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Monday, January 21, 2019

When People Appear to Do Wrong

Social media networks lit up as videos were shared of young men seemingly jeering at an elder Native American man in Washington, D.C.. In the videos, the young men appeared to be disrespectful. Fast and furious comments spread throughout Twitter and other media.

I believe that a culture tired of President Trump's continuous shaming, blaming, name calling, lies, and exaggeration are on edge, and rather than reacting with questioning in the situation, people mostly shared angry comments condemning the boys' behavior--they didn't like what appeared to be disrespect, and they shared that sentiment.

I shared my dismay at what I saw too. As an educator, I would not let my students react that way to an elder or any group that is peacefully protesting. I would ask children to respect the protesters, listen to their words if they wish, and if they disagreed or were bothered by the situation, I would support their respectful words of disagreement or help them to quietly leave the area of discomfort.

Later in the news, one of the young men involved wrote a letter to the public providing his view of the situation. When I read his letter, I was dismayed by the threats his family and he has faced. As a society, we need to react with questioning and respectful disagreement rather than vengeance, threats, and accusations. We have to respect our laws that hold that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. While President Trump often acts with disrespect and accusation, we can't let him lead our country and people in a similar way--we have to promote civil debate and discourse.

I still find it difficult to accept the behavior I saw on the videos, and as an educator I want to make sure that I anticipate what my students may face when I take them on trips and teach them about the respectful behavior that is expected in those situations. For example, we take our students to the city where they will encounter many situations many don't see everyday. We'll discuss those situations prior to our visit. Our students will also visit the theater and see scenes that may be new to them, we'll discuss how they can respectfully respond to those scenes too. Our anticipation and preparation doesn't mean that we won't face problems and we won't need to redirect students who may make a bad choice with the words or gestures they use, but we'll do what we can to make sure we have enough chaperones and oversight to support the best possible behavior and field trip experience overall.

Once when my own children were young, I brought them to a place that was new to them. I hadn't anticipated their words and reactions to the new place. There was a point when I had to pull them aside to educate them about what they were experiencing and how they should react more respectfully. On another occasion I brought my children to a Native American celebration. One of my children was struck by the fact that he was one of the only non Native American there--it was a very good teaching situation. So I know that events such as what happened in DC can happen to our children in new situations. That doesn't make it right, but acknowledges that it can happen, and in the best of circumstances when situations like this occur it's best to meet those situations with greater education that will hopefully lead to greater respect and understanding.  Onward.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

MLK Weekend: A Weekend of Reflection

Educators who work in classrooms with lots of children have little time for energized reflection. That's why this three-day weekend in the middle of winter is such a welcome time to simply think about what's important and what needs to be done. We all need this good time to reflect on our values, efforts, and time. As I reflect this weekend, a number of ideas and actions come to mind.

Extra Help Sessions
I find that extra help sessions during the week are rewarding because students are enthusiastic, they make progress, and I am able to help. As it stands now I offer two extra help sessions to any interested students two mornings a week. I'm adding two more mornings targeted at a few specific students for whom I want to target instruction more. I am also going to open up a lunch time for a few more students, students who are unable to access the morning help sessions. These extra help studies result in greater confidence, engagement, and success with study--it's worth the time.

Positive, healthy energy
Good teaching requires good energy, and good energy requires a healthy lifestyle. No teacher can be all or do all, and we have to make schedules that allow us to get plenty of rest, exercise, good nutrition, and time for relaxation and reflection in order to teach well. Every teacher has to make difficult choices about where and with whom they'll invest their time and energy--this is essential to good teaching and learning.

Lifelong Learning and Advocacy
To teach well requires that we consistently evolve our programs in ways that matter. This continual evolution requires a steady diet of professional learning. To gain positive professional learning, you first have to identify the areas where you need and want the most support. For me that relates to four areas of teaching and learning including math education, science education, social-emotional learning, and teacher leadership/communication. In each of those areas, I have essential questions that I am focused on including the following:

  • How do I foster math learning that is engaging, empowering, and successful? Learning that includes a variety of strategies and learning experiences from floor-to-ceiling explorations to online practice to individual support and whole class teaching.
  • How do I streamline science learning so that accessing materials, background information, and clean-up are a natural part of the routine leaving greater time and energy for the rich collaborative investigation, experiments, and exploration?
  • How do I create a teaching/learning environment that empowers students in ways that they can access the materials and learning venues they need and desire with confidence, enthusiasm, and strength? How do I create a supportive environment where students support one another with compassion, empathy, care, a sense of humor, and meaningful support? 
  • How do I hone my teacher leadership and communication skills so that I am supportive to my own goals as well as the goals of my colleagues and the school in general? How do I rightly and sensitively use my ability to advocate in my school system and elsewhere to best support optimal teaching and learning for all children?
How do you find adequate, positive time for reflection, the kind of time that empowers your ability to teach and learn well? When you reflect, what comes to the forefront of your thoughts--what takes priority and why? How do you act on your reflections, how do you translate your good thoughts and intentions into successful action? 

To reflect is essential when it comes to good living and good teaching, and the MLK weekend provides many of us with good time to do this. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Move Towards Your Future

It's been a day of think as I read the news, review emails, and think about the future.

The news introduces us to a true leader in Nathan Philips, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the Omaha Nation. In the face of ridicule, discrimination, and disrespect by many young men from a Catholic High School who were ironically in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life, he stood up to speak for justice for all people. This was perfect timing before Donald Trump gets on the airways to spout more slick marketing manipulation as he continues he persistent mockery and contempt for our government, laws, freedom, and great diverse nation.

The news also shows us many, many women marching for what is right and just--good laws, freedom, and support for all people. They know that our President is self serving and not at all concerned with the livelihoods of everyday people. To him what matters is fattening his own pocketbook, popularity, and power--nothing else.

It's easy to get mired in the muck in these Donald Trump years--years marked by outdated back-vision and regressive policies, years of macho-politics by a seemingly lawless, narcissistic personality and his passive loyal cronies. He's the president that breaks all the playground rules, tantrums, shames, blames, lies, and exaggerates continuously. Yes, it's a real downer for the majority of Americans and as for those who still follow him--I can't imagine why. I think their either the elite that are benefitting financially from his choices or the impoverished who don't know better.

Whatever the case, I can't let his lack of values, discrimination, and poor leadership get in the way of what I believe is right and good. For me, I want to follow a positive path of service to others including my students, colleagues, friends, and family first. Those are my priorities and there's lots that I can do to better my efforts in their regard. I also want to work to support strong communities, leaders, laws, and policies, and I'll be thinking about how to do that better in the days ahead.

To begin, however, the focus needs to be on the following:

  • good, positive, healthy living and energy'
  • a warm, simple, and welcoming home
  • a students-first engaging, empowering, enriching educational environment
  • positive service and collaboration with students, their families, and colleagues
  • advocacy and support for positive life-affirming policies, laws, and leadership including environmental protections, quality education and health care, health communities, non violence efforts, world peace initiatives, and a positive national culture. 
Time to get continue. . . .

Good Work and Living: Don't Waste Time or Money

More than anything I hate to waste time or money as I see both as the currency of potential. Using time and money well means meeting the potential results of more positive and promising lives.

This is one reason why President Trump's revolving door of leadership, persistent put-downs, and slick marketing manipulation angers me so--all of these tactics are clearly a waste of time, time that could be spent with intelligent analysis, good collaboration, and worthwhile purpose.

I take time and money seriously. As a busy mom for the past 27 years, I know how precious time is, and as someone who has worked for almost fifty years, I know how precious hard-earned money is. I'm also someone who likes to maximize time and money for life events and pursuits that are meaningful to me. I like to use my time well at work in an effort to reach worthy individual and collective goals. I also like to use my money well to optimize meaningful goals. I hate to waste either time or money.

What can we do to maximize time and money?

First know your goals and values well. Know what means the most to you, and then pursue your truth and values by using time and money well.

When wise use of time and money relates to family life, it means saving up for what matters most--time and money for family togetherness, time and money for individual family member's health, education, and welfare, and time and money for long term goals and dreams.

At work, it means carefully spending time and money for the general welfare for each and every student, a great education for each and every student, and positive efforts for the teaching/learning community today and into the future.

In government, this means carefully prioritizing what's most important with formal and informal facts and figures. Instead of wasting money on self-serving policies and priorities, good government uses money and time with great care so that dollars spent and time used is well directed to the most important priorities and concerns that contribute to a strong, positive government for all citizens.

Obviously it's impossible to never waste time or money. We waste both money and time by lack of knowledge, lack of planning, lack of reflection, lack of good process with regard to goals and priorities, lack of accurate information, and poor decision making. It's impossible to be so perfect that you never waste time or money, but if you're truly invested in doing the best you can, you will be mindful of not wasting time or money in the spheres where you live and work.

Student-Friendly Learning Environment

One perennial question and pursuit I have as an education is how can I make the learning/teaching environment a student-friendly environment.

I've been reaching for this goal for a long time and getting closer all the time. What exists now and what are the next steps in this pursuit?

Thanks to the generous support of the WPSF I have great tables and supply drawers that support this environment. The tables alone are sturdy, attractive, and positive when it comes to fostering an atmosphere of teamwork and student-friendly learning and teaching. Each table includes a map, supply caddies, paper container, and lots of useful supplies such as colored pencils, pencils, rulers, staplers, pencil sharpeners, tape, glue, and more.

I also have a number of supply drawers that allow students to store their work and also allow me to supply a large number of learning supplies. Further I have a couple of shelving units and cabinets to further supply the many materials we use throughout the year for our many active learning experiences.

The next step it to inventory and organize all the materials I have. I need to get rid of materials and books I no longer use and better store the many, many materials I use all the time.

Since my teaching career is near its end, I want to organize the materials so that another teacher can easily come into my room and have what they need to teach the curriculum well.

I'll begin with the purge--if I haven't used the material in a year, I'll get rid of it. I'll likely offer those materials to colleagues and/or students.

Then I'll organize the many drawers and shelves I have with the needed materials for the great investigations that we do in math and science. After that I'll update the purchasing list so that I can purchase the materials I'll need for next year's teaching year.

Ultimately I want the room to be completely student-friendly, the kind of learning environment where students can access what they need when they need it in easy-to-find and easy-to-use ways. This creates a great shared learning environment. Onward.

Friday, January 18, 2019

All Day School?

As I try to squeeze a large number of great teaching/learning standards, investigations, and explorations into each day, I'm wondering if it's time for all-day school. I've never been a fan of all-day school because I saw it as a giant add-on for teachers, but now I'm a fan of all-day school that includes a number of differing components. Essentially all-day school means the synthesis of multiple programs in meaningful days. This is what it would look like:

Academic Program
8-12 would be the academic program. During this time students would invest in traditional academic learning in multiple ways.

Lunch and Play
12-1 would include a nutritious lunch and lots of play.

Arts and Science
1-3 would be a two hour block for arts and science--creative, hands-on, team projects and learning.

Sports and Physical Education
3-5 would be time for sports and physical education. There would be a wide variety of sports activities and contests available.

Teachers would work a schedule of about 3-4 hours with students, 2-3 hours of prep and planning, and one hour of lunch.

I think that this could truly create programs for young children that match families' work schedules as well as the need for healthy, positive holistic learning programs. What do you think?

Math Ahead

Students took midyear assessments which gave me a good picture of who is getting the instruction they need and who I need to think differently about. Now the key is to make the needed program changes happen to help students who are falling a bit back--what's a teacher to do?

First, it's important to lay out the path for the rest of the math year which includes the following:

  • completion of the division unit including a problem solving creation exploration activity
  • fraction unit with a focus on the behavior of fractions
  • measurement unit with a map making project and science connections
  • geometry unit with a tangram start, origami, and "wanted" posters
  • review
  • systemwide fifth grade test
  • state tests
  • science/math exploration
Next, I have to look at how I'm teaching math--what do the math lessons, learning experiences, groups, format look like.

I'm adding a couple of early morning help sessions for a few targeted students--that will help. The established early morning help sessions will continue, but they are so popular that I don't have a lot of time with any one child--it's typically me and about twenty eager students so I added the more targeted times.

During class, I plan to employ the teaching assistants more strategically. For teaching assistants that are well prepared for math teaching, I'll likely ask them to work with students who need more in quieter areas so those students can focus and work at a good pace, and for less experienced teaching assistants, I'll likely ask them to work with some of my energetic, quick math students so that I have more time for those who need a more tailored pace and approach. 

I also plan to teach students a few more online venues that will help them to learn the math at their own pace. That will free up time for me to zero in on students who may be quieter, less participatory, and less engaged in the math class because others will be working on their learning with online learning that's engaging. 

Of course I want to continue to include Boaler's games and explorations as much as possible. My greatest challenge with this is the sheer depth and breadth of concepts I'm charged with teaching--there's so much vocabulary, skills, and specific concepts that it's sometimes difficult to branch out into greater floor-to-ceiling exploration, but I know that it's a good idea to do this. Recently I included a floor-to-ceiling volume exploration--the engagement was awesome as was the learning. I will do more of this in the days ahead. 

And of course, I continue to revise the room set up to accommodate student learning better. The next iteration is to label and organize all my math tool drawers so students can easily access the materials they need, materials such as rulers, multiplication charts, blocks, tangrams, and more. I need to do the same for science too. 

Day after day my room becomes more and more of an active learning center--the kind of center that invites student exploration, deep learning, and teamwork too. There's lots to do to better this effort. This is a positively challenging point on the learning/teaching path. 

A Teacher's Day is a Super Busy Day

Today is a super busy day of teaching and learning, and the key is to just keep going. The day begins with a stop at a local store or bakery to pick up goodies for an important meeting. Following that I'll be running lots of science supplies to the school kitchen to wash them up and prepare them for today's science explorations (I don't have a sink in my room so prepping the materials requires an extra step). After that I'll set up the science supplies and ready the room for today's learning.

The day officially starts with a meeting to review scheduling potential for next year. Our team continues to develop our shared teaching model to effectively teach about 75 fifth graders. Each year we assess what's working and what could be better. Then we advocate for betterment typically beginning in January as administrators begin to think about next year's staffing and schedules.

Today we'll use the colleague circle model for problem solving as we move step-by-step through a collaborative discussion about a potential revised schedule for next year, a schedule that we feel will be more effective overall for our goals to teach students well as we meet expected standards, curriculum, and student priorities.

After that we'll move on to our Response to Intervention groups in math which are all focused on different areas of math operation and problem solving skill, concept, and knowledge. Then students wills set up science stations and explore states of matter, conservation of matter, and physical/chemical changes with hands-on explorations, note taking, video watching, and discussion. Following that is another science block where students rotate to another teacher's room to learn more science. I'll repeat the matter lab with a new group.

Lunch will be a welcome reprieve after that very busy morning, then in the afternoon I'll have time to complete the science clean-up, work with colleagues to send out our newsletter, clean up the room with students, and lead buddy-time with the kindergarten teachers. Fifth graders will read and complete small Martin Luther King, Jr. books with the kindergartners, then either read more books or make posters for the system-wide annual MLK celebration.

Teachers' days are typically very busy--we move from activity to activity as we work to coach every student ahead with positivity, kindness, skill, and care. I write a detailed post like this to acknowledge the busyness of our days. Onward.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Revisiting the Practice Goal

I had hoped to carefully review each child's homework each week, but frankly since this falls completely on my own time after school, I have found that there simply isn't the energy or time to do this. My intentions are good, but the time isn't there. What works much better is making time for personal feedback during the school day and during extra help sessions--that feedback is meaningful for me and for the student. It's a better way to respond to student learning than spending countless hours reviewing students' work. That's not to say that a review of student work is never a good idea, but to say that we have to choose carefully when we make the time for such review and then do it well.

What works better for me and the students is the following:

  • online tests and quizzes that offer immediate feedback. That helps me to easily see who knows what and who needs help with specific concepts, skills, and knowledge.
  • using a writing-process-like approach to help students complete project work and related write-ups. I can work with students as they complete the work with care by conferencing, editing, and coaching them to an apt completion.
  • checking in now and then with regard to paperwork.
  • using systemwide online assessments to assess students' work
  • extra help sessions, RTI, and well designed core lessons.
I had lofty ideas for my goal this year only to find that the reach was too high and too difficult to achieve. Also the reach was a bit ill directed. Going forward, I will elevate the more meaningful ways to offer feedback and coach students forward, and not worry about including too many ways that don't have as great an impact. Onward. 

Winter: Great Time to Get Things Done

Winter is settling in. The holidays are over. It's cold and dark outside. This is a great time to dig in and get all that paperwork done before bright spring and summer days.

Winter is the perfect time to read, study, research, and complete countless inside-jobs to make space for beautiful days outdoors later on. Onward.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Teaching Path Review

The teaching path has been busy with many assessment related activities in reading, writing, and math. We're also busy with a number of science activities and special events. Rarely is there a dull moment at fifth grade and this, for the most part, is good.

Assessments and Analysis
The days ahead will find me analyzing assessment data and using that data to make instructional decisions for the days ahead. The decisions will answer these questions:

  • Who needs more or different kinds of instruction?
  • Who may need more enrichment?
  • Who is accessing the supports available and who is not accessing those supports/practice opportunities?
  • How can we maximize the instructional time to engage, empower, and educate well.
Once the assessments and analysis is complete, I'll likely complete report cards which are due in early February.

Science Study
For science students will be starting to determine their advocacy projects related to the local environment and climate change. They'll also continue their explorations related to physical science with a focus on teamwork and the FOSS Pedagogical Practices.
All Stop and Read
We'll continue our Monday-Thursday all stop and read time each morning. I'll focus on a few students who have not been able to find a book they like yet--these are students who are not sticking with reading during this time each morning, and not surprisingly these students' recent reading scores don't show the same growth as those that get cozy and read, read, read each morning. As a fussy reader myself, I know that for some it's difficult to find that just-right book that compels you to read often and a lot. I also know the great benefit that reading every day provides for students so I want to focus on this.

Buddy Time: MLK Posters
Students will focus on MLK quotes as they prepare to make posters with their buddies for the upcoming MLK celebration. We'll watch a short MLK speech, interpret some of his most famous quotes, read and color little MLK books with kindergarten buddies, and make posters that illustrate some his most famous and inspirational ideas.

Professional Learning
In addition to assessments and report cards, I'll prepare for the division assessment, fraction units, students' reading needs, and buddy-time genre studies. 

All in all it is a busy and positive teaching time. 




Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Learning Acceleration

One constant struggle with regard to the math program is the acceleration that the program takes throughout the year. The acceleration includes multiple concepts, lots of vocabulary, and many ways to look at a good number of concepts as we get closer to the yearly assessments including systemwide assessments and state assessments.

As most know there is a lot of debate about the value of these assessments. I find that I continue to sit on the fence in this regard because before testing it was very difficult to get supports to help struggling learners learn, but now with the tests the learning is often too fast, too dull, and not in keeping with what cognitive science is showing us to be optimal learning. I know that there is a good balance here, but striking that balance requires good conversation, respect for educators, and a much more dedicated approach to what individual students and the entire class needs.

What would be different with a more dedicated approach? The more dedicated approach would make time and attention for more individual and small group attention. While we make time for that in our schedule, I don't think we go deep enough with that attention and care. I think that we might do better with a dedicated small group and individual approach to number sense while saving collaborative time for floor-to-ceiling engaging math exploration and project work. With this kind of approach math would take on a dual path of number sense building and big idea exploration and learning.

An example of how this might work includes the following. Number sense development would take students through the many steps that lead from simple number identification to problem solving and computation related to large numbers, fractions, decimals, variables, operation, properties, and more. Explorations would give students time to engage with the big ideas of math similar to the way students recently explored volume--students love those explorations and there's lots of good learning to be had.

At this time, however, I need to think about how I can better meet this need with the time/structure available. What can I do?

I typically try to give students a wide introduction to each concept and skill so that all students are introduced to the breadth of the topic including vocabulary, models, and specific skills. Then I include lots of practice opportunities and during these practice opportunities I can better personalize and coach individual students and small groups. During our designated RTI times students have the chance to go deeper with more practice and specific attention to skills and concepts that challenge them. Ideally with two threads there would be more consistency with both the number sense development and exploration.

Today as I we practice initial fraction skills and concepts I'll have that time to coach many students ahead after the wide introduction yesterday. I'm thinking about how I might make this teaching/learning more fluid and sensitive to each and every student's needs in the days ahead.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Test Taking Strategy and Reasoning

A friend's daughter told her that she can ace almost any test because she knows how to take tests--she reasons well. I told students that story the other day and then we talked a bit more about reasoning. I watched students take the test and talked to them afterwards--those who were able to reason, did better.

What is reasoning, how do you do it, and how can you teach this skill?

As students prepare for yet another test this week, I'll direct a few lessons towards reasoning questioning, analysis, and skill with the following focus:

  • To reason first requires that you read the question carefully, underline key words, visualize the situation, and work out the solution/answer before looking at and choosing from the answer choices.
  • Reasoning requires the skill of doing all calculations on paper and then checking your work--when you do calculations in your head, you can't check your work and you're likely to confuse the numbers when you right them down.
  • Reasoning requires that you break down words you don't know into the parts you do know.
  • Reasoning requires that you ask the teacher acceptable clarifying questions such as can you read this word for me, am I on the right track, and other questions. Even if you think a teacher can't answer it, try it out--better to try than to stay stuck.
  • Reasoning requires that you ask the question, "What would the test makers of this test want a student like me to know--what's a reasonable question and what would be a reasonable answer."
  • To reason well benefits from looking for patterns, relationships, and value. You may use many tools to do that:
    • Drawing pictures of what the words are asking or reporting is a helpful strategy for making sense of a problem.
    • Using number lines can always help you solve a problem.
    • Solving a problem w/a simpler number always helps. For example if you forget how that fraction line works as a dividing line, you can simply remind yourself that 1/2 = 1 divided by 2 = .5
    • Using landmark numbers can help you reason too--making an estimate with landmark or benchmark numbers can give you the ball park answer, and then you can choose the answer closest to the ball park answer.
It's often not natural for young students to make time for good reasoning think and skills when they take tests. In fact one child told me that she just skipped questions if they seemed difficult; she didn't reason at all. I know the child and I know that if she had some reasoning instruction and practice, she would be able to test much better since when I've worked with her, her mathematical instincts are solid.

Do you teach students how to take tests? Do you teach students how to reason? Do you explicitly teach reasoning tools and strategies? This week I'll focus on that as I give students the tools and skills to take the next systemwide assessment. Then as they take the test, I'll notice who is taking the time to reason and I'll use those observations and the final results to inform the instruction going forward.

What would you add to this? I look forward to your ideas and additions. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Essential Ingredient to Successful Science Study: Teamwork



I typically have a good number of lessons planned and ready to go. Then I teach the lessons that match the energy in the room.

Today as I thought about the science lessons I have ready to forward, I decided to take a step back and focus on teamwork. For students to successfully engage in the many science lessons ahead, they need to work well as a team so today we'll focus on that skill.

The lesson will include a simple team building activity that focuses on science and how we work together and solve problems.

This will give me a chance to think about what I need to do to foster good teaming and science learning in the weeks ahead. Weeks that will find the room set up to include the following:
  • Learning experience supply table
  • Supply shelves and cabinets
  • Guiding Question Area
  • Display area
During today's lesson students will engage in the following activities:
  • Review attributes of good team members and good teamwork
  • Meet their new team members
  • Review and engage in the activity
  • Reflect via conversation and written reflections
As the lessons move forward in the days ahead, we'll revisit the focus on team building again and again to foster this essential skill, a skill that a very expensive Google study tackled and resulted in the points displayed in the poster at the top of this page.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thursday Musings: January 10, 2019

Today's chorus concert was absolutely beautiful. Children recited poetry, sang beautiful songs, and shared tributes to the school principal and the many musicians that supported the inspiring performance. Our wonderful music teacher demonstrated her exceptional skill and dedication when she led the many talented young singers with humility and grace. As you can imagine, this put everyone in the school in a great mood.

The rest of the day was spent reviewing math skills, reading books, and of course time for recess.

Tomorrow will find students reviewing geometry vocabulary and skills, taking a math assessment, engaging in science exploration, listening to read aloud, playing instruments, and reading to their kindergarten buddies.

Next week will find us digging deeper with division with a review of a variety of algorithms, problem solving, model making, and math talk. The week also includes a visit from our naturalist coach and another math assessment. The key is to encourage our wonderful young learners to do their best, persevere, ask questions when they need help or are curious, and collaborate with one another to continue to make our teaching/learning community a top-notch opportunity and environment to learn. Onward.

Teaching Well in Troubled Times

To teach public school today means you work without the support of the President of the United States, a man who continually works against public education and the welfare of all people rich or poor. Our President has put a political crony in the office of Secretary of Education, a women whose family invested lots of money in his presidential campaign, and a women who explicitly rises up against a quality public education for all children with her continual backing of private, faith-based initiatives and initiatives that appear to move against students from all classes, religions, and cultural backgrounds.

A good leader who values public education would put a top-notch educator at the helm of the Department of Education. A good leader would see education as much more than day care or schools for the middle class or poor; that leader would know that a well educated population spells greater opportunity, less violence, and a stronger future for our country, and that leader would support deep investment in modern ideas and funding formulas to provide every American child with a top-notch education.

A good leader would not only ensure that the children of the wealthy can afford good schools, but instead look out for the children of the poor and middle class people understanding that every child is capable of learning well, and often it is the children of the poor and middle class who have the drive, creativity, and perspective to innovate and solve problems in incredible ways. That good leader would be well read and understand that countries all over the world are investing in education and gaining on the United States because of their investment in all of their children not just the children of  leaders' wealthy cronies.

Right now, however, public school teachers all over the country work with a president that doesn't value public education, and seems to not value education at all. His poor conduct breaks all the playground rules and provides a poor example for our nation's youth as he shames, blames, lies, exaggerates, and forwards quick-fix, short-term archaic solutions for complex, modern day problems, problems that deserve the deep think and modern multi-prong solutions to forward our world in ways possible. Our current president seems to be focused on his personal win of greater personal wealth, popularity, and power over the collective win of a strong, positive, and prosperous country.

So what does a teacher do in these troubled times? How does he/she work under such daily oppression and lack of support?

First of all that teacher has to look for the good supports available, supports available w/the good families, students, colleagues, and communities he or she serves. I'm fortunate to work in a state and community that values education and sees the promise a good education holds for children and the state/community in general. In Massachusetts where I teach, education is strong and public education holds promise. I'm fortunate to work in a state that is working to forward a top-notch education for all. I'm also fortunate to work in a state where most public educators belong to the union, a state whose union is working for equitable and sufficient funding for education so that all of the state's children receive the best possible education. I know this is not true for all children in the country. In fact, my research shows that children in states that are led by mostly Trump cronies have the poorest, least supported, and less effective public schools. This is not surprising, but this is troubling.

Next I have to do the work I believe in which is equitable, deep, and timely work to teach well. I have to stay abreast of the latest research, and work with the learning community including parents, students, colleagues, administrators, and community members to forward modern approaches to teaching well, approaches that match the latest cognitive research and world needs/opportunities. There's limitless opportunity to reach for in the education realm.

And I have to work towards being apart of a positive, collaborative community of learners--recognizing that none of us have all the answers, but typically together we can do better.

I am saddened by our President's lack of concern with good process, intelligent problem solving, polite discourse, and respect for all people in our country and world. I am disheartened that our country has elected such a seemingly self-serving and lawless leader, one who puts our good free country at risk. But I won't let this sadness deaden what I can do to teach well. I'll keep working for the good I see, and the opportunity I know that exists for every child to learn well and grow with confidence, happiness, freedom, and good living. Onward.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Dealing with Discouragement

It's easy to get discouraged as an educator since you are often pushing your ideas, beliefs, and abilities up a steep hill--there's often little support for creativity, transformation, and development. Too often the status quo or only ideas from leadership are supported while educators are expected to follow the leader and the directions set. This can often create a discouraging situation for educators who like to grow, evolve, and do the best work possible by each and every student.

Yet if we let this discouragement weigh us down, affect our moods, or stymie our innovation, we won't be the educators we hope to be. So what can we do instead.

First, find the positive, uplifting, and positively challenging educators in your midst, educators who share your goals and passions, and align yourself with those educators.

Next, closely connect with students and their families. Students' families are often an educators' best allies, and those alliances grow the more we demonstrate to families that we truly care about their children and what's best for the children's holistic education program, a program that results in happy, confident, successful student who are proud of their unique qualities, interests and dreams.

And as much as possible steer clear or around the detractors, the people who continually find fault, stymie, and obstruct your ideas, growth, and enthusiasm. Also work to not be one of those people too. Because of the often oppressive environments in schools, we can sometimes be pitted against each other. We must fight that temptation and cultural tendency by working to remake school culture, roles, and routines to better support optimal collaborative culture that works together in service to students, families, and each other.

We can't allow discouragement to create disconnection and apathy. Instead we have to continually coach each other forward in ways that matter, ways that create the same engagement, empowerment, and positive education that we desire for our students. Onward.

Environmental Studies Grant: Making Standards Based Science Relevant and Meaningful



Today our grade-level team will meet with naturalist educators and leaders at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary to review, discuss, and create next steps for the generous grant we are forwarding with this  team of invested environmentalists. The grant's focus is to synthesize students' standards-based science program with real-world, local environmental study and advocacy. It is our collective hope that not only will students learn the standards and how those standards apply to their local environment, but that they will be moved to deepen their study by creating advocacy projects that help to teach others, solve local environmental problems, and/or enrich their local environment.

Last night I looked over our notes related to student study so far, study which included the following components:
  • Visits, teaching, and learning with a naturalist coach
  • Learning experiences led by the naturalist coach that focused on watersheds, climate change, and interdependence
  • A day-long hike and exploration of Greenways Conservation Area, a local and beautiful public land that winds along the Sudbury River
  • Background knowledge and information related to the local habitat, rivers, National Wild and Scenic River System, and environmental education.
  • Ongoing standards-based physical, life, and Earth science studies as part of the expected fifth grade program.
Today when we meet we'll likely review the grant goals, the work done, and the study and advocacy to come. I am looking forward to hearing my colleagues, Drumlin Farm environmentalists, and the neighboring school team discuss this focus. As I listen, I will be thinking about the following questions:
  • How will we weave student advocacy into our existing teaching schedule and efforts, a schedule that is already full?
  • How can I weave this learning better into our daily math and science education?
  • How will we share student projects; how will we celebrate their study; and what will be our final field studies related to this work?
  • How will we weave the work of the town engineer into this project as he has expressed interest in teaching students more about local water resources and engineering projects via learning experiences as well as student advocacy?
Yesterday we discussed systemwide expectations related to our system's FOSS Fever goal, a goal that in part includes the pedagogical practice of learning outside in the local habitat. The River Studies and Student Advocacy Grant is helping us to make students' standard based science study relevant, meaningful, and helpful to others. I look forward to seeing where this work will bring us in the months ahead. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Division Boot Camp and More

After students passed in a number of beautiful volume project creations, we essentially had a division boot camp. Problem after problem we rehearsed how to solve division problems with the traditional algorithm. Students who are used to learning math in meaningful ways were dumbfounded at first, but then later caught on to the "dance step" that this algorithm is. There are zillions of way to teach and practice division. These methods range from meaningful project work to repetitive practice of single algorithms. Once we solidify the algorithm knowledge, we'll back up a bit to more meaningful study of this operation. I started with the algorithm to meet some systemwide expectations.

The best part of the practice was offering students a number of choices related to how they wanted to practice. They could join the really slow-review group, the medium-slow review group, the do-it-yourself group, or the coach one another group. Students seemed to choose good groups and move from one group to another if they needed. I led the slow-review group which turned out to be a group where children took turns at the document camera teaching each other how to divide using the traditional algorithm. It was great to be able to watch students teach each other and also to observe how students were catching on.

Tomorrow, I'll once again offer a number of practice options to appeal to the many diverse learners in the room, and I'll do the same on Thursday too. Math RTI offered students more practice with operation language, problem solving, and practice. My group reviewed the traditional algorithm for multiplication, a focus we'll continue next week.

It was a fruitful day that leads to tomorrow's continued computation focus as well as a return to our class film, Akeelah and the Bee, and an after school professional science workshop. Onward.

The Science Classroom: Meeting System Expectations

As we move to more and more science teaching, it's integral to create a science-friendly classroom. What does that look like?


I'm thinking about that as I get ready for learning walks when a host of administrators come to your classroom to watch you and your students learn. I'm not a big fan of this process for many reasons, reasons outlined, in part, in the book Intentional Interruption, however it is a reality of my teaching/learning existence.

Our system leadership chose the goal of FOSS Fever to match our primary science curriculum, FOSS, as our focus for these rounds and for our science work this year. They will focus on the FOSS pedagogical practices when they come to our classrooms.


As I think of the administrators' focus and the work I am doing in science, I want to match my research and learning environment to the expectations as well as my research and experience. What does that mean?

To make the way to teach more science, I created a simple pattern to follow. This pattern demonstrated to the right does match the preparation for the FOSS pedagogical practices.

How else will I set up the learning experiences and classroom to support these pedagogical practices more.

Active Investigations
The pattern to the right prepares the stage for active investigations. The more we can pattern the routine aspects of science, the more time we have for the richer, deeper scientific exploration.

Students have been assigned balanced science groups--groups that work well together. They have "lab" spaces which is their table area. There is a supply table where they collect and return their supplies. The active explorations are based on the curriculum materials and the state science standards. There is also an attempt to make these investigations interdisciplinary and to relate those investigations to students' community, environment, and culture.

Science Notebooks, Focus Questions, and Reflection
The more the students see the value of
their notes, the better their notes become.
Active exploration as students compare a typical egg and
an egg that's been immersed in vinegar. 
Our students have science notebooks and use them, and they also utilize lab sheets and folders. Sometimes the size and format of the science notebook is limiting with regard to leading the investigation, responding to focus questions, and reflection. Students record regularly and then we use those recordings to revisit the investigation, the focus question(s), next steps, and further questions. The  more we use the data to answer questions and further the exploration, the more seriously students take the recording. I have turned the standards into mini posters of standards-based, student-friendly guiding questions. I want to display those questions and and the answers we arrive at in an easy-to-see and reference space in the classroom.

Science Literacy
We have a large number of resources to support students' science literacy including the FOSS books, videos, and many, many other books and videos. We host most of these materials on a website that is readily available to all learning/teaching community members including students, families, colleagues, administrators, and community members.

Assessment
We have a large array of of formal and informal assessment that we use to assess students' science learning. The FOSS program offers assessments. We have past MCAS tests that provide another assessment. We also use multiple less formal assessments such as observation, educator/student reflections/conversation, and photography. To assess the entire unit of study and standards, I combined the FOSS questions and MA standards into a self-correcting Google Form test that students can take over and over again to assess their knowledge and to further learn. Also by collecting images on our team Twitter page, that provides a good point of reflection and assessment. I am so busy during students' investigations, that it's difficult to step back to assess, but I can look back on images and short videos later and assess whose actively involved, what they are doing, and how they are reacting. I find that to be a very helpful assessment piece.

Extensions
Positive extensions which are helping our team teaching the science pedagogical practices better include a local rivers-study grant with the local Drumlin Farm, an Audubon Organization that provides us with the guidance of a naturalist coach. We also include a visiting scientist who comes to demonstrate and lead scientific exploration. The Town engineer has volunteered to come in to talk about local engineering projects and water resources/needs. And we will soon visit a local popular site, Gillette Stadium, to jump start our many STEAM projects to come. And at the end of the year all of this science learning and exploration comes together in our yearly Global Cardboard Challenge. Mystery Science is another possible extension that brings an engaging, modern lens to the teaching and Flocabulary is one culturally proficient resource that helps students master the main grade-level science vocabulary and concepts.

The stage is set for the science teaching ahead and the rounds--now it's time to plan the specific learning experiences and update the room for this learning and teaching.


When Analysis and Reflection Do Not Exist

It's discouraging to see structures in place year after year that no one ever reflects upon, analyzes, or refines. These structures stay mired in cultures great and small like an untreated sore. Rather than serve an organization, family, or industry, these persistent and ineffective structures just get worse sucking money, time, and good talent from an organization's potential and promise.

Why does this happen?

It's difficult to understand why these unworthy and draining structures are allowed to continue in institutions without needed improvement or change. First of all, these negative structures, though underperforming, are likely not dangerous or outwardly problematic. It's possible that they serve a "check-off-the-box" purpose and can be left unchecked without any real challenge. It's also possible that to assess and refine these structures means that you have to face some deeper more problematic issues. To biopsy the sore, you're likely to find greater underlying issues--issues that are messy to solve which make people want to leave it as it is. And then there's the limits on time and energy--who has time for this unpleasant work?

We all have to assess our own work and effort to unearth the sores that keep us back and challenge the good work possible. At our best, we don't want to replicate organizational behavior that ignores issues that prevent the good work and potential possible. We want to reach for better in all that we do and that requires regular reflection and betterment--that's what brings our work meaning and makes our work meaningful and beneficial to others.

To be successful, families, organizations, and institutions need to forward honest, positive assessment, analysis, and reflection. Tackling the critical issues and analyzing the structures that exist, helps organizations to improve in valuable ways. To ignore this process repeatedly is to embrace mediocrity at best. We all know that betterment exists in all corners of every individual's life and organization's existence, and to embrace that betterment path is to create strong, more meaningful and valuable places to live, work, and serve.

Know Your Power and Purpose

It's easy to focus on where you may feel powerless and ill-directed, but it's more important to focus on where your power and purpose lies.

As an educator who works with young children each day, my power and purpose lies in the work I do with and for children each day. I have a lot of ability in this area to make a positive difference, and to do that I have to keep my focus centered on those children and the teaching/learning program rather than all the less than positive affects that exist all around education--affects that demean and disrespect teachers taking our time and attention away from our most important area of teaching and learning--the children.

So what can I do in the days ahead to better serve the children--the worthy focus of what I do?

The list is the same old, same old laundry list that I reach for each and every day including the following:

  • Students-first learning environment where worthy learning materials and support is easily accessible to the children.
  • Engaging, empowering learning experiences that educate students well.
  • Encouraging, helpful feedback that energizes and promotes the best that students can do.
  • A listening ear that's ready to support children in their times of need and interest.
  • Life long learning that keeps the curriculum program up to date as much as possible.
The greatest challenges with respect to this work include these areas that can get in the way of the good work possible:
  • The constant barrage of advice, directives, and initiatives that are not well supported in the research, children's interests or needs, or experience.
  • The demeaning words and actions that strike teachers daily near and far.
  • The little power teachers have to obtain needed materials and supports--we have to fund most of our supplies if we want those supplies in timely, valuable ways
  • The limitless potential to serve children well 
  • Limited energy and time to do all the tasks asked of us daily.
Striking the balance is essential. Striking the balance means you have to avoid the energy-sucks, those efforts, attitudes, and experiences that drain you of the good energy you need to do the work well. You also have to align yourself with the supporters and energizers, the people who help you to gain the good energy and supports that empower your good work. You need a reasonable, doable, positive weekly routine--a routine that directs you in positive ways with optimal energy and a positive attitude. And you need to build a teaching/learning environment that's welcoming and supportive of the goals and work you are reaching for.

Navigating the busyness of school life can be challenging for many reasons, and it's essential that you plot your path and refine as needed so you can do the best work possible, and that work is work directed at what helps your students be the best that they can be in happy, healthy, and confident ways. Onward. 



Monday, January 07, 2019

Picking up the Pieces: A New Day

The teaching days vary from those exceptionally terrific days to the most challenging days and every day in between. There's so much that happens in a school, and there's lots of desire to do it just right too each and every day.

Today was challenged by pushback and disrespect--it happens, and every time I experience that kind of belittling behavior, it upsets me. Fortunately in the past few months, there's been far less of that dehumanizing behavior in my midst and I've enjoyed teaching more than ever. I just have to remember to steer clear of those who see teachers more as robots than people, some only view educators as those who carry out their orders rather than dedicated professionals and collaborators who come to school each day to teach children well.

So I get back up after being pushed down, I am renewing my focus to do the work to engage, empower, and educate my students well. They are generally happy, engaged, and enthusiastic about the multiple teaching/learning events my colleagues and I are able to forward day after day. Tomorrow we'll dig into the traditional algorithm of division with lots of step-by-step practice. It's not my favorite lesson, but one I have to do. I'll do what I can to make it positive. We'll also continue reading our books and focus on problem solving too. Students will hand in their volume projects/study and receive their geometry review packet which is due next week. Step-by-step, day-by-day, I'll do what I can to teach well and make a point of teaming with those good, positive, uplifting, and dedicated educators, families, and students that surround me. Onward.


The Effect of Too Much Control on Energy and Enthusiasm

I never mind doing extra work if will help the students and make for a better teaching/learning environment. However when that extra work treats me like a peon, I'm not game.

Some like to simply direct teachers, tell them what to do, and treat them like robots. They don't value teachers' experience, research, voices, or ideas. These people see teachers as cogs on a railway--conduits for their expertise, ideas, and management.

To teach well comes from deep inside you. It takes that daily reflection, investment, questioning, research, and relationships. It's not a simple follow-the-recipe effort, but instead both an art and a science that considers multiple factors as we lead students to master skills, concepts, and knowledge while we coach them ahead to be happy, fulfilled, confident, and capable people.

To merely follow one tight direction after another, directions that don't factor in who your students are, who you are, what your time is like, and the challenges and opportunities available to teach well is a dull, monotonous job. On the other hand when educators are treated like the professionals they are, their zest, enthusiasm, and energy grows for all things good in the classroom.

Recently there's been positive changes in my teaching/learning community--there's been a bit more voice and choice and less angst and control. Yet recently the mighty hand of control was laid down again and I felt that noose-like tightness that too-much control and not enough genuine creativity and open minded support bring to my body and my work. It reminded me once again that I have to stay clear of that which is not directed towards reaching in ways I like to reach and ways I value. That's the way it is.


Monday Musings: The First Full Week of Teaching, January 2019


As I look ahead to our first full week of teaching in 2019, I recognize that it's going to be a very busy week.

Curriculum efforts include a heavy focus on the nuts and bolts of division and continued emphases on reading, physical science standards, math assessments, and small group math review sessions. For science, students will explore the conservation of matter as they discuss, model, measure, and study phase changes. Students will also review past science exploration efforts and new explorations to determine whether chemical changes occurred or whether the matter changes were physical only. I'll try out the single point rubric as a way to direct student study and offer meaningful feedback.


In math we'll look at the metric system and notice how it is a base-ten numeral system. We'll apply the rules of the base-ten numeral system we've learned to metric measure as we multiply and divide millimeters, centimeters, meters, and kilometers by powers of 10. Later students will explore division more by learning the traditional algorithm and checking their work. Next week we'll dig into these concepts deeper with hands-on division exploration and problem solving.

Students will continue reading their books of choices this week as well as attending reading/writing classes and many specialist classes and events including music, art, physical education, technology, library, and the school's annual winter chorus concert.

It's a busy professional learning week as well. Today I'll meet with a town water expert to discuss ways that we can teach students more about water conservation. This is a great match for the environmental studies we're doing as well as our physical science emphasis on matter. On Wednesday meet with our rivers study grant team at Drumlin Farm to review what we've done so far and then make decisions about next steps. Finally on Friday we'll make time to review students reading/writing education as we focus on ELA efforts.

We'll also send out our newsletter and begin collecting permission slips for upcoming theater and STEAM-related field trips--good trips that will break up the cold, dark days of winter. Onward.

I look forward to this busy week--it's important to stay the course, keep the energy strong, and be there for the students. Onward.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Righting My Ship

This weekend brought a lot of unexpected challenge for a myriad of reasons, and now it's time to right my teaching/learning/living ship in ways that matter.

What's important?

Whether I like it or not, I'm drawn to the political sphere since I truly desire good living for all people and I am not happy with what appears to be the dominance of me-first politics and politicians at this time in America's history. I know how damaging quick-fix, short term solutions can be and how powerful rich, thoughtful, positive decisions can be. I can't stay satisfied with Trump and his cronies who demonstrate little care or concern for our country's constitution, freedom, or beliefs. I also can't stay satisfied with their outdated vision, abusive tactics, and misguided nostalgia in a world that is increasingly interdependent and in need of more modern, creative, equitable, inclusive solutions to complex worldwide issues. To ignore the need for world peace, a healthy environment, and better processes to support good living for all the world's people is to be ignorant and destructive in today's world. So I'll keep reading, writing, and looking for ways to use my abilities in positive ways to forward the good possible for our country and world in the political realm.

Day to day in my professional life I'll continue my focus on optimal math and science teaching as well as building a positive student-first teaching/learning community that empowers, engages, and educates children well. I am fortunate to be surrounded by many talented, dedicated educators, families, students, and community members who help me to reach for these goals daily in ways that matter.

At home, I'll continue my pursuit to build a warm, welcoming, and supportive home for my loved ones, and I'll continue to encourage my own children to pursue their paths with ethical behavior, hard work, contribution, respect, and passion as well as to fill their lives with joyful experiences and people they love.

In addition, I'll work towards better navigating my own journey so that I see the problems I face as natural opportunities to grow and learn with respect, humility, and grace. Onward.

Who and What Do You Work For?

As I read a number of tweets and articles this weekend about the government shut down, I began to think about the question: Who and what do you work for?

I enjoy working for betterment, betterment in my own life and betterment in the lives of others. That has always been my focus. As a very young child, I was faced with a situation that was not positive--a situation that challenged me daily. That's where my thirst for betterment was born. I began looking in multiple directions to find betterment, and I was sometimes successful and sometimes not successful, but my quest demonstrated to me that when betterment is done right, people's happiness and lives improve, and this is positive because when people are happy and living well, our communities and society are welcoming, successful, and good. We don't have to stay mired in mediocrity or less-than-positive situations--we can do better.

As I look around the world today, I see limitless opportunities for betterment. I also see tremendous obstruction to the betterment path, obstruction such as a lack of investment, fear, little creativity, and prejudice that block the many paths to betterment.

Betterment is an ever evolving, endless path. As the world changes there will always be new problems to solve and multiple ideas about how to solve those problems, and that's why on this evolving betterment path, we have to continuously elevate the collaborative, problem solving processes we use so that our solutions are equitable, inclusive, humane, and modern--we can't utilize old time prejudices, processes, and parameters to solve new-age problems.

At the root of good problem solving and good work, is the essential question: Who and what do you work for? If you're working for good cause with good people, your work will usually be well-directed, but if you let ambition trump mission and work mainly for your own gain and ego, you will find that your work will ultimately result in less strength, positivity, and success. Particularly as we move into a time of quickly increasing international interdependence, it's essential that we work together towards win-win solutions for greater international harmony and prosperity--essentially good lives for all.

We have to choose leaders whose work objectives are greater than their personal wealth, power, or popularity. We have to choose honest, hard working, collaborative leaders who intelligently work with others to solve complex problems that affect all of us. These good leaders are leaders who prioritize well and work with discipline and respect to make a positive difference in the lives of all--they are well informed and respectful of what they know and what they don't know. These good leaders are likely the products of lots of love, worthy friends, family members, leaders, and mentors, and righted in the direction of doing their best with others towards betterment. They are not cynical, self-serving individuals, but instead people who feel the call to serve in ways that matter.

Who and what do you work for? How do you spend your time, energy, and dollars with that question in mind? What do you do to inspire your children in this regard? What matters?

As I criticize President Trump's seemingly lawless, exaggerated, untruthful self-serving egotistical leadership, I think about my own work too. Am I in a place to criticize the President of the United States?

I, like all, am not a perfect individual. Like all, I struggle with my personal challenges, yet I am proud of my quest which is to work for betterment with my colleagues, friends, and family members. I know that good process, good decisions, and good work can result in better lives, and I know that better lives are lives filled with joyful experiences and positive results. In my own life, I have profited from the hard and generous work of my parents, religious leaders, teachers, friends' families, community members, and more. I have been surrounded by so many good people who have enabled me to have a good profession, positive growth, and opportunities for the best life offers which to me are good times in beautiful, warm, welcoming places with the people I love. I want that for all the world's people. I don't want to see people stuck in situations where they are in fear, hungry, without a home, and belittled continuously--I want to see people empowered, happy, prosperous, and contributing to strong communities. I don't believe some people are better than others, but instead that we are all on unique paths of life, paths that prompt us to make decisions all the time, and when we are surrounded by good leadership, love, and warmth, we generally make good decision and if we don't, there are people around us that right us, pick us up, and help us get back on track. That's good living to me.

Trump's doctrine, beliefs, actions, and world stand in stark contrast to all that I believe in and work for, and that's why he angers me so. He makes fun of people continuously. He doesn't take the time or work with care about serious, life-threatening issues. Instead he grandstands with slick marketing phrases and false statements to gain popularity rather than to truly solve serious issues. He mocks the American people with his theater, and he seems to skirt the laws in dangerous ways that stand against our core rights, freedoms, and beliefs as Americans--he challenges who we are as a people each and every day. Those inactive, silent, and supportive cronies of Trump are just as evil and repressive. Rather than confronting Trump's disrespectful and damaging demeanor, they stand silently by content to fatten their personal financial accounts and privileged ways. It's easy to see this statistically because in states with greater trumpian leadership, the standard of living for average people is generally lower whereas in states where there is greater respect for people and equity, the standard of living is generally higher for all. This is also true for countries around the world--in countries where there is greater respect for all people, there is a better standard of living for all too.

Who and what do you work for? How do you do your work well? Does your work matter?

These are essential questions for the very short lives we live. As I always remind myself each of us is tiny in the sea of time, each of us is but a glint of light, a drop of rain, a grain of sand in the expanse of time. We can choose to face this with Trump's me-first attitude of quick-fix, short-term, self-serving solutions or we can see our time as that of a contribution to betterment for those that come after us. I choose to see my time as significant and to spend my days living as best I can for self and others since I want to contribute to a better life for the people today and people tomorrow. I am so grateful that I live in a free country where slavery is outlawed, woman can vote, you can marry who you love, and there are supports for you when you lose your job or are without money or shelter. My good life is the result of hard work of multiple people that came before me, people who spent their days living not only for their own gain, but for the gain of those that came after them--these are the good leaders that history favors, the leaders that bring us ahead today and into the future.

We are wasting our time with quick-fix, manipulative, slick-marketing me-first leaders who discount the good work of so many today and in the past, and who care about much more than their own popularity, pocketbooks, and power. We can do better to lay a rich path towards betterment for our posterity, a path that does not abuse personal power, but instead a path that protect the general welfare, insures domestic tranquility and promotes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all the world's people. We can choose to work for a clean environment, international peace, and opportunity for all rather than a fractured world of prejudice and strife.

Don't be fooled America, be smart, and look for the bright, intelligent, good leaders amongst us, people who will bring us and our future ahead. We can do better. Our children and grandchildren are depending on us.

Politics and Education: We Can Do Better

It's impossible to advocate for quality education for all of America's children and not be political too. To see endless time and dollars wasted at the national level is to notice the time, energy, and money that could be used to elevate a quality public education for everyone of America's children. We know that a well educated population is a more peaceful, prosperous, and satisfied people.

I am so disheartened by President Trump mostly because everything he does stands in opposition to the goals, beliefs, and efforts of my entire life. Trump's actions, words, and attitudes continuously demonstrate disregard and disrespect for good people, promising problem solving, laws, creative solutions, honesty, and good, happy living for all the country's people. His actions and inactions elevate prejudice towards people and divide the country. These actions weaken who we are as a people. His macho, self-serving, shyster behavior mocks all of us who work everyday to be the best parents, educators, neighbors, and citizens that we can be.

As I've written about again and again, it's easy to fall down the Trump hole and get mired in that dark, dank dungeon--a place with little hope, light, or promise. His words and actions will take you there and make you think that there's no way out. Yet you have to resist this fall, and work with those who see the light, hold the promise, and are willing to work with others to forward a bright future for all Americans today and into the future.

Trump appeals to our primitive selves with his slick marketing that easily identifies bad guys and good guys. Slick marketing that turns complex problems into quick-fix, short term solutions, and an evolving narrative where truth changes daily to appeal to his popularity, pocketbook, and power at the moment. It's all about him and few others in Trump times, times supported by his many #GOP cronies who also seem to value their own power, popularity, and pocketbooks over what is honest, truthful, and positive for the country's people and into the future.

I want a good happy life for all the world's people. I want our country's leaders to take today's problems seriously and look for ways to better living for all. I see the priorities in this work to be the following:

  • fair wages
  • good laws that protect good living such as good gun laws, safety laws, and environmental laws
  • protection of our natural lands and resources
  • high quality, accessible education and health care
  • a minimum, quality standard of living for all the country's people including adequate shelter, safe neighborhoods, good job opportunities, quality recreation.
  • strong collaborative communities
  • respect for our differences and eradication of debilitating prejudices
  • smart prioritization without the fixation on exaggerated issues and short term, quick fix ineffective solutions.
I know that our country can be better. I know that we don't have to continue to be held hostage by a shyster, slick-marketing, dictator-president who abuses his power daily as he ridicules and demeans good Americans day after day. 

We can do better America and we must. 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Unexpected Circumstances

Today I was met with a couple of unexpected circumstances--circumstances I couldn't plan for or anticipate. That happens. At first I fought against the change, but then I recognized it was right to alter the path and change plans. Sometimes we expect to be in one place, but are called to another and when that happens we have to believe it's the way life was meant to be. Onward.

Navigating the Math/Science Learning/Teaching Goal Path

What is the mass of a balloon filled with water?
This new science/math learning/teach path I'm on is positively challenging and invigorating. I worked diligently to prepare for yesterdays egg and balloon explorations to find that some of the preparation was just-right and some was lacking. Overall the lessons were both positive and messy.

What was positive?

Students loved investigating the differences between a typical egg and an egg that had been immersed in vinegar for a month. They collected data as they found the mass and length of both eggs and tested the eggs to find out their unique properties including color, solubility, brittleness, strength, density, and more. Next, we'll revisit the physical and chemical change video, share our results, and make a decision about whether the egg in vinegar went through a physical change or chemical change. Then we'll begin working with water in a balloon and a number of science tools to document and assess the states of matter and what kinds of changes happens when water is frozen to determine whether this is a physical change or chemical change. We'll further look at the kinds of changes that occur in matter as students learn about the conservation of matter,
How is an egg that's been immersed in vinegar different
than a typical egg? Did a chemical change occur? 
mixtures, and solutions. We've got a lot of great tools and a long list of engaging explorations ahead.

What was not so positive?

I didn't anticipate the problems that occurred. I have a great class so it surprised me when some deviated from the exploration and fooled around a bit which resulted in dropped and splattered eggs on the floor. Worse than the mess was the fact that those groups couldn't continue their exploration. I also didn't expect the amount of collaborative skill students need to forward these experiments. Partners are easier to work with than bigger teams, but sometimes it's difficult to have enough materials for partner experiments. I want to think about this more and try out new strategies for building better collaborative skill and effect. Also as always, I can continue to work at organization and accessibility of supplies as well as time for good data recording, reflections, and share. Time remains a challenge as the depth potential of these explorations is limitless, but time is limited. Student energy wanes after an hour or so too even though their engagement is strong for science.

Keepers:

What are the unique properties of the typical egg compared
to the egg that's been in vinegar? What is the same?
What is different?
I liked sharing the posters below with students, that helped. We started another poster of reminders such as stay with your group, follow the directions, work collaboratively, and do your part to focus on areas of the exploration that presented as challenges. When students work away from their group, they generally disrupt other groups--the room is small so too much deviation from your space generally affects the set up of other groups. Those who didn't contribute, obstructed. There were only a few who did this, and I'll have to think about what created their lack of positive engagement. The whole class needs to learn and work at better collaborative skill--I'll work with them on that, and I'll also work on ways that they can better attend to and follow directions. So many resist reading the directions. I'll make them simple, and then highlight the students who use the directions to effectively explore and investigate. I've told student that my goal is to better math and science teaching so they know we're all working together to make good improvements in this engaging learning.



Friday, January 04, 2019

Bad Character: Fooled

We are all fooled sometimes by shysters with bad character and ill-directed aim and effort. We think a person brings the answer we're looking for, the truth we hope for, and the future we desire. We align ourselves with them, support them, and stick up for them only to find out we've been fooled. It happens, and when it happens we have to retrace our steps, see where the trickery happened, and make decisions about how we'll move forward with or without that person in our lives.

We can be fooled in families, romance, neighborhoods, at work, in politics, and almost anywhere. Fortunately episodes like this typically don't occur often, and for some, they may never experience this kind of trickery.

I don't fault people who are led astray by shysters, crooks, fools, and cheaters. I know it happens. The biggest problem occurs if you don't learn from those mistakes and you continue to follow the fool just to save your pride, that's when the real danger occurs.

Climbing Out of the Trump Hole

I fell down the Trump hole tonight. I was lured by his threats to shut down the government for years, a threat I found to be an abusive effort to incite fear amongst the American people. As I read more of his tweets and multiple news reports, I fell further down that Trump hole--a hole that's filled with disrespect, exaggeration, and lies.

Why does a President of the United States who took an oath to "insure domestic tranquility" and "promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" act with such abuse of power by threatening the American people, inciting fear, exaggerating the truth, spreading mistruths, and seemingly only working for the rights and privileges of a few rather than the many.

Yet, I have to climb out of the Trump hole and do what I can to rid our country of this self-serving president who appears to put his power, pocketbook, and popularity ahead of what is right and good for our country.

Outside of the Trump hole, I will find avenues to support the good work, good ideas, and good living of so many wonderful Americans who love their families, contribute to their communities, work hard, collaborate for betterment, and enjoy the wonderful country we have without harming or hurting others. There are many, many good, honest leaders ready to take the helm from this self-serving man and his shortsighted, self-serving cronies and family members.

Outside of the Trump hole, I'll do my work to the best of my ability and work towards a good country for all, not just some. There is opportunity everywhere to do what is right and good and we have to make time to stand up, speak out, and work for promising change. There is room in this world for all to succeed and our strength lies in uplifting the least amongst us first and then elevating each other in this quest.

Trump abuses his power. He disrespects so many hard working, good Americans every single day. He doesn't make time to do the good work possible with the multiple bright and dedicated Americans that exist all over the country. Instead of prioritizing his time and support in honest, positive ways, he chooses to grandstand issues that will create a lack of tranquility and a lack of support for the the general welfare of our country and people. I do not believe Trump is living up to his oath of office--he continually decries freedom of the press, demonstrates discriminatory attitudes and behaviors towards multiple groups and individuals, and seems to lack the empathy, intelligence, and good character that our country needs, deserves, and will benefit from. We can do better.