Tag: CaSupts

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. 

 

 

Recommendations

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.

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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?

Recommendations

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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