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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Relationship Stalemate

A relationship stalemate can occur when two people see the world in two very different ways. A stalemate doesn't mean that one person is right and the other person is wrong, but instead it means that two people stand so far apart on issues, efforts, and vision, that there's little room for companionship or collaboration.

In the best of circumstances, people like me hope to work with everyone with common values and direction--I like the idea of open, caring collaborative work. Yet, in life, I've had the experience of living and working with people who see life very differently from me, and who are uninterested in the collaboration and openness possible.

While I do not wish for situations like this, I know that this happens. A long time ago I went after situations like this with high energy and perseverance--I wanted to change the other person, convince him or her, and/or find common ground. Action liked this only served to sever ties, so know I've learned to give it time, let people live their lives, and make time to know and honor their work, commitment, choices, and vision more. Eventually with an attitude like this I've found that stalemate becomes respect, understanding, and greater learning and care for one another. This, I believe, is the best way to move forward when a stalemate occurs.

Looking Ahead: Positive Collaboration and Good Work

As the summer sets in and I think back to the school year, I am proud of the good work our team at fifth grade did. I am also moved by the wonderful investment, creativity, and result demonstrated by so many committed colleagues and friends at the school where I teach and elsewhere. I'm fortunate to work amongst so many wonderful educators.

As I look ahead, I want to do the following:
  • Be open minded and willing to focus on individual and collective goals to better the work we can do with all students.
  • To work for good development and collaboration around ideas that will help us to teach better.
  • To listen carefully to the colleagues and administrators around me to hear their point of view, needs, good work, and ideas related to teaching well.
  • To be empathetic to the varied commitments and vision of many, and to be supportive in ways that I can be.
  • To focus in on the goals I've created, and to finesse those goals in ways needed to work with colleagues and others to reach our collective, school goals.
For the rest of the summer, I'll prepare to do this good work in the year ahead--work that will bring the satisfaction that I'm working on my own and with others to serve families and students well. 

Trump Talk

If you know me, you know that Trump is a worrisome and troubling President for me. I wrote a lot about that yesterday as I tried to make sense of it all. There's rarely been a moment during his term that has been uplifting, promising, or convincing that he cares about American people, instead day after day we hear suspicious news, disrespectful and dishonest tweets, and discouraging actions--I've yet to see what I hope for which is a president that cares about our children, health care, education, the environment, positive global partnerships and opportunities, and a will to better life for all Americans, not just a few.

His constant negative and troubling banter and action can make make those of us who are proud of our country and our ideals confused, worried, and troubled. People generally want leaders who look out for all of us not just a few.

Yet, we can't let him take us down. We have to continually urge our law makers to use their intelligence, knowledge, and position to question, investigate, and act so that one man doesn't harm our country, break the laws, or take advantage of us. And, at the same time, we have to look deeply at our own capacity and responsibility to do what is right, contribute, and live good lives.

So as I move forward I'll recommit to family, education, and setting the personal stage for simpler, more Earth-friendly living. I'll continue to read, research, reflect, and speak up with regard to the kind of country that supports all of us to do the good work possible by loved ones, neighbors, and fellow national and world citizens.


Mid Summer Ramblings

It's mid summer. There's already been time for a short vacation, reading, family time, and some chores. The days are filled with all kinds of events big and small. I've never had this much free time since my 8th grade summer, and I am not having any trouble staying busy and getting things done.

As I look ahead, I realize I've leaned in my favored directions of reading, research, writing, and family time, and I've procrastinated on a number of less attractive tasks such as making doctor's appointments, cleaning the garage, and a few other more personal tasks.

Next week I'll urge myself to put the procrastination aside and complete some of those less attractive tasks as I know that once the school year starts, I'll be busy, busy, busy with rarely a moment to take a break or get those jobs done.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Do your big ideas match your performance?

As I wrote about and responded to big ideas today, I had to ask myself the question, Do your big ideas match your performance?

If you live or work with me, you might say no as you would be someone who knows well my longest of shortcomings. I'm the first to admit that my actions trail my vision and not the other way around. I can see far more than I can do, and sometimes a vision that arises does not translate into action for years.

Yet I think it's important to embrace my way of being as long as I'm truthful and honest. Yes, I am a big dreamer who loves to entertain big ideas for all aspects of life. As I say often, I see limitless potential and promise and can think of thousands of solutions to the world's issues and write about those solutions with detail.

Yet as one brother always cautions me when he says, "Ideas are cheap, it's what you do with them that matters."

I respond to that brother with a yes and a no.

Yes, it does matter that one truly forward ideas when and how she can. For example I have to continually work at my language, processes, and actions to forward ideas I see as promising and fruitful at school. I've yet to find the golden path of idea-to-reality path at school though some of the ideas I've forwarded on my own and with others have translated into betterment. I will continue to use school, home, and community as places to forward good ideas into meaningful action. This is good work that teaches me well and helps me to contribute.

I say not to my brother, however, when it comes to only sharing ideas that you have the capacity to turn into reality. I've actually had the experience of sharing a good idea with people who either made it happen or tried to make it happen. I believe a good idea not expressed or shared is a good idea wasted. Just think about it. If you share your wild and crazy, but good ideas, you could actually improve someone's life--people don't have to take your ideas, but if you have a good one, I say share it. The more positive, imaginative, and creative ideas that are out there, the better the chances we'll solve some of the big and annoying problems we face.

So to answer my initial question, I would say that my ideas don't always match my performance as my ideas vastly outdistance my capacity, but that's not going to stop me from sharing ideas as well as working on the ones that I feel passionate and capable of forwarding. What about you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Teaching Journey Continues: Next Steps

The summer has been a dynamic time for reading and research to empower the teaching days ahead. I'm very excited about the many good ideas and experiences I'll share with students in the year to come, ideas and experiences that include good books, field studies, expert visitors, learning resources, and project/problem based learning. This preparation reminds me of the prep I do for a good trip--I read all about the places I'll travel to and map out the itinerary with care. I always leave room for spontaneity and I coach myself to have an open mind to new opportunities that might arise.

The school year is like a wonderful adventure and we make the most of that if we prepare well and embark with that right balance of well thought out plans and prep and an open mind to what opportunities and challenges students, families, colleagues, and systems will bring.

In the days ahead, I'll continue both my professional and personal prep for the busy year ahead, prep that includes reading, writing, research, setting up the classroom, making sure my personal obligations are fulfilled, and more. Too often our struggles in school come from the fact that we don't have the needed time, space, or support to do the job well, at this juncture in the road, I'm feeling like I have the privilege of working with amazing colleagues and terrific support from so many that I know the year ahead will be a wonderful year of teaching and learning. Onward.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Audit Your Affiliations


Who we support, who will affiliate with, and what we do tells a story of what we believe in and what matters to us.

In the United States there is great freedom to be what we want to be and do what we want to do? There are limitless ways to direct your time, money, interests, and relationships to the life you dream of.

I support this amazing potential as long as your choices do not limit the good choices of others.

Individuals will never be equal in all things--there will always be variability with respect to what we have and how we live, yet we can work to ensure that people have the basic elements of living well, elements such as access to quality education and health care, adequate housing, nutritious food, living without prejudice and living with the essential rights to speak freely, practice your religion, and do as you please as long as you are not hurting others.

As I consider my own place in this big world of potential and possibility, I recognize that it's essential to audit your affiliations now and then--who do you support and spend time with, and why does that matter.

I get hundreds of invitations in person, by phone, and online to contribute to all kinds of causes. I'm always hesitant since I'm not rich and I have committed to paying my bills, educating my children, time with family members, saving for retirement, some fun, and working in a job that doesn't lead to great wealth. Yet I have a few dollars to contribute--who will get those dollars?

I will contribute a few dollars to people running against current #GOP candidates who have continuously supported President Trump's disrespectful, demeaning, and potentially illegal efforts as president. I want to see our United States Congress free of self-serving, bigoted, lazy, and unpatriotic individuals, individuals who vote for their personal pocketbooks and power rather than standing up for the rights and opportunities for all Americans and the global partnerships and efforts that will make for a better world. I'm disgusted by the greed, inactivity, and selfishness of these politicians who are paid by our hard earned tax dollars and do nothing for the people of the United States.

I will contribute some money to the ACLU and Amnesty International since I value human rights and I ache when I see the stories of peoples around the world denied their rights to live a good and simple life. This is abominable and I see these two agencies as agencies working to right the tide in this regard.

I will contribute time and continued membership to the teachers' union because I know that hard working individual educators who have chosen a profession because they believe in the promise and potential education holds do not have the time, energy, money, or support to battle against greedy organizations, individuals, and companies that work to deny everyday people their rights to a quality education for their children. Teachers have to unionize if they want to promote what's best for American schools, families, and children.

I will give a few dollars to #educolor to as that organization is helping me to teach all my students with good knowledge, truth, equity, and strength.

I will contribute dollars to innovating what I can do with and for my students. While I work in a system that provides good support, there is often little to no financial support for innovation or personalization when it comes to teaching well. Rather than continued fighting to obtain those dollars via the system, I'll spend my own money as well as write grants to many generous organizations that exist, organizations that match my desire for more student-centered, active and meaningful educational experiences and supports for all children.

I will continue to support my beliefs for a free and equitable nation by using my time to read, research, learn, and write to support the best of whom we can be as a people for and with one another. And of course, when possible, I'll support local causes that people I know and respect are working for.

We will all choose different affiliations in life. We all have varying abilities to contribute, but we all have a responsibility to think deeply about who we are and what we support. That's a responsibility inherent with regard to living in a free country. What will you choose? Who will you support? How will you audit your affiliations and why does that matter?

Exercise Your Right to Vote!




Clearly President Trump's election to office has been a painful lesson for most Americans that if you don't get out there and exercise your right to vote, you have to live with the outcome of an election that may jeopardize your rights and quality of life. While as citizens we'll rarely agree on every issue, we need to encourage each and every citizen to learn about his/her right to vote and then help them to exercise those rights. The more people work for their best interests and vote for those interested, the more, I believe, that our country will live up to it's aim to provide life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for each and every resident. 


What can we do to forward this incredible right to vote that's a cornerstone of the United States. First, make the voter information accessible, clear, and easy to read. The links above will help Massachusetts residents to access needed information from our state's terrific election website.

Next, educate friends and family members about voting. Provide them with the information they need to register, study, and vote. People all over the country can make lists similar to the one above to help people access the information they need. 

Then, make sure that people know their rights. Today I'm joining the ACLU as one way to contribute towards helping everyone know and receive their rights as American citizens. This is imperative especially as we near the midterms with the evident cyberthreat from Russia and elsewhere, a threat that the President of the United States will not speak out about or work against. This makes our work as individuals even greater at this turning point in American history.

None of us are powerless in this nation. We can immediately act by sharing this information of how and when to vote, and then continue our impact by getting out there and supporting good candidates who represent a will to stand up for and develop our country in ways that matter. This is a good way to respond to Trump's demeaning and troubling remarks on the world stage yesterday. We can do better.




Better USA; Better World

As I look around, I think that the following list is a way to better our country and better our world.
  1. Support public education with better funding, better systems, and more employees to service the needs and potential of our country's children and families.
  2. Support quality health care for all with affordable health care, more health care professionals, and more accessible health care centers.
  3. Work with America's best and brightest to protect natural lands and resources at home and abroad--we absolutely have to protect clean water, clean air, and clean soil. Our lives depend on this.
  4. Build strong communities with a personalized view of what communities need--one size fits all solutions won't necessarily work here, but attention to good recreation, quality basic needs such as homes, health care, education, nutritious food, and clean, beautiful environments, the arts, and positive economic opportunity will help. 
  5. Increase quality services to elevate lives with a focus on the people-to-people service as this will be a good response to increasing automation that is taking jobs away. With more qualified environmentalists, doctors, nurses, educators, and other social service agents, we will better care for one another, our communities, and environment. 
  6. Better global partnerships by acknowledging the impact of past worldwide acts of hate, oppression, and destruction such as colonization, war, slavery, and greed and working together to better communities around the world by dealing with crises related to immigration, war, poverty, environmental destruction, environmental protection, and oppression.
  7. Create opportunities by bettering supports and efforts related to invention, services, environmental protection, sustainability, safety, and good living for all the world's people--rather than support efforts of competition, turn our efforts towards collaboration, cooperation, and betterment for all. 
We can work as a world to better opportunity for all the world's people. We can move beyond our primitive survival-of-the-fittest selves to using our creativity and ingenuity to better the world for all the world's people. Some will say this is a pollyannaish point of view, but I believe it's a point of view that takes us to the great potential we hold as a people who desire life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

It's true that to achieve this vision, we may need to use the path of world unions--unions of everyday people who are working to better lives and opportunities for all rather than a few self-serving individuals across the globe. The world is changing, and I believe we can move that change in a positive direction. Do you agree? 

Do Your Part to Sustain a Great Country?

Everyone has to do their part to sustain and develop the great nation that the United States is.

We are not a perfect nation as evidenced by the President's behavior yesterday--there are many cracks to mend, laws to create, and work to be done to continue to update, modernize, and develop our country in ways that matter for the modern world today and generations to come.

Presently our country is challenged by Trump's efforts to abuse his role in the White House. He appears to abuse his role by using the privileges of the presidency to push forward his narrow, self-serving vision for our a country and the world--a vision that appears to use and abuse everyday people for his own and his cronies' privilege, wealth, and power.

What should Americans do at this turn in the road--an unexpected, dangerous, and critical turn in America's journey as a free nation built by the people for the people?

First we must relentlessly reach out to our political leaders to speak up and act in ways that will investigate, limit, and respond to what appears to be Trump's gross negligence as President of the United States. Trump appears to be using the presidency for his own gain with little regard for the rights and needs of the American people in so many ways:
  • He's negating our allies and siding with our adversaries. 
  • He has demonstrated no trust or allegiance to our nation's justice departments or citizenry on the world stage by siding with and praising those who have been accused of committing crimes against our country.
  • He chooses friends and family members for major roles in our country's leadership seemingly without concern or interest with those individuals' readiness or ability to do the jobs.
  • He invites foreign dignitaries and others to his private clubs for government business and thus reaps the financial rewards of these meetings while compromising security and diplomatic policies and protocols.
  • He demeans education by choosing a big donor to lead our nation's Department of Education, a women with little to no experience in education and a women who apparently is mostly interested in supporting her narrow agenda to promote faith-based initiatives and dismantle the strong public schools that have been a bedrock of this country.
  • He chooses mostly in favor of the wealthy by giving them a big financial boost with new tax laws and by limiting the supports and services for everyday people who make an average wage or less.
  • He's done little to improve access to quality health care and has compromised our health care system more.
  • He doesn't care about the environment and has chosen to trade environmental protection for short-term financial gain for a few. He has no concern for the long-term health of the planet.
  • He doesn't work well with the world's nations, and instead decries the good work that has been done with our allies over years rather than work with them for further positive development with regard to the world's greatest issues such as reduction in warfare and war, end to poverty, protection of natural resources, humane response to the immigration crisis, and an effort to provide opportunity and good living to all the world's people. 
  • In speak and action, he appears to incite greater racial, gender, culture, and religious prejudice--he does little to honor our country's wonderful diversity and the opportunity to uplift every person of every group. 
It seems that Trump thinks of the presidency as a marketing game, one where he can use short sound and sight-bites to appeal to his constituents to win the vote and fill his coffers with money and affection. He says whatever he wants when he wants to win favor with just enough people to forward his agenda. He doesn't appear to value the truth, but instead values any words or actions that will result in what he wants when he wants it. 

He appears to choose to back world leaders whom he feels will serve him best--leaders that he's beholding to and leaders whom he can potentially make deals with related to cheap labor, substantial resources, military power, and his own personal wealth. He apparently does not value human rights as witnessed by how he manages his time, talk, affiliations, and energy--when it comes to everyday people, it seems that Donald Trump believes in survival of the fittest--if you can't save yourself, then too bad for you. We see this with his inhumane response in Charlottesville, his lack of concern for poor immigrant parents and their children, the way he turns a blind eye to issues of gun violence, his lack of interest in the country's public schools, his little concern for the health needs of people, and his complete lack of care for our environment when we know that at the root of all big issues today is the need for clean air, clean soil, and clean water.

It is a scary time in the United States. No matter who was president in my life before, I never felt like we had a leader who would sell out the American people and American ideals for his own gain and fame, but now we have a man who sits as President of the United States who puts self before country and almost before anything or anyone else--he doesn't even serve well for his own children and grandchildren with the policies he promotes--policies that will leave the world's children and grandchildren with a more divided, violent, and polluted world if we don't make change sooner than later.

What can we do to change this?
  1. Speak up as much as you can to as many as you can--have those conversations, call your political leaders, and don't relent--we can't let this man and his foolish, self serving cronies ruin the good work that has been done in this country, and we can't let this man waste our time when it comes to the good work we still need to do. President Trump only cares about himself, a few cronies, and perhaps a couple of other world leaders--don't be fooled by his speak and grandstanding--he appears to be nothing more than a self-serving crook.
  2. Encourage political leaders to begin the impeachment process now--it appears that his words on the world stage yesterday demonstrated treasonous behavior so now we have the proof that this president is not obeying the oath of the presidency and should be impeached. 
  3. Work to get out the vote. Plan to vote. Do the research. Put the voting dates on your calendar. Research the candidates. Offer to drive friends and neighbors to the polls and vote for candidates who will work to make a good life for you and the people in your community.
  4. Be aware of cybercrime and protect yourself against it. 
  5. Go to the polls with others and have your phones ready to videotape any injustice you may face.
  6. Make time every week to contribute to our country in ways that matter--a free and democratic country for the people by the people demands that people get involved.
  7. Learn about environmental issues and work to protect the environment. One reason that the immigration crisis looms is the fact that our natural resources around the world are compromised. We can't let this continue--many in our own country (Flint) and elsewhere suffer because of this.
  8. Support proactive efforts to work with our allies around the world to promote peace and the solutions to the grave world problems that exist. Don't be fooled into thinking that the only way we can solve world problems is through criminal, violent, and aggressive behaviors--we can work with each other in peace to make promising change. 
This morning I'll make a plan for myself, a plan that has dates and times and specific actions to work for the kind of country our forefathers envisioned, a country that helps people to live the good lives possible.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Everyone Has To Do Their Part: Support Our Democracy

I do think Trump's election to the United States Presidency demonstrated that many Americans were asleep at the wheel when it came to our democracy. People were going along with their busy daily routines content with sound-bite news and causal commentary secure that our country would move along as it has for many years with general respect for all and continued forward movement to make things better. Then Trump won and woke us all up.

Now I know there are some that are a bit resentful of this wake-up analogy, particularly some who have been fighting for a better America for good reason for a long, long time without the kind of change that's possible--good change that truly uplifts lives. Living through Trump times has awakened my empathy for so many who have been advocating with deep commitment and care for so long against racism, inequity, lack of support, prejudice against women and more. There have been so many Americans over time who have worked tirelessly to make good change in our country, and while that change was not easy to make, that work did uplift the lives of so many in ways that matter. For myself laws that led to wage equity for men and women, equity with sports funding and activities, special education services for children who need them, and protecting and saving natural lands and resources have dramatically and positively affected my life.

What's most challenging about Trump is that he apparently doesn't care about our American ideal to make things better and uplift lives for all. His efforts appear to demean everyday people and people who disagree with him while supporting his own personal wealth, power, and ego. He does what he wants and doesn't listen to anyone else, and he tosses decades of good diplomatic policies and efforts aside to collaborate with whomever he wants to collaborate with with no care for what other political leaders believe. Further he decries our long held institutions including the justice department and on the world stage demeans our country. The only ideals he stands for that I support are improving the infrastructure of the country, yet he doesn't want to do it the way I would do it which is with modern technology and new ideas, environmentally-friendly infrastructure improvement.

You could work around the clock to research and work against the Trump presidency, but we have families to care for, work to do, and other pursuits to focus on. That's why everyone has to carve aside some time to join groups that will work for positive change in our country. I hope that when Trump is gone, we can say that he was an overcorrection, a President that demonstrated how not to do the job and how not to think or talk about our country--he was a President that woke us up from too much complacency and helped us to realize that we could not let a dangerous and destructive individual like Trump lead our country again. I also hope that it will foster our need to update the laws that support the integration of the three branches of government so no branch has too much power. In my opinion we have to lessen the individual power of the Presidency at this time as Trump has demonstrated that individual power with a self serving, uncaring, and potentially criminal President can ruin our country. I don't think anyone suspected we would have such a President--a man who cares little about our American ideals and future.

So what will your part be? What will you do? How many hours a week will you contribute to your responsibility as a citizen, and what does this matter? Everyone has to do their part--democracy costs time and attention, it's not a government you sustain for free.

Impatient for Change: Betterment

I am fairly patient when it comes to change with my own practice since I use a daily effort to keep working up towards betterment. I've been happy with the growth so far and I enjoy the process to keep moving in that direction. I can be patient because I see good change in the works.

I am even fairly patient with change in the work place because I can see there efforts I can contribute and ways I can work better to forward that change. We're in a good place and it's all about betterment--we're making good progress.

I am less patient about change in our government right now because there is a lot to understand and much that seems tangled, unclear, and even ill-directed. I worry about the great investment we make to support people and programs who in some cases seem to not take their jobs to serve the American people seriously but instead appear to be using our money, resources, and time to serve themselves and their like-minded cronies. The government officials, particularly the Republicans at the national level, have been very sloppy and ill-directed with regards to how they are supervising efforts to provide Americans with quality schools and health care, a clean environment, welcoming well-supported communities, peaceful global partnerships, and well-organized and directed international work with regard to some of the world's biggest problems such as global warming, pollution, immigration, war/violence, opportunity, equity, and fairness.

It seems like few are working to truly make better our policies, laws, processes, and connections with regard to providing every American and I'd add world citizens with the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It seems many have forgotten their most important job which is to serve the American people and have become mired in special and self interests.

Our representatives, senators, and other elected and appointed officials in Massachusetts, for the most part, seem to be doing a great job with an eye on human rights and opportunity at every turn. They are true leaders in the country and I honor that. Our President, however, wastes a lot of our time with grandstanding, negativity, and grandiosity that appears to serve him and and his cronies most while leaving others behind--this is worrisome. The Republican Congresspeople, for the most part, also appear to be more interested in self and special interests rather than betterment for the country. They seem to be trying to recreate how it used to be rather than building modern policies, protocols, and laws for today's work and our very diverse and amazing population.

I'm impatient mostly for change in our national government and on the world stage right now--there's so much more our national and international leaders can do to better who we are and what we do as a people. I guess I'll route that impatience into advocacy particularly with regard to getting people informed about voting and then voting for people who will use their tax dollars well to support strong communities, nation, and world.

Prepare to Vote: Speak Up and Stand Up for the Country You Believe In

I admit that I have not always taken my right to vote seriously. There have been times when I've returned from work exhausted with a long to-do list and I've chosen to stay home rather than go to the polls. Just as bad there have been times when I got to the polls and I didn't even know anything about the people running for office. It takes deliberate effort and planning to vote in the United States. I am thinking about what I can do to be better prepared in the days ahead to vote. I hope you'll join me in some or all of these activities.
  1. Find out when upcoming local, state, and national elections are. Mark your calendar. 
  2. Figure out how you will get to the polls and the time you will go. It's often inconvenient to make time for the polls and it does take pre-planning for most Americans.
  3. Find out who is running for office and make time to read about the candidates. Make sure that the information your are reading is legitimate, and try to see the candidates in person too. The earlier you try to see or meet with the candidates the better chance you'll have to talk with those candidates and discuss your points of view.
  4. Read about the issues the candidates will be discussing. Think about where you stand on those issues.
  5. Join a voter's group and work with them to encourage others to vote.
  6. Plan a voting party and invite others to drive to the polls with you and perhaps share a meal before or after you vote.
  7. Make sure that your family members vote. Make sure that college students who will be away during elections get absentee ballots. Have a family night to discuss the candidates either in person or via an online chat if you live far from one another.
  8. If you have candidates you feel strongly about, actively support them.
  9. Power up your phone before you head to the polls so you can film an impropriety around the polling booths (I don't think you can use it at the polling station, but I have to read about this.)
Now as I make this long list, even I am a bit daunted by the time it will take to be an active citizen, but when I think about what's happening now in our government, I realize that it's really important that the people we vote for and pay to do the job of running our country are people who will stand up for our rights and democratic ideals. I will be looking for candidates that support the following:
  • affordable, quality health care for all citizens.
  • increase in service workers in schools, hospitals, social service agencies, parks, and environmental protection agencies.
  • greater support for environmental and natural resource protection.
  • modern technology that's environmentally friendly and life enhancing
  • looking forward not backward
  • respect for all peoples: all cultures, genders, races, religions, body types, ways of living as long as they don't hurt others, and interests. 
  • quality, equitable public education for all learners K-college.
  • a country that respects all religions, but does not support any religions with tax dollars
  • efforts to increase the infusion of arts, recreation, clean and inviting natural spaces in every community
  • better supports for families 
  • quality basic needs for all including shelter and nutritious foods
  • better taxation laws that create opportunity for all Americans not just some
  • working towards better global partnerships that focus on issues that countries share such as environmental protection, poverty, immigration, trade, transportation, space exploration, and more. 
I've got some work to do to ready to vote. This is a good time to make your voting readiness list and prepare to vote for the people who will be paid by your tax dollars to lead a country that supports you, your family, and neighbors in ways that are profitable and positive. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

What Happens When Your Student is a Waterfall of Ideas?

I had a student last year who was a waterfall of ideas. At every turn he was telling me how to make the classroom better. His ideas were terrific and his focus was directed towards betterment for all, not just himself. He's definitely a leader in the making, however as I think back on this, I didn't really have the right structure for his ideas or his urge to lead and make better.

I thought about this today as I too am a waterfall of ideas. I love thinking about betterment and trying to figure out how to update, transform, and improve systems of teaching and learning. And I'm sure that those I work with find my idea generation to be overwhelming and out-of-place at times.

What are we to do when we're a waterfall of ideas or when we are working with similar students?

With regards to students and perhaps teachers like me, we have to carve out areas for them to lead--areas where they can truly develop and grow their ideas in ways that matter. For example with the boy I mention, I should have found worthy places in the teaching/learning program for him to lead. I did try to do that, and in the areas I chose there was never the time to support his leadership well and thus it didn't work out. In hindsight, I should have made more time upfront to recognize his creativity and will for change, and worked more to coach him with specific leadership tasks. He would have been a great recess coach for younger children or program leader in an early grade classroom. This would have given him space to lead and have helped many others too in meaningful ways.

I had other students, similar to this child, who wanted to lead too. In one case, I did simply give the child the task of planning the lesson and leading me. She took on that responsibility and the lesson turned out to be terrific for so many. I learned a lot too. In another situation, I found a way for a child to share her urge to lead and reach, and she and a friend grabbed that opportunity and within hours had completed the task--a meaningful task that would have taken me days. Their completion was far more authentic and engaging since it came from their voices as the learners rather than my voice as the teacher.

I want to read more about people who are waterfalls of ideas, people eager for betterment and people in love with promising change. Who are those people in your midst? Where are they best directed? How do we support students like this in ways that matter? Let me know what you think?

Updating Professional Learning in Education

MA Teacher Rubric (Note there may be an updated version, but I couldn't locate it)
A recent report demonstrated that most professional learning in school doesn't result in better teaching and learning. I wasn't surprised by this report because I have often found in-house professional learning to be impersonal and ill-directed--rarely does professional learning at school respond to the individual needs of educators.

How can we change this?

First as I think about professional learning that truly impacts my work, I think about the process I use to get there. First, I keep a running list of questions that I have related to working better and smarter. Then I seek out answers to those questions via books, collegial efforts, social media threads, conferences and more. Yet I would like to develop my learning with colleagues in the system where I work--I would like us to use time well to develop our craft in ways that matter. As I think of my own perspective with regard to this, I believe we can better our processes for professional share and learning in the following ways.

Idea and Question Exchange Threads
I do think it would be fruitful for our system to establish an exchange thread where educators share the ideas about good books they are reading, lessons they are teaching, and other information in a readily accessible stream. The stream similar to Twitter or Facebook and possibly Twitter or Facebook itself would be led by share protocols including the following:
  • Share concise summaries with links to more information for those listed
  • Share rationale and/or evidence of why something works
  • Share questions
  • Including overarching goals, themes, and directions
As I think of this, we could try this out as a teachers' union to see if people are interested, however, in general I have found that people are shy to share in this way, so unless an administrator leads the way, I think there will be little buy in from the school staff in general. If administrators were willing to promote this, however, I do think there would be a better share of ideas and better development of teaching and learning.

Colleague Circles
I do think that regular colleague circles about specific topics might be productive if led well. For example a regular exchange of book talks amongst teachers would elevate everyone's knowledge of what books students and teachers are reading, and aspects of those books that have been noteworthy.

In math I could imagine best practice circles where teachers come together to briefly share a best practice, something that has truly worked well with students. The best practiced could be summarized in a few words, slides, or images, and then more detailed information could be available for those interested. 

Similarly there could be best resources talks where teachers share materials, social media threads, workshops, books, and more that elevate the work that they do.

We could have challenging teaching talks where teachers problem solve around specific teaching/learning challenges. Perhaps educators could write a synopsis of the problem and then all who are interested could join in and offer suggestions for solution.

It's important to follow a tried-and-true process for this kind of share. The process of using colleague circles or hosting conversations are two modern day processes that give voice to all involved in meaningful and productive ways. 

Design Your Own Professional Learning
Rather than expecting countless educators to meet in one room after school, educators could design their own professional learning with menus that include the expected learning goals and activities as well as the many offerings. I can imagine the menu to look something like this.

K-5 Professional Learning Menu for School Year 2018-2019

Required:
  1. Assess your teaching using Massachusett's Teacher Rubric (see above) or reference this detailed view of each attribute
  2. Review systemwide goals for 2018-2019.
  3. Decide on a student learning goal and professional learning goal that aligns with district goals, grade-level expectations, and your own teaching/learning goals. Draft your goal and action plan.
  4. Review your goals and action plan with your supervisor.
  5. Choose from the menu below 10 hours of professional learning related to one or more of your teaching/learning goals.
  6. Collect evidence in an online or offline portfolio that demonstrates you've met your goals.
  7. Share your evidence with your supervisor at the end of the year by writing a one-page letter that tells how you met your goals and includes links to the evidence that illustrates that work. 
  8. Add your learning efforts to your PDP chart and make sure you are choosing learning events and goals that will ready you for your next recertification year--see specific recertification guidelines on the DESE website.  When certifying or recertifying, submit your documentation and proof of payment in order to be reimbursed and for your files to be updated with your new and/or renewed certification. 
Menu of Professional Learning Options - Choose options that equal 10 or more hours to fulfill the in-house professional learning expectation. 
 (note this menu is incomplete and meant to serve as an example) 
  • Read a book related to your goals and write a summary of that book to share with colleagues via online share.
  • Form a book group with colleagues, read the book and create a related presentation that colleagues can access online if interested.
  • Attend one or more of the following colleague circles. Click the title to learn more about the date, time, expectations, and focus of the colleague circles. 
    • Classroom challenges
    • Best Practices in Math K-2
    • Best Practices in Math 3-5
    • Book Talks K-2
    • Book Talks 3-5
    • Sharing Field Studies, Special Events, and Expert Visitors
    • Sharing Ideas for STEAM Teaching and Learning
  • Take a course and use professional in-house time to work on your studies. Summarize your learning for online share.
  • Other (please share with your supervisor other ways you hope to fulfill your in-house 10-hours of professional learning)
This kind of professional learning menu would direct individual teachers' to multiple learning options and help them to chart their professional learning course for the year ahead. It would be a much better approach than the typical one-size-fits-all sometimes canned professional learning event. I think this kind of professional development would better develop teacher leaders and more worthy, invested, and interactive teaching/learning communities. Do you agree?

Good Change Takes Time and Attention

If we want to make change, we need to make the time and attention to create that worthy transformation.

Since I think of my career as an education much like that of a builder, I am continually thinking about making good change to elevate programs and service to children. Yet if you change too much too often you may not make the deep and transformative change possible. On the other hand if you continue to nurture a status quo that subpar, you also won't do the good work possible.

Positive change begins with informed vision--where are we going and why are we going there. As I think of this, I am thinking of the vision I have for teaching well, that vision includes lots of details most teachers take for granted, but details none the less that lead to successful teaching including the following:

  • a place for everything, everything in its place--good resources and materials that are easy to access, use, and put away.
  • inspirational, leading signage that signals to students the purpose of our learning community and the beliefs and processes that are most important to the learning we do together.
  • a variety of seating and work areas that provide students with the space and comfort they need to study on their own and with others in a myriad of ways.
  • a good varied program that meets children where they are and leads them to expected learning experiences and results.
  • solid background information to inform the learning/teaching program.
  • expert visitors, field studies, worthy project/problem based learning, apt practice, smart tech integration, and a focus on creativity, collaboration, communication, citizenship, compassion, and critical thinking. 
  • a positive relationship with every child and every family member.
  • positive systems and processes of service delivery that include targeting services, regular schedules of dynamic service delivery, frequent informal and formal assessment, revision, modification, and enrichment as needed, and reflection to determine if the service delivery is meeting the priorities set. 
  • good energy, positive demeanor, and focused time-on-task with students and learning.
Overall the creation of a dynamic teaching/learning environment that brings out the best of every child who studies and learns there. 

After 32 years of teaching, some may wonder why I haven't reached this vision yet. My first response is that good teaching is a lifelong pursuit, one that none of us reach in its entirety since every year there are new problems and situations to tackle and learn from plus the world is ever-changing and it's an educators responsibility to prepare students for their world today and the world of the future. With that in mind, educators have to be lifelong learners that continually revise and enrich their repertoire to teach children well.

I won't teach forever, but in the next few years I hope to get closer to my vision of teaching as well as I can for each and every child. This will take discipline, focus, collaboration, and a steadfast attitude and effort. I want to end my tenure as a teacher with the feeling that I went in there and did the best I could for each and every child. 

After that I suspect that I'll spend some time in the realm of political advocacy for the rights and supports that uplift living and learning for all children. I truly don't feel like our country or world gives enough attention to children particularly children who struggle--I think we can better our supports for those children and by doing that we'll better our future too. There's so much potential to do what is right and good in this realm and I suspect that I'll find an inroad to working in this sphere at that time. 

So this morning as I enjoy a cup of coffee and ponder life's events, I'll make some time for dreaming and vision setting--figuring out how I'll meet my initial goal of teaching well in 2018-2019 and my next goal of setting the stage for a different life as an advocate after that. Onward. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Different Times; Different Places

I remember years back when I was a young mom and teacher working with a veteran teacher similar to my age now. That veteran teacher, not unlike me, was totally passionate about her work--she couldn't get enough. At that time, I wondered how she could give her teaching so much time as I was busy as could be setting up a home, getting used to parents, and active with a large number of personal events. Now years later I fully understand where she was at--it was a time in her life when she, like me, enjoyed the quiet work of developing her craft, enjoying her home, and spending time with family.

That teacher, however, was dismayed at my lack of similar investment at the time. She couldn't understand why I wasn't doing what she was doing. I knew she had never worked as a young mom so I understood that she didn't fully understand what it was like to raise a young family, take care of a home, spend time with the extended family and teach too so I didn't worry to much.

I tell this story because we all have to be mindful that we're at different places at different times. Sometimes we have a lot to give at home, in the neighborhood or community or at work and other times we have less interest and less time and energy to give. That's simply the way life is. So rather than looking down on someone's chosen time and commitment, be mindful that the individual is choosing what's best for his/her personal life and career, and that like you, his/her commitments and how they spend their time will likely change.

Embedding SEL into the Academic Program: Social Awareness

Through substantial dedicated effort led by the principal, guidance counselors and educators outlined a pyramid of behaviors for each grade level that went from small issues to serious problems. This pyramid was created by a colleague who  invested substantial time into the endeavor, and then each grade level completed the pyramid. Early in the year we'll use this to lead a discussion with 5th grade students about behaviors that occur in school and how to discuss, problem solve, and label the severity related to those problems. This was good work. 
This summer I'm engaging in a number of independent study projects including my main education goals of elevating math, science/STEAM, and SEL learning experiences and results. I know that when we learn with intention, we not only read and study the information, but we decide how we will allow that information to transform the way we live, relate, and practice our professional work.

As I reread a book I co-wrote, Integrating SEL Into Your Curriculum, I am considering the many ways that I'll update the curriculum program this year to include worthy SEL experiences.

I've already written a number of posts about this including the following:

More importantly I've started thinking about specifically where these lessons will be embedded into the fifth grade year (see bottom of post). A list that gets longer and longer making me realize that I should probably organize all of this in a website instead.

Today I'm focused on social awareness. We know that when children are socially aware, they succeed with greater success. There were many activities listed in the book to help students gain a good idea of the differing behaviors, perspectives, and actions students in a class will take when given similar problems or questions. The activities help students to understand themselves and others, and this valuable perspective taking will help them when it comes to the many collaborative activities that make up the curriculum program, activities which help students learn more know and gain important collaborative skill for our increasingly interdependent world. As I thought about how I could embed all these activities, I made some specific decisions below, and I also added to the list of activities I'll embed throughout the year. Some of these activities such as the deserted island activity can be easily left for a substitute teacher on a day that you will be out so that students continue to build their awareness of one another. 

Some of the activities in this part of the book fit nicely into early year team building such as the Alphabet Actors activity. 

First Weeks of School - Building Classroom Culture and Getting to Know One Another

  • Who are You? Strengths and Challenges (Weaknesses) - visualization, "window (shield)" activity, "right sized" proud pig activity. (include culture flag headings/information in this activity (Integrating SEL chapter 6)
  • Personal Assessment: Godilocks Games (p. 94-95) is a good activity for children to do an early assessment of themselves. This will provide good information for teachers and family members as they goal set with and for students. 
  • What is a Hero? Who are your heroes? Identifying honorable characteristics, finding people to look up to, learn from,  and follow in real time, history, and literature, sharing the story of Malala.
  • What is your point of view or perception? The birds story, a discussion on classroom needs, wants, and desires.
  • Active Reading: The Student Handbook: What do we do well and what can we get better at--how can we shortlist the handbook rules and protocols to a memorable phrase, sign, poem, or acronym? How can we make these rules and protocols are own?
  • Just Breathe: Making the most of the mindful moment and other morning routines. 
  • Goal SettingYour one word
  • Peer Pressure: Do I Dare Do It (Integrating SEL p. 84-86)
  • Study Skills: What do you really think? (Integrating SEL - chapter 6, Socratic Method)
  • Humor Helps: Integrating SEL p.89-90. I'd like to turn this into an activity where students can create a cartoon, write a paragraph, or write and act out a script. I may integrate this with the writing, art, and/or tech teacher. Students love the integration of humor into the classroom and as one who is very serious, I can see how helpful this would be. 
  • Behaviors at School: To get a head start on conflict resolution and language related to bullying behaviors, students and teachers will use the pyramid on top of the page to discuss the kinds of behaviors that can happen at school, and the appropriate ways to prevent and if needed respond to those behaviors in an effort to build a more caring and helpful classroom community. 
Math/Science SEL Lessons
  • Using visualization in math and science as we learn about and practice with essential tools: color continuum, number lines, rulers, thermometers, place value chart.
  • Equations and Expressions: Using self control and choice to assist your learning and performance (Integrating SEL. . .p. 62-68)
  • STEAM TeamworkCrossing the peanut butter pit (Integrating SEL - chapter 5), Alphabet Actors (p. 94), Can-moving activity (p. 102) and similar activities such as note card towers (p. 108) and marshmallow or gumdrop structures.
  • Where do you want to live? Introduction to environmental education (Integrating SEL - chapter 6)
  • Solar Ovens STEAM activity - embed SEL questioning and activities from Integrating SEL, chapter 6 egg drop activity.
Social Studies
  • Visualization and Empathy to understand historic context and roles as we read historic texts including James Printer, a Novel of Rebellion
  • Resilience/Grit Activity. Integrating SEL p. 86-87
  • Self Awareness with Timelines: Students will create a time line that includes a parent or guardian's main event before they were born from birth onward, their own main events, and 4-5 events they imagine for their future. This will be done in technology class. Prepare for this activity with early-year homework and classwork including "Dream Me" activity from chapter 6 in Integrating SEL. 
  • Curiosity: A Critical ElementUse this lesson from Integrating SEL, Chapter 6 as introduction to current events learning/teaching.
  • Time Line Prep: parent interview, template, Dream Me activity, and ImportantChanges (Integrating SEL p. 82-84) Coordinate with tech teacher. 
Team Building and Personal Development Lessons and Activities Throughout the Year
  • Think Positive activities and study Note that several of these activities can be integrated with physical education and music class too. 
  • Self Control Lessons (Integrating SEL chapter 5)
  • The Conflict Within (p.106) - this might fit nicely with the writing program
  • Trust Walk (p. 104-105)
  • Difficult Choices (p. 105-106)
  • Deserted Island (p. 107)
  • Reflection (p. 109-110)

Develop Your Skill: I Already Do That

There's a human instinct to deny needed growth. I read about this years ago in the book, Intentional Interruption, that demonstrates what we believe about ourselves is often untrue and exaggerated related to our best attributes and successes. Yes, sometimes we think too highly of ourselves and don't recognize the ways we need to improve. This is a humbling reality.

Recently I heard this reality when an individual responded to new goals with the statement, We already do that. Yes, the individual was right, we do do that, but do we do it with the depth and purpose outlined in the goals and do we do it across all classrooms, learning experiences, and supports? As with any teaching/learning objective, we rarely meet the potential that exists for betterment--there's always more that we can do.

How do we forward ourselves beyond the myths we hold that we are already meeting the depth and promise of goals with fidelity and success?

I think the best way to do this is through common focus, purpose, and goals. I believe that when a group of educators chooses a worthy goal, define that goal with specificity, outlines the path to goal attainment, and then begin the journey together with honesty, empathy, and support for one another, we can help each other to move forward to deeper practice, greater capacity, and truly meaningful work--this is the beautiful potential we hold as educators, the really good work we are able to do together.

So rather than meeting a goal with the statement, "I already do that," you could instead meet a goal with the statement, "What meaningful, collective goal will take me to better effort and result in that realm?"

As I think of this more specifically, I want to think about how I might make this a reality with math education. One way to do this might be to follow these steps:
  • Assess students' performance from last year using a number of formal and informal assessments with the teaching team, and determine an area of practice that we think we can do better with. 
  • Work together to define that goal and outline the path to goal attainment--discuss what's needed with regard to scheduling, learning experiences, resources, assessments, and meetings. 
  • Then get started assessing, revising, and reflecting on the efforts regularly.
Last year system leadership followed a similar pattern in each school. I listened to several of their reports which were inspiring. 

As I think more about this, however, it might be that we choose a goal that impacts the entire teaching/learning team--a goal we're all invested in. To do that well would mean that we would have a deep conversation about where we are doing well and where we can improve as a team with regard to student service and teaching. Good process and leadership would have to lead this effort, and then we could work on this effort throughout the year at our PLCs. I imagine that something like this might be in the works given the efforts of the administrative team and chosen affiliates last year.

So next time you're tempted to respond with "I already do that" to a proposed goal, you might want to think instead how can I grow that effort in a meaningful, collaborative way that develops my skill by developing what I can do with and for others. Onward. 

Goal Attainment 2018-2019: Defining the Details


How do you translate your overarching goals into a detailed action plan, and then how do you regularly assess and refine that action plan to meet your goals. As a tangental thinker who can easily move from the daily to-do list to issues of politics, family, systems, and more, I need to continually revisit the goal attainment process--what will I do to reach my goals? (Note that I've refined my goal language a bit below.)

Learn, Explore, and Prove math knowledge with greater project/problem based learning and process including pictures/models, numbers, words, and algebraic statements.

  • Create the co-lab, a learning environment that supports project/problem based learning.
  • Work to schedule therapists, special educators, and assistants to support both individual student and program goals with fidelity and depth. Scaffold lessons to provide every child with an opportunity for rich learning and standards-based success. 
  • Assess teaching/learning efforts from last year via MCAS data, EWIS list, and other formal and informal metrics. When assessing, use the following questions:
    • Did students perform as expected given district and classroom observations, teaching, and regular assessments?
    • When students did not perform as expected, analyze what happened? Was the material taught well to that student? Was the student available for the learning in real time or with respect to his/her readiness to learn? Were there good supports to support the child's learning? What does the data tell about this digression from expected results?
    • Did I teach the expected curriculum with enough depth, repetition, and right focus? First by simply looking at the released questions, one can tell if he/she taught the material with good depth or focus. Then when looking at how students responded to the questions as a group, one can determine if the material was taught well. 
    • How can I change this year's program to better teach areas where individual students or students in general were not able to accurately apply that knowledge?
  • Set the stage for apt math learning onetwo, and three.
  • Continue to read Boaler's Mindset Mathematics for Grade Five and embed her project-based activities into related units throughout the year.
  • Use a weekly home-study reflection/journal assignment and That Quiz practice sets that is predictable and that I respond to on a regular basis. (Example)
  • Use a predictable routine of response and assessment to continually assess the program efforts and result. Revise as needed in response to the assessments. 
Increase rigor of scientific inquiry and experimentation related to science standards, environmental science, and STEAM study with greater student collaboration, use of lab sheets, and scientific and engineering design processes. 
  • Create the co-lab.
  • Decide with colleagues how we will determine the science and STEAM teaching leadership and scheduling. 
  • Review all related standards, practices, and curriculum materials. Review related summer work to support prioritization. 
  • Start year with team building STEAM and related SEL activities to build a strong mindset and abilities to do rigorous, rich science and STEAM work. 
  • Explicitly introduce science/STEAM practices, processes with specific activities and classroom signage.
  • Revise related lab sheets to guide independent exploration and investigation. Respond to lab sheets for each significant science/STEAM exploration. Chart science/STEAM performance via lab sheet rubric, students' reflections, and images of learning experiences. 
  • Enrich the program with expert visitors, special events, and field studies
  • Review expected standards prior to MCAS tests via online Google Form assessments.
  • Encourage students at-home continued exploration and creativity related to the concepts, knowledge, and skill introduced. 
  • Continue to read and research about these efforts.
  • Work with Drumlin Farm in conjunction with a grant they received to develop greater environmental science education and stewardship with students. 
Scaffold the curriculum to give every child a just right entry point to successful learning.
At times last year, there were not apt entry points for learning for some activities and this made it difficult for support personnel to rightly support a child's learning in those endeavors. This year I want to more clearly denote levels of entry including review, grade-level, and enrichment. Then when educators coach students ahead, we can know which level to begin our deep coaching with. I will use Boaler's floor-to-ceiling approach in conjunction with this, and I will match these efforts with simple, easy-to-administer formal and informal assessments to assess a child's independent skill with specific skills, knowledge, and concepts embedded in the project/problem based explorations. 

Engage more effectively with the broader education team with specific strategies to teach all students well.
  • Begin with looking deeply at student IEPs and other data to determine what the priority teaching efforts should include. Chart and discuss those priorities with the broader teaching team.
  • Schedule services strategically with the learning priorities in mind beginning with the most complex and difficult to teach students--when their services are well organized, that leaves room to better teach all students. 
  • Embed priorities into the curriculum maps, and continually focus on those priorities with regard to planning and implementation of all learning experiences.
  • Work with the team to better our collective processes and efforts to meet the priorities determined. Assess regularly and revise as needed. 
  • Keep the conversations and efforts positively centered on what we can do to meet the identified goals for the students and their families. 
Nurture each and every student.
  • Make consistent efforts to know every child well.
  • Use a strengths-based attitude and model to nurture every child.
  • Embed SEL activities throughout the curriculum to help children develop their capabilities to learn and live well.
  • Use compassionate curiosity to gain insight into students' struggles and work with family members and others sooner than later when challenges occur. 
  • Create learning experiences with and for students that are positive, enriching, engaging, and meaningful. 
  • Develop a dynamic, compassionate, and kind classroom of students, friends, and leaders. 
As I work on my overall goal which is to LISTEN, I will listen for the following:
  • Ways that system leadership encourage us to meet the published goals for the year.
  • New learning and summer efforts that colleagues and administrators share.
  • Students' interests, needs, passions, and questions.
  • Colleagues' short-term and long-term plans and pursuits.
  • Service providers questions and needs.
  • Changes in the way we do things individually and systematically.
  • Research and study related to modernizing and bettering education for all.
I'm sure that I'll refine this list in days to come as I listen more. 

System Think and Ideas: Impact on Individual Work

Some do not involve themselves in system think and ideas. I love to think systematically about the work I do and the influences that impact my work. It's obvious that systems affect the work I do every day, and to do better work, I need to work to make better systems.

Sadly if an educator doesn't have a restroom break, there's a problem with the system. This is a basic issue that often goes unacknowledged in school settings, and an issue which connects to educators' health, demeanor, and ability to teach well. It's foolish that this situation continues, but it does. Fortunately next year I'll have a teaching assistant in my class so that should not be an issue.

The way time is used in schools is another systems issue. When teachers are expected to do up to five hours of work a day on their own time to prep, plan, assess, and respond to lessons and administrative tasks, there's a problem with the way time is used and the expectations set. Old time factory model schedules still exist in many schools--those schedules deem classroom educators as robots that follow instructions rather than professionals who analyze, research, review, assess, and respond with regard to the students who they are tasked to teach well. We know that there are countless ways to help students develop with confidence, skill, concept, and knowledge today, and to coach students forward requires deep and thoughtful effort on behalf of educators. To simply project a top-down approach to teachers then results in teachers that only have the time to do the same with students which further supports a less human, less rich, and less humane teaching/learning approach. Instead to look at the way we use time and then to spread the time-on-task with students out more throughout the system is to gain greater capacity for meaningful, targeted, and humane work with students.

The way we share and develop ideas is another systems issue. When educators work as silos with staccato schedules of idea share, growth is stifled, but when educators work with natural, fluid systems of idea share and development, the growth is more personal, engaging, and productive. Living systems models for system growth and development hold great potential for what we can do and how we can do it--we gain greater investment when we openly welcome the ideas from all stakeholders with dynamic idea processes and systems.

I don't believe that the old-time tight hierarchical structures of the past factory models of schools serve schools, educators, or students well today. I believe that education systems need to be modernized in ways that maintain some structure and also invite greater distributive leadership, fluid idea share and development, and the voice and choice of all stakeholders.


Useful or Useless?

When we consider the way we use time we should think about the words useful or useless. What do we do that is useful and how do we measure that?

I have witnessed countless useful efforts in the school system I've worked in for 32 years, and I've witnessed useless efforts too.

One wonderful useful effort has been the school garden. Though, at times, it has been difficult for those who forward this wonderful effort to get needed support, they've persisted and that has resulted in a terrific on-site, modern day teaching/learning effort.

Another useful effort, in my opinion, has been embedding Symphony Math into our curriculum. Over time the software has improved greatly as have teachers' abilities to embed that into our teaching/learning program. There's still room for growth here, but all in all, it has been a successful initiative that results in deeper, richer, research-based student learning.

The work we do for signature projects such as the Global Changemakers project at fifth grade is also fruitful--it is a memorable, rich project that leads students to do deep, meaningful, and memorable stay and presentation. It's a keeper that gets better every year.

Some useless efforts I've witnessed have included spending lots of money on consultants and efforts that go nowhere, yet the money we've spent on consultants from IDEAS have been rich and fruitful, truly challenging the work we do and helping us to become better.

As I think of my individual work I can think of useful and useless too. For example, I said no to a number of learning endeavors this summer because I did not think the endeavors would result in deeper or better work since the endeavors were organized in ways that would require lots and lots of detail work with little fruitful result. On the other hand, I did sign up for the MTA Summer Conference's advocacy course since I want to learn how to advocate better to improve schools and services to students--this is work I'm passionate about and know that I can learn more about to be better. This is useful to me.

In the days ahead as I forward my study on my own and with others, I'm going to be thinking more about useful vs. useless--those are good words when it comes to making right choices for where we invest our time and energy to improve our professional efforts and craft.

Ideas for Change and Betterment: 2018-2019

I like to think of ways to better my individual efforts and the collective efforts of the organization. People get tired of my suggestions and often don't respond so I place many ideas on my blog and then refer back to them when time permits. Sometimes after writing them down on the blog, I send the post to people in charge of those potential changes.

In general, I am fortunate to work in a school system where we have tremendous support with regard to resources, community support, talented dedicated personnel, adequate facilities, and amazing potential. As a critical thinker, I am always thinking of ways to better what I can do on my own and with others. Here are some ideas that I believe have the potential to uplift the work we do.

Better Processes of Scheduling and Prioritizing Student Services
We are going to tackle this issue in the first days of school before students come. I believe that by taking our new system goals seriously, goals that encourage educators to target student needs and assess in small, student-centered ways more often, we will reach better success. To look deeply at student needs from many angles, to list the priorities, organize the efforts to teach and schedule, and then to assess our efforts regularly, I believe, will lead to greater success particularly with our most difficult to teach students--students who often receive multiple in-school supports and services. To look at many angles means checking the state's Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS), a list that notes students who are at high and moderate risk using an algorithm that takes into account multiple factors. The angles also include looking at MCAS scores, IEP plans, past teachers' comments/experiences, parent/student comments and experiences, service delivery, and more. To better map priorities and schedules beginning with our most difficult to teach students will help us to elevate what we can do for all students.

Early Review of MCAS Data and Other Metrics
I believe that early review of standardized test data and other metrics can well inform our efforts as educators. Fortunately the system and state have allowed me to see some metrics over the summer which has helped me to think about the program deeply. For example, I looked at EWIS data recently to understand which students may need more targeted and better supports in the year ahead. I also plan to look at early release MCAS data to assess my individual and our collective program efforts to see where we might teach differently or better for the year ahead. I use other metrics, both formal and informal, to assess efforts too which I find very helpful. For all educators to do this work early in the year is a good way to get programs off to a good start.

Targeted, Early Hiring of Title One Teachers
I believe that our school system meets the requirements for some Title One support. The earlier we hire and the more targeted our hires are for this support, the better we'll be able to utilize the talents and time of Title One teachers. We do have a summer program in place that uses some of these funds which will support students' readiness for learning. We may be able to use these funds in conjunction with growing our affiliation with local colleges and universities by hiring graduate students to do this work.

Fidelity to Learning Routines and Schedules
It's important to establish a good pattern of teaching and learning that we can stay faithful too. This may include setting aside particular days and times for field studies and special events. We've already scheduled many of those, however once we receive the base schedule which is typically a very good schedule, we can plug in additional times/days for specific learning endeavor and try to stick to that. Having a good learning routine really helps students and educators to reach the potential that exists.

Broaden Technology Use
In my opinion, although we have many good resources and projects in place, our tech menu continues to be too narrow with regard to preparing students for the tech-infused world they will live and work in. I think we can broaden our menu of available process, programs, projects, and supports to help every child utilize technology as the intelligent assistant it is. I've been trying to forward this idea for many years with little success, but I will continue to look for ways to allow educators to try out and embed new technology that helps students to utilize and develop their ability to use 3D modeling, virtual realities, visual math software, and more modern, brain-friendly tech supports that will help us to personalize and better the way we use technology to teach. Fortunately we have fairly good hardware to support this work, but I believe we can utilize better, more fluid processes to better choose and use software to forward student learning.

Utilize Supports Better For Deeper Learning, Field Studies, and Project/Problem Based Learning
Many system supports continue to be 30-minute, 45-minute, or 60-minute supports, but the need for students to dig into deep learning via expert visitors, project/problem based learning, and field studies often requires support for a half or whole day. How can we better embed supports such as special educators, therapists, teaching assistants, and more to support the deep collaborative learning that is matched to these kinds of learning endeavor. Early in the year we'll think about this with the following questions:
  • Should IEP scheduling be year-long similar scheduling or should there be four quarters of scheduling including early year academic routine, standardized test prep/administration, project/problem based learning--should we break up the school year into primary learning modes and schedule supports accordingly?
  • Should IEP scheduling include whole-day scheduling where a special educator and/or therapist is assigned to a grade level for an entire day which would be a good support for project based learning and field studies?
  • Should IEP scheduling include longer blocks so that specialists have the time to administer lengthy tests, work on deep projects, and need less times for transition?
  • Should coaches and specialists have similar weekly schedules so that individual teachers, students, and classes can count on them as part of a regular schedule?
  • Should special support personnel be scheduled for greater time-on-task with students and located in proximity to the classrooms, students, and educators they support?
From the start of MCAS prep in April until the end-of-the-year our teaching schedule shifts significantly from a more traditional weekly routine to a much greater project/problem based learning approach. This meant that our traditionally scheduled service delivery was unable to support us in ways we needed such as extra help for field study hikes, science projects, STEAM efforts, the Global Changemakers project, the play, and more. This is what woke me up to realize that many of the supports we have in school are still focused on old time traditional learning goals rather than more modern and holistic learning/teaching goals. This is something I want to explore more and an area that I believe has the potential to lead to better service delivery and results for all students.

Ongoing Processes of Share and Growth
In many ways school development is still a staccato effort with scheduled stops and starts, but research shows us that's not the way ideas grow or change happens. Instead in our quickly evolving world, change is always happening and it appears that it's best for systems to embrace more fluid ways to exchange ideas, develop new strategies, and respond to the learners, new technology and research, and opportunity in our midsts. David Culberhouse does wonderful research in this area.

Moving More and More to a Flattened Hierarchy and Distributive Leadership Models of Teaching and Learning 
I continue to be a fan of moving more to distributive leadership models that are authentic and that give voice, choice, and leadership to all stakeholders including families, students, community members, educators, administrators, assistants, and other staff. I have outlined one model that I believe would be rich at the elementary level in this post.

Scholarships, Homework Clubs, and Tech for Students Without At-Home Academic Support
Children that struggle most often are students without at-home academic support. Their homes may be filled with love, but for reasons of health, economics, schedules, and more there may be no one to help them get the kind of academic supports they need to thrive. One way that schools can help out with this is by figuring out who these students are and offering before- and/or after-school homework clubs, technology that students can borrow to use at home, and scholarships to enriching after-school, vacation, and summer programs. Our school system already does this to a large degree, and I think we can think about how we might continue to deepen these successful efforts.

Time-on-Task versus Time-for-Paperwork, Research, Planning and Prep
Often in schools I think that time is not used well. Often educators who are responsible for the most students day-in-day-out have the least time to research, prep, plan, and lead their efforts. I think schools have to re-look at how much time-on-task with how many students each educator is responsible for as well as the amount of paperwork and planning expected too. I believe that most educators should be spending considerable time-on-task with students on a regular basis, and that educators need to have adequate time for planning and prep. I'm not a fan of having large amounts of educators without time-on-task with students as I believe that dilutes our potential for the good work possible. Working with students everyday marries us to the efforts that matter, questions that need to be explored, and supports that translate into success. 

I think of betterment ideas every summer as I use the summer as a rich time to develop my practice as do other educators and administrators, but there is little way to share that learning and be aware of each other's efforts in this regard that is embraced and supported. I was happy to see a first change in this effort with the early release of next year's goals--that has given me the information I need to tie my efforts into the greater system goals. The better we collaborate around and understand the directions and processes a system is moving in, the more aligned individual educators can be with their research, share, and efforts to develop craft and practice in ways that support students and systems well.