Learning in Public

eat-at-joes

I got to have a long-breakfast-lunch-time with a treasured colleague who’s become a heart friend last week. Thanks to a once in a blue moon Wednesday holiday from school, he – from the East Coast – Brooklyn – and me from the West Coast – LA – were both free with nothing to do but hang out together and talk about our journeys since last we sat together.

I am always inspired by this mountain of a man. He is fresh, he is genuine, he is kind, and he is so smart and engaged he always lifts my spirits, brings me new learning and in all sets my heart a loft with heady ideas connected to the real world.  I am better because of our connection.

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Me with the Mountain – Cornelius – and my girl Demi

He got to talking about something he had done with a school that wanted to work with him. He gave a dozen of their students GoPro cameras to wear around all day.  Then he, and the administrator watched the footage.  You can imagine. They learned ALOT!

 

Talk turned to family. Back to our work. Well, it is not just work. It is LIFE the work we do. Getting to be involved in the educating of young people is nothing short of a gift. A great big huge beautiful wrapped gift that our growing body of understanding unwraps each and every day.

Then the topic of learning arose – as it always does. But this time was different.  This time, he said this:

I’ve become interested in the idea of learning in public.

 

Wait.

 

What?

 

Don’t you just love that?  And don’t you also feel a little on edge even considering DOING it?

When are we asked to learn in public?

SO much of our professional lives after school are about asserting our skills, knowledge, and abilities.  But this. Learning In Public!

What a courageous challenge!

The thought of it helped me hone my beliefs about learning.

Here they are:

  • Learn.
  • Even when it’s hard. Maybe, especially when it’s hard.
  • Repeat.

Sometimes people think you’re less-than when you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to learn publicly.  Sometimes people don’t understand.

And yet, we ask students to do this each and every day they come to school.

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I think it is important teachers and parents alike remember what it is like to do it. To learn publicly.  We need to know it in our bones. Because we ask the small people. The newest people. The just-now-becoming-people to do it every day when they step in those school gates.  We want them to learn. We want them to learn publicly.

We must be there to support, to honor, to cherish and to reflect their courage and brilliance right back at them as they do.

 

slice of life

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for a place to share my writing and thinking. I am better for you as well!  For more small moments, check out their blog.

Posted in Child Matters, Learning, Step up, lean in, lead., Teaching, thoughts | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

View from the Principal’s Office

 

PFgarden960-e1383594298644Being a Principal is

amazing

challenging

different than anyone can imagine. As different as being a teacher REALLY is than what everyone thinks it is. Teaching is a profession many think they could do. But it’s kind of like how you were such an amazing parent all the time…and then you had kids.

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Being a principal is like that. There is just so much you can’t possibly understand or know before you step into the job. And much of it I can’t even write about here. There are laws about confidentiality. Protocols and procedures. They’re good mostly. They protect the people we serve.  But I can share that the sheer daily demands are really quite remarkable.

Being a great principal means you live and breathe it. You love it so much. You care so deeply about the students in your charge – you will move heaven and earth to make certain they succeed.  You care too about the teachers who work in your building. You support teachers each and every day. You get them what they need. Work a problem through together. Share what you know and hope to grow practices so that students benefit.  It’s really all about students benefitting.

You listen to parents and work to help them provide the best possible education their children can possibly have.  Families have BIG things happen. You counsel, you listen, you explain, you educate, you listen some more. You provide options and make plans. You give and you hold your ground. You follow policy but most importantly you serve. Being a great principal means you’re really good at serving others.

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You work with employees who have challenges and problems and diverse personalities, skills, backgrounds. and expectations. You work to help everyone get along, but more than that – you work to help everyone work together. You support. You lift. You buoy.

People don’t always like you. In fact, some people genuinely dislike you.  Sometimes it’s the position. People have fractured relationships with education – with “the system.”  It’s hard for them to see the people who are working hard for their children, their community, their world.

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We serve them too. Sometimes they take a lion share of our time. It’s okay. It IS the work.

Other pressures bear as well.  Building & Grounds, neighbors, facilities, signs. Did you know the crossing guard will not be on duty today?  (Who hires the crossing guard? The city? The district?  How do we contact them?) People are double parking again. Can’t you DO something about dismissal?

“We need to alert parents to two incidents of illness.” How do we work the all-call system? Who will send the message?

preparathon

What if there’s an emergency? Can you all-call from your phone? Do we have enough supplies? Who will search and rescue?

What is the policy on cell phones for students? Who enforces it?

As the principal, you’re the go-to.

Staff members aren’t getting along. Can you weigh in? Can you help?

A parent is angry that a teacher “hasn’t taken care” of her child.” What will you do about it? Why aren’t you doing anything about the students in room 201?

The district is calling. They have information for you about getting the new program you put in motion months ago up and running. Could this culminate the months of work you and others have put into this assessment that will help students’ growth?

Someone’s opened surplus textbooks you boxed up last summer to be sent back to the warehouse. Now you need help to get them cleaned up again. Have to issue the order for them to be picked up. How many boxes now?

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?

The plant manager makes you aware of a bathroom issue. Students are making a big mess.  How will you handle this? Class by class?  Whole school?  What are the possibilities?

The trainer you contracted is coming Thursday. Create a schedule. Get the copies made – holes punched. What room will you put her in? Are the subs hired? Do teachers have a schedule? Have we let them know yet? DO we have good subs? We don’t want a day without good instruction for our kiddos.

Is the website out of date again? Who will update it? Maybe I can get a little more done on it today. We want a Facebook page.

Remember! Payroll is due today (Again? These emails are coming daily now.)

Alta Sea, that exciting new research facility that wants to partner with schools in our community has arrived. Can we get connected to stream the research they’re doing into our classrooms? How can we partner?

Stacks of papers await action. Some await filing.  I like the ones I just have to sign. Those allow me to feel accomplishment.

A parent wants to be my friend on Facebook. Do I do that? How do I feel about that?  What does that mean?

Talk with a colleague who’s applying for a principalship. She has an interview on Friday. After work, we discuss how it might go. What questions may come up? Drill down to the essentials to showcase her skills and abilities. Hate to lose her to another district.

Presenting at a conference on Saturday. Doing research and some work with students this week before that.

I’m determined that I will continue to be involved in the instruction of students. I walk classrooms each and every day. I talk with students, teachers, and parents every day.  I wonder. Is it enough?

 

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Teaching chart we worked with today in our Staff Meeting.                                                   Improving our Teaching a Lesson and a Child at a Time.

 

Every staff meeting this year will begin with instruction because THAT is the heart of what I do. Of what WE do.

As a principal, you never really leave your “kids” at school.  They’re always on your mind. You awaken in the middle of the night thinking about the thing that happened with that parent, that child. that teacher.

Being a principal is amazing, challenging, and different than I could have imagined.

SOL with website

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for a place to share and a reason to write each week.  Click here to read more SOL moments.

Posted in Learning, Passion for teaching, perceptions, Principal, SOL2016, Students First | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Anatomy of a teaching point

I received this text from a colleague this morning:

teaching point - how

What is the “how” in this teaching point? She queried.

I read the part right under “Name your teaching point.”

I thought about it. I have not read this entire lesson.  But I do know this. Often times the HOW to a lesson by Lucy Caulkins and the folks over at Teachers College can be found in the part of the Reading Units of Study lesson right before the “Active Engagement” part.   It’s when they say something like this:

“Students, did you notice how I…” then they describe the exact steps they took to do the thing.

Kate and Dana over at Powerful Choices taught me this tip. They’re helping our staff to hone our instruction in reading and writing by creating crystal clear teaching points that kids can replicate.

I responded to the text like this:

The “how” (to support yourself as a reader when reading for main idea in non fiction text) is to (1) jot down the strategies you already know how to use,  (2) choose one, and (3) try it with the text you are using.

But another beauty of this work is that another reader or writer who teaches readers and writers may create the “how” differently.  It depends on you, your process, your students. There is room in the work to “outgrow your own best thinking, as Lucy Caulkins once said.  I appreciate the encouragement to continue to grow as a learner and a teacher and a person.

I love the Reading Units of Study. I love the Writing Units of Study. They are the result of so much careful work and research across years by some incredibly dedicated, well studied, in-classroom educators with many students. They are complex and rich and can be difficult to use straight out of the box. We need to be having conversations about how we are using them, but we do need to use them. We lift the level of our instruction every time we do.

 What would you say is the “HOW” of this teaching point? 

How do you read non-fiction?

How do you support yourself as a reader?

 

 

 

Posted in Passion for teaching, reading, Students First, Teaching, Teaching Strategies, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Let’s talk about Pokemon Go!

Educators are always looking for an in.IMG_0696

Here are a few reasons we need to know something about Pokemon Go! before our students return to school this fall.

The technology!  This is Google Maps and Google Earth, coupled with a very intriguing GAME. Every kid likes to play. Adults do too. Not sure? Check out the local park and shopping zones during a Pokemon Go event!

The technology. (Again!)  I’m a huge believer that content, learning, and purpose should drive instructional delivery. Technology should not necessarily be used in the classroom simply because it’s cool. When technology advances a learning purpose in a significant way. I’m all in. 

That said, this technology, geo-located-augmented reality is engaging. Seriously engaging. But it is more than that. A person can learn ALOT about their environment simply by playing the game.

Want to really engage in the sites of import in your town?  I’ve learned so much about historical and significant sites. And not only in places I’ve visited this summer but also in this small seaside town where I’ve lived in for 27 years. All while playing Pokemon Go!  I’d forgotten about the all the astronaut plaques along a local street. And I hadn’t realized there were new art installations. (Check out the Kalpa by Hoon Kwak at Angels Gate Cultural Center.) I’ve also learned there is a National Geodetic Survey benchmark disc from 1978 in town. 

(Side note: I caught my first Pokemon – a common Zubat, in Rome this summer. Talk about content! I learned about far more of the ancient sites in the city from the game than I did from the tour guide!)

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Saint Rocco? See the arrow in the upper box? Click and it’ll tell you. (It’s a beautiful church.)

We must use technology that is at the cutting edge of what is possible. This is the world our children are growing up in. And it is growing and changing exponentially.  Our children can navigate better new technology seemingly without effort.  

We know they’re going to come back to school having learned something about this new game.  I’m guessing it will be a popular personal narrative topic for many of our students.  

Bring it on! Let’s talk about it. 

Let’s be ready to listen to their thinking, hear what they’ve been learning and capitalize on the phenomenon.

Parents can capitalize too!  See this great post by Erin Brownfield of Ed Source.  And this is a timely post by Nick Statt over at The Verge.

How might you envision engaging students captured by Pokemon Go! this school year?

What else do YOU want to know about the game? The technology?

 

Posted in games, Students First, Teaching, thoughts, Uncategorized, Yes | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Culmination 2016

dolphin heart

It has been nearly an entire year since I first walked through the gates of the Sweetest Little School by the Sea to serve as the Principal.

It has been a year filled with so much wonderful my heart can hardly contain it. There have been celebrations and new connections created. Collaborative conversations have developed and grown into year long relationships that serve to buoy our students and lift our community. We have had bumps and falls as well. We expect this. Learning and growing is not for the faint of heart. It is for the courageous, tenacious and strong.

I am inspired by Scott Rocco over at Evolving Educators to share the remarks I made at my first fifth grade culmination as Principal. He so generously shared his from this year at his high school. I love listening to graduation speeches as schools across our great nation close for the academic year and students take big steps with ceremonies marking the important work they have done at school.

Like Scott, I do not share these remarks because I think they’re awesome. I share in hopes others, too will share and we can celebrate the positive culmination of the heavy lifting we have done together as a community of educators. Here is my contribution to this chorus.

dolphin balloon

I’m guessing that as you sit here today you’re thinking, “Didn’t I just enroll him in Kindergarten?”  “Didn’t I just drop her off for the first time?”  And truly, you did.  

I learned recently from that great research journal, Facebook, that we only get our children for 940 Saturdays from birth to high school graduation. So, I did some extensive calculations of my own and came to this:  From birth until this, their fifth-grade culmination, you have already had them for well over half of that.  You’ve had them for about 572 Saturdays. That’s right. So now, just 364 to go.  

Don’t blink! 

Before you know it they’ll be off to college and careers and will consider themselves full-fledged adults.  

But now here they are, completing the first real milestone of their educational careers. 

How they have grown. 

In the year I have known them I have had the great privilege of watching these fifth graders grow into stronger, more confident students taking on responsibilities as well as a few of the attributes we expect of adolescents.  

I am proud to be standing here today as I complete my first year as principal of the Sweetest Little School by the Sea with my first culminating class. And yet, I know I cannot be prouder than you, the family members here today. This is an event worth marking. It is the first of I hope at least two to four more commencement-type ceremonies in which your child will participate. (Middle School, High School, Undergraduate degree, graduate degree… five…doctorates?) This is a most beautiful beginning.

Now I would like to speak directly to the 5th-grade class.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Sir Winston Churchill.

Today, June 9th, 2016 is the day that you, as a class, are going to be promoted from the fifth grade. But you already know that. Still, have you really thought about it? Do you understand what it all means? The official definition of the word culminate is to end or arrive at a final stage. That’s it—the whole definition.  Not very impressive, huh?

I think culmination means more than that. It means you have grown, changed, and you are now ready to move on. School provides for this moving on, but much of the change, growth and readiness has to do with your attitude and your choices. Your six years of elementary school have been a time to of great growth for each of you. You began elementary school as a near baby – only five years old. And here you are, ten or eleven. And from elementary school you will take with you the memories that you’ll hold onto for the rest of your lives, not just a certificate or report card, but also rich experiences, lessons learned, friendships forged. 

Getting to this point involves not only your effort but also the combined effort and support of many people. Think for a minute about all the teachers whose classes you have been part of. Think about the office, cafeteria, yard, transportation and custodial staff. I encourage each of you to take a moment during your last day here to say a heartfelt thank you to at least one person in each one of these positions who has supported you.   

Now, take a look out here at the people who have been your greatest support, your families. You could not be here today without the support of your families. Class of 2016, please stand up for a moment and applaud for your families. Families, we thank you!  (Please be seated.)    

I have a challenge for you, the class of 2016, and parents, we’ll likely need your help too! When you enter college about 370 Saturdays from now, run to the bookstore and purchase one of the pennants from your school. Sent it home to PFMSM.  We’ll celebrate and be so proud of you. And we’ll line the halls with the pennants from you, the students of our great school by the sea.  

Students, as you leave our school, may you find your feet solidly grounded in the experiences you had here. May you spread your wings, try new things, have adventures and great successes. May you also know that sometimes you will try and not succeed. But you can only fail if you stop trying. So persevere, dolphins. Try and try again. You will always be part of the heart and soul of this school, your elementary school. 

We congratulate you on this milestone, and we look forward to hearing of your adventures when you come back to visit. Go out and make us proud! 

Big hugs and thank you to colleagues who shared prior culmination remarks with me, some of which are woven into my own, the indomitable Dr. Sandra Winchell and the amazing Lisa Saldivar!

Posted in celebration, Child Matters, culmination, Principal | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

It’s What’s Up

Wye_Marsh_Honeybee_Swarm_new_hive

The school site is a hive abuzz.

We have reached the apex of our year together.

Students sit, heads bowed low over texts and computers. Pencils scritch-scritch-scritch with thoughts and responses, working to show all they know on high-stakes standardised tests.

apex

Teachers have laid it all on the line. Anxious. Hopeful.  Pressure. Stress. 

We know what this time of year means for the school we love so much. For the students we have built into year-end kindergarteners, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth graders. We want them to shine as brightly as we see them.

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Parents too are feeling the build. Expectations pile up. We meet them, mostly. When we miss it pains all involved. We reach to exceed. We reach to excel.

Students feel it too. They misstep. They struggle to comply.  They know the day by heart and yet. G. runs away from class up the steps and tries to hide.  Sometimes we all want to do that. And when you’re not yet six you actually can. We understand. We worry.

This is the time of year for deep conversations. Doors are closed for the sharing of private concerns. Individual needs and fears. Disquiet.

Sometimes the pressure threatens to cook us. We sweat. Our hearts pump harder and louder.

But we take deep breaths. We smile at each other. We trust.

you've got this!

Someone says, “You’ve got this.” We believe in each other and strengthen our communion.

We remind each other of the real reasons we come to this sacred place each day to do the best work, the most important work. The work we are each called to do.

We work to build people. These people are so new to our planet. Just five, six, seven… the eldest is eleven.

Junior school children leaving school

We know what matters. It is each child who walks in every day through that gate in the front of the Sweetest Little School by the Sea.

 

Posted in Child Matters, Passion for teaching, Principal, Step up, lean in, lead., Students First, thoughts, Truths | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Cloudy Afternoon

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Dishwasher lulling with its low

harummm rum rum

 

Slight chill through

through the space in the open sliding glass door

 

blankets cover two

a cozy “L” on the couch

Read aloud

Poems by Jack to Miss Stretchberry

bring thoughts of the dog,

My Buddy

back

in the house

I left two years ago

 

Gazing out across the city from this third story apartment

at this seaside town

I love so much

I see a WALL

move through the harbor

down the channel

toward Angel’s Gate and the open sea

stacked deep and wide

with containers bound for China

 

Brinnnn brinnn brinnn

in the distance a helicopter circles the coast

Dishwasher drains

Whoosh, Glurp, Whoosh.

 

Eyes close

Quiet breathing

Rest

 

 

 

Posted in poetry, Small Moment | 4 Comments