the school health teacher to make sure you have a good, developmental program related to physical health including health related to good nutrition, drugs/alcohol abuse prevention, physical fitness, cleanliness, and more.
  • Work with technology teachers to discuss cybersecurity and the best ways to teach safe digital skills and savvy.
  • Think with your team about the dangers students face in your school area. Where I teach, the following topics are important to teach:
    • Stranger safety - generally don't engage strangers unless an adult is with you (this requires a good discussion)
    • Water safety - don't swim alone
    • Ice safety - don't walk on ice without a parent's permission
    • Street safety - be very careful crossing streets since many drivers are not paying attention, look a driver in the eye before you cross and make sure they are stopped. Cross at crosswalks when possible.
    • Bike safety - wear a helmet, pay attention. . . .
    • Body safety - we have a great sexual abuse prevention/reporting program at our school
    • Physical/Emotional safety - no one has a right to hurt you physically or emotionally
    • Cigarette/Drug/alcohol abuse prevention - it's important to talk to children about this as they get older, and make clear how easy it is to become addicted and how to stay clear of that
    • Sex Trafficking - it's important that older elementary school children understand this topic and the way children often get tricked into this online. Most communities can point to examples of this occurring with fairly young students.
    • Fire safety - never fool with fire, always have a parent's permission and assistance with fire.
    • Gun safety - never play with guns. If there's an unlocked gun at a house, leave that home and tell a trusting adult right away. 
We don't want to scare students, but we do want to make them aware of the dangers that exist in their own communities. It's better to have an attitude of prevention than ignoring threats that could occur. Throughout my tenure as a teacher, I've  noted a number of troubling events that have happened to children. In general, the saddest events involved street/bike safety, playing with fire, being alone in a deserted area, and trusting individuals via the Internet.

Fortunately, I've also heard a number of stories about children who know what to do to be safe--stories of gun safety, water safety, Internet safety, and physical/emotional health safety.

Parents and educators have a responsibility to teach children how to be safe in the environments where they live and play. Accidents will happen, but they will happen a lot less if we make a deliberate effort to teach students how to be safe.