Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Reaction to President Trump's Joint Session Speech: February 2017

I agreed with many of the words.

I was happy that the speech was not filled with hateful words and demeaning comments.

The low point of the speech was when he spent considerable time talking about his new effort, V.O.I.C.E, to support victims of immigrant crime. This emphasis incites prejudice against immigrants, instead he should have focused this idea on victims of crime, not crime that is specific to one big group of people--people who statistics demonstrate to be peaceful overall.

He spoke out against fighting hate against other Americans which of course I agree with. He spoke out about building up our infrastructure, supporting veterans, providing paid leave for women to care for children, and job creation. I agree with all of this.

I will continue to read as much as I can about what is happening.

I will continue to advocate for an independent investigation of Russia's influence on the election.

I will continue to advocate and work for strong public schools as the foundation of our democracy and an avenue to educating all America's children.

I will work for truth with positivity and will work against negativity and disrespect.

His speak about laws is essential. We should follow the laws we have, and we should change the laws we disagree with. I agree that we need to change immigration laws starting with protecting immigrants and their families who live in the United States.

We live in a complex world. We have a big country. There is much to consider. We have to be watchful, active, well-read, and willing to debate and compromise.


Teaching Tomorrow: Working on Singular Skills

Working on singular skills is not my favorite kind of teaching or learning. I like those deep, interdisciplinary projects--the kind that really inspire you to dig in, work hard, and learn a lot. If I was in charge of the world, I'd probably teach in a primarily project-based, creative school where we continually foster all kinds of wonderful project/problem based learning.

Though, I'm not in charge of the world, and I have a lot of expectations to meet that do not fit the project based learning model, but instead focus on singular skills. Many voices come together to create the curriculum program I teach, and I do value the skill, knowledge, and concept development we employ as well as the many projects we embed throughout the year. So in the next few weeks, students and I will focus on lots of single skills--standards that students are expected to master with model making, problem solving, explanations, and computation.

Day after day, we'll learn about and practice these skills as students build their schema for mathematical thinking, understanding, and application. Then, about once every week-and-a-half students will take an assessment to see which skills they've mastered and which ones they still need to work on.

When our weeks of skill development are complete, we'll dive into the big projects of the fifth grade play, biography project, and STEAM explorations. I'm sure I'll continue to think about this skill vs. project debate and coordination that goes in schools as I work towards the best possible teaching/learning experiences. At the same time, I'll also stay the course and help students master the standards set. Onward.

Building Great Schools and Learning Communities

Last night a local futurist told me about the way he reads to find out how schools should ready students for the future. He reads all about new innovations and what the future will be like. I was interested in his study and suggested that he start a blog since we don't all have the kind of time needed to research such topics.

Then today, I noted two articles on the Internet that relate to the way our schools should be. I want to read about this, and will collect articles to consider on this post. If you have related research, books, or stories to share, please do.

Follow the Rules and Protocols

There are many rules and protocols chosen for me as a teacher.

Some I readily embrace and follow while there are others that don't match my beliefs about teaching and learning well.

Yet at this juncture it's my aim to work within the protocols set so that I can get some work done that I believe is valuable and important.

In the past few years, I've engaged in a large number of events and activities related to teaching well. After all of this endeavor, I realize once again that what I enjoy most is working with young children to help them learn with strength, confidence, and joy. I find this to be positively challenging work so that's where my direction is aimed.

Serving High Needs Students

I want to serve high needs students better. I'm happy that the state and federal government makes this a priority with the new ESSA legislation.

As I think about this, I identify the following challenges and opportunities.

Transportation and Communication
It's often more difficult to reach families of high needs students. This is due to multiple issues, but it's true that it often takes extra effort to make that contact, and that contact matters. It's also often more difficult to have an impromptu meeting with families of high needs students again due to multiple issues and sometimes issues that include transportation.

In order to serve high needs students well, family-school contact is essential. How can I do this better?
  • As many good teachers recommend, build communication into your weekly schedule--make a time to check in with those families regularly. 
  • Identify these students early in the year, and make an effort to meet with those families before the school year starts or right at the beginning of the year. During that time make sure to get important contact information and best times to meet. Ask those families how you can best support their child--families know their children well and are typically eager and willing to offer advice and work with educators. 
  • Learn about transportation challenges early in the year and find ways to work around those challenges.
Identify Student Strengths and Interests
The best inroad to student learning is identifying and building on students' interests and strengths. Spend time early in the year and throughout the year to know students well, develop their strengths, and build strong relationships. Look for ways to use time and scheduling to promote student strengths and interests too.

Use assessment wisely to identify what students know and what are the next right steps for learning. Work with colleagues to design engaging, meaningful learning paths in this regard. Often what a high needs child needs is not a direct match for a school's programming, schedules, or staffing. We often have to think out of the box to better personalize programs for children's steady, consistent, positive growth and development.

As I think of the points above and my desire to do well by these students, I will continue to support, implement, and advocate for the following teaching/learning efforts:
  • Morning Masters: A colleague introduced me to this before school open classroom idea. Essentially it's a time for students to drop in early, study, get teacher help, and enjoy each other's company. The time, to date, has been well received by students.
  • Tech Access: Our teaching team has advocated for and works towards making sure that every child has tech access at home. Thanks to the support of many, we have almost reached this goal.
  • RTI: Our current RTI approach helps us to meet the needs of these students. I hope that we can increase this two/three day approach to a five day a week approach for our high needs students. The RTI is tailored towards students' needs and interests and is typically taught by a dedicated teacher with small groups.
  • Consistent, Targeted Programming: I will continue to advocate for better programming with regard to supporting these students. I think better programming will include just right reach with regard to goals, optimal scheduling, good staffing, and perhaps a good program guide. I identified one program that may be able to serve us well in this regard, Math 180. There are many opinions as to how to teach math well, and this is a constant point of discussion in teacher circles everywhere. 
  • Homework Club: I'm thinking of starting a homework club next year to support these students. I think this could be a helpful addition to our school program. A homework club already exists for some, but I'm thinking that I might be able to extend this next year. It's too late to start this year as my room is often used after school and there are already transportation and other efforts in place that wouldn't necessarily support this effort. 
  • Early Year Meetings/Orientation: I want to work with my colleagues to think about how we might meet with families of high needs students early in the year so that we can make sure those students have the supplies and support they need.
High needs students belong to multiple groups and have "high needs" for all kinds of reasons--it's not a one-size-fits-all group. It is, however, a group that shares the common denominator of needing a bit of extra support and care to succeed in school, and we don't want to leave those students behind. 

Digging In: Standards Focused

Yesterday's start back was a bit more rocky than I expected. A project that I thought the students would easily complete was more challenging than I anticipated. My colleagues and I talked about it, and they came up with ways to make the project goals and activities more accessible--ways I'll introduce my students to when we return to the project in a few days. When I mentioned the issue to the principal, he mentioned, in a positive way, that we are always learning as educators, and that's something I agree with.

We received some system-wide test results which were very favorable pointing to a lot of positivity with regard to one aspect of the teaching/learning program. I was happy to see those results which inspire me to use a somewhat similar preparation approach for the spring MCAS tests. I also noticed some ways that we can improve learning with regard to students who didn't score as well--we've been looking into that situation all year. One way that I think we can serve these students better is to identify them early in the year, and create realistic, meaningful goals and program for those students--a program that doesn't expect students to jump multiple grades with regard to skills, concept, and knowledge, but instead a well designed program that's created to move students up with more thoughtful, engaging, targeted activities that students will embrace with enthusiasm, interest, joy, and success.

During math today, teachers will introduce students to the fraction story project during RTI and then give students a chance to start this project. In class we'll step back into fraction study and begin to review, study, and learn each standard and concept with a deep look at model making, language, and number work. The exercises are designed so that each lesson will include an explicit introduction, individual practice/teacher support, and then independent work/choice with regard to multiple learning options.

It will be good to be back on track with our typical learning schedule now that our homeroom days and vacation have ended. There is both a sense of peace and accomplishment with regard to following the routine we carefully put together early in the school year. Onward.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Next Leg of the Learning Journey

Like me, many children will have a bit of trouble leaving the comfort of their homes to return to school this morning. I'm sure that like me, they enjoyed choosing the events they chose each vacation day. Yet, within a few minutes, we'll all be back chatting about the vacations and gearing up for the weeks ahead until our next break.

We have a good routine in place, a great community of teachers and learning, a good place for learning, and wonderful goals for the teaching/learning ahead. I'll arrive with a smile, questions, and care as we embark on the next leg. May it be the start of another good excursion.

Don't be a Bystander

When I consider bystanders, I worry and wonder.

Bystanders exist at all levels of work and living.

Simply there are bystanders who see or hear bad news, but don't speak up out of fear or possibly because they don't want to get involved.

There are bystanders on the playground who watch an unfortunate event occur and don't speak up.

There are bystanders in our professional lives who witness unfair or unprofessional events and stay silent.

There are bystanders at the national and world levels who witness illegal or unethical events and turn a blind eye.

It's not positive to be a passive bystander, instead if you see or hear something of importance, it's critical to speak up. Speaking up generally saves all involved from the bad act that could follow.

We've seen this happen with criminal acts. Bystanders stand by while a colleague or buddy speaks out or acts in a negative way. Instead of speaking up to caution ore remove their friend, they let it happen, and when the bad act happens people are hurt in multiple ways.

One way to save yourself from the bystander dilemma is to be upfront from the start--let people know, this is who I am and what I stand for. Also as soon as the bad news begins to happen, remove yourself, go to the proper authorities, and act for good. Too many times people allow themselves to stay apart of negative events for so long that by the time it reaches the challenge point, they're too deeply invested to speak up without grave repercussions.

No matter, we save a lot of people grief and trouble, if we speak up and act even when it is uncomfortable to do so.

Don't be the bystander who stands by and witnesses the bad acts, instead speak up and act. If you do this, you'll save many from troubles that await.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Living in Trump World 2017

I must say I'm not at peace during the start of Trump's reign as President of the United States. It's difficult to focus on my work as a mom and teacher, when daily the news fills me with fear, worry, and the need to research so that I can understand what's going on.

Demeaning Speech
First of all. Trump's speech is mostly demeaning and degrading. He demonstrates no evidence of research, facts, empathy, care, or compassion. Instead he uses simple, negative words to demean whole groups of people when he tweets "sick," "bad," and "fake" so often.

Dismantling America as We Know It
The news demonstrates that his speak is resulting in negative action as we see a rise in hate crimes. Rather than standing up for our diversity and respect for one another, he incites hate. He has not spoken up in favor of our public schools, but instead works to dismantle our schools with support for vouchers and school choice.

Further, he seems to come out against the First Amendment often as he infers one religion is better than another, the news is "fake," and denounces free speech with degrading remarks rather than clear, thoughtful responses.

As an average American, I feel oppressed by Trump's clear regard for the wealthiest people and his own efforts to build his fortune as he leads America. As he holds business at his own hotels and resorts, the public money that supports his Presidency also supports his private business. He clearly supports those that live to become wealthy and powerful, and is less interested in the average person. We see this in his quick decision to get rid of the Affordable Care Act rather than improve it. It seems as if Trump values some over others, and is not a President for all Americans.

Trump has spoken untruths during press conferences. His ties to Russia are very suspect, and the fact that he is not supporting an independent investigation of Russia's influence over the election, but instead asking the intelligence organizations to put this reporting to rest is very worrisome. It feels as if he wants to trick the American people, playing us for his own interests.

Love of Country vs. Love of Self
It does appear that Trump's self-regard trumps his regard or interest in our country.

Perhaps I'm all wrong about Trump, and every day I hope I'll wake up and read a news report that proves me wrong and demonstrates that we truly have a terrific leader at the helm. But I've yet to see this occur.

I will find ways to use my voice, time, and influence to affect votes, decisions, and events in the days ahead. I want a good country and a good world. I believe that the involvement of all will result in the continuation of a strong, good country and a good world. I believe that none of us know it all, but together we can do good work. Onward.

The Good Leader

There is lots of talk of leadership today--talk that makes us ask the question, Who is the good leader?

I've worked with many leaders over time, and as I've worked with them, I recognize the following qualities as qualities of good leaders.
  • Good leaders are empathetic. They see the person before they see the problem/opportunity.
  • Good leaders are both practical and visionary. This is what is amazing about good leaders. They lead for today and tomorrow at the same time.
  • Good leaders are forthcoming, transparent, and willing to stand up for what they believe in. There's little guessing about what good leaders believe in and support--they tell the truth about what they believe in and keep their messages out front so that everyone knows what they think.
  • Good leaders are willing to publicly change their minds. Good leaders know that no one knows all, and in this respect the good leader is willing to listen and learn as he/she works with others to make decisions.
  • Good leaders are collaborators. They work well with others to make good decisions.
  • Good leaders compromise. They recognize that most good policy and decisions are the result of honest debate, hard work, and compromise.
  • Good leaders are lovers--yes, they use the tenets of love and care in all they do.
  • Good leaders use ambition to feed mission and do not let ambition trump mission.
  • Good leaders are ethical--they don't lead with favoritism, cronyism, special deals, and secret actions.
  • Good leaders are humble. They admit failure and mistake and look to the wisdom of many to lead.
  • Good leaders are compassionate. They lead with an eye on caring for others and making decisions with and for others by "stepping into their shoes."
We all look forward to working with and for good leaders. As educators it's important that we work to develop the skills and knowledge of good leadership in the students we teach as our world depends on good leadership.
Also as educators it's important for us to develop the skills and knowledge of good leadership as we do our work so we model good leadership with the classes, clubs, and efforts we lead.

Good leadership is not a simple science. It takes time to become a good leader, and it's development that never ends as every leader can always get better and learn more. 

Who are the good leaders amongst you? How do they display this worthy talent and effort? What criteria did I miss on my list above? 

How Do You Develop and Embed Rich Learning Experiences?

I suggested that fifth grade teachers in our system write a grant proposal to obtain training from our local Challenger Center. For the past few years, we've been taking fifth graders to the McAuliffe Center to engage in a virtual learning experience related to the responsibility and potential we have as planetary citizens. Students are inspired by the hands-on virtual space exploration experience and the planetarium presentation. Students are equally inspired by visiting the local college campus of Framingham State University--for some, it's their first visit to a college campus.

In response to my suggestion, one of the bright and committed members of the system-wide grade-level team wondered in an email if this study would be connected to the state's new science standards. I looked up the standards and found a connection. Yet as I thought about this colleague's question, it brought up the perennial important question, "How do we work together as an educator team to create and implement rich learning/teaching programs?" This question begs further questions such as:
  • What is the ideal strategic process for curriculum idea research, share and growth?
  • How do we regularly embed the knowledge, research, ideas, and questions of all stakeholders (students, families, educators, administrators, and citizens)  into curriculum design efforts?
  • What role does good communication play in this effort?
  • How is lead time employed so that teachers can be ready for new teaching/learning?
  • How do we embed standards into rich, interdisciplinary, multi-modal, and engaging learning experiences?
  • How do we make the best use of our professional learning time in this regard?
  • How do we plan together, maximize "collective genius," and also respect educator diversity and the diversity of our teaching/learning contexts--everyone's class and school is a bit different with regard to interests, needs, support, and more?
  • How do we see curriculum planning and design as the moving target that it is? Knowledge and resources are changing at a quick pace and this impacts the teaching/learning we do--how do we best respond to this change so that we teach with relevancy and meaning? (I just bought Friedman's book, Thank You for Being Late, to help me find answers to this question. One idea Friedman discusses is the fact that "stempathy" (the combination of STEM and SEL) will be an important career of the future. )
I am a fan of rich, interdisciplinary learning experiences, yet I understand that we need to also balance that with quality skill development at the early grades too. I'll continue to think about my colleague's good question as I continue to think about and develop units of study with students and colleagues to serve students and their families well. 

What do you think of this discussion? What ideas do you have to add? 

Important Ideas and Initiatives to Consider

As I read many social media threads about education daily, I wonder how our system will embrace the following important initiatives and ideas.

I believe our system needs to embrace coding with greater depth and commitment at grades K-5. This can be integrated in engaging way that builds proficiency with coding, mathematical thinking, and problem solving skills.

Sustainable Living
There have been many extraordinary teacher and parent volunteer efforts to build this work in our school, but to truly do a good job requires staffing that has the time and some budget for this work. To do well with this will also take administrative support with regard to curriculum efforts and decisions. For example, while this work is a direct match to fifth grade science standards, the work, to date, has not been supported or embraced in that regard. As educators we have tight expectations with little room left over to embrace this important life-enriching teaching and learning. All around our community are organizations and people willing to support these efforts, but most require some funding so it would be important to look for ways to build this into the budget. I don't think it has to be extra money, but I believe that we can reroute current dollars to support this effort well in our schools.

The school is working to embed greater SEL and mindfulness efforts. There has been some effort to enlist teacher voice and choice in this endeavor. I hope that inclusivity will continue as these efforts grow so rather than an add-on as some efforts have been, they will be embedded into our standards-based efforts in natural and positive ways.

Project Based Learning
I think that we have to be mindful that our curriculum is not too slanted in the direction of skill acquisition over deep, holistic project based learning. It needs to be a mix of both, and hopefully we can move towards bringing back and improving some of the rich project based learning that we utilized so well in the past.

Talking about What Matters
I hope we can elevate the way we create, communicate, and collaborate in schools so that most of our together time is strategically used to share meaningful ideas and build good teaching/learning experiences for our students and their families.

Continued Analysis of Roles, Structures, and Routines
How can we best use the roles, structures, and routines available to foster the best possible education for every child. As I look around I see room for change and growth in these areas--change and growth that could potentially develop our collective ability to teach every child well.

Elevation: Inspiring Communities

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend an art show at a beautiful library in a privileged community in New England. The library was designed by a famous architect and the minute I walked into the small building, I was inspired. Not only was the building beautiful inspiring, but the way it was set on the land in the small community was similarly wonderful. As I often think when I experience places of beauty, Why can't every community profit from such natural and architectural beauty?

In what ways can we pool our resources to support inspiring, welcoming communities? What creativity can we bolster to make this happen? What lesser material objects and projects can we sacrifice in order to support more beautiful and inspiring spaces?

On Friday night in Cambridge, MA, I had a similar feeling as I watched people comfortably bike down safe bike trails. I also watched children and adults playing at a wonderful little neighborhood park.

Paying attention to our natural and human-created spaces and places makes a difference in the kind of lives we have. In a time when many jobs are lost to automation, I think we can look for ways to elevate the communities we live in by paying more attention and time to our architected and natural spaces and places with regard to jobs and money.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

For Self or For Others?

As I think about national politics, I wondered what is at the root of the divides that exist. I wonder if some are choosing religious beliefs over our country's Constitution. I wonder if some are choosing for rights of a particular race, culture, gender, or geographical area over the welfare of the whole country? I wonder if some are choosing for personal gain rather than community gain?

When it comes down to it, I think we all struggle with the question of for self or for others? When do you choose or advocate for self, and when do you put that energy into efforts for others? Ideally when we choose for self, we also choose for others--that's when it's easy. But often this question creates a dilemma of choice, voice, and action.

Simply, this occurs in family life all the time. If you have a few extra dollars, who do you spend those dollars on--your parents, children, self, neighbors? The same is true for time--how and where do you use your time? When do you sacrifice time and money in order to help others, and when do you choose to spend that time or money on your self?

What efforts impact self and/or others well? Is it true that you sometimes think you're choosing others, when in reality, you are choosing self? And are there times when you deny self in order to serve others, but then truly serve no one.

How do you choose when it comes to the question of for self or others? What criteria do you use? How do you discuss this question with those you love most?

As in all things, I believe a balanced, thoughtful approach works best. You can't give to all or be all, but you can choose to give regularly to those you love and those in your communities of work and living. You can't totally deny yourself or else you won't have anything to give.

As I think of politics today, I wonder about our leaders too--are they choosing for self or for others? What criteria and process do they use to choose? How can each of us affect their choices with our time and effort too?

It's a complex world, and to navigate it well demands that we ponder questions like this one. It's also important that we recognize that while we hold some influence, we can't predict or impact all decisions.

What do you think about this question? I'm curious?

The Challenge of Deep Work

Like many, I gravitate towards the quick fix. I like to think about a topic, make a decision, and then act. Yet, the kind of work I'm called to do at this juncture in my career takes a bit more time, research, and thought. It won't be as quick as other work I've done. Instead it will be work that requires greater self discipline, study, and patience too.

As I push myself forward in this regard, I know it's important both for my growth and for my work with children because I will become more cognizant of the kind of learning we ask students to reach for. I will know what it feels like to be in the thick of it as you try to learn something new and something that's not so easy for you to learn. That experience builds empathy, compassion, and the ability to coach and mentor my students better.

I enjoy a good challenge and this reach will provide that greater challenge for me in the days ahead. Onward.

Little Progress

I worked diligently on a project recently only to find it was rated as showing "little progress." I was dismayed at the analysis since I had put so much time into the project, but I can't say I disagreed. As far as I could tell, the rating of "little progress" was accurate for my work relative to the rubric I was scored on, yet it wasn't relevant to the time I put into the project.

Could I have progressed more?

As I think of this, I don't think I could have progressed more given the time available and the growth I needed to obtain. The first steps on the rubric were, in some ways, giant steps for me--steps that took a long time. Plus, the higher levels on the rubric, demanded efforts that I'm not ready for right now and may never be ready for given my current role at school and the kind of work I want to do with and for students.

The project response left me thinking deeply about who I am in the education field and who I want to be?

In time, I'll take a closer look at the rubric as it is a rubric I value and studied with depth. I'll think about whether the criteria that demonstrate greater progress are criteria I want to strive for, and if so I'll think about how to get there. I can understand that those that scored the projects want to set a high and respectful bar for educators to reach for.

I'm also wondering about the overall goal of the rubric too and how it fits into my daily life as an educator--does an educator in my role have the time to reach those higher levels of progress or is our role such that to do a good job where we are we have to focus on what are considered the lower levels of progress with regard to this initiative? Context plays a role too, and I'm wondering how the context in which I teach affected my progress too. Opportunities that may exist in some contexts may not exist where I am. This is an important factor since the rubric responds to a national learning community, not just one state or community.

As I develop my practice as an educator there have been as many high points as low points. When I succeed I feel that burst of forward-moving energy, and when I don't succeed, I move into a period of reflection to understand why I didn't meet with success. As suggested by many, I typically don't give up and try, try again by getting involved in a variety of initiatives.

In the end as I reflect on the "little progress" noted in response to my project, I recognize that the "little progress" resulted in significant progress for me as it led me to get involved in projects, committees, efforts, and advocacy that I would not have signed onto prior to the project. The project opened my eyes to paths available and the kind of work involved with regard to bettering many aspects of my work as an educator. Therefore I don't regret the work I put into the effort.

There's a part of me, however, that wishes I had the opportunity to get involved in this work as a younger teacher, and there's a part of me that wishes the greater education community valued the work involved in this project as that would set the stage for good growth for educators all along their career, and this would result in positive efforts in learning communities throughout the country.

"Little progress" resulted in lots of reflection, reflection that will serve to move me forward with regard to my work to teach well on my own and with colleagues in the days ahead, and I guess overall that's not a bad result. Onward.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Doing Your Part

Do you do your part? And if so, what is your part?

This is a consideration in everyone's life and a consideration that will change depending on life's events.

As I think on this today, I'm struck by the following events and efforts.

Politics, Policies, and Laws
President Trump has everyone talking politics. He's certainly got me thinking about political activism as I don't agree with much of what he has done so far so I'm learning to speak up, research, and learn more about our local and national politics and policies. Hence, I'll follow the Moore plan and be more active.

Local Action
When I called Senator Markey's office, I asked the polite and interested associate what she thought I should do. She recommended acting locally to make effective change. I heard a similar message last year when I attended the Massachusetts' Teachers Union's Next Generation Leadership weekend program. Local action for me will mean the following:

  • Good service to the school system where I teach with regard to my daily efforts and participation in committees and special efforts.
  • Good service as part of the MTA, a union I belong to and value.
  • Daily reading about local events and greater involvement in local politics. I've yet to do this, but will begin an effort in this regard in coming weeks.
Live Simply, Give More with Regard to Time and Other Supports
I want to live with less and be able to give more. This will take some concerted effort and will increase as my children's needs become less. I still have another four years of college payments to think about, but once I'm past that, I should be able to do a bit more in this regard. 

Be Informed
Education is power--the more we know about the truth and what's right and good, the better we can contribute and serve. A regular diet of reading good books, attending lectures, and awareness of current events, news, and articles will serve this purpose well. 

Health and Happiness
This is the fuel that energizes all of the activities above. 

What does "doing your part" mean to you? How do you contribute at home and beyond? Does this matter and if so, why? I'm thinking.

Vacation's End: Plans for the Next Leg of the Year Spring 2017

As I ponder this morning, I realize that in a few days we'll be back at it with many goals for the next leg of the school year. Goals that include the following:

Monday, February 27
We'll begin the day with an energized cultural enrichment. Then we'll work on our identity project. After that students will work on their showcase portfolios. A few students will complete standardized tests during these days since they didn't have a chance to finish the tests prior to vacation.

February 28-March 7
Students will study many fraction concepts with greater detail and depth. They'll also work on a fraction story project during RTI and on their own time. Homework is focused on fraction story project.

March 8
Fraction Assessment Day

March 9 & 10
Fraction story project focus and more portfolio work including reviewing past assessments, making corrections, and completing a math reflection sheet.

Week of March 13
This is parent-student-teacher conference week. Focus on multi-step problem solving in math in connection with algebraic thinking standards/fraction concepts. Homework includes review of algebraic thinking concepts, knowledge, skills.

Week of March 20
Continued attention to multi-step problem solving with specific attention to measurement and fraction concepts. Homework includes review of algebraic thinking concepts. Algebraic Thinking test 3/22.

Week of March 27
Continued review and practice of fraction concepts as well as fraction story projects. Homework reviews fraction concepts. Fraction II test 3/30.

Week of April 3
Review of volume/geometry concepts. Homework: continued review of problem solving and fraction concepts.

Week of April 10
Curriculum review and practice. Systemwide math test 4/12.

This leg of the school year is focused heavily on meeting the common core expectations in math, expectations that include many standards. I know that students will be able to power through that with good energy and support. Onward.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Long Wait for an Answer

For years I've been working with a group of individuals that don't adequately respond to questions. This has been painstaking since the time between asking and getting a direct, understandable answer is often weeks. The reason this is so painful is that there is so much opportunity lost within those weeks.

For example, recently I posed a question, a question that impacts the work I plan to do with students. I received a response that the question would be forwarded to others. Then about two weeks after that I received an answer, but the answer was not understandable so I had to ask another questions, and now I am waiting for that answer.

All of these questions lie in a similar area of work, an area for which I see tremendous potential for student investment, contribution, and growth. I notice that children who are privileged have ready access to this area of learning, but children without as much privilege or leadership in this area are left behind.  I know that this gap contributes to the opportunity gap that contributes to variability in student scores and later opportunity/success in life. That's why I care about this area of work.

Yet for years I've been met with one steep wall after another as I attempt to integrate this teaching/learning effort into my work in meaningful ways. What's a teacher to do?

I will do the following:
  • Invest in teaching/learning areas where there is positive support.
  • Continue to advocate for betterment in the area that is blocked through other channels at the state, union, and advocacy levels.
  • Be patient as I know, in time, what I wish for will be true since multiple other school systems are investing good time and effort in this regard and getting strong results. This will grow to a level where it will certainly positively impact my efforts too.
In general, in areas where the teacher's voice is left out or minimal, less good, positive change occurs. When educators are fully integrated into the decision making and good work possible for children, betterment occurs. I honor those leaders and colleagues who support the ready, positive, and consistent integration of all stakeholders' voices and choice in matters that impact student success. I know that I'm not alone in this regard. 

Better Living

I'm focused on better living these days. I'm focused on this at home, at school, and with regard to the broader world we live in. How do we move towards betterment in all that we do?

Care, Compassion, and Kindness
Way back I was a bit cynical about these words. I saw them as superficial and meaningless in many ways. Yet with years of study and reflection, I recognize the strength and power these words and actions hold--truly if we care with compassion and kindness, we contribute to betterment in our own lives and the lives of others. Recently I witnessed the great power of these words once again, and was once again both humbled and elevated by the strength of these actions. We can disagree, and we can do that with care, compassion, and kindness.

Stepping into Another's Shoes: Empathy
We have to make the time to step back and reflect on what others around us are experiencing. This is so necessary as we face new immigration policies. When it comes to any group of people, typically "one-size-fits-all," uniform decisions aren't good. This is so true for immigration since there's so much history, personal experience, and contextual matters that play a role in this situation. We have to be highly sensitive as a people with regard to our immigrant neighbors, friends, and community members--what we do today in this regard will affect the lives of many well into the future. Quick, one-shot policy or decisions, in this regard, can only be harmful.

Building Better
Focus on how we can improve our homes, yards, parks, playgrounds, schools, community buildings, sidewalks, and other public spaces is essential. When we live in inspiring, beautiful communities, we live with greater confidence, happiness, and grace. How can we work together to make improvements to our public/private spaces, and perhaps, we can use this betterment to create more jobs too.

Simplicity and Sharing
Most of us probably need about one tenth of the material objects we own. The less things we have to take care of, the more time we have for shared endeavor and deeper commitments. Looking at how we can share our wealth of objects, time, and talent is one way to move towards betterment. If everyone reaches out with their best skills, talents, property, and wealth--more will do well in our world.

Who can we support at home, in school, and beyond to better our lives and world. There are so many places that we can invest our time to better our situations and the situations of others. We need to think carefully about this and make sure we are investing in deep, meaningful work rather than superficial efforts. It's best if we think with others in this regard.

We can all commit to contribution--giving time and energy towards betterment for ourselves and others. As I think about this, I'm hoping to do the following:
  • Continue to support those I love in obtaining their positive dreams, goals, and pursuits in life. 
  • Continuing to work with others in the school community to maintain and develop the best possible schools--places where children are welcome, cared for, and learn with strength, skill, knowledge, creativity, and confidence.
  • Continuing to look for ways to contribute to my community with regard to betterment. This is probably the most challenging call since there is a lot to learn about with respect to how to get involved, contribute, and interact with the complex communities we live in. 
When I listen to the news, hear the stories of friends and neighbors, dream, and think, I see tremendous potential for betterment. I'm committed to betterment because I believe that we have the opportunity as a people to forward the good life for all, and there is great joy in that. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Evidence Driven Conversation and Decision Making

I have always been drawn by emotion, big speak, and generalizations.

My father-in-law would always respond to my big speak with the comment, "Where's your evidence?"

I was mostly stumped as I couldn't recall the specific fact, data, or analysis that led me to that conclusion.

Lately as I advocate for school improvement and betterment, I've been drawn into a deeper conversation about what works and what doesn't. Our decisions as a school community often draw on multiple resources that provide evidence for our decisions. Thanks to the Internet, I have access to all kinds of data and statistics to prove or disprove points.

For example, as I watched Trump and DeVos speak to a panel recently, Trump used a fact. It didn't seem truthful to me so I looked it up to find that Trump was correct. Yet, when he spoke about Sweden and violence in America, the facts he used were not supported.

We all have to bring the conversation deeper. We have to move from "sound bite debates" to deeper, more thoughtful speak, discourse, and debate about issues that really matter.

Trump won his campaign with sound bites that demeaned many and made him seem like he was the solution to the ills that pain many Americans, yet sound bites won't solve problems--good, deep, critical process will solve problems.

Intrigued by a conservative event that's happening soon, I looked up the website. I noticed a video on the front page spewing all kinds of bogus facts about why we need to support new gun laws. It was clear that the film was using techniques of propaganda to fire up the masses with respect to gun laws. Then I looked up the facts to find out that the film was truly exaggerating data and statistics to gain support.

As a people we have to go deeper, get stronger, and be more specific about our discussions, decisions, and solutions. We can't rely on sound bites, big speak, and loose conjecture. We have so much information at our fingertips and we have to use that information critically and work together with the experts to make good decisions.

If there's been any lesson with the new President, it's that we have to be evidence-driven in our decision making. We have to seek out the facts and truths of situations and use our best "collective genius" to solve problems, create, and innovate.

None of us alone know what's true and right for a country of such diverse needs, interests, and knowledge, yet I think we can all still agree that our common aim of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is where we can begin the conversation.

Americans United: Speak Up and Act

It seems like there are forces that would like to divide Americans at this important time in our nation's history. As a people we have to work against this division and come together to continue to build a strong, free nation with the goal of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all citizens.

As I think of the theme of uniting Americans, I'm reaching for our common denominators--what can bring us together as a people.

A Good Life for Our Children, Grandchildren
It's difficult for me to imagine any American who would choose policy or activity that would hurt or hinder our children and grandchildren's future. What can we do to make a good life for those that will live long after we are here? It seems to me that as we consider this, we must pay special attention to the following areas of concern:
  • Clean water
  • Fertile land
  • Good schools
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Basic rights of food, shelter, health care
If we look carefully at the data and statistics with regard to what is working for children and what is not, then we can begin to work on a child-centered agenda for our nation. 

Clean Water, Fertile Lands
To live well, we need clean water and fertile lands. To maintain our natural resources, we have to work with experts to make the best possible decisions for the short term and long term. Many want to turn their heads from this reality, but the truth is that countries that pay attention to this will be countries that maintain greater power and potential for the future. Short sighted, greedy policy will weaken our democracy. We have to work together in this regard.

Respect and Understanding of All People
America is and has been a nation of immigrants. Our diversity has made us strong. It's essential that we embrace this fact and work with it to provide "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to all of America's people. When we lead with only some in mind, we weaken our democracy.

Clearly Americans are interested in jobs. To me, this is one reason that Trump won the presidency We have to create these jobs with a forward vision of our country. If we work to create good jobs with good policy, we will make our country stronger. A forward vision of job creation may include the following:
  • More well-paying jobs in public service in order to care for people's shelter, nutrition, health and education. The money for this can be created by more equitable taxation with regard to those who make far more money then they will ever need.
  • More well-paying jobs with regard to protecting our natural resources--let's keep America's natural resources including clean water, fertile land, and beautiful landscapes/waterscapes strong, forthcoming, and beautiful.
  • Investment in jobs of the future--the kinds of jobs that will better our world including biotechnology, clean energy, space exploration, and more.
  • Most Americans agree that it's time to re-think our foreign imports, particularly those imports that rely on slave labor and exasperate the world's inequality. Bring jobs home, pay well, and as Americans, lessen our material wealth--we don't need all the material things we have. Instead we need to buy less, pay more, share more often, and enjoy better quality products--products made in America.
Strong Communities
We need to focus heavily on the welfare of communities using a contextual lens. Good quality communities in America won't be cookie-cutter communities, but instead unique and distinct representing the context of the people, their lands, and their needs. In this respect, the government needs to think carefully about both the distinct and common factors that communities need to prosper, factors such as good health care, clean and fertile natural resources, natural/human-made beauty/architecture that inspires, recreation, the arts, and entertainment. The government needs to respect each community's uniqueness and support the common factors of culture and good living that support "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." With greater automaticity comes the need for greater service to one another and a greater need for recreation, the arts, and education. Infusing communities with sustainable gardens, great bike paths, parks, libraries, theaters, and more will elevate all of us to be good people of the future who prosper in strong, distinct communities throughout the country. 

Global Partner
We are intertwined with countries around the globe. The key is to work together so that every country can offer their citizens good living. We need to work to be a good global partner. When the world's people are treated with dignity and have what they need, many of the problems the world faces today will go away. We rely on one another and it's integral that we work with countries around the world with that in mind. 

Our troubling leadership today is waking all of us up to the need to get involved, have a vision, and work together towards forwarding our democracy and the opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all people in America and beyond. I don't think that any citizen will argue with that. We have to be mindful of greed today, the kind of greed that is short-sighted and looking for gain for some rather than all. I don't deny individual ambition and the desire to do well, but I do worry about the kind of greed that takes and takes and takes without regard for the average individual--the many people that make up our wonderful nation and world. 

It's time for everyone to speak up and act with their best intelligence, understanding, and expertise-we cannot be satisfied with only a few making decisions for the many, but instead all Americans everywhere have to use their voice to make a difference. Our country and lives depend on it. 

Vacation Musings: A Busy Week

It's been one of those vacation weeks when I've felt like I've been in the center of lots of activity. This power-packed week began last week with a snow day, Valentine's Day, and other special teaching/learning events. Then there was Dad's 87th birthday, the swim championships, and SEL study group expectations/efforts. Phew!!!!

The many events went well, and now I'm delighted to have a quiet morning. I love to support positive effort and good work, but to do that, I realize I have to balance all that activity with quiet reading, writing, and resting too. No one can do it all.

With that in mind, I'm wondering about the days ahead and what takes priority. There's lots of family-related events to support in the coming months and I want to be there for those I love as they work towards their goals/dreams and celebrate some milestones too. At school there are many teaching endeavors to support and promote as we work to teach all the children well. As I've noted zillions of times, I have a great team, and the key is to work well with that team to support the learning community of students, families, colleagues, administrators, and community members in that regard. Like the good "teacher-grandmother" I desire to be, I want to be there to support the bright young people/minds that surround me.

In all, the theme will be to stick to the agenda, support the goals set, and quietly move ahead in that regard.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Digging In: Embedding SEL into the Curriculum

For months I've been working with a team of researchers and writers to pen a book about how to embed social emotional learning (SEL) into the curriculum by matching SEL activities and focus to both broad and specific curriculum standards. We are now at the final stages of the book, a book that will be published and released soon. It has been a deep, challenging endeavor and one that I'll dedicate the day to. When we near the release date, I'll share more information, and hope that many of you will find the book useful as you work to elevate your students' ability to access social emotional skills, content, and knowledge to learn, live, and contribute well.

We the People: Civics Education

Do we make the time to teach with depth and focus with regard to civics and our nation's laws. I've been thinking a lot about this as the Trump Presidency prompts me to do considerable research in light of challenging words, policies, plans, and interpretations of the law.

There are a number of ways that we can forward education in this respect with the following actions:

The Right to Vote Upon High School Graduation
I believe that all students who pass a well orchestrated, broad, detailed, and truthful civics course should be able to earn the right to vote upon high school graduation. This kind of high school course would welcome all citizens into our voting community and democracy.

Watch Local Governing Boards' Meetings
I believe that every middle school student or high school students should have the obligation to watch, discuss, and perhaps even participate in local and state board meetings. I watch our school committee meetings regularly and learn so much about our democracy and our school system by watching these meetings.

Read Relative and Founding Government Reports and Documents
Students should have the chance to critically read and respond to current and past government documents of interest and importance. It's important that all students have a chance to understand how to read and decipher the meaning in these documents. I just read the Intelligence departments Russian Hacking document--that would be a great report to tackle with a high school class.

Understand the Workings of Our Government
All students should have a chance to understand and interact with the workings of our government.

I know that many schools pay good attention to the topics above, and our current national situation leads me to advocate for even greater attention to meaningful, well-informed learning experiences that make all Americans keenly aware of our democracy and democratic proces. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Reading the Fine Print: Russian Hacking

Today I read through the unclassified document from National Intelligence related to the Russian hacking of the 2016 Presidential election. It was a good read--a read that made me realize just how much Russia is involved in our social media interaction and our media actions in general

It was interesting to note that the President's claims about the media's unfairness were actually started by the Kremlin's news agency RT much before the President's latest discussion and comments about the topic.

It was disappointing to note the time and money RT invested in demeaning the reputation of Hillary Clinton.

I was left with a number of questions:
  • Of the Trump voters, how many regularly watch shows or read news that originates at the Kremlin sponsored news agency, RT?
  • Of those of us who use social media, how many of us are regularly and unknowingly interfacing with and influenced by Russian tweets, blog posts, news reports, and more?
  • In the face of this impact on our national voting system and democracy, what can we do to eliminate or at least lessen this influence as we think about the future of our country?
There's a lot to know out there and the worst thing any of us can do is to stay mired in the simple speak, read, and finger pointing instead of going deeper, discovering the details, and working for a better America. 

Project Based Learning: The Master Plan

This spring I'll embark on a big project which is to create a master plan for my home.

My simple home sits on a piece of land that abuts wetlands. We are facing issues of erosion, encroaching non-native plants, and needs for household updates.

I'll take what I learned from my days at the multi-disciplinary design firm I worked at many years ago and create a master plan.

The plan will include the following plans and efforts:

  • Using plants to decrease erosion
  • Getting rid of unnecessary objects, materials to make more space
  • Mending, fixing, filling, and supporting areas of the home that are getting worn or outdated
  • Increasing efforts to green our home and lifestyle
I love a big project like this, and will use what I learn to boost my school STEAM teaching efforts as well.

If you have information related to solving erosion issues with planting and boosting greening efforts, let me know. In the meantime, I've got some research and design to do. 

You Can't Act Alone: Solidarity

You can act alone, but your impact will be less than if you align yourself with like-minded groups and organizations to forward your beliefs and vision for our country and world.

Who will you align with?

What will that solidarity look like?

How will that impact your life?

All of us need to find ways to stand up for what we believe in.

I will be thinking about this question in the days ahead.

Education Career: Ten Years from Now

I'm a big fan of the ten-year view. I believe that looking long helps one to decide well for the day.

So as you think about your career in education, what is your ten year view? Where are you now and where do you want to be in ten years?

As I look at my career, I imagine that my day-to-day work with students at school and with students and children elsewhere will become deeper and more sensitive as I reach in, become more detailed, and serve the children in my midst with greater care, knowledge, and understanding.

On the other hand, I expect that my reading, writing, and research will become broader and richer as I strive to learn about this big and wonderful world around us and use that knowledge to do good work with my own children, students, relatives, and other children I may write for, teach, tutor, and serve.

What does this vision look like in real time.

Teacher "Grandmother"
I will continue to teach for the larger part of the next ten years. In some ways I envision myself to be a teacher grandmother during these years since I want to reach in and give more to the young children in my midst. I hope to be a loving, caring, thoughtful, and dedicated mentor, coach, educator, and guide during these years.

I hope that my classroom will be a warm, welcoming environment, one in which children receive the love, care, and guidance they need and desire to learn, be inspired, and go forward with good skill/concept/knowledge, optimism, and strength.

As teacher grandmother with colleagues, I hope to learn from the young, bright colleagues that surround me, and in that way, keep up to date with what students and families need. I also hope to be there for my colleagues to support in any way that I can.

Reader, Writer, Researcher
I truly enjoy collecting, analyzing, synthesizing and reporting on facts, ideas, and information. I imagine that this work will grow in the next ten years as I stand up and speak up for what is right and good. I want to remain open minded to new ideas, potential, and events as I do this work. I believe that my unique position in this regard is to take information from many venues and translate that information into easy to read and understand information. Too often the information from those in the know is difficult for the masses to make sense of or understand given time, access,and interest. I want to bring the thoughts of the best and brightest around us to light for people young and old. This will require me to read and decipher the thick texts, and then to simplify the language into easily digestible posts, poems, children's books, and more. I want to help get the powerful ideas of so many wonderful thinkers, doers, and futurists into the open world. I'm excited about this work and will continue to learn about this dream as I move forward.

Loving Family Member
I want to reach to do more for the family I love. What we can do with and for each other is limitless, and the key is to find ways we can empower and love one another in ways that matter the most. Loving family members begins with having a simple, welcoming home where your children and loved ones are always welcome. After that it means being there for them when they need you, and being there to provide comfort and celebrate too when it's time.

I desire as much simplicity with all things material as possible in the days ahead. I want to do this in order to carve out more time for the goals above.

I welcome your wisdom as I outline the years ahead. It's hard to know where life will take one, but having a loose-tight framework to lean on helps.

A Response to Trump Supporters

I'm curious about why people continue to support President Trump.

I read an interesting Al Jazeera article that interviewed a number of his supporters.

Some of their reasons for support included the following:
  • Desire for law and order
  • Desire for more jobs
  • Right to Life supporters
  • Less expensive health care
  • Breaking down the establishment in Washington
The people interviewed were portrayed as good people, and I have no reason to believe that they are not good people. I thought a lot about their hopes and desires, and with that in mind, I have the following responses. I was also moved by an article I read about the fact that the Senate and Congress passed few laws in the past four years, and now that the President and Legislature are aligned by political group, there's the chance that more laws will be passed. The article reminded us that the passing of laws is typically a messy process that includes lots of debate and compromise 

How Can We Get Rid of The Affordable Care Act Without a Suitable Replacement?
I am worried about Trump's policies with regard to human dignity, respect, and care. I believe that health care is a right (perhaps it should be added to the Bill of Rights) and I also believe we have the potential of meeting that need by educating more people to provide health care in quality centers and hospitals. Perhaps the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but to get rid of it without a replacement that protects people's health care is unjust to those who rely on that health care. Why not improve The Affordable Care Act instead of simply getting rid of it? 

Banning Immigrants and Refugees Based on Gross Generalizations
Whenever any of us speak of others with gross generalizations, we err. No people of any race, culture, gender, geographical location, or other common tie are all the same. It's deeper than that. I am worried about bans on immigrants and refugees based on country of origin or religious background. Instead, I think we have to dig deeper and look at the statistics of health and welfare. Who in our country suffers and why? Where is our safety compromised and why? It's easy to make gross generalizations, and those statements make us feel empowered, but we have to push beyond that primitive impulse to looking deeply at the real data, facts, and information to make decisions that reflect that information in ways that support our country and its citizens. Ultimately I believe at this time in history it's important to have fair vetting processes, but to vet based on gross generalizations is not fair or just and serves to increase prejudice and unjust treatment of individuals. As a world, I do believe we have to move towards open borders eventually in a positive scaffolded way.

Law and Order Prevails
Statistics demonstrate a continual trend towards greater safety, law, and order. Trump himself has exaggerated numbers to make us the think the world is less safe. We all have a responsibility to look at the true facts in this regard. We also have to beware that many news organizations sensationalize and focus on the bad news alone frightening us and making us think that unsafe and violent acts happen far more often than they do. This sensationalism also can lead to greater prejudice and false notions. We have to speak up for fair reporting in this regard, and with true knowledge, we have to continue to work for as much safety and good living as possible. While terrorism is very frightening and horrible, the numbers associated with this are far less than common killers such as specific medical conditions and accidents. One area of law and order that we may work to repair is the number of deaths by guns that have occurred in our country. This surpasses the threat that terrorism has been. Dealing with safe gun use in the same way we deal with safe car use is one step in the right direction in this regard. 

Waging War on Freedom of the Press
I am worried about how President Trump is waging war on the media, when that is in direct opposition to our first amendment:

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Again making gross generalizations about the press doesn't solve problems. Instead it's important to look at "media" with facts, data, and statistics. To discuss media, not as one, but with particular attention to media that is truth telling, relies on good research, and shares honest messages without giving into the pressure of unjust powers and influence. This whole discussion has prompted me to reach out to read a greater variety of news sources. It's also prompted me to look up experts in fields of concern to read their words and ideas. We're fortunate to have so much information at our fingertips via the Internet, and critically utilizing that information well is important and of great value to our choices and future. 

Replace Mistruths with Truths
Why would a President need or want to speak in untruthful ways. Again and again the press is fact checking his words. It seems to me that the President has adequate staffing and support to obtain accurate numbers and information. For example when he noted that he had won the most electoral votes with regard to other Presidents, his facts were clearly incorrect and misleading. His speak about a terrorist act in Sweden was similarly misleading. I don't know why this has to happen and will watch more closely to notice when it happens and why.

Alarming, Frightening Speak
President Trump speaks with seemingly disregard for the important decisions, seriousness, and leadership required with respect to national security. He appears to be callous in this regard and demonstrates little outright awareness of our country's responsibility as a global partner to other countries and people. He is our nation's leader and with that comes great responsibility to speak with measured care and responsibility with regard to important issues of human safety and legal authority. 

Russian Influence
There seems to be a terrible problem related to Russia's influence on Trump's electoral win and perhaps, deeper and even more troubling Russian influence with regard to the Republican's and Trump's leadership in general. Trump does not seem to be taking this seriously and has not spoken up to support an independent investigation of this issue. It seems to me and many others, that we need a deep, honest investigation related to this issue. 

Education for All
President Trump appears not to support a strong public school system as a vital ingredient to our democracy. He appears to speak down about education, yet he and his children have all enjoyed quality education. I believe in public schools and the track record and potential our public schools hold for a strong, well-educated nation. I believe there are too many myths and untruths that surround public education, and in the days ahead I want to read more about this in order to speak well about the potential and possibility our public schools hold for a strong nation. In Massachusetts, where I teach, we have a strong union and strong public schools--students are well educated and leading the country in this regard. I read that the Secretary of Education wants to use Florida as her blueprint for good schools which surprises me since it is not one of the top states with regard to education support and success. In the days ahead, I will think, read, and write more about this. I'm also curious about what Trump supporters have to say about this. There was no clear message about this in the Al Jazeera article, but I suspect that even Trump supporters don't want to give away their tax dollars, choice, and voice to private investors who are more concerned with monetary gain than the sensitive care and education of every child in America.  American taxpayers deserve the right to work with and on public boards to determine how their tax dollars will be used to educate children well within the guidelines of the laws of the United States. 

Choose with the Minds and Heart of Children as Your Guide

We typically do well if we choose with the future and the eyes and hearts of children in mind. If we choose well for future generations, we will choose well for ourselves. Trump's environmental-related decisions appear to be short sighted. They seem to be the kind of decisions that earn us short gains for long term losses. I think he and others in leadership should choose with their children and grandchildren's world in mind. The truth is that those with money will protect clean water and good land for themselves, and those of modest or less incomes will rely on fair laws in order to continue to access clean water and good land. The Detroit water crisis should be a wake-up call to every average American that we need good laws, policy, and oversight to protect healthy, good living in a safe environment. Ms. DeVos, our new Secretary of Education, is from Michigan. Her first call to action should be making sure that children in Michigan have safe water at school and at home. 

Right to Life
Personally with regard to abortion, I consider myself pro-education. I believe that the more educated men and women are, the greater our collective respect and response will be to the safe support of all human lives. I believe that abortion is a personal decision that relies on countless factors, and I don't believe that any woman or doctor aborts without considerable discussion and decision making. I first came to this conclusion in the 1960's when my elderly Catholic grandmother who had lived through a lot in life told me that she was pro-choice. I imagine that she had been in close contact with the difficult decisions and difficult outcomes in a society where abortion was outlawed. Instead of having laws against abortion, I support laws and policies that help every child, man, and women receive a strong education and opportunity to live good lives, lives with basic rights and needs met and lives without poverty, violence, prejudice, and despair.


Clearly Trump supporters desire more jobs for everyone.I believe this begins with fair policies with regard to taxation, work place rules, and community support. I believe we should increase jobs in the human services, and these jobs can be payed for by increase taxation of the nation's wealthiest people and corporations. If every challenged school in the USA had double the staff and that staff better mirrored the cultures students represent, schools would improve. The same is true for environmental and health organizations. Also, I believe that investment in greening our planet is a way to build jobs and protect our environment too. The plans to uplift our country's infrastructure are positive and will bring jobs. If we do this with as much modern knowledge and positive vision for the future, we will continue to build a strong country. A focus on each community and how the government can help those communities grow and thrive will help to bring quality, safe jobs and wages to people throughout the country.

Walk the Walk: Frugality and Respect for All

Trump also needs to think about his own personal investments, businesses, and practices. As the President is he saying he'll support the average American, but living and working in such a way that his own lifestyle serves to not represent what he believes. I want to read and think more about this. 

Focus on the Important Decisions and Work of the Job

Speak of Ivanka's clothing line, popularity, and television shows does not forward our country. The President's diversions to issues that don't relate to the important work at hand are troubling. As many have said, why worry about popularity. The truth is that he won the election. Now it's time to focus on the issues and potential at hand with good strategic process and the consult of a broad, diverse group of experts in the field (not just one similar group of thinkers) to make good decisions with and for the American people.

Everyone is looking for a leader. I was not a Trump supporter, and was surprised to see him win the election. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and thought that he would elevate his speak and actions once he took office. I am dismayed, worried, and saddened at what has happened to date, but I have not given up hope that the tides can turn. I believe that everyone in our country has the responsibility to speak up and act in their areas of strength and knowledge. I am thankful to the courageous judges and lawmakers who stood up to the illegal ban on immigrants and refugees. I am thankful for the lawmakers who are researching, writing, and speaking well into the night to disprove and challenge laws and policies that are unjust and negative for our country and people. I honor all of those in any field that speak up to lead us forward with truth and good work too.

Similarly I honor the voices of Trump supporters too--there was a reason that so many voted for him and I am listening to their words. I don't believe that his supporters are prejudiced and see good work as work for only one race, gender, or people. I also caution his supporters and non-supporters to look deeper at the issues and not be satisfied with mistruths, quick judgement, and simple answers--these are not simple problems, but instead problems that demand the best of who we are using law abiding, equitable and just process. 

I want to respect Trump supporters in the ways that I support all Americans right to say what they believe, but I also want to make sure that we're all well educated and aware as we speak up and work for what is right and good for our own lives and the lives of our neighbors and fellow citizens. I will read more related to this, write, and hope that those elected to lead our country will rise to that responsibility and recognize that they are leaders of all Americans and it is their job to use their best intelligence to do what is right for Americans today and well into the future. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why We Need Great Public Schools

". . the fundamental purpose of public school--physical spaces dedicated to and people committed to educating a nation--is a good one." "In an age when segmentation of society keeps people apart from those who think, look, and live differently from how they do, schools bring us together to learn from and with one another." "As a nation, we can imagine many different models for school, but the fundamental idea that we build places where all children can come together to learn remains one of the best ideas we've ever had as a society. We shouldn't lose it. We just have to make sure our schools reflect the time in which we live."  - Lehmann, Chase, Building School 2.0: 

I am a big fan of the potential public schools hold for our nation and world.

I want to be able to express that support with as much knowledge and thoughtful speak as possible.

I will begin a list of documents, quotes, and other information here as I do this research.
  • Why Public Schools
  • When we give away our money (taxes) to the few to decide for all of us, we run the risk of diluting and losing our democracy. It's important that the tax payers retain voice and choice when it comes to spending tax dollars. Giving away our tax dollars to private investors to run schools will put the emphasis on those private investors' gain rather than the gain of students all across our country. To think that only those with power (investors/private sect) can decide well for our children, is to diminish the rights and responsibilities of all American citizens. It is up to us as a democratic people to support, contribute to, and lead public schools together in ways that give each and every American child the opportunity to dream, learn, prosper, and eventually contribute to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for United States citizens and people across the globe. 

Teaching Well: A Good Night's Sleep

An important part of teaching and living well is getting enough sleep. As I think ahead to the school days to come, I want to be cognizant of this as I know that a good night's sleep leads to a successful day in the classroom.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Egos Aside: A Vision

World leaders got together with the premise that life is short and that they should do what they can to forward a joyful, good life for the people on Earth.

Together they discussed the gravest issues as well as the best of what life on Earth has to offer, and they made a few decisions including the following:
  • Together they would promote conservation of the world's resources including clean water, fertile lands, animal life, and safe, sustainable rural, suburban, and city lands.
  • Together they would work to educate all of the Earth's children with as much strength as possible.
  • Together they would work to secure basic needs of health, home, and nutritious food for all of Earth's people.
  • They would look for ways to share Earth's resources in equitable ways.
  • They would maintain "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" for all of Earth's people.
As they met, they remarked on their good fortune to be leaders, and that great responsibility that meant. They again, noted how short each life is and that life is not worth much without an earnest effort to live well for self and others.

It was a gratifying meeting for the leaders as well as all whom they led. 

Since You Can't Do it All, Choose Well

Fridays find us at our PLC in the morning and our student service meetings in the afternoon. In between, we teach and work with children.

We share a lot of information, ideas, and discussion during Fridays. The ideas are bountiful, but we can't do it all.

As I think about the work we did today, I realize that I'm satisfied with the scheduling proposal we've sent forth to the administration team. We'll see what the next steps are after they have a chance to look over our proposed schedule changes.

Discussions about students, upcoming portfolios, and curriculum efforts focuses our efforts after vacation on lots of targeted teaching, teaming, and response. We won't work with that many more new ideas for the year ahead as our schedules our full and it's time to do continue the work we've started to end the year with the success that we started it with.

I'm in the midst of a large number of professional efforts which means there's little room for any additions in that realm.

The big job overall is sticking to the routine and carrying out the plans I've set myself and with others. The summer will bring time for greater study and new ideas. Onward to a what I'm hoping is a positively busy and happy vacation week.

The Benefit of Having Something to Look Forward To

Typically I meet a difficult challenge by planning something to look forward to.

For example, I have a few challenging projects to complete over February vacation. The projects are related to my school efforts, but not tightly connected to the day-to-day teaching. That's why completing the projects during the vacation time is perfect. Yet, I'd rather be taking off for a getaway.

I won't fret, and instead, recognize that in a few months, I have a number of special events planned--the kinds of events that bring great joy to me and my loved ones.

At school, the other day, when students shared their ideas about bettering the class, one student essentially shared a similar thoughts to this post. She said that she liked the way that I shared the schedule with them about what we have to do and what's to come. She said that helps her a lot. I knew, as she spoke, that in some ways she was stating what I'm stating here--it's easier to stay the course if you have something to look forward to, something beyond the challenging efforts.

I told the girl and the rest of the class that I'd update the class website to demonstrate that kind of planning. I'll also review the planning aloud with the class too.

Beware of Judgement; Move Ahead with Compassion

A bit tired and overwhelmed, I wanted to judge another who was not readily available to help. Yet as I thought about the judgement, I also remembered the great number of efforts this individual has done on behalf of me and others, efforts that I'm not nearly as good at or consistent about.

Rarely, if ever, can we point our fingers at another to say they're not doing their part or they're not doing enough as the truth is there's enough work to go around for all of us and typically everyone is working with care to do their part.

I further thought on this matter and recognized the many ways people could judge me with phrases such as she didn't attend that event; she forgot that anniversary; she didn't complete the activity and more. The reality is that none of us can be all things or do all well, but together, however, with compassion, care, and collaboration we can do a lot and do it well.

Our good work, thoughtful process, and important share matters in this regard. When we come together regularly to plan, think ahead, create, and analyze, we have to be cognizant of the potential possible.

The same is true for our students. No student has it all, and no student has nothing of merit to bring to school each day. At their core, I believe that every student is earnest desiring the best for himself/herself and others. They continually reach to gain what they need and want for themselves and others. The key for the teacher is to figure out those needs and wants which are very clear in some places and much less clear or easily identified in other ways.

I want to keep these words in mind as I move forward into this busy Friday before vacation and Friday before a family member's special 87th birthday celebration. There's lots to do, but most importantly I'll reserve judgement and move ahead with compassion and gratitude. Onward.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Show Me Your Work: Math Precision

Students worked to complete a math assessment.

Prior to the assessment I shared the best strategy for the assessment. I noted that I had given the assessment countless times and knew this was a good strategy.

As part of the strategy, I told students to complete their calculations on paper, not in their heads. As students turned in the papers, I checked to see if they did their work on paper and if they didn't, I sent them back to show me their work.

Afterwards students agreed that their work was more precise once they completed the work on paper.

Many young students are reluctant to persevere enough to carefully show and check their work. That perseverance and precision often separate children who succeed on assessments and those that don't.

Of course precision is only one piece of the math puzzle and we don't want to be so obsessed with precision that we forget the "sloppy copy," broad and big learning that often takes place on the way to precision. That's why one assessment or activity does not tell the whole story about learners and a well rounded curriculum program is preferable to narrow programs.

Seeing Yourself in the Curriculum

Our small RTI group read a readers' theater version of Cinderella since students had been writing fractured fairly tales. As we read the elevated vocabulary in the text, I was reminded of the wonderful Rogers and Hammerstein musical, Cinderella. I played the song for students as we talked about the vocabulary and script.

The children watched and listened. One child sat back in her chair with not a lot of interest.

Then I said, let's watch a more updated version of the same song, and I showed the one below. The little girl in the seat looked on. "I want to watch the whole movie," she responded. Clearly she identified with the second version of the song more than the first.

It's important as we teach that we think about what students identify with and that we find time to connect that identification with the materials we use to teach and learn.

The King of the Hill is Typically not a Good Teacher

Image Link
Did you play King of the Hill as a child? I did, and inevitably the game ended when someone toppled down the heap of snow or small embankment into the pavement below. Yet, we had fun initially and especially when the heap of snow was surrounded by lots of white fluffy snow so the injuries were late in coming.

In schools, sometimes, there are professionals who want to be King of the Hill. In fact, I think that all of us at one time or another are ego driven in this way. The truth of the matter is, however, that the good teacher is not "King of the Hill." The good educator does not push or shove his/her way to the top, but instead collaborates in ways that make everyone they work with (students, families, colleagues, citizens and administrators) winners. I believe that rather than a hill, good educational organizations and systems have greater "flattened" hierarchy, the kind of leveled playing field where everyone has a chance to rise.

As I continue my teaching, I'll think to myself, Does this or that action support a King of the Hill mindset, or does it support a teach all children well mindset? This is an easy vision to keep in one's head and a quick check that "Ambition supports mission, rather than the other way around when ambition trumps mission." Onward.