Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Walking Down Memory Lane

Today as I contribute to a family collage to share with loved ones at my brother's funeral services, I find myself walking down Memory Lane. Sorting through numerous boxes of photos looking for moments that represent his life well, I found so many pictures of good times past and present. When I looked at those pictures I remembered exactly how I felt in those moments, and overall I thought, I wished I could have been more relaxed during all those good times since our moments with each other are so fleeting.

I've lived a busy life with many events and there was little time to simply relax since I, along with my siblings, friends, and family members, were typically in the midst of planning, preparing, and orchestrating events--events at the seashore, in the mountains, at our homes, and for special celebrations. Despite how busy those times were, I'm glad we made the time to be together and engage in so many wonderful activities.

Also as I looked at the pictures of so many friends and family members past and present, I remembered the deep commitment we had and, with many, still have to one another--we helped each other to enjoy life, move through the struggles, and celebrate so many times.

It wasn't too long ago that I wondered when I would ever have the time to look through all these photos, and then with my brother's passing that time came--a time to look back on life and think about what's important, and what I want to carry forward too.

So Many Wonderful People

A loss of a loved one propels deep thinking about one's life and the many lives that surround us. As I ponder this today, I am reminded of the fact that my world is filled with amazing people--good people who strive everyday to do well by others and inch towards their dreams.

All of these people, young and old, represent many varied paths, talents, dreams, and challenges too. There's not one who hasn't faced challenges, and there's not one who doesn't have incredible gifts to give. Truly, like a mosaic, it is a colorful blend of differences, a quilt that has made my experience of life challenging, rich, and promising. I am grateful for each and everyone of these people.

In the days ahead, I want to take this gratitude with me so that I can truly notice and be present with these people who have made my life meaningful.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Areas of Strength

A colleague wrote to acknowledge yesterday that we never know what's going on in the lives of others. I couldn't agree more.

Also yesterday when I shared the news of my brother's death in a positive way with fifth graders since I will be out for a few days, I heard their stories of struggle--many stories I didn't know about which reminded me that we don't always know what's going on in the lives of our students too.

Every individual is an intricate puzzle, and what we see on the surface or in our interactions is only a small fraction of that overall person which reminds me that we always have to meet people with an open mind and heart recognizing that we will learn about that person's strengths and capacity in many different ways over time.

There are so many lessons to learn and opportunity to embrace in these lives we live.

Supporting System Strength

I have noted a number of positive developments in the system where I teach, developments that I believe will improve the teaching/learning for all students and educators.

First, our new superintendent is responsive. He responds to questions and emails. He's creating greater pathways for voice and choice of all stakeholders. He's looking at the big picture and working to define a few holistic, positive goals for everyone in the system to get engaged in. This is all positive and serves to build a more inclusive teaching/learning community as well as greater distributive leadership. I want to support this growth in every way possible. I am delighted to see this after many years of craving and advocating for movement in this direction, a direction that is highly supported by the research.

Next, educators are becoming more vocal and sharing more. This too is positive. It's common for educators to seek answers and ask questions using the Internet as a dynamic resource in this regard. I like this growth mindset as it creates a more dynamic learning/teaching community.

Our outreach to families remains strong and our ability to team with families continues to make our teaching/learning community a top-notch teaching learning community.

Further our local union president works tirelessly to listen to educators and respond with accuracy and depth. Her investment in educators is also serving to uplift educators' confidence, investment, and leadership. I am thankful for this intelligent, forward thinking, and dedicated leadership.

In general, I am very pleased with the changes that are occurring within our system. I am delighted to do what I can to support this movement to a more distributive, inclusive, research-based, and student-centered learning/teaching approach. Good News!

Getting Better and Improving Practice

Since I'll be focused on a lot of somewhat mindless tasks today, I wanted to give my mind something to think about as as I complete those tasks. What I'm focused on is what I can do to get better with regard to my professional practice--where is there room for growth?

I reviewed my 2017-2018 goals and actions, and my colleagues and I are on track in this regard. Further we have a very full agenda for the second half of the school year and the objective is to stay the well planned course.

As far as improvement, the big goal is paying attention to each and every child which means listening to their stories, hearing their needs, providing a good, positive teaching/learning structure, and nurturing them in every way possible. Overall the students are very happy and they are making progress--this is positive. The teaching team has hit our stride and staying the course with utmost sensitivity and attention to every child is the direction ahead.

We'll also begin to collect notes on our shared news Google site with regard to what we need and want to do next year, a course that will likely include the following:
  • new social studies standards
  • finesse and development of this year's new science standards-based units
  • continued development of the math curriculum including the following:
    • refinement of online tests
    • inclusion of performance assessments for many units
    • floor-to-ceiling explorations and unit study beginning with geometry and measurement
    • finesse of start-of-the-year culturally proficient, team building math activities
  • Re-Looking at SEL and noting how we might integrate those efforts more into the curriculum projects and activities in order to fit this important learning in more. We already do this but we don't always acknowledge this connection. 

Be Strong for Others

How can you be strong for others, and why is that important?

There are times in life when you have what you need and a little more. That's when it's time to be strong for others. Unfortunately that's not always the case as there are other times when you are at your max, and there's little extra to give which can often be stressful.

There is much you can do to be strong for others.

Take Care of Your Health
The healthier you are, the more you can give. For some, they have little control over this, but for others, we have considerable control. Eating well, staying active, getting enough sleep, and living well increases health, and better health means you have more to give.

Live Below Your Means
When you live below your means, you may have a few extra dollars when needs strike. On the other hand, when you stretch what you have to live beyond your means, you're often challenging your capacity and ability to be there for those you love.

Less Things More Time
When you have too many material things, those things take up too much time. If you have few things, you have more time, and when you have more time, you can give more.

Lifelong Learning
Increasing your capacity to help out and give by learning and gaining more expertise in all areas of life allows you to give more. Of course you can't be an expert at all things, but you can choose a few areas to develop so that you have something of worth to share with others.

Listen and Be Present
Often what's needed most is simply to be there and to listen. Typically people can help themselves and identify their own paths better if they have close family members, friends, or colleagues who are willing to listen to them.

Recognize that You Don't Know it All
Life is a mystery and none of us have the monopoly on knowing how to live. Instead it takes our synergy of ideas and efforts to reach good directions and destinations.

There is great satisfaction to being strong for others, and to do that requires intentional living, making the kind of choices that increase our capacity and ability to give. I'll be thinking about this today.

Monday, February 26, 2018

When I return to school. . .

The children were so kind, loving, and helpful as I prepared for a few days out of the classroom. They helped me organize science supplies and followed changed direction in light of the unexpected change in the routine.

The principal helped out too giving me an extra hour to xerox a study guide for the substitute to follow for my 75 math students.

I am humbled by the great show of support of those students, the principal, and so many other colleagues that lent a hand and offered further support if needed. Sometimes it takes a time of need to really demonstrate to you how much love and care surrounds you.

I left the students with the polygon unit of study. It's an easy-to-teach unit that students grasp quickly so I knew it would be a fairly easy unit for a substitute teacher unfamiliar with the class to lead and teach. I also left some good related tech practice sites too for students who finish early or when there's extra time. Silent reading and a science study of matter and their properties are on the agenda too. In general almost every child in the class enjoys reading, and though the science lesson is a bit cumbersome, they'll enjoy working to identify the many varied properties of a large number of objects as the first investigation for our matter and energy unit.

When I return, I'll engage students in some portfolio reflection work related to our last unit of study, and then we'll begin the fraction unit. In science, students will study volume, and for reading and math RTI will take up where we left off before vacation.

Also the fact that I work in a shared model has made this unexpected hiatus from the classroom much more manageable because while the students will not have me for their teacher for a few days, they'll continue to have my partner teachers who lead the English Language Arts, social studies, and some science study. They know my colleagues well, and if there are any problems, I feel comfortable that the students will seek my colleagues help. In the one-teacher-one-classroom model you don't have this kind of advantage when the unexpected strikes.

So now I'll attend to family matters knowing that when I return the study materials are ready and the students will have completed a number of important lessons in the meantime. Onward.

My Brother Died Today

I got the call at school this morning that my brother died after a valiant fight against cancer. He did everything in his power to fight the disease and did extend his life by several years thanks to his tenacity. In the end, he willed his body to experimental treatment halfway across the country and died there. He didn't go easy as it was up and down for days until he finally gave in. We are all so sad.

So as one probably does when death knocks at his or her door, I have been walking down Memory Lane as family members discuss the funeral arrangements.

Paul was born almost two years after me. He was always a very active, fearless, and adventurous guy who tested the boundaries everywhere he went. As a little one, my mother recalls him running up and down the driveways of every house as she would walk with all the other moms and little children around our Grafton Street neighborhood in Worcester, Massachusetts. Later in elementary school, he rarely had a good day since his bright intelligence and tremendous learning disabilities ran up against each other like thunder clouds that resulted in lots of disciplinary action and many a day standing along the wall in the school corridors. I always felt bad when I saw him glumly standing against the wall, and one reason I became a teacher is because I don't want students to experience that kind of treatment in school. Of course, no one understood what he was facing and this was well before the good supports we have for learning challenges today, though we still have room for improvement in this arena.

My mom and dad did all they could to help Paul achieve at school and in life. My dad and Paul had many adventures together riding bikes and hiking in the mountains. And we all spent endless hours playing with our neighbors and cousins in pools, at the seashore, and in backyards. Games like capture the flag, football, and hide-and-seek were popular.

As Paul grew older, he became more disenchanted with school and began to hang out with a large group of neighborhood kids who were like a second family to him. They found themselves involved in all kinds of activities in the woods, on the train trestle, at concerts, and in each others' houses. Their activities were surprising to my parents and other neighbors, and at times, troubling too. Our neighborhood struggled with challenges related to this and some of our neighborhood teens lost their lives as well. Paul turned to music often and played songs from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, The Who, The Grateful Dead, and more. And as another brother so eloquently wrote, "Most would agree that Paul was born in the wrong century. His approach to life probably would have been better suited in the early 18th century - blazing a trail for Lewis and Clark. Roaming free in-tune with nature, living by his own rules, and tackling adventures strewn with Odyssean obstacles."

As a teen Paul met his first wife and together they adventured and had four children. As a father he was adventurous and never really settled down to a traditional life. He brought the children with him on his adventures and sometimes left them and their mom for work far away that included adventure too. He and Sue parted ways, and many years later he met Basia who joined him in many motorcycle adventures throughout the United States as well as long stays on the high dunes in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. In those later years, Basia and Paul hosted the children and grandchildren often and afforded them many good times.

Paul became a true champion in his last chapter related to his advocacy for workers' rights and via his fight with cancer as described in this article. He was generous to those around him during this time, and never burdened anyone with his illness.

This was another favorite song of Paul's when he was young.

I've asked my friends and family members to honor Paul's life by loving their family members and living with a zest for life--Paul never missed a chance to explore, adventure, do what he wanted, and live life to the fullest. He also was very proud of his children and grandchildren and grateful to both Basia and Sue.

Going forward, I want to be once again grateful for the loving family we have. We grew up with 56 first cousins, many aunts and uncles, a family of six children, a mom and dad, and countless other friends, neighbors, and extended family. I'm sure many will join us to give Paul a loving farewell. We'll laugh, cry, tell stories, and be glad that we have each other in the next few days and beyond that.

I will continue to include Paul's family in our family gatherings and look for ways to include Paul's spirit of independence, exploration, love of music, creativity, and adventure into my life too.

The best we can do when someone we love passes away is to be glad for the good days we had, the gifts that person brought to our lives, and the ability to pay those gifts forward into our own lives and lives of those we love and live with.

I will miss Paul. My whole family will miss Paul. This is a sad day.

As I remember Paul and think of the celebration of his life to come, this is one song that brings me peace:

Paul's obituary gives a broader sketch of his life.

Planning for the Unexpected

A family member is ill, and we are all pulling together and planning for the unexpected as we don't know what will happen in the days ahead.

Fortunately as a young working mother, I was always planning for the unexpected since one never knows what will happen day to day with babies. So today I'm planning a substitute packet that will keep the program on track with some standards-based teaching points that students have to complete and which are fairly easy for a substitute teacher to teach.

I'm not sure if I'll need the packet, but I want to be prepared. One of the tough parts of teaching is that that you have to leave lessons when you are out. In the best of circumstances, educators have a sub folder or notebook ready for days like this, but typically even if we have these notebooks, we have to update them to meet where the children are now.

I also cancelled extra events and commitments for the next two weeks since I want to have more time and mind for my family members as they face our loved one's illness.

At my school this year there have been a number of losses, and though every educator who experienced a loss mostly kept their grief and struggle quiet and at home, these losses do affect the whole community. In some ways the struggles bring us closer together and in other ways these struggles challenge the status quo of programs since substitute teachers have to be hired and programs adapted to the change.

Though life typically takes on a fairly predictable routine, these unexpected times occur and it's important that we deal with times like these in ways that we'll look back on with pride and assurance that we did what we needed to do to support those around us. Onward.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

When Time Stands Still

Time doesn't stand still in my life too often. Typically it's one foot in front of the other with a long to-do list to follow.

Yet, today, due to circumstances out of my control, time is standing still. I can't really think beyond the moment as I'm involved in a waiting game with no idea what will happen. The last time I experienced this was waiting for my third child to be born. Those last few weeks before a baby is born is often what I call "no man's land" - a place where you simply don't know what's going to happen--What will the birth be like? What will the baby be like? How will it happen?

So what do you when time stands still? It's a time to be more quiet, more thoughtful, more reflective, and less in control--it's the time when you realize more specifically that you're part of this giant puzzle called life, a puzzle of usual patterns and a puzzle of mystery too.

These "time stand still moments" are not the most comfortable for a person like me, yet they are not so bad either. We all need these times to recognize the sanctity, complexity, and seemingly serendipity of life. So as I did when my third child was about to arrive, I'll just give into this and let life lead me ahead. Onward.

Tomorrow Starts the Next Leg of the School Year: February 2018

Tomorrow we'll be back to school. It's been mostly a work-related vacation with lots of home-work and a bit of school work too. Nevertheless it was good to have the time to attend to multiple tasks that had been sitting in the waiting room for some time.

Tomorrow when we return to school, we'll focus on the following:
  • Engagement in a cultural performance that will broaden students' awareness and knowledge of the world around them.
  • A chance to reflect on the learning during the last math unit by completing a reflection sheet and adding that sheet and the recent assessment to student portfolios.
  • An opportunity to sharpen colored pencils and organize math supplies as we ready for the next unit of study.
In addition students will attend music class where the are beginning to prepare for the spring fifth grade play and hopefully, if the weather permits, have some fun time to play with each other out on the recess fields.

This is a mostly skills-focused leg of the school year, one that students are ready for as we invest in term two with strength and commitment. Onward. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Good America: We Can Do Better

A good America is a country that looks out for life today and life tomorrow with an eye on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every American.

Health Care
More and better is the way to go when it comes to health care. We should afford every American the best quality of health care possible. This will cost money--money to afford that health care for all, money for prevention, and money to train wonderful health care professionals. This includes dental care and mental health care too.

One big problem we face today is that too many Americans are satisfied with slick sound bites and the voice and choice of manipulative marketeers. To truly uplift our country, we need to uplift education. Massachusetts has been a leader in education. With a strong department of education and teachers' union, there have been substantial good decisions and directions forged in education in this state. A well educated populous will make good decisions for all, decisions that profit from reading, research, analysis, expert consultation, and collaboration. This is vital when it comes to a good America.

We are a country full of wonderful natural resources and we have to treat these natural resources like the gold that they are. To misuse and mismanage these wonderful resources spell disaster for our country. Right now many administrators like @POTUS seek short term financial gain for themselves and cronies rather than protect and promote our wonderful natural resources--this is greedy, selfish, and short sighted with regard to a good America.

The CDC does good research as does so many of our wonderful universities and research organizations. This research points the way to greater safety and good living for all. We can't ignore this research, and we can't halt more research. We need that kind of thoughtful, intelligent, scientific work to make safer communities for all. Right now many administrators don't care about the safety of most Americans, and choose instead to protect the safety of their families and cronies. And by not choosing the safety for all, they increase their wealth and power too. This is greedy and selfish and not what we need when it comes to developing a good America.

Values: Take Care of Children, The Elderly, and the Most Vulnerable Amongst Us
In so many ways in our nation today, we are not looking out for the needs of children, the elderly, and our most vulnerable citizens. Everywhere we look, we see evidence of this, and to make a good America, we need to look out for these citizens and do all we can to uplift their lives. When the weakest amongst us is well supported, our country is stronger. This is critical when it comes to a good America.

Modernization Can Result in Betterment for All
Take modernization seriously and do it in conjunction with environmental protection and human dignity. To be modern doesn't mean we have to be less human, instead to be modern means that we can use new technology to reflect respect and support for human dignity and good living. We don't have to rape and pillage the environment to live well. We don't have to let some rise up while others are left behind for a good America. We can look at issues deeply and support streams of positive change that include good research, expert consultation, debate, collaboration, and intelligent decision making.

This is a turning point in our country. We are all challenged by a greedy, selfish, and untrustworthy administration who utilizes demeaning comments, slick sound bites, little research or analysis, and self-serving policies/decisions to lead our country. This is a giant overcorrection that will hopefully wake up all 323,000,000 Americans so that they use their voices to stand up for what is right and good so that all Americans have the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Don't stay silent, and commit to advocacy in some way now to support a good America.

Impatient for Change, But We Can Do Better

When I see a problem and recognize a solution, I become impatient for change. I want it now. However, change, no matter how good it is, takes time.

Especially today when we have a seemingly greedy and selfish POTUS and #GOP administrative team, we have to be thoughtful and patient with regard to change even though the impetus for change is great.

There will always be problems in life, the worst thing we can do is ignore those problems. It is also not such a great idea to be impatient either as impatience can sometimes lead us too fast with change ideas, and those ideas may not be the result of good research, analysis, expert consultation, and collaboration.

So what are average citizens to do in the face of big problems that affect their lives and livelihood?

I keep referring to Timothy D. Snyder's book, On Tyranny, because he clearly demonstrates what average citizens should do and why we must act to keep our democracy strong. Taking care of our democracy has to become a daily effort by every American--all 323,000,000 of us if we want a strong community.

Join Unions and Other Political Advocacy Groups
As Snyder suggests, we have to join unions and other strong organizations to build our collective voice, rights, and capacity--without strong, collective organizations, average Americans won't have the voices and power they need to promote the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. So I suggest that you join your union, read their reports, and join in their advocacy when and how you can to support the good life for all Americans, not just a few wealthy and powerful Americans who sit at the top with regard to power and money.

Read the Research; Become Informed
We also have to consult the research. Those at the top who care only for themselves and their cronies, don't want you to know the truth, and they don't want you to read the research, analyze, and consult experts who have spent their lives dedicated to issues that plague us. As Snyder suggests we need to take the time to become informed, and not be satisfied with slick sound bites and disrespectful tweets alone.

Know that Problems will Always Exist
My impatience leads me to want to solve the problems right now, but the reality is that problems will always exist. When one goes, another will come. Hence problem solving with the goal of good living is a lifelong effort so it needs to be part of your everyday activity and effort. How do you fit good citizenship into your daily routine--what do you do? These are some efforts I'll continue to take part in.
  • Read a reliable news source(s) every day. Know what's going on.
  • Listen to reliable news shows daily. Stay informed.
  • Join Twitter and follow good Americans. Block those that demean others and fill Twitter with slick sound bites instead of good links and research. When you establish a reliable, respectful, and intelligent Twitter PLN, you have a daily connection to good minds, advocacy, research, and information. 
  • Converse, discuss, and debate with friends, family members, and others. Make sure that you are getting out there and discussing the issues in public forums. Be open to new ideas and willing to change your mind when new information moves you in that direction.
  • Forward positive initiatives and actions at home, in your work place, and in the community that will elevate the way we live and work with each other.
  • Have an eye on the future, and do what you can to make a good future for generations to come. 
We All Have to Do Our Part
Don't let a few Americans choose for all 323,000,000 Americans. In the last election less than 1/3 of the voters chose President Trump and now he has tremendous power over all 323,000,000 Americans--is this the kind of country we want, or do we want a country where the majority has substantial voice and choice over what happens. Encourage your family members, neighbors, and friends to register and ready to vote. Do the same. I know we can do better.

Take Care of the 323,000,000 - Register and Ready to Vote

Imagine if Trump turned away from the 5,000,000 NRA members to better care for the ~325,000,000 Americans by following the lead of countries like Australia and RESTRICTING, REDUCING, and REGULATING gun use to lessen senseless violence.

Imagine if Trump and his cronies actually read the research, used good process, analyzed the situation honestly, and consulted experts in the field to make thoughtful decisions that truly spell positive change.

Imagine if Trump decided to spend less time on slick sound bites and marketing to truly lead our country forward with laws that demonstrate dignity to humanity, laws that recognize the human factor such as laws that allow DACA a path to citizenship rather than taking people away from the families they love and care for and sending them back to countries they don't know.

Imagine if Trump spoke, tweeted, and led with respect rather than using multiple demeaning comments to disrespect and diminish hard working, dedicated Americans.

Imagine if the 200,000,000+ registered voters in the United States did vote and voted for people who really care about developing a good, strong country--the kind of country that provides the supports that lead to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Unfortunately Trump is mired in the swamp of cronies, will for wealth, and manipulation. He's not interested in the ~325,000,000 Americans, but instead committed to his own #wealth, #self, #popularity and that of a few family members and cronies.

I hope that the ~325,000,000 will begin to stand up, use their voices, and vote for what is right and good for themselves, their family members, neighbors, and communities. It's time to register and prepare to vote in upcoming elections. It may mean that people have to use a vacation day, rent a car, do some research in order to get to polling booths, but it's worth the effort to get ready to vote earlier than later so next time we're not led by a President that less than 1/3 of American voters supported in the last election. We can do better.

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


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.