All posts by pgilders

Executive Director, CUE

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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I Never Say Anything

10 students

1 teacher

1 superintendent

1 topic…or so I thought

The third grade class had been given the prompt to write about a strong woman they admired. I felt quite humbled when their teacher shared that several students had chosen me as that strong woman. This honor came with an invitation to speak to the third-grade students and a specific request to talk about the travel and advocacy work I do.

“Oh, this is going to be fun.” I thought as the teacher in me started thinking cross-curricular and how to make this a lesson that included history, geography, and the power of one’s voice.

I shared pictures from Washington D.C., the United States Department of Education, me in front of the White House, a picture of colleagues and myself with previous U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. John King, and pictures from the Capitol in Sacramento. I spoke and I talked to the students about the power of their voice.

As I began to wrap up, “Remember, your voice is important, sometimes you will be the only girl or woman in the room, sometimes you’ll be the only person with color in the room, sometimes you may be the only boy or man in the room. During these times, remember to own your voice and keep it strong even if it feels uncomfortable.” Ah, done, that was wonderful. I had a chance to teach. I got to connect with kids. I was happy!

A hand shot up from the front row. “Mrs. Hernandez, sometimes, I’m the only girl in the room when my friends are at reading, and I never say anything then.”

Voice

 

 

 

 

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Societal Barriers to Equity in Education 2019

2080 toddler retirementThis young man doesn’t talk yet, doesn’t walk yet, but he and his friends will be in classrooms across the United States in just a few short years. They will arrive familiar with how to use a smartphone and a tablet. They will likely look at desktop computers with interest at such a novel item. Will every classroom, every teacher, every lesson be prepared to engage him and his classmates with an education that uses the tools and technology of their generation? The tools that they are growing up with and that are already fully integrated into their personal lives?

Despite the fact, that the smartphone and similar technology are as commonplace, if not more so, than the crayon and pencil to today’s toddler and incoming kindergarten student, there continues to be significant debate about the integration of modern technology in the educational process. Nevertheless, the technological shift that is part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is moving forward. Unsettling is the fact that education lags far behind private industry in its adaptation.

The full implementation of digital and cloud-based curriculum that is in alignment with the required shift in pedagogy to keep pace, not to mention a full grasp of the skills today’s student needs to be successful for a career that will take them through 2080, continues to elude much of the policy, legislation, and pedagogical practice designed to prepare students for life as a contributing national and global citizen.

It is with this in mind that discussions about the much-needed education revolution takes on increasing urgency. The required systemic shift lags too far behind what the workforce requires as evidenced by the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs Report. It is predicted that in as early as 2022 as part of the New Economy and New Society of the Fourth Industrial Revolution up to 54% of the workforce will require significant reskilling and upskilling in order to remain relevant. While automation will increasingly take over more mundane tasks, 38% of companies report that they expect to grow their workforce with new positions that correspond with the creativity and support that will be required to underpin new products and industry growth.

All the while a disparity continues to exist among gender and race as well as equitable access to educational opportunities, career entry and salary.

In 2016, before equity became a buzzword, a leader in the education community was preparing to facilitate a workshop that would explore tools and discussions around a district’s vision for modern instruments in education. The participants would be district and site leaders of a predominantly Hispanic community. In conducting a Google search for images of  “Mexican toddler using technology.” Here’s what popped:

picturehispani

Now full disclosure, the author of this article was the leader of this workshop. As both an educator and the parent of a mixed race, Hispanic son, I was shocked! The educator in me in 2016 was stunned, the parent in me could hardly breathe.

The same search in 2019, yielded this result:

Hispanic2.png

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

A 2016 search for “white toddler using technology” yielded these images. Notice the distinct differences.

white toddlers

“Okay,” I thought to myself, “be politically correct with your search term and see what happens with ‘Hispanic toddler using technology.”

picture1

I’m thinking, “Better, but do my eyes deceive me or are most of these images still of white children?”

A 2019 search shows some improvement. However, notice the age of the children, the number of non-Hispanic children, the outdated television set and image without any device present.

picture2

The next set of images of the same search bring real concern. Notice the activities, ages, race and captions that pop for “Hispanic toddler using technology.”

screen shot 2019-01-05 at 12.05.04 pm

 

My next thought in 2016 was, “Well, as long as I’ve started down this path…” black toddler using technology.”

pictureblackpng

2019

pictureblack1

2016 “Asian toddler using technology”

Asian Toddler.png

2019

asian2019

The 2019 search added gender.

Male toddler using technology.

male

Two of fifteen images clearly depict girls and there is a clear bias in race.

Female toddler using technology.

female

The first three images are of boys using technology. Seven of fourteen, 50%, of the images clearly include boys. Again, there is a clear bias towards race.

What began as quick Google search in 2016 turned out to have a far more profound impact on an already strong belief regarding the importance of the work educators do in breaking down stereotypes and providing equity in education. The images in the Google search speak loudly. Societal perceptions and expectations are clearly captured.

This “quick Google search” brings light to the call to action to support equity in both education and society as a whole. The cultural biases embedded in the everyday task of “googling” information continues to build on traditional stereotypes, reinforcing cultural biases that place clear limits not just on equitable opportunity but ensuring that society is empowering the intellect and skills that will allow for successful navigation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Influencing My Heart, My Mind, My Soul – The Best of 2018

2018 has been a wonderful year of learning, connecting, growing, and being inspired by the many great educators who I am blessed to work with. Thank you to everyone that I get to work with on a daily basis, through professional organizations such as CUE, ACSA, Future Ready/Alliance for Excellent Education and EIAK12. As the year draws to a close, here are the books, movies, and music that made me think, brought me inspiration, peace of mind, or that I just simply enjoyed. A few of these I just keep rereading as they sit by my bed or by my favorite chair in the living room. They weren’t all released during 2018. They are simply the books, movies, and music that found their way into my heart, my soul, and my intellect this past year.

Pile of Books

Favorite Books:

*Becoming by Michelle Obama

*The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan

*Little Dreamers – Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison and recommended to me by a wonderful 3rd grade student.

*GMorning GNight by Lin-Manuel Miranda

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

*Wit and Wisdom from the Yoga Mat by Rachel Scott

*You Are Doing a Freaking Great Job -Workman Publishing New York

*The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

*The Right Kind of Crazy by Adam Steltzner

*Transforming School Libraries by Ron Starker

*Mindset by Carol Dweck

*The Art of War by Sun Tzu

*How Great Leaders Think by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal

*The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

*Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 9.38.58 AM

Favorite Movies:

Mowgli – Legend of the Jungle

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Incredibles 2

Black Panther

Roma

Looking Forward to Watching:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

If Beale St. Could Talk

Eighth Grade

First Man

 

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Favorite Songs

Blame it On Me by George Ezra

Budapest by George Ezra

Catch My Disease by Ben Lee

Lost in My Mind by The Head and the Heart

Home by Phillip Phillips

Wish I Knew You by the Revivalists

What Are We Waiting For by Leslie Odom, Jr.

I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff

Hey, Hey, Hey by Michael Franti Spearhead

The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti and Spearhead

Island Style by John Cruz

Island in the Sun by Shwayze and Cisco

Simple by Florida Georgia Line