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Friday, June 30, 2017

Preparing for Days of Good Effort

There's lots of not-so-fun work to do in order to get to the good work and effort ahead. After a big year of teaching and learning, everywhere I look in my home cries for attention--clean me, organize, update, fix, my house cries out.

So today I'll devote the day to readying the "study," my home for the good research, writing, and planning ahead. I truly enjoy my research, writing, thinking and creating work, and I don't enjoy the cleaning and organizing as much. That's why, I'll continue my quest to rid my life of as many objects and articles as possible so that I have the space and time what I love most. Onward.

Debate and Good Effort

Friends and I debated a number of issues last night. It was clear that it's difficult for anyone of us to know all the facts and figures of most subjects since there is such complexity in the world we live in. The area where we agreed most was the area of our similar profession, education, since we have spent so much time in that realm and we know a lot about the day to day workings and research related to our field. We had a lot of empathy, new ideas, and stories to tell with regard to our work to teach children well.

It's a complex time in our world with multiple issues, big and small, at play. Issues like violence, drug addiction, energy, climate control, transportation, health care, and more that affect all of us, and therefore, everyone has something to say about it. Bottom line, I hope our country can come together to do the following:
  • Support a high-quality, equitable public school education for every child
  • Create policies and procedures that support fair working conditions and equitable pay for all employees while they work and once they retire
  • Provide quality health care access and service to all Americans at affordable rates
  • Ensure that all Americans have the money they need to afford suitable shelter, nutritious food, recreation, health, and education
  • Look for ways to creatively boost communities and invite all Americans to contribute to our culture and economy in positive, forward moving ways--better communities, protected natural lands, healthy recreation, clean energy, quality health, education, and other services to one another
  • Work towards positive global partnerships and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness throughout the globe using diplomacy/creative policy and reserving any physical force for extreme circumstances
I will continue to read a number of news reports, listen to friends and others, and consult information via books and other resources to best understand what is happening in our country. I'll speak out against disrespect or individuals no matter what their policy or party is and reflect respect in my own work and endeavor. 

I will continue to engage in civil discourse, discussion, and debate as I work to learn, understand, and contribute positively to the many issues around me. I'll work to ally myself to leaders who "walk the walk" when it comes to good research, policy, and leadership of American people.

Further, I'll work to prepare my home and spend my time in ways that contribute to positive family life, friendships, and professional work. 

It's not a simple world. Our lives our short. The best we can do is to look for ways to contribute to our own lives and the lives of others and our world in ways that are meaningful and matter. I will seek that path. Join me. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Woman to Woman

Women sat in a room.

One felt the discussion was biased and condescending, and another found it supportive and heartfelt.

How could two women with similar positions and lives hear words so differently.

There were differences.

One women was well educated in a traditional sense, and the other was not.

One women was younger and the other older.

The two grew up in very different geographic areas and had differing degrees of family support.

One was less established than the other.

As I look into the cybersphere and so many women and men that I've followed over the years, the men tend to hold court and succeed with more endeavors while the women seem to stay quieter and less visible--why?

I'm sure many have done lots of research on woman-to-woman efforts, differences, and camaraderie.

I want to read more to understand this better.

Does Number Sense Stand in the Way of Good Politics and Policy

Is the inability to quickly visualize and access numbers at the root of some of our most disastrous political decisions and debate?

Due to a lack of number sense, do you think many just embrace political sound-bites and sight-bites that appeal to emotions, personal experience and quick understanding?

How many of us really do the research when we read a fact to find out if that fact is legitimate. For example as we listen to fears related to immigration, how many of us truly research the fact that are associated with those examples to determine the truth in the matter.

It's my belief that too many Americans and world citizens in this data age don't "see" data clearly and are not able to compare numbers realistically.

For example when I read about the amount of dollars Kushner recently borrowed from a bank, I was dumbfounded. I wondered how one man of privilege could borrow so much money when so many people are counting coins to buy groceries and shopping at Goodwill on a Saturday afternoon--the statistical difference was astounding.

If more Americans truly understood numbers, less Americans would stand for the injustices that exist. Instead they would be working hard to right the wrongs and bring more equity to all people in our country.

I will be thinking more about this in the days ahead, and in the meantime, let me know if you agree with this, and if you do, what do you think we can do about it? If you don't agree, tell me why. I'm curious.

No One Has the Monopoly on Truth

Truth has become the centerpiece of American discussion these days. The question, What is true?, is first and foremost on the minds of many as they try to decipher tweets, blog posts, news reports, research, video, and more. President Trump sits at the heart of this debate as he relentlessly cries "fake news," and then appears to tweet and speak some of his own "fake news" related to numbers and other factual information.

Since my youngest days I've been searching for truth. I thought a lot about what is right and good as a young child and throughout my life as I analyzed multiple situations close and far from home. With an undying desire and multiple challenges to do good--I was constantly looking for evidence, modeling, and words of truth.

Where did I find this evidence? What has led me forward in this search?

Mostly the evidence has been born out of good experiences and helpful individuals. Early on I engaged in countless activities with multiple people that brought up good feelings and acts. As a big, extended family we had a lot of fun with each other and helped each other out too. This to me was evidence of truth.

I noticed the changes born out of leaders' good and truthful words particularly with regard to dramatic, deep events such as The Civil Rights movement, the end to apartheid in South Africa, and Gandhi's example of nonviolence. Also less dramatic, but life changing nonetheless, events like Lady Bird Johnson's anti-littering campaign, Michelle Obama's health advocacy, and Jimmy Carter's work with Habitat for Humanity. Close to home I watched Principle Jim Lee's efforts to forward service learning, Ms. Leo's ability to support strong friendships and social competency, and Ms. Mattson's quiet, sensitivity when coaching students ahead. All around me, all my life, I've been witness to truthful acts that forwarded people's experience of living and loving.

As I thought about truth today and the constant debate associated with the search for truth in today's Internet-laden society, I recognized the fact that no one person has a monopoly on truth. There are some, of course, that we believe hold a greater ability to know what is true and how to ascertain that--people like Pope Francis, Desmond Tutu, Barack and Michelle Obama, The Dalai Lama--these men and women are reverent, confident, spiritual, and kind. There are also so many women and men fighting and searching for truth like Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Madeloni--people of the world and people in my world making a difference. There are truths seekers in every profession, many are quiet, little known, and steadfast in their work to find the truth in science, the arts, politics, education, and more.

Even those we disagree with, hold truths--though we may disagree with much of what they say and do, they typically hold truths, in part, related to who they are and what they advocate for. Similarly while we'd like to think that we act truthfully in all we do on our own and with others, it's most probable that some of what we say and do is not true as well--truth is a moving object, an evolutionary and relative concept.

All of us, rightly, should be on the look out for truth in what we say, do, and promote. We are more likely to find this truth if we band with others in our search. Though it will always be true that no one person has the monopoly on truth, but that doesn't make the search or acquisition of this fleeting, abstract concept less positive or alluring.

Point a Finger at Yourself

If you're going to point fingers related to wrongdoing and poor choices, begin with yourself.

None of us are without our shortcomings or areas for improvement.

It's essential that if we point out another's weakness that we are willing to acknowledge our own.

We're all in this together, and if we're all here for all of us as Alecia Keyes so beautiful sings, we'll do well to help one another with our areas of weakness and challenge. Onward.


Trump Teaches

Trump is teaching me.

He is teaching me what not to do and what not to be.

I can see the low feelings of people he demeans in tweets and speeches.

I notice how his political appointees don't reflect our country's diversity of class, culture, and gender.

I recognize how he favorites people of particular looks and wealth over the variety of average Americans.

I recognize the way his vision is that of the past rather than the future.

I worry about his exclusive outlook for America which seems to only include some, not all.

Trump's errant ways are teaching me to be more inclusive, respectful, open-minded, generous and kind. He is an overcorrection to ways of disrespect, dishonesty and greed. He is demonstrating to me that it's best to consult a variety of voices when making decisions and to consult the latest research and experts in any field for which you are deciding or choosing.

Trump is a teacher of what not to do--his leadership is always worrisome.

I will continue to listen. I will stay open minded. I will agree when he speaks in ways that seem truthful and forward moving. I will disagree always with his disrespectful and demeaning speech and acts.

Every person and act in life has the potential to teach us if we are open to the lessons that exist.


Trump's Legacy: Body Shaming and Name Calling

Is President Trump a necessary overcorrection to a culture that was beginning to become too disrespectful and prejudicial? Is he "sent by God" as some on the far right say, and is this savior of sorts here to demonstrate to us just how horrible it is to name call and disrespect others--will that be his legacy?

Day after day, we read Trump's tweets that call people names and refer to blood and body events. Many were shocked when he referred to a women's period during his campaign, and today he refers to blood from a face lift in a tweet. We've heard him call people "losers" and today he discusses an individual's IQ inferring that the person is not bright. Again and again he disparages people he doesn't agree with, and opens the flood gates to those, like him, who respond to issues and individuals with demeaning remarks rather than civil discourse, discussion, and debate.

The question this prompts is why does he do this?

I don't remember a time when a President of the United States was so outwardly disrespectful and demeaning to others?

So why now?

I can imagine many reasons why President Trump may do this.

First, he may do this because it keeps his name at the forefront of articles and the news. Rather than paying attention to deeper, more impactful issues, people are paying attention to his tweets leaving room for him to quietly support issues of greater depth and impact--issues that we may or may not agree with.

Next, he may do it to stay at the center of national and international debate. I've read about the importance of hearing a candidate's name when it comes to voting, and perhaps he knows that his outlandish tweets keep his name up front.

Further, he could be suffering from a physical disability that challenges respectful conduct. Recently, I sadly noted the demise of someone I valued greatly. The man's behavior deteriorated significantly over time. In the end, he had a tragic death--a death that was later found to result from a physical disease.

Or, he just may believe that it is right and good to use harsh words and disrespectful phrases to demean his enemies. He may not believe in civility and respect, and do whatever he wants to do to get his way--a sort of wild west approach to leadership.

Whatever his reasons, I for one do not agree with his use of name calling and disparaging, personal comments. I believe that when the President of the United States acts without respect, he signals to others that it's okay to act without respect and that tears at our country's strength and character.

His comments, often prejudicial in nature, elevate some while demean others--they take a simplistic look at human nature by naming things "good" and "bad" rather than seeing the complexity of matters. His comments belittle human dignity, intelligence, and worth by inferring that the American people are simplistic and beneath the complexity needed to truly analyze, judge, resolve and/or develop the important issues of the day. Further, it seems that he has little regard for the average American as his policies and choices appear to support only those, like him, who have great wealth and represent a predominantly white male culture.

President Trump is confronting the American people with speak and acts that we have not dealt with anytime in the recent past. How will the American people respond to his brash disrespect and erratic behavior? What will this President's legacy be? Will he move past body shaming and name calling to matters of respect and importance or will he continue to represent behavior that is unacceptable in most grade schools, families and communities?

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Meeting with the New Superintendent to Discuss Elevating Elementary Educator Voice, Choice, Leadership

Are educators teaching/learning in future-ready ways?

A wide band of administrators, coaches, and other decision makers circle the elementary school teachers leaving them with less voice and choice than is positive for good teaching and learning. I'm not sure why this exists and wonder if this reality is rooted in old-time gender prejudice that provided less power to fields that were predominantly female. In late July I'll have the opportunity to discuss this topic with our new superintendent of schools. I outlined possible points for the discussion in this post.

Whatever the root cause of the divide noted above, I am now wondering about how can we restructure this reality to elevate elementary school teacher voice, choice, and leadership in ways that matter?

Good structures of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and Response to Intervention (RTI) exist and can play a powerful role in this movement.

What's missing, however, is authentic decision making processes and power, effective communication, leadership, modern professional development, and sufficient time and strategic process for idea share, creativity and innovation.

At the middle school and high school levels, teams of teachers and teacher leaders who work directly with children make most decisions related to curriculum and teaching. This model empowers what those educators can do with and for students and their families.

At the elementary level, however, there is an experience of oppression that exists given the lack of choice/voice/leadership, the dearth of good communication, some lack of equity, and at times disrespectful treatment--how can we make positive change?

I have a number of ideas, and I wonder what others have to say or think about this. Ideas that I think will transform our work include the following:
  • Creating a new teacher-centered distributive leadership structure at the elementary school
  • Adopt a co-coaching model where educators coach each other rather than the more hierarchical model of a few coaches who manage and support educators. The co-coaching model minimizes the distance between coaches, teachers and students since all co-coaches are both teaching students and helping one another move the program forward. I believe our reading coaching model is a positive model of student-support and co-coaching. 
  • Include educators in all communication in transparent, timely, inclusive ways eliminating the fact that some are in the know and others are not--shared knowledge increases capacity. Specifically I advocate that information related to all curriculum meetings, school council meetings, curriculum director-principal meetings, faculty senate meetings and administrative meetings are shared in a timely, easy-to-access manner. I also think it's a good idea to invite educators to attend those meetings to represent the educator voice--the representation of rotating educators could be done in a fair way that well represents the educators in the system. This kind of representation would minimize cliques, conjecture, hearsay, and miscommunication that occurs at times. 
  • Use good, inclusive, collaborative, strategic process for all curriculum initiatives rather than simply relying on the decision making of administrators or administrator-chosen teams alone. Re-looking at current process and elevating that process with greater strategic process and inclusion of all stakeholders will save time and increase capacity for modern day, effective learning and teaching. It could be that hiring an outside, objective consultant related to good, strategic process in the modern age would be helpful in this regard. 
  • Eliminate hearsay, conjecture and games of "telephone" by communicating clearly and regularly using proactive, modern and streamlined models of good communication with hard-copy references. Technology affords us terrific tools for streamlined, inclusive, two-way communication that serves to both inform as well integrate many points of view into information share. 
  • Lessen the numbers of individuals who do not work directly with children--ensure that all or almost all administrators, coaches, and other managers/decision makers have regular teaching/learning time since planning for, teaching, and assessing the learning is the essence of our work and when too many decision makers are distanced from that work, the decisions are not as good as they could be.
  • Use a servant-leadership model where administrators serve educators and other staff, and staff and educators, in turn, serve students and their families. 
  • Modernize professional development by moving away from one-size-fits-all "boxed" professional development to personalized, responsive, blended professional development so that every educator is getting the kind of professional development that meets their needs and interests with regard to teaching well. Match these efforts in proactive ways with the evaluation process to develop rather than simply judge educator work and progress. Provide greater choice when it comes to professional development time, and find simple and effective ways to assess the impact of professional development. It's important to widely, sensitively and transparently share the results of assessments too so that all can be thinking about how to better use professional development dollars and time. 
  • Re-look at, analyze, and revise the evaluation system. Currently, I believe, there is wasted dollars, time, and result connected to our current evaluation system procedures. I believe that this can be greatly streamlined in ways that make it more effective with regard to the time and result in relation to quality student/family teaching/service. 
  • Organize and streamline protocols in ways that make it easy for educators to access, learn, and remember. The use of websites can be advantageous in this regard. Often professional learning efforts do not match current research related to cognition, memory and deep learning.
  • Create time and opportunity for educators to share ideas, debate strategy/effort, exchange materials, and develop their teaching/learning craft, practice, and repertoire. in meaningful ways. This post demonstrates an avenue in this direction. 
  • Inclusive, respectful, transparent share of all metrics related to educators' efforts, result, and ideas. Currently metrics are selectively shared which hinders educators' ability to well-analyze the metrics associated with the work they do since they can't rightly compare their metrics with similar grade-levels, schools, or disciplines. Timely share of all metrics has the potential to serve teaching/learning well. 
  • Placing all or almost all administrators in roles that interface with students and families regularly will elevate the work we do. For example rather than having curriculum directors placed away from school activity, directors and principals could co-lead buildings sharing both curriculum, administrative, and student/family service tasks on a regular basis thus eliminating the distance that occurs between decisions and daily teaching/learning efforts. In addition, it would be helpful to publish system organization webs so that all know how the system operates with regard to leadership and effort. At present, this is confusing to some. 
  • Provide greater leadership opportunity for educators by listing new jobs and opportunities in accessible, timely ways and creating clear coaching, guidance and compensation with regard to career ladders. Recently a colleague told me that a job was posted after it was filled thus leaving her out of the possibility of applying for the job. Issues like this do not foster good leadership opportunities. By posting jobs and descriptions in timely and accessible ways, we develop opportunities for educators. Further, it could also be advantageous to let educators help determine roles, jobs and career ladders that are needed to serve the system well. In reading Empowered Educators, it occurred to me that many systems don't think about changing roles or adding new kinds of positions to elevate system effort and result--this might be something to think about. 
  • Spread the Good News. I have started watching all school committee meetings in order to understand the news and workings of the school system where I work. The meetings are lengthy and it takes a lot of time to watch. I think much of the information shared at those meetings should be shared in a streamlined fashion to all members of the learning/teaching community. For example, the superintendent would often share curriculum highlights. The projects he shared were amazing and I was so glad I was able to learn of that "good news," good news that impacted my practice. It's essential that systemwide good news and ideas are shared to all regularly as one way to elevate the "collective genius" of an organization. 
  • Institute greater lead time in order to provide stakeholders with the think time and scheduling time to be fully involved in decision making, new initiatives, and systemwide development. 
  • Establishing a Twitter account for systemwide share of ideas, questions and professional learning. Establishing and promoting a Twitter feed like this will support efficient, ongoing share of all professional effort in the system. Educators, family members, and administrators could easily share links to articles, events, ideas, and questions as well as seek feedback and response. This could help to build a dynamic learning community of students, family members, staff, and administrators. 
In my opinion, too much time and capacity is wasted by utilizing less effective, exclusive processes that do not include all stakeholders in authentic decision making and/or communication that impacts the work educators do and develop each day.

For example, recently an issue occurred. At the end, we came to realize that the issue took as much as 800 hours of discussion, research, and planning by administrators. Most of this time did not include educator voice or choice, and by the time the issue was relayed to educators, it was very confusing and took another 100-200 hours of educator time. In the end, the resulting decision had minimal impact on education quality or effect. In fact, with hindsight, if the issue had been better orchestrated from the start, it would have taken much less time with results that equalled or bettered the time it took.

In another example, I heard an administrator report on teacher voice in an inaccurate way when asked a question. That administrator is distanced from educators' voices yet makes decisions daily for educators. Ideally the administrator would have been able to answer accurately because the administrator would have regular contact with educators or if that was impossible, the administrator could have replied, "Let me ask educators what they think of that?" rather than just conjecturing about educator response.

Further another administrator noted that anyone could teach elementary school math. This too was disappointing and worrisome particularly since educators all around me spend significant time developing and improving their craft to teach well. A comment like this demonstrates a lack of understanding, regard, and investment in teaching and learning which is contrary to the evidence so well supported in Empowered Educators which demonstrates that successful education organizations highly regard the profession of teaching and recognize that not just anyone can teach. 

Research that relates to successful organizations and effective work point to the need to foster individual and collective autonomy, mastery, and purpose as organizations seek to elevate the collective genius of an organization. Elevating the use of good transparent, inclusive strategic process and teacher voice and choice at the elementary level will move schools in a more positive, productive, and dynamic direction. Also, elevating educator voice, choice, and leadership at the elementary level means that elementary educators serve as modern-day leaders and mentors for the students and families they serve. They will mirror the future-ready leadership and learning efforts that they need to foster in the students they teach.

What do you think about voice, choice, and leadership related to elementary school educators? How are the voices, choices, and leadership of elementary educators developed in positive ways in your school environment? Why does this matter?

I want to think about this with greater depth in the days ahead, and I welcome your thoughts, ideas, and debate. 




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What is Happiness and Why Does this Matter?

I don't like the name calling that's happening in American politics. Name calling is like slamming the door in the face of others--it stops conversations and minimizes important issues. Instead, I believe in civil discourse and debate. I also acknowledge our primitive instincts to quickly demean and disrespect those that disagree with us or do us wrong, but caution myself and others to move above and beyond our primitive selves towards civility, respect, collaboration, development, and betterment.

This led me to think of commonality of purpose and action, and brought me back to the great words that lay the foundation for our United States democracy, words that formulate our vision to provide all with "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

The focus on happiness caught my attention and prompted me to imagine a world based on an economy of happiness. I tweeted out a number of questions related to the attributes of happiness, happiness metrics, and happy communities. People retweeted and then tweeted related links. I decided to collect the links here as I continue to focus on this vital element of living--an element that leads to peaceful communities, quality living, and care for one another.

I'm sure I'll add more in the days to come, and I invite you to share related links, tweets, and research with me.

Link




Walk the Walk: No Name Calling

One who I often disagree with shared demeaning words. I was tempted to name call due to my frustration and disappointment with the situation. Yet, as I watch political leaders use name calling, disrespectful soundbites, and disparaging remarks to quickly knock those that disagree with them down, I recognized the harm in that. When we name call, we avoid the needed analyses, civil discourse and debate to find the promise in the problem. As Getting to Yes reminds us "Go hard on the problem, not the people."

Instead I wrote a note to the person who made the remark. I noted how the remark made me feel and suggested a possible alternative. I looked closely at the individual recognizing so many strengths that I value and some traits that challenge me. I noted my own part in the episode--the energy I brought to the meaning, recent events, and vision.

Essentially we share so many goals, and we both regard well attributes of each others' work, yet there are areas of disconnect, areas that I can work to change in positive and proactive ways.

So, it's best to move away from name calling, disrespectful soundbites, and quick judgement, and instead seek common ground and ways to work together. That results in development rather than disparagement. So as I write, I'll commit to walk the walk with regard to no name calling, and instead seek to work with those that challenge me. Great leaders of the past have demonstrated that this is the way to move forward, a way that I respect and will strive for.


Summer Coaching and Care

Ready for preorder
Summer is a great time for educators to shore up areas of challenge and care for ourselves and loved ones in ways that matter.

I'm thinking deeply about this as I embark on the summer vacation today.

What will I do?

Professionally
Many family members gathered for a Mt. Washington
hike and family get-together in Jackson, NH.
Personally
  • Focus on health and energy
  • Family reunions and celebrations
  • Supporting family members' pursuits and activities
  • House upkeep and improvement

Why Speak Up? You Have No Power

A friend said that he will not speak up because he has no power? Yet, what if a person with power embraced his idea? What if someone got courage from his words and spoke up too? What if his one voice became many voices and resulted in positive change?

I hold King's words dear,


Every day I consider the ideas and words of many.

I respond with my thoughts born from the best of my experience, research, and thought.

I often change, revise, and develop my ideas as I read the responses from others.

I know that this is the path of development, positive change, and inclusion.

I will not stay silent, and to the best of my ability I will speak with respect and the knowledge that I am one of many.

In the end, I encourage all to speak up with respect, care, and the desire to do what is right and good for all people.

The Value of Transparency

As I prepare for a meeting with our new superintendent, I reached out to colleagues for ideas. I know that I don't have all the answers, but I believe the more that information, advocacy, and ideas are transparent, the better they will grow and develop in ways that matter to the children we teach.

When secrecy dominates, capacity wanes.

Transparency with regard to almost all information is advantageous to the people and organizations we commit our time and energy to.

In some cases, transparency will mean change, and that change will demand that educators re-look at process and structure related to transparency, structures such as idea-share systems, response to questions, inclusive teams for decision making, democratic processes for decision making/committee creation, and more.

How do systems become more inclusive and transparent, and why does that matter? is a question I'll be thinking about in the days ahead.

Educator Advocacy Matters

For many years I've been advocating for better in schools.

Many years ago after reading and researching about STEAM and witnessing some amazing STEAM efforts by colleagues in my school system and beyond,  I advocated for greater STEAM teaching efforts. I spoke to an administrator who told me that STEAM was nothing new. I countered with the question, "Then why aren't we doing it?" The same administrator responded to my advocacy with the comment that I couldn't be the "tail that wags the dog." As you can imagine it was a disconcerting discussion. Since that time, however, the same administrator has embraced STEAM efforts and teaching by working with his chosen colleagues to forward the effort. I was not directly included in the efforts, but the efforts have taken off and are mostly positive.

Now I am advocating for greater choice, voice, leadership, and respect for educators. In too many situations, I notice that educators have little voice and choice with regard to professional decisions, efforts, and direction. This results in an oppressive atmosphere where many educators experience lack of voice, choice, and respect--essentially an environment that demeans rather than empowers.

Rather than point fingers or insinuate that some are not doing their jobs or consulting the research, I want to advocate in ways that are positive, respectful, and transformative.

How can I encourage systems to change in ways that empower educators who in turn then empower students--what kind of advocacy is needed here?

First, I will speak to leadership about the potential that teacher voice, choice, and respect hold for better systems of teaching and learning. I'll note where such respect, voice and choice occur, and where it does not occur. I'll suggest possible changes such as more timely and inclusive communication patterns, teacher-driven modern professional development, better curriculum development patterns, and system structural changes that empower all stakeholders and create more time-on-task with students from all educators.

Next, I'll work with the local, state, and national unions to elevate teacher voice, choice and respect. Locally, I'll work with the union board and members to make sure that our contract is followed with respect and attention to detail. Just last year, there were areas of contractual agreements that were challenged and on the verge of breaking. This kind of union busting is not legal or respectful. We have a good contract, and I'll work to make sure it is followed, and I'll also work with the board and members to begin improving that contract too to give educators the voice, choice, environments, schedule, and supports they need to teach children well.

Further, I'll focus in on my own work in the classroom to make sure that I'm "walking the walk" as well as "talking the talk" that leads to good teaching and learning for every child. I know that good teaching takes dedicated energy, time, research, and effort--it's positive, challenging, and sometimes tiring work that demands the best of us in order to teach well. Fortunately I really enjoy the work I do and want to continually improve what I'm able to do for students.

Similar to my STEAM advocacy, I expect that greater teacher voice, choice, and respect will occur. Dissimilar to my early advocacy, I want to remain a part of this change--I don't want to be left out of this exciting revolution.

As an educator, what are you advocating for right now? How are you advocating, and why does this matter? Are you connecting to your local, state, and national union with regard to your advocacy? I will be thinking more about this during the research and reading days of summer.


Are Educators Led with Respect?

As I listened to stories of school in multiple places at multiple levels, I noted differences in respect.

In some schools and at some levels, educators have significant choice and voice, and at other schools and other levels, educators have much less voice and choice. I wondered why this is true and looked a little deeper.

At some schools and some levels, educators choose and lead their own professional development. Treated well as professionals, those teachers have the time and authority to identify their needs and interests, and then to utilize professional dollars and time to meet those needs and interests. At other schools and levels, educators' professional development is chosen for them and done to them. There is little voice and choice, thus leading to mostly disrespectful professional development that includes little to no teacher voice and choice.

At some schools and some levels, educators choose the supplies they will use to teach well including classroom furniture, teaching resources, and storage facilities. At other schools and levels, materials, furniture, and storage facilities are chosen for educators. Again, when educators have little to no say over the environment they teach in and the materials they use, there is less respect and capacity too.

At some schools and some levels, educators are treated with respect. Administration considers themselves servants to the educators who in turn consider themselves servants to the students--this kind of servant leadership attitude results in a students-first teaching/learning environment. In other schools and levels, administrators use a hierarchical model where mostly or only administrators make decisions, know what's going on, and set vision--this top-down, sometimes cliquish, model can be oppressive and disrespectful leaving educators without any or little choice, voice, or respect. One time I heard of an administrator who essentially said that anyone can teach and it didn't matter who was hired--this is the kind of hierarchical, disrespectful attitude that oppresses educators leading to less potential capacity and investment.

At some schools and some levels, communication is inclusive, transparent and timely. Educators are on the frontline of knowing what's going on, and in other schools and levels communication is unshared, exclusive, and irregular thus keeping educators out of the loop of knowing about new ideas, what's going on across the system, and what is planned for the future. This kind of information is shared without clarity and timeliness thus leading to less potential investment, collaboration, and good work. Conjecture and hearsay unfortunately gain traction in systems like this.

In the best of schools and circumstances, educators are full members of the teaching/learning community--they make informed, collective professional choices that matter with other stakeholders including students, family members, administrators and community members. These educators choose quality professional development experiences, the furniture and materials that they utilize to teach well, and goals and vision of their collective work and endeavor. In situations like this educators are empowered, inspired, and invested because they are able to do the good work possible to serve students well. Unfortunately there are other schools and levels where teachers are continually demeaned, disrespected, and disregarded with little choice, voice, or respect--in these schools teachers suffer and so do their students because educators' professional investment, experience, and capacity is greatly challenged by suffocating, oppressive hierarchical systems.

I imagine that most school systems fall somewhere on the oppressed--empowered scale. As a believer in the servant leadership model of management, and one who regards educators' professional study, experience, and dedication with reverence, I believe that systems need to embrace more holistic, distributive, collaborative models of leadership, decision making, and effort--the kinds of leadership models that allow all stakeholders to have voice and choice in ways that empower our schools and students in ways that matter. Similarly, I also believe that most educators in school systems should have direct time-on-task with students, when too many educators are distanced from working directly with students, there is greater potential for less teacher voice and choice as there becomes a thick layer of decision makers who are distanced from the good work students' need and desire, the kind of work that leads to good decisions, discussion, and debate.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Intersection of Priorities, Good Work, and Marketing

It's important to do good work.

It's similarly important to spread the good news about good work.

Prioritizing time, attention, and effort leads to good wok.

Sometimes marketing takes the place of good work.

Marketing can look good, but might not represent good work.

People everywhere have to beware of marketing. When marketing, they have to be careful that their words, images, and presentation reflects authentic, good work, and when lured by marketing they have to look beyond the glitz to notice what's real, and then assess if the reality is rightly portrayed by the marketing.

Questions like this can help one navigate this intersection.

What is good work?
What good work matters most?
How can we tell the story of good work in ways that reflect the reality and potential of that work?
How can we use marketing to attract others to invest in, contribute to, and take part in this good work?

As teachers and learners, it's essential to prioritize good work and tell that story with honesty and care. It's similarly important that our work is deep, rich, and meaningful and not just for the purpose of marketing and looking good.

What Elevates and Celebrates Teacher Voice in Schools?

Good systems for decision making with considerable teacher voice and choice currently don't exist in many schools. Most schools today still follow a factory-model structure of thinkers and doers--this is not a good structure for modern teaching and learning, and it's not a model that puts modern age mentors and leaders in front of students everyday.

When teachers are mostly passive doers rather than thinkers and doers, there is lost potential in schools. On the other hand when educators are full members of the learning team, there is greater potential for schools to meet the promise they hold for teaching children well.

To change schools from old-time factory models to new-age learning communities, takes considerable thought and planning. First it requires that all stakeholders believe in the potential that inclusive, transparent learning communities hold for teaching children well. Next it maintains that systems look at where this transparent, inclusive share exists fully or in part. For example, our PLCs are an opportunity to build in the use of greater strategic, inclusive efforts. Many good ideas are exchanged and worked on during PLC though sometimes PLCs are less inclusive and open. Our grade-level meeting time results in good collaboration and positive efforts.

To date our professional learning events have not kept paced, mostly, with modern learning approaches, and our communication is inadequate since it is generally not timely or inclusive--teachers often aren't part of the discussion during the innovation, research, or planning stages of projects and efforts. Our new teacher contract, however, states that new initiatives will include initial teacher-leadership meetings, and that's a positive step.

I have a lot to say. I read a lot and I see promise and potential everywhere. I understand I don't know it all, and I crave the good learning that comes from collaboration that uses good strategic process, respect for all stakeholders, and efficient share. I want to hear what my dedicated and talented colleagues are doing particularly when their efforts can impact the work I do to teach well.

I believe that our system currently has too many decision makers that are distanced from working with children. I believe our Middle School and High School have better models of teacher leadership and teacher voice and choice than the elementary schools. Often elementary school teachers are spoken to and treated like the young children they teach rather than the dedicated, well-schooled professionals that they are. This is problematic. I've written about how we can change leadership models to enlist greater teacher voice, choice, and leadership at the elementary level.

As I think of teachers like me, teachers filled with ideas and a desire for greater share, leadership, and innovation, I recognize that systems that include the following will support us and boost what we can do.
  • Timely, regular communication that describes plans/ideas in the works, what's happening now, and what has happened.
  • Opportunity for regular share, problem solving, and creativity with efficient, modern day, strategic process
  • Good, holistic, transparent analyses of programs, and the opportunity to reflect upon the analysis and make related changes for betterment
  • Inclusive goal/vision setting and authentic, holistic measurement of goals
  • Effective evaluation systems that lead to betterment
  • Share of exemplary efforts that are evidenced by data, both formal and informal
The good news is that I have the essentials with regard to materials, time, scheduling, and resources to teach well. Now what I'd like is more effective systems that elevate teacher voice, choice, and leadership so we can maximize our energy and collaboration to continually better our service to families and students. 

Working Through Discouragement

I left school so discouraged yesterday. It felt like so many important decisions were being made for us and not with us, and further, there were words that implied we did something wrong, yet I couldn't understand what the references referred to. It was a meeting with lots of listening, directives, and some confusion after a year of collective, dedicated positive teaching and learning with overall very good results.

What might have happened is that problematic issues could have been relayed, discussed, and resolved as they occurred with explicit effort. Also decisions could have been made with greater teamwork. In general, I'd like to see our system restructured in ways that support distributive leadership, elevated teacher voice and choice, and greater use of timely, transparent, strategic process to solve problems, share research and ideas, and evaluate/develop programs.

Some of the structures that are in place in the system are the same structures that were there when I started teaching in the system 31 years ago. In some cases, that works just fine, but in other cases, it's definitely time for change.

When you read about modern organizations, you recognize that autonomy, mastery, purpose, and teamwork are essential criteria for success. Good organizations today strive to elevate "collected genius" with effective/transparent communication, inclusive/collaborative teamwork/decision making, and strategic process that's employed with substantial lead time and the voices/choices of all stakeholders.

I recently heard our outgoing superintendent laud the use of strategic process, and I agree with that, but I'd restate it as inclusive, transparent, strategic process. That kind of effort will elevate what we can do by lifting up all stakeholders rather than leaving them out.

As I thought of this today, I figure out how I'll work within the parameters set and also advocate for promising change with respect.

I looked for the promise in the problem, wrote to administrators and colleagues with a potential win-win idea, and made a plan for next year's work and effort. Now I'm finally ready to start the summer break. Onward.

Working With Tight Protocols and Mandates

I work with increasingly tight protocols and mandates.

This, as you can imagine, challenges the creative, child-centered teaching approach I value and believe in.

Yet, I want to keep my job to support my family so I will follow the mandates set.

How can I be child-centered, creative, and teach with meaning in the face of these very tight rules and protocols?

Math Scope and Sequence
I have a tight math scope and sequence to follow. The order is not one I would choose, but I have been told that doesn't matter and I must follow the order as set by some. I will find a meaningful way to do this that includes the following elements:
  • Early year introduction to math tools, resources, Google classroom, games, routines, and protocols
  • Early year assessments including tests, math autobiography, portfolio/reflection work
  • Math units that include big picture, paradoxical, brain-friendly introductions, meaningful real-world problems, projects, and data, online and offline practice, teamwork, explicit teaching, vocabulary, exploration, and assessment. 
I'll follow the order prescribed using creativity and sensitivity to bring the prescription to life in ways that are meaningful and engaging for children.

STEAM Projects
I'll work with grade-level colleagues to make time for the STEAM projects. I will bring creativity to the projects as we tie them together with meaningful focus and themes.

As I think about yesterday's STEAM explanation, I realize that it would have been great if the staff had met to discuss this as a teaching team earlier in the year. That would have brought the best ideas forward and helped us to help one another choose materials and think about our process and focus on this important part of the curriculum. 

Science
I'll learn about the many science kits ordered for us and work with colleagues to personalize the kits in ways that make the teaching and learning meaningful to students. 

Professional Learning 
I'll learn with supportive committees such as DESE's Teacher Advisory Cabinet (TAC), MTAs Teaching and Professional Learning Committee (TPL), NEA/MTA's National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Initiative, local union efforts, my dynamic grade-level team and online groups I associate with. These are groups that are filled with enthusiastic, dedicated educators who are forwarding modern processes, think, and effort to transform schools and teach every child well. 

Field Studies
I'll continue to plan and support a worthy array of field studies for students. I hope to connect those field studies deeply with the work we do each day to teach children well.

Open Circle/Social Competency
I'll look for ways to institute a daily class meeting, share, and leadership meeting where students have a chance to express their ideas and questions as they lead and manage their own learning community.

Learning Community Efforts
I'll do what I can to establish and develop a strong learning community of family members, educators and students so that we can support one another with efforts to teach every child well.

Warm, Welcoming Learning Environment
I will forward a grant to support a more modern learning environment, one that replaces the old fashion desks, chairs, and shelving we have. I will write a grant to support this. As a team, we may forward the grant to support classrooms as reading/research nook, writing studio, and STEAM lab--that would give students a variety of supportive learning environments to work in during the year. 

I will avoid outdated learning venues and committees--ones that are essentially ineffective with regard to process and result. 




Future Plans: Advocacy and Good Teaching

I'm still smarting from the troubling end to the school year. Why did administration choose a sore subject to end the school year with--a subject that has plagued teachers like me for weeks, a subject that reminds teachers that we are simply peons in the eyes of some--do-its with no choice or voice over so much of what we do, professionals whose years of experience, study, and commitment are too often overlooked, undervalued and not supported?

Why couldn't the focus have been on all the good work that happened all year long--the extra effort, meaningful child-centered work, creativity and care. Why didn't we talk about the promise and potential we hold as a committed team for transformative work and care towards children.

Yet, I guess the meeting put me in my place, and helped me to tone down any grandiose ideas I had about teacher voice, creativity, responsive teaching, distributive leadership, and inclusive, transparent communication. That's right, I'm a teacher who is given a strict guideline about what to do and then asked to do it to the best of my ability. No need for thinking, creating, analyzing, or working as a professional since for the most part there's a prescription created, in part, by some who rarely to never work with children or engage in discussion about what really works in classrooms.

This is not what I believe creates good teaching and learning. I believe that good teaching and learning is much more passion driven, research directed, and child-centered. I believe that teachers should teach children first and content second. The excitement and meaning of the job comes with matching curriculum goals with children's needs and interests in sensitive, creative, meaningful ways--that's where the daily magic of teaching and learning comes from. Simply following one-size-fits-all directives is not what creates deep, rich, and engaging teaching and learning programs.

But, that's what many who direct my work believe--they spend hours crafting lists of lessons, materials, and time for me to follow, and then with little to no voice or choice, I'm told to follow those directives with the threat of "insubordination" at my back--they have power over me and they know it.

This experience supports my belief that much of the problem schools face lies in the structures used to lead and manage schools--a structure that mirrors old time factory hierarchies with leaders and doers--administrators and teachers. As if children are manufactured items, some see teachers as the assembly line workers who do as they are told to each child as he/she is moved along the assembly line of day-to-day teaching and year-to-year grade levels. My reading and research tells me that this is not how children learn, instead each child is unique bringing to us his/her own set of needs, interests, strengths, and challenges, and when we personalize the learning in ways that matter, each child moves forward with strength. That is the teaching and learning venue I believe in and have seen work again and again in my many years of experience as a grade school teacher.

To do the job well in a meaningful way, many teachers simply stay silent. They nod and smile then do what they believe is right and good. Yet that silence does not contribute to dynamic teaching/learning communities, but instead supports the misuse of money, time, staffing, and materials--when people don't speak up, unjust and ineffective teaching/learning efforts are allowed to continue, and this continuation creates situations that don't support the potential that schools hold for helping every child do well. Our meaningful, open, and honest share, research, and collaboration is what builds wonderful, dynamic learning communities.

So what's a teacher to do in the face of all this?

As noted before, I will continue to advocate for what is right and good for schools with respect and care. In the meantime, I will do as I am told in order to keep my job and support my family. I will also work with my union team to see what we can do to help elevate teacher voice and choice in order to build the schools that children deserve. Onward.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Teaching Next Year: Stay Strong and Focused

My voice, research, creativity, and effort are not regarded well by the leadership in the system where I teach. They essentially degrade my ideas, ignore my achievements, and disrespect my efforts. This has been a long standing experience, and anyone who reads my blog knows that I've been working with administrators who do not value me for a long time.

Fortunately parents, students, and community members value me. They see my work upfront and know that I am invested in teaching students well. My family members similarly value the work I do, and support me. This is all good.

I can't continually get down by the way I'm disrespected on a daily basis, and while some advise me to leave my position, that is not a good choice at this time in my career for a number of personal and financial reasons.

So what's a teacher to do?

First, I have to distance myself from the disrespect. I have to follow the dictates of a large number of administrators, and as much as possible, going forward, I'll do what they tell me to do as long as it does not include anything that will harm a child. If their requests cross the bar of safety to children or contractual agreements, I'll seek union support.

Second, I'll work to contract. Thank goodness we have a contract that outlines our professional responsibility--I'll follow that.

Third, I'll dedicate myself to what I can do in my classroom with and for students, and I'll gain my learning and growth from my many education-related activities outside of the school as I'm a member of many teaching/learning groups.

Fortunately I work with a dynamic team and I'll continue to work with and learn from these dynamic educators. I also work with wonderful families and terrific children who are ready and willing to collaborate with regard to serving children well.

While I note injustice around me, I will not speak up about it unless it is illegal, affects human dignity or challenges safety for children or colleagues. As for all the ridiculous things that happen, I'll turn my cheek in another direction. Earlier this year, I had to speak up when our contract was illegally broken by administrators. Fortunately our union was able to confront those that broke the contract and remedy the situation.

Teaching well is challenging and rewarding work. At its best it's a team effort that's well supported by many. Unfortunately in many school systems, there is undue pressure, oppression, and quieting that occurs which keeps teachers down, limiting what we can do. I hope that families, citizens, educators, and others will advocate for more modern systems of leadership and effort--flattening the hierarchies that exist and replacing them with learning communities that value the voice and choice of all stakeholders.

In the meantime, and over the summer, I'll find some reprieve and a chance to research and study to continue honing my practice and serving students and families well on my own and with my colleagues. Onward.

Moving Beyond a Discouraging Last Day

I teach in a wonderful school. The educators give 200% in time, effort, creativity, research, and care. Our students are happy and typically skip down the halls. The parents are supportive. There's lots of smiles and cheer, deep learning, and success. It's generally a good place to teach and learn.

Yet today, on the last teacher day of school, it was very discouraging. We spent a long time talking about cabinet orders--there's been numerous emails exchanged about the cabinets. Cabinets have been proposed and denied. In the end, there is one cabinet choice that appears acceptable, and that cabinet will be filled with supplies mostly chosen by administrators. The cabinets seemingly paid for by extra dollars from the after school program will house materials for school, after school, and summer school. I estimate that there's been about 100 hours or more collectively spent on the cabinet discussion/research when in fact there's been little to no teacher voice and choice in the matter. In hindsight, it seems like the administrators should have just told teachers that they are ordering cabinets and the cabinets will be placed in our classrooms. That would have saved a lot of time and frustration.

Also, there was a discussion about the order in which to teach standards. Administration essentially told me that it's my job to follow the order directed by them. I believe in responsive teaching which means teaching the standards in ways that match the children that come to your class. I like to order the standards in meaningful, engaging, intersecting ways that build excitement and capacity for learning. But to keep my job, I have to follow the rules with no real professional voice or choice.

Further, at the end of the meeting, teachers were essentially chided. I'm not really sure what we were criticized about as I didn't understand the references made, but it wasn't a positive ending message.

This is all very disconcerting as I am a big fan of distributive leadership, flattened hierarchy, teacher leadership, learning communities, responsive teaching, and researched-based development and growth, but today it seemed so old fashion as about 50 women sat in a circle and listened to ridicule and choices made for them with little to no chance for discussion, exchange, or debate.

What's a teacher to do?

To keep my job, I'll follow the many rules and dictates set for teaching and learning, and find ways to serve and support students with as much care, creativity, and kindness as I can within the tight boundaries set. I'll continue to advocate for change in respectful ways that I can find as I continue to think that some of our mandates mirror old fashion ideas about what works in classrooms and schools rather than new research and methods for powerful, passionate teaching and learning.

I will also continue my research, create a warm and inviting classroom environment, and support my talented and dedicated colleagues who give so much of themselves each and every day to teach children well.





It's My Idea

For some, only their ideas matter.

In fact, for people like that, there's almost no use in trying to share ideas or have voice, because no matter what you say, their idea will trump.

This is problematic when people like this are leaders because that means few to no are represented in decisions, and when there is little representation, there is often little buy in or valuable success.

It is troubling to face situations like this in both small arenas and large arenas as large as a state or country.

When What You See is Not Supported?

I see so much potential and promise in education, and it's very difficult to get support for that vision. It's a vision well supported in research and in many places, but in my close community, support is sometimes lacking.

Parents and close colleagues generally see things the way I do. They read the newspaper, live and work with children daily, and continually develop their ability to serve children well whether it be at home or in school. But some, distanced from children, but with power, simply don't see what I see when it comes to empowering and developing schools.

What I see is the following:
  • Inspiring and developing teacher leaders make schools strong and provides wonderful mentors for students
  • Creating and developing collective goals in transparent, strategic, and holistic ways with all stakeholders build strong schools
  • Decisions related to how to spend dollars at school should be a collective decision by all stakeholders including those who work closely with children day in and day out
  • Problems should be regularly addressed in strategic ways that look carefully at the data, observations, and anecdotal information w/teamwork and collaboration
  • There should be a strategic plan related to budgets and activities that is informed by good research and created by all stakeholders
  • Communication should be timely, inclusive, transparent, and accurate
  • Research and development belongs to all, and new ideas should be readily explored and tried out
Vital, vibrant communities depend on empowering the people who make up those communities. There is so much lost potential when the voices of stakeholders remain silent and unused for important decisions that affect students and their families with regard to school. 

There is so much good possible, but this good depends on strategic process that enlists that voice and choice of all stakeholders and does not rely on the opinion and decisions of a few distanced from those we serve. 

Do You Destroy, Maintain or Build?

It seems that most people maintain. They neither destroy nor build. Some destroy and destruct, continually tearing apart what's possible, and of course, others are builders--they like to create and make.

In each of our lives we probably mainly balance maintenance and building. We maintain what serves us well, and perhaps, build where we see room for better. At times we may destroy too in areas where we see no promise or possibility.

In general, I think we do best with a builder's mindset as that mindset fits a changing world. Our world one minute to the next is never the same--it is always changing and the builder knows that he/she needs to continually redesign and re-think his/her life to flexibly move with changes in his/her world.

The maintainer often loses sight of the changing world. He/she sometimes maintains for good reason, but at other times, may maintain long after a tradition, process, or routine is valuable--he/she may not recognize the impact change has on our days and our need to build and develop in response to those changes.

The destroyer may be one without hope, one who cannot see possibility and promise and therefore only pays attention to what's not working and looks for ways to take down or deconstruct his/her world.

The builder's mindset creates team, forwards possibility, and leads positive change. In general, this is where I'd like to put most of my time and energy.

Closing Remarks: So Much Good and Room for Development Too

There was so much good in school this year.

The teaching assistants were extraordinary--always teaching, helping, counseling and caring. If I were in charge of the world I'd elevate their salaries and shorten their work year a bit. They are true gifts to the school community.

The office staff, custodians, lunch room staff cared and supported educators and students daily. They put into place new protocols and served us so well.

The specialists led the students in engaging projects and activities while the recess monitor ensured recess safety.

Countless parents contributed to the school program by chaperoning field studies, offering expertise and new ideas, and volunteering their time to make the school year very successful.

High school and middle school students joined us to help the young children learn.

Colleagues worked together and supported each other day in and day out as we created and carried out numerous programs, interventions and special events.

It was overall a super year.

As I look ahead though I see lots of room for development, areas that I would like to forward change include the following:
  • more efficient, streamlined, targeted, timely, regular, and transparent communication about initiatives, ideas, and research
  • more teacher voice and choice when it comes to decisions, supplies, curriculum, and all efforts that impact the professional work we do--authentic choice and voice
  • a better collection of holistic formal and informal metrics to assess and evaluate the work we do individually and collectively
  • more accurate, transparent, and honest share related to individual and collective efforts
  • better, collective and holistic goal setting and action plans that mirror current research as well as study and learning community requirements, needs, and interests
I think that developing our processes of communication and strategic action will develop what we can do with and for each other and most importantly the students and families we serve. Onward. 

Lost Opportunity

When I listened to the keynote speaker at my son's graduation, he essentially said that the worst sins are sins of omission--not doing what's possible, leaving good left undone.

We never knowingly want to not do the good possible. If we err, we want to make sure we apologize. If we leave someone out, we want to make sure we include them later. If we notice good work and effort, we want to acknowledge that. We want to spread the good that we can.

A long time ago a friend and I parted ways. I treasured that friend so much that I didn't want our relationship to end without a meaningful note. I wrote a long letter telling the friend all that I valued. I have always been happy that I took the time to write that note.

Significant moments of time are extraordinary opportunities to seize the potential and promise possible. We want to inspire and elevate those around us whenever possible with truthful, kind, and inspiring words and acts. Onward.

Listen to Children

It's so easy to prescribe what students need, want, and desire, but it's much more difficult to make time to listen to children and let them lead.

Children generally know what they need, and if we give them time to speak and make choices, they typically speak and choose well.

Too often we speak for children. Too often we think for children. Too often we plan and prescribe for what we think they need.

The real strength in teaching, learning, and parenting is to give children the voice, choice, and leadership they deserve with regard to the environment, experiences, and events that impact them.

One of the best ways to do that is to have a daily meeting. Other ways are to invite students to write emails, lead meetings, make changes and engage in meaningful discussion and debate.

Good teachers everywhere know that listening to children is essential when it comes to teaching and learning well. I want to lead 2017-2018 with this point.

Putting Out Your Fire

There will always be those who work to distinguish your fire.

They've got the hose ready to spray whenever you have a new idea, pose a question, or create. They truly dampen your spirit as they dictate formations to follow with rigidity and little room for voice and choice.

All through our lives we meet people like that, and it's likely that we've been that kind of person from time to time too.

As I think back, the first person in my life that was like that was my high school French teacher. She perseverated about the little things, the tiny details related to speaking and writing French. I could never succeed in her class and dropped French after a couple of years.

Later in life their was boss at my first job after college. He was a stickler for details. Similar to the French class, that job was short lived, but dissimilar to the French class, I did learn a lot during that rigid work experience--in fact, I use many of those skills that I learned during that one-year period in my professional and personal life today.

There was also the most difficult education course that I ever took. The teacher was very detail oriented and seldom pleased with my work. I worked diligently to pass the course, and remember almost nothing. I liken the lack of retention to the rigidity of the course.

As I look over my life, those three experiences and one or two close to home now are the only rigid experiences I've had in my life. In most experiences, both professional and personal, there's been more flexibility and elasticity--they've been loose-tight learning experiences, and mostly learning experiences that I've enjoyed and retained.

As I think of rigidity and learning, I don't think it's the best way to teach or learn. I am much more a fan of experienced-base, responsive teaching and learning that avails itself to voice and choice. I think this kind of fluid platform for learning connects better to the latest cognitive research. While parameters are important, relationships, sensitivity, connectivity, and responsiveness are more important. When you're learning with passion including both heart and mind, retention, engagement, empowerment, and inspiration occur, and when those critical attributes occur, the learning sticks and develops.

I noticed this in college, and that's why I always chose courses based on the quality and dedication of the professors rather than topic, class size, or course rigor. I found that when I had a passionate professor, I learned more no matter how the course was taught--the professor's passion was contagious, impactful, and inspiring.

So as I think of the topic, "Putting Out Your Fire," I first want to caution myself about putting out others' fires, and instead inspire myself to embrace the passion, ideas, interests, and drive my colleagues and loved ones exhibit. If it's good for others, I want to cheer them on. I also want to make sure I'm always cognizant of the fact that I don't know it all, and many around me have answers and ideas that I've never even thought about. I want to be open to their dedicated voices and choices as they live and love.

Next as I think of those that "put out fires," I will heed their words and think carefully about their halting remarks and dictates. I will listen for the truth in what they say and regard their experience and outlook with respect. I will also, however, respect my own experience, research, passion, and drive since we know ourselves well, and we all have a good idea about the gifts that are ours to give. While I won't disrespect those who extinguish my flame, I'll also not disrespect my own experience, professional training, and direction. Onward.

The Value of Tight Protocols and Dictates

Typically I run a loose-tight classroom, a classroom that leaves room for modern-day research, inspiration, student voice and choice, parent input, and collegial efforts. I don't usually have a lot of tight dictates or rigid rules. I believe in loose-tight as I think it opens the door for greater creativity, personalization, development, and inspiration. It would be interesting to measure the results of what I do in a holistic way with a classroom teacher that is more rigid and less bending with regard to procedure and protocol. Perhaps a more rigid style leads to greater learning and progress. I'll be thinking about that.

In general I like to think of education as a conversation--an ongoing, developing effort to nurture children forward in their current studies and future pursuits. When I look around me and research, I notice that it is the personal, thoughtful approach of building relationships, knowing students well, and utilizing research in an ongoing and developmental way that leads to student success, happiness and contribution. I utilize a similar approach to parenting.

Yet, I don't know all, and there may be advantages to tight protocols and dictates that I am unaware of. If you know of those, please educate me as I want to understand.

Social Media Builds a Positive Community

While many chide social media as they share stories of its ill effects, I'm noticing how our PTO president has used social media to build positive culture, voice and choice in the school community. Similarly the principal, administrative assistant and educators at our school uses Twitter, blogs and websites to spread the good news. At its best social media becomes the transparent conversation, debate, discussion, idea share, and day-to-day communication vehicle for organizations and communities big and small. This leaves our face-to-face time for more meaningful, rich, and deep share--the kind that moves organizations forward in ways that matter.

Outlining Summer Research: Teach Well

Outlining your summer study and research helps you to learn more, make the learning meaningful, and embed the learning into program change. I've outlined my study below: (Note the study list continues to be updated throughout the summer)

Focus: Building a sensitive, relationship-strong culturally proficient teaching/learning program

Coding and Swift Playground

Tribe by Junger
I want to employ what I learn from this book in creating a strong grade-level, classroom and collegial team.

NBPTS Green Book: What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do
Great guide to good teaching/learning that can be used as a lens to evaluate your teaching program and team efforts.

Empowered Educators
This book written by Linda Darling-Hammond and colleagues is the kind of book that will help me to advocate and forward more teacher-powered schools and practice, practice that is led by more distributive leadership models and modern day professional learning rather than old-time top-down factory models. I'm excited about reading this book and sharing the information.

David Culberhouses eBooks
David has been doing extensive research related to transforming the ways we educate students. His research is vital to our efforts to vision-set for dignified, positive, impactful schools and teaching.

What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do
I want to read and embed this important NBPTS information into my practice.

For White Teachers Who Teach in the Hood. . . by Chris Emdin
I read half of this book last summer, took a lot of notes, and embedded Emdin's ideas into our shared teaching program with good result. I'll read the rest of the book and look back on last summer's notes, and think about how we might embed Emdin's research, words, and experience into our revised orientation programs, start-of-the-year selfie project, and our efforts to build strong student-teacher relationships and a culturally proficient program.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Similar to Emdin's book, I hope to use Coates book to deepen my ability to build strong relationships with students and build a culturally proficient teaching/learning program with colleagues. I started this book without a clear focus, now I will reread with the focus of comparing my experience of growing up, education and living in the world with Ta-Nehisi Coates. I believe that perspective will make the book more useful and memorable to me.

In the Heights bQuiara Alegria Hudes (Author), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Author)
Students will attend this play and I'll read up on it so that I can use what I learn to prepare students to have a full experience of the musical. This is also part of our efforts to build a more culturally proficient program.

Integrating SEL and Academic Learning by Dacey, Criscitiello, Devlin
I co-authored this book with educational colleagues. We spent a lot of time looking at ways to embed SEL into academic lessons and came up with some great lesson plans which I plan to use in 2017-2018 to build a stronger learning team and program. As I read through the finished book, I'll decide where and when I'll teach each SEL skill/lesson. I'll also offer specific lessons to colleagues, lessons they may want to integrate into their teaching.

Redesigning Learning Spaces by Robert W. Dillon 
I plan to read this book and apply the learning to writing a grant to update and modernize the learning environment. I want the environment to be a more modern STEAM learning/teaching space. 

Thank you for Being Late by Thomas Friedman
I want to read this book as one way to develop my awareness for what the future holds for our students. I want our teaching/learning efforts to help students prepare for their futures, and this book will provide information to help me do that.

I have collected a number of other titles and articles to build this effort in the classroom too:

Focus: Engaging, Empowering Math Education

I look forward to reading this book and using what I learn to elevate my algebraic thinking, numerical expression, and patterns and relationships emphases with regard to teaching math.

YouCubed by Jo Boaler
I'm going to study the YouCubed site and apply specific learning exercises, research, videos, and activities in specific math teaching/learning units as one way to build greater meaning, engagement, and cultural proficiency to math teaching and learning.

Article/Course Collection
I've collected a number of articles and a course to study over the summer to empower the math program as well:

Focus: Reflect for Success and NBPTS 
I have decided to make my professional consultation focus reflection and NBPTS since I value the role that reflection plays in elevating the work we do as educators and I value the NBPTS standards, community and process. I will attend a conference this summer that focuses on reflection as part of obtaining National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification. I will likely collect titles, articles, and other information related to this topic throughout the summer as well. 

General
Math/STEAM

Cultural Proficiency/SEL/Growth Mindset