Recommendations

As 2020 Draws to a Close, Let Us Not Lose This Moment!

2020 – a year of heartbreak, great loss, stir craziness, divisiveness, and yet also a year filled with bountiful blessings. As I reflected on the end of the year in December of 2019, in Influencing My Heart, My Mind, My Soul, I wrote, “As 2019 draws to a close, I am mindful that my greatest teacher this year was life itself, the curveballs that you cannot see coming.” This statement could not be more true as 2020 comes to a close.

As mindful as I was of the blessings of 2019 at this time last year, it is with this same mindfulness that I am struck more than ever by the extraordinariness of the blessings of 2020. Some of the blessings have brought great joy while others are blessings have come disguised in pain. There are blessings disguised in pain and discomfort from which we can learn. The painful and uncomfortable blessings of 2020 create the opportunity to lift ourselves up and to meet the crisis of injustice head on in our actions. The blessings of these painful moments serve as the catalyst for moving us beyond being a society of complacency or tolerance of the injustices that live just below a facade; a facade that our systems are functioning in an acceptable manner of distribution of resources and justice.

There are, of course, the exceptions. We have leaders who have intentionally entrenched themselves in the work of understanding and working towards dismantling systematic injustices before the whole world got this year’s up close and personal view of how harmful this state of denial and lack of knowing has been. The curtain has been pulled pack on how significant the unequal distribution of resources, including access to internet and devices which increase the divide in access to opportunity. This same technology, internet and devices, laid bare the hateful underbelly of racism, not only in the United States but in nations around the world. Video captured the undeniable truth that the divisive intentions of Jim Crow laws from the 1800s continue to have been passed down through values a large segment of society of have benefited from upholding. The hiding of our nation’s full history by not including it in the content of the curriculum that is taught in our schools has left large portions of our communities to live uninformed and thus in confusion both about the anger behind the impact of racism and a society based on patriarchal values.

This image by Doug Mills of the New York Times serves as a strong visual of the why behind the deep disenfranchisement felt by the constituencies not represented in the decision making processes that effect our daily lives. In a nation where white men make up 31% of the population and men make up 49% of the population, we can do better.

President Bush met with Congressional leaders and the presidential candidates on Thursday.

It is no secret that 2020 was hard, really hard! As we head into 2021, we have the opportunity to stand resolute in not allowing systematic injustice to once again fall into a comfortable state of tolerance. The deeply entrenched system that has allowed these injustices to flourish is already showing signs of falling back into the acceptable mainstream of how things are done. Complacency and exhaustion bring with them the risk that we lose the power of this moment in history to make changes that steer the trajectory of our nation’s future and not just put bandaids on this juncture in time.

As the global community came screeching to a halt in March of 2020, a stark awareness set in that government, private industry and the citizenry would need to work together to survive the impact of the Coronavirus. We all needed to work together to provide access to the resources required for daily living to educating our children and being able to work. As a nation and a global community, we largely met the moment, but only for a moment.

As decisions are now made to encourage having students from marginalized communities return to school first, and called for in the name of social justice, we must be wary that this call also holds the power to walk away from the real issues, the inequities that uphold the system that denies access to opportunity. We live with the moral imperative to provide the needed infrastructure at affordable costs that will build the bridge from marginalization to access and opportunity.

This moral imperative digs deep into holding leaders of for profit companies accountable to leading in a manner that allows them to leave a legacy of ensuring that our nation continues it’s dream of being “One nation under God for liberty and justice for all.” The Spring of 2020 showed us what can be accomplished in the matter of mere months when both government and private industry work together in a state of urgency. The state of urgency, the opportunity to create policy and enforce policy to right the wrongs of the past by closing the opportunity gap is in danger of passing us by if we allow our industry experts and legislatures to make decisions out of expediency and short term political gain.

Massive amounts of money are being allocated for short term solutions. As California, as one example, looks to fiscally incentivize return to in person school, it appears that a greater understanding is needed of things really play out in schools and districts. California entered 2020 with a teacher shortage and an administrator shortage, as well as a substitute and bus driver shortage. Burn out levels were already at an all time high. Educators are simply asked to bear too many of the ails that burden society. Not unlike the healthcare, social services, and law enforcement professions, policies and funding tell the story of a society that do not truly value those who work in professions that serve. Look to budgets, look to funding allocations and not sound bites and speeches for the real story about what is most valued.

As the saying goes, “follow the money.” Should schools be incentivized to return to in person instruction quickly, the time and energy that can be spent of putting long term solutions to disrupt the education system that has shown virtually no sustainable systemic growth in student achievement will be diverted to chasing a short term dollar. These short-term one time monies due more harm than good. They serve as a serotonin hit like that of winning $10.00 on slot machine that we dropped $20.00 into, like the serotonin hit of winning $2.00 off a $5.00 scratch off. We lose more than we invest.

The same one time, short-term monies that are being suggested for our schools should be used to stand up community infrastructure that gives every student and every adult 24-7 access to online learning. Learning that can happen through YouTube videos, masterclasses, reading the news, current event videos, creating digital art, working on collaborative projects, creating our own video tutorials (demonstrating application and synthesis if you’re with me on getting us to demonstrate deeper levels of learning in an authentic manner), applying for jobs, to colleges, for financial aid, and accessing healthcare. The same one time short-term money can be used to recognize that we have overburdened educators who’s schools and districts are often not funded at adequate level to provide the basic resources needed to be successful in their positions – home internet, a high quality device for lesson design and instructional delivery, a reasonable work day, and support staff to meet the many non-instructional needs of students, parents, and care-givers in addition to planning and peer collaboration.

Let’s use this money towards designing models that measure what students are learning rather than compliance systems measure seat time. Let’s invest in structures that don’t overburden, burn out our educators, and drive resentment in such a noble profession. Imagine a 2 shift instructional day with class reasonable class sizes that enable teachers to have time to invest in strong relationships with the families of their students. One shift of educators could be available for families who prefer or need mornings to connect with school and the other shift could work with students and families who work or need late afternoon times. Ah, I begin to digress into solution oriented details. Along those lines, I won’t ever pass up the opportunity to say, let’s start with our small schools and districts to create models that we can scale up rather than allocating large sums of money to large bureaucracies and then trying to scale down where fewer resources are available.

As 2020 draws to a close, let us not lose this moment!

Recommendations

As 2020 Draws to a Close, Let Us Not Lose This Moment!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is moral-dilemna-ahead.jpg

2020 – a year of heartbreak, great loss, stir craziness, divisiveness, and yet also a year filled with bountiful blessings. As I reflected on the end of the year in December of 2019, in Influencing My Heart, My Mind, My Soul, I wrote, “As 2019 draws to a close, I am mindful that my greatest teacher this year was life itself, the curveballs that you cannot see coming.” This statement could not be more true as 2020 comes to a close.

As mindful as I was of the blessings of 2019 at this time last year, it is with this same mindfulness that I am struck more than ever by the extraordinariness of the blessings of 2020. Some of the blessings have brought
great joy while others blessings have come disguised in pain. There has been an abundance of  blessings disguised in pain and discomfort this year from which we can learn. The painful and uncomfortable blessings of 2020 create the opportunity to lift ourselves up and to meet the crisis of injustice head on in our actions. The blessings of these painful moments serve as the catalyst for moving us beyond being a society of complacency or tolerance of the injustices that live just below a facade; a facade that our systems are functioning in an acceptable manner of distribution of resources and justice.

There are, of course, the exceptions. We have leaders who have intentionally entrenched themselves in the work of understanding and working towards dismantling systematic injustices before the whole world got this year’s up close and personal view of how harmful this state of denial and lack of knowing has
been. The curtain has been pulled pack on how significant the unequal distribution of resources, including access to internet and devices which increase the divide in access to opportunity. This same technology, internet and devices, laid bare the hateful underbelly of racism, not only in the United States but in nations around the world. Video captured the undeniable truth that the divisive intentions of Jim Crow laws from the 1800s continue to have been passed down through values a large segment of society of have benefited
from upholding. The hiding of our nation’s full history by not including it in the content of the curriculum that is taught in our schools has left large portions of our communities to live uninformed and thus in confusion both about the anger behind the impact of racism and a society based on patriarchal values.

This image by Doug Mills of the New York Times serves as a strong visual of the why behind the deep
disenfranchisement felt by the constituencies not represented in the decision making processes that effect our daily lives. In a nation where white men make up 31% of the population and men make up 49% of the population, we can do better.

President Bush met with Congressional leaders and the presidential candidates on Thursday.

It is no secret that 2020 has hard, really hard! As we head into 2021, we have the opportunity to stand resolute in not allowing systematic injustice to once again fall into a comfortable state of tolerance. The deeply entrenched system that has allowed these injustices to flourish is already showing signs of falling back into the acceptable mainstream of how things are done. Complacency and exhaustion bring with them the risk that we lose the power of this moment in history to make changes that steer the trajectory of our nation’s future and not just put bandaids on this juncture in time.

As the global community came screeching to a halt in March of 2020, a stark awareness set in that government, private industry and the citizenry would need to work together to survive the impact of the Coronavirus. We all needed to work together to provide access to the resources needed for daily living to educating our children and being able to work. As a nation and a global community, we largely met the moment, but only for a moment.

As decisions are now made to encourage having students from marginalized communities return to school first, and called for in the name of social justice, we must be wary that this call also holds the power to walk away from the real issues, the inequities that uphold the system that denies access to opportunity. We live with the moral imperative to provide the needed infrastructure at affordable costs that will build the bridge from marginalization to access and opportunity.

This moral imperative digs deep into holding leaders of for profit companies accountable to leading in a manner that allows them to leave a legacy of ensuring that our nation continues it’s dream of being “One nation under God for liberty and justice for all.” The Spring of 2020 showed us what can be accomplished in the matter of mere months when both government and private industry work together in a state of urgency. The state of urgency, the opportunity to create policy and enforce policy to right the wrongs of the past by closing the opportunity gap is in danger of passing us by if we allow our industry experts and legislatures to make decisions out of expediency and short term political gain.

Massive amounts of money are being allocated for short term solutions. As California, as one example, looks to fiscally incentivize return to in person school, it appears that a greater understanding is needed of things really play out in schools and districts. California entered 2020 with a teacher shortage and an administrator shortage, as well as a substitute and bus driver shortage. Burn out levels were already at an all time high. Educators are simply asked to bare too many of the ails that burden society. Not unlike the healthcare, social services, and law enforcement professions, policies and funding tell the story of a society that does not truly value those who work in professions that serve. Look to budgets, look to funding allocations and not sound bites and speeches for the real story about what is most valued.

As the saying goes, “follow the money.” Should schools be incentivized to return to in person instruction quickly, the time and energy that can be spent of putting long term solutions to disrupt the education system that has shown virtually no sustainable systemic growth in student achievement will be diverted to chasing a short term dollar. These short-term one time monies due more harm than good. They serve as a dopamine hit like that of winning $10.00 on slot machine that we dropped $20.00 into, like the serotonin hit of winning $2.00 off a $5.00 scratch off. We lose more than we invest.

The same one time, short-term monies that are being suggested for our schools should be used to stand up community infrastructure that gives every student and every adult 24-7 access to online learning. Learning that can happen through YouTube videos, masterclasses, reading the news, current event videos, creating digital art, working on collaborative projects, creating our own video tutorials (demonstrating application and synthesis if you’re with me on getting us to demonstrate deeper levels of learning in an authentic manner), applying for jobs, to colleges, for financial aid, and accessing healthcare. The same one time short-term money can be used to recognize that we have overburdened educators who’s schools and districts are often not funded at adequate level to provide the basic resources needed to be successful in their positions – home internet, a high quality device for lesson design and instructional delivery, a reasonable work day, and support staff to meet the many non-instructional needs of students, parents, and care-givers in addition to planning and peer collaboration.

Let’s use this money towards designing models that measure what students are learning rather than compliance systems measure seat time. Let’s invest in structures that don’t overburden, burn out our educators, and drive resentment in such a noble profession. Imagine a 2 shift instructional day with class reasonable class sizes that enable teachers to have time to invest in strong relationships with the families of their students. One shift of educators could be available for families who prefer or need mornings to connect with school and the other shift could work with students and families who work or need late afternoon times. Ah, I begin to digress into solution oriented details. Along those lines, I won’t ever pass up the opportunity to say, let’s start with our small schools and districts to create models that we can scale up rather than allocating large sums of money to large bureaucracies and then trying to scale down where fewer resources are available.

As 2020 draws to a close, let us not lose this moment!

Recommendations

Societal Barriers in Education – An Update 2016, 2019, 2020

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 4.05.46 PM

A “quick” evening Google search on July 7, 2016 was the official moment I became “woke” to the systemic racism embedded in our culture. I use the word “woke” in parenthesis on purpose. “To be woke” is still considered slang, although as our language changes over time and society’s use of the term becomes more prevalent, it will be interesting to watch for when Webster’s Dictionary, “America’s most trusted online dictionary” as described by Webster’s and with an historical reputation of being America’s most trusted dictionary, removes the slang modifier from the term.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 1.38.05 PM

I was preparing a day of ed tech based professional learning for administrators in the Alisal Union School District. The school district boasted student enrollment of 8835, 8414 Hispanic, 6693 English Language Learners, and 92.18% free and reduced lunch qualified. It was important to me that the images in the presentation were reflective of the student population these leaders were called to serve.

I searched for images of a “Mexican toddler using technology.”

 

As both an educator and the parent of a mixed race, hispanic son, I was shocked!

 

Here are the images that made the top of the cut in the 2016 Google search.

A dive into the images that made the cut for other races and the disparity were disturbing and thus came about the publishing of that evening’s blog post Societal Barriers to Equity in Education – A Google Search.

An update to that blog post, Societal Barriers to Education 2019 was published on January 5, 2019 noting that, “…disparity continues to exist among gender and race as well as equitable access to educational opportunities, career entry, and salary.”

 

The 2019 post focused on the same image search terms as the 2015 post. While less disturbing than the first time, the search left me in shock again and I dove deeper into more race and gender modifiers to the search terms.

 

A year and a half after the January 5, 2019 update, we find ourselves in the midst of a structural break in society. Books on racism are flying off the shelves, figuratively that is. We also find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic which has highlighted what early adopters of modern technology saw as inevitable; that there would come a time when those who had not adopted or stayed current with the technology revolution of our time would not have access to the information, connection, and services they need.

Thus the structured and systemic inequities that mirror the values of society were laid bare over a two week period in March of 2020. Schools closed and the economy came to a crawl. Two months later, a society under quarantine, a society filled with raw emotion watched the murder of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white man. The pent up frustration of generations demanding not only to be heard and to be seen but to have the systemic biases embedded in society poured forth; a divided nation began it’s demand for understanding and accountability for the racism that has held up a system of inequality since the dawn of our nation. Despite the words in the U.S. Declaration of Indepence, all men are not created equal and women across cultures and races must still overcome barriers for societal recognition under the category of men.

So it came about that on the afternoon of June 14, 2020, time was taken to revisit how Google, a dominant influencer in today’s society, puts forth the visual representation of access to modern technology across race and gender and how lays bare how the internet feeds stereotypes in searches.

Here you will find a four year insight into how the Google search engine impacts biases and reflects the forward facing values of society at large. As you look through the images, do more than scroll, study the differences, notice the words used, the parent supervision, the ages, the facial expressions, etc. Notice the differences.

2020 “Toddler using technology” Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 2.57.17 PM

2016 “White toddler using technology” white toddlers

2020 “White toddler using technology” 

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 2.42.09 PM

2019 “White female toddler using technology”

female

2020 “White female toddler using technology” 

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2020 “White male toddler using technology” 

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 2.44.01 PM

2019 “Male toddler using technology” male

2016 “Mexican toddler using technology” Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 8.51.58 AM

2019 “Mexican toddler using technology” 

Hispanic2.png

2020 “Mexican toddler using technology” 

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 3.03.18 PM

2016 “Hispanic toddler using technology” Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 8.58.06 AM.png

2019 “Hispanic toddler using technology” screen shot 2019-01-05 at 12.05.04 pm

2020″Hispanic toddler using technology” 

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 3.06.11 PM

2016 “Black toddler using technology” 

pictureblackpng

2019 “Black toddler using technology” pictureblack1

2020 “Black toddler using technology” 

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 1.11.20 PM

2020 “Black female toddler using technology” Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 3.18.58 PM

2020 “Black male toddler using technology” Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 3.20.41 PM

2016 “Asian toddler using technology”

Asian Toddler.png

2019 “Asian toddler using technology”

asian2019

2020 “Asian toddler using technology”

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 3.23.27 PM

 

2020 “Female Asian toddler using technology”Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 3.24.42 PM

2020 “Male Asian toddler using technology”Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 3.26.15 PM

The biases embedded in these photos can be found across a far wider search of nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, and religion.

Conduct searches such as this one on your own. Use these examples and scroll down further and see the deeper comparisons. Compare Islamic toddler using technology, Jewish toddler using technology, and Catholic toddler using technology. Scroll down each time.

Reflect with me.

Recommendations

New Year – Same Mission

New Year Same Mission

A New Year – The Same  Mission

The celebrations have some to a close. Reflection has resulted in growth, acceptance personal challenge, and goal setting. Friends and colleagues have chosen their one word to focus on for the upcoming year.

The mission, however, remains the same and requires action.

*Provide a student focused education based on connection and understanding across all education environments

*Advocate with solutions for balanced and reasonable work expectations for all educators

*Leverage modern tools to enhance instruction and employee productivity

*Make digital citizenship as a high a priority as traditional concepts of citizenship

Live by these words.

Do what’s right at the right time for the right reason – always.

Recommendations

Influencing My Heart, My Mind, My Soul – The Best of 2019

2019 was a year of great blessing and extraordinary challenge.

I’ve been blessed over my life to learn from the gifted and talented people who are a part of my circle or who I have had the great fortune to share a moment of time with.  As 2019 draws to a close, I am mindful that my greatest teacher this year was life itself, the curveballs that you cannot see coming. The gifts of family, deep friendship, and those who I was gifted a moment in time with close out a year of unforeseen challenges with a focus on the blessings that are far more powerful than any challenge that can cross our paths.

CUEACSA, and the Future Ready/Alliance for Excellent Education continue to be among my most trusted and valued professional education organizations. CALSA, the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators made it to the top of my list this year as well. The leadership, the work, the camaraderie and mentorship provided through CALSA are noteworthy. 

These organizations, my colleagues, and my friends have influenced my choice of books, movies, and music throughout the year. Here are the ones that made me think, brought me inspiration, peace of mind, or that I just simply enjoyed.

Pile of Books.

*The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

*Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond

*GMorning GNight by Lin-Manuel Miranda

*Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

*White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

*How Great Leaders Think by  Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal

*Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt

*The Leadership Lessons of Jesus by Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard

*In This Together by Nancy D. O’Reilly 

*Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 9.38.58 AM

*Avengers: Endgame

*The Upside

*Mind Hunter

*Miss Bala (Guilty Pleasure)

*Rocketman

*Crazy Rich Asians – a fun compliment to my travels in Singapore

Movies that I have my eye on:

*A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

*The Souvenir

*Dolomite is My Name

*The Two Popes

*American Factory

*The Great Hack

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 11.34.41 AM

Netflix got the better of me in 2019 – Binge Worthy Indulgences

*Madam Secretary

*Ballers

*Heartland

*Longmire

*Peaky Blinders

*Person of Interest

*Ozark

*Quantico

*Blacklist

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 9.37.25 AM

Favorite Songs and Artists

King and Country

joy.

Home by Phillip Phillips

Whiskey in My Water by Tyler Farr

American Honey by Lady Antebellum

Wish I Knew You by the Revivalists

Blame it On Me by George Ezra

Budapest by George Ezra

 

Happy 2020!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommendations

Living a Life Less Bruised

“Would you like all of your groceries in one bag, ma’am?”

“ No, thank you. Please leave the banana separate so that it lives a less bruised life.”

Isn’t this exactly what we want for each other and for our children?

Yet, we feel fear in giving our children and each the freedom to be both responsible and accountable for our actions and our choices without judgment.  Experience gives us the bruises of life that heal; the experiences from which we learn and grow.

Let us be mindful of how we respond to our children and each other without adding extra bruises.

Recommendations

The Moment of the Gift

The moment when you truly understand privilege and the difference in confidence it allows you to have without even thinking about.

As I sat at my computer working at a Starbucks, a group of middle school students from across the street started streaming in full of giggles and bumping backpacks. It reminded me of my teaching days as students would enter the classroom. My heart would felt full. I thought to myself that I might have to come sit here every afternoon to grab a moment of nostalgia. Only a couple of weeks into the school year, this is my first year of a 26-year career in public education without students. The joy of a group of happy students streaming through the door with their youthful energy and silliness tugs at my heartstrings.

They don’t know me. They don’t call out my name and they don’t run up to give me hugs. My heart feels a very strong tug.

Every student who entered the coffee shop was brown. They came in with confidence, but as a group, their body language started to change as they placed their orders. Each of them dropped their eyes as they told the barista what they wanted. They dug through backpacks and pant pockets for money.

Image result for latina at starbucksAs they sat down, their confidence increased again until one young lady spilled her frappuccino. The liquid contents rapidly spread across the tile. She and her friend quickly grabbed napkins to clean up the mess and tried to not draw attention to themselves. The mess was too big and their table was in the center of the coffee shop so there was no hiding this mishap. The young lady’s friend softly said, “I’ll buy you another one.” She whispered back “Another one? You only have $20.00 for the whole week.”

I asked if I could help and they looked both grateful and mortified at the same time. “No, it’s okay. I can clean it.”

“They have cleaning materials here. Let the woman behind the counter know that you’re drink spilled.”

The young lady’s cheeks filled with color as she said, “It’s okay, I can clean it.”

I respond, “Let’s walk-up together. Just say, ‘My drink spilled. Can someone help me?”

She came with me, looked at me with eyes that prompted me to take the lead, and just as I’ve done with countless students over the years, I commented, “You’ve got this.”

She asked for help after which I was able to prompt, “It’s okay to ask for a fresh drink. Your drink spilling was an accident.”

I felt the eyes of every young person in the coffee shop on us. I’m sure she felt the same stares. The trepidation of the group was palpable as she once again said, “No, it’s okay.”

This was clearly pushing beyond the bounds of this moment in which she had already stepped out of her comfort zone to ask for help. I asked the barista, “Is it okay for her to get a fresh drink?”

“Of course,” came the response as the barista asked her what her order had been and for her name.

The young lady sat down with her friend and just in earshot I could hear her say, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to pay for that drink and I don’t have any money.”

My heart was breaking as I observed a sampling of another generation of young women scared to ask for help, trying their best to blend in and make their way through an awkward public social moment without drawing any attention. The girls’ had each others’ back but their afternoon had taken a turn in which they were both clearly uncomfortable.

While I remember clearly what it felt like to grow up poor and to not have the money to comfortably go out with a group of friends, I don’t remember ever feeling that if I spilled my food or drink, I couldn’t ask for help or ask for a fresh order due to the mishap. Thoughts about the culture that has long put limitations on women and people of color rapidly started to form in my mind. “How can I help to try to break part of this cycle in this moment?”

I asked the girls if I could have a “mama moment” with them. Their bodies and facial expressions immediately relaxed as they both said, “Yes.”

We shared a short, but impactful on me, conversation talking about their day at school, how to ask for help with confidence, when to serve others and when to let others serve us. We talked about when you’re in a store, you’re paying for both the product and the service and that’s why Starbucks is expensive. We talked about enjoying the afternoon with girlfriends after a full day of learning at school.

The moment of gift came as they left the coffee shop, stopped by my table, and with confidence smiled, and said, “Thank you.”

Recommendations

We Respectfully Advise the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction to Use His Authority…

Up at 3:30 a.m. Shower. So tired, I barely remember the shower, but I do remember the moment I realized that I was spraying deodorant in my hair rather than hair spray. That moment woke me up.

“Do I have time to stop by Starbucks?” I wondered as I left at 4:10 a.m.

Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 4.37.20 PMI drove by the front door of the Starbucks. Joy! The lights are on and there are two women behind the counter. I can taste that grande, nonfat hazelnut latte with an extra shot and see it sitting in the console of my car available for me to sip on as I drive to the airport. Wait, what!? The sign on the drive-thru window says they don’t open until 4:30 a.m. 4:30! There’s no way I’ll make my flight if I wait. I hit the road. I’m on my way to the airport to catch a flight to Sacramento.

Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 4.39.26 PM.pngCalifornia State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond has convened a committee of educators from throughout California to inform recommendations for educator professional development. His team has provided 12 focus areas for short- and long-term goals.

Short-term Goals

  1. Equity and Access (UDL, MTSS, differentiation, etc.)
  2. Alignment/collaboration across levels, including teacher prep
  3. Research, identify and disseminate best practices
  4. Content-specific PL/PD
  5. EL Roadmap
  6. Literacy PL/PD

Long-term Goals

  1. Alignment from teacher prep through continuous PD
  2. Best practices/Models
  3. PL/PD Focus: Cultural Responsiveness
  4. Skills teachers will immediately employ in the classroom
  5. State Plan for PL/PD
  6. PL/PD Focus: Project Based Learning

My 3:30 wakeup call was the result of being invited to serve on this committee. I serve with curiosity and trepidation that our presence at this meeting and our efforts won’t really make a difference. I worry that this is another convening of a well-intentioned committee following which nothing will change. I also serve with excitement and a humble feeling to have the privilege of being a part of this conversation.

I arrive at the Sacramento County Office of education, check in and see several of my colleagues from over the years will be here as well. These are folks I know are not afraid to push the envelope. They have strong voices. They are strong proponents of supporting teachers and all educators to give them what they need to be successful with students. This is a power group of integrity and dedication.

The afternoon is well organized with clear priorities set forth. “Ooooh,” I think, “I don’t know how I feel about this. I feel an inkling of being guided into conversations that are designed to be safe and maintain the status quo.” Then Table 7 is announced. Other. Yes, other! “If none of the 6 categories align with your passions, you can go to Table 7, Other.” That’s me!

To be fair, the equity table is really tugging at me, but my vision for the changes we need in education is bigger than a single category. My vision and my passion encompass all the other categories that are available, and I do not want to address them in isolation. Great conversations around equity, cultural responsiveness, project-based learning, and developing multi-literate students are about to happen. But I like “other.”  I am all in.

I hustle over to Table 7, “Other.” I grab the blue marker and am  ready when I  notice there is only one other gentleman at the table, “I’m not sure,” he said, “that this is the right table for me.” My heart sinks. “Stay,” I say, “let’s see what we come up with together.” A couple of women wander over, kind of hang out, eye the sign, “other,” hesitate, but stay. Slowly but surely, a few more people join the table. We have representation from the California Department of Education,  data and assessment, a school district CTA president, legislative action, and environmental science.

“Other” was the best group to be a part of.

We shared the values and beliefs that informed our passion to serve on this committee. As a group, we created three large post-it pages of suggestions to empower personalized professional learning for educators. Ditch the sit and get model. Fund teachers on a per diem basis for professional learning on non-student days. Provide the technology and professional learning required to support students in becoming creators rather than consumers of digital content. Align skills-based instruction in schools with the skills industry is looking for. Plan for future skills-based instruction by referencing the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report. Support the whole teacher. Support teacher wellness!

A brief but insightful side conversation ensued, “Why do so many districts start the school year by pulling teachers out of their classrooms for professional development?” It’s not good for the kids. It creates more work for teachers and they certainly don’t have the time to implement new learning of their own in August and September. Teachers are planning lessons, getting to know their students, giving structure and stability to children from trauma-informed homes who missed the safety of school all summer. September is filled with more after-school meetings than any other month of the year. Do we really need all these September start-up meetings? Let’s be more efficient and give each interested group ten minutes to summarize their goals for the year at one staff meeting and call it good.

Well, back on track. The group listed suggestions to invest, truly invest, in new teachers during the first 3-5 years of their careers when they are most likely to decide to leave the profession. The group strongly believed in providing educators a living wage that allows educators to buy a home without having to get a second job. Let’s create structures that allow for true collaboration and implementation of professional learning into lesson planning design. Let’s structure the work day so teachers have the first part of the day to do this. Let’s stop asking educators to do heavy mental lifts and application of knowledge after they’ve been working with anywhere from 30-280+ students at the end of the day.

We put a heavy demand on educators to work on achieving long term goals at the time of day during which employees in all organizations are most tired. This is also the time of day when educators are focused on short-term goals such as planning instructional adaptations and preparation for the next day, supporting students in need of extra time and attention, calling parents they want to connect with before going home.

The suggestion that received significant support from the full committee as the discussion opened up to the full group was “take care of the whole teacher, their mental and physical wellness, financial security, and life balance.”

image 0Each participant was given black sticky dots to put on the idea they felt was most important from all the suggestions in the room and the “other” group, the group that recommended “Let’s take care of teachers” saw black sticky dots all over the recommendation. The applause after the group’s presentation was loud and the basis for much discussion during the break.

There is so much that needs to be done within the education system to create the knowledge base and learning structures that best support students. A loud and clear message came forth though. We are stuck and we are going to continue to be stuck until our educators, teachers, support staff, and administrators are taken care of in workplaces that have the resources and mindset to focus on the health of the whole person.

The neuroscience behind learning already exists. The research-based practices that support student and adult learning already exist. Yet, the truth about the greatest struggle in the implementation of the learning science came forward through the placement of black sticky dots and loud applause. We need to take better care of our teachers. Then and only then will we have the bandwidth as a profession to engage in developing the structures to support the implementation of the most effective learning designs.

Finally, the ask of the day was to create a single statement with the sentence starter, “The superintendent should…”

Thus, we respectfully advise the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction to use his authority to work with Governor Newsom and the California Legislature to fund schools so that the resources are in place to provide for the needs of all students within structures that allow for educators to live balanced lives. 

 

 

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The Future of Work Really is Right Now

I sat down at the only seat available, scoring a spot at a sushi bar with the perfect view of Game 1 of the NBA playoffs, ultimately an unfortunate loss for the Dubs to Toronto. An hour and a half after our usual dinner time at home and with no afternoon snack, I was eyeballing the sushi roll on the plate of the gentleman sitting to my right. He kindly let me that the staff were very busy, and it could be a while until someone would be available to take my order. Thus, I continued eyeballing his plate. That sushi looked good.

As part of a typical mid-week hotel conversation opener,  he asked, “Are you here for the conference?” “No, I have a meeting here tomorrow. What conference is in town?” As it turned out, I had stumbled into the 10TH ANNUAL AWE USA 2019 Conference -The World’s #1 AR+VR Conference and Expo. This conference is held around the world four times each year, once in the United States.

The gentleman’s name was Nate. He works for a construction company and was looking for a virtual reality company to partner with to build out his company’s projects. He spoke of the increased marketing and funding opportunities when presenting designs to investors in a virtual format, the increased creativity and iterations available to architects and engineers during the design and troubleshooting phases of project management. He was also impressed with the associated return on investment with less loss of time during planning and troubleshooting, savings on materials, and the decreased risk for construction workers during the physical building phase.

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I thought, “This is brilliant!” Then it struck me. This is what is real in architecture and construction right now. He showed me an example of the virtual construction tour he took earlier that day at the VR/AR playground. “Whoa, wait a minute, this is happening right now?! Right here? In this building?”

Holy smokes, at the rate technology, progresses, what is this going to look like in two years from now?”  Oh, my, goodness, what are architecture design, engineering, and construction going to look like for today’s kindergartener when they enter the workforce in 10– 20 years?

We are literally still having conversations about the need to get rid of meaningless worksheets in schools! We’re spending far too much time with politics and judgment around standardized test scores, compliance issues in schools, and how to modify the antiquated industrial model learning structures still so pervasive in schools.

Meanwhile, much of industry isn’t even bothering to engage in the K-12 conversation. The adaption to support current learning and current real-world practices is taking far too long. To remain a competitive and economic viable nation, industry is having to create their own education programs.

The critical mass needed to create the change required in the school system exists. Yet, many organizations with the same vision and the same goals remain siloed in their advocacy, professional education, and industry partner efforts. It’s time to bring the shared expertise of industry, education, and the legislature together to be bold and swift in embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensuring that our children are equipped to live in this world and that Baby Boomers and Generations X understand how to support the shift that is needed.

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We Light a Candle for Everyone to Grow

img_0946“Here in Singapore, we don’t compete. We help each other,” commented a Singaporean principal as we shared a table over lunch at the World EduLead Conference. She was with two other colleagues from their cluster who were preparing to excuse themselves for a promotion ceremony from assistant principals to principals. Still, they took some time to visit, talking about how they get together every month, “…to learn together, have lunch and conversation.” They shared knowing looks and laughed as they spoke of having support conversations with each other . As educators, we know the importance of the cathartic conversations with colleagues, about the moments that bring us joy, make us laugh, or that we just can’t believe.

Slowly but surely during this conversation, an understanding starting taking hold of one of the concepts my friend and colleague, John Miller, shared with me during the first couple of days of my Singaporean visit. “The teachers meet in clusters and there’s no admin there. There’s no product you have to turn in afterwards. It’s wild.” “Hmmmm,” I’ve spent several days now wondering just how this works in this country of high PISA test scores and a growing emphasis towards educating the whole student.

As we wrapped up lunch, the topic came up again. It was extraordinary to hear administrative colleagues from different schools comment, “…we don’t compete. We help each other.” As it turns out there are local, cluster, and national learning networks led by a master teacher that educators choose to join. There is an agenda, attendance is confirmed, and “the food is good.”

Networks may be subject specific, grade span focused, interest supported: art, music, game-based learning.

Freedom to learn and connect through our professional passions could be very rejuvenating. What if we, in the United States, systemically, stopped comparing schools on test scores and culturally embraced investing in the success of all schools by investing in all educators by passion and self-identified growth areas? What is we created networks for professional learning that aren’t bound by geography or a specific time frame? What could happen if flexibility in professional learning became part of the supported professional practice?”

I am ready to embrace the advice of my Singaporean colleague and lunch partner and as she commented, “…light a candle for everyone to grow.”