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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Where's Your Evidence? Prove Your Point!

Good work depends on good analysis.

To analyze efforts well leads us to better endeavor.

As people argue and debate the gun violence issue with multiple sound bites, I find myself looking for the research to truly understand what can make a difference in this regard.

Unfortunately, our President jumps to the sound bit answers right away demonstrating no proof that he's looked at the research, considered the options, analyzed the evidence, and consulted the experts. Instead he uses his skill as a marketeer and evokes emotions in Americans with multiple scary, exciting, and sometimes enticing sound bites, quick responses that advertise a quick macho fix to a deep problem.

Problem solving doesn't work that way. Problems are solved when there's good intention, consult, research, analysis, continued review, and assessment. Problems aren't solved by the quick fixes that can be easily and emotionally shared through advertising techniques.

All Americans, including me, have to read more, analyze better, and seek to work with others to find the best solutions to problems that impact the lives of our family members, friends, colleagues, community members, and fellow citizens. Problem solving is serious work that has tremendous potential when done well.

Don't be fooled by the slick sound bites and emotional exaggerations that are not born out of good analysis, intent, or research, but instead meant to trick, play, and fool people into supporting narrow vision and single objectives that are usually tied to the popularity and wealth of message creator/sender.

Making Advocacy Visible

How can you make your advocacy for a better America visible? What can you do?

I made a short list, and now I'm going to get more specific:

Get more involved with my state and local union to make positive change and development so that educators have what they need to teach every child well in safe, positive, uplifting educational environments. I will begin by reading their postings, attending their meetings, following their lead, and joining other members in solidarity to stand up for what matters with regard to a high quality education for every child as well as strong, successful public schools in every community. At the local level I'll continue to serve on our local union board and work specifically to keep the website updated and to update our local union's bylaws.

Back positive politicians who work for the rights, opportunity, respect, and freedom for all. I will research this more during the summer, and get involved with a few politicians who are doing the hard work to make our country a positive place to live for all people.

Work to promote a positive, uplifting academic program for my students. I will work with my colleagues to do what we can to continually develop the teaching/learning program with research-based efforts to engage, empower, and educate every child. For now that means carrying out the expected plans to teach science and math well while also incorporating new efforts that are supported by grants to uplift students' environmental education and culturally proficient programming.

Collaborate with all stakeholders to continue to develop dynamic learning communities within and outside of school.  Fortunately I work with a dedicated group of educators, family members, and students in my school community, and I will continue these efforts as we continue to elevate what we can do in the school community to serve students well. 

Speak up against the selfishness, greed, back-vision, narrow outlook of our current president and many politicians to foster better leadership for our country and world. I will make time to do the research and then speak out against policies and people that continually work against environmental protection, integral social services, optimal health care and education, and equal opportunity. I will research the facts and figures that point to the greed, selfishness, prejudice, and narrow vision that so many of our leaders display and forward today. 

Continue to learn about, engage with, and publicize policies and possibilities that hold promise for a better America and world. There are so many intelligent, committed, and positive experts out there who have dedicated their lives to understanding specific issues such as the effects of gun violence. As time permits, I will continue to learn about the work of these people, people like those involved in @sandyhook promise and other efforts, and then work to elevate their work and impact in ways that matter. To think that our own government leaders will not fund CDC studies of gun violence in order to placate their NRA affiliations is unthinkable and detrimental to all. This is the kind of greed I want to work against. 

Contribute to organizations that promote positive, life enriching development and change. I want to look carefully at our family budget and think about who we will support and how we will do this. I want our hard earned dollars to be used, in part, to support efforts that matter. That's why I donated to the NEA's and Stoneman Douglas's efforts to stop the gun violence by bringing attention to needed regulations, reductions, and restrictions related to guns. 

Spend time and energy supporting positive, proactive, honest individuals and organizations who demonstrate integrity and commitment to good living and contribution. There are so many people out there doing what is right and good all the time, and I want to steer my time, energy, and support in their direction. 

Disengage with and speak out against those who continually promote negativity, lethargy, disrespect, and disinterest in positive endeavor and efforts, selfish individuals and organizations who do little to promote what is positive and possible. There are people in our midst who continually dismiss, disrespect, and demean others. These are typically selfish people who think that the only way they can rise is to step on and diminish others. These are people who name call and trick people to get their way--they are mostly secretive and not forthcoming with regard to what they do and why they do it. I need to stay away from these individuals as much as possible as they do nothing but lead us down paths we don't want to go. 

We have to work double time at this juncture in the American journey

Typically I like to watch the news in the morning to see what's going on, but today I turned it off as the news replayed President Trump discussing the idea of arming teachers in schools. It was just too much to handle because it seems like to teach well educators have to be advocating 24-7 against the political will and greed of so many who have little understanding or care about what really happens in schools.

Educators rarely have what they need to do a good job. We are always strapped for time, resources, and support. You seldom hear an educator say that he/she has all that they need to do the good job possible. Instead it's typically an issue of how can we get this or how can we do that? For example educators are always choosing which students get the attention since there's typically one teacher and many students, and amongst the many students there are often many who have extraordinary academic, social, physical, or emotional needs--the kinds of needs that are not easily met, and the kinds of needs that require extra support, funding, and expertise. Teachers everywhere do extra to meet the needs of these students--they continually reach out beyond the school budgets, time, and resources to be able to help children, the kind of children whose parents may not be providing support or who may face poverty, lack of health care, unsafe homes, and less basic supports including good nutrition, necessary clothing, and care.

Educators generally know how to do a good job by students, but what they know and what they can do is often compromised by lack of funding and adequate support. Last night, worried by President Trump's words about arming educators and militarizing schools, I did a little research and my research showed clearly that one reason the United States has more gun violence is simply because we have more guns on the streets and those guns are less regulated and restricted than in other countries that are similar to the United States. Less guns spells less gun violence, and one reason why we don't have less guns is that the NRA has lots of money and power, and they use that money and power to forward more and more gun purchases and less and less regulation--the kind of regulations that would keep guns out of the hands of those that would use them in harmful ways.

Further, there is a problem with how we care for our children in this country. Our government is not focused on the welfare of children, the elderly, and the vulnerable. Instead, it seems that most of our governmental leaders are focused more on their own self and wealth. As I read recently, most schools in our country are starved of the funding they need to teach well and care for children. We need the kinds of supports in schools that help out when a child is hungry, uncared for, mentally ill, or physically disabled. We need greater support for families that are struggling too. These social problems quickly become part of the school landscape and lack of funding and other supports make it very difficult for teachers and community members to serve these children in ways that matter. As a society, we have to look for ways to help more children in positive ways. That, in turn, will help to uplift our communities. While many government leaders today are not doing their job, there are many particularly here in Massachusetts that are working around the clock to do what is right and good.

I am heartbroken that we are living at a time when the President of the United States would prefer to arm teachers rather than look deeply at analyzing and solving a social problem. Why won't he follow the lead of Australia who took important steps to make their schools safer? Why won't he focus on adequate funding for schools so that every child gets what he/she needs in school and via social services when needed? Why doesn't he show respect and support policy that makes America stronger for all and not just for a few wealthy individuals?

More than ever educators need the collective voice of their unions and professional organizations to stand up for what is right and good for our profession. We can't let organizations like the greedy NRA fill educators with fear as they promote more and more guns and gun use across the nation with their misleading, discriminatory, and fear mongering ads and tactics. And by ourselves, we can't stand up to big, rich organizations like that--we need our unions and our solidarity to stand up to the craziness that abounds.

Educators everywhere want to do what is right by students. We want our schools to be vibrant centers of study and development. We are so proud of our young, dynamic students, like the courageous students from Stoneman Douglas High School who are not standing idly by in the face of the carnage they experienced at their school, but instead who are standing up, speaking out, and acting to make positive change.

While school shootings are a grave issue. This is not the only issue our society faces with regard to gun violence and mistreatment of youth. There is much we can do across many disciplines to elevate life for all Americans. This work begins with good analysis, collaboration, and leadership/governing bodies. We need our leaders to listen to their constituents and to act with good intelligence and purpose for the promise our country holds. We must vote out the selfish, greedy politicians who lead only for their own self and wealth with little care about our country and the people in it.

There is a temptation to turn the television off forever and to not listen or act to face this great struggle to reroute our country and its policies in ways that better life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. But we cannot give up, and we have to push forward in the ways that we can to support positive change.

As I write, I will do the following:
  • Get more involved with my state and local union to make positive change and development so that educators have what they need to teach every child well in safe, positive, uplifting educational environments.
  • Back positive politicians who work for the rights, opportunity, respect, and freedom for all.
  • Work to promote a positive, uplifting academic program for my students.
  • Collaborate with all stakeholders to continue to develop dynamic learning communities within and outside of school.
  • Speak up against the selfishness, greed, back-vision, narrow outlook of our current president and many politicians to foster better leadership for our country and world.
  • Continue to learn about, engage with, and publicize policies and possibilities that hold promise for a better America and world.
  • Contribute to organizations that promote positive, life enriching development and change.
  • Spend time and energy supporting positive, proactive, honest individuals and organizations who demonstrate integrity and commitment to good living and contribution. 
  • Disengage with and speak out against those who continually promote negativity, lethargy, disrespect, and disinterest in positive endeavor and efforts, selfish individuals and organizations who do little to promote what is positive and possible. 
There's a part of me that would like to bury my head in the sand at this juncture in the American journey, but that's not who I am or what I believe in. I believe that we all have to do our part if we want to keep our country and world strong for the people that live in it, and right now many of us have to work double-time in the face of the greed and negativity that exists and has taken hold. It's not what we wish for, but it is what we have to do. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I just want to do my job as a mom and a teacher

I just want to do my job as a mom and a teacher. I want to do what I can to support my family and teach children well. I don't want to have to research and speak up everyday because so many political leaders are not doing their jobs. Every day I have to research the words and acts of our president, words and acts that don't seem true or accurate. And, as you may guess, his words and actions are often not research-based, the result of good analysis, or directed toward the best interests of the American people.

Everyday his sound bites are alarming, worrisome, and distracting from the work I want to do. Everyday he threatens our safety and supports leaving us worried and unsupported. He is a threat to our freedom, our safety, our peace of mind, and he's added an extra job to every citizen's day--the job of researching to figure out what he says is true and what is not. There has never been a less trustworthy president in my lifetime.

I just want to do my job as a mom and a teacher, but we have a president who is not doing his job of good analysis, decision making, collaboration, and leadership leaving all of us with extra work to do each and every day. A troubling reality for every American who cares about our democracy and the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every person who lives in this country.

The Trump Show: Sounds Bites and Sensationalism

We can't forget that above all Trump is a marketeer whose mission is to put himself at center stage while increasing his wealth. He has little concern for most people and makes his decisions based on what will elevate his popularity and pocketbook. Nothing else matters.

He is shortsighted always looking for the quick fix and fast results with little regard for long term impact or harm. For example he'll do what he can to increase profits with little care about what that his decisions will do to our environment long term. Rather than study the issue of school shooting to see where and why this happens or put smart people who understand the issue well in charge, he simply finds a sensational solution that supports his NRA cronies which is to arm educators and militarize schools.

Trump doesn't really care about public schools or the children in those schools since he's done nothing to support those schools or teachers since he took office, and of course, his own children go to wealthy private schools.

A successful presidency to Trump is one where he is adored by many and profits greatly. He appears to have no deep allegiance to any cause other than his own pocketbook and popularity and the wealth and popularity of a few family members and cronies too.

I listened to his Parkland listening session, I was dismayed since he gave little real attention to students with good ideas and heartbreaking stories, but instead took considerable time to speak about his idea of arming teachers and militarizing schools--an NRA friendly idea, and an idea that will probably increase his NRA support in dollars, advertisements, and more.

To have Trump as President is to be part of a daily reality show where he trumps-up all that works to increase his popularity and wealth with little compassion, empathy, care, concern, creativity, or intelligence related to ideas and leadership that will really make our country strong.

He is so disrespectful to most of us, and this is disheartening each and every day.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Squeezed

When you feel squeezed it's time to do something differently.

While raising young children and working full-time I was squeezed all the time. In hindsight, I wish I knew how to change the schedule to diminish that squeezed feeling. Looking back I wouldn't change what I did with and for my children, husband, students, and extended family, but I would lessen the expectations I put on myself for other efforts--efforts that created that squeezed feeling.

Now I know when that squeezed feeling starts to emerge. It's a feeling that you simply don't have the space or time you need to be your best self. When you start to feel it, it's time to make change.

We all have different squeeze quotients. Some of us require substantial space and alone time while others need far less. Some of us need specific locales too with regard to not being squeezed or squished--some spaces bring more peace and harmony than others.

Identifying the squeeze means you have time to make change or forge through it if it's worth it, and sometimes you do forge through because your sacrifice of time or effort is exactly what you need to do.

Improving Schools and Practice

As I think big today about our country and world, I want to remind myself of the good that I can do within my own teaching/learning realm. What can I do to better teach and promote good learning/teaching in my own educational sphere.

Social Media/Research Education
As a school system we need to support apt education related to social medial and research education. Our school system and state is on a good path in this regard, a path that our whole system will discuss, in part, in the days ahead. Students need to be skilled curators and vetters of the social media and technology they use.

Three-Dimensional/Creative Tech
We need to continue to move from flat "workbook on the page" tech to more creative technology. We have to include three-dimensional platforms like Minecraft and SCRATCH from students' earliest days, and we have to include this kind of tech in our school programs. We need to elevate our tech use and platforms so students know how to use the tech strategically earlier than later.

Collaboration and Project/Problem Based Learning
We need to continue to build our efforts to increase collaboration wth meaningful, relevant, and worthy project/problem based learning.

Active Citizens
I would like to see educators across the state forward the opportunity for every student in the state to take a government course in their junior year, a course that results in junior year students' opportunity to register to vote and vote before they reach 18.

Bridging the Opportunity Gap
I know that there's more we can do to bridge the opportunity gap and I believe that if we add good, inclusive process to this question, we will improve what we are already doing. I believe that better orientation programs, access to technology, parent/family efforts, reimagining courses, and greater social/emotional supports are ways that we can do this. We are on a good path, but we can definitely do more and better.

Green Schools
Again, a good path has been started, but there is more that we can all do in this regard.

Working with the Community
There are strong ties and I believe we can continue to strengthen these ties too through our project/problem based learning and other opportunities for outreach.

I will think more about this list in the days to come. Let me know if you have anything to add.

Issues of Our Times: Social Media, Bots, and Greed

All over social media, people are forwarding their point of view.

All over social media, people are pushing their agenda in ways big and small.

Social media has created a world conversation, and that conversation like any world interaction is influenced by power, money, and time.

Of course a building full of tweeters and robo-tweeters with an agenda will have more power than a single tweeter, thus the troll effect.

What does that mean for us as a people as we continue to engage with social media and as our world becomes more and more connected?

First it means that we have to connect with others whom we trust and believe in to increase our influence with regard to the country and agenda we believe in and support.

We also have to shine the light on what is happening with regard to world interactions and social media use. In schools we have to teach students how to vet social media posts and information to recognize what is real and what is honest reporting.

We have to make sure that our actions reflect our words and beliefs too. Words alone have little power, but words that reflect action are powerful.

As I think of what's happening in our world, I am noticing the following actions and efforts which need attention:
  • I worry about the decline of family strength and commitment. I want to research that more, but it seems that the family dynamic may be weakening and this weakening may be hurting children and others in the community. Note I support "family" as a group of people who are committed to loving each other and caring for each other. Above all I believe that family structures of any kind have to put children first and care for those children above all else.
  • I worry about an economy of greed where many are using money, influence, time, and power to increase their self-serving agendas rather than reaching out to build strong, safe, and environmentally friendly communities of care for all.
  • I worry about values misplaced where people are supporting people and agendas who don't care about a better life for all people.
  • I worry about a culture that is satisfied with soundbites rather than looking deeper and learning more about the issues that affect us. 
  • I worry about the complacency with regard to mistreatment of the world's people and the growing gap between the haves and have-nots.
  • I worry that too many people are silent in the face of a democracy that requires people to speak up and act in order to preserve our rights, freedom, and opportunity. 
  • I worry that people are not willing to sacrifice individual wealth for community good--investment in strong, vibrant, dynamic communities is an investment into better living for all. 
Cyber influence occurs in every country, and it is our nation's responsibility to make sure that our democracy is not unduly influenced by cyber attacks. It is also the responsibility of every official to stand up against this cyber influence and not use it to their advantage. We have to be smart about this and learn to recognize it, report it, and block it so we can use social media in positive ways. 

Further we have to get underneath those that continually misuse individuals, power, and money to corrode our culture. Those that make money from irresponsible gun promotion, pornography, misleading marketing, unhealthy foods/events, and more need to be identified, scrutinized, and exposed so that our young people and others know who is playing them and how they are profiting from this misuse of power and greed. We also have to tighten up the laws that allow people like some of our current leaders to borrow millions of dollars to increase their wealth while taking advantage of bankruptcy and other laws that end up taking money and opportunity away from others while they stock their personal coffers.

To summarize, I believe the biggest problem in our society right now is greed, selfishness, and lack of concern for what is right and good for one another. We need to work against the greed that leads some powerful people to ruin our environment (Koch Brothers), take more than their share of land/opportunity, corrode our country's freedoms and opportunity for their self gain, and promote a way of living that does not elevate who we are as humans. 

How do we fight against this greed and selfishness in our own living and the living of others. I believe this is the issue of our times. Do you agree? 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Anger over ignorance

Big companies with lots of money and power are often elusive and secretive about the money they make and lobbying they do.

Average Americans are often too busy just staying on top of daily chores and events to do the investigative work needed to figure out what's happening with the investments they make into retirement plans, the taxes they pay, and the leaders they support.

It's easy for big companies in any field to trick the American people to make big profits for a few.

Today I tried to figure out a bit about companies that make guns and their level of responsibility. The research is not easy to do, and will take hours and hours.

How can we make knowing what is good for us more transparent and easy to understand? How can we help all Americans to move beyond the sound bites and lies of a some to truly unearth the truth so they can support and vote what is truly right and good for our country? What is the best way to dig deep enough to understand what is happening in our country? How are good leaders with power and money working to take away the secrecy of lobbyist, companies, and individuals whose power is not directed toward the public good?

These are questions I am seeking answers to--please tell me what you know.

Rally Around Good Ideas and Positive Action

To build community we have to rally around positive ideas and action--what's happening in your communities that deserves your support and attention? What can you do to help build that community and learn from that community too? The possibility and potential are limitless here.

For me, at present, this involvement mainly circles around my extended family and teaching--what can I do to help my family live a good life and what can I do to better the school community and students' opportunities?

As far as family is concerned, at present that mostly means continuing to create a welcoming home, the kind of place they can put their feet up, relax, and be who they are. A good meal, get togethers, time to talk, and a place to boost one another's vision, dreams, and the work it takes to get there are the number one priorities right now as far as family is concerned.

At school, my focus includes the following:

Knowledge Begets Knowledge
Finding ways to positively support students' acquisition of knowledge.

Community Building
Working to build a strong, supportive learning community where students, educators, families, administrators, and community members work together to support positive learning and teaching experiences that foster student strength, capacity, collaboration, and success.

Political Advocacy
I want to stand up, speak out, act, and support political leaders, ideas, and efforts that forward the best of what our country can be. I support a country that puts peace and people first. I support a country that takes care of its natural resources and does everything it can to create a happy life for all beginning with our children, the elderly, and the vulnerable. I am learning more about this and will work in my free time to support the tremendous positive potential our country holds for providing every citizen with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I will also support a positive path to citizenship for all who have positively resided in our country and who desire the opportunity to become full and contributing citizens of the United States.

This is where I'll begin.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Old Teacher

Yes, I'm one of the old teachers--old in age and old in experience. I'm thinking a lot about what that means these days as I enter the final chapter of my career. What is the responsibility and opportunity of this unique stage of teaching and learning?

Teacher as Grandmother
In many ways, I feel like a grandmother in the classroom. I want to be that loving, older teacher who reaches out to help the children in any way I can. I had that opportunity yesterday when I found a little girl crying in the hall. I asked her what was the matter, and she told me the story. I comforted her, and hopefully gave her the inspiration to move beyond the problem she faced. As a grandmother in the school, I want to be a comforter--one who helps the children in their times of need.

Supportive Colleague
As an older staff member, I want to be there to elevate the voices and careers of my younger colleagues. I want to notice their good work and inspire their continued development when it comes to teaching and learning. I want to support their ideas and home-school balance too. I am not looking to be a leader, but instead I want to be a supporter of the wonderful, younger colleagues that surround me.

Good Teacher
I want to end my career as a good teacher and do what I can to continue to learn in order to continue to develop my career in ways that matter, ways that help all students learn with strength, confidence, interest, and pride.

The last chapter of my career will likely be a chapter that equals about five to seven years, and I want that last chapter to be marked by excellence and support for students, families, and colleagues. This is a good focus.

Thinking deeply about the school program

The superintendent and principal walked in to view the teaching/learning program. It wasn't a star lesson, but instead a necessary nuts-and-bolts teaching/learning time as I caught up with a child who didn't complete a test and others practiced math skills with a number of online sites. The room was quite messy too since it was the end of an eight-week period of lots and lots of active learning that included multiple supplies as well as the remnants of days of play on the mid-winter muddy playground. As I've noted before, the room is ready for another renovation given the changing needs of the program. Students, however, were relaxed and engaged, and there was a clear plan in place so there was no problem. It was a typical day.

The room renovation will take about eight hours since the room is filled to the brim with tons of supplies and old storage containers so there's lots of decisions to make. Do I get rid of the old storage containers? I'd like to, but then I'll have no place to put the multiple supplies. Do I get rid of lots of supplies I don't use that often? I'd like to, but I know that those supplies come in handy for creative projects and other learning events and I don't want to have to buy them or collect them again.

I think I will write a grant proposal to modernize the room. The grant source said they didn't want to fund furniture, but perhaps I can convince them that furniture will help to make the room a better math/science lab--one that can be flexible and more spacious for greater hands-on learning and teaching. That would clean up the room and make it better for the teaching and learning. We got some new furniture years ago, but we didn't have a say as to what we got so we got the old fashion furniture, not more modern day teaching/learning furniture. Through grants we have obtained popular stand-up desks and hoki stools which have made the classrooms more inviting to students. If they don't fund the furniture, I'll send the same grant to another source this spring.

The students are invested in the learning program. They know that my colleagues and I care about their progress and will do what we can to help each of them master the standards and learn with engagement and meaning. I'm prepared for the weeks after vacation and will spend a bit of time during vacation writing the grants, researching, and deepening what I can do. Onward.


How to talk to students about school violence

The topic of school violence came up in the classroom. I spoke to students about it. I mentioned that life is typically a series of small ups and downs, but sometimes there are big downs and big ups. During those big downs, sometimes people may want to hurt themselves or others, and it's important that if we ever feel like we want to hurt someone or ourselves or if we hear about someone who says they want to hurt themselves or others, that we seek help and tell trusting adults. I noted that most people that hurt others give warnings about that, and that sometimes the first person we talk to doesn't respond which means we have to talk to others and be persistent.

We talked specifically about the kinds of events that cause those big downs, and how with help and time people move beyond those moments in time. Students asked specific questions and we discussed the situation.

Our school prepares students for the potential of a violent event with ALICE training. I hate the training, but know it is important. I tell students that if that happens they need to listen to directions and do what's safest. We talk about how strong we are and how we will do what we can to get away. I say that I am there for them and will help in any way possible.

I hope that I never have to face a situation like this, and in the meantime, I'll do what I can to stand up for what is right and good for children, families, and communities. There is so much good that we can do for children, and right now, in society, there are many who don't care about this--we have to work against this greed, selfishness, and short sightedness. We can do better.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Troubled Students


MAGA is a narrow path that elevates a few rich men, their families, and cronies--few others. I say we can Make America Great for All!

As I continue to think about Parkland, I realize that we need to deepen our approach to troubled students and families. What more can we do?

First, I think that we can better coordinate health care and schools. I believe that every school should be associated with a full service health center, and that all children under the age of 18 should be completely covered by the government for their health care. In situations like this, students would have ready access to high quality health care during the school day when needed. This would include mental health care and counseling as well. Bringing together health and education to better serve students will help us better serve the child who is troubled. Troubled children are troubled for a large variety of reasons, and typically it takes both health care workers and school staff to tease out what's happening when a child is troubled--together with greater synthesis we can lay out better plans for those students.

Next, we need to prioritize student needs. If a child truly needs lots of social emotional learning and care at school, perhaps they have a more modified academic plan or an integrated social emotional/academic subject(s) class that helps to give them what they need. Children who experience trauma, loss, major health events, and other devastating experiences need more and need different. If we can help those children early on, we save them and society problems. We have to make it okay for families to seek help when their children are outliers and are not served well by the mainstream. We need to use modern medicine and new research to evaluate children who are troubled with greater detail and understanding. Often what lies at a child's problem spot is something we may not have considered or even something we may not fully understand.

After that, society needs to better fund family and youth services including health care and education. That is an investment in safe and dynamic communities. The countries of the world that have the best quality of living do this and we can do this too.

Parkland is a GIANT wake-up call to Americans. We have been letting a few insensitive people make decisions for all of our people. We have been standing by while important regulations, supports, funding, and quality programs have been stripped from our culture to mainly pad the pockets of a few rich families--this is not a good investment for anyone. It's time to stand up in honor of the many innocent children and others who have lost their lives per our neglect to make America Great for All, not some, but all.

Blessings for Parkland: We can do better

I ache for the people of Parkland, Florida. So many beautiful children murdered, so much potential lost, and so many people left without their loved ones. This is horrible!

This isn't the first time this has happened, and yet as a people we have not spoken up or acted well enough to end this carnage. We have to be strong about this--we have to speak up and out relentlessly to change laws and make it virtually impossible for any average citizen to buy weapons like this shooter used, and laws that prevent any unstable person from owning guns.

The news everyday has reports about children who are not well cared for and are hurt. Many have lost sight of how to take care of our communities beginning with children, the elderly, and most vulnerable. We can be a kinder, gentler, more loving and caring country.

I made a few donations last night to groups that will fight against the NRA's relentless support of allowing anyone to own any kind of gun. If you look at their ads, you will notice that what they forward is not positive and evidence of the greed and insensitivity of those who make big money from these sales.

I will also continue to stand up and against any leaders that take money from the NRA--those leaders essentially have blood on their hands and are to blame in part for these horrible murders. They support a lobby that puts guns in the hands of the mentally ill and violent individuals.

Further I will stand up for safety in my own community--we can do better, all of us.

Choosing Who and What to Support

There's limitless arenas in education seeking the support of educators. How do you navigate the path of support given the limitless opportunities to get involved?

As I think of this today, I think it's important to devote your time and energy into areas that match your vision, energy, and direction. What leads my support?

Teacher capacity, voice, choice, and leadership
I support efforts that uplift the capacity, voice, choice, and leadership of educators. I believe that educators have tremendous potential to elevate student learning and experiences in school when given the support they need.

Teaching Math and Science Well
I support efforts that truly work to uplift what we can do to teach math and science well.

Cultural Proficiency and Community
I support the efforts that build community and cultural proficiency.

Teamwork, Collaboration, Communication, and Transparency
I support modern, authentic, honest efforts to build teamwork, collaboration, good communication, and transparency.

Research and Development
I support efforts that work to uplift what we can do with one another to elevate the learning/teaching of students via quality research and development.

I don't support hearsay, conjecture, lack of transparency, less communication, and little distributive leadership. What's great about teaching/learning is that there's little need for secrets or lack of share, and there's great reason, rationale, and benefit of good share and working together.

Moving Forward on the Teaching/Learning Road 2018

Change is in the air in the school system, and I am thinking about where I fit into all this change. Essentially during these days, I'll champion many who are contributing significant good time and good work to making our schools strong. There are many administrators, colleagues, family members, students, and community members who are giving the teaching/learning program significant attention and care. I want to cheer them on and support their good ideas, advocacy, care and creativity.

I also want to continue to dig into the science and math teaching/learning to build greater capacity for every student. There are many good initiatives at play in this effort, initiatives that I'll continue to explore, develop, and build. Those initiatives include the following:
  • Wednesday Math/Science Labs: Students will continue to learn math/science during Wednesday 90-minute labs. I look forward to building this effort with my colleagues.
    • Volume Lab
    • Measurement/Balance Lab
    • Geometry Lab - Origami
  • New Science Curriculum: With grade-level colleagues I'll continue to build this effort in ways that are meaningful, engaging, and productive for students.
  • Standards-Based Math Program: I'll continue to build a good teaching/learning routine with students that includes study packets, multiple learning experiences, practice tests, unit tests, and reflection.
  • Math RTI: I'll continue to support these efforts in ways that are positive.
  • Math Tech: We'll work carefully with students to continue to use and complete the math tech sites that are allowed in our system.
  • Collaborative Learning Lab: I'll look for ways to update the classroom to make it a more dynamic collaborative learning lab. I would like to write a grant for new furniture, but I am having some difficulty with finding the just right furniture and funders. I'll explore this more.
  • Data Charts: I'll continue to update and improve the data charts we use to analyze the teaching/learning program and students' needs and interests.
  • Portfolios/Family-Student-Educator Conferences: Soon we'll prep for these upcoming conferences and update portfolios as part of this effort. 
  • Field Studies and Expert Visitors: We have a number of special events in the works that will require some administrative work, research, and student prep. 
  • STEAM Projects: We have a couple of great STEAM projects to complete with all fifth graders. 
  • MCAS Tests: We have six days of MCAS tests
  • Systemwide Grade Five Test: This test will likely take a few days
  • Biography Project: This is a deep, rich, and meaningful project that takes time.
  • Global Cardboard Challenge: This will be an end year multi-day celebratory project.
  • 2018-2019 Teaching/Learning Plans
Not only is there change in the midst of the learning environment, but the rocky winter weather, illness, and an uptick in personal needs/events has created a bit less consistency than usual. This kind of winter and change makes it more important than ever to find the areas you will focus on, develop, and do well in the days ahead. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Challenging End of the Day

It was a great school day all in all. Students completed assignments and we discussed the fact that above all, the highest priority is to take care of one another. Then at the end of the day an unexpected event occurred--one that I had not navigated before. It was one of those snags in the teaching/learning path that makes you think about what you would do if it happened again. As I think about it, I believe it's a situation that calls for a protocol, a way of handling similar situations in the future. In the end, there was no hurtful or harmful event, but as with any problem that occurs it gave us something to think about and something to make better so in the future we know what to do without debate or discussion.

I recognize that you can't be ready for every situation or possibility, but when events occur that are unexpected, it gives you a chance to think about how you'll react to similar events in the future--essentially it's a heads-up to protect you from a possible problem later on. Onward.

Report Danger

Thanks to the encouragement of parents from Newtown, CT, I did have the talk with my students about reporting danger to authorities. Newtown parents are conveying an important message.

When your emails receive no response

Generally few to no administrators respond to my emails. There are a few that do, and I am thankful for the time they take to respond. As for those who don't respond, I realize they don't like my emails and would rather that I talk to them in person about my many ideas, questions, and requests. The challenge here is that my time or talking to them is limited to a few minutes on either side of a teaching day when scheduled ahead of time, and generally ideas, questions, and requests happen in response to daily events, not events that are known ahead of time or scheduled.

I've become used to receiving little to no response to emails, and let those notes hang out there in the air. I only write when I feel strongly about an issue or when I have a specific need, the kind of need that will enhance students' learning and my teaching. For example I wrote recently to request a supply that fits the curriculum expectations. I received no response. I've used up my personal savings for school supplies this year, so if students have a hard time on that test item, I'll simply note the lack of a supply that would give them first hand experience with the concept--the kind of concept that students have to experience in order to learn deeply. I'll likely order that supply for next year's students when ordering time comes around in June.

I know that I email more than most. I ask more questions and have more requests too. It's possible that I share more ideas too. I long for share systems that enable fluid communication and response. I notice how systems like that are supported in successful industry too.

Sometimes your emails receive no response. In general the lack of response is a response that says, "You and your ideas don't matter." People on the front lines of organizations are used to responses like this unfortunately.

Building Community Matters

How can we build better communities in schools? What can we do?

First and foremost, the way we treat people affects community. Educators can sometimes feel compromised in this since the supports we expect are often not available which can be agitating. It could be as simple as the lack of paper towels, paper for the copier, or recess staffing to much more complex such as lack of expected daily teachers to meet the expectations set. No matter, we have to speak the truth with respect and kindness and rather than take out the frustration on those who have no say in the matter such as assistants and students, instead we have to be courageous enough to speak up to those who can make a difference in this regard.

Next, we have to look at the systematic issues--issues of systems that stand in the way of good work. There's lots of room for improvement when it comes to systematic think and application in schools, and as I've noted before, I believe this is where the attention should be placed right now to improve schools. There's been a lot of effort to improve educators' efforts and preparation, and I believe this work has resulted in better teaching. Now we have to look at system structure, roles, and schedules to better what we can do even more. In many cases, it's the system structure, roles, and schedules that now stand in the way of better service to students and families.

Budgets matter too. How are we spending money? Do we have a deep, long term vision for schools and students? Are we servicing at-risk students well when they are young so that they have fewer problems later on or are we trying to service too many needs with too little funding and staffing early on resulting in more grave and costly problems later. Quality after school programs, good nutritious lunches, optimal, honest student-staff ratios, and well equipped schools will help to minimize problems later on, and budgets should reflect this need.

We have to get off the standardized-test tread mill that many scope and sequences respond to. Most school schedules don't make time for optimal community building so teachers have to beg, borrow, and steal time to do the essential work of building community, conflict resolution, and meeting students basic needs. These teachers may be reprimanded for not sticking to the strict academic schedules forwarded mostly by leaders who spend little to no time in classrooms or working with students--leaders, I fear, who have forgotten what it's like to teach real children. School schedules have to make time for recess, play, social emotional learning, teamwork, and teaching students where they are rather than where expectations think they should be.

Teachers have to take the long view as they teach and think about what matters for children down the road, and what matters for the community in general. Our investment in time, focus, and support for young children and their families matters. We can't lose sight of this.

Curate Your Social Media Threads and Interaction

I have been very thoughtful about curating my social media threads and interaction. I block those who are highly negative or who respond to my posts in ways that don't make sense or don't understand the intent of my writing. I am creating a Professional Learning/Living Network (PLN) of people I admire, gain inspiration from, and who appropriately challenge who I am and what I do.

I block those who ridicule and demean others with negative language and mistruths. Yes, I've blocked @POTUS and his cronies whose social media often doesn't tell the truth and more often ridicules hard working, good people who are trying to do what is right and good for people. I'm okay with respectful dissent, debate, and discourse, but I'm not okay with lies and making fun of people with name calling and other disrespectful phrases.

When I wake up in the morning, I can quickly look at my Twitter feed to get a lot of really good information, inspiration, and challenge from the wonderful PLN I've developed over the years. The same is true for my Facebook account, an account that I use mostly for personal share and understanding. I've yet to really use Instagram or Snapchat simply because I don't want to have to curate too many threads, and my family has those so if it's important they'll share the post with me.

Good teaching today requires us to help students 13 and over to curate their accounts, talk about them, and learn how to manage those social media accounts and interaction well. For students younger than 13 we can do this teaching through class accounts that are managed by the teacher and protected online share vehicles such as Google classroom or Google apps. We need to also open up worthy, creative tech to young students so they understand what's positively possible on tech, sites that are far more intriguing and creative than the "workbook-on-a-page" sites that so many students utilize too often (in my opinion).

There's tremendous opportunity out there via social media threads, but we won't be able to reach that opportunity if we don't curate our accounts and interact with purpose and good intent.

Vacation Around the Corner: Reflections about the weeks ahead

With vacation around the corner, we'll spend the next two days tying up loose ends by completing assessments, reflections, and some practice sets. Above all, and in the face of what happened in Florida, I want to make sure that every child feels welcomed and cared for. Schools aren't perfect and we often don't have the staffing we need to serve the needs that come through the door, but we have to be honest with students and let them know that we want the best for them and we all have to work together to let the best rise--the best in teaching, the best in learning, and the best in support for one another.

When we return after vacation, the students and I will review what we've done so far--what has helped them a lot, and what we can all do to make it even better. That kind of collaborative reflection will help all of us to move forward with positivity and good growth.

While the room needs a really big overhaul to meet the new expectations, expectations I didn't know about last summer, I'll wait until next year's set-up to foster that overhaul as I hope to spend some summer time reviewing the expectations introduced this year and bettering my ability to meet those expectations.

On the administrative front, there's been a nice big push in the way of transparency and respectful share from some administrators. This has lifted the spirits and efforts of many educators. Rather than feeling downtrodden, the fact that educators were acknowledged and included truly has made a positive difference. I hope that this administrator's respectful work will have a trickle down affect to others who lead and collaborate with educators in the days to come. This is something I've hope for, and I am so happy to see.


When Schools Can't Adequately Serve Students

As I ache for the families and students in Florida after yesterday's shooting, I'm wondering about angry young students like the shooter. Obviously he was troubled since he was expelled from the school. Obviously he was a threat as noted by one of the young students interviewed. Why wasn't there better supports for a person like this?

What could have happened?

First, perhaps, if a child is a constant problem and threat at a school, the kind of problem that leads to expulsion, there is need for greater supports beyond the school level. Often these children and teens who are grave problems in schools have a troubled history related to family problems and developmental/biological concerns such as mental illness or other conditions. How can we all support the kind of community supports that help students and families like this.

How can we help people like this before they become a danger to others?

First, we need to lead and support our youth and family service departments in every state. There is good research as to how to help families and children, but often staffing and funding is too few to do the work well.

Next, we have to look at the ways that families struggle to take care of their children and help those families out. When you have children who face grave physical or mental illness, there needs to be greater supports. And when you have families that can't afford after school or before school care so they can work, we have to support that. Without those supports, cycles of struggle and trouble continue from generation to generation.

And, we have to better support education. In many schools services are too few for the many struggles and problems students bring to school. There are few to no supports in schools for students who exhibit mental illness, troubled homes, lack of basic needs, and need for after school programs. There needs to be greater supports in our culture for children in order to build a stronger nation.

I believe that our communities need to pay more attention to the needy amongst us and look for ways to better support those people. I believe that, in addition,  strict gun laws will lead to less senseless violence.


No More Senseless Shootings

Anyone who has not spoken up for better regulations related to gun ownership, better services for the mentally ill, and more supports for children and families, owns the shooting in Florida. We ALL have to speak up to make a difference and lobby for better regulations, laws, and supports to end massacres of innocents in our own country by our own citizens.

While our President is spending most of his time in office doing all he can to tighten his ties to Russia, increase the wealth of himself, his family, and his cronies, and degrade anyone who does not agree with his self-driven policies and actions, families and children suffer in the United States.
  • They suffer because guns are getting into the wrong hands since there are no good regulations or oversight of these dangerous weapons.
  • They suffer because the mentally ill do not get the services they need.
  • They suffer because families don't have what they need to do a good job with their children.
  • They suffer because schools everywhere are underfunded and under supported which means that some students get what they need and others don't.
  • They suffer because we need better reporting systems so that when students or others notice that a person is a threat, that person is dealt with in a humane way that keeps others safe. 
Many of our leaders are misguided today--they spend their time making the way for a few to gigantic wealth and power while most Americans pay the price in lost supports related to education, health care, safety, environmental protection, and more.

To remedy these problems, the United States needs to do the following:
  • Immediately ban assault weapons for anyone but law enforcement and the military.
  • Immediately add regulations to gun ownership, regulations that are even greater than the ones associated with driving cars.
  • Immediately work towards affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans.
  • Immediately work towards better supports for the mentally ill.
  • Better fund and support all public schools.
  • Immediately look for ways to help families care for their family members with greater supports.
Essentially, Americans have to turn their support away from greedy, self-serving, lawless, unethical, and uncaring leadership--the kind of leadership POTUS so clearly exemplifies and champions. Instead, Americans have to look to support leaders who will stand up for what is right and good for all Americans not just a few.

It is our country's greed that has led to so many senseless shootings and deaths. Every one of us has to look for ways to make change. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day 2018

Today is Valentine's Day and I'm in the midst of lots of life at the moment. There's events swirling around me at a rapid speed--that's not atypical for moms and teachers my age--people who have parents, siblings, children, friends, and students.

Amongst the whirlwind, there's a need to pick and choose what gets the most attention.

School
Students will be excited today as they ready to pass out Valentine's and show off their creative Valentine's Day mailboxes. To complement the excitement, students will take part in a simple Valentine's Day word making activity, then we'll focus in on our math lesson, have a class meeting, recess, and perform a class play. Later in the day students will pass out the Valentine's, enjoy library class, and head home.

Home
My son and I will plan a special Valentine's Day dinner for the rest of the family. It will likely be a simply, peaceful family night.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Challenging Assessments

Students started a challenging systemwide assessment. It's a test that takes some upwards of two hours. The test causes a lot of stress in some students. In some cases the learning was rushed to meet the systemwide parameters. I am not satisfied with this.

When students arrive at the grade level more than a half year behind in skill, concept, and knowledge, those students are going to have a hard time keeping up with the pace and content expected for the next grade. Of course some will make the growth, but others will struggle simply because it's too much to teach in too little time.

Some would say that it's okay for students to simply take the assessment and then receive a low score because they didn't have time to learn all that material, but I worry about what that does to a child's sense of self esteem. Plus we have standardized tests to show where students are at. Hence, I think the unit tests should be based on what students can realistically learn in the amount of time available given the skill, concept, and knowledge they bring to the classroom.

To do this well means that the program is personalized more so that the progression of skill, concept, and knowledge is just right for the learners. This is difficult to get exactly right, but I think we can do better.

In the meantime though, I need to zero in on the factors that I can support, factors that include the following:
  • Student practice and homework
  • Student focus, attention, and participation during class
  • Opportunities for extra help and support
  • Engaging learning experiences that result in good skill, concept, and knowledge development
For some, the reason for this assessment challenge is the fact that they do need to attend better, complete homework, ask more questions, and practice more. For others it means we have to better personalize the teaching/learning program to give them greater support. Onward. 

Vision Making Brings Meaning, Hope, and Possibility

A central question related to my vision has been stirring in my mind for a few months now. Clarity evades me, but every so often a bit of clear detail arrives helping me to better formulate a vision that will lead me ahead.

How does this vision making happen?

Vision making arises from intent. It comes from what you desire and what you value. The central question that leads my vision making right now has a lot to do with a new turn in the road--actually a turn that opens up opportunity and possibility. A turn, in part, that's arisen from the fact that my day-to-day parenting responsibilities will soon be much less than in the 25 years past.

Vision making takes observation and awareness of what's available all around you. When you make vision, you notice what's available to support that vision as well as the resources that confound and hinder your vision. It's important to recognize both supporters of your vision and detractors--both are important to the process.

Vision making takes time and space. You have to get away from it all for a time to truly go deep with vision. You can't make good vision without some time away, and you also can't make good vision without immersing yourself in the day-to-day events that relate to your vision. There's nothing worse than having people make vision for your home or organization who are distanced from the day-to-day operations as they have no idea of the realities you face.

Vision making lends hope to our day-to-day events. When you have a good vision, it's much easier to sacrifice by not spending money, working hard, staying focused, and collaborating around a meaningful direction. Vision making brings meaning to life.

Vision making, at its best, is collaborative. It's almost impossible to make a vision for self without including others in your direction in some ways, and vision making also requires continued analysis and revision since life is always changing. What's true today may not be true tomorrow, and you have to factor that in.

There's nothing I enjoy more than making vision--looking at all the pieces noted above and laying a path to potential. Do you share my passion for this? If so, what would you add to this post?

Staying Focused: Revision and Refinement

As someone who likes to entertain the big picture, it's a challenge to ignore that in order to stay focused on the areas where I have true control and capacity.

For example, I may notice a big picture event that could be changed for betterment, yet to spend time on that is to have less time for some of the finer points of teaching and learning.

At this point in my career, I'm working to steer my ship more into the areas of betterment related to the finer points of teaching, the small areas where I can truly make change and do a good job. This takes some extra effort since I'm a big picture thinker who likes to think about systematic change and betterment.

So as I think about this, where can I find the positive challenges in the smaller, more defined areas of teaching.

First, when it comes to serving students well, it is limitless with regard to what you can do. Every child no matter how loved and cared for at ages ten and eleven are open to more attention and care. There's rarely a child who will say no to a teacher-student lunch, conversation on the playground, a chance to play a game with a teacher or extra attention of any kind. There is always more we can do to care for children, and in these times sadly, there are a fair number of children in every community that will benefit from more love, attention and care. I can certainly put my energy there.

Next, I can always improve the learning environment and program. As the room continually morphs and changes to meet new teaching/learning objectives, that means that I need to continually renovate and remake the space to fit it all in as well as meet the new objectives. That takes time and the more time I commit to that, the better the learning environment will be. Also, there's limitless opportunity to improve the learning program with the following efforts:

  • Researching and applying for grants
  • Research and improving the program materials
  • Reaching out to learn and share with those beyond the system in order to improve the program
  • Finding, making, and utilizing a greater variety of materials
  • Deeper and better analysis about program results and efforts
  • Greater collaboration with the teaching/learning team
Then, of course, is the focus on me, the educator. If we're not energized and ready we will not teach well. Teaching is a sport when you consider the amount of energy we use daily to support and care for large numbers of children with little to no down time. To do this well means you have to take care of yourself and your family--if not, you simply won't be able to do the best job possible.

While I enjoy the big think of systems and how to improve schools, I am focused on the revision and refinement right now--the kind of work that elevates the teaching/learning program for the children in my midst. I will continue to consider big think and do that mostly with regard to my writing and professional work outside of my daily expectations. Onward. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Week Ahead: February 12, 2018

The week ahead finds students completing study for tomorrow's math assessment, creating Valentine's boxes and cards, performing a simple Valentine's Day play, taking a science assessment, completing science projects, reading, reflections/portfolio work, and a class meeting. Professional efforts will be directed towards cleaning up the room, reviewing the assessments/projects, and prepping for learning after the upcoming vacation. It's a week focused on the daily learning and teaching. Onward.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Junto: Answer Franklin's Questions

I want to answer the questions that Franklin's Junto posed at a later date.

  1. Have you met with any thing in the author you last read, remarkable, or suitable to be communicated to the Junto? Particularly in historymoralitypoetryphysics, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?
  2. What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?
  3. Has any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?
  4. Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?
  5. Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?
  6. Do you know of any fellow citizen, who has lately done a worthy action, deserving praise and imitation? Or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid?
  7. What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard? Of imprudence? Of passion? Or of any other vice or folly?
  8. What happy effects of temperance? Of prudence? Of moderation? Or of any other virtue?
  9. Have you or any of your acquaintance been lately sick or wounded? If so, what remedies were used, and what were their effects? I learned of a great remedy for asthma.
  10. Who do you know that are shortly going [on] voyages or journeys, if one should have occasion to send by them?
  11. Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind? To their country, to their friends, or to themselves?
  12. Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting, that you heard of? And what have you heard or observed of his character or merits? and whether think you, it lies in the power of the Junto to oblige him, or encourage him as he deserves?
  13. Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up, whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage?
  14. Have you lately observed any defect in the laws, of which it would be proper to move the legislature an amendment? Or do you know of any beneficial law that is wanting?
  15. Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people?
  16. Hath any body attacked your reputation lately? And what can the Junto do towards securing it?
  17. Is there any man whose friendship you want, and which the Junto, or any of them, can procure for you?
  18. Have you lately heard any member’s character attacked, and how have you defended it?
  19. Hath any man injured you, from whom it is in the power of the Junto to procure redress?
  20. In what manner can the Junto, or any of them, assist you in any of your honourable designs?
  21. Have you any weighty affair in hand, in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service?
  22. What benefits have you lately received from any man not present?
  23. Is there any difficulty in matters of opinion, of justice, and injustice, which you would gladly have discussed at this time?
  24. Do you see any thing amiss in the present customs or proceedings of the Junto, which might be amended?
Any person to be qualified as a member was to stand up, lay his hand upon his chest, over his heart, and be asked the following questions, viz.
  1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not.
  2. Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what profession or religion soever? Answer. I do.
  3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Answer. No.
  4. Do you love truth for truth's sake, and will you endeavor impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to others? Answer. Yes.

Research Ahead

I read Empowered Educators last year and found it to be a good book with which to take a close look at the teaching/learning I do and how it compares to success criteria across the globe. 
I generally take a look at which of my blog posts are being read each day and then I reread those posts. When I reread those posts, I ask myself if the post is still true to my work, and if I am living up to the words of the post. If the post is now untrue, I'll typically add a note to the post to update it or reflect new think and understanding.

Today as I reviewed a post that people are currently reading, a post that essentially summarizes the main research I did last summer. I recognized that there's one more area for me to focus on in the coming summer and that area is the latest research in cognitive science. The more I understand about how students learn, the better teacher I'll be. I can also continue to deepen my knowledge in math and science as well. These are two good goals to put on my to do list going forward.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

If I Were Trump . . . .

If I were President Trump, here's what I would do:
  1. Admit I don't know it all, and it's amazing that I became President
  2. Think about what it means to be the leader of all Americans, not just White men and a few other women.
  3. Prioritize the issues of most merit to all people, not just issues that pad my wealth and uplift my rich friends and relatives.
  4. Use my power to move forward with critical issues such as poverty, education, health care, environmental protection, positive global relations, infrastructure, jobs, immigration, and human rights by choosing the best and the brightest leaders, people who have dedicated their lives to these causes.
  5. Listening to those best and brightest leaders, and finding ways to support optimal bi-partisan support for solutions to the most important problems the country faces. 
  6. Think about my legacy and work to leave a country better prepared to support the good life for my children, grandchildren, and all the world's children.
  7. Daily reflection, prayer, meditation with the best spiritual guides to build greater empathy, humanity, and service to others.
  8. Acknowledgement that my brazen shortcomings to date are evidence of my past missteps and influences, and any further efforts I make will be efforts that put myself far beneath the needs of the American people and their will for peace, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Leading Self: Overcoming Your Greatest Challenges

As I hone in on my greatest teaching/learning challenges today--challenges so personal that I'm not ready to give them print on a page, I'm thinking about how to overcome those challenges.

I do love a good challenge! I also know that the first step in overcoming a challenge is definition, and if you are able to define that challenge publicly, your chances of overcoming it are even greater.

Though I'm not ready to publicly define this challenge, I've defined it privately and I am now thinking of how to reach growth in this area.

First, I'll clear a path to make time and effort towards this aim. When we have challenges we want to meet and we don't make time to succeed, then we can't expect success. To meet a big challenge, you have to pave the way.

Next, I'll make space to reflect on that challenge. Why does it occur? What can I do to make change in this arena? How can I lead myself forward? I have great resources to work with--in fact, amazing resources available which I am ever so grateful for.

Further, you've got to visualize the success criteria. What will it look like when you make headway on that big challenge you've identified-what will conquering the challenge look like. You need to be a specific as possible with the success criteria in order to move in that direction.

And, what will the learning path look like. What little steps day after day will lead to big, positive change in that area.

I'm excited to tackle this challenge and I look forward to the positive change it will bring. To see the promise in problems is to make good growth, the kind of growth that empowers your life and the life of others.

Join Me to Discuss Blended Learning in the Math Classroom


If interested in developing blended learning as a successful pedagogy in the elementary math classroom, I invite you to join me at Worcester State University on March 22nd from 1:15 - 2:15 pm at the ATMIM Conference where I'll lead a conversation and presentation about this topic. 

I am very interested in developing this practice more and plan to share what I do now in my classroom as well as to learn about what you do in your classrooms with your students. Please take a look at my presentation in advance, and don't hesitate to contact me via Twitter @lookforsun if you have any questions or suggestions with regard to making the presentation meaningful and helpful to you. Let me know if you plan to attend too so that I have a sense of who will be in the audience.

It's important that we reach beyond the boundaries of our own schools and systems to elevate what we can do with and for students. I look forward to this opportunity to develop our practice via this venue.

Finding the Sweet Spot

As I talked to a large number of friends and colleagues in the last few weeks, I was reminded that finding the "sweet spot" is finding a place where you do your best, feel great, and work/play well with others.

We all have to be on the lookout for that and help one another find those activities, places, and efforts in life that match who we are, what we love, and the aim of our dreams, vision, and passion.

So as I listened to these friends describe events and places that are true to them and will bring them utter enjoyment, I too was very happy. I really liked seeing my friends full of joy, and I realize that when our friends and colleagues are happy, that makes all of us happy too.

So how can we find our own sweet spots as well as help those around us find where they are most at peace, happy, engaged, and fulfilled?

For ourselves, we have to acknowledge who we are and what we crave in life. We can't judge ourselves, but instead seek out that sweetness. For me that includes writing, nature, a simple home, time, family, adventure, challenge, and so much more.

For friends and colleagues that includes adventuring with loved ones, good friends, time to develop and share their craft, expertise, and passions, and support for who they are, what they're good at, and what they want to do.

As I think of the "sweet spots" with regard to teaching and learning, I find the following places:

Math Teaching and Practice
To continue to develop my skills and abilities in this arena will bring me happiness and fulfillment. I enjoy this work and will continue to learn and develop in this arena.

Science Teaching and Labs
I also enjoy the enthusiasm and excitement that this new learning brings to students. There's lots of room for growth here too, and I will enjoy the creativity and challenge that this potential brings. I also want to build this work with our collaboration with the kindergarten class.

Writing and Storytelling
I truly enjoy writing and storytelling and will stay this course to see where it takes me over time.

Family, Friends, and Adventure
I love spending time with family and friends, and particularly enjoy new adventures with them.

A Simple, Welcoming Home
I live in a nook that abuts conservation land. It's a fairly simple home on a quiet cul-de-sac. I like the peace this place brings me and will continue to simplify with the adage, less things, more time, as my inspiration.

What places, events, and efforts lead to your sweet spot? How can colleagues and loved ones support that area of your work and living? How can you support the sweet spots of those you know and care for? That's what I'll think about today as I focus on chores and other matters.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Week's End: February 9, 2018

We pushed a lot today to complete studies related to division standards, and then we spent good time with our buddies decorating cube nets, making cubes, and briefly discussing surface area and volume.

Next week includes the following agenda:

  • Final division focus and the unit test
  • Physical Science Team Assessment Efforts
  • Valentine's Day Creativity and Fun
  • Hands-On Math/Science Exploration
Then we arrived our much welcomed February break. A time for all those who have had illness to recuperate, and for everyone to have a bit of fun and relaxation too. Onward. 

Are You Embedding SEL Into Your Classroom Program?

Book Reference
I finally received copies of the book I co-authored with John Dacey and Gian Criscitiello. It felt good to hold the book in my hand and think about all the work that went into it.

As I read through the chapters, I thought about how educators might use this book to uplift their teaching/learning programs.

First, I believe that when educators read the book, they'll realize that they already teach and encourage apt social-emotional learning all the time, and that this book provides them with the language and connections to make that reality easier to communicate and more explicit.

I also believe that educators will enjoy trying out the activities in the book. Since we worked together on the book, I am excited about trying out some of the activities that Gian and John contributed--activities that we discussed with depth.

John Dacey's extensive experience and research in the subject area is evident throughout the book, and I want to read through the chapter introductions again to make sure that I'm including all the main categories of social emotional learning in the teaching/learning program. I'll likely use the book to reflect on that once again over the summer. While you read, you'll notice how critical and life-enriching SEL is for children, and you'll want to make sure that you update language and learning experiences to reflect that. The lessons will serve you well as you collaborate with colleagues and family members too.

If you choose to read the book, know that I welcome your feedback too. As our world becomes more and more interdependent, the need for SEL increases, and I want to work to continue to support this reality in ways that matter as I move forward with teaching, learning, and parenting too.

Teaching Well: Success Criteria 2018

As I think specifically about the success criteria the program aims to meet in the days, weeks, and months ahead, I identify the following:
  • Meaningful introduction, practice, review, and assessment of all math and physical science standards
  • Thoughtful, purposeful student portfolios and family members-educators-student meetings
  • Engaging math/science/reading learning activities
  • Happy, invested class community
  • Warm, welcoming classroom 
  • Apt collaboration with grade-level team members
  • Hands-on learning projects with kindergarten buddies each week
  • Continued professional reflection, study, and learning
  • Continued participation with The Teacher Collaborative, DESE TAC, MTA TPL, ATMIM, and WTA Board, MTA Summer Conference
And I think to future paths, I am thinking about how to infuse creativity and writing more into this menu. 

Learning Olympics: Be A Champion

I am always looking for ways to inspire students' engagement and success. As I thought about this today, I decided to use the Olympic spirit as a source of motivation. Students will likely begin watching the Olympics tonight and throughout the next ten days. We can draw from these athletes' hard work and success as we encourage students to persevere to achieve mastery in a number of academic standards and learning behaviors/attitudes. I added this theme to our grade-level website with the images and quotes depicted above.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Day After a Not So Good Day

Yesterday wasn't the best day. The troubles started early when students were ill and continued as students' excitement equaled the stormy weather outside. It was a difficult day to teach well. I thought a lot about that last night, and returned today with a focus on our collective goals and my needs to teach every child with the best energy possible which means there's no time during lessons for fooling around as that steals learning from everyone. Thankfully they heard the message, and students were right on track today completing assignments and focusing in on the study at hand. Yes, a good day!

Also I had contact with a number of family members last night, and I could feel their support in the students' attitudes and efforts today. Yes, it takes a village to care for children and teach well. And the weather was a bit less dreary since the sun peaked outside of the clouds now and then to offer a bit of warmth, and although icy, students were able to run, play, and create out on our wonderful, big playground--children, as most of us know, do need play.

Further I took off some of the onerous expectations I was worried about at the start of the week, the kind of superhuman expectations that no real life person can achieve, and I also spent a few minutes discussing Musk's amazing invention and feat with the students. I noted that they should go home and say to ask their parents if they would like to be one of the first families to dwell on Mars should they have that opportunity with Musk's future plans to colonize that planet. We likened Musk's mission to the Pilgrim's adventure, but instead this is travel through space rather than a boat ride across the Atlantic. I showed a short video of Musk describing what he does. They were impressed as was I.

Teaching definitely has its low points and high points--fortunately we moved out of yesterday's low to a very good place today. That happens and that's part of the messiness that's part of life and part of teaching too. Onward.

Playground Civil Engineers

I noticed the students vigorously involved with mud, ice, and water at the back of the playground. Later, they announced that they had made a river. The project gained momentum as many children got involved in digging a ditch in the ice and a trench to carry rushing water into the woods. They were amazed by their creation. It's moments like these that make me so happy that I'm a teacher.

Today: Coaching Myself Forward

It's been a bit of a "Little Engine that Could" week as students and educators work really hard to reach for challenging learning goals. The morning writing helps to propel me forward.

In today's lessons, I'll review our goals once again. I'll recommend a number of learning choices that will help students reach the goals, and ask them what they need from me to push forward towards mastery. Then I'll work with colleagues to meet as many teaching/learning needs as we can in this endeavor.

I'll mention the challenges we've faced in the past few days as a number of students have resisted the challenge for a large amount of reasons that include weather, illness, Super Bowl exhaustion/disappointment, and a desire for more play. I'll focus in on the positive goals mentioned in an earlier post and avoid the areas of school life that don't contribute to these goals.

This truly is the push time of the school year--the winter months of digging in, working hard, and learning lots. We can do this.

Yet Another Renovation

The classroom is squished now that the new science curriculum is here. The multiple materials are taking up lots of space and thus the space for other materials and equipment is tight. By the end of last year, I had a good set-up for the math lab that my classroom had become, but now that it's a science and math lab, I need to renovate the room again.

There's a chance that my classroom will be changed. I asked about that, but did not get a definite answer. Hence, I hate to dedicate lots of time and energy towards this since I will likely have to move everything if my room does change. Also there's little support for new and better furniture to support the new classroom needs. So what's a teacher to do?

On my next big energy day, I'll renovate the room once again in the following ways:

  • Clean out an old cabinet I have to make it a science lab cabinet.
  • Organize the materials in the ways I use those materials.
  • Order six similar rolling cabinets--there seems to be money for this, and I believe this will support the daily math teaching/learning well as I can roll the carts filled with related lab materials to each science station in the room.
  • Write a grant to support a better set-up for a fifth grade science/math lab. I'll do the research and forward this grant to multiple sources.
I'll likely do this work during one of the vacation days as I truly need a big day of big energy to do this. Every time the curriculum changes, it requires renovation of classrooms in order to make space for the supplies and set-up that supports that learning.

Teachers at high school and middle schools generally have rooms that meet the needs of specific types of learning. Middle school and high school science labs have sinks, storage, and tables to support lab work while elementary schools have to morph and change their environments to better meet this need. This is a challenge that elementary school teachers face.