Saturday, September 26, 2020


 A friend discussed her teaching schedule with me. It was a good structure to follow. Educators know that the more that all the details of teaching and learning are on automatic, greater depth and personalization are possible. 

The same is true for any aspect of life--the more we have the nuts and bolts of living on automatic, the greater opportunity exists for richer, more meaningful living. 

What elements of living belong on automatic?

  • Chores/Basic Needs: Most of us grew up in homes with some kind of daily schedule that made sure all the needed chores for a clean house, clean clothes, proper nutrition, and good rest occurred. Making a schedule to complete these chores and meet basic needs is positive.
  • Time for Reflection/Decision Making: It's also important to carve out time daily or weekly to reflect, make decisions, and revise as needed. A reflective life is a more fulfilling, positive life.
  • Commitment/Investment in the future: As I mention often, my dad would say repeatedly, "A little for today and a little for tomorrow." You have to make time to work for your positive future in ways that are meaningful. This is the work you do to invest in the dreams you have for your life and the lives of your loved ones. 
  • Relationships, Rest, and Recreations: To avoid becoming a dull person, you need to invest time into relationships, rest and recreation. These areas need to be mainstays of your schedule.
Making a weekly schedule that includes these categories creates a positive pattern for living--the kind of pattern that ensures more happiness which helps to support good living. 

Teachers, Stay Safe!

 I am worried about some of my loved ones who are headed back into the classrooms this week. I am worried for the following reasons:

  1. Loved ones who are teachers have faced increasing illness in poorly ventilated schools over the past few years--these loved ones have had numerous respiratory illnesses when teaching, but not when school is over.
  2. Loved ones who are teachers have to use poorly ventilated restrooms shared by many.
  3. Loved ones who are teachers are working in classrooms with poor ventilation, windows that don't open, and little access to the outdoors.
  4. Loved ones who are teachers are working increasingly with children who are homeless and living in homeless shelters. Homeless shelters tend to have more transience with regard to who lives there and where they are from. This transience matches elements that lead to greater COVID spread.
  5. Loved ones who are teachers are still working with relatively large groups in tight classrooms with children from all kinds of families and all kinds of contact--the potential for virus spread is great in these small, poorly ventilated places for multiple hours a day.
  6. Loved ones who are teachers have to be in classrooms with unmasked students who are eating their lunches.
  7. Many schools are not providing masks or shields for teachers--this puts these teachers at greater risk.
I cannot understand why most schools think their environments are safe for teachers. In some very specific cases there is enough space, ventilation, and just-right numbers and little contact. These places may be safe, but in many, many school systems, I don't believe teachers are safe for in-school teaching. I am worried about my loved ones who teach. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Life lessons from Scrabble

 Scrabble like any contest or sport offers lots of life lessons:

  • The more you play, the better you get
  • You play better when you give the game 100% focus
  • When you doubt yourself or get stressed out, you don't play as well
  • There are many strategies for successful play
  • Pay attention to the opportunities that exist
  • Don't hold on to your valuables for too long--put them to use when you can
  • Don't squander your valuables, use them with intention
  • Overplay leads to less value--there's a just-right amount of play that's positive, and that quotient is different for everyone
  • Doing what you love relaxes you
  • When you do what you love, you meet people with similar mindsets, interests and that brings joy
  • Healthy competition is good for you
  • Have fun, don't take it too seriously

Make a loss a win

 As I listen to news reports about the challenges educators, students, and families face during the pandemic, the only advice I can offer is to make these losses wins in the following ways.

Where do you want to grow?

Think realistically about the current circumstances, and choose a few areas that you can use to grow students' academic foundations and your practice at the same time. For example, simply to inspire students to spend more time finding, reading, and reflecting on awesome books is a win-win during the pandemic. With lives and connections less busy, there is more time for reading or listening to books online. If the whole country could uplift reading, that would be a tremendous win during this pandemic. 


One problem we face in the world is that many cannot correctly interpret data and statistics. This hurts us as a people because it leads to poor choices wth respect to the leaders we choose, the policies we support, and the work we prioritize. Simply using news articles with stats and data is a good way to help students understand numbers better. This can be done from K-12 with articles that relate to students' interest and developmental levels. 

Student relations

Challenge yourself to listen to students, hear what they say, and respond with love and care. Virtual learning, in some ways, gives greater voice to individual students. Educators can develop their child-centered teaching skills and abilities with care at this time. 


Pandemic teaching requires that educators, parents, and students work closely together. This is positive and there is room to elevate this teamwork during COVID-19.

Lifelong learning

Identify the key skills, knowledge, and concepts students need to work on, and demonstrate to students why these skills, knowledge, and concepts are vital for their entire life. Then work with students to strengthen their learning paths in those areas--teach students how to learn, how to be flexible, and how to strengthen these vital elements to good lifelong learning. Let students know that their ability to be flexible, open minded, and hard working during this time will serve them well throughout their lives.

Our losses can ultimately be wins if we take time to see the promise in the problem, and reflect about what we can do at this time to hone our craft, serve our students and selves, and do good work that brings strength and happiness today and into the future. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Decision Making with Equity in Mind

 Shana White posted a profound tweet this morning. She created a shortlist for people to consider as they work for equity. This is a powerful shortlist that might be used in any situation where you are working to make an organization more equitable, just, and positive. As an educator, I often sat at a table with decision makers, working for greater equity and opportunity. Shana's list would have helped me a lot in this regard. 

I used her list to create questions that might help people in their organizations work for greater success for all stakeholders--these questions can be used when planning programs or other endeavors.


  • Will all stakeholders be able to access this program, event, or opportunity?
  • Which stakeholders may be distanced from this program, event, or opportunity?
  • What can we do to create access for all stakeholders? 
  • What opportunities are needed so that stakeholders are successful in gaining a meaningful, productive, and inspiring experience now and into the future?
  • What opportunities do stakeholders desire or need?
  • Who profits most with regard to opportunity, access, and experience with regard to current funding?
  • How can we analyze funding with an equity lens? 
Quality Resources
  • Does every stakeholder have access to quality resources?
  • What quality resources are essential for all stakeholders?
  • What resource inequality is at the center of inequity? How can we ensure that all stakeholders have access to quality resources? 
Decision Making Power
  • Whose voices are represented in decisons?
  • Do the voices represented demonstrate some groups more than others?
  • How can we change decision making processes and analysis to represent the voices of all stakeholders?
I can imagine this initial thinking to result in an equity analysis process that organizational leaders and workers use to make sure that their efforts represent all stakeholders in promising, positive ways. I will think more on this in the days ahead. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Why a mandate to teach from school is not okay

 Teachers throughout the country are opposing decrees that they conduct remote learning from their school buildings. I agree that this is a bogus, punitive, childish decree that disempowers and disrespects educators. Why?


First of all, teaching from school for some will be deadly. A teacher in Arizona who was teaching remotely from school with her colleagues did die from the coronavirus. She and her colleagues all got sick. School buildings are relatively small for the large numbers of staff and students they serve. Multiple staff members share small teachers' rooms, bathrooms, and other common planning spaces and machines. Also, sadly, many schools are outdated and unhealthy--there's been a lack of funding and investment in many school buildings which make those buildings deadly during a pandemic. This share means educators will be in the midst of each other often, and they'll bring their potential exposure to the virus from the multiple outside-of-school connections they have into the school building. This exposure will threaten educators' lives. 

Better Work

I worked from home last spring. I had the entire basement to myself with a desk, computer, and other teaching/learning tools. I had my own bathroom and kitchen nearby. I wasn't interrupted by multiple staff members stopping in. I could focus well on the work I was doing with students. In many ways, I was able to focus much more from home than I was able to focus from the busy school environment. Further I didn't have to spend time commuting, I ate great lunches, and I didn't have to worry about a number of issues/activities I would typically have to worry about if I had to go into a school building each day. 

Child Care

Issues related to child care are better dealt with when educators are working from home. Some decision makers worry that teachers will spend more time caring for their own children than the children they teach. This is so sad and troubling since this demonstrates decision makers' lack of trust or respect for educators' professionalism. Rather than getting involved with how educators manage their own homes and children, I believe it is important for systems to relay professional expectations for remote learning, let educators know what the expectations are, and then check in to make sure those expectations are met. Plus, when educators are working from home, their children's illnesses don't have to translate into a family sick day--many educators can teach while nursing a child who has a slight illness. Of course, more serious illnesses will require a family sick day. Also when educators are working from home, they themselves do not have to take as many sick days and there's no need for snow days either. There's potentially more consistency with remote learning from home than when educators have to teach from their school buildings. Obviously, educators with young children working from home, will likely have to hire some childcare too so they can teach. 


Some staff will prefer to work from school. To provide the choice to educators would likely result in just-right, healthy numbers of educators working from classrooms. Typically, when you give educators voice and leadership over their work, the decisions are solid, positive, and enriching for students, families, and the educators too. 

Teacher Leadership

Sadly, the pandemic has resulted in a blow to teacher leadership. So many making decisions and speaking about schools during a pandemic are leaders without classroom teaching experience. The way they discuss schools and their mission/vision related to education are often outdated, self-serving, and negative. To allow educators to lead their profession will result in more positive, effective learning programs that match pandemic limitations, health concerns, and students' amazing potential. 


There is confusion over childcare and education. While educators do care for children, their priority is to educate children. I believe that the country should have given every family with children under 12 making $200,000 or less a year a healthy childcare stipend. That stipend could have supported parents who want to stay home, relatives/friends who are willing to offer childcare, or safe childcare centers. This would have taken care of the childcare situation, and then I believe that schools could focus on what it means to teach well during a pandemic by prioritizing consistent, dynamic, healthy programs to promote the best of what children can learn and do in modern, brain-friendly, holistic ways.

Remote Learning

I believe that leadership should have looked for the promise in the pandemic problem. The promise for education was to look for ways to elevate the ability to teach remotely in creative, life-enriching ways. To maximize that promise for the relatively short-time that full-time remote learning will take place, would add capacity to schools into the future. 


Another promise the pandemic problem holds is the promise to uplift families in every community with good supports. Rather than focus on the school as the center of social services, communities could re-look at how they deploy social services such as good medical care, nutrition, quality homes, healthy recreation, safe neighborhoods, and childcare in new and creative ways that build strong communities and elevate responsibilty/ability for families to care for their children in positive ways. 

Sadly, I believe that many school systems and decision makers ignored teacher leadership when it came to decisions for teaching/learning during a pandemic. Had they put educators center stage with regard to these decisions with lots of choice, decisions would have been better and lots of time would not have been wasted. We can do better when it comes to leadership and decision making for top-notch education, and we must if we want to continue to educate children with quality and commitment.