How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden rocks 2018So many exciting things happen on a school campus.  It’s hard to keep everyone “in the loop”.

One of the most exciting things happening on our campus this school year so far is the garden which is taking shape.  The garden is on a part of our campus which wraps around the rear of the school’s property.  It’s been an unsightly space for decades, a true eyesore in a neighborhood where beautiful views abound. Our school sits at the mouth of Los Angeles harbor. We can see cruise ships, container ships, sail boats and tug boats come and go all day from our campus. We look out on Angel’s Gate Lighthouse from the front and with a quick walk, we see Catalina Island.  It’s a glorious place, with an ugly back side.  That is until this year.

This year, one person decided to make a difference.

He set out to change the back of our school. He set out to create something beautiful where there were only rocks and weeds, broken bottles, trash, and some dead ivy before.

garden sept 2018

Here is a snapshot into what it is taking to make this happen:

  • Working with facilities to get the water lines repaired and functioning to water the area until the native plants are well established.
  • Months of hot, back-breaking work tearing out all of the weeds.
  • Coming back again and again.
  • Digging out the path
  • Provide funding, look for funding, secure funding.
    •     Donations for the garden welcomed!
  • Getting the decomposed granite (DG) ordered & delivered.
  • Unloading the DG and packing it into the path.
  • Marking places to dig for the native plants to go in.
  • Digging out all the holes.
  • Getting help with digging out all the holes.
  • Clearing away trash that accumulates over the weekends or evenings.
  • Weeding again.
  • There’s more to be done.
  • Include the teachers.
  • Include the staff.
  • Let parents know what’s happening.
  • Plan for a Saturday work day to get the plants in before winter comes.

Parents have started coming to help dig the holes where the plants will go in. Soon children will be helping to plant some of the small native flowers and shrubs.  Even now, children can watch the progress of this once wasteland space transform into a fully beautiful urban garden.

Truly one person can make a beautiful difference.

Image result for Lausd garden, esperanza

Click here to see one school’s vision for a bird & butterfly garden where students can study and learn in nature! 

How do you add beauty to your world?

How does your school community celebrate nature?

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for a place to share our stories.

SOL with website

Click here for more shared stories on all sorts of topics. 

Posted in Garden, Learning, make a difference, Principal, San Pedro, Story, video text | Tagged | 3 Comments

How Can I Help My Child Improve in Reading?

Image result for mom and dad reading a story togetherPhoto courtesy of Dads Read, Public Library Services

How can I, as a parent, affect my child’s reading life?

If you look on the internet you might come away with the idea that you need to heavily scaffold the reading your child is doing. That you need to set them up with questioning techniques, that you must teach your child to sound out difficult words, or to ask a lot of questions to check their comprehension.  But you don’t.

No. You really don’t.

Creating a genuine love of reading, which is what we aim for when building new people, is done as most anything is done. One step at a time. Gently. Carefully. Tended to with a heap of kindness, a pinch of reverence with lots of FUN!

Here is my recipe for creating readers who genuinely LOVE to read:

  1.  Children who are read to become readers. So,read to them often and regularly.  They learn the language of stories, the language of informational text. They learn that reading can show them the world.  So, set aside that extra 10 minutes each evening and read to your kid!  This is 10 minutes you will never regret investing in them.
  2. If they struggle with reading a text or with words, help them!  Let them know you know they can do it (read it!) but help them!  Compliment and lift them up. Let them know how proud you are of how they keep on trying. Everyone grows from hearing a compliment!  Give your child a compliment based on what it is they are trying. For example, “Christine, I hear you trying to figure out that word using what you see in the pictures! That’s such a great way of understanding this story. And you’re right. It could be that Gerald is ‘stopping’ Piggy!”  And then, if it makes sense…keep on going! This is how real readers read. They work things out as they go, making sure it makes sense as they continue to read.
  3. Talk with them about the things you are reading.  “I read the most interesting article today. It was about Fortnight. Have you heard of that game, honey? Oh, you have?  Well, the article was talking about how dangerous the game can be.  What do you think about that? ” What a great way to open up a conversation with your child AND show the power of reading as a strong adult reader!
  4. Introduce them to many kinds of literature. Start with a library, bookstore or yard sale that is selling used children’s books. Remember that you read all kinds of things from texts to magazines to emails to the latest best seller on the New York Times reading list to the informational insert that helps you set up your new appliance or device.  Sometimes you read for pleasure, sometimes for work, sometimes because you have to learn something.  Yes, youtube counts as reading at times! We call this visual text, and it too takes important reading skills.
  5. Let them catch you reading. And talking about books, articles, essays, whatever you’re reading!  “Did you see that article about XYZ today?  What did you think about it?  I was interested in the idea that….. ” This is a great thing for children to hear the adults in their lives discussing.  Can they get involved too?  Why not?  Everyone needs to think, consider and discuss important new information. This is a great way to involve your child as they grow up and help them become good citizens who have an understanding of issues facing our world.
  6. Make sure there are plenty of good book choices available for them. Don’t have a large home library?  That’s okay.  Visit the public library, local bookstore, yard sales, book giveaways.  Ask people for their old books.  Children flourish when they have a choice of what to read, and people to talk about what they are reading with.
  7. Make sure there is time carved out in each and every day for them to read and to be read to. Sometimes you’ll be too busy, or too tired or too done for this. But for the most part, five to six of every seven days, be sure you pull your child up in your lap, or next to you on the couch, and let them choose a story for you to read to them before bed.  Read the same loved story again and again. Children are learning so much when you do this for them. You may be completely tired of Goodnight Moon, Mrs. Pigglewiggle or Dogman, but read it one more time. Children want this repeated reading because they are learning the language of story, understanding the story in a different or deeper way, connecting to you and to the time of being close in meaningful and important ways.  I cannot overestimate the importance of this time spent in communion with your child.
  8. Show how important you believe reading to be.  (And if you don’t… think about the reading you actually do every day… is it email? texts? recipes? directions? … that’s reading too and you can bet its important!)  We could scarcely get through a day without reading.  Try it sometime!

So, to every over-worked, sleep deprived, amazingly loving and caring parent who wants to help develop a love of reading in your child.  Please don’t worry about creating a graphic organizer or asking all the right questions about your child’s choice of reading material.  Instead, pull them up in your lap and read them a story. Share a laugh over a comic strip or learn something new as you read directions on how to assemble something or learn to play a new game together.  Enjoy it! Have fun. Your child deserves it and so do you. And reading opens the world to you both.

Posted in Books, Child Matters, close reading, Family, Home, libraries, reading | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Courageous Kids

Image result for thomas the train backpack on a child

Image courtesy of melinda365 photography


We welcomed a new student to school today, on the eleventh day of school.

A kindergartener, who walked straight down the big front steps, into the two story building toward his classroom.  How he knew where he was headed I’m not sure.  He was way ahead of his momma and me.

In his uniform shorts and polo shirt, he strode across campus ready for the day.

“He’s not shy at all,” mom remarked as we followed along behind him.

His backpack looked empty. But he gave an air of confidence wearing it.  Thomas the Train I believe.  It is important to wear a backpack to school.  One simply must.

Suddenly his steps slowed.  We caught up to him. Turning his five-year-old body toward his mom, he folded in on her legs. And started to cry.

“I don’t want to stay at this school.”

“Come on, sweetheart, just take a look.”

Mom encouraged. I encouraged. We coaxed. He didn’t budge.

Mom took him outside the classroom and sat with him on the steps.  Do you want to go in and sit with him?” I asked.

“Oh no. He’ll be fine.” she replied. “Goodbye, honey. See you after school.” mom said as she kissed her son on top of his head and then headed down the hallway.

He continued to cry, but he did not run. He did not give chase.

Soon, he followed the staff member we lovingly call the “kindergarten whisperer” out to see the new playground and into his new class.

After recess I stopped by and he smiled a huge eye sparkling smile right up at me as he said, “I like this school.”

I do too, honey. And I’m so very glad you’ve come.






slice of life_individual

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Tuesday’s Slice of Life. For more check here.  

Posted in celebration, Child Matters, Small Moment | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Seriously Terrific Energizing Activities that Matter: STEAM Education at one elementary school in Los Angeles

AltaSea is a gem of a place located in the heart of  Los Angeles Harbor.  Here, professionals in the business world mix with educators and service providers and all sorts of folks invested in the marine environment and the “blue economy”.  This place and our little school came together lighting a spark that allowed for some magical learning with children.  Check it out here.

Students collaborate around their STEAM project. 

AltaSea guest blog

If you’d like to learn more about AltaSea, check out their OPEN HOUSE this September.

Click here to learn more about the Journey Project.

Be you. No one else can.


Posted in Learning, Principal, San Pedro, STEAM, Story, Students First, Teaching, Teaching Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


He was the kind of guy who leaned down and hugged you a little longer than you were comfortable with. He had big puppy brown eyes with lashes that every girl in high school was jealous of.  He was younger than my brother and I and one of my brother’s nicest friends. He was kind and generous. And he was passionate.

His wife, also a childhood friend was beaming and beautiful today. The picture of a woman at peace with what life has delivered. When she spoke, she honored him for exactly who he was to her, their family, and to the world. My favorite story she shared was of when he wandered off one day as they were at the gas station after she’d gone into the store for a soda. She looked and looked for him and finally found him, back behind the filling station sitting on the curb with a homeless man. He already had his shoes off and was putting them on the homeless man’s feet. Next, he took off his jacket and put it around the man’s shoulders.  Then he handed him twenty dollars and said,  “God loves you.”

Michael lived out loud.  He shouted his passionate beliefs from his Facebook page and everywhere he went.

Today he brought us back together again. People who knew us before we became us.  We searched each others’ faces looking for familiarity that after decades tends to fade. But the connection, the knowledge of one another remains, even after such a long time. Hugs were exchanged, words of affinity and remembering. People who knew you growing up are part and fiber of your being forever.

What a gift you were to all who knew you, Michael.  God speed my brother, my childhood friend.






Posted in celebration, Family, Home, Random Acts of Kindness, Truths | 3 Comments

THAT child


I read this blog post a couple of years ago  when it was first written.  I understood it then from a teachers’ point of view.

Today it was shared with me again and I realized I have a whole new understanding of it.  As acting principal I am in the unique place of being the last stop when parents find themselves completely upset and angry because one too many times their child has come home talking about an event at school.  They want to know what I’m doing about it. They want to know why nothing is being done. They want to SEE a change.

This post points out, from a teacher’s perspective some of the myriad things public educators DO when there’s a child who struggles. Truly, most children face a struggle at some point in their lives. Whether seen or unseen, publicly or privately, each and every one is struggling with something. I hope for each of our students that they are resilient learners. I hope that each child knows how very special and unique they are. I hope and believe that every child can learn and grow and excel. I know some get there more quickly. I know some walk through life more gracefully than others.

We are educators. We believe in the potential of every child. Even THAT one. My hope for each of the parents we serve is that their child is well served to the best of our capabilities. None of us show up to do anything less. Schools get terrible press. But we shouldn’t. The miracles that occur within our walls on a daily basis would surprise and delight even the most cynical among us. Often times the miracles are very personal to a child, to a family. We can’t always share the small miracles. We can’t always share the strides made. But we celebrate each and every one.

This evening I celebrate THAT child. And I lift up and hold EVERY child, YOURS, THEIRS, and OURS with the compassionate passionate belief that each one can and will thrive.


This is a favorite song, a sort of an anthem for this post. Truly, we are how we treat each other and nothing more.  


Note:  Amy, who wrote the blog post titled THAT child wrote a follow up for those who want to help. She was a kindergarten teacher who is now a principal at a school in Canada. Just thought you might like to know her ideas on how to help THAT child.

Thanks to Amy of MissNight’sMarbles for sharing her beautiful post and allowing me to link to it here.




Posted in Child Matters, Learning, parenting, Passion for teaching, perceptions, Principal, Teaching, thoughts, Truths | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Real vs. Fake News

Tonight I’m joining with Margaret Simon and the #digilit community to consider real vs. fake news and how we can educate our children to decipher the difference.

digilit sunday


The task is daunting.  It really is.

The Oxford English Dictionary  named the 2016 word of the year. “Post Truth”.  No joke.

As an educated adult with a master’s degree, and credentials, I struggled over the past six months to live my life, do the important work of school and students and teachers and parents, stay connected to family, and keep up with the media coverage of the recent election. It was unusual at best. It wasn’t until the dust settled that the idea of fake news began to rise to the fore. Many were duped. News stories flew. We trusted them as we used to trust Ted Koppel, and our parents or grandparents trusted Walter Cronkite to deliver fact-checked stories. Stories that were true.

But today, January 15th, 2017, we know better.

If you’ve ever been involved in a news story. You’ve ever been part of a story written and published by a credible news source, you understand the inconvenience and sometimes pain of inaccuracy. Errors in reported news stories are frustrating and disappointing. We depend upon our media to deliver. To deliver the best rendition of fact and evidence and truth they can. But they fall short.


SHEG works to help teachers teach students to determine fake news

Stanford History Education Group’s (SHEG’s) Sam Weinburg and Sarah McGrew published this article citing their research on how susceptible high school and college students are to fake news. It’s too easy, given current technology, to create websites and “studies” that purport news or statistics to support an agenda, but are not really “truth.”  SHEG has some great ideas about how to help students learn to question media to determine the credibility of the source, and accuracy of the information shared.

Think quote .png

Our institutions of learning cannot afford to do anything but jump head-long into the fray. We must learn, post haste, how to determine the credibility of a website, page, article or post. We must teach our children from the earliest of ages to question, inquire, and to think critically about what they read, see,  or hear.

This has always been the case, but somehow today it seems even more critical. It begins with educating ourselves about how to question. What more can we do? Here are a few tips:

  1. Read like a fact checker.
  2. Commit to checking the source of information before sharing online or in conversation as “truth”.
  3. Think about who the author is and why they are writing (filming, sharing) the information.
  4. Remember SNOPES?
  5. Including something we read on Facebook, or on a less than legitimate news source as truth in our small circles of conversation and growing body of beliefs can have serious implications. (Think Pizzagate.)  How about we decide to do better?  How about we decide to keep an open mind, check sources and slants?
  6. Check this NPR article on best practices for reading online.

How are you reading in the era of “fake” news?




Posted in close reading, digilit sunday, Truths | Tagged , , | 2 Comments