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Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Long Wait for an Answer

For years I've been working with a group of individuals that don't adequately respond to questions. This has been painstaking since the time between asking and getting a direct, understandable answer is often weeks. The reason this is so painful is that there is so much opportunity lost within those weeks.

For example, recently I posed a question, a question that impacts the work I plan to do with students. I received a response that the question would be forwarded to others. Then about two weeks after that I received an answer, but the answer was not understandable so I had to ask another questions, and now I am waiting for that answer.

All of these questions lie in a similar area of work, an area for which I see tremendous potential for student investment, contribution, and growth. I notice that children who are privileged have ready access to this area of learning, but children without as much privilege or leadership in this area are left behind.  I know that this gap contributes to the opportunity gap that contributes to variability in student scores and later opportunity/success in life. That's why I care about this area of work.

Yet for years I've been met with one steep wall after another as I attempt to integrate this teaching/learning effort into my work in meaningful ways. What's a teacher to do?

I will do the following:
  • Invest in teaching/learning areas where there is positive support.
  • Continue to advocate for betterment in the area that is blocked through other channels at the state, union, and advocacy levels.
  • Be patient as I know, in time, what I wish for will be true since multiple other school systems are investing good time and effort in this regard and getting strong results. This will grow to a level where it will certainly positively impact my efforts too.
In general, in areas where the teacher's voice is left out or minimal, less good, positive change occurs. When educators are fully integrated into the decision making and good work possible for children, betterment occurs. I honor those leaders and colleagues who support the ready, positive, and consistent integration of all stakeholders' voices and choice in matters that impact student success. I know that I'm not alone in this regard. 

Better Living

I'm focused on better living these days. I'm focused on this at home, at school, and with regard to the broader world we live in. How do we move towards betterment in all that we do?

Care, Compassion, and Kindness
Way back I was a bit cynical about these words. I saw them as superficial and meaningless in many ways. Yet with years of study and reflection, I recognize the strength and power these words and actions hold--truly if we care with compassion and kindness, we contribute to betterment in our own lives and the lives of others. Recently I witnessed the great power of these words once again, and was once again both humbled and elevated by the strength of these actions. We can disagree, and we can do that with care, compassion, and kindness.

Stepping into Another's Shoes: Empathy
We have to make the time to step back and reflect on what others around us are experiencing. This is so necessary as we face new immigration policies. When it comes to any group of people, typically "one-size-fits-all," uniform decisions aren't good. This is so true for immigration since there's so much history, personal experience, and contextual matters that play a role in this situation. We have to be highly sensitive as a people with regard to our immigrant neighbors, friends, and community members--what we do today in this regard will affect the lives of many well into the future. Quick, one-shot policy or decisions, in this regard, can only be harmful.

Building Better
Focus on how we can improve our homes, yards, parks, playgrounds, schools, community buildings, sidewalks, and other public spaces is essential. When we live in inspiring, beautiful communities, we live with greater confidence, happiness, and grace. How can we work together to make improvements to our public/private spaces, and perhaps, we can use this betterment to create more jobs too.

Simplicity and Sharing
Most of us probably need about one tenth of the material objects we own. The less things we have to take care of, the more time we have for shared endeavor and deeper commitments. Looking at how we can share our wealth of objects, time, and talent is one way to move towards betterment. If everyone reaches out with their best skills, talents, property, and wealth--more will do well in our world.

Who can we support at home, in school, and beyond to better our lives and world. There are so many places that we can invest our time to better our situations and the situations of others. We need to think carefully about this and make sure we are investing in deep, meaningful work rather than superficial efforts. It's best if we think with others in this regard.

We can all commit to contribution--giving time and energy towards betterment for ourselves and others. As I think about this, I'm hoping to do the following:
  • Continue to support those I love in obtaining their positive dreams, goals, and pursuits in life. 
  • Continuing to work with others in the school community to maintain and develop the best possible schools--places where children are welcome, cared for, and learn with strength, skill, knowledge, creativity, and confidence.
  • Continuing to look for ways to contribute to my community with regard to betterment. This is probably the most challenging call since there is a lot to learn about with respect to how to get involved, contribute, and interact with the complex communities we live in. 
When I listen to the news, hear the stories of friends and neighbors, dream, and think, I see tremendous potential for betterment. I'm committed to betterment because I believe that we have the opportunity as a people to forward the good life for all, and there is great joy in that. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Evidence Driven Conversation and Decision Making

I have always been drawn by emotion, big speak, and generalizations.

My father-in-law would always respond to my big speak with the comment, "Where's your evidence?"

I was mostly stumped as I couldn't recall the specific fact, data, or analysis that led me to that conclusion.

Lately as I advocate for school improvement and betterment, I've been drawn into a deeper conversation about what works and what doesn't. Our decisions as a school community often draw on multiple resources that provide evidence for our decisions. Thanks to the Internet, I have access to all kinds of data and statistics to prove or disprove points.

For example, as I watched Trump and DeVos speak to a panel recently, Trump used a fact. It didn't seem truthful to me so I looked it up to find that Trump was correct. Yet, when he spoke about Sweden and violence in America, the facts he used were not supported.

We all have to bring the conversation deeper. We have to move from "sound bite debates" to deeper, more thoughtful speak, discourse, and debate about issues that really matter.

Trump won his campaign with sound bites that demeaned many and made him seem like he was the solution to the ills that pain many Americans, yet sound bites won't solve problems--good, deep, critical process will solve problems.

Intrigued by a conservative event that's happening soon, I looked up the website. I noticed a video on the front page spewing all kinds of bogus facts about why we need to support new gun laws. It was clear that the film was using techniques of propaganda to fire up the masses with respect to gun laws. Then I looked up the facts to find out that the film was truly exaggerating data and statistics to gain support.

As a people we have to go deeper, get stronger, and be more specific about our discussions, decisions, and solutions. We can't rely on sound bites, big speak, and loose conjecture. We have so much information at our fingertips and we have to use that information critically and work together with the experts to make good decisions.

If there's been any lesson with the new President, it's that we have to be evidence-driven in our decision making. We have to seek out the facts and truths of situations and use our best "collective genius" to solve problems, create, and innovate.

None of us alone know what's true and right for a country of such diverse needs, interests, and knowledge, yet I think we can all still agree that our common aim of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is where we can begin the conversation.

Americans United: Speak Up and Act

It seems like there are forces that would like to divide Americans at this important time in our nation's history. As a people we have to work against this division and come together to continue to build a strong, free nation with the goal of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all citizens.

As I think of the theme of uniting Americans, I'm reaching for our common denominators--what can bring us together as a people.

A Good Life for Our Children, Grandchildren
It's difficult for me to imagine any American who would choose policy or activity that would hurt or hinder our children and grandchildren's future. What can we do to make a good life for those that will live long after we are here? It seems to me that as we consider this, we must pay special attention to the following areas of concern:
  • Clean water
  • Fertile land
  • Good schools
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Basic rights of food, shelter, health care
If we look carefully at the data and statistics with regard to what is working for children and what is not, then we can begin to work on a child-centered agenda for our nation. 

Clean Water, Fertile Lands
To live well, we need clean water and fertile lands. To maintain our natural resources, we have to work with experts to make the best possible decisions for the short term and long term. Many want to turn their heads from this reality, but the truth is that countries that pay attention to this will be countries that maintain greater power and potential for the future. Short sighted, greedy policy will weaken our democracy. We have to work together in this regard.

Respect and Understanding of All People
America is and has been a nation of immigrants. Our diversity has made us strong. It's essential that we embrace this fact and work with it to provide "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to all of America's people. When we lead with only some in mind, we weaken our democracy.

Clearly Americans are interested in jobs. To me, this is one reason that Trump won the presidency We have to create these jobs with a forward vision of our country. If we work to create good jobs with good policy, we will make our country stronger. A forward vision of job creation may include the following:
  • More well-paying jobs in public service in order to care for people's shelter, nutrition, health and education. The money for this can be created by more equitable taxation with regard to those who make far more money then they will ever need.
  • More well-paying jobs with regard to protecting our natural resources--let's keep America's natural resources including clean water, fertile land, and beautiful landscapes/waterscapes strong, forthcoming, and beautiful.
  • Investment in jobs of the future--the kinds of jobs that will better our world including biotechnology, clean energy, space exploration, and more.
  • Most Americans agree that it's time to re-think our foreign imports, particularly those imports that rely on slave labor and exasperate the world's inequality. Bring jobs home, pay well, and as Americans, lessen our material wealth--we don't need all the material things we have. Instead we need to buy less, pay more, share more often, and enjoy better quality products--products made in America.
Strong Communities
We need to focus heavily on the welfare of communities using a contextual lens. Good quality communities in America won't be cookie-cutter communities, but instead unique and distinct representing the context of the people, their lands, and their needs. In this respect, the government needs to think carefully about both the distinct and common factors that communities need to prosper, factors such as good health care, clean and fertile natural resources, natural/human-made beauty/architecture that inspires, recreation, the arts, and entertainment. The government needs to respect each community's uniqueness and support the common factors of culture and good living that support "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." With greater automaticity comes the need for greater service to one another and a greater need for recreation, the arts, and education. Infusing communities with sustainable gardens, great bike paths, parks, libraries, theaters, and more will elevate all of us to be good people of the future who prosper in strong, distinct communities throughout the country. 

Global Partner
We are intertwined with countries around the globe. The key is to work together so that every country can offer their citizens good living. We need to work to be a good global partner. When the world's people are treated with dignity and have what they need, many of the problems the world faces today will go away. We rely on one another and it's integral that we work with countries around the world with that in mind. 

Our troubling leadership today is waking all of us up to the need to get involved, have a vision, and work together towards forwarding our democracy and the opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all people in America and beyond. I don't think that any citizen will argue with that. We have to be mindful of greed today, the kind of greed that is short-sighted and looking for gain for some rather than all. I don't deny individual ambition and the desire to do well, but I do worry about the kind of greed that takes and takes and takes without regard for the average individual--the many people that make up our wonderful nation and world. 

It's time for everyone to speak up and act with their best intelligence, understanding, and expertise-we cannot be satisfied with only a few making decisions for the many, but instead all Americans everywhere have to use their voice to make a difference. Our country and lives depend on it. 

Vacation Musings: A Busy Week

It's been one of those vacation weeks when I've felt like I've been in the center of lots of activity. This power-packed week began last week with a snow day, Valentine's Day, and other special teaching/learning events. Then there was Dad's 87th birthday, the swim championships, and SEL study group expectations/efforts. Phew!!!!

The many events went well, and now I'm delighted to have a quiet morning. I love to support positive effort and good work, but to do that, I realize I have to balance all that activity with quiet reading, writing, and resting too. No one can do it all.

With that in mind, I'm wondering about the days ahead and what takes priority. There's lots of family-related events to support in the coming months and I want to be there for those I love as they work towards their goals/dreams and celebrate some milestones too. At school there are many teaching endeavors to support and promote as we work to teach all the children well. As I've noted zillions of times, I have a great team, and the key is to work well with that team to support the learning community of students, families, colleagues, administrators, and community members in that regard. Like the good "teacher-grandmother" I desire to be, I want to be there to support the bright young people/minds that surround me.

In all, the theme will be to stick to the agenda, support the goals set, and quietly move ahead in that regard.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Digging In: Embedding SEL into the Curriculum

For months I've been working with a team of researchers and writers to pen a book about how to embed social emotional learning (SEL) into the curriculum by matching SEL activities and focus to both broad and specific curriculum standards. We are now at the final stages of the book, a book that will be published and released soon. It has been a deep, challenging endeavor and one that I'll dedicate the day to. When we near the release date, I'll share more information, and hope that many of you will find the book useful as you work to elevate your students' ability to access social emotional skills, content, and knowledge to learn, live, and contribute well.

We the People: Civics Education

Do we make the time to teach with depth and focus with regard to civics and our nation's laws. I've been thinking a lot about this as the Trump Presidency prompts me to do considerable research in light of challenging words, policies, plans, and interpretations of the law.

There are a number of ways that we can forward education in this respect with the following actions:

The Right to Vote Upon High School Graduation
I believe that all students who pass a well orchestrated, broad, detailed, and truthful civics course should be able to earn the right to vote upon high school graduation. This kind of high school course would welcome all citizens into our voting community and democracy.

Watch Local Governing Boards' Meetings
I believe that every middle school student or high school students should have the obligation to watch, discuss, and perhaps even participate in local and state board meetings. I watch our school committee meetings regularly and learn so much about our democracy and our school system by watching these meetings.

Read Relative and Founding Government Reports and Documents
Students should have the chance to critically read and respond to current and past government documents of interest and importance. It's important that all students have a chance to understand how to read and decipher the meaning in these documents. I just read the Intelligence departments Russian Hacking document--that would be a great report to tackle with a high school class.

Understand the Workings of Our Government
All students should have a chance to understand and interact with the workings of our government.

I know that many schools pay good attention to the topics above, and our current national situation leads me to advocate for even greater attention to meaningful, well-informed learning experiences that make all Americans keenly aware of our democracy and democratic proces. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Reading the Fine Print: Russian Hacking

Today I read through the unclassified document from National Intelligence related to the Russian hacking of the 2016 Presidential election. It was a good read--a read that made me realize just how much Russian is involved in our social media interaction and our media actions in general

It was interesting to note that the President's claims about the media's unfairness were actually started by the Kremlin's news agency RT much before the President's latest discussion and comments about the topic.

It was disappointing to note the time and money RT invested in demeaning the reputation of Hillary Clinton.

I was left with a number of questions:
  • Of the Trump voters, how many regularly watch shows or read news that originates in the Kremlin sponsored news agency, RT.
  • Of those of us who use social media, how many of us are regularly and unknowingly interfacing with and influenced by Russian tweets, blog posts, news reports, and more. 
  • In the face of this impact on our national voting system and democracy, what can we do to eliminate or at least lessen this influence as we think about the future of our country.
There's a lot to know out there and the worst thing any of us can do is to stay mired in the simple speak, read, and finger pointing instead of going deeper, discovering the details, and working for a better America. 

Project Based Learning: The Master Plan

This spring I'll embark on a big project which is to create a master plan for my home.

My simple home sits on a piece of land that abuts wetlands. We are facing issues of erosion, encroaching non-native plants, and needs for household updates.

I'll take what I learned from my days at the multi-disciplinary design firm I worked at many years ago and create a master plan.

The plan will include the following plans and efforts:

  • Using plants to decrease erosion
  • Getting rid of unnecessary objects, materials to make more space
  • Mending, fixing, filling, and supporting areas of the home that are getting worn or outdated
  • Increasing efforts to green our home and lifestyle
I love a big project like this, and will use what I learn to boost my school STEAM teaching efforts as well.

If you have information related to solving erosion issues with planting and boosting greening efforts, let me know. In the meantime, I've got some research and design to do. 

You Can't Act Alone: Solidarity

You can act alone, but your impact will be less than if you align yourself with like-minded groups and organizations to forward your beliefs and vision for our country and world.

Who will you align with?

What will that solidarity look like?

How will that impact your life?

All of us need to find ways to stand up for what we believe in.

I will be thinking about this question in the days ahead.

Education Career: Ten Years from Now

I'm a big fan of the ten-year view. I believe that looking long helps one to decide well for the day.

So as you think about your career in education, what is your ten year view? Where are you now and where do you want to be in ten years?

As I look at my career, I imagine that my day-to-day work with students at school and with students and children elsewhere will become deeper and more sensitive as I reach in, become more detailed, and serve the children in my midst with greater care, knowledge, and understanding.

On the other hand, I expect that my reading, writing, and research will become broader and richer as I strive to learn about this big and wonderful world around us and use that knowledge to do good work with my own children, students, relatives, and other children I may write for, teach, tutor, and serve.

What does this vision look like in real time.

Teacher "Grandmother"
I will continue to teach for the larger part of the next ten years. In some ways I envision myself to be a teacher grandmother during these years since I want to reach in and give more to the young children in my midst. I hope to be a loving, caring, thoughtful, and dedicated mentor, coach, educator, and guide during these years.

I hope that my classroom will be a warm, welcoming environment, one in which children receive the love, care, and guidance they need and desire to learn, be inspired, and go forward with good skill/concept/knowledge, optimism, and strength.

As teacher grandmother with colleagues, I hope to learn from the young, bright colleagues that surround me, and in that way, keep up to date with what students and families need. I also hope to be there for my colleagues to support in any way that I can.

Reader, Writer, Researcher
I truly enjoy collecting, analyzing, synthesizing and reporting on facts, ideas, and information. I imagine that this work will grow in the next ten years as I stand up and speak up for what is right and good. I want to remain open minded to new ideas, potential, and events as I do this work. I believe that my unique position in this regard is to take information from many venues and translate that information into easy to read and understand information. Too often the information from those in the know is difficult for the masses to make sense of or understand given time, access,and interest. I want to bring the thoughts of the best and brightest around us to light for people young and old. This will require me to read and decipher the thick texts, and then to simplify the language into easily digestible posts, poems, children's books, and more. I want to help get the powerful ideas of so many wonderful thinkers, doers, and futurists into the open world. I'm excited about this work and will continue to learn about this dream as I move forward.

Loving Family Member
I want to reach to do more for the family I love. What we can do with and for each other is limitless, and the key is to find ways we can empower and love one another in ways that matter the most. Loving family members begins with having a simple, welcoming home where your children and loved ones are always welcome. After that it means being there for them when they need you, and being there to provide comfort and celebrate too when it's time.

I desire as much simplicity with all things material as possible in the days ahead. I want to do this in order to carve out more time for the goals above.

I welcome your wisdom as I outline the years ahead. It's hard to know where life will take one, but having a loose-tight framework to lean on helps.

A Response to Trump Supporters

I'm curious about why people continue to support President Trump.

I read an interesting Al Jazeera article that interviewed a number of his supporters.

Some of their reasons for support included the following:
  • Desire for law and order
  • Desire for more jobs
  • Right to Life supporters
  • Less expensive health care
  • Breaking down the establishment in Washington
The people interviewed were portrayed as good people, and I have no reason to believe that they are not good people. I thought a lot about their hopes and desires, and with that in mind, I have the following responses. I was also moved by an article I read about the fact that the Senate and Congress passed few laws in the past four years, and now that the President and Legislature are aligned by political group, there's the chance that more laws will be passed. The article reminded us that the passing of laws is typically a messy process that includes lots of debate and compromise 

How Can We Get Rid of The Affordable Care Act Without a Suitable Replacement?
I am worried about Trump's policies with regard to human dignity, respect, and care. I believe that health care is a right (perhaps it should be added to the Bill of Rights) and I also believe we have the potential of meeting that need by educating more people to provide health care in quality centers and hospitals. Perhaps the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but to get rid of it without a replacement that protects people's health care is unjust to those who rely on that health care. Why not improve The Affordable Care Act instead of simply getting rid of it? 

Banning Immigrants and Refugees Based on Gross Generalizations
Whenever any of us speak of others with gross generalizations, we err. No people of any race, culture, gender, geographical location, or other common tie are all the same. It's deeper than that. I am worried about bans on immigrants and refugees based on country of origin or religious background. Instead, I think we have to dig deeper and look at the statistics of health and welfare. Who in our country suffers and why? Where is our safety compromised and why? It's easy to make gross generalizations, and those statements make us feel empowered, but we have to push beyond that primitive impulse to looking deeply at the real data, facts, and information to make decisions that reflect that information in ways that support our country and its citizens. Ultimately I believe at this time in history it's important to have fair vetting processes, but to vet based on gross generalizations is not fair or just and serves to increase prejudice and unjust treatment of individuals. As a world, I do believe we have to move towards open borders eventually in a positive scaffolded way.

Law and Order Prevails
Statistics demonstrate a continual trend towards greater safety, law, and order. Trump himself has exaggerated numbers to make us the think the world is less safe. We all have a responsibility to look at the true facts in this regard. We also have to beware that many news organizations sensationalize and focus on the bad news alone frightening us and making us think that unsafe and violent acts happen far more often than they do. This sensationalism also can lead to greater prejudice and false notions. We have to speak up for fair reporting in this regard, and with true knowledge, we have to continue to work for as much safety and good living as possible. While terrorism is very frightening and horrible, the numbers associated with this are far less than common killers such as specific medical conditions and accidents. One area of law and order that we may work to repair is the number of deaths by guns that have occurred in our country. This surpasses the threat that terrorism has been. Dealing with safe gun use in the same way we deal with safe car use is one step in the right direction in this regard. 

Waging War on Freedom of the Press
I am worried about how President Trump is waging war on the media, when that is in direct opposition to our first amendment:

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Again making gross generalizations about the press doesn't solve problems. Instead it's important to look at "media" with facts, data, and statistics. To discuss media, not as one, but with particular attention to media that is truth telling, relies on good research, and shares honest messages without giving into the pressure of unjust powers and influence. This whole discussion has prompted me to reach out to read a greater variety of news sources. It's also prompted me to look up experts in fields of concern to read their words and ideas. We're fortunate to have so much information at our fingertips via the Internet, and critically utilizing that information well is important and of great value to our choices and future. 

Replace Mistruths with Truths
Why would a President need or want to speak in untruthful ways. Again and again the press is fact checking his words. It seems to me that the President has adequate staffing and support to obtain accurate numbers and information. For example when he noted that he had won the most electoral votes with regard to other Presidents, his facts were clearly incorrect and misleading. His speak about a terrorist act in Sweden was similarly misleading. I don't know why this has to happen and will watch more closely to notice when it happens and why.

Alarming, Frightening Speak
President Trump speaks with seemingly disregard for the important decisions, seriousness, and leadership required with respect to national security. He appears to be callous in this regard and demonstrates little outright awareness of our country's responsibility as a global partner to other countries and people. He is our nation's leader and with that comes great responsibility to speak with measured care and responsibility with regard to important issues of human safety and legal authority. 

Russian Influence
There seems to be a terrible problem related to Russia's influence on Trump's electoral win and perhaps, deeper and even more troubling Russian influence with regard to the Republican's and Trump's leadership in general. Trump does not seem to be taking this seriously and has not spoken up to support an independent investigation of this issue. It seems to me and many others, that we need a deep, honest investigation related to this issue. 

Education for All
President Trump appears not to support a strong public school system as a vital ingredient to our democracy. He appears to speak down about education, yet he and his children have all enjoyed quality education. I believe in public schools and the track record and potential our public schools hold for a strong, well-educated nation. I believe there are too many myths and untruths that surround public education, and in the days ahead I want to read more about this in order to speak well about the potential and possibility our public schools hold for a strong nation. In Massachusetts, where I teach, we have a strong union and strong public schools--students are well educated and leading the country in this regard. I read that the Secretary of Education wants to use Florida as her blueprint for good schools which surprises me since it is not one of the top states with regard to education support and success. In the days ahead, I will think, read, and write more about this. I'm also curious about what Trump supporters have to say about this. There was no clear message about this in the Al Jazeera article, but I suspect that even Trump supporters don't want to give away their tax dollars, choice, and voice to private investors who are more concerned with monetary gain than the sensitive care and education of every child in America.  American taxpayers deserve the right to work with and on public boards to determine how their tax dollars will be used to educate children well within the guidelines of the laws of the United States. 

Choose with the Minds and Heart of Children as Your Guide

We typically do well if we choose with the future and the eyes and hearts of children in mind. If we choose well for future generations, we will choose well for ourselves. Trump's environmental-related decisions appear to be short sighted. They seem to be the kind of decisions that earn us short gains for long term losses. I think he and others in leadership should choose with their children and grandchildren's world in mind. The truth is that those with money will protect clean water and good land for themselves, and those of modest or less incomes will rely on fair laws in order to continue to access clean water and good land. The Detroit water crisis should be a wake-up call to every average American that we need good laws, policy, and oversight to protect healthy, good living in a safe environment. Ms. DeVos, our new Secretary of Education, is from Michigan. Her first call to action should be making sure that children in Michigan have safe water at school and at home. 

Right to Life
Personally with regard to abortion, I consider myself pro-education. I believe that the more educated men and women are, the greater our collective respect and response will be to the safe support of all human lives. I believe that abortion is a personal decision that relies on countless factors, and I don't believe that any woman or doctor aborts without considerable discussion and decision making. I first came to this conclusion in the 1960's when my elderly Catholic grandmother who had lived through a lot in life told me that she was pro-choice. I imagine that she had been in close contact with the difficult decisions and difficult outcomes in a society where abortion was outlawed. Instead of having laws against abortion, I support laws and policies that help every child, man, and women receive a strong education and opportunity to live good lives, lives with basic rights and needs met and lives without poverty, violence, prejudice, and despair.


Clearly Trump supporters desire more jobs for everyone.I believe this begins with fair policies with regard to taxation, work place rules, and community support. I believe we should increase jobs in the human services, and these jobs can be payed for by increase taxation of the nation's wealthiest people and corporations. If every challenged school in the USA had double the staff and that staff better mirrored the cultures students represent, schools would improve. The same is true for environmental and health organizations. Also, I believe that investment in greening our planet is a way to build jobs and protect our environment too. The plans to uplift our country's infrastructure are positive and will bring jobs. If we do this with as much modern knowledge and positive vision for the future, we will continue to build a strong country. A focus on each community and how the government can help those communities grow and thrive will help to bring quality, safe jobs and wages to people throughout the country.

Walk the Walk: Frugality and Respect for All

Trump also needs to think about his own personal investments, businesses, and practices. As the President is he saying he'll support the average American, but living and working in such a way that his own lifestyle serves to not represent what he believes. I want to read and think more about this. 

Focus on the Important Decisions and Work of the Job

Speak of Ivanka's clothing line, popularity, and television shows does not forward our country. The President's diversions to issues that don't relate to the important work at hand are troubling. As many have said, why worry about popularity. The truth is that he won the election. Now it's time to focus on the issues and potential at hand with good strategic process and the consult of a broad, diverse group of experts in the field (not just one similar group of thinkers) to make good decisions with and for the American people.

Everyone is looking for a leader. I was not a Trump supporter, and was surprised to see him win the election. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and thought that he would elevate his speak and actions once he took office. I am dismayed, worried, and saddened at what has happened to date, but I have not given up hope that the tides can turn. I believe that everyone in our country has the responsibility to speak up and act in their areas of strength and knowledge. I am thankful to the courageous judges and lawmakers who stood up to the illegal ban on immigrants and refugees. I am thankful for the lawmakers who are researching, writing, and speaking well into the night to disprove and challenge laws and policies that are unjust and negative for our country and people. I honor all of those in any field that speak up to lead us forward with truth and good work too.

Similarly I honor the voices of Trump supporters too--there was a reason that so many voted for him and I am listening to their words. I don't believe that his supporters are prejudiced and see good work as work for only one race, gender, or people. I also caution his supporters and non-supporters to look deeper at the issues and not be satisfied with mistruths, quick judgement, and simple answers--these are not simple problems, but instead problems that demand the best of who we are using law abiding, equitable and just process. 

I want to respect Trump supporters in the ways that I support all Americans right to say what they believe, but I also want to make sure that we're all well educated and aware as we speak up and work for what is right and good for our own lives and the lives of our neighbors and fellow citizens. I will read more related to this, write, and hope that those elected to lead our country will rise to that responsibility and recognize that they are leaders of all Americans and it is their job to use their best intelligence to do what is right for Americans today and well into the future. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why We Need Great Public Schools

". . the fundamental purpose of public school--physical spaces dedicated to and people committed to educating a nation--is a good one." "In an age when segmentation of society keeps people apart from those who think, look, and live differently from how they do, schools bring us together to learn from and with one another." "As a nation, we can imagine many different models for school, but the fundamental idea that we build places where all children can come together to learn remains one of the best ideas we've ever had as a society. We shouldn't lose it. We just have to make sure our schools reflect the time in which we live."  - Lehmann, Chase, Building School 2.0: 

I am a big fan of the potential public schools hold for our nation and world.

I want to be able to express that support with as much knowledge and thoughtful speak as possible.

I will begin a list of documents, quotes, and other information here as I do this research.
  • Why Public Schools
  • When we give away our money (taxes) to the few to decide for all of us, we run the risk of diluting and losing our democracy. It's important that the tax payers retain voice and choice when it comes to spending tax dollars. Giving away our tax dollars to private investors to run schools will put the emphasis on those private investors' gain rather than the gain of students all across our country. To think that only those with power (investors/private sect) can decide well for our children, is to diminish the rights and responsibilities of all American citizens. It is up to us as a democratic people to support, contribute to, and lead public schools together in ways that give each and every American child the opportunity to dream, learn, prosper, and eventually contribute to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for United States citizens and people across the globe. 

Teaching Well: A Good Night's Sleep

An important part of teaching and living well is getting enough sleep. As I think ahead to the school days to come, I want to be cognizant of this as I know that a good night's sleep leads to a successful day in the classroom.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Egos Aside: A Vision

World leaders got together with the premise that life is short and that they should do what they can to forward a joyful, good life for the people on Earth.

Together they discussed the gravest issues as well as the best of what life on Earth has to offer, and they made a few decisions including the following:
  • Together they would promote conservation of the world's resources including clean water, fertile lands, animal life, and safe, sustainable rural, suburban, and city lands.
  • Together they would work to educate all of the Earth's children with as much strength as possible.
  • Together they would wok to secure basic needs of health, home, and nutritious food for all of Earth's people.
  • They would look for ways to share Earth's resources in equitable ways.
  • They would maintain "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" for all of Earth's people.
As they met, they remarked on their good fortune to be leaders, and that great responsibility that meant. They again, noted how short each life is and that life is not worth much without an earnest effort to live well for self and others.

It was a gratifying meeting for the leaders as well as all whom they led. 

Since You Can't Do it All, Choose Well

Fridays find us at our PLC in the morning and our student service meetings in the afternoon. In between, we teach and work with children.

We share a lot of information, ideas, and discussion during Fridays. The ideas are bountiful, but we can't do it all.

As I think about the work we did today, I realize that I'm satisfied with the scheduling proposal we've sent forth to the administration team. We'll see what the next steps are after they have a chance to look over our proposed schedule changes.

Discussions about students, upcoming portfolios, and curriculum efforts focuses our efforts after vacation on lots of targeted teaching, teaming, and response. We won't work with that many more new ideas for the year ahead as our schedules our full and it's time to do continue the work we've started to end the year with the success that we started it with.

I'm in the midst of a large number of professional efforts which means there's little room for any additions in that realm.

The big job overall is sticking to the routine and carrying out the plans I've set myself and with others. The summer will bring time for greater study and new ideas. Onward to a what I'm hoping is a positively busy and happy vacation week.

The Benefit of Having Something to Look Forward To

Typically I meet a difficult challenge by planning something to look forward to.

For example, I have a few challenging projects to complete over February vacation. The projects are related to my school efforts, but not tightly connected to the day-to-day teaching. That's why completing the projects during the vacation time is perfect. Yet, I'd rather be taking off for a getaway.

I won't fret, and instead, recognize that in a few months, I have a number of special events planned--the kinds of events that bring great joy to me and my loved ones.

At school, the other day, when students shared their ideas about bettering the class, one student essentially shared a similar thoughts to this post. She said that she liked the way that I shared the schedule with them about what we have to do and what's to come. She said that helps her a lot. I knew, as she spoke, that in some ways she was stating what I'm stating here--it's easier to stay the course if you have something to look forward to, something beyond the challenging efforts.

I told the girl and the rest of the class that I'd update the class website to demonstrate that kind of planning. I'll also review the planning aloud with the class too.

Beware of Judgement; Move Ahead with Compassion

A bit tired and overwhelmed, I wanted to judge another who was not readily available to help. Yet as I thought about the judgement, I also remembered the great number of efforts this individual has done on behalf of me and others, efforts that I'm not nearly as good at or consistent about.

Rarely, if ever, can we point our fingers at another to say they're not doing their part or they're not doing enough as the truth is there's enough work to go around for all of us and typically everyone is working with care to do their part.

I further thought on this matter and recognized the many ways people could judge me with phrases such as she didn't attend that event; she forgot that anniversary; she didn't complete the activity and more. The reality is that none of us can be all things or do all well, but together, however, with compassion, care, and collaboration we can do a lot and do it well.

Our good work, thoughtful process, and important share matters in this regard. When we come together regularly to plan, think ahead, create, and analyze, we have to be cognizant of the potential possible.

The same is true for our students. No student has it all, and no student has nothing of merit to bring to school each day. At their core, I believe that every student is earnest desiring the best for himself/herself and others. They continually reach to gain what they need and want for themselves and others. The key for the teacher is to figure out those needs and wants which are very clear in some places and much less clear or easily identified in other ways.

I want to keep these words in mind as I move forward into this busy Friday before vacation and Friday before a family member's special 87th birthday celebration. There's lots to do, but most importantly I'll reserve judgement and move ahead with compassion and gratitude. Onward.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Show Me Your Work: Math Precision

Students worked to complete a math assessment.

Prior to the assessment I shared the best strategy for the assessment. I noted that I had given the assessment countless times and knew this was a good strategy.

As part of the strategy, I told students to complete their calculations on paper, not in their heads. As students turned in the papers, I checked to see if they did their work on paper and if they didn't, I sent them back to show me their work.

Afterwards students agreed that their work was more precise once they completed the work on paper.

Many young students are reluctant to persevere enough to carefully show and check their work. That perseverance and precision often separates children who succeed on assessments and those that don't.

Of course precision is only one piece of the math puzzle and we don't want to be so obsessed with precision that we forget the "sloppy copy," broad and big learning that often takes place on the way to precision. That's why one assessment or activity does not tell the whole story about learners and a well rounded curriculum program is preferable to narrow programs.

Seeing Yourself in the Curriculum

Our small RTI group read a readers' theater version of Cinderella since students had been writing fractured fairly tales. As we read the elevated vocabulary in the text, I was reminded of the wonderful Rogers and Hammerstein musical, Cinderella. I played the song for students as we talked about the vocabulary and script.

The children watched and listened. One child sat back in her chair with not a lot of interest.

Then I said, let's watch a more updated version of the same song, and I showed the one below. The little girl in the seat looked on. "I want to watch the whole movie," she responded. Clearly she identified with the second version of the song more than the first.

It's important as we teach that we think about what students identify with and that we find time to connect that identification with the materials we use to teach and learn.

The King of the Hill is Typically not a Good Teacher

Image Link
Did you play King of the Hill as a child? I did, and inevitably the game ended when someone toppled down the heap of snow or small embankment into the pavement below. Yet, we had fun initially and especially when the heap of snow was surrounded by lots of white fluffy snow so the injuries were late in coming.

In schools, sometimes, there are professionals who want to be King of the Hill. In fact, I think that all of us at one time or another are ego driven in this way. The truth of the matter is, however, that the good teacher is not "King of the Hill." The good educator does not push or shove his/her way to the top, but instead collaborates in ways that make everyone they work with (students, families, colleagues, citizens and administrators) winners. I believe that rather than a hill, good educational organizations and systems have greater "flattened" hierarchy, the kind of leveled playing field where everyone has a chance to rise.

As I continue my teaching, I'll think to myself, Does this or that action support a King of the Hill mindset, or does it support a teach all children well mindset? This is an easy vision to keep in one's head and a quick check that "Ambition supports mission, rather than the other way around when ambition trumps mission." Onward.

Teaching/Learning 2017-2018

As this years program rolls out, I see ideas for next year's program including the list below. I'll continue to add to this list as the year continues and next year begins.

The Classroom
The classroom is a cozy learning space. We have comfy chairs, good books, computers, and plenty of supplies. This summer I'll research to see how we might modernize the classroom more to reflect even better Earth friendly (less plastics), student-centered furniture and supplies. I may write a grant to purchase some of those materials early next fall.

Professional Learning
This summer I'll attend the Summer MTA conference. There I'll learn more about my union and gain special education credits for upcoming recertification in 2018. I also have a large number of books to re-read, complete, or read for the first time. So I'd like to do a lot of reading and writing this summer.

Field Studies and Special Events
We'll schedule a few of those field studies and special events this spring and the rest in the late days of summer and early days of the fall. I suspect we'll stick with most of the great events we participated in this year.

Grants and New Efforts
I'll possibly write a grant to make the classroom a better STEAM/math center of learning. I'd also like to explore writing a grant to work with Primary Source in Watertown to support our continued efforts related to cultural proficiency.

Union/DESE Efforts
I hope to continue to support my efforts to support my local, state, and national union as well as my work on DESE's Teacher Advisory Cabinet.

Summer Recalibration
I've spent most of my days in the past many summers working on school/education efforts. I'll read a lot this summer and attend the MTA conference, and I'll also spend some significant time catching up on personal matters, matters that also affect the work I'm able to do with students. It's been quite a few years since I've been able to do this.

Math Teaching/Learning
The efforts below describe the math teaching/learning efforts I hope to engage in during 2017-2018.

  • Home Study Routines: I've always fluctuated a lot with home study routines as there's not one routine that fits all families and students. Next year I'll continue the weekly packet routine since that seems to support the most students' home lives. I'll assign the packet on Fridays, hand-out on Mondays, and collect the following Monday of school. I'll work to teach students and families the routine early in the year and then make a concerted effort to support students' efforts in this regard.

  • Homework Club/Study: Our team is exploring ways to offer extra support to students both during the school day as well as before and after school. This is important with regard to our students who have little at-home academic support. Others in our system are employing efforts in this regard too. As I think about this, I realize that it will be best to coordinate our efforts and time in this regard.

  • Facts Study/Number Knowledge: It's important to start the fifth grade year with easy to practice and use numbers as students learn new standards and content for the first time. This kind of study lends itself to fact practice and a good warm up for the teaching and learning to come. Students who are not solid with their math facts tend to lag behind their classmates with regard to math progress. There's lots of cognitive rationale for this, and we can work in a parallel fashion to build number sense while also teaching other math concepts, knowledge, and skill.

  • Scope and Sequence: I'd like to see changes in the order of our scope and sequence, and hope that we'll be able to work as a math team across district on this. I've reached out with this request, but have received no response to date so I'm not sure if this will happen.

  • Assessments: I hope we'll shift to less assessments and assessments that match the curriculum focus. Currently we have assessments that match our curriculum and some assessments that don't match the curriculum.

  • Maker Math/Writing in Math: I want to continue to build efforts to employ maker math in addition to more writing in math too.

  • Strategic Collaboration and Share: It would be great to have a day-long, well organized, strategic meeting with math teachers across district to hear about the many ways they successfully teach math. I know that we have a dynamic group of math teachers at my grade level and I'd really like to hear about the great work they do. Our efforts to share in the past have not been well organized so the share has been somewhat disjointed and uneven. With a strategic online/offline process, we could make sure that everyone has a chance to share their strengths, ask questions, and develop their craft. This kind of process would develop our "collective genius" in this regard too.
The first steps with regard to planning for next year are to continue to teach well this year and including many of next year's goals into the end of this year so that the year continues to go well. Issues of current attention include the following:
  • Typical Room Clean-Up/Reorganization: In early spring, I'll reset the classroom again to get ready for lots of project work and STEAM study after the Math MCAS tests. Until I'll work with students to gain proficiency with the math standards in meaningful ways.
  • Completion of SEL Study Group Efforts: This has been a meaningful, but demanding project. One I look forward to completing during this February vacation week.
  • Student Showcase Portfolios: When we return to school, students will continue their work on these special books that showcase their learning efforts from this year.
  • Math Standards: Students will continue to focus on fractions, then study many other standards with a deep focus on multi-step problem solving.
  • Field Studies: We need to shore up permission slips and details for upcoming special events and field studies. I'll make a few phone calls over vacation in this regard.
It's been another good year of teaching. I continue to be so grateful for our shared teaching model, a model that is so much better than the old time one-teacher-one-classroom model I taught in for so many years.

Also, I've used the chart below for the last few years to organize my efforts beginning in the winter prior to the school year and I'll use this chart again for 2017-2018:

Winter, Spring and Summer 2017 Professional Learning

Summer Study: 
Summer is a good time to study, research, and prepare for the school year ahead.
  • Update Grade Level Curriculum Chart in conjunction with Colleagues (start in summer, complete in fall).  Summer 2017
  • Continue to follow and update the teaching/learning program relative to the new ESSA laws and policies
  • Summer reading:
    • Revisit Boaler, Emdin Books
    • Read Thank you for being late
  • Re-organize math website to support student/family teaching/learning/outreach 
  • Revisit the curriculum night presentation with a focus on Lifelong Learning Competencies Summer/Fall 2017
  • Write Move-Up Letter, Supply list for 2017-2018 class. 

Continue to Update local union website. Ongoing

Draft a grant to update cultural proficiency efforts possibly with Primary Source and another grant to support an updated STEAM/Math classroom 

Continue to update and create team website with colleagues. Update and refine other existing curriculum websites. Spring/Summer 2017

Update Learning-to-Learn Website with a focus on student collaboration and team building. Ongoing

Determine classroom needs, complete order forms, shop for supplies, and keep receipts. The PTO gives us a few hundred dollars for supplies, but we have to turn in receipts to get that. (See STEAM List) . Match with systemwide initiatives

Work with colleagues to determine field study choices and possible WPSF grant ideas. Complete the related research, organization, and calls related to this. Summer 2017

Complete Mandated Online Trainings: This takes about a half day. Make sure that the trainings are up to date at time of completion. Summer/Fall 2017

Summer Work Just Prior to Start of School

Curriculum Night Presentation Revision (ongoing)
Complete Revision with grade-level colleagues.

Meet with special educator, to review student services and schedules. Review and revise Complete Assessment Form/class chart.

Ordering: Check orders, put away all supplies.

Team Meeting Summer Date(s) : (TBD)

Review, revise, and set up Class Data Chart.
Assess MCAS scores prior to school year.

Incorporate system-wide and school goals into overall year’s plan and efforts. Coordinate teaching of learning to learn curriculum into first six weeks with colleagues. Analyze student standardized scores and make related changes to curriculum program.

First Weeks of School: Use these documents as guides - School Year Plans,  Description of Plans

Work on grade-level schedule and calendar with colleagues
Start of Year: Practice Routines that Matter

9/15 Consider Dot Day:
Think about ways to build last year's name effort in a meaningful way that can be shared with family members on Curriculum Night (Last year we successfully implemented the "My Three Words" project/film)

Global Cardboard Challenge Date ______ rain date______ Do we want to coordinate this with team building efforts at start of year?

PLC Start: Establish overall focus, norms, roles, protocols. . . .

Curriculum Night: Establishing the Learning Community
Extended time granted, date established. Consider a culturally proficient introductory project.

Early Year Assessments/Goal Setting,Math SRSD Assessment, Work with colleagues to identify best early year assessments.

Parent surveys: Paper survey worked better than online survey last year.

Early Year Family Meetings (optional) - invitation in first newsletter

Evaluation Professional Learning and Practice Goals:
Update goals to reflect system-wide goals, summer work, review with admin., continue efforts to meet goals.

Learning to Learn Curriculum: Work with team to update and embed into learning.
Classroom Culture:
  • Set norms with students
  • Practice following norms
  • Discuss classroom community.
  • Work to empower student voice, respect, and contribution from start of the year. 
  • Create guiding signage with students Be explicit. Ongoing 

STEAM Workshop: Update STEAM Efforts
Naturalist Study Review and update. Consider system-wide updates.

Math Workshop: Work with team to discuss start.

Professional Learning for School Year 2015-2016

Focus on a Healthy, Earth-Friendly Classroom. Consider related study/grants.

MTA Summer Conference

This poster will continue to lead my work in the year ahead.