Tag: Challenges


Love Never Stops

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“Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 

As educators of faith, let us remember that, love never stops…

…being patient Help us to remember to be patient with our students who struggle, with colleague’s who we may not see eye to eye with, with parents whose support we don’t feel, and community members that we work in partnership with.

 …believing Help us to remember that every child, every student, can grow and learn. Help us to remember that we do have the patience and the ability to support them. Help us to remember that everyone has the same goal of doing good work for children.

…hoping Help us to have the energy and enthusiasm to always bring our best, to know that we are making a difference in the lives of children and the direction of their futures.

Love never gives up. Help us to remember that through the challenges, You are by our side and the side of every student we serve. Help us to remember that when negativity comes our way, to stay true to the work of helping and teaching children, to supporting and accepting support from our colleagues, parents, and community. Help us to keep an open mind when listening to those who don’t agree. Help us to do work in the interest of all children unconditionally, to forgive, and give the gift of grace to ourselves and to others.


Leading During Times of Trial

I was given the book The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan by a community member with a note that read, “May this book bring you inspiration during times of trial.” Remember, sometimes doing the right thing is hard!”

The gift and the note were timely. I had just been on the receiving end of some strong criticism.  I was challenged in a public a meeting with statements of, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and finally, “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?”

This reminded me of a popular cartoon in education circles:


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While satirical, the cartoon has become well known among educators because it is often how we feel things are. It was certainly how I felt as those comments were called out.

But, back to the book…

As I read the introduction, I was struck by the opening quote, from Laurens van der Post “We live not only in our lives, but, whether we know it or not, also the life of our time.”

Noonan writes of being a pioneer. Initially, as a part of the “first great wave of women” to enter the field of journalism during the 1970s, then as a female speechwriter for the President during the Reagan years, and finally as one of the first internet columnists for the Wall St. Journal. She writes of a society looking for a “shock to the system” in the last presidential election.

As I read her words, I was struck by the “shock to the system,” the changes in education have brought over the past ten years to what once seemed very standard and therefore safe. There was a perception that grandparents, parents, and children would ultimately have pretty similar school experiences and stories. It may not have been exciting, but it was safe.

The past ten years have brought significant changes to the standards that are taught, to the methods used to teach them, to the technology that is still being experimented with, to keeping children safe and emotionally regulated, to the classroom and furniture design, to the way schools are funded or underfunded. Our children’s classroom and play experiences no longer look like those so fondly remembered by past generations. To some this is exciting; to others this is frightening. When we become afraid or nervous about something it is because we sense danger. What is unfamiliar or unknown can bring forth strong reactions.

It can be scary to not understand a once familiar system. It can be scary to not understand the changes. Statements such as, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?” can come from a genuine place of seeking what one believes is in the best interest. It can bring genuine frustration that while the concerns are heard, they are not changing a course of action.

Changes to our education system, the way students learn inside and outside of classrooms are going to continue. We will either adapt or we will risk becoming irrelevant. It does not feel safe to move forward into the unknown, but it is clear that we must nevertheless move in that direction.

Even with this knowledge, these statements have continued to make me uneasy.

In a  homily, given by Father Kelly Vanderhey at Mission San Luis Obispo, he stated, “Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity.”

“Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity,”

The sermon continued with the reflection that there are seven really difficult years in everyone’s life. Seven years of pain that we all struggle through. Those seven years are from the ages of 13-19. These are the years during which we most struggle for freedom. We struggle for freedom from our parents and from rules. We seek independence. Yet, we are not ready to accept the full responsibility and accountability for those freedoms. We also seek to avoid the consequences for not following the rules.

It seems we may be in the teenage years of transformation in education. We seek independence from a system we know wasn’t working for children. We struggle with the transition. We want the freedom to explore and experiment to truly meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of every child. We have to be strong because it can feel easy to give in to the pressure that is loud.

While laws, rules, policies, and regulations can be boring, it turns out that these are what ultimately do keep us safe during times of change, struggle, and disagreement.

In her book, Noonan also quotes Pope John XXIII:

Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.

Continue to lead during times of trial for it is when we are out of our comfort zones that the magic will happen.


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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We Have to Stop Pretending

imagesI was challenged today, challenged by a great teacher who tagged me and four other educators worth keeping an eye on if you’re on Twitter. Third grade teacher, Lisa Nowakowski, also known as @NowaTechie and author of Nowa Techie, directed her challenge towards me, Kevin Ashworth, Andy Losik, Rae Fearing and Travis Phelps. The shout out is part of the #MakeSchoolDifferent Challenge which originated in a post on Scott McCloud’s blog dangerously ! irrelevant. Educators across the nation are tagging one another to acknowledge five things in education we need to stop pretending. That’s the easy part. The hard part is coming up with solutions to trends that educators are acknowledging in their posts.

So here it is. Five things we need to stop pretending…

  1. That school is engaging our students
  2. That our students see the relevancy in what they’re learning
  3. That class size doesn’t have a meaningful impact
  4. That standardized testing is bad
  5. That it isn’t okay to acknowledge that taking care of the teacher is putting students first


Here’s the thinking behind each of the bullet points.

  1. Students sit, sit and sit throughout their school day. As Alex Wiggins noted in his blog post after shadowing a student for two days, sitting is exhausting. I sat with our students on the same uncomfortable bench without a backrest for a 45 minute assembly on the use of social media last week. I found the topic very interesting, but we just sat and listened for 45 minutes. I started to become more aware of my need to stand up, stretch, urge to share a comment and started to look around. As I looked around, I saw students distracted in a variety of manners and I understood why. It wasn’t that the content wasn’t interesting, there just wasn’t an opportunity to engage/interact with it. Kids want to learn! They need to be able to interact with the learning and we need to create classroom structures and environments that will make them feel welcome, comfortable and allow them to interact with one another and move around as they learn.
  1. It continues to be a tradition honored by each generation of students that attends school to ask, “Why are we learning this? Why do I need to know this?” As a profession, we continue to struggle with showing our students the relevance of much of their classroom instruction. My anecdotal observations show that teachers who take a project based learning approach to classroom instruction have students who have a greater understanding of the relevancy of their learning.
  1. John Hattie’s research, as published in his book Visible Learning for Teachers, shows that there is a limited correlation between class size and student achievement. One thing we don’t pretend is that a teacher’s job is so much more than a focus on student achievement. As a profession, most of us share an interest in teaching the whole child and having strong school to home relationships. It makes a difference if an elementary teacher has 25, 32 or 38 students assigned to their class. It makes a difference if a secondary teacher has 150 student contacts per day or 200 or 250.
  1. Standardized testing has earned a bad rap. Politicians and the media have taken what can be useful data to evaluate student progress over time and program effectiveness and turned the testing results into a way to judge and punish schools and to create a perception that some schools are better than others based on a snapshot of academic testing. The truth is the data from these types of assessments do give us useful information. It is unfortunate that these tests have been given the power to negatively judge our schools and that the results are so often used to criticize or are misused when making comparisons.

5. Every educator will tell you, “It’s about the kids first.” This phrase is also used to stop a counter argument in it’s tracks.The quickest way to win an argument in education is to imply in any way that the other’s person’s opinions are not putting kids first. Taking care of our teachers and all educational professionals is putting kids first.

imgres I now challenge some of my colleagues who I have great respect for to join this challenge and to share their posts with us on Twitter. Ken Durham, Kaleb Rashad, Dr. Eric Chagala and Sammie Cervantes what do you think?


Positive Outlook Confirmed

Positive, Spontaneous, Charismatic, Idealistic, Empathetic

I just finished taking the Kingdomality Vocational Personality Profile sponsored by Career Management International. My results – A Dreamer Minstrel. I was surprised at first to see “Dreamer” in the description, but as I read the personality description, I was very entertained as it described me to a T.



“You can alway see the ‘Silver Lining’ to every dark and dreary cloud.” – Yes, and this is not always well-received. I was once referred to as “pollyanna” in unkind terms by a colleague in my field. I’ve chosen to carry the reference with pride!


“Look at the bright side is your motto.” Yes, I believe everything happens for a reason. It’s not always clear why something happens at first reflection, particularly when the experience has not been positive or rewarding. Nevertheless, I do believe that with time, we gain awareness of why certain experiences have been a part of our lives and how we benefit from them.



“There is nothing so terrible that you can not find some good within it.” True. I’ve taking care of a lot of student discipline lately and a child who get’s sent to my office during 6th period, has made it successfully through 5/6 of his or her day. A student who comes to tears in my office is facing acceptance and is starting to heal. My son got a 50% on a quiz (darn kid is usually a straight A student); he mastered half the content before the quiz and the other 50% afterwards and learned a lesson in perseverance as well as a valuable life lesson as he continued the learning process even when the grade wouldn’t go up.

Positive, Spontaneous, Charismatic, Idealistic, Empathetic – yep, I like this!


The Common Core – A Challenge or an Opportunity?

When looking at the Common Core, I see more opportunity than I do challenges. I see the opportunity for teachers to engage more in the “art” of teaching. I see the opportunity for greater focus and financial support to integrate the 21st Century tools our students use in their personal lives. I see the opportunity to take all students to application and synthesis as part of their learning.   I see the opportunity for teachers to engage in the art of teaching. As a profession, we have spent significant time and resources on training our teachers in the science of teaching, direct interactive instruction and implementing researched based curriculum in a structured and consistent manner. The importance of this can not be understated as we consider Bloom’s taxonomy and providing our students with the foundational skills needed and acquired through gaining knowledge and developing skills to support comprehension. However, as we get into the higher levels of learning that support students as critical thinkers where they begin experimenting, comparing ideas, evaluating outcomes and imagining possibilities, we need to engage with them from the heart. Teaching and learning involve emotion. We can inspire a student. We can also bore a student. The Common Core with it’s focus on critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration create opportunities for teachers to engage the mind and help students understand the “why” of their learning and the “why” of what they are learning.   Part of the transition to the Common Core will be in changing the mind-set of educators on how they approach the presentation of lessons in the classroom. There will have to be a shift in professional development, the tools used to support the learning of both the teacher and the student and how we teach students to express their understanding. It will take a while to adjust from a long-held practice of filling in bubbles and circling the correct answer to supporting students in articulating how they have arrived at their conclusions, but this approach will ultimately engage the learner in much deeper learning.   Transitions can cause trepidation. Thirteen years after the No Child Left Behind Act, a policy that strongly encouraged a very regimented approach to teaching, our educators are being asked to make quick shift in their practice. It will take time to make the mental adjustment, to engage in professional development and reading that support our teachers’ expertise and to implement changes in the classroom that support the Common Core. Educators are by a nature a conscientious group of people. They want to do what is best for their students. They want to meet the expectations set forth by their profession. It can however feel challenging to have to sway with the winds of both the State and Federal legislature as politicians define the focus of instructional expectations and the funding that is allocated to support the changes of those expectations.   It is our responsibility as administrators to teach our teachers and our communities. It is our responsibility to support our educators in understanding the origin of and the “why” behind the Common Core. It is our responsibility to assist our teachers in understanding the caliber of input that was provided by our professional colleagues toward informing this educational policy.   In order to successfully make this shift with buy-in from the teachers who are charged with modifying their current practice, we need to provide them with the knowledge, tools, professional development and time to adapt their practice. This will be done through an allocation of resources that will allow for the opportunity to engage in study and professional collaboration combined with the sharing of ideas, successes and failures. A well-organized Professional Learning Community focused on the successful implementation of the Common Core can support this. As the teacher’s pedagogical approach shifts they will need access to 21st Century learning tools that will support their instruction in conjunction with on-going professional development on how to incorporate these into the classroom instructional model.   Ensuring and monitoring the success of Common Core implementation will be measured not only by the data collected from students’ Smarter Balance testing results, but also by how teachers’ instructional practices change, the tools they use, their knowledge base and comfort level with teaching to the higher level of learning that the Common Core has set forth as well as student work samples and projects. In order to evaluate on-going progress and success, site leadership should take time at the beginning of the year to collect baseline information on their staffs’ comfort level with the new standards, how confident they feel in the professional development they have been provided with, what tools and instructional strategies are currently being used in the classroom, the level of buy-in they have to the Common Core. After gathering this information, site staff and it’s instructional leadership team can decide on goals for the year and what type of professional development should be provided to support the goals for the site as a whole and for individual teachers looking to gain specific areas of expertise. The same survey given at the beginning of the year should be given to the staff again at the end of the year. Once the results are analyzed, they should be presented to the site’s instructional leadership team and then to the full staff. This process should be cyclical and can become a part of the planning done during the spring to plan for the following school year.   Are these challenges or opportunities? I understand the mind-set of viewing these as challenges, particularly in terms of funding a transition of this magnitude, but I do see great opportunity in the process of making this change. It appears that as educators, we may be participating in a revolution of our education system; a revolution that may have a similar impact on how we teach as the industrial revolution did. I suspect this period of history will one day be studied for the influence it is having on society in the same manner in which the impact of the industrial revolution is studied for its effect on our culture. This is an exciting time.