Month: February 2018


Leading Courageously

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.21.19 PMACSA’s Superintendent Symposium recently brought together leaders from the forefront of California’s schools. The symposium provided the platform for sharing the vision, learning, and successful practices that are moving the State’s public schools forward. While California’s public schools rank 41st in the nation for per-pupil funding, the State’s superintendents contributed successful practices that are bringing creative and visionary leadership to the challenge of being underresourced. The goal – to provide rigorous academic instruction highlighted by preparing students for rapidly changing workforce skill sets while instilling a strong foundation in local, national, global, and digital citizenship. The methodology – putting structures and systems into place in cultures of support and caring for students and the adults who serve them.

Achieving this goal comes, first and foremost,  with an investment in people. An investment in the professional learning of the people who work with students every day. An investment in the teachers who design lessons. An investment in the support staff who keep things moving behind the scenes. An investment in all those who are supporting the learning and the social/emotional development of the children who attend our schools. Students come to school each day with a variety of needs. Some students show up from strong, supportive homes ready to be challenged. Some students show up for the only two meals of the day they will eat and a safe place to spend their spend time. Others show up needing social/emotional support, extra help to work through the challenges of a disability, or trying to learn English while also keeping up with grade level curriculum. Our schools are filled with caring staffs rising to the challenge of serving every child.

Calfornia’s school superintendents gathered to share successes and strategies on how to lead and support this very important work. These leaders were inspired as they focused on what it takes to prepare today’s student for their future within the structures that are being defined by rapid change and a need for adaptability. Keynotes by  Thomas C. Murray of the Alliance for Excellent Education and Future Ready Schools, as well as Travis Allen of the iSchool Initiative, were energizing. The messages and resources provided forced deep thinking about how we are engaging our students in classrooms right now while simultaneously being tasked to prepare them for the world they will live in as adults.

 I left inspired! 

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.28.53 PMUpon coming home from this week of professional learning, I, like the rest of the attendees, needed to catch up with mail, bills, email, laundry, grocery shopping… One of my first stops, as I embarked on catching up on the home and work fronts, was at Albertson’s. As I shopped for the upcoming week’s groceries, I noticed how engaged a three-year-old was with his grandparents as they too did their grocery shopping. I began gently “stalking” and eavesdropping on them.

I first met them in the meat department, where the full of life and personality three-year-old showed that he has great taste in the type steak he would like to eat – top sirloin. His grandparents were far more partial to the hamburger, but he had outstanding self-advocacy skills and, ultimately, the top sirloin made its way into the grocery cart.

As his grandparents hesitated to buy the steak, he took it upon himself to look around for and connect to other resources to help himself get what he wanted. He received support from unsuspecting customers in the meat department who responded to his requests for assistance. The first customer he reached out to, grabbed a plastic bag for him. He took the package of steak he wanted and the next customer he approached helped him to get the steak in the bag. All this, while his grandmother’s hand rested on his shoulder as she perused the hamburger options with her husband.  I became cognizant that in this brief moment,  the child had shown me that the at the age of three, he is already able to identify his preferences, speak articulately, advocate for himself, and collaborate with those around him to assist with problem-solving. These are expectations that are addressed specifically in the standards and strategies taught in our schools. Yet, there continues to be discussion and pushback in some circles on giving students voice and flexibility in their learning.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 1.39.43 PMThe final stop of the shopping trip was at the Redbox. As I was selecting a movie, this toddler stood at the machine to my left while his grandparents watched him from the check-out line. As his grandmother paid for the groceries, he tapped through the prompts to get to the video game he wanted.

I watched and listened as his grandfather approached and asked him what he was doing. The young boy, confidently responded that he was renting a video game. His grandfather responded that they couldn’t rent the video game. “Why not?” asked our clearly well-developed consumer. Grandad replied, “Because the machine isn’t working.” Without skipping a beat, the gentleman‘s grandson responded, “Yes grandpa, the machine does work. Here, let me teach you how. Can I have your credit card? All you have to do now is swipe your credit card and confirm your email. It will give you the game. The machine is working.”
I thought,”What an incredible spirit of generosity ready to teach, not to mention, great use of the word ‘confirm’.” I saw the beginning understandings of financial literacy. I saw the medium that is most engaging to this young man. I saw that he wanted to share this knowledge and was excited about his ability to do so.  I saw self-advocacy skills.

I also saw that despite being told no twice, his spirit continued to remain positive, his ability to problem solve on his own continued to remain strong, his confidence to speak up continued to remain intact,

I kept this in mind as I thought of the research and data that Tom had presented from the “Engaged Today: Ready for Tomorrow,” Gallup Student Poll, 2015 during his keynote. It is disheartening to see how students respond by grade level to the prompt of whether they are having fun learning while at school.


The graph clearly shows the rate at which the level of enthusiasm for learning at school declines.

Travis Allen, college student, and entrepreneur shares a story about the skills he learned through video games that serve as the foundation for his successful business. I appreciated his encouragement that as adults we should sit down and play these games with children so that we can see the skills they are learning from gaming. Games such as SimCity, Diner Dash, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and the Angry Birds series are only a sampling of games that develop skills such as urban planning, creativity in problem-solving, managing a budget, paying attention to details, pulling information and details out of situations.

This wonderful three-year-old boy, grocery shopping at Albertson’s with his grandparents, made sure that the learning and the thinking that happened at ACSA’s Superintendent’s Symposium solidified an understanding of what our call to leadership is. We must support our public schools with adequate resources and the freedom to explore how to engage students. This boy will come to us with some understanding of financial literacy. He will come to us as a child who is curious, creative and a problem solver. He will come to us with strong verbal communication skills, already applying critical thinking to come up with solutions for real world day to day challenges and problems.

It is up to us, as educators, to put structures in place that allow for the freedom and flexibility needed to change a system in which data points demonstrate a decline in student engagement the longer they attend school. It is up to us to continue to engage this little boy with the learning tools he has already started developing during his toddler years. It is up to us to provide him with an education not just from the point of view of adults, but also from the point of view and expectations of him as a learner. It is up to us to capitalize on the skills he is already bringing with him

He will be in one of our classrooms in a year and a half. Will we be ready?


A Powerful Personal Moment

As I tried to leave work, one thing after another kept coming up that, moment by moment, began putting me behind schedule. I was heading to an ACSA Personnel Academy in the same town that my son attends college. My hope was to grab a quick Starbucks Frappuccino for some caffeine to help me get through what would end up being a 14 hour work day and to be able to stop by to get a quick hug from my son, while also getting to the Academy on time.

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I finally got on the road. One slow vehicle after another kept getting in front of me. Driving along the 101 in California, there were several construction sites and thus rightfully slower zones. These had been planned for in the original departure time goal.

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.37.58 AMI pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru to discover the line was longer than expected. Orders were being filled slowly. Another car had pulled in behind me and I couldn’t back up and skip the stop. I started taking deep breaths and texted my son, “I’m running behind schedule. Not sure if I’ll be able to stop by.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.09.23 AMBack on the 101, the two cars ahead of me drove side by side at 55 mph in a 70 mph hour zone. I couldn’t pass either one of them and could feel myself getting frustrated. Yet, all of a sudden a very calm feeling came over me. The words, “I’m protecting you,” came into my mind. The calmness was so sudden and out of the blue. It really caught my attention. I took a deep breath and said a prayer, “God, thank you for slowing me down and protecting me from whatever it is that I may never know. I trust that You are taking care of me.”

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Ten minutes later, I drove past a six-vehicle accident. Several volunteers had already pulled over to assist, but emergency personnel had not yet arrived.Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.02.23 AM


Not only did I stop to get and give that hug to my son, but I took some extra time to buy him dinner and tell him the story. I ended up getting 5 incredible hugs during those twenty minutes, was able to hear some wonderful stories from him, and am now looking forward to a bonus Monday night dinner date with him.

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Yes, I arrived late to the Academy. When I got there though, I found the session was just getting started.

I thank God for the gift of faith He has given me, for protecting me, and for helping me keep what is really important in perspective.

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Shifting the 21st Century Conversation

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 3.47.48 PMIt’s 2018 and we’re still having conversations about what it means to be a 21st Century Leader and Learner in education. We are still having conversations about what a 21st Century education should like. Nearly one-fifth of the way into the 21st Century, it’s time to shift these conversations and focus on the actions needed to ensure that we are providing a relevant education to today’s student that will prepare them for their tomorrow.

What exactly does this look like:

  1. Design learning experiences and spaces that will allow students to develop the skills they will need to be successful in careers that will take them into the 22nd Century: Adaptability, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Relationship Building.

     2. Understand that National, Global, and Digital Citizenship can all be rolled into one.             Citizenship. Being a person of good character stands the test of time.

     3. Engage each generation’s student in learning with the tools that are being used by             their generation.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 3.50.49 PMMaking the commitment to being an educator is making a commitment to the future. It is making a commitment to empowering each generation with knowledge and skills.  The responsibility for educating children and students of all ages has always been an important one. Yet, our generation has been given the gift of living in a time marked by rapid shifts technological growth and in how the world does business.

The education system is still in its infancy in responding to the needs of the globally connected, digitally literate student. Courage is needed by educators, parents, community members, legislators, and students to move from accepting the transferring of past practice to digital formats towards practices that enhance and accelerate learning that is engaging and relevant.

We must bring an open mindset to our roles. We must embrace innovation and lead by investing in people. Teacher leaders invest in your administrators. Site and district office leaders invest in your support staff, classified staff, and classroom teachers. Educate parents, community members, school boards and legislators to bring an understanding of what it looks like to prepare students for their tomorrow. Share resources and professional learning that support the growth and adaptability of the education profession and the system that supports it.

Preparing students for their future is a call to action. Whether in a small school district or a large one, whether in a small school or a large school, whether in a small community or a large community, invest in, learn with, and educate. Shift the conversation. Embrace what is possible and make it happen.