Wednesday, July 31, 2019

What's your presidential election strategy?

You can become overwhelmed by the presidential election process since it's so long, complicated, and populated? However, it's important to have a personal process on how you'll get involved in ways that matter, ways that help our country to move forward. This is my strategy:

During this time I read a lot and thought a lot about the candidates. I chose to support Elizabeth Warren with a few dollars because she represents the ideas I believe in and the experience, energy, and will that I believe it takes to lead the country well.

I'm listening carefully to the debates and reading about the candidates. I'm also staying attune to the political events that are occurring now. Donald Trump's leadership is suspect at best. His continual stream of lies, exaggeration, shaming, blaming, name calling, and disrespect demonstrates his poor character and lazy leadership. He is a dangerous and weak leader who continually plays the people and obstructs justice for his own gain. For example I just read this very worrisome article about his cavalier and me-first attitude when it comes to sharing secrets about our nuclear capabilities/knowledge--this is outrageous. Trump's constant efforts to use American systems, laws, and people with cronyism and nepotism to elevate his personal wealth, power, and ego take our country down, belittle us as a people, and put us in danger. He needs to go, and we need to elect a pragmatic, intelligent candidate who believes in the potential our country holds for betterment and opportunity for all, not just a wealthy few.

With this in  mind, I'll do the following:

  • Pay attention to this handy reference of the election process.
  • Speak out and act with as much evidence and specificity as possible against the errant, dangerous words and ways of Donald Trump's and his errant Republican cronies and family members.
  • Speak up and act on behalf of Democratic candidates that exemplify what I believe is best for our country.
  • Continue to primarily support Elizabeth Warren as long as I believe that she's the top candidate.
  • Find ways to get increasingly involved as we get closer to the primary caucuses and elections.
  • Continue to read, research, and speak out on the issues in positive ways that meet my central vision and belief which is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, not just a wealthy few and honest, people-centered leadership not the kind of me-first, self-serving leadership continually displayed by Trump and his cronies.
Every American has to get involved in this election. Every American has to register to vote, make a voting plan that includes the time/transportation/study they need to be able to vote. This election matters for all of our lives. We can't let an errant, dangerous leader continue to manipulate us with slick sound bites and dangerous decisions--he's the president who cries wolf. He has no credibility left--we can and must do better. 

Democratic Debates: Take These Events Seriously

The debate last night was uncomfortable because it was like trying to pour drawerful of precious jewels into a small bag since so many important, valuable talking points were stuffed into a short time frame--a time frame and format hat left very important talking points fragmented leaving us to judge a candidate by mostly sound bites and what we already know about that individual and their ideas. In many ways, the debate like most important considerations today, was not the best platform for comparing and sharing important ideas. Is there a better way?

That said, however, I think that at this point in the Democratic candidates' bids to represent the party in the primary election, this format of debate after debate might be the best way to get the candidates out in front of the people, a way to narrow down the field to a manageable few. The way we watch, evaluate, and supplement these debates matter too. As we watch, we basically want to get an idea about what each candidate might be like as President of the United States. We can use these questions to guide our viewing:
  • Is the candidate able to speak about important issues with knowledge, confidence, respect, intelligence, confidence, and courage? If a candidate does not well represent their ideas, then that candidate is probably not prepared to be President of the United States.
  • Is the candidate truthful? This is something we can assess by reading the large number of fact checking articles that come after the debates.
  • Are the candidate's ideas viable? Are there articles online that one can read to learn about the details related to the ideas expressed? Last night, after the election, I read about Elizabeth Warren's Ultra Millionaire Tax, it's a great plan.  I wanted to follow up to see if it is as good as it sounds.
  • Are the candidates willing to listen to each other, defend their ideas, contest ideas they oppose, and even, perhaps, acknowledge another candidate's good ideas and support those candidates onstage if they agree? This is the kind of good work a POTUS has to do, and it's important to consider candidates' abilities in this realm.
  • Does the candidate exemplify good character? 
I found that watching the debates was a stressful event, however, I believe it's important to listen with an open mind. Going forward I hope that every candidate will be able to capsulate their ideas with as few truthful and representative words and stories as possible, words and examples that essentially provide listeners with a headline to their good ideas, a headline that people can look up online to learn more details. I also hope that the candidates will add informative sight bites and images that well represent their ideas because people process complex information through images better than through lots and lots of words. 

At present, I remain a supporter of Elizabeth Warren for President of the United States. I believe she is intelligent, quick, experienced, collaborative, and creative. She's done her homework; she's worked in government; she knows the law, and she's ready and willing to work with others to forward what's best for all Americans. This is essential. I hope that she will bring many other formidable democratic candidates with her in leadership positions. The democratic team of candidates are mostly well qualified, good Americans who have what it takes to serve our country well. It's important that they work together to continually raise the conversation related to our country's potential and future. Rather than Trump and his Republican cronies' self-serving policies masked in catchy, empty sound bites, I hope that these Democratic candidates together will continue to uplift Americans' ability to understand the issues and get involved in the process to better what our country can do for each of us now and into the future. We can do better, and the next President of the United States has to be a candidate that not only believes that, but works with us to make that happen. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Challenges to Good Character

Good character matters, and, in life, we face challenges to the development of good character.

Poor examples of good character in childhood
One great challenge to the development of good character is when people we love and people that care for us exemplify and value poor character. Children who grew up in homes where family members were lawless, selfish, hateful, mean, undisciplined, impatient, dishonest, disrespectful, or even overly serious experienced poor character in those they loved and looked up to. If the people you love are poor examples of good character they teach you the wrong way to live rather than the right way to live. Some of those poor models learned that poor behavior from those they loved, and others may have embraced poor character due to weakness, fear, perceived survival threats and more. Whatever the reason, if you grew up with loved ones who exhibited traits of poor character, it's likely that you have to unlearn and devalue that behavior in your own life.

Poor examples of good character at school or at your place of employment
Similar to poor character in your homes, experiencing poor character at school or in your place of employment also may prompt poor character in you too. For example if a teacher exemplifies or accepts poor character in the classroom, you may not see that as a problem or even as an advantage. On the job, it could be that your boss expects you to act with poor character, and to keep your job you live up to that expectation rather than standing up to the poor character or finding another job. I often tell the story of an employment experience I had in high school where the language towards women was always oppressive, derogatory, and demeaning--I listened to that every day. It was evidence of poor character. I simply thought that's the way men speak, and I didn't speak up to that. When I expressed the struggle to others in my life, they simply told me to take it. At that time in American society, poor, disrespectful language towards women was generally accepted and promoted. It was awful and I'm so glad that there has been some good change in that area of life.

Poor examples of good character by entertainers, government leaders, and officials
There appears to be a positive crackdown related to poor character with regard to countless entertainers and government officials. We still see many government leaders exemplifying poor character however as they lie, blame, shame, exaggerate or work against or stay passive in the face of injustice, oppression, and need. We have to elect officials that display the best possible character as we all know that if we elect leaders that demonstrate poor character that will have a domino effect in our culture. For example President Trump's poor character has resulted in a national rise in hate crimes and White supremacy--this tears at the potential and good living possible in our country.

When we consult the good character list at the top of the page, we can all identify areas where we are strong and areas where we need to do better. It's important for us to look back at our histories to identify the roots of our poor character as well as the places where we honed our good character. I look forward to spending a bit more time thinking about my character and how I can improve the weak points in the days ahead. This is an important task for every teacher, parent, political leader, friend, and worker to do regularly. We all can do better, and our efforts to live and lead better is critical to those we love, our communities, and our own lives too.

School starts in four weeks. . . .

It has been a wonderfully long and beautiful summer--a summer of study, a time to catch-up with family, friends, and chores, and a summer of good times. If I were in charge of the world, I would advocate that every work place in the country extend their vacation time for employees. As humans we create the parameters that exist, and I believe that creating parameters focused on good living versus parameters focused on making the rich, richer is a good idea.

Time to read, research, study, take care of family members, complete house chores, and have a bit of fun is healthy for all of us, and that's why I advocate for such time. Good work is also positive for us, and I look forward to the returning to school renewed and energized to teach well.

The weeks ahead will be busy as I spend time with family members, ready my home for the school year, organize/prepare the classroom, and finish a number of school prep jobs that will result in a promising start for the year ahead. In four weeks, I'll be ready for those first days of listening to many words of encouragement, plans, goals, and vision from multiple persons including union leadership, systemwide leadership, school leadership, families, students, and leaders of multiple committees and groups that exist within the school system.

One important lesson I learned this summer was the value of time and the importance of not stuffing our schedules too full. When we make time to think, relax, prepare/eat healthy foods, engage in positive activity, listen, and prepare, we ready ourselves for good living and good service. Too often we engage in lives that are too busy. I want to be cognizant of this as I move into the new school year.

My reading and research this summer has also emphasized the need to go hard on problems, not people, and to speak up and act when problems are small rather than waiting until the issues are big, complex, and difficult to resolve.

I've also learned once again that we never go wrong when we teach and learn with as much respect and dignity for others as possible. There are moments in this political climate, school climates, and in the community, when we can become frustrated, angry, worried, or discouraged. There will always be problems in life, and the more that we can embrace those problems, and do our part to make better in positive ways, the better off we'll all be.

I wish all educators positive final days and weeks of summer vacation and a positive, students-first school year ahead. We are fortunate to work in a profession that's positive, a profession that works for betterment each and every day. This is good. I don't want to loose sight of this positivity in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Peaceful Communities: It's Not Rocket Science

Creating peaceful communities is not rocket science. What holds us back from this ideal is greed. If more Americans were supporters of good regulations, fair taxation, environmental protections, and community support, we would have more peaceful communities, communities where people don't have to fear the loss of loved ones.

There is so much that we can do to insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare of every community in the United States. Here's a short list that will lead us ahead in peaceful ways.

Reduce, Restrict, and Regulate Guns
Guns, like cars, should be heavily regulated. There should be age limits, training requirements, tests and more so that the only people who have guns are people who we believe can responsibly be gun owners. Also, we need to restrict the types of guns people buy. Restricting, reducing, and regulating guns will save lives lost from gun attacks on innocents, gun deaths by suicide, and gun death related to domestic violence.

Help Young Families
It's very challenging to raise families in the United States given the lack of supports. That stress and the financial burden of day care creates disharmony. Support longer paid maternity leaves, universal child care, affordable/accessible health care and more to help young families raise their children with the capacity to give every child a positive start in life.

Support Education and Health Care
Uneducated, unhealthy people have the potential to be less peaceful. We need to educate all of the people in the United States well and we need to make sure they have the holistic health care they need--health care that includes mental health services and dental services too.

Environmental Protection
When people don't have clean, beautiful natural lands around them, they easily become sick or discouraged. We need to protect and take care our our natural lands as places that provide inspiration, recreation, and wonderful clean resources that help us live healthy, happy lives.

Support Community Care
Trump's recent racist tirade pointing to the existence of rats in urban communities reminds us of the the great need our country has for uplifting and supporting communities. Many communities throughout the United States suffer from rodent/insect infestation, outdated and unsafe infrastructure, crumbling schools, dirty parks, insufficient public servants, outdated transportation, and lack of opportunity. Trump and his #gop cronies will to serve a wealthy few rather than the entire country, blocks opportunity and potential with regard to updating, revitalizing, and supporting communities all over the United States. We need to do better in this regard. Fair taxation will provide funding for this.

Respect ALL People
The will of some like Trump, his family members, and cronies to Make America Better Again for only a small group of Americans that look and live like them wastes our country's time, money, and potential. Their errant, ignorant, and self-serving ways block opportunity and create divide. The only way to build a strong country is to respect ALL people, not just a select few.

The United States holds great potential for good living for all. Selfish leaders like Trump, his family members, and cronies work to tear our country apart with their self serving, greedy ways that focus mostly on their own wealth, power, and ego. They are dangerous leaders who must be stopped by using the legal process of impeachment and by electing qualified, collaborative, intelligent leaders who have good experience with making positive change that uplifts people.

When our leaders stand silently by while a little six year old is shot dead when attending a community event, that's disgusting. We can't stay silent. We all have to act to rid our country of the greedy few like Trump who do not appear to have the sanity, intelligence, experience or will to be faithful to and forward the law of the land, a law that paves the way for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. We can do better.

List Making, Productivity, and Good Living

Like many, I'm a list maker. I keep a running list of tasks to do, then when I have time, I consult my energy/environment/mood/available supports, look at my list, and choose what it is that I will do. This has been a very successful strategy for getting things done. For example today I have good energy and I want to be active. I know that my son will be heading back to college soon and there's lots to do to help him get ready so that's where I'll throw my initial good energy this morning.

I use a similar strategy in the classroom. I have always have many learning experiences/strategies ready to go and I generally match the experience to students' collective energy, interest, and need at the time. I choose what matches best, and that typically results in better learning.

The running to-do list is a positive strategy for staying on top of what it is you have to or want to do to support the kind of life you want to live. I recommend.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Chapter Seven Notes

The quote by Ralph Ellison at the start of the chapter, makes me think about what is real for me today and as a child, and what is real for my students? How can we make what is real for our students come alive in the first weeks of school so we get to know them well?

Hammond uses Carol Dweck's research which, in part, teaches us that what people believe about themselves as learners and their ability to be effective are the catalysts for learning. This research helps us learn how to cultivate students' academic mindset and their ability to believe in themselves. These integral components of an academic mindset matter:
  • I can succeed at this
  • I belong to this academic community
  • My ability and competence grow with my effort
  • This work has value for me
Hammond teaches us that we have to seek the deep roots of why a child is disengaged in the learning and why that child has self doubts about their ability to be successful. She also challenges us as educators when she shares the fact that "schools do a lot more to influence a negative mindset than we'd like to admit." She points out that this support of a negative mindset can be found in these components of school life:
  • structural inequalities that are predictors of who will achieve well and who will struggle
  • policies and practices that limit opportunities
One example that she provides about structural inequalities speaks to my will to revise our Response to Intervention program is when she discusses "the student who is a struggling reader in seventh grade might believe he is just a slow learner. He isn't aware of the policies and practices that led to poor reading instruction in second grade with no intervention to close his learning gaps as he moved to third grade." I would like to re-look at our RTI approach after reading this book, and make some changes to elevate what we can do for struggling math students. 

Hammond demonstrates to us that students' internal scripts that lead to less engagement, negative academic mindset and low achievement are the result of microaggressions. She defines microaggressions as "those small, seemingly innocuous, brief, verbal, denigrating, and hurtful messages to people of color." As I read this, of course, I think first of the President's tweets, words, and actions which have demeaned so many in our culture. And I also realize that I have to be more aware and responsive with regard to the "small, nonverbal snubs; dismissive looks, gestures, and a condescending voice" that sometimes finds its way into classroom and school endeavor. As I think back to when events like these happened last year, I now realize that a quick course on what microaggressions are and their negative impact on students' learning would help to elevate the entire class's awareness of this negative behavior. Students are generally well meaning, and often their less than positive behavior is the result of not understanding what they are doing and why it has such a negative impact. 

We learn in this chapter that the brain is more hardwired to negative experiences than positive experiences. We can work against a deficit model that activates negative experiences in the following ways:
  • Using equity with regard to our reactions to students, and not treating students of color with more severe punishments, overemphasizing military-like behavior management strategies, and being careful not to use exclusion as a consequence for behavioral issues.
  • Refrain from microinsults which are insensitivity to a child's cultural or linguistic background, trivializing their racial or cultural identity such as not correctly pronouncing a child's name or giving them another name because you can't pronounce their name or continually confusing students of the same race and casually brushing it off rather than apologizing and working not to do that.
  • Microinvalidations trivialize and dismiss students' experiences telling them they are being too serious or "playing the race card."
To help students successfully move from dependence to independence, we have to help them reprogram their brain's academic mindset and resetting their safety-threat system so that they don't get upset every time they try to stretch themselves academically with new challenges. 

We need to validate students' emotions and experiences. Hammond cautions us not to trivialize what students' experience or feel when she writes, "We don't trivialize issues of racism, language discrimination, or socioeconomic injustice that show up in the media. Instead, we use these events to remind students that they are not crazy or being overly sensitive when they experience microagressions." This reminds me of the importance that we listen and observe our students and learning environments carefully--we want to be attuned to what is going on, and respond in ways that elevate students' ability to move from dependence to independence rather than to stay mired in an academic mindset and behaviors that don't allow them to move ahead.

Self efficacy is essential. Every year I focus on the story, The Little Engine that Could. In many ways that little engine demonstrated the I think I can academic mindset, a mindset that positively motivates the way a child thinks, acts, and learns. It's imperative that children understand the value of effort when it comes to academic success, and they also have to believe and know that they are capable of success. Small, incremental successes are the stepping stones to developing a positive academic mindset--children build self efficacy by doing and experiencing success, not by hearing positive words. 

Students must be able to see and understand mistakes as stepping stones to success. How to positively deal with mistakes has to be an open topic in the classroom. Students have to see learning as the process of creating new learning paths, and getting better in ways that include making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. 

Hammond gives us lots of ways to help learners develop a strong, positive academic mindset. First, she reminds us that we must help students develop a positive narrative about themselves as a learner. Often I'll tell students about education myths that abound in the culture--myths that tell us only some can learn or myths that equate success with ease rather than hard work. We spend time talking about why many myths the culture holds about success are wrong and what is right instead. This helps students to better develop positive academic mindsets. The chart on page 116 that shows the difference between a fixed mindset and growth mindset is important to show to and discuss with children in this regard as well. 

Work with students to find and display visual images of success--let them choose the images from magazines or online, and have them tell you why they chose that image and why that image illustrates success. Rather than focus on negative events in the class, make time to acknowledge students' display of a positive academic mindset with phrases such as you ask amazing questions, I love the way you persevere in your learning, and I am inspired by the way you think about mistakes and use them to help you learn more and better. Use the phrase, "neurons that fire together, wire together," to support student share about their areas of success and strength, and then use those personal areas as ways to inspire students' success with tasks that are challenging and/or new, and coach students out of negative self talk with actual strategies such as the "back talk" strategy where students write down their negative self-talk statements, evidence that it is not true, words that positively rephrase the statement. 

Hammond, at the end of this chapter, writes, "Through the process of validation and critical examination of dominant cultural messages, you can help them develop critical hope and recognize their true potential." This is a powerful statement that makes me want to be more attune to the details of the school day with regard to the words students are using about themselves and each other, their physical and verbal responses to one another, and the many ways they can develop to be better self advocates who use self efficacy to succeed. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

What does good character look like at school?

To focus on, expect, and exemplify good character at school is a gift to your students that keeps on giving. When individuals embrace and display good character they generally have better lives, lives that attract good people, positive events, and success.

What does good character look like at school? I felt that the list above is a good starting point, and below I've listed some ways we can make good character visible at school. 

Availability: To be present for our students means being ready to listen, respond, and ready and willing to help when needed. 

Brave: When we witness events, words, or actions that disrespect, negate, or exclude our students, we have to speak up.

Content: We have to continually learn on our own and with others in ways that allow us to update our content so that it's honest, inclusive, and representative of the good knowledge that exists in our world--knowledge that helps students to create a strong foundation for future learning and positive effort. 

Dependable: We have to offer what we can give and then follow through with that. We have to be careful that we don't promise what we can't fulfill, and we have to be there for our students when they need us. 

Empathetic: Before making any decisions or commentary, we have to listen, observe, and put ourselves in the shoes of the colleagues, students, and families we are working with. We have to ask more questions than making conjecture about people's situations, needs, and interests. 

Forgiving: We all err, and typically most of our errors are not intentional. We have to be ready to forgive those around us that make errors and apologize for the errors we make too. 

Generous: We don't need a lot to be happy, and we need to give what we can when we can to help others.

Humble: None of us have the monopoly on knowledge, skill, or abilities--we are all works in progress that with good effort and intent generally make promising progress. With humility we know that we typically do better when we work together.

Industrious: Laziness does not develop us or what we can do for our world or others. Hard, smart, focused work does pay off.

Joyful: We have to make time to celebrate all the wonder small and great that is around us. Stop for five minutes in the classroom each day just to look around and notice the beauty in children's actions, creativity, words, and expression each day.

Kindhearted: Make acts of kindness a daily effort beginning with a smile, kind-truthful words, and helpful actions. 

Loyal: Be true to your words, support the people and initiatives you work with and for with honesty and care. 

Mannerly: Good manners are a sign of respect. Be patient, listen, say please and thank you, wait your turn, and speak with care.

Neighborly: Teamwork matters--work to be a good team member and support a positive team. 

Obedient: Follow laws, protocols, and policies, and if you don't believe in those laws, protocols, or policies, transparently work for positive change. 

Patient: Don't rush to judgement or push your wait to the front of the line. Take your time, listen, and wait for your turn. Don't rush students also, every child has a just-right speed when it comes to development, task completion, and interest. Be respectful of that variation.

Questioning: When something doesn't make sense, ask questions first rather than rush to judgement. 

Responsible: Do the expected work, pay your bills, complete your tasks.

Self-Control: Take a deep breath, count to ten, go hard on the problems not the people. 

Thankful: When you wake up in the morning and got to bed at night reflect on a small number of items, people, or events that you're grateful for. 

Unwavering: Make the time to think deeply about who you are, what you believe in, and your contributions. 

Virtuous: Be good and do good.

Wise: Surround yourself with intelligent, experienced, positive people via real time interactions, the work you do, where you volunteer, what you read and what you listen to or watch--that will put you on the path to wisdom. 

Excited: Find the work, activity, and people that excite you, and use that excitement and enthusiasm to fuel your good work and contribution that's possible. 

Yielding: Hone your skills to discuss and debate issues of importance with respect, knowledge, and care, and be prepared to yield when you learn more or better. Also be prepared to compromise in positive ways when differences cannot be reconciled. 

Zealous: Find that which creates a positive zeal for life, and use that zealous energy to forward the good possible. 

Recently when watching John Warner discuss green chemistry, he spoke about the survival of the compatible. To encourage good character in yourself and others is to build a world that is mutually beneficial to each of us--this is a positive direction for people and our world today. I do believe we can all do better, and working for good character is one way to move in that direction. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trump Times: What's an American to do?

To have Trump as president is like resigning yourself to staying in a bad marriage, job, or any other circumstance. We don't have to stay stuck with an errant, weak, lazy, and disrespectful President of the United States. To be the President of the United States is an important job, and to be satisfied with a leader who uses shaming, blaming, lying, exaggeration, name calling, and disrespect rather than do the positive, hard work of leadership including reading, research, collaboration, negotiation, compromise, and civil discourse and debate is a waste of our hard earned tax dollars, time, and potential.

No President of the United States will be perfect, but a positive President of the United States will be bright enough to recognize that they need a diverse team of best and brightest Americans to work together to forward our country in the ways possible. Trump's use of important jobs as prizes for those that donate the most money or go along with his errant, self-serving policies and decisions also wastes our money, wastes our time, and wastes our potential. His revolving door of cronies and family members that come and go in the White House weakens our country's foundation. Nepotism and cronyism are not hallmarks of strong, forward moving leadership, but instead examples of me-first, superficial, ego-driven work.

So what is an American to do during these times--how will we remove such a dangerous, weak, and lazy leader from office? This is what I am doing and will continue doing:

  • Research the issues of the day and as well as you can support those who forward the best policies, laws, and action to promote the best that our country can be. 
  • Support candidates with words, dollars, and time that you know will make a positive difference in the lives of all Americans not just a wealthy few. 
  • Do your own work and live your own life in the best ways possible--ways that elevate good living for yourself and those you work and live with.
There is no excusing Trump's poor behavior, behavior that's unacceptable on a school playground. He's a poor example for our children, an undisciplined leader, and a far cry from the good leadership we deserve for a country like ours that holds such great promise for good living today and into the future. We can do better, and we must all work for that end. 

School Year 2019-2020: Ready for a Great Year

In a few short weeks, the new school year will begin. Summer study is drawing to a close. Participation in the Wade Science Institute science program, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain book study group, and our grade-level teamwork related to our environmental education partnership with Drumlin Farm as well as our upcoming work related to math performance tasks, scheduling, data analysis, the curriculum map, and the nuts and bolts related to a positive teaching year creates a positive preparation for the year to come. I've done a lot of thinking about the year's schedule and focus too with regard to mindset and positive personal patterns. As I thought, I recognized that the following elements are essential for a successful year.

Don't book every minute of your time
Free time is critical to my happiness and good work, when I'm overbooked I don't do as well for anyone including myself. A positive weekly pattern that leaves good time to think and efforts related to personal health and happiness is essential.

Get away
My family planned a few significant, short getaways to break up the challenging routine that teaching presents. To book ahead generally saves money and to get away is always good for perspective.

Focus on the essential goals
The year's essential goals have been identified:

  • SEL: community building and supporting students' social emotional learning
  • STEAM education
  • Math education
  • Reading inspiration, encouragement, and teaching
These are my focus areas this year, and as I focus on these areas I want to pay attention to the state's focus which is teacher expertise and deep, engaging, standards-based, effective learning experiences. The state has provided many supports to develop this focus too. As I focus on these goals, I will notice past learning experiences and processes that have been successful and repeat those approaches and I will look to better experiences that are less successful on my own and with colleagues.

Listening and Collaboration
Fortunately I work in a school system with many bright, dedicated, and experienced educators. I want to make time to listen to their ideas, seek their mentoring, and develop our work together for the benefit of students and their families.

Give what you can and bit more
Teaching is a limitless job that can leave you tired and discouraged if you don't pace yourself. Committing to a 10-hour day with about eight hours with time on task with students and the remaining time for prep generally is a good schedule for me during the work week. It sounds like a lot, but that's what it takes me to do this job. Most days in the past I've exceeded that time, so this is a realistic goal I want to adhere to.

Professional Learning
This year I'm not signing on to a lot of extra learning outside of the school system learning events and my routine of daily reading, thinking, and learning with books, online resources/exchange, and school-centered learning efforts. I want to focus my professional energy mostly on the priorities above at school and at home. I will make sure to sign up for a couple of professional learning opportunities during the school year, however, opportunities the school system generally supports and pays for.

Next summer
I didn't complete all the efforts listed on my ambitious summer learning list, so next summer, I'll likely focus on website and Google doc organization so that the good curriculum materials I use are easy to find and share with others. 

Overall I expect the year ahead to be a positive, joyful year of positive service and partnership to and with the students, families, and colleagues I learn and teach with. I know that good work as an educator makes a positive difference in lives, and I'm committed to doing what I can to contribute. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

We Can All Do Better: A Strong and Positive United States of America

As I've noted before, I cannot stay quiet during Trump times because his leadership is an affront to what I value and the vision I have for the United States. My vision is for a country that works for betterment for all with the will that everyone has an opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Grateful for those who forged promising paths for our own lives: I feel strongly about this for many reasons. First of all, in my own life, I have reaped the rewards of the hard work of people past--thanks to those who fought for women's rights, I can vote and I had the opportunity to get a good education and dedicate myself to a positive career as an educator. Unlike teachers long ago, I am able to teach and have a family too. There was a time when female teachers had to leave the profession once they married or had children. Similarly, thanks to our United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, I am freely able to share my thoughts, practice my religion of choice, live a lifestyle that's honest to who I am, and be apart of many strong and vibrant communities near and far, online and off.

Recognize the strength that diversity brings to our lives: I also feel strongly about my vision for the United States because, in my own life, I have experienced the strength that diversity brings to one's life and community. I have profited from collaboration with colleagues, family members, neighbors and friends' diverse perspectives, lifestyles, and experiences. I believe we do better when we embrace our diversity with an eye on what's best for each of us--we don't have to live exactly the same, but we can live in ways that positively support one another's needs and interests.

Make better for the people that live amongst us and come after us: I understand that we are a people and country that needs to continually evolve to get better. I've noticed how humanity is a magnet that pulls us forward over time. I know that the more we work to better the lives of those that come after us, the better our country and world will be. Just because I had to endure struggle in some areas of life, doesn't mean those that come after me should endure the same struggle--we should all work to better the paths of those that come after us, and that work requires humility, sacrifice, and a will for betterment.

Become adept at civil debate, discourse, and compromise: As we govern ourselves, we will rarely agree, and that is why civil debate, discourse, and compromise is essential. Great leaders over time are leaders who have been able to entertain multiple perspectives and work for compromise. To become polarized is to stagnate positive evolution and development. No one has the monopoly on what is best, but we can all work together to make better. Though challenging to be open minded to the many perspectives that exist, it is right to be open minded and to engage in civil debate and discourse to arrive at common purpose and result that is humane and proactive for humankind.

Fight against hate, discrimination, violence, and disrespect: We cannot stay silent in the face of hate, discrimination, violence, and disrespect. The reality is that we all have a right to be here, and we all have a responsibility to work for as much peace and care for one another as possible. To think that someone is radically different from you with regard to their rights, opportunities, or humanity is simply ignorant. As so many of us have learned in our families, community affiliations, and work, to strengthen those who face the most challenge in life is to strengthen all of us. We cannot accept racism, classism, sexism, or any other discriminatory ways.

Be humble in all you do: None of us have the monopoly on knowing and doing the best, yet we all have potential to contribute our talents, energy, resources, and time to make better. This contribution will vary from person to person and from time to time. We will all face times of great capacity and times of little ability to contribute.  We must do what we can when we can, and be humble with the knowledge that we can never be or do it all.

Do your homework: There is a lot to know out there about what is right and good for our country and its people. That's why it is imperative that we do our homework and share what we know with as much truth and accuracy as possible. We can't be satisfied with quick-fix sound bites, but we have to dig deeper to understand the ideas, laws, policies, and protocols presented. We have to fight against our primitive instincts for quick fix solutions and make time to truly think about the depth and complexity of a situation. More than anything, as we move to an increasingly interdependent international society, we have to focus on how we communicate, make decisions, and connect to one another in ways that are proactive rather than destructive. I see this as an unsurprising evolution because over time the people on Earth have become much more intertwined, and I expect it won't be long before our international society is dealing with people from a cosmic society. It seems to be a predictable evolution.

Don't become discouraged or overwhelmed: The complexity of this increasingly interdependent society can be confusing, overwhelming, discouraging, and frightening. Ideas are moving at lightning speed, connections are great, innovation extraordinary, and the ability to keep up with it all impossible. Life isn't as simple as we'd like it to be and clearly superficial, quick-fix solutions are not going to move us ahead. Instead, this seeming chaos is calling us to push inward to get strong with fundamental human values such as caring for one another, caring for the planet, and especially looking out for those who face the greatest challenges and needs in life. Rather than embracing a spirit of competition amongst the world's people, what if we embraced the common goal of uplifting life for each and every one of us? What if we worked for peaceful, clean, and happy communities the world over? I believe that's possible, but because it sounds so simple, people belittle the notion. If everyone embraced this mindset, we would see positive change. I know it.

I'm called to write about these times and the potential we hold as a people for betterment because I have been the recipient of many people's will and effort to make better over time. My life is good because of this positive energy and effort. If it's possible for me, it is possible for all the world's people. We don't have the time for hate, greed, disrespect, and violence because that only holds us back from the great potential for betterment that exists. The lives each of us lead are short, and we have a choice to devote our lives to making better or invest in greater greed and demise which does no one any good, not even ourselves. I can only imagine that those who dedicate themselves to such negative pursuits simply go to their graves full of regret rather than satisfaction that they've lived a good life for themselves and others.

I'll use the tenets above as we continue to struggle in the face of errant leadership by Trump and his self-serving cronies and family members. I am working for a better day with good leadership at the helm--I know great potential exists, and I will support the good and gifted leaders who will take us in that direction.

Betrayal: What to do?

Of all the human events, betrayal, I believe, is one of the most painful. You put your trust in an individual and that individual acts with deception and betrays you. I've had this experience in my life, and I never realized until I experienced that how painful betrayal is.

I don't think one can avoid betrayal that happens to them, but I do think that sometimes good people can fall into the trap of betraying others without truly understanding what betrayal is, and what it does to others. Perhaps I am naive, but when I was betrayed, I think it had a lot more to do with an individual's cowardice than a will to hurt or hinder me.

I believe that when people are cowards, they act to protect themselves rather than to speak up for what is right and good. These people, due to their lack of strength and cowardice, are always acting to protect themselves rather than work to do what is ethical. And, as they protect or gratify themselves, they do not think about others, and how their behavior impacts those around them.

After that betrayal, I've been a lot more transparent about what I think and what I do. I don't want to be betrayed like that again so I publicly share my decisions and rationale when courage is part of the equation. It's not easy to speak up for what you believe is right and good, but if you only do it silently, it's much easier for others to manipulate you or betray you. If your advocacy is more public, people know where you stand and what you stand for. This public advocacy and effort makes it more difficult for people to betray you and work against you.

Further to publicly acknowledge who you are and what you stand for forces you to continually consult your ethics, mission, rationale, and work to make sure you can stand by what you do and why you do it. When you put yourself on stage via social media, speaking aloud, or sharing your efforts, you have to be ready to stand by it with a sense of pride, commitment, honesty, and belief that your actions and words illustrate who you are and what you believe at that moment in time.

To be transparent like this also means that you have to be willing to acknowledge when your words and acts require revision as if you are an individual committed to doing well, you will continual evolve and as you evolve your efforts, words, and beliefs will change somewhat. The world keeps changing and dedicated individuals have to change with it to do good work.

Betrayal is painful, and it's something you don't want to do to another person. To be courageous; to speak up and stand up for what you believe; and to honestly try to do your best in any circumstance will make it less easy for others to betray you and ensure that you don't betray others too. Onward.

Data Analysis Matters: Teaching Math Better

I took a few moments to assess student informal and formal data points related to the math program recently. I am still a fan of a healthy combination of informal and formal assessment points to determine who is making progress and who, I believe, can make more or better progress. As I looked over the data, I have the following questions.

What is the best course of action for students who are consistently one to two years behind the class norms with regard to skills, concepts, and knowledge?
My reading points me in the direction of providing students like that with a consistent Response to Intervention (RTI) program five times a week with a same skilled educator who step-by-step works with a child or small group of children to help those children acquire the missing skills, concepts, and knowledge. I believe this should be in addition to a one hour a day scaffolded core program that integrates these children in deep, meaningful, and engaging project based learning and other types of learning experiences.

What is the best way to employ RTI for students who struggle, but are close to grade-level standards.
I believe that the best course of action is to match these students with skilled professional staff who work consistently several times a week to build these students perseverance, skill, concept, and knowledge in the areas where they need greater depth and understanding. I believe that these students should be taught with the premise that educators are leading them from dependence to independence and deep knowledge in all expected areas of the curriculum. This approach should include regular, quick, and targeted assessments to inform the educator in charge and support the child's progress.

How do we help students who are already meeting or exceeding grade-level standards?
These students are typically quite independent and motivated with their learning. Using a learning menu that includes a combination of online/real-time practice/learning opportunities as well as engaging, deep, and meaningful project based learning is an apt way to continually challenge and develop these students' interest, skill, and potential in math.

As I think about our past programming, I believe that we have been successful in the following ways:
  • Teaching all standards
  • Engaging students' interest
  • Providing thoughtful, engaging learning menus 
  • Integrating engaging project based learning
  • Providing substantial extra help opportunities
  • Providing helpful enrichment opportunities for students
  • Substantial time-on-task with math
  • Regular assessments to analyze progress and need, and to inform students' of their progress
  • Lots of one-to-one and small group math conferencing
Ways that I believe we can improve includes the following:
  • Matching our most challenged students whose formal and informal assessments demonstrate that they are one to two years below the grade-level expectations to the most qualified educators rather than teaching assistants on a regular basis
  • Providing more consistency of structure, educators, and time with regard to their service delivery
  • Fidelity to service delivery
  • Re-looking at their program schedule and making sure that the most challenged students are learning more than they are being tested. In some cases, due to the time it takes these students to complete a test, they are actually testing more than engaging in worthy learning opportunities
  • Re-looking at assessments and changing the way we assess some students to better inform our teaching program for those students
  • Finding ways to provide skilled extra support for students who do not have at-home academic support. For example, if families cannot provide transportation to extra help sessions, how can we ensure that students who would benefit can have access to extra help sessions?
A good analysis of multiple data points with a collaborative group can help you to see where your programming is strong and where it can be better. Last year I noticed that a small number of capable students did not perform well on multiple assessments. A hard look at those students pointed out to me that they did not have enough practice opportunities. This year I added a lot more practice opportunities and noticed that students like them did much better overall on multiple assessments including an informal assessment about focus and attention during class. This was a positive result of good informal and formal data analysis.

Next year, I hope to do the following:
  • Work with colleagues to rethink and reorganize the Response to Intervention (RTI) approach to provide an earlier start and more consistent, skilled support with a focus on individual student's areas of needs. I imagine the RTI revision to include some or all of the following:
    • Most skilled math teachers work with most challenged math students consistently 2-5 times a week for 30 minutes each to grow their math skill in consistent, developmental ways.
    • Other skilled math teachers work with small groups of students who are progressing towards meeting standards. This work involves a developmental approach to learning and solidifying essential skills, knowledge, and concept that is weak and expected for the grade level.
    • Remaining students work in homerooms with a scaffolded online learning menu that provides both online/offline learning practice opportunities to strengthen their grade-level and enrichment skill, concept, and knowledge. These sessions are managed by skilled teaching assistants. 
    • Students are placed in groups at the start of the year, and assessed at the mid-year point to determine whether there should be movement.
    • All students attend core math time and work w/a variety of standards-based learning experiences that are scaffolded so that everyone can access the learning and develop their knowledge, skill, concept. 
  • Rethink the way we assess students who are already one to two years behind the expected grade-level standards. Make sure we are teaching more than we are assessing.
  • Pay careful attention to scheduling to ensure that all students are getting enough time to study math with a goal of one hour a week plus at least two extra 30 minute periods a week. I'd like to add three more 30 minutes periods a week for our most challenged math students.
  • Continue to employ learning menus and craft those menus in order to give everyone a just right challenge and plenty of practice opportunities.
  • Develop the teaching program in specific areas where most students did not perform as expected. 
  • Embed more project-based, scaffolded learning opportunities.
  • Focus on the movement from dependence to independence in all we do.
  • Discuss and maintain good assessment protocols so we can relay on those formal and informal data points as accurate measures of student engagement, mindsets, and learning.
  • Make sure that staffing puts the most skilled math teachers with students who need the most help, and that those who are assisting the learning at the grade level are well versed in the math curriculum. 
There's always room for improvement. We can't rely on our subjective analysis alone as we improve our programs, but instead, a good mix of informal and formal assessments can help us to look deeply at the learning program's strengths and challenges. I enjoy using summer time to step back and take a big picture look at what we do well and how we can improve in the year ahead--that provides a good path for teaching well.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Trust your gut

The older I get, the more I learn to trust my gut.

That doesn't mean that you should readily follow your gut, but instead it means that you should take your gut seriously, investigate the situation, and act accordingly with respect, care, and good work.

My gut tells me that the United States is in trouble with our racist, lazy, me-first President--he does not exemplify the values that makes our country strong, and, as far as I can see, he is unfaithful to his oath of office and should be impeached.

In my life, I have experienced much smaller versions of trump-like-leadership many times. Each time my gut has told me that what I was experiencing was wrong, corrupt, troubling, inefficient, and in each case, after struggle, that was proven true.

So, in summary, don't disregard your gut--listen to it, investigate, and act with respect and care to do what is right and good with others who have similar desire for integrity and respect. Onward.

Teaching Prep: Routines, Materials, Clothes, Food, Schedules, Initiatives . . . .

Teaching is an intense profession. The day starts with a bang when twenty-plus children enter the classroom and then it ends with a sigh eight hours later when the last few students leave to go home. Of course there's the addition of early morning and afternoon prep, planning, and meetings too. How can teachers prep for this intense schedule during summer months?

It may sound crazy, but to have the just-right clothes for teaching well matters. Every teacher will define "just right clothes" differently, but for me that means mainly play clothes--clothes and shoes that allow me to sit on the floor, explore the forest outside, paint, create, move freely, and play. Having a good collection of the right clothes for ease of wear helps when it comes to teaching well.

Teaching makes you hungry, and it's important to have lots of healthy choices available for lunches and snacks during the day. It's also important to have a couple of good water bottles with your name on them so that you're drinking water during the day. Having a place to store your water bottle, snacks, and lunch helps too. Too often teachers may get too busy to prepare healthy snacks & water, but that's essential when it comes to good energy for positive teaching.

Positive Patterns: Sleep, shopping, and more
You don't bring sleep to school, but a good night's sleep definitely helps you teach better. Having positive daily and weekly routines help to make sure you get the sleep you need and the food, clothing, and other items you need too. Amazon can be considered a teacher's support personnel because having needed school items shipped right to school saves time and energy, which in turn, allows more time for sleep and your personal life too.

Phone Calls
It's almost impossible to make phone calls during the school day so summer is the best time to set up appointments, plan field studies, and do any phone calling that requires wait time.

Healthy Patterns and Routines
It's good to decide on what your routine will be during summer and they work to stick to that routine when the school year starts. For example, people ask you to meet at all kinds of times outside of the work day. If you want to reserve time for exercise, your family, or other personal events, it's good to put that time on your schedule before school starts and let people you work with know that it's a time you cannot meet.

When I was a young mom with children at home to care for, my husband and I gave each other one night off when we could work late and catch up with friends, errands, and other matters. On our night off, we didn't have to prepare meals, carpool, or do any of the home chores--this was really helpful during those years when we were balancing intense school/work and home schedules. I recommend this idea to young families.

Choose Priorities
Good Teaching calls you to be every-person--there's limitless opportunities to get involved, but the truth is that if you stretch yourself too thin, you don't do anything right. Hence, it's important to choose where your priorities will be for the year ahead and then try to stick to those priorities leaving other areas of school life for those who have prioritized those areas. For me, my focus in the coming year includes the following:
  • optimal fifth grade math teaching/learning
  • optimal fifth grade science/STEAM teaching/learning
  • facilitating successful reading workshop and student-teacher conferences
  • SEL at fifth grade including a focus on teamwork, showcase portfolios/metacognition, culturally responsive teaching (movement from dependence to independence for every child)
  • Advocacy and effort to enrich our greater team's collaboration and research-based efforts to elevate successful learning for every child we serve. This includes revising RTI, deepening/bettering work we do with interventionists, and developing our environmental education efforts. 
Our school will be working on many more priorities, but I'll leave that work to colleagues who are invested in those decisions and that work. Having priorities helps you to choose well when invitations to join committees, initiatives, and other work arrives at your door. 

Of course the new year will bring unexpected opportunities and expectations, but to be prepared to be your most professional, energized, ready, and focused self sets you up for success and good service/partnership for the children, colleagues, and families you work and learn with. 

Learning Frameworks: Readiness for Rich Learning

As I dig into the details of specific learning opportunities for students, I am aware that it is essential that I establish positive classroom routines so that students are able to dig into these learning opportunities with creativity, collaboration, investigation, and meaningful result.

Setting the stage for rich learning is essential.

How will I do that?

Room set up
Soon I will go into school and set up the classroom. It is essential that every child has both personal and collective spaces for learning in the classroom. Our room will include the following spaces:

Student Drawers
Every student will have a draw for their personal learning items. The drawers will be marked with student numbers.

Student Hook & Rack
Each student will have a hook and rack for their belongings and bags. The hooks and racks will be marked with student numbers.

Team Tables & Supplies
At the start of the year, each child will be assigned to a team, and that team will have a table. On that table will be a collection of shared learning supplies. Student names will be listed on a sign on each table.

Math Space
This area will be the place where most math supplies are stored.

Science Spaces
Area for most science supplies

Reading Nook & Play space
A space with comfy chairs, book baskets, a toy basket, rug, and other creative  materials. There will be three conference spaces set up in the classroom--one for myself, one for the teaching assistant, and one for specialists/interventionists that work in the classroom.

Presentation Space
A space for student/teacher presentations with a white board and related presentation materials/tools.

Recess Basket
A place for recess toys.

Outdoor Learning Space
An area on the playground with a picnic table and plastic Adirondack chairs.

Essential Classroom Routines

Reading Workshop
Students will practice related routines at the start of the year including how to choose/return books, choosing best reading spaces, using quiet voices/silent voices, asking for help, and meeting with the teacher. At the start of the year, we'll spend considerable time practicing how to successfully make time and space for everyone to happily read.

Math Study Routines
Students will also practice the math study routine which will include the following events:

  • 5-10 minute prep: read the prep list, get your supplies, complete intro activity
  • 5-10 minute introduction
  • 30 minute exploration
  • 10-15  minute closing/share and clean-up
We will practice this routine for several days in a row until it is solid. I've never been a teacher that has stuck to a similar routine often, but I'm realizing that it's much easier for us to deepen the learning and teaching when students are used to a same routine--the kind of routine that makes everyone feel comfortable and allows them to reach, risk and collaborate more and better for deeper learning.

Science Study Routine
Similar to math, I want to establish a steady routine so we can deepen the learning. The routine will be similar to math:
  • 5-10  minutes prep/warm-up
  • 5-10 minute introduction
  • 30 minute exploration
  • 10-15 minute share/clean-up
Again, like math, we'll practice this same routine often so students remember and follow the routine well. 

Start-of-Day Routine
  1. Hang up coats, bags
  2. Read morning message and schedule
  3. Follow morning message instructions and see the teacher if you have any pressing questions, notices, or materials.
As I read the book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, I've been thinking about how to take students from dependence to independence. I know that one way to do this is to establish positive routines and a good classroom set up. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Ambitious Summer Study

It's clear that my summer study list was a bit too ambitious. Fortunately I completed a few significant study goals and there are others left for future days. Time to adjust the list, make it more reasonable, and move on.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Chapter Six

A quick look at chapter six last week alerted me that this was going to be a rich chapter for my teaching/learning year ahead. That's why I took the reading slowly and translated the chapter's essential points into the mini-posters below for my classroom. I typically tell students that they are in the driver's seat of their education and that I am there to serve them. I often say, Can you believe they pay me to serve you! Then I encourage the children to share what they need with me. I also work with each child in a give-and-take manner to help them reach for and work towards learning goals with a large number of strategies and classroom efforts. While I believe I do much of what Hammond proposes in chapter six, I know that once I get started with the year I'll likely return to this chapter. In the meantime, I'l focus on the mini posters below as well as other related empowering student and alliance material on a related website.

Cheerleaders for Betterment

To make better, you often have to dig deep to get that energy to go the extra mile, do the additional work, and reach for the important details and specific efforts that lead to betterment.

For some, there is great drive for betterment due to their personal experiences. In some ways, I drive like that propelled me to teach and strive for betterment as an educator. As a young student myself, I noticed so many ways that schools could have better served students especially students who struggle. I wanted to get in there and make a difference for students like that. My personal experience gave me a front row seat to the despair some children experienced in schools of old which led to the drive I have to make schools better.

We see people with drive that came from all kinds of personal experiences, experiences that have allowed them to understand what communities and individuals need for better healthy, educated, peaceful lives. It is their personal experience of witnessing or experiencing struggle and their belief that we can makes things better that results in the drive that leads us forward.

When that initial drive is met or if the challenge is steep, there's a need for support, encouragement, and cheerleading to continue the ascent to betterment. It's almost impossible to continually reach without the camaraderie of good people to work with you and cheer you on in this kind of work. It's essential that we also reach out to support the many who work for betterment and in and around us every day rather than those that tear at the fabric of good living and positive potential.

Too Much Trump

People everywhere are tired of Trump and his me-first tantrums, rants, and theater. In fact, when you bring his name up these days, many will hold up their hand and say, "Stop! I can't listen to anything about that man anymore--I'm doing my best in my life to do what is right and good, I can't take him on."

It's difficult not to speak up when a leader's words and actions are as negative, disrespectful, dangerous, and hurtful as Trump's words and actions. The way he lives, decides, and acts stands in opposition to those of us who value hard work, collaboration, creativity, intelligence, empathy, and care. To watch a national leader make fun of the disabled, demean young congresswomen of color, stand passive while White Nationalists march, support tearing young children away from their families and housing them in cages, promoting simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions for complex problems, hiring friends & family members rather than best & brightest experts, and using name calling, shaming, and blaming rather than civil discourse and debate calls me to speak up and work for better. We don't have to stay satisfied with a President that displays such poor character, lack of knowledge, and little good will with regard to hard work, compromise, and solving complex problems.

Believe me I don't want to continually point out Trump's weaknesses as the President of the United States. I don't want to point out time and again how a lack of good regulations in our country allows a man like him to manipulate the financial institutions for his own gain while not paying the bills he owes or thinking more deeply about the value of his investments and who he does business with. But, history shows that when people are passive in the face of slick, self-serving marketeers like Trump who appear to skirt and/or break laws and lead for their own favor rather than what is right and good for the people they lead, devastation occurs.

Many say to me that they don't speak up because their voice doesn't matter. They say, no one listens to you-you have no power. I respond, if everyone thinks that way, then dangerous leaders like Trump will persist, but if everyone does their part by speaking up and acting for good, honest, collaborative, intelligent, and people-centered leadership and actions, our country will not only continue, but will even grow stronger as a world leader and ally for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Trump is definitely too much--too much media, too many lies, too much exaggeration, too many poor choices, too much wasted time, too much wasted money, too many self-serving decisions, but we have to work persistently to rid our country of self-serving dangerous leadership like Trump, his me-first Republican cronies, and self serving family members.

Speak up. Act. Work for betterment. We can do better, and this betterment relies on all of us now! Don't stay satisfied with these self-serving, discriminatory, abusive leaders--we can do better!

Are you a lazy leader?

What does it mean to be a lazy leader? How can you avoid that trap?

First of all, I consider all people to be leaders of places great to small for large groups of people to small groups of people. Moms are leaders, dads are leaders, teachers are leaders, neighbors are leaders, and of course, our administrators, bosses, managers, service providers and elected officials are leaders. We are all leaders in some capacity, and we all run the risk of becoming lazy leaders if we don't do the good work of worthy,  positive leadership.

If you're a lazy leader, what do you do?

Lazy leaders blame, shame, name call and disrespect rather than doing the good work of leadership.
Lazy leaders point a finger at the problem, but don't work well to solve problems. They use ridicule, disrespect, and name calling to blame others for the problems that think. Using either-or think, these lazy leaders simply point to the "bad guys" and blame them for the problems that exist.

Lazy leader rely on easy-to-get knowledge rather than do the hard work of reading, research, and working with the best and brightest experts related to specific issues.
Lazy leaders think they know it all. They're satisfied with quick searches or hearsay rather than doing the hard work of investigating issues with an eye on positive win-win solutions.

Lazy leaders don't reach out to fill their organizations with best & brightest, instead they rely on cronyism and nepotism.
Lazy leaders simply hire those they know and favor rather than people who are true experts related to the problems and opportunity that exist.

Lazy leaders don't respect research, knowledge, or education.
Because lazy leaders think they have superior intelligence they put no value into continued learning, critique, civil debate/discourse, compromise, or shared decision making. For lazy leaders, it's typically "their way or the highway" which means they are satisfied with narrow minded, single focus decision making.

Lazy leaders never own their error, but instead blame others.
Lazy leaders never let on that they don't know what they are doing as that would take too much time. Instead they hold themselves up as the brightest and best covering up any error by blaming that error on others.

Lazy leaders are dangerous leaders
Lazy leaders slothful, lethargic, me-first ways create a dangerous path for the organizations, groups, and communities they serve. Similar to any uncared for individual, structure, or event, lazy leaders' poor leadership weakens the foundations of communities, organizations, and groups because they don't keep up with the times, attend to the essential elements, protect, or develop. When weakness occurs, lazy leaders just leave the structure or organization to rot and move on to topple another place, person, or event. Lazy leaders self interest and unwillingness to work hard puts all in their midst at risk.

Everyone has the potential to be a lazy leader. Thankfully when we surround ourselves by good people and good organizations, we help one another to avoid laziness in favor of diligent, positive effort. To further avoid laziness, we can do the following:

  • have an open mind to new ideas, new people, new processes
  • read, research, listen, learn daily
  • be humble and honest--own your errors and work to better who you are and what you do
  • work with empathy, compassion, and care
  • go hard on the problem, not the people
  • acknowledge that no one has the monopoly on truth, knowledge, and good work, and typically it is what we do together that is best
  • use ambition to boost mission, do not work for your own ambition alone
There is too much at stake in our families, communities, and organization, to be lazy or choose lazy leaders. Look for and be hard working, positive, collaborative, respectful, creative, and curious leaders--the kind of leaders that history will look to as examples of what we can be and do to positively move lives forward. #wecandothis.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Challenge of our times: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for ALL!

The challenge of our times is to be active in ways that promote a positive agenda for our world today and our world tomorrow while also working to be the best you can be with regard to your family, profession, and community. The potential with regard to these challenges is limitless--there is so much that we can do to forward the good and make better in today's world. This limitless proposition can be overwhelming at times as one matches the potential with the limitations we do face--limitations with regard to time, energy, connection, money, proximity, and more.

So as we figure out our vision and our work, we have to consider both the limitless potential we hold and the limits that create boundaries/direction to that work--the ebb and flow of positive, creative work. Where do we start?

Start with self
What can you do to empower yourself with sufficient energy, money, time to do good work? What kind of lifestyle puts you in a position to do more than just meet your basic needs and interests? What are the elements of an empowering, positive daily routine? While this is not difficult to know, it is sometimes difficult to live up to for all kinds of reasons. Generally slowing life down, living more intentionally, and prioritizing what's most important helps you to take good care of yourself. Critical components of this work includes the following:
  • safe environment
  • nutritious food
  • adequate sleep
  • optimal health care (including dental)
  • exercise, movement
  • positive recreation
  • daily learning
  • green living
Next, those you love and care for
How do you best love and care for those around you--how do you help them to live best possible lives? I offer the following:
  • emotionally and physically safe environment
  • nutritious food
  • healthy activity/recreation
  • adequate sleep
  • positive learning at school and elsewhere
  • concerted cultivation--helping those you love be their best possible selves, selves true to what they desire, need, look for
  • acceptance
  • presence
  • listening
  • making space for them in your life in ways that matter
  • support for their interests, vocation,  talents, yearnings, and the people they love
And, community
  • act for emotionally and physically safe environments
  • voting
  • political action
  • volunteering
  • staying abreast of community activities, efforts, needs
  • doing your part by keeping your home, environment, efforts clean, green, and proactive
  • sharing your talents, abilities to help develop, better your community
  • positive, inclusive, timely political advocacy and action
  • voting
  • volunteering/stepping up to serve on committees or related positions
There's so much that we can do to better who we are, whom we love, and where we live with regard to positive development, good living, and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

It's a step-by-step, incremental effort that scales when everyone is on board with this thinking and action. I'm hoping the days ahead will show us that Trump and his family/cronies' poor example of living/leadership stands as an example of who not to be and what not to do. I'm hoping that Americans use these self-serving individuals' efforts as a catalyst with regard to what not to do, who not to be, and how not to act. Let's hope that Americans do not give up on our Constitutional laws and freedoms and our country's values to be a strong, independent, freedom-loving, inclusive people who work together for the best possible living for all. I am hopeful this will happen soon. I am hopeful that this painful Trump-era will end leaving us all with the knowledge of how quickly our ideals and potential can be lost if we let selfish, ignorant, weak, lazy, and dangerous people gain positions of power in our government, organizations, communities, and homes. We can do better. 

Incremental Change: Inch by Inch

Often I've been coached to think about incremental change rather than big-idea change. As a big-picture thinker, it's been difficult for me to be satisfied with incremental change, yet as I watch politicians and organizational leaders stifled by ideas for change that are too-big and too-controversial, I find myself desiring an inch-by-inch effort towards change or, as it is well known, incremental change.

First, as I think politically, I'm wondering about win-win solutions to current problems that are inch-by-inch or incremental such as the following:
  • Medicare for all children 0-6 for starters
  • Sustainable, humane communities for people awaiting legal processing at the border
  • Positive peaceful decisions and collaboration with countries that we struggle with 
As I think more specifically about my world of teaching and living, incremental changes that are positive include the following:
  • simplifying my home object by object with the use of freecycles, Facebook marketplace, Craigslist and other sites that help you give away or sell items you no longer need
  • using free cycle sites to obtain non-plastic storage bins, cabinets for school to help create a more green, more welcoming, and resourceful learning environment at school
  • growing my own food at home
  • moving towards a greener lifestyle, teaching/learning community with products I purchase, activities I engage in. . .
  • focusing in on the learning experiences I facilitate, lead at school to make each learning experience richer/deeper, more responsive to the students in front of me, and more meaningful
  • working to build stronger connections with positive effort rather than challenge connections with too much critique
Incremental change, that inch-by-inch, step-by-step change matches Belichick's successful "chunk-it" strategy for his winning team, The Patriots. I think this is a good focus for moving ahead at this point in time with regard to living, teaching, learning, and the positive politics of inclusive, people-first change and development. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

White Rose Inspiration & Warning

I read about the White Rose, a student group that stood up to the Nazis on a professor's bulletin board at a local university. The words reminded me of the fictional story I read last year about the Chinese Revolution. In both stories, young bright lives were extinguished because they spoke and/or lived their truth--a truth that didn't hurt or harm anyone, but a truth that threatened the authoritarian regimes at the time.

Trump's hateful words and reactions to those that speak and act their truth reminds me of these heart breaking stories, and makes me want to shout out from anywhere I can that we can't be complacent in the face of such hateful ridicule--words/actions meant to silence those with new ideas. Instead we have to entertain & forward new ideas using civil discourse and debate with the focus on bettering the path of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Unlike trumpians who feel that there is only room for some to succeed in life, I believe that we hold the potential to find win-win solutions to life on Earth--solutions that pave the way to good living for all. I believe that a lack of imagination, weak collaboration, lack of discipline, and an unwillingness to work for a positive, peaceful vision is the wall that prevents this good work.

As we think of that giant wall of ineffective action, thought, and mindset, a wall not unlike Trump's simple-minded, one-size-fits-all solution to the complex immigration/refugee situation at our southern border, we recognize how weak we are, and how we have to work better, do better, and collaborate more with imagination to forward our good work and potential for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

What we know is that humanity continues to move towards greater and greater positive solutions for good living. While it's a two steps forward, one-step backwards path, data shows us that overall we are headed in a good direction. We also know that we can do more and do better to move forward with harmony and positivity.

Trump and his self serving #gop cronies and family members still hold the mindset that only a few can succeed, and as for the rest of us--they will death and poor living to those who cannot serve their wealth, recreation, whims, and interests. They don't care about most of us and that's easily illustrated in their lack of support for the environmental, healthy food and food systems, good schools, economic equity, optimal health care, and positive infrastructure--instead they lead mostly to elevate their bank accounts, egos, and power while tightening their club-like membership to the group of super-wealthy, elite, and privileged in the world.

We need to work against this inequity in society with our words and actions. We have to be more intentional about who we support with the money we spend, places we go, and people that work with and for us. We have to aline ourselves with those who truly care about a good life on Earth for all rather than a few. There's limitless ways to do this.

Today as I spend a day in a beautiful place with a loved one, I'll think more on this. I welcome your thoughts in the meantime. Each of us can probably come up with a number of simple and more complex actions to better aline our lives to supporting peaceful, collaborative, good living for all. For starters, I plan to do the following:

  • learn more, support good people in ways that I can
  • live with personal responsibility
  • cut ties with businesses and individuals who support discriminatory actions and officials
  • green my own lifestyle as much as possible
  • use good sense, commitment, and care in my own work and living
I will grow my efforts as I learn more. I welcome your ideas and insights.