There are many pieces of advice whenever you’re about to face a change, a new journey, a different experience. Of course there are a variety of emotions that accompany the experience - excitement, anxiety, fear, joy, nervousness, and uncertainty, to name a few. As this school year comes to an end and a new year begins in August with significant changes, I received a great piece of advice and encouragement from a colleague I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Mary Childress, the materials management specialist of PAUSD’s Science Resource Center, shared the following words with me. I absolutely appreciate the change of the one word that helps focus the experience, any experience on growth and learning.
"You can learn anything." I have always appreciated and believed in Khan Academy's mission and purpose for lifelong learning. It's absolutely wonderful to have a organization and an individual (Sal Khan) share their learning modules and resources for free, for everyone, forever. Khan Academy has been changing lives since 2006 when it was created by Salman Khan to help educate students of all ages.
For the past two years I've had the pleasure and privilege of serving as a Khan Academy Ambassador, sharing the wonderful resources of the non-profit organization, training others on the use of the platform, and connecting with other educators around the world to influence and impact student learning. I am especially fortunate to be able to say I was a part of the initial/inaugural cohort of Khan Academy Ambassadors during the 2016-2017 school year. It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that I continue to serve as a Khan Academy Ambassador for the 2018-2019 school year.
Spring. The spring brings with it rain, blooming flowers, and new life. In the classroom, students are growing at incredible rates, friendships are deepening, and testing begins. Spring also brings the time of job applications, interviews, and staffing changes.
In a recent conversation with a colleague who is applying for new positions, we had the chance to brainstorm possible interview questions and responses. One question/prompt was to identify the top three values in the classroom and the school. Together we thought of the following:
As I thought further about the conversation, this blog post came to life. We must Maslow before we Bloom.
Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who was best known for his theory called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a motivational theory in psychology. Maslow’s theory is that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. In his five-tier model of human needs, Maslow called the four bottom levels of the pyramid “deficiency needs.” A person does not feel anything if these four levels are met, but experiences great anxiety if they are not. The bottom four levels include eating, drinking, sleeping, safety needs, social needs, and ego needs (such as self-esteem and recognition). The fifth level of the pyramid is considered a “growth need” because it enables a person to work towards a person’s fullest potential / self actualization. Once a person has met the deficiency needs, s/he can turn their attention to self-actualization.
Benjamin Bloom was an American educational psychologist who was best known for his classification of learning objectives known as Bloom’s taxonomy. Bloom’s taxonomy is a set of three hierarchical models - cognitive, affective, and sensory domains - used to classify learning objectives of complexity and specificity. The cognitive model is the one educators are most familiar with and is broken into six levels of objectives or levels of understanding: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation. Bloom’s taxonomy is definitely used as a teaching tool to help teachers and curriculum writers carefully plan their lessons, assignments, texts, and questions.
We must Maslow before we Bloom. As educators, we need to ensure that our students’ sense of safety and other basic needs are met before we can make significant impact on their learning. Students need to feel respected, cared for, valued, and safe - physically, emotionally, psychologically, … These are basic needs of any individual and a cornerstone to meaningful learning. Throughout the years, one of the many influential phrases that come up in conversations is “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” We need to make school, the playground, anywhere kids are, a safe place for them to be. We must Maslow before we Bloom.
We must Maslow before we Bloom applies to learners of all ages as well. It absolutely applies to adult learners. Any school leader, district administrator, coach, grade level team member, PLC member, … must ensure that the basic needs of all learners are recognized and met. Everyone - teachers, paraprofessionals, specialists, administrative assistants, custodians, parents, relatives, ... - must be respected, valued, heard, recognized, celebrated, supported, ... I remember from my experience in Lesson Study groups through the Silicon Valley Math Initiative (SVMI), norms were always established and addresses at the beginning of every meeting. Some may think the time it takes to review norms cuts into the academic discourse but without it, the conversations are definitely not as respectful, rich, and meaningful. The time invested in establishing and reviewing norms is invaluable. In order to ensure a greater level of productivity, joy, happiness, and collaboration in the work between adult learners, we must attend to everyone’s basic needs. We must Maslow before we Bloom.
“In teaching … ‘You can’t do the Bloom stuff until you take are of the Maslow stuff.’” - Alan E. Beck
What are you doing/will you do to Maslow for your students and colleagues?
It’s incredible to think about all that EdTech has done for learning. From hardware like interactive whiteboards, iPads, Chromebooks, and more to software like mobile apps, iMovie, Google Apps, and more, EdTech has really enchanced learning for students and teachers.
As mentioned, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of sharing Google Expeditions with THE Karly Moura at MDUSD’s 3rd Annual STEM & EdTech Symposium. This was our second year sharing Google Expeditions to educators all over the SF Bay Area. Google Expeditions is truly a wonderful platform to take students on virtual fields. If you have not explored Google Expeditions, I highly encourage you to invest some time to try it out. You'll want to have at least two devices - one for the guide and one for the explorer. It's definitely worth your time.
One exciting addition to Google Expeditions is their new AR platform that you can experience by signing up for their Pioneer Program. I had the pleasure of being selected for their Pioneer Program. I partnered with Valerie Sabbag - fifth grade teacher at Fairmeadow Elementary School in the Palo Alto Unified School District - to bring Google Expeditions to her school. It was exciting to see the second grade through fifth grade students at Fairmeadow experience AR. Students learned more about the solar system, explored California Earth Science, and also got up close and personal with dinosaurs. The tweets below were from the Google Expeditions AR experience at Fairmeadow on October 20, 2017. Sign up for the Google Expedition Pioneer Program here.
EdTech, specifically AR/VR in EDU takes another amazing step with the Merge Cube! Merge Cube is "the world's first, holographic object you can hold in the palm of your hand." It is truly an amazing product that enhances the learning process for learners of all ages. The Merge Cube craze has definitely grown in educators!
Since buying those first 43 Merge Cubes, I've picked up a few more, joined the ARVRinEDU Voxer Group, gave a cube to each of the teacher leaders in PAUSD's Elementary STEAM Inquiry Group, showed the cube to the science coaches of the South Bay Science Collaborative and gave each of them their own cube, and begun writing up ways teachers can use the cubes with their students and their grade level's curricular topics and the Next Generation Science Standards. I'm excited to continue exploring the use of the Merge Cube, especially the chance to write my own apps!
Teaching is not my job; it's my passion. Getting better at it is my job.
That has always been my motto and attending professional development sessions, workshops, and conferences definitely help me keep getting better at my job. I had the pleasure and privilege of attending MDUSD's 3rd Annual STEM & EdTech Symposium on Saturday, February 24th. My experience during the first two years was amazing and this third symposium certainly lived up to the wonder of the first two years. There were over 500 educators in attendance, connecting with one another, getting inspired by a wonderful keynote message by Jon Corippo, learning about a plethora of STEM & EdTech topics, and getting better at our profession. Session topics included Interactive Notebooks, Desmos, Phenomena and Engineering, LEGO Mindstorms, Raspberry Pi, Breakout EDU, Supporting Newcomers/ELLs with Technology, Makerspaces and Libraries, Google Keep, and Storytelling through GIFs.
During the first session, I had the pleasure of learning about Google Keep while supporting a Merit17 member at her first presentation. It was great to learn about the integration of Google Keep with everything Google (this really should be a surprise). The killer feature is the SHARE option. The share feature in Google Apps and G Suite for Education is the killer feature for everything. The ease of sharing your files, documents, presentations, and now your notes in Google Keep enhances communication, collaboration, and productivity. Ms. Young did a great job at her first presentation!
For the second and third session time slots, I had the pleasure and privilege of presenting Google Expeditions with THE Karly Moura. This was our second year sharing the wonder of Google Expeditions (blog post from 2017's MDUSD STEM & EdTech Symposium). It's always great to discuss how we can take our students on virtual field trips, share the wonderful resources on the Google Expeditions platform, and discuss ways to connect Google Expeditions to the various curricular areas. Karly shared amazing HyperDocs that connects and extends the experience with Google Expeditions. This year we added a mention of Google Expeditions AR (sign up for their Pioneer Program) and the Merge Cube that brings AR & VR into the classroom in a whole other ways. To access our slide deck from our presentation, use this link: bit.ly/MDUSDGE.
It was great to see the Symposium highlighted in an article in East Bay Times. Access the article here.
It's been such an amazing journey serving as the Elementary Math & STEAM Coach/TOSA for the Palo Alto Unified School District for the past two and a half years. I have learned so much, shared what I've learned, and made impact on so many teachers and students throughout the district and beyond.
I recently had my mid-year evaluation meeting with my supervisor, the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Education. These evaluation meetings always bring different feelings. I know I've done good work as an instructional coach. I know I've connected and made an impact in the district. As much as I think I've done a lot with my coaching, I always know I can do more. It's with this stance that I find it hard to write about my successes. There's always so much more I can do. There's so much more I can learn. There's always so much more. However, I also know that it's important to pause, reflect on the work, celebrate the growth, and also identify next steps.
Have you taken time to pause, reflect on your work (in any position or capacity), celebrate your growth, and identify your next steps?
Below is my beginning of the year write up, followed by my mid-year reflection.
Professional Development Plan
It has truly been a privilege and pleasure serving as a TOSA for my third year. It’s really incredible to reflect on the learning and growth I’ve experienced so far. The growth through experiences, reflection, and ongoing refinement has been incredible. Some of key highlights are expanding my view of 20 students and 180 days to all elementary students across multiple school years, expanding my professional learning in all subjects, connecting with countless educators, building systems/programs/structures for students at all 13 sites to experience and benefit from.
For this third year in this role, I have identified 4 elements of the CSTPs: 3.1, 4.3, 6.3, and 6.2.
3.1 – Demonstrating knowledge of subject matter, academic content standards, and curriculum frameworks.
Continuing my professional learning and deepening my understanding of standards in both Math and Science, I plan to invest time to understand the NGSS framework before, during, and after the NGSS Rollout #4 professional learning days in December. I plan to work on ways to help teachers understand how to use curriculum frameworks in both Math and Science to better address content standards and the needs of their students.
4.3 – Developing and sequencing long-term and short-term instructional plans to support student learning.
Throughout my career and the past two years serving as a TOSA, I have always looked for and encouraged teachers to identify immediate next steps after any particular lesson as well being mindful of the long-term plans and goals for students as a class and individually. I am excited to support teachers develop and refine clear, rich, rigorous, and measureable objectives for each lesson, unit, and more and their reflective adjustments for their short-term and long-term instructional plans. It’s a combination of being proactive and reactive.
6.3 – Collaborating with colleagues and the broader professional community to support teacher and student learning
Being on this tight TOSA team has been tremendous. I plan to support the TOSA Team by doing my part in team tasks, AND sharing my perspective, experience, skillset, and more to build up the entire team. A key phrase for me that reflects this focus is: “Don’t aspire to be the best on the team. Aspire to be the best FOR the team.” Working with other educators on the STEAM Inquiry Group and the South Bay Science Collaborative will also help me address this CSTP – to support teachers within PAUSD and beyond.
6.2 – Establishing professional goals and engaging in continuous and purposeful professional growth and development.
This fourth goal reflects my continued focus and need to develop both professionally and personally. As we’ve discussed, I have a strong drive to create flawless products and have had difficulty in that process. Experiencing failures, shortcomings, and stumbles is one half of this focus. The more important half is recovering from those failures. Identifying monthly (perhaps weekly) goals will be part of my process in addressing this CSTP.
It’s been a wonderful year so far during this third year in my role as a Teacher on Special Assignment. I have really embraced the process of developing positive and productive coaching sessions. It’s been a rewarding process beginning with building relationships, impacting instruction through individual and group coaching, and circling back by sending resources and follow up messages. It’s been great leading lab days and learning walks that guide teachers in the implementation of Bridges in Mathematics, analyzing the major clusters of standards, and identifying the progression of math content standards and math practice standards across the grade levels. Leading the STEAM Inquiry Group to look at the Next Generation Science Standards and the science frameworks has been another focus of this year for CSTP 3.1. Partnering with teachers for their unit planning, project based learning experiences, and other educational initiatives definitely addresses my focus on CSTP 4.3. Proactive and purposeful planning of curriculum rollout and professional learning experiences helps with CSTP 4.3 and long-term instructional plans. I have really enjoyed connecting with my fellow TOSAs, other educators, and connections outside of PAUSD for CSTPs 6.2 and 6.3. I truly believe we are #BetterTogether and we have so much to learn from each other. I always strive to bring what I can to collaborative planning groups and to arrive at a better solution together than anyone of us can accomplish alone. As I reflect on this year and also the past two years, I can really see how I’ve grown to just keep going. It’s about progress and not perfection. Just keep going because every bit of effort is definitely effort in the right direction.
What, in your work, are you proud of?
Last Friday, PAUSD’s Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Education asked the TOSA Team to reflect on our work so far this school year. What was I proud of? This being my third year in the role as a Math & STEAM Coach, what was I proud of? The transition to our new math curriculum sure makes the list. Co-facilitating the STEAM Inquiry Group with my colleague, Leslie Faust, is a definite thing. Supporting teachers and students in their math, STEAM, & inquiry based instruction definitely stands out.
How did I answer the question of what I was proud of? I am proud of partnering with teachers who have been “harder” to reach the past two and a half years.
There are many teachers who I have had the pleasure & privilege of partnering with and have made many connections with. And there are those who I have never worked with or have invited me to do a demo lesson once in the past two and a half years mainly because their principal made it an expectation. Those are the teachers, who I am working with this year, that I am proud of - of continuing my effort to partnering with them. Some of them have forever had their doors closed to TOSAs and coaching. Maybe it’s because they’ve had previous bad experiences with TOSAs. Maybe it’s because of a perception that they’re being judged. No matter the reason, they have always resisted any support. This year some of those resistors have opened up to my support. I’ve had the opportunities to co-plan with them, analyze student data, share resources, model lessons for them, and asked for their feedback. I am reminded of one of Simon Sinek’s quotes.
I am proud of those partnerships. What led to the partnerships? What was the difference this year compared to previous years? I’m not sure. What I believe, though, is that three factors are at play. Patience, timing, and readiness.
I’ve wanted to work with those teachers and their students since I first started as a coach. I’ve looked for opportunities, listened for access points, and partnered with their principals to identify how I can support. However, it never happened in the past two years. My efforts never stopped though. I remained patient. I kept listening for access points. I kept partnering with the principals. I kept making conversations, offering support AND asking for their input. I remained patient and trusted that an opportunity will come.
Another factor was timing - not anything on my end with timing but timing on the part of the teachers. Coupled with being patient, it was about their timing. The timing wasn’t right during the past two years. This year they were ready, they were open. The timing was right for them. The timing of content, the timing of struggles, the timing of process, ... The timing was right this year. It’s similar to sharing a message. You can say the same thing multiple times, but the listener may not hear it until the timing is right for them.
Just like timing, readiness was another factor. The teachers’ timing and readiness were in place. They were ready. However, when I say readiness, I mean my readiness. I stayed ready. I know I can’t control the teachers’ readiness for support, but I could control my readiness to provide support. So I stayed ready. I stayed ready for when the timing was right, for when they were ready. I stayed ready to listen. I stayed ready to provide resources. I stayed ready to co-plan. I stayed ready.
I am indeed proud of being able to partner with teachers who I haven’t had the pleasure and privilege of working with during the past two years. The work with them may be at beginning stages compared to partnerships I have with others over the course of two years, but it’s work I’m proud of.
There are still teachers with whom I haven’t partnered with yet. There are still some resistors. But I will be patient. I will prepare for the right timing. I will stay ready. If and when I get that opportunity, I know I will be proud of that too.
I’ve been a Fitbit user since February 2014 and the platform has really helped with my fitness, sleep tracking, and more. The first Fitbit device I got was the Fitbit Force. It was a great wearable that gave me lots of feedback on my daily activity. It sure did more for me than the pedometer I used before.
Unfortunately the Fitbit Force was voluntarily recalled. After sending in the Force, I decided to get another Fitbit, except one that I didn’t have to wear on my wrist. I hated when I forgot to wear the Force when I left the house. I also didn’t like having something on my wrist all the time - I never really enjoyed wearing a watch before the Fitbit Force. And so I decided to get the Fitbit One. It was a wearable that clips to the belt, gave the same data as the Force, and it didn’t bother me on my wrist. Of course I still faced the challenge of remembering to wear it, but I eventually developed a system of putting in by my wallet. My Fitbit One definitely helped tracked many races - about 20+ Half Marathons and my first Full Marathon this past July at the San Francisco Marathon. I gave me loads of data, from which hour I was more active to the quality of my sleep.
Unfortunately, the internal battery started to lose its performance. Over time and after a couple of years of use, I wasn’t able to wear it overnight to track my sleep. I had to place it in its charger every night. Plus, the rubber clip/enclosure it came with fell apart. The clip broke off, the rubber started tearing, and it eventually didn’t even hold the Fitbit One anymore. I eventually had to just place the Fitbit in my pocket of my pants or jeans. And then this past summer, I lost it. It must have fallen out of my pocket as I was taking something else out of the pocket. What a bummer.
And so the research to find a replacement began. I knew I didn’t want a wrist device, since I already got my AppleWatch (which I love and how it doesn’t even feel like I’m wearing anything). I knew I wanted a replacement that offered better battery life. After a bit of research I found it. The Fitbit Zip. It was a wearable that goes on the belt, tracked steps and other data I’ve enjoyed seeing, didn’t track sleep which was a bummer, and, the most important part ... it didn’t rely on an internal rechargeable battery. Yes, rechargeable batteries are good but since I encountered the failing battery of my (lost) Fitbit One, I didn’t care of rechargeable batteries anymore. The Fitbit Zip uses those coin batteries that are often used for small remote controls and other small devices. It was the perfect solution. I would get to track my fitness AND I could change the battery whenever I needed to. The unfortunate thing was it seemed that Fitbit was no longer manufacturing the Fitbit Zip. Boo! Luckily, I was able to find some on eBay and proceeded to order one that I’ve been using since October 13th. And here’s the best part. I just changed the battery. October 13th all the way to January 2, 2018, with at least 10,000 steps each day! Just shy of 11 weeks! Incredible.
My Fitbit Zip. My entire Fitbit experience. It’s helped me track my fitness, used to help track my sleep, kept me motivated with the social challenges with others through #fitnessedu and #healthylivingedu, and it’s kept me active. I’m thankful for every step along the way: starting my journey, getting my money back from the recall, realizing I don’t like things on my wrist (except my AppleWatch), and now preferring things that I can change the battery. (I wonder how I’ll feel about my AppleWatch’s battery once it starts to fade.) I’m excited to continue using my Fitbit, AppleWatch, and other tracking apps for my fitness, especially during my next Full Marathon in April.
What an incredible year 2017 was. It was definitely a year of JOY, growth, challenges, discoveries, inquiry, connections, passion, expeditions, and more. Below are two posts from my Instagram account that reflect my year of 2017.
I know I am a visual person and sharing these two posts truly is enough for me to close out 2017. It was an amazing year of running. I completed my first full marathon at the San Francisco Marathon in July and am already signed up for my second marathon at the Big Sur International Marathon in April. I don't think I'll have quite as many medals in 2018 as I did in 2017, but the running will definitely still continue.
As my other Instagram post shows, it was indeed a year of JOY - as shown by the top left image and the picture at the center. It is all about the journey, and now that journey includes watching my little JOY grow.
As PAUSD elementary teachers continue their implementation of the district's new math curriculum, Bridges in Mathematics, it's always important to be mindful of equity and access. Have we ensured that every class received their necessary materials? Do all teachers have what they need in terms of professional development and support structures to implement the new curriculum effectively? Do principals have what they need to learn how to be the instructional leaders at their sites? If there are technical needs, do all teachers and students have the hardware and infrastructure to support the educational technology integration?
One impressive thing about Math Learning Center, the publisher of Bridges in Mathematics, is their math apps. On their website, they offer ten (with one in beta) mobile apps for users to download and install. Not only are they helpful tools for math instruction and practice, Math Learning Center has developed these apps to be cross-platform - iOS, Chrome, Windows, and web-based. Equity and Access.
Not only are these cross-platform apps helpful tools for math instruction and practice, they are apps that can be used with any math curriculum!
Full STEAM Ahead!
What an incredible experience attending the 5th annual California STEAM Symposium. This was my second year attending this symposium (formerly the STEM Symposium). It's always powerful and fulfilling to attend a conference for professional development, connections, and inspiration. Last year's symposium that took place in Anaheim definitely did that for me and my colleague, Mangla Oza. We were inspired by the keynotes (especially Sir Ken Robinson's keynote), made many amazing connections, and attended many wonderful sessions. One of which we were able to share with our district - blog post.
This year's CA STEAM Symposium was just as inspirational. Captain Mark Kelly kicked off the Symposium with stories of his journey into NASA and into space, his wife's perseverance and resolve, and shared words of wisdom. Some of the key points include:
The entire California STEAM Symposium was indeed an inspiring experience! The words from their website accurately describes the experience. "The 2017 ... Symposium convened over 3,000 educators ... for ongoing rigorous, collaborative, and inspiring professional learning and resources to support high-quality science, technology, engineering, art, and math instruction for all students."
PAUSD's Maker Movement
It was such a pleasure and privilege to be one of those 3,000 educators who engaged in professional learning. I was able to experience the symposium as both a participant and a presenter. My colleague, PAUSD's Literacy & STEAM Coach for Elementary Education, Leslie Faust, and I presented a session on our district's Maker Movement. It was such an honor to be able to share the work of so many educators in our district. Our session shared the process and development of three initiatives that addresses the Maker Movement and our three focus goals.
It was great to excite creativity with the hands-on design challenge to start the session. There were many fantastic ideas for an ideal school playground from each table group. The session then went over the work of educators and parent volunteers at three elementary schools in our district and the collaboration between AAR and Elementary Education in PAUSD to launch the Creativity Project (Creative Carts). Leslie and I concluded our session by sharing our work on creating a STEAM Lending Library (from the inspiration of Mount Diablo Unified School District's STEM Lending Library - news article).
Again, it was such a pleasure, privilege, and honor to be able to engage in professional learning, connect with other educators, and share the work of PAUSD. The slide deck that Leslie and I used in our session is linked here as well as some of my tweets from the symposium.
It’s been an amazing year so far as elementary school teachers in Palo Alto Unified School District have all worked hard at implementing the district's new math curriculum, Bridges in Mathematics. After three years of work, learning about the curriculum choices available during the 2014 - 2015 school year, exploring curricula in the classroom during the 2015 - 2016 school year, and then piloting and adopting the new curriculum last school year, implementation is in progress.
There were, of course, challenges the district - Curriculum and Instruction, Ed Services, the Elementary TOSA Team - encountered. To name a few:
Among the many things the things the Elementary TOSA Team have been working to help with the transition to our new math curriculum is creating screencasts to share resources, processes, and more. It's been great to work on the screencasts, partner with one of my colleagues, Leslie Faust, who does the voiceovers, and share the videos on our district's intranet and on YouTube. Adding visuals to any professional learning resource is always a good idea to help visual learners. Below are a few of the screencasts we've made.
The three questions that always go through everyone's minds at one point or another are: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? These three questions go through my head every time I encounter a challenge, struggle, or change in my lifestyle, work, and life with family and friends. This has happened in high school figuring out what college I want to go to, during college figuring out what field to major in and what career to choose, and while teaching in the classroom being faced with the opportunity to become an instructional coach. Who am I?
This concept came up this week during one of the TOSA Team meeting as we discussed our workload, our position, our roles and responsibilities, and what we can and cannot do. Elementary school principals and district level coordinators in our district have been asking the TOSA Team to do projects that are both outside our role and responsibility and add to our already loaded plate. Will you do this? Can you join me in that? I need you to do this? ...
"Stay in your lane." Our supervisor, Barbara Harris, the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Education, always reminds us to stay in our lane.
As educators and caregivers we all "suffer" from being people pleasers. We want to say yes. We want to help. Although this is an honorable and noble thing - to help others - it often comes at a detriment to ourselves, our workload, our stress level, our mental health, our physical health, and our continual process to balance our lives. Today, Barbara emphasized the importance of setting limits and boundaries in our conversation of workload and learning how to say the positive no. She recommended for each of us to read the book The Power of a Positive No.
During this past Monday's #TOSAchat, this question of how to balance your workload came up and I responded with the following tweet. Needless to say I continually work on this and by no means claim to be able to set limits.
Who am I? I am a Math & STEAM Coach. I am a teacher. I am someone who serves. AND I am someone who is continually working on balance. I am someone continually balancing my life. Balance is a verb - something we do daily. I am someone who is continually working and communicating my capacity and limitations.
One of my favorite days of the school year is Halloween. It’s definitely not because of the candy, sugar high, distractions, and class parties (although the party could be a highlight depending on the food and activities at the party). Halloween brings connections, students to students, students to teachers, students to parents during the Halloween Parade. Halloween brings creativity with the costumes - home made ones and the ones that are purchased in stores. I would argue that costumes purchased in stores also includes some creativity by the company and designer who created them and the consumer, deciding which one to purchase.
Today I had the pleasure of attending a Halloween Parade in my district and got the chance to see the creative costumes, connections, and celebrations of the spooky, festive day.
By now you may have come across the picture below of a girl's homework focusing on the /ur/ sound and asking students to write words with ur based on certain prompts. As you can see in the image, Yasmin wrote surgeon to the prompt "hospital lady." What an excellent answer! However, as I looked at the image more and read articles on the homework assignment I was bothered by the situation on several levels.
1) It looks like the teacher responded to the homework with a positive note that the girl, Yasmin, gave a good answer. However, why write in nurse next to response? Yes, I can understand that the teacher wanted to point out that nurse also fits the prompt and has /ur/ in the word. In this day and age, hospital ladies hold many positions, and with the homework focusing on ur, surgeon is definitely an answer. Let's recognize that as a fact instead of calling attention to the response that it's something unusual. By writing nurse next to Yasmin's response, it feels like it's a sign of how the teacher (male or female) still holds onto the perception of women in health care instead of just recognizing surgeon as the response.
2) As I read various reports of the homework assignment, some shared that the worksheet was from 1997 - twenty years ago. Why are we still using things from twenty years ago? I know there are some tried and true resources, lessons, and activities, but is it really acceptable to use worksheets from twenty years ago, ten years ago? Should we as educators evaluate our craft, lessons, activities, and materials on a yearly basis. Many teachers do this on a daily basis. Constant reflection and refinement is one the hallmarks of education. It's what makes our profession so incredible. We are always called to adjust, accommodate, modify, ... based on our students' needs. So, in that process of evaluating our craft, why are there worksheets from 1997 still being used? [As more and more educators try to go paperless, worksheets should definitely reevaluated.]
3) Lastly, and ultimately, this homework assignment shows the incredible need for everyone to shift their mindset. In my district there's a series of workshop that focuses on uncovering one's unconscious biases. What an essential thing for everyone to go through. I remember a psychology class in college where the professor said stereotypes are helpful because they help us evaluate and determine situations. For example, the stereotype of dark alleys and our heightened level of concern over safety that leads to fight or flight. Yes, from that class, I learned that stereotypes are helpful. However, stereotypes that hold people back from any potential, position, respect for and of others, ... needs to uncovered and extinguished. Everyone can be anything they want. And let's get to the point where we don't act surprised. It's often our perceptions that limit the potential of others. I'm reminded of the positivity of #K2CanToo and how educators who tweet using that hashtag are really highlighting the concrete ways students in Kindergarten through Second Grade are definitely engaging in rich, deep activities, discoveries, and lessons.
#K2CanToo. Everyone can. Let's get to the place where everyone can and will. And that's a norm and not an anomaly.
Failure is a part of life. It's something that occurs and something we can't avoid. It may as well be added to the phrase, "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes" by Benjamin Franklin in 1789.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except failures, death, and taxes.
Failure is a part of life. We will all encounter it. It can be a daily occurrence, sometimes multiple times a day. I have blogged about this several times and have created different graphics around failure, and more importantly, how we respond to failures (one graphic I created within the "Quotes" section at the top horizontal navigation bar). How we respond and recover from failures is what defines us. How we get back up. How we keep going. How we learn from the experience. How do you respond?
Below is a new image I created after a conversation I had with my supervisor, the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Education in PAUSD. Failure is a part of life. Embrace it. See it as feedback (just like in the above linked graphic). It is indeed the start of a new journey - one with new knowledge and wisdom.
The 2017-18 school year has started as well as the 2017-18 National Football League. There are many parallels with schools and football, including teamwork, lesson plans and football plays, anticipation (of the student responses and the other team), and the endless pursuit of taking the extra step or yard. This blog post will highlight another comparison between education and football.
The Offensive Line and Elementary Education
Today I had a conversation with an elementary school principal who has previously taught high school and served as a middle school principal. In our conversation we talked about the important work that happens at the elementary level that influences and impacts a child's degree of success later in their school years. Reading skills with decoding and comprehension, math skills with number sense and problem solving, and more. There really is so much much! (Time management, work management, impulse control, inquiry process, design thinking, lifeskills, interpersonal skills, and intrapersonal skills) The work during the elementary years is indeed important, essential, foundational, and every descriptive word you can think of.
In our conversation, the elementary school principal said that elementary education is very similar to the offensive line in football. The work they do isn't always recognized, doesn't come to the forefront of anyone's mind when a football team does well. Yet, the work of the offensive line leads to success of the offense. The running back gets the lanes to run through, the quarterback gets the time and pocket space to make passing decisions, ... He said that those in elementary education don't often get recognition, don't have the fanciest buildings or supplies, and often takes the most heat, just like the offense line in football.
That was definitely a new analogy for me. It's one I want to ponder more on. But for now, considering how the principal has experience at all levels of K-12 education, I am definitely thankful for his perspective, recognition, and appreciation of those of us in elementary education.
It is with incredible privilege and pleasure that I begin my third year in my role as a Math & STEAM Coach/TOSA. The third year actually started on Monday, July 31st, but I wanted to be sure to acknowledge this feeling. I have learned so much these past two years, connected with countless educators, and accomplished numerous tasks in Math and STEAM education within and beyond my district.
Each year I begin the year identifying goals for my work. It's been a great practice to focus on goals, check in every so often throughout the year, and reflect on the work at the end of the year. My first year's goals were definitely important ones but in retrospect seems quite general. I think it's because I really didn't know what to expect in the new role I was starting. Empowering students, highlighting student voice, and continuing my professional development were indeed huge focuses for my year. My second year's goals had more specificity, as I had a better understanding of the position, the work, and the influence and impact I can have.
As mentioned Year 3 began on July 31st and I am super excited for this third year.
My goals for this year:
-Launch and promote the use of PAUSD's STEAM Lending Library.
-Strategically support teachers, instructional aides, and administrators with the implementation of the district's new math curriculum for elementary education.
-Develop a multi-year plan for the pilot, adoption, and rollout of curriculum materials that address the Next Generation Science Standards.
Just like my first day post of my first year in this position: I have the privilege of engaging with many more educators. And with the support of the elementary TOSA team, my colleagues, and of course #TOSAchat ...
I am glad Year 3 has begun.
Let the wonder and possibilities begin.
Let the journey continue.
One of the many things that anyone in education encounters on a daily/monthly/yearly basis is continued professional development. I have had the pleasure and privilege of being involved in numerous professional learning opportunities - both as a participant and as a presenter. It is incredible the number of professional learning workshops, seminars, and programs are available to teachers everywhere.
The keys to professional learning are always time and self initiation. Initiating the professional learning and investing time are always the first step. One professional learning experience I recently initiated for myself was completing the Apple Teacher Learning Center modules. It was great to be able to learn and relearn things about the Mac, iPad, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, GarageBand, and more. I feel super fortunate to have worked at The Apple Store at both the Stanford Shopping Center and the Palo Alto stores as a Specialist, Theater Manager, and Creative. I learned an incredible amount of information on Apple products, Mac OS, iPods, iPads, iOS, iLife, iWork, Final Cut, iBooks, and more. That experience really helped me go through the Apple Teacher modules with great ease. The content in the modules also really helped me learn new options, structures, and ideas. I highly encourage every teacher to initiate the Apple Teacher modules.
My next self-initiated professional learning will be the Google Certifications.
Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA in Palo Alto Unified School District.