Friday, July 27, 2018

Opening the Door to New Possibilities



My feet have finally landed and are now firmly planted eager to begin a new chapter. It’s been a whirl wind of excitement and change. After 25 years of teaching, I am embarking on a new career. To say that this was a tough decision would be an understatement. Honestly, I am not a crier, but I cried the last three weeks of school—at the drop of hat. I didn’t even recognize myself! The thought of leaving a school that I loved, colleagues who have seen you through the good, bad and the ugly--and my students (well you know, it was like a death). I mourned the thought of not walking though the door to my classroom, I mourned the loss of the family that I had become an integral part of, and I really mourned the thought that I was losing my identity as a teacher.  

It’s not that I wasn’t excited about my new role, or that I feared making new friends, but it was what I was leaving behind. I had a career that I was crazy in love with. With every breath, I was a passionate educator who wanted to help shape education in a positive and profound way—and that’s why I left the classroom. I recognized that it was time to embrace an opportunity to influence education on a broader scale. My new role will allow me to embrace my inner teacher and creatively weave my experiences as an educator into the new role as a central office Coordinator of Admisssions and Strategic Marketing. I’m jumping in with both feet!


Change is good. It breathes new life into us, presents us with new challenges and opens new doors. The question is, do you take the opportunity and walk through it? I did! Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Finding Balance-Is it possible?



bal·ance
ˈbaləns/
noun
  1. 1
    an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

    "slipping in the mud but keeping their balance"

    synonyms:stabilityequilibrium, steadiness, footing
    "I tripped and lost my balance"
verb
  1. 1
    keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.

    "a mug that she balanced on her knee"

    synonyms:steadystabilizepoiselevel
    "she balanced the book on her head"
  2. Even distribution of weight, keeping things in a sturdy position so that it does not fall over-- sounds simple enough, right? But balancing all that life asks of us can be very difficult, downright elusive on many days. 
    Admit it! You ARE envious of the person who seems to have it all together. They appear to be perfect. They exercise regularly, they are widely successful in their careers-- and they have the perfect family. You scratch your head--and ask yourself "how do they balance it all?" and "why can't I?". 
    Well let me in on the secret, not everything is as it seems. I've learned that balance and perfection are quite elusive. We can certainly strive for them, but at what cost? Some days you are able to get to the gym and some not. Some days you may give up family time for work, and other days you may miss work for family. And it's all ok! What is really important is that you work toward balance and not beat yourself up when you can't achieve it. 

    Jen Hogan recently tweeted this out and it resonated with me. Admittedly, I am my worst critic, and seek perfection, but this quote gives us all permission to do our best and be happy with it! Each day, I do my best to feed my body and soul with things that make me whole. Some days I get everything in--and other days, not so much. But everyday is a new day to seek balance; it's like the movie Groundhog Day!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Teacher Evaluations Should Never Be About A Grade


Are we out of the line of fire yet?
 In the past two decades, educators have been in the line of fire from politicians, parents, tax payers and even administrators--and we are exhausted! We have weathered storms that described us as lazy and greedy, along with incompetent and irrelevant.

These disparaging assertions have borne new ways to evaluate teachers with expensive evaluation tools and programs to determine if teachers are truly making the cut. So what's the verdict? Not much has changed! Since the inception of new evaluations methods and tools, many claim that there is not much change, but that there are new hurdles to jump and hoops to go through.

Great teachers are still great!
Evaluation tools can assist in dialog about teacher performance between the administrator and the teacher, and that's a great thing, but is it genuine dialog that will result in meaningful change-- or just better observation scores? Great teachers do not rely on formal observations to deem them
proficient; they are constantly reflecting and seeking feedback from their students, colleagues and administrators without fear. They are modeling learning to their students everyday by adapting lesson plans, seeking innovative practices and welcoming new ideas from colleagues. Great teachers are not sitting down and mulling over their formal observation reports looking for ways to improve (sorry administrators!) They understand that these evaluations are part of the job and must be done, but do they really learn and grow from them? That depends!


                                    Meaningful Feedback and Trust
It's not about the grade, it's about the learning.This is the mantra in my classroom. I am constantly reminding my students that the grade should be an indicator of learning and level of proficiency. My students trust  that if they do not do well, we will remediate and re-assess.

Teacher evaluation should NEVER be punitive and always about giving feedback to help a teacher grow pedagogically. Grades and numbers muddy the water in the effects of teacher observations. The best evaluations are informal and void of number data; they are the meaningful conversations about what worked really well, discussing areas for improvements and suggestions of new ideas that are possible. These genuine conversations can only happen when mutual respect and trust has been established between supervisor and staff member, otherwise it  can be be a waste of time.

Feedback can carry a negative connotation, but shouldn't have to--it's all in the delivery! Be clear, honest and credible, and lead by example! Teacher evaluations are no different than student evaluations. The goals are the same: reflect, grow and reach for excellence!

We all need feedback, that's how we improve!-Bill Gates



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Serendipity Happen BECAUSE of You!

This blogpost is dedicated to Allyson Apsey, a fellow member of the #compelledtribe bloggers and author of  The Path to Serendipity. She got me pondering about how life happens because of us!


Truth be told, I don't think the word serendipity had crossed my lips often in my life time. I've heard the word, surely, but couldn't quite grasp the true meaning of it--and certainly I hadn't thought that life was full of serendipitous moments. Full disclaimer: I am a person who believes that you make your luck by working hard, following a set plan and being resilient. And--while all of that is true, I've recently discovered the thing called "serendipity" exists and plays an integral part in what happens in life!

Another tidbit about me, I am full of energy My brain doesn't seem to shut down.  I am always thinking and moving. As a veteran teacher of 25 years, I kinda got this teacher thing down. Now, don't get me wrong-- great teachers are reflective and remain relevant by seeking new ideas and resources to enhance their teaching, and there is always something new and exciting in teaching, but you can get into a groove and begin to think about new challenges--and what's next?

Often the path of change is predictable. You MUST do this in order to do that, kinda thing. We seek opportunities or roles that will lead us to the pre-determined destination and grab the pre-existing brass ring. But, how about if that doesn't happen? What do we do? That is exactly the conundrum that I faced. How do I go about becoming an educational leader without exactly BEING an educational leader? Serendipity, that's how! It doesn't happen to you, it happens because of you. Because you remain passionate and pursue opportunities that will lead you to your purpose, great things can happen.


Three years ago, I could not have imagined all that has happened to me professionally and personally. I am thrilled by opportunities to share my voice to elevate and celebrate educators and improve education in some small way. I have met incredible #eduheroes who have deeply inspired me to have faith and follow the path of serendipity that intersects with purpose and determination--and there, at that precise juncture, will be where I am supposed to be.  I don't know exactly what it will be or where, but I am enjoying the journey. I am confident that I will arrive exactly where I am to be.

Look for Allyson's book published by Dave Burgess Consulting. You will be inspired to savor every serendipitous moment that life brings you; I sure am!!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Have a Little Faith in Me



Cue John Hiatt, Have a Little Faith in Me for background music because this song rings true with me!

For the record, I was quite a happy little camper as a classroom teacher, with no real big dreams or aspirations of more, when my principal suggested that I sign up for Twitter to follow a certain educator who was killing it. So, reluctantly, I did...with no idea what I was getting into; boy was I surprised!!

Baby Steps

I stepped cautiously during my first year in building my PLN. Slightly reticent about following people, hanging back and re-tweeting things that resonated with me...when all of the sudden, I stumbled upon this amazing group of women leaders,#WELVoxer, who immediately took me under their wings and helped me recognize the leader lurking inside of me-- and I have never looked back. Jennifer Hogan, Lisa Dabbs and Deb Campbell, along with many others, became my tribe! We had an awesome experience of presenting together at ASCD #Empower17 last year in Anaheim.  Talk about fate, I finally found other passionate educators, in all roles, who were willing to share their knowledge and resources for the greater good. Who knew?

Just say yes....

said +Lisa Dabbs! Lisa encouraged me to embrace new opportunities--and that's just what I have done. It's amazing how many doors will open when you are willing to take risks. I have entered contests, applied for grants, submitted articles to be considered for publication, volunteered for EdCamps and so much more. To put it into two words, I've grown! Professionally and personally. I have discovered things about me that I didn't know--I have become more comfortable in my own skin. Who would have ever thought that would happens a result of social media and a PLN? 


Fast Forward

Fast forward to now. I am connected with thousands of other educators who are making their mark and disrupting the traditional idea of education and schools. Together, we are challenging the status quo and inspiring one another.


Finding your Tribe

Today, I have become a member of a terrific group of passionate educators who blog and post about all things related to education. I am over the moon to be welcomed in this elite group of people who exude positive energy and support one another to strive to be the absolute best version of themselves by impacting education and educators all over the world. Today, I am a #compelledtribe blogger--and I couldn't more excited.!!A big thanks to CraigVroom for taking a chance on me. I look forward to this journey of writing and reflecting about all that is education.  I just had a little faith in me-- and look where I am!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Looking in the Rear View Mirror, Happy New Year!



As the end of the year comes and the new year is on the horizon, we pause and look back. We may be disappointed that we did not accomplish the things we set out to, we may have experienced a really tough year and can't wait to ring in the new year, or we may have had the best year of our lives--but we should always reflect.

Reflection is a key component in growing. As Dr. Phil says "you can't change it until you own it!" We must come face to face with our personal and professional failures and successes. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What were the highlights of this year?
  • What were the low points?
  • What should I have done more of? less of?
  • Did I honor my commitments to others? myself?
  • Did I step forward? step outside of my comfort zone?
  • Did I love others as I should? Did I forgive?
  • Did I spend time with who matters most?
  • Did I learn and grow? or am I stuck?
  • What changes should I make to have the best years ahead?
  • What scares me? 
  • What are my passions? Do I make time for them?

When I was young, people would say "time flies fast" and I naively thought, not fast enough! I wished away time to reach the milestones that every child looks forward to. Now, as I am older and wiser, I am slowing down the hands of time and enjoying life's abundant gifts. As you approach the new year, look in the rear view mirror and savor the beautiful memories made over the past year, but look forward and see what's on the horizon for you. The great thing about a new year is that the story is unwritten. You have a fresh start to make 2018 an incredible year. Be intentional!!
Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Gratitude--Does it Have to Be Genuine?




After years of a global economy where employers were in the driver's seat telling employees 'you are lucky to have a job!', the pendulum is finally swinging back. Employers are searching for ways to attract and keep dedicated employees." For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses"--and a big part of it is feeling appreciated by the boss. CEO's have spent countless dollars to have an expert tell them that expression of gratitude to staff is a critical component to the overall culture of a company and the success of a boss. Companies are instituting planned initiatives on how to make staff feel appreciated--but does it matter if it is not genuine?

I think so! During the honeymoon stage, almost everything works. People feel more connected, more valued and appreciate the little things done for them to express gratitude, but after a while, they know...they know these actions are planned and required, and soon enough they lose their luster. It's intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. So, how do you show gratitude that is authentic and heartfelt? Like everything else, it begins with a relationship!

Relationships Matter
 You have to know your people. Take the time to get to know your staff and colleagues. What makes them tick? What are their hobbies? Do they have a family? etc. You may not think you have the time for small talk, but those connections are invaluable--they say "you matter". Build a foundation of positive relationships and watch things blossom!

Celebrate them
Gary Chapman says the there are five emotional love languages and how each individual wants to be celebrated can be different. It does not need to be a ones size fits all approach. It's ok to honor and recognize people in a variety of ways, just make sure that its equitable and that you have communicated the idea of individual recognition is advance. Better yet, let them choose. Have different ways that you celebrate people and let them tell you what how they want to be recognized or celebrated.

Have a Heart
"when you can be anything is this world, be kind!" Appreciating your staff and colleagues means that you understand that there will be off times or emergencies that can impact work. Great bosses understand that people are human and cannot always be "on" 100% of the time. Be understanding and see how you can help. Offer to jump in and take something off of their plate or help in other ways. Practice random act of kindness; you will be amazed at how it spreads.

No "I" in Team
Nothing says team like rolling up your sleeves and jumping in! Great bosses are part of the action--and they take an active part in what the staff is doing. Help a colleague with a project or an idea. Volunteer for social and service events. Team work makes the dream work! Work of any kind can be really challenging or at times mundane. Having others participate with positive energy makes all of the difference in the world.

Be Consistent
A one and done approach will not shape a positive culture. Great organizations are consistent with showing gratitude to their staff and colleagues in numerous ways. While the ways in which they express their gratitude may change--and they should, the best organizations continue to celebrate and honor their staff that sends a message that #youmatter!

"A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected"

Thursday, November 16, 2017

It Does All Begin With a Relationship!





This past week, I had the wonderful opportunity to reconnect with some very dear childhood friends. These fabulous women were celebrating their mother’s 80th birthday. Because we have known one another for over 40 years, we immediately started boasting of our wonderful families and surely lamented about the life’s difficulties--but once we were caught up, we quickly turned our conversation from our families to our chosen professions. Only one of the 6 ladies was a teacher, the others all chose a different path, and I was deeply intrigued about their careers. As I sat and listened to them speak passionately about their craft, I was pleasantly surprised to discover some of life’s lessons that every educator should embrace.  My take-aways from those genuine conversations were the following:
·     
          It does all begin with a relationship. It’s not just a “teacher thing”! My friend, Lori, is a nurse. She passionately talked of the importance of spending a few minutes with her patients to connect and make them feel comfortable. She attributes her success as a nurse to taking the time to get-to-know her patients and treating them with dignity and respect-- always! In the school setting, the same is true; treat every person that you encounter with dignity and respect.

·       Celebrate and honor people! Nancy, the youngest of the bunch, works for a company where she plans events to recognize and publicize the achievements of the employees. They coordinate incredible events to celebrate, highlight and reward people who give it their all. Who doesn’t like to be praised and celebrated? Our schools should be filled with positive celebrations and events to recognize students and staff that reach for excellence!

·       Know when to pull the plug on something not working. Amy is a project manager of a global company and she talked about the importance of research and development. All good ideas need to be explored, tested and improved. When a project wasn’t working, even after countless hours of labor, you have to reflect and decide what to do next—improve, change or pull the plug on it.  In a classroom, this advice would go a long way in improving instruction. Don’t spend inordinate amount of time on something that isn’t working.

·       Be reflective!  Jenny is pursuing a career change and is becoming re-acquainted with the interview process. After so many years being successful in a position, she is confident of her abilities, but in an interview, people only get a glimpse of who you are. It’s important to know your audience and what they are looking for. Be reflective.  Your first impression can make it or break it for you. In the classroom, teachers need to know their audience. They should create opportunities for meaningful learning and make adjustments as necessary. Great teachers continuously reflect on themselves.

·       People are precious! Monica recognizes the importance of producing a finished product, but cautions that working with people is fundamentally different than working with raw materials. People need a human touch—and possibly a different approach. Every person is different and therefore your “process for production” needs to be individualized. The most successful businesses are those who adapt to the needs of the people. In education, we should differentiate instruction and professional development based on individual needs to maximize success.

·       Be Proud of your accomplishments! Chris raised 7 children as a widow. I am certain there were times that she questioned “why me?”, but her faith guided her to move forward and fill her home with positivity and love. Today, she has such a great sense of pride in her accomplishments—her children. Although she quickly points out that her children are very different than her, she wonders at the incredible people that they have become and share in their accomplishments with delight.  As educators, we recognize that we help to shape our students, but their paths may be very different than we imagined. Take joy in knowing that you helped them to become who they are!


It is a breath of fresh air to step outside of the education world and connect with other people who impassioned about their careers. Schools are not a business, but there are many lessons in other professions that can teach us about educating students. Whatever you career path is, these life lessons make the world a better place!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Creating the Culturally Diverse Classroom


This article appeared in ASCD InService, July 2017

I’ll never forget the day that Leonardo, a high school student, asked the school photographer to “paint him white” when taking a picture of him with his friends during spirit week. I asked Leo, “why did you ask the photographer to edit your picture and make you appear white?” He responded quickly “so I can be like everyone else”. I was shocked, and immediately felt sad—not just for Leo, but for us as a society. It was at that moment that I began a journey to understand how it must feel to be different than the dominant group of people—and more importantly—how could I help our diverse students feel as though they belong without giving up the essence of who they are culturally.
Now, more than ever, schools are filled with students coming from diverse backgrounds. We are approaching a time when minority subgroups collectively will be more than 50% of the population in the USA. Times are changing—and we must change with them. Schools should be a safe haven for our kids, therefore it is the perfect place to practice cultural responsiveness and sensitivity training. The foundation of acceptance will serve to promote a healthy social and emotional wellbeing for all of our students– and in turn, they can focus on academic rigor and experience success in school.
Every classroom should be culturally responsive to the needs of our diverse students. While there are many specific strategies and resources that are targeted to increasing language acquisition and encourage academic success in specific subject areas, it is incumbent upon every educator to employ a general approach that can help the student to feel a strong sense of belonging and investment in their school. Check out some ideas for being culturally responsive:
      Develop personal relationships with students and their families
      Have a buddy system to ease the transition period for students
      Intentional grouping of student to include diversity
      Offer additional support classes and/or tutoring
      Celebrations/holidays should include all cultures
      Provide representation/image of cultural diversity
      Select resources that offer diverse characterization/subjects
      Student character training with emphasis on diversity
      Professional Development for staff on ways to be culturally responsive
      Educate staff of the backgrounds of students and explore their culture
      Be introspective of personal bias, work toward eradicating stereotypes
      Offer additional assistance and resources in home language
      Collaborate with diverse professionals to include alternate view points
      Build a strong sense of community for all, recognizing the contributions of diverse members
      Signage should represent all types of cultures
There is not a one size fits all approach to creating the perfect culturally diverse classroom or school, but I am confident that students buy into the teacher before they buy into the curriculum. Leonardo went on to become a graphic design artist and resides in Mexico. He photographs people living everyday life, celebrating his heritage. Leo discovered that the color of his skin was just perfect and he could become all that he dreamt of without giving up the essence of who he was.
Developing a positive relationship with students, while including diversity, is sure to set a strong foundation for success—in and out of the classroom! Heritage is important because it helps to shape who we become. Embrace it and celebrate it, it’s what make us unique!

Opening the Door to New Possibilities

My feet have finally landed and are now firmly planted eager to begin a new chapter. It’s been a whirl wind of excitement and change....