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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Value-Driven Living and Working

We all need to take a few minutes now and then to think about our values--what do we value and how are our values visible in the lives we lead?

It's also essential that we surround ourselves with people who support our values because it's difficult to live a value-driven life on your own, but when you are surrounded by others who share your values, your dreams, and your vision, it's a lot easier to make the life you desire a reality.

Over time, our values may shift. This shift is the result of life experiences, influences, and changes. We see life differently as we age, yet most of the values that characterize who we are and what we stand for don't change--values that may have been embedded in us from an early age.

I want to think about what I value today, and how those values are visible in my life--visible in my words, visible in my actions, visible in the way I spend time and money, and visible in the investments I make towards future action and efforts.

To make time for this kind of thinking at times when your values are not greatly challenged is to strengthen yourself for the inevitable value challenges that may occur in life.

What do you value?

How are those values visible in your life?

Who and what support your value-driven life?

What processes do you use to review, revise, refine, and renew your values as you age?

All good questions to consider now and then.

Self-serving leaders with dangerous short-term vision are a threat to humanity

I am reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, and I must say the book is heartbreaking. As I read about so many gifted characters in the book who face the oppression of a regime that forgot about the beauty and strength of individuals' dreams, passions, and promise as well as the inspiration and beauty of the arts, architecture, and what we can do as a people when we acknowledge, support, and collaborate around individual strengths and traits, I am greatly saddened and filled with worry. I don't want this time to be replicated in my life or the lives of my children or grandchildren--I want people to live with the freedom to be who they are and live as they desire to live as long as they don't harm or hurt others.

As we live in a time with an insensitive bully-president in the United States, I worry about the hate he incites, prejudice he supports with unfair and unjust policies, and the lack of support he provides for institutions like public education, health care, social services, national parks, and environmental protections that have the potential to make life better for all. Instead it appears that this president serves self and rich cronies over the needs and interests of all Americans. This is a president who is also willing to sacrifice our clean air, clean water, clean soil, beautiful lands, other natural resources, and promising global partnerships for the wealth of a few and short-term gains. He is a president, who with his passive and self serving #GOP cronies, is willing to choose personal wealth and triumph, over the long term health and prosperity of our country.

Reading the book and thinking about the current reality in the United States makes me worried. I am worried that we will return to a time like the desperate time depicted in the story I am reading or a time that many have faced throughout the world and even in the United States in the past--a time when some people were unfairly and unjustly violated or killed rather than allowed to live the good lives they desired. Already our president's passive stance on needed funding, supports, policies, and protocols that can uplift life is standing in the way of good living for so many. As a teacher, his lack of interest or support for public schools is frightening. Everyday I see so much opportunity to do better by families and children, and while I work in a well-supported school system, I am still witness to how a good number of children and families are blocked from services that could elevate and positively change their lives. I hear stories from my friends who work in more compromised systems which further heightens my awareness of the fact that we are not doing what we can do to better lives of children and families--we are not putting into place helpful supports like affordable and accessible child care, health services, recreation, nutritious food, welcoming homes, safe communities, and counseling--supports that have the potential to transform lives.

We cannot allow world leaders anywhere to squander lives by denying some of the basic needs, health care, education, safety, and clean planet they deserve--all people have a right to live good, free lives where they can pursue happiness and live well. We have to work for this dream together and not support those short-sighted, self-serving, greedy, narrow-minded people in our midst who desire to lead for self over others. Instead we have to support leaders who have a vision for good living for all--a vision that looks for ways to uplift all people and build strong, vital, free communities with healthy natural resources, beautiful land and waterways, access to quality health care and education, nutritious foods, awesome recreation, inspiring arts, and more--we can build these kinds of communities all over the country and world with the right supports. That's a vision that spells good living for all, and a vision that contrasts the narrow scope of so many leaders today, leaders working for short-term, self-serving goals that have frightening long-term results, results that limit life rather than enriching it. We can do better.

Unexpected Turns

We all meet unexpected turns in the road. Sometimes those turns are small and mostly insignificant, and other times those turns are greater and much more significant. No matter who we are, these turns occur.

How do we meet these turns in the road?

Although unexpected, we have to recognize that unexpected turns in the road, though not typically the norm, are inevitable life events. These unplanned for and unexpected events occur.

I think it's best that we take pause and think about what these events mean for us: How do we feel? Why do we feel this way? What changes do these turns mark? How can we best meet these changes? In a sense, how can we rightfully and positively change with these events no matter how promising or devastating they may be?

As we think, we have to plan, we have to mourn the life these unexpected events may interrupt; we have to think about who is traveling forward with us and who is left behind; we have to celebrate and mark what is gone in a way that matters, and plan for the new path ahead.

These unexpected turns in the road of life can occur in our personal lives, professional lives, and lives of our community, country, and world too. When they occur, we need to be realistic too--how do these changes big and small truly affect who we are and what we can do. Sometimes a change that seems really big truly has little affect on our day to day lives, and a change that is somewhat small actually changes our daily living a lot. We may exaggerate the change when we see it only through the emotion the change causes rather than the real-life impact that change creates.

As I think more on this, I'm thinking of changes that sometimes occur in my professional sphere--changes that seemingly upset good plans or preparation, yet by taking the time to dissect the change and deal with it, the truth is that the change usually upsets little on the day-to-day front of teaching and learning, and instead has much more of an emotional impact than a real-time impact.

So when those unexpected turns happen, take time to ask the following questions:
  • What am I feeling?
  • What do those feelings say about who I am, what I want, and how I should meet this change?
  • Make a plan for meeting the change, a plan that matches who you are, how you want to live/work, and where you desire to go forward in your personal life, professional life, community, nation, or world. 
  • Commemorate the past dreams and direction by including those in the next leg of life's journey or memorializing the past events or dreams in a special way.
  • Move forward with renewed and revised direction.
Unexpected turns in the road happen all the time. It's part of life, and as with most things, it's the way you handle these changes that truly matters. 

Who do you work for?

As you consider how you spend your time and what you do, how do you answer the question: Who do you work for?

When we consider the people around us, we may ask the question: Who do they work for?

Naturally everyone works first for self because everyone spends time, money, and energy on what they do to keep their lives afloat with basic needs and other items and events the desire or need.

People work for their loved ones too--they often commit time, energy, and money to support their loved ones in ways that matter.

And, more often than not, people work for their clients, causes, objectives, and the profit of their own organizations and companies and those organizations and companies run by others.

When we consider who we work for or who others work for, we need to consider time. How people spend their time says a lot about who they work for--what they do with their dollars tells the story of an individual's needs, passions, priorities, desires, and challenges too. We can all make time to consider if the way we spend time truly matches our priorities or if we've fallen into routines of spending time on events and activities that don't mean that much to us.

The way we spend our dollars also says a lot about what matters to us? Where do you spend your most dollars, and what does that say about you and who you work for?

And energy too--we all have limited amounts of good energy. Who do we give that energy too? Does that match the people and objectives we choose to work for?

I worry about the way some political leaders choose to use their time, energy, and taxpayer dollars. I worry that they work too much for themselves and don't give enough time or attention to what all Americans need. I arrived at this conclusion as I watch these leaders ignore the needs of schools, children, and families in favor of making the rich richer and supporting policies, protocols, and laws that support wealthy businesses and business owners over the need to protect our environment, make quality health care affordable and accessible, and well support our public schools.

I think about how I spend my time, money, and energy too--I want to support my family, students, colleagues, and community in ways that matter.

We all have to make time to think deeply about these questions as we think of our own lives and the lives of leaders we support--we have to continually find ways to support others honest and well-intended investments of time, energy, and dollars to forward individual's lives and the life of our community, country, and world.

Monday, July 30, 2018

What Do You Want From Me?

We work and live with many, and as we collaborate with others, we may think: What do they want from me? What can I do to support their needs and strengthen our connections?

When we think this way it's typically because it's a relationship you value, a connection you want to strengthen, and a collaboration you believe is meaningful and valuable. When we care about our connections, we want to make others happy, work together in ways that matter, and reap the wonderful benefits of sharing time and experiences with those people.

As I think of the many people in my life that I value, I am thinking about what they want from me--what is unique about each person's desire and what trends exist with regard to what people want.

In general, people desire respect. They want to be listened to, and they want to be acknowledged for their hard work, contribution, interests, and passions in life. People generally want to have fun and enjoy times together too. That's why they connect around similar interests, questions, challenges, and strengths.

Specifically the people in your life desire all different parts of who you are and what you do? What your parents, boss, children, partner, neighbor, clients, and friends want will all differ in multiple ways, and affect the way you use your time and energy. It's important to think about this differential and to intentionally use time well to strengthen the relationships you value in ways that fit the kind of connections you have with each person.

It's also important to sustain and build a relationship that provides what's needed, but possibly that does not over provide or give too much. Sometimes what an individual wants from you is quite concise, simple, and too the point, and to give too much or extend that connection too deep is to compromise the relationship and harm the good connection you have. In other circumstances, what's needed is more depth, time, and commitment to make the relationship more meaningful and long lasting.

Every relationship is different and it's worth thinking about those relationships with questions like these:

  • Why do we connect? What is our relationship?
  • What is essential to this relationship? What do I have to do to maintain this relationship in a healthy way?
  • What can I expect from the other person? How do I communicate that if needed?
  • Is this a relationship that requires greater depth or is this a relationship that requires a more superficial actions and responses?
Taking a moment to think about how those we connect to would answer the question, 'What do you want from me?" will help us to support those relationships in ways that matter. 

Responding to Guidance and Advice with Respect

Guidance and advice unrequested is often met with sarcasm, negativity, dismissal, and disrespect. Who wants advice or guidance they didn't ask for?

I've been on both sides of this situation. I've offered advice and guidance without a request, and I've received advice and guidance without request.

To receive this kind of help often leads one to wonder why another felt you needed that kind of advice or help. You might think don't they trust me or they don't know me or why do they think I need this. On the other hand, sometimes when you offer this kind of help, you might do it because you deeply think the advice or guidance will improve the other person's life.

I think, in all, it's best to respond to unwarranted advice and guidance with respect and to take a minute to step outside your sensitivities and truly think about the information shared with questions such as:

  • Could this positively enrich or better my life?
  • What's stopping me from taking this seriously?
  • Is this worth acting on now or perhaps acting on later?
  • Realistically why might I refuse this suggestion? What's holding me back?
Recently I received some unwarranted advice that did not interest me due to some personal reasons and goals that the advice giver would not know about. I politely noted that I wasn't interested, but in hindsight it may have been better to respond with more details about why the advice was not a good match for my life right now. 

As I think about advice I offered that was not received well recently, I think it was worth a chance. I shared the advice thinking that perhaps it would create common ground with me and another person, but clearly the common ground that I felt existed doesn't exist. It was worth a chance, and now I won't share that kind of advice again with that individual. I'll listen and observe a little more to understand where this person is coming from to better understand the individual's pursuits, needs, and connections. 

In the end, we have to be respectful and thoughtful about the advice we share, the advice we're given, and how we share and accept advice. It's true that we need each other and can profit from each other's experiences, but it's not always the right time or right connection to maximize that potential. 

Use Words Well

It is essential that we are very careful with the way we use words.

The way we use words in speaking and writing as we present, discuss, debate, and promote ideas, opinions, and information matters.

While some are shy to use words, others readily use words. If you don't use words a lot, you may not have good experience with words, and that lack of experience can lead to awkward error, and if you readily use words, you have to be careful that you don't use your words in ways that are callous or cavalier--you must use your words with respect, empathy, compassion, care, and truth.

Words are amazingly powerful and can be positively transformative for individuals' lives as well as the way our world works. We have to take the power that words hold seriously.


House Recyclables May Be Good School Supplies

A good house clean-up can result in multiple items for the school and classroom.

Before you shop, you can take the time to move the following useful items from home to school:

Prize Box
All kinds of little items such as pads of paper, special pens and pencils, small toys, books, and more can be added to a prize box. When children do something special at school, something extraordinary, you may let them choose from the prize box.

Arts and Crafts
There's so many recycled home goods that can be repurposed as arts and crafts items. Old clothes can be cut up and used to make little pillow, stuffed animals, bags, and more. That cloth can also be used as cloths to wipe up and clean up after arts and science activities. Even use cloth squares to measure and make quilts can be fun. Similarly small decorative items and any kind of arts and building tools and materials can be used for creative projects.

Books
Professional books can become part of the school's professional library while your own children's old books and magazines, when appropriate, can become part of the classroom library.

Science Materials
Plant containers and other tools can become part of the classroom environmental collection. Similarly some old items can be used for upcoming experiments and explorations.

Playground Fun
There's lots of old toys and items that can be used for playground fun. For example, if you are retiring camping items, those can be used for students' pretend play outside or inside. Old sand toys and ride-on vehicles can be used on the playground as well. While items like these typically don't last long on the playground given the numbers of children that play there, these items can foster new and interesting play.

Seasonal Items
Some seasonal items can be retired to school use too. For example old sleds can be lots of fun during students' winter play while sand buckets, watering cans,  and sifters are useful for warm weather play.

Pens, Pencils, Markers
Many houses have lots of pens, pencils, markers and more writing tools--these are helpful when you need extras in the classroom.

Furniture
A lot of furniture does not meet school fire prevention rules so you have to be careful about what you bring in, but some furniture is perfect. For example I brought in an old picnic table that was not useful at my home and that has been a great outdoor learning table.

Recyclables
I always liked the way the Boston Children's Museum had big containers filled with recyclables. Eventually I'd like to replicate that collection, in part, at my school to support STEAM activities. For now, however, as I clean I'll make bags of recyclables we can use for those projects.

Money is always an issue in schools when it comes to accessing the materials you need to teach well. Often our homes are filled with multiple items we can transfer to school to support teaching efforts in meaningful ways. While I believe that schools should be better supported and don't think teachers should have to support as many classroom supplies as they typically do, I do think that recycling useful items from home now and then for school use can be a win-win as we prepare for the school year ahead.

Nagging Challenges

Most people I know have one or more nagging challenges--these are the kinds of challenges, similar to shackles that slow you down and often don't go away. Nagging challenges are often lifelong companions.

As I think of these challenges, I notice that there doesn't seem to be any real reason why people are gifted with these challenges and, as stated above, most people have one or more of them.

For many years people try to overcome these hindrances, and in some cases, people are able to beat these nagging struggles, but in other cases there comes a sense of surrender to the issues, an acceptance that the issue is his/her cross to bear, mountain to climb, or rocky path in life.

These nagging struggles are typically not the kinds of challenges that affect the people around them as much as they affect the individual who owns the challenge. These challenges are an individual's forever reminder that no one is perfect and life is never perfect.

On the upside, these challenges when well-understood create empathy, respect, and care--they help people to accept each other's frailty and imperfection.

As parents, we see our own children face nagging challenges too, and in ways that we can, we try to offer ways to eliminate or mitigate these annoyances.

Nagging challenges are part of life--those challenges may slow us down from time to time, and can be positive if we use that time to reflect, learn, and develop empathy, compassion, and care.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Honing the Long Term Teaching/Learning Vision

Plans for next year are in place. There will be some revision and refinement as I meld these plans with colleagues' summer work, team meetings/professional development, and in response to students' needs and interests.

As I work to fulfill the details related to the 2018-2019 school year plans and prep, I am also thinking of the long term vision for my teaching/learning practice. What will I do? What matters?

Overall my primary commitment lies in building a top-notch grade-level program with colleagues to teach all children well. To meet this goal, the work I need to do includes the following:
  • Embed SEL into the academic program.
  • Develop a more multi-modal, hands-on, relevant, visual, and brain-friendly math program.
  • Increase my skill, knowledge, and teaching of coding and computational thinking across disciplines.
  • Work with colleagues to develop our scheduling and collaboration to better our service to each and every student. 
  • Develop my advocacy skills to work for betterment in education, the environment, and supports for children and families.
  • Better my ability to foster students' apt collaboration, experimentation/exploration, analysis, presentation, debate, and discourse related to their learning particularly in math and science. 
  • Continue a daily effort to read, research, write, and develop knowledge and practice related to teaching well. 
I want the classroom to be a welcoming, dynamic home away from home that respects and develops each child's individuality as well as our team approach to teaching each other and learning.

There are many groups that I can join and get involved with to better my work. I choose to continue to interact with my online PLN, a group of dynamic worldwide educators and others who positively contribute to my work as an educator. I will also stay close to the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) to support what we can do together as educators to promote optimal professional learning, collegiality, and advocacy in ways that improve what we can do and how we do it when it comes to teaching and living well. Beyond that I will broaden my world view via reading and exploring new places, and I'll share my knowledge and experience via my blog and elsewhere when it's the right thing to do.

This continues to be a time of digging into the details of my work close to home to teach well and effectively develop programs, supports, knowledge, and practice to teach each child with depth and care. I will focus on positive patterns to meet this aim. Onward.  




Saturday, July 28, 2018

MTA Summer Conference 2018

Link for Registration Information
I will journey to Amherst, Massachusetts next week for a couple of days to attend the MTA Summer Conference. This year I'll focus on the theme of political advocacy as I learn about ways to support our union and get involved in political decisions that help to elevate supports for children, families, schools, and communities. Everyday as a teacher, mother, and citizen, I see opportunity to better support the people we live and work with. I also see countless positive efforts too. There's a lot of good work happening with families, schools, and communities, and I believe we can spread and grow that good work to meet the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness our country holds for each and every person.

At times there is negative speak about unions, but the bottom line is that average workers who make an average wage or less do not have the time or money to advocate in favor of the rights for average people solely on their own. Big, rich companies and individuals have lots of political power thanks to their wealth and what that wealth can afford by way of services and supports to impact political decisions they favor. Average workers do not have that power and that's why working together as a union can make up the difference with regard to the power that wealth brings.

Unions, similar to our democracy, work best when people get involved. If people are passive, neither our country nor unions will work with the effect possible. Therefore it's essential that every union member and citizen get involved in some way to forward the best of who we can be and the supports we can advocate for. We don't have to stay satisfied with laws, protocols, and policies that don't adequately support children, families, schools, and communities. We know that better funding, more accessible mental and physical health care, access to good food, safe communities, welcoming homes, healthy recreation, the arts, and regulation, restriction, and reduction of harmful substances, guns, and other dangerous objects/behaviors will elevate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

So as I think about the Summer MTA Conference, I think it's a great opportunity for every MTA member to get involved for a day or more--it's also great opportunity to learn about the union, earn needed Professional Development Points (PDPs) for recertification, better your practice, and collaborate with dedicated educators from all over the state.

I always arrive with a number of questions and leave with good information to forward the work I do with and for students, colleagues, families, and community members. I hope to see you there :)

Politics and Teaching

There is an undeniable intersection of politics and teaching. To teach well depends on many laws, policies, protocols, and budgetary decisions. A teacher cannot stay silent when he/she sees ways that the country can better serve children, families, schools, and communities. We know that when children, families, schools, and communities are well served by political leaders, decisions, and financial support, those children, families, schools, and communities have the potential to thrive.

As an educator, I do not support specific politicians or policies in the classroom, instead as a teacher of young children, I teach children about our country's government, laws, and processes. I remind them of their rights as well as their responsibilities as citizens and residents, and I promote fair, inclusive discussions about world issues when appropriate.

On my own time via writing, advocacy, debate, and discussion, I speak up and work towards the kinds of supports that will better help children, families, schools, and communities. As a teacher of 32 years, a parent, family and community member, and a citizen of the United States, I notice many ways that we can better what we do and how we support one another. I also notice good work and questionable work by multiple elected and appointed leaders. While I'm not always right, I feel that I have an obligation to share my point of view if I believe it will make a positive difference.

Right now, I am writing about and advocating for the following issues.

Ethical, Legal Behavior
When politicians and appointed leaders act without ethics or fidelity to the law, they challenge our individual and collective rights, opportunities, peace, and potential. Not only does unethical and illegal behavior challenge our good government, but this behavior wastes our time and resources too.  We need good time and resources to do our work well, care for our families and communities, and forward our country in ways that matter, therefore we have to expect ethical and legal behavior by all leaders, workers, and citizens, and we need to help each other to meet the goal of positive, ethical work and living.

Immigration
Inhumane, disrespectful treatment of people creates a domino effect of disrespect, hurt, and harm. People do not leave their homelands without a deep need or desire for change. I don't take lightly the desire of multiple peoples around the world who are risking their lives, spending their hard earned dollars, and leaving the land and people they love to start new lives. I know that the roots of immigration, in part, lie in the mistreatment of people and lands over time--many countries around the world reaped the benefits of the people and resources of other countries with little sensitivity and care about those people or their resources. This, in part, has resulted in conflict and a desire by many to leave their homelands. As world citizens, we have to respectfully, humanely, and kindly respond to immigration issues. We can do this in the following ways:
  • Fix the grave error by the current United States presidential team by reuniting all families separated at the border and offering all with the exception of dangerous criminals full, legal residency in the United States as reparation for the disrespectful and serious separations that occurred.
  • Review the immigration laws carefully, and find ways to respectfully honor those laws.
  • Work to change laws that are not working well.
  • Make all laws clear to those who desire to live in the United States, and all of those in the United States who profit from and exploit illegal immigrant workers.
  • At the border, rather than a wall, create a transiency center that helps those who arrive at the border to know their rights and what they need to do to gain residency in the United States or other countries. 
  • Pay close attention to where people are coming from and why they are coming--work with those countries and peoples for win-win solutions to welcome those citizens to the United States and/or create situations in their homelands where they can live peacefully and happily. There could potentially be immigration centers set up in people's homelands and in those centers people could learn about immigration procedures and preparation--these centers could potentially bring income to other countries and even help people to gain better lives in their own countries if desired. 
  • Illegal immigration that is related to crime needs to be flushed out, made transparent, and dealt with using innovative, creative, humane solutions.
Safe and Dynamic Communities
The national government has to support personalized supports for communities throughout the United States by providing supports to uplift those communities. Perhaps there could even be national awards for communities at various income levels that best serve their citizens with top-notch recreation, schools, safety, health care, protection of natural resources, good homes, nutritious food, and more. Without a one-size-fits-all approach, the government can look deeply at the problems communities face, and utilize tried-and-true as well as new and innovative supports and solutions to uplift life in those communities. There's a lot of good going on in the United States, and by identifying and supporting that good to better lives throughout the country we will create a better, stronger, and happier country.

Treating Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue
I've read a lot about the senseless pain and destruction that misuse of guns causes Americans. This problem also costs the country money. We can look at this problem as a public health problem and make good change similar to the positive change we have made with regard to public health issues such as minimizing cigarette smoking, promoting safe driving, elevating nutritious diets, and lessening neighborhood crime. For starters we can create gun registries in every state that mimic automobile registration centers. We can create laws that reduce, restrict, and regulate gun use so that those who own guns are well trained and evidently responsible. We can require gun owners to pay a gun tax that connects them to gun safety information, and we can heavily tax and regulate gun companies so that they don't put their profits ahead of people's safety.

Greater Support for Health Care and Education
A healthy, well educated population is a population that is more peaceful and productive. Right now education and health care are underfunded. We can use the great advantage of increased automation by doubling the number of employees in service industries such as health care and education by creating opportunities to train more teachers and health care professionals. We also can better use tax dollars to support schools and health care agencies so that everyone gets the care they need. There should not be long waiting lines of individuals who are waiting to get the kind of education and health care they need. 

Protection of our Natural Lands, Water, Air and Resources
It is short sighted to not look for ways to protect our natural lands and resources.  As a world we have limited resources, and we know that clean air, clean water, and clean soil are essential to good living. We cannot move backwards in this arena. Our current presidential team is not taking this issue seriously at all by deconstructing regulations that protect our resources and not making time to create more regulations that safeguards our lands, air, and water. This problem is staring all of us in the face because if we don't protect our lands, water, and air, there will be less opportunity for healthy, peaceful living on Earth. It is foolish to not take this seriously by promoting our country's efforts to partner with countries around the globe to care for our planet and people in ways that matter.

Transforming the Concept of Police Protection Alone to Multidisciplinary Health and Safety Organizations
We need to move the idea of "police" to the concept of community health and safety organizations. While there is a need for traditional policing in some circumstances, we can do better by transforming old time police work to work that includes some traditional policing and more public health and safety work--work that focuses on prevention. Many police departments are already moving in this direction and we can continue this transformation.

Modernizing and Revisiting Ethics and Global Partnerships
As we increasingly move towards the need for world government, policies, and protocols due to our ever increasing interdependence on one another, we need to work at modernizing ethical expectations and developing stronger, more collaborative, and forward focused global partnerships. Peace, protecting our planet, good living, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness for all world citizens should be at the forefront of this work.

Regulate Businesses and Private Organizations
We can retain the healthy competition that comes from capitalism while preserving the rights and opportunities for all by regulating businesses and private organizations in ways that create greater equity and opportunity for good living for all the country's and Earth's people. We need to regulate against excessive greed that prevents others from getting ahead.

Equity
We have to visibly work to make sure that no Americans are left behind by prejudice, lack of opportunity, little to no access to basic needs, education, and health care, and full awareness of their rights and responsibilities as citizens. 

To teach well is to care for each and every child that you are responsible for.

To teach well is to give students the concept, knowledge, and skill to be effective lifelong learners, apt collaborators, worthy contributors, and good livers--people who can reap the rewards of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for self and others.

To teach well is to make sure educators have the work conditions and fair salaries at school and in the greater community that enable optimal teaching and learning.

To teach well is to speak up and advocate for needed supports, student/family rights, and the freedom to do your job well without unnecessary obstacles and restrictions.

Politics and teaching are tightly intertwined--one cannot exist without the other because both fields are people-fields, fields that depend on a positive focus related to what we can do with and for one another. 





Friday, July 27, 2018

How do you respond to the changes in your midst?

There are a large number of changes occurring in my personal and professional life this year. Most of those changes are happening around me and not to me, but I will be affected nevertheless by this change.

As I anticipate these changes, what am I thinking about?

Take a backseat
In places where I've been at the front in terms of voice and choice, there's no longer a need for me to lead or speak up as much. There are good people in place and great synergy occurring. At this point, in those places I'll take more of a back seat and work to assist the leaders who have stepped forward--good people with honest, worthy direction. I am so happy to see the change occurring in these spheres.

Listen
My theme this year is to listen more--I want to truly hear what people have to say. I want to hear more than their words alone, but instead, I want to think about where they are coming from, what their experiences are, and the direction they desire. I want to deeply think about what they are saying and analyze that in relation to my own experiences, knowledge, and vision. The greater part of my life has been committed to the positive development of family, community, and education, and I want to support the good ideas and efforts that will further positive growth in these areas.

Reach
I have laid out a number of specific areas related to my professional and personal life in which I want to reach--these are very specific, detailed, and somewhat laborious areas of effort, but areas, nonetheless, that are at the forefront of where I'm going and what I need to do to achieve with regard to my dreams and values related to living a good life.

Support
I am fortunate to be surrounded by countless amazing and good people. I want to make more time to support these people in ways that matter--ways that are creative, responsive, empathetic, and fun. I cannot do all that I dream of, but step-by-step I can contribute in meaningful ways.

Intention
I want to slow down my life so I can be more intentional about what I do and how I do it--I want to retrain myself in areas of Earth-friendly living, parenting for adult children, and supporting the great diversity of dreams, lifestyles, needs, and ambitions of the people I live with, near and care dearly about.

Advocacy 
I want to hone my advocacy skills in ways that find me working with greater discernment, evidence, fact, and depth to speak out and stand up for initiatives that truly elevate and better lives in the United States and abroad. I choose to believe that we can continually become a better world and people and that we don't have to accept words, acts, and beliefs that lead to destruction of the Earth's people, places, natural beauty, and good values. I do believe we can do better and will work at my skills to support this direction.


How will you improve your math teaching and learning in 2018-2019?

As I reviewed the math articles I've collected on my 2018 reading list, I found a number of good ideas that I will utilize to improve math teaching in the year ahead. The more we learn about how the brain works, the better we will be able to teach math. This terrific MindShift article shows us that  learning math is a sophisticated process that utilizes multiple parts of the brain at once.



So as we consider this continually shifting stage of math learning and teaching, we have to be open to continually updating, revising, and refining our math teaching and learning.

With next year in mind, I'll do the following. First, I'll improve my topic introductions. In years past I've successfully made the introductions sticky by connecting the topic with a meaningful, real-world rationale via questions, story, context, and imagery. I've tried, as experts encourage, to also create conflict, contradiction, and surprise to wake-up my learners to the topic and, in a sense, excite their brains. Now, thanks to an article by Michael Giardi, I will likely begin with a good hook that prioritizes visual imagery like the one below. This will foster an "inquiry before instruction" start to learning new concepts, and will invite students' interest and involvement while also giving me time to assess and understand the knowledge, skill, and concept students are bringing to the learning.


Next, I'll encourage students to be more metacognitive as they learn math. I'll tell them that to use metacognitive strategies will improve their math learning and retention. I'll define metacognitive strategies with this definition:


And, as students solve problems I'll have them use the questions below to guide their work:


Further, I will revisit the learning paths for each concept to make sure that those paths include lots of visual models, a diversity of activities, student creativity, and plenty of practice in order to make the learning brain-friendly as suggested in the quotes below:




In addition while I have always taken a computational approach to teaching using Fortran's if than or else programming logic to plan and execute lessons, I want to further my use of both coding and computational thinking as I teach both science and math. This definition of computational thinking will help me. I also want to commit to a weekly routine of building my ability to code and embed coding and computational thinking into the math and science curriculum.

As always, I want to bring family members on board to successfully support their young math students. While encouraging family members to speak highly of math, I also want them to know that there is much they can do outside of school to promote mathematical thinking, reasoning, and skill as noted in this quote:


I am also working to deepen students' assignments and my response to those assignments utilizing a weekly reflection journal. I will think carefully about research recently done related to assignments, especially the research that directs me to deepen the kinds of mathematical work students do.



I'm sure I'll have more to add to this post in the days ahead, however this is a good start. I will add additional ideas I cull from experience, research, and outreach below:

  • Early in the year teach students how to master Google Draw--this is a valuable tool for math visualization. 

What is your lifelong learning routine?

As an educator, I am a lifelong learner.

To learn, I do the following:
  • Collect and nurture a dynamic Professional Learning Network (PLN) that includes a 9,000+ Twitter PLN of awesome thinkers, readers, researchers, and doers in a number of fields, a collection of blogs that come directly to my email, a professional Facebook page, and colleagues within the school community I work in, at the state-level, and national level that I work and learn with in person at conferences, workshops, and at school. 
  • Read/Research. As I interact with my PLN I collect titles of articles, books, and videos to read and view
  • Blog. As a blogger I collect, reflect, create, and synthesize ideas that will better my practice as well as impact the work of those who read my blogs.
  • Social Media Threads: On YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ I collect and categorize multiple videos, articles, people, ideas, and other information that positively impacts my learning. 
  • Conferences: I attend and present at conferences to develop my repertoire in real time with others.
  • Projects/Problems: I work with colleagues on committees at school and elsewhere to work on projects and solve problems. I find this to be a highly effective way to learn and develop my practice. 
  • Discourse/Debate: I spend considerable time discussing information, questions, and ideas with others in and outside of the educational field. 
My typical routine involves the following actions:
  1. Periodically directing my learning by establishing goals and posting those goals on my online ePortfolio.
  2. Revisiting, reflecting on, and revising those goals regularly.
  3. Daily reading, writing, and research beginning with a review of my social media threads and daily blogging. Then reading more in-depth articles and information.
  4. Keeping a to-do list of books, videos, articles, and conferences to attend to. 
  5. Scheduling deeper reading such as reading books, attending conferences, planning units of study, collaborative projects and problem solving, skill building, and research projects.
As I learn, I continually try to spiral up towards my goals by deepening, enriching, and refining current knowledge and practice to match the needs of my students, the world around me, and future pursuits and upcoming events. 

I find that this routine keeps me current, fills me with wonderful, timely, and valuable questions, and informs a worthy direction of good practice and positive collaboration. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Righting the Road: Better Teaching and Learning

Every so often I write a post about my past transgressions, decisions and efforts that I could have done a better job with. By publicly owning this error, I hope that I can help others avoid similar mistakes. In the days ahead, I will use this list to better my professional contributions.

Get curious, not furious
I recently read this great phrase on an Edutopia article shared via Twitter and elsewhere (click title to see article). This is a great, catchy phrase to help all educators rightfully act when they feel angry, furious, or frustrated. Often the working conditions, lack of support, and tremendous needs educators face can result in feeling furious. This has happened to me mostly when I have really good intentions that are thwarted by a child's behavior, an administrative decree, or a lack of good communication. When this occurs I often feel disrespected, untrusted, or diminished. But instead of getting furious, we need to get curious and ask a lot of questions. For example when field trip plans were messed up, I could have asked:
  • How might I change this? 
  • How can we help students to attend this important field trip given the struggle we are facing?
  • What might we do better?
When great tech programs are discredited and not allowed, I could ask questions that dig deeper such as:
  • Since we are not allowing great creative international programs like SCRATCH, how will we playfully and thoughtfully promote coding and the kind of thinking and problem solving coding promotes from an early age? Is this important to our system? What are we doing in this respect?
  • Since we don't allow our students to use Minecraft EDU and most professionals today rely on 3D modeling to tell their stories, invent, and analyze, how are we promoting students' early access to, creativity, and understanding with respect to 3D modeling? 
  • Since gaming has been shown to be an inviting and positive way to learn, how are we growing students' abilities, collaboration, and practice with gaming to learn?
  • Because tech is changing all the time, how can we create faster, more personalized, and flexible policies to support piloting tech venues on an ongoing, streamlined, and open-minded basis to serve students' needs?
  • Since tech is the great equalizer when it comes to learning struggles and disabilities, how are we bettering our ability to sensitively and responsibly use technology as the intelligent assistant it can be for students who struggle in any sphere? How are we growing our abilities to better use technology in this way--what are we doing, and how is that communiciated?
  • Since Khan Academy is a reputable, well-supported, and well-researched intelligent assistant used worldwide to help students' independently develop their skills and knowledge, why won't we allow our students to use this platform, and what are we doing instead to connect our students to internationally recognized modern and forward moving platforms?
  • Since many of our wealthy students get substantial tech access via their homes and families' knowledge access, how can we reckon with our tight controls with regard to our poor students who are not getting similar access or training? Won't that set our poor students back in a world where it will be essential in any field to be tech savvy and experienced? 
  • How are we ensuring that the programs we choose are inclusive and accessible to all of our learners?
When I am frustrated with a student who is misbehaving, I can ask the following questions:
  • Why do you think you did that?
  • What would you do to help yourself if you were the teacher?
  • How can we make this better?
  • Why do you think I'm upset about this behavior?
When frustrated with an administrative decree, I can ask:
  • Help me to understand why this initiative supports better learning and teaching?
  • Help me to understand why I am not seeing the positive aspects of this initiative?
  • How can I help to make promising change in this endeavor?
  • What can I do to contribute to better growth and change?
Always speak with respect?
When one is frustrated there is a temptation to forget to be respectful. It's always good to speak with respect and begin with questioning as well as looking for the promise in the problem that exists.

When in doubt, slow it down
You will never do wrong by students or colleagues by taking a time out. If there are issues that you can't quickly figure out how to resolve, simply take a break by asking students to take a moment of silence, adding an extra recess, leaving a meeting, or simply staying quiet until you better understand what to do and how to do it.

Ask for help
Don't shy away from asking for help when you are in doubt. Better to work together than to make an error that can't be easily remedied. 

Think about the worst case scenario and resulting effect of your decisions
To make a decision with the worst case scenario of the result in mind will help you to right your decisions, and to think about the resulting effects of the words you use or actions you employ will help you to make decisions well.

Write as if it will be front page news
Whenever you write anything down anywhere consider it front page news. You have to be comfortable defending any words or phrases you share with the whole world in this transparent tech age we live in.

Always be truthful
Even when it has been difficult, I am always happy when I've been truthful. Even the smallest of mistruths harms one's character so avoid those. Better to say nothing than to lie.

Keep it simple
Drill down on all efforts to the activities that mean the most. By keeping things streamlined and simple, you have a greater chance of doing the work well.

Listen
Continually remember that you don't have all the answers. Put yourselves in others shoes, think about where they are coming from, and listen to their words. The broader our experiences and ability to learn from others, the better we will be.

Know your weaknesses and challenges
Try to steer clear of jobs you're uninterested in and jobs that you know you are not well skilled for. Sometimes you may want to take a job that challenges you to grow in areas of interest, but if you take jobs that don't match your interests and skills, you'll likely be unhappy and you'll likely not do a good job. I've always turned down jobs that I am not well skilled for and I've been happy that I've done that.

Lifelong learner
Keep your goals upfront. Know where you're headed. Analyze and revise your direction often as needed. Learn as much as you can and develop your expertise to do the chosen jobs well.

Steer clear of unethical leaders
While I don't believe that many or any people are purely unethical or without strengths, I do know that there will be leaders you encounter that are seemingly unethical. When this occurs you have to hold tight to your own ethics and not be led down their trail of poor performance and misdemeanor. 

Do your job
Most importantly write yourself a job description and then do your job as well as you can. 

Do you keep the mission of your professional work at the forefront of what you do?


As I listen carefully to the news related to the Trump presidency and the majority Republican congress, I am thinking a lot about who and what these leaders serve? I am wondering which individuals from this group are working for the American people, and which individuals are spending more time and attention working for their own wealth, power, and egos over the best interests and supports for the American people.

Source
As I watch the stories of Russian cyber crime, errant tariffs, global partnerships, porn star pay-offs, and election rallies unfold via a large range of online reporting and real time discussions and debates, at the center of my focus is the question: Are these political leaders working for themselves or for the American people? and Are these people working within the law or are they working illegally and unethically to get what they want?

To date, a number of crimes have been revealed by the Mueller investigation, and those who committed the crimes are facing trials and/or jail time and other consequences. There are still many who may be guilty, but have not been indicted yet. Every day there is new suspicious events and evidence to analyze. There are also some who want to end the investigation and not deal with these apparent threats to our American laws, ideals, and good use of time and money. These individuals lack of interest or support for the investigation appears suspicious because who would not want to understand well what happened and how it affected our country? To understand the cyber crime and other illegal behavior is to right our country on a good course for modern times. In many ways, the deeper result of this investigation will be to demonstrate the kinds of challenges we will face as a country as the world becomes increasingly interdependent and we approach greater world government and leadership efforts. I suspect this will prepare us for the likely future challenges of dealing with peoples from other planets. There will always be problems as we evolve, and the key focus should be to identify, investigate, resolve, and revise in light of those problems.

While I watch all of this occur and think deeply about it, I am also thinking about my own work and contribution with the following questions:
  • Am I following the laws, rules, protocols, and policies set?
  • Am I respectfully and intelligently speaking up and working for research-based change when I notice laws, rules, protocols, and policies that do not meet the mission of the work I do as an educator?
  • Am I keeping the mission upfront, a mission that leads me to holistically support all students' positive academic, social, emotional, and physical development.
  • Am I using my time and tax payer money well to forward what my colleagues and I can do to support students and families in our schools?
  • What can I do to better do my job, meet the mission of my work, and collaborate well with others in this regard?
Also, as I think about my work in the face of what's happening, I am thinking about the political leaders I support and those that I will vote for in the fall elections. So far the politicians from Massachusetts are working tirelessly to forward supports, laws, and efforts to elevate lives of Massachusetts' residents as well as people throughout the country--this is very good. In the days ahead, I plan to get more involved in issues, particularly issues that support positive supports for families, children, and public schools. I know that a good start in life uplifts all that we are and all that we can do as a country and world, and that's where I'll contribute most of my political and professional time and efforts. 

We need to expect good work from ourselves and from those that lead us--we can't sit back and just accept the words and actions of others without good review, analysis, and input. All Americans need to freely and knowledgeably speak up and work for what they believe to be in the best interests of the American people. When we all get involved, vote, and do what is right and good, we maintain and develop a strong, good country as well as positive, proactive global partnerships.

The promise in the future of our country lies in our ability to be united in our support for our American ideals and processes--ideals and processes that give all Americans the right and privilege to vote, speak up, live as they wish as long as they don't break laws and harm others, and get involved in leading our country, a country by the people for the people. We can do better at this junction in American history, and that betterment depends on every one of us.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Be Stronger?

I usually think in terms of being better, but this summer I also want to think about how I will build strength for the school year ahead--physical and mental strength.

As I think of this, I recognize that positive routines lead to apt mental and physical strength. Routines of daily research, reading, writing, conversation, and good teaching builds mental capacity while positive activity, sleep, and good nutrition builds physical strength.

I want the same for my students--time to read, write, solve problems, research, think, and converse as well as the time for and access to healthy food, play/physical activity, clean water, comfortable clothes, and a welcoming learning environment.

Truthfully when it comes to what is best for our mental and physical strength, it's not that complex of an equation. We all profit from welcoming, peaceful, and comfortable homes and work places, healthy food, positive physical activity, and opportunities to develop who we are in ways that matter.

What may hold us back from this positive equation is unhealthy foods/drinks, little opportunity, access, or engagement with positive activities, and roadblocks perceived or real to opportunity.

To be stronger, we have to identify the positives in our lives as well as the negatives, then work on our own and with others to elevate the positives and rid our lives of the negatives.

For me this mainly lies in the way I use time. Fortunately I have access at this point in my life to the positives, but I don't always use my time well. As for others in my life, I can help them by helping them access the positives and by making the negatives unavailable or less available.

For students this means setting up a welcoming and comfortable learning environment, fostering a healthy routine of nutritious food/drinks, positive activity, and accessible, engaging opportunities to develop in holistic ways that include academic, physical, social, and emotional growth, and supporting positive choices that help students continue their path to strong minds and strong bodies.

We can all move towards betterment by working to make ourselves more physically and mentally strong. When we dissect this aim, we find that it's not all that complicated, yet the challenge lies in the discipline we need to get there.

Trump Times: How will you contribute to betterment during the 2018-2019 school year?





If you read my blog and tweets, you know that I'm am very intrigued by what's happening on the national and world stage right now. In terms of mystery, characters, and intrigue, it's better than any book I could pick up. Like so many, I'm wondering what the truth of the matter is when it comes to current politics, political leaders, and the important work and truths for our country today and into the future.

I am continually assessing what I hear and read against my own experiences, values, and discussion and debate with friends, family members, and colleagues.

As for my own beliefs and experiences, I am a fan of continual work towards betterment in ways that create greater opportunity for all the world's people for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I want people to be free. I want people to live good lives, and I want people to be happy. So as I think about national and world politics, I'm thinking about how we can increase freedom, good living, and happiness. I am interested in what creates this situation for people and how I can contribute to this.

My gut reaction to today's political scene is a reaction to Trump's demeaning, name-calling, and disrespectful speak and actions. I do have a visceral negative reaction to Trump's words as he behaves in a way that creates hurt for so many. I don't condone his angry, degrading, and often dishonest speak, tweets, and actions. Yet my debate and discussions with friends, family members, and colleagues have forced me to look deeper at the Trump effect by thinking about who voted for him, what exactly is he saying, and what specifically are the results of his speak and acts. That's why I forced myself to watch one of his rally speeches yesterday. I could only watch about 3/4 of the speech until his use of propaganda totally turned me off. I couldn't watch anymore.

As I watched and listened I analyzed his choice of words, clothes, pacing, posture, facial expression, and more. I noted his talented use of propaganda to excite, praise, and placate the audience so that they looked to him as a strong father figure--the kind of man who could resolve the sensitive, personal, and community issues they face. Again and again he praised their local leaders, land, and noteworthy feats related to their specific region and demographics. He mostly praised them, his own efforts, and their combined strength by repeating again and again praise for his movement, his work to date, the people there, and the numbers, yes, again and again he made mention of the numbers letting those people and the people watching via news shows and the Internet believe that they are part of an extraordinary movement that includes thousands and more. He wants people to believe that they are part of something big and someone great.

As I watched, I took note of every aspect of the performance. I recognized that Trump was creating a very effective theater--one that appealed greatly to his audience. Even the varying pacing, volume, and expression of his words were timed well for effect. I wondered if he had ever acted before, and found he does have some interest in theater. I also found myself looking up his facts which were sometimes true and sometimes untrue further strengthening my opinion that Trump says what he wants when he wants with his primary focus on effect rather than truth.

As I think of Trump's words, performance, and effect as well as my visceral reaction to this man, I am thinking about how to move forward during Trump times, how to effectively use my time and energy to contribute to my community and world in ways that match my beliefs, desires, understanding, and experience.

First, I want to listen more, research more, and find truth more. Today I found more reputable fact finding sites that I want to check regularly as I analyze the words spoken, facts shared, and plans revealed. I want to understand the truth of the matter as well as I can.

Next, I want to increase my number sense with regard to significant data related to political decisions that matter in the United States and world. Via reputable graphs and number information, I want to develop a strong data foundation to use as I analyze these facts and figures. For example, today I studied average household incomes and the effect that the 2017 tax code will have on people in each of those income areas.


After that, as I teach in the year ahead, I want to use significant data to help students study and learn about the world around them as well as how to critically analyze data sets to inform questions, research, and decisions. For example, at 5th grade in Massachusetts, students will learn about the electoral college and popular vote. Looking at the discrepancy between these numbers in the 2016 presidential election will foster good questioning and lead to good research and study about the difference between the popular vote and electoral college. This will be good teaching and learning. Further, helping students to regularly use numbers, data, and fact checking as they argue their points, analyze information, and make decisions will make them more critical consumers and discerning citizens as they develop and eventually contribute to their communities, nation, and world. Further I will show them the video about Russian hacking to demonstrate that people are always trying to influence each other both negatively and positively, and it's important that all people are aware of this behavior.



At these times, I can be a positive contributor by using more specific and targeted data, vignettes, and images to support my point of view, questions, and efforts to work towards a strong society that supports life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every American. I can determine where people are left out of the equation and then work to better include all beginning with the young children I teach--how can I contribute to a more equitable teaching/learning environment that welcomes all students and gives every child the best possible opportunity to develop in ways that matter, ways that make them able to lead happy, good lives.

There is much to learn in this world of ours. There is much that we can do to contribute. These are some notes about where I'll move forward at this point in time.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Relationship Stalemate

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

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

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

Looking Ahead: Positive Collaboration and Good Work

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

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

Trump Talk

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

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

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

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


Mid Summer Ramblings

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

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

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


Friday, July 20, 2018

Do your big ideas match your performance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Teaching Journey Continues: Next Steps

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Audit Your Affiliations


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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