Friday, March 27, 2020

Leading Distance Learning - Week 2

So, we're in this longer than three weeks.  I'm starting to think longer term, but I don't want to lose sight of the fact that:

  1. Literally EVERYONE is in the same boat.
  2. We have to FIRST address the social, emotional, and connection needs of our students, families, and teachers.
  3. Educators are doing amazing things - regardless if they're officially engaging in remote learning/teaching or providing resources or connections to students while districts consider flexible learning options.  Really - we are ALL innovators in this area because no one has dealt with this situation before. 🙌 
As a school leader (and mom) I'm working hard to constantly communicate a love, appreciation, and excitement for the opportunities in this present moment with the need for balance, self-care, and physical and emotional well-being.  ☯

Some thoughts on Philosophy

One facebook post that's really resonating with me while we work to design our vision for Remote Learning is this one by The Neurodivergent Teacher on Facebook

In her discussion, she notes the physical, emotional, economic, and intellectual of requiring participation in distance learning.  

I also appreciate this tweet from Chris Lehmann.  He poses the following questions:
1) How do we create opportunity for kids to explore high relevancy concepts that are of interest to them with no fear of "getting it wrong."
2)What is our role as teachers when we can suggest not assign work
3) What role does our feedback play in incentivizing kids to do the work?
4) What topics would our classes explore if they could co-create the learning plan?
5) What role do ideas like community and audience play in having kids create artifacts?
6) How do we redefine ourselves as teachers? 


When we started on this journey, I asked my teachers to connect with students and families - they used google classroom, YouTube, Zoom, Google Meet, google docs, seesaw and much more.  
This week they're experimenting with Screencastify, FlipGrid, and EduCreations.

We also started Think Tank Thursday.  This was an optional conference call for teachers where we aim to develop our collective efficacy as educators by sharing resources as well as our thoughts adapting our philosophy to remote learning.  This week, we are exploring:
  • How we can use tech tools to promote the natural curiosity of children?
  • How can we support parents and children in developing that inquiry at home?
  • How can we use digital tools to promote collective inquiry and dialogue between students and teachers?
One resource I've shared has ben The New EdTech Classroom YouTube Channel.  I particularly like how his focus is on dialogue, inquiry, and exploration.  

Opportunities to Learn & Collective Efficacy

As a school principal (aka middle management), it's cool to see how the leaders in our county are collaborating on a consistent message, consistent resources, and consistent practices across all districts.  It's also very cool to see how teachers at my site are embracing opportunities to learn and explore.  Today, I had the opportunity to connect with other principals of Progressive Education schools in the area.  One idea that I liked and will implement more systemically in the next week is the shared google doc where teachers share with each other:
  1. How and when they're connecting with their students and families
  2. How and when they're planning/collaborating with each other.
  3. Links to their collaboration notes (this can also serve as a journal that they can come back later).
  4. And their suggestions, schedules, etc. they are sending to families.
Our staff meeting can be where they share their ups and downs with this work so that we can learn from each other.

Final Thought (for today)...

This morning, my sister sent me this post, encouraging us all to journal this period of time in our lives. I know I am appreciating the blogs, posts, videos, etc. that I'm seeing.  But it only vaguely crossed my mind that by documenting our experiences creates OUR own living history of this global event.  I encourage you to have your kids create a journal.  When they are older they can have their thoughts as well as learn from yours.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Connecting with Students During Shelter in Place

Image from -
Offering free courses for kids right now!

Working from Home and Home Schooling 

Day 3 - Has it only really been 3 days?!
I'm trying to settle in to a routine that will be our new normal for the next month or so.  Today was the first morning that I was able to do anything productive - home schooling wise - with my own kids.   I started by getting up early and doing a workout video followed by a guided mindfulness video from my friends at Momentum in Teaching.  We had a family meeting where we wrote down all of our goals and things we HAD to do today.  I'm pretty sure the only two things the kids got done were reading and girl scout cookie math.  The rest of the day were crafts and screetime as I participated in conference calls and watching California Department of Education's Press Conference.

We also had a video chat with Gma, so on second thought, I'm thinking it was a pretty productive day!  We've got to be kind to ourselves, right?!

Connecting with Students & Distance Learning

Maslow's Hierarchy from
Right now with great concern for equitable access, the best that many districts can do is provide suggestions and resources for "Distance Learning."  Requiring completion of work or participation in classes can be sticky ground.  So, a few days ago, I set out to find ways to just connect with our students and families during this uncertain time.  As our education saying goes, "Maslow before 
Bloom's Taxonomy from
Bloom."  Meaning, we have to address those needs for safety and security before we have any hope of teaching content.  So, my staff and school community are working together to create opportunities for that connection.  Teachers are holding zoom meetings with parents and students and I've been doing read alouds on Facebook Live.  

I couldn't believe how nervous I was for that first book!  I forgot everything I wanted to say.  For the second one, I rehearsed a little more and worked on the framing with my camera person, my eldest daughter, Annabelle.  

The response I got from that first video though was overwhelmingly positive.  Parents and students were checking in and responding to questions I was posing about the book.  It even reached families that no longer attend the school - reminding and reaffirming for me that connection is essential and how social media, used in this way can be that thread that many people need.  Today, while posting for my school, even my nieces and nephews tuned in, which was even more powerful for me.  💜💚💜
Tomorrow I'm reading Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, a favorite of mine, and a part of the Project Cornerstone Curriculum.  With the help of the parents who teach Project Cornerstone in my community, we've compiled follow up activities for parents to do with their kids, if they wish.  I've also taken a page out of @nupurssethi's book, I created a Flipgrid activity that students can do by logging in with their district google account.

I have no idea how it will go, just trying to find ways that the students and I can connect with each other from home.   I am inspired by all the other educators out there practicing what we preach with our 21st century skills and mindsets!    

I think it's fun to try these things, but I also have to remember to give myself grace.  After only 3 days, I'm starting to feel the drain. 

How are you connecting with your school/district communities?

How are you keeping balanced?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

COVID-19 - School Closures - Update

 Things to do -

With school closures, there is certainly no shortage of things to do being posted online.  I love Lunch Doodles being provided by Mo Willems , the daily schedules being provided, and that school districts everywhere are publishing some flexible learning opportunities.  Companies like BrainPop  are also providing free access to online content. 

Connection During Social Distancing

With no shortage of digital learning opportunities, some teachers may want to provide content that is suited for their classrooms.  Please make sure you're following COPA and FERPA laws and regulations while doing that. 

This morning, my community (Teachers & PTA Board) and I met via Google Meet to discuss the kinds of things we want to do with students and to create a calendar of events (on a shared document) to stay connected with our community.  Because of the various issues surrounding equitable access, all of these opportunities are flexible and optional.  Our goal is connection through enriching content.

I'm excited by how excited we are to create  opportunities to stay connected even as we are ordered to "shelter in place."  Here are some ways we are connecting with our students:
  • Read Alouds posted on Facebook Live or using Google Hangouts (students can have a more intimate meeting with their teachers as they use their individual school Gsuite logins to meet up with their teachers.
  • Teachers connecting with students doing something they love to do - gardening, art, music, tinkercad, cooking, etc.
  • Parents & community members starting community chats for sharing their passion with their school communities.

Here's a video from one of our community members connecting to the Project Based Learning Unit she was teaching prior to schools being closed:

I cannot say enough about how inspired I am by my school community!   They know how to find opportunities for learning and run with it!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

COVID-19 School Closure Activities for Administrators and Teachers

A Call to Action

On Friday the 13th, I experienced a first (and hopefully only) in my career/life - schools closed for 3 weeks to #PausetheSpread and #FlattentheCurve.  After a full night's sleep (I passed out from the exhaustion of the week!), my brain has been spinning about how we can create connection and some good of this situation.  Here's a few ideas that have come from various sources of inspiration:

  1. Facebook live events by teachers and administrators.
    • How to draw classes
    • Read Alouds
    • Number talks from nature 
  2. Call to service opportunities.
    • Encourage middle school and high school students to volunteer with campus or park clean ups.  Post on social media and tag their schools, teachers or administrators if possible.  (Something where people can be outside and maintain social distance, but still do good.)
    • Offer to volunteer or "babysit" for families that have to work.

The opportunities are endless.  I can't wait to meet with my teachers and PTA  (google hangout, here we come!) to come up with something fun, uplifting, and transformative!  
Remember to share the load - make a calendar of events that can be posted on your school's social media pages, website, and other communication platforms.

Stay tuned, I'm looking forward to sharing the journey.   I'd also love to hear what you're doing! Let's use the hashtag #EducationThroughEpidemic

Yours in health and peace.

In the meantime, here are some sources of inspiration:
This Sketchnote from @tnvora
A weekly schedule for families and teachers from @drlangraad
A daily schedule to promote routine - routine makes kids feel safe - from Jessica McHale Photography

Sunday, January 12, 2020

One Word 2020

Reflecting on my #OneWord2020

This year, Greg Moffitt, a member of my Twitter PLN (Professional Learning Network), posted a challenge:

Probably because much of my PLN was also taking about finding our #OneWord2020, I set out to make my one word start with the first letter of my name.  For me, the #OneWord is a twist on resolutions.  I see it as an opportunity for a mantra, something to spur me on and keep me grounded.

It took  me a while.  I was visiting family in DC, reading Not Light, But Fire by Matthew R Kay, reflecting on what has happened so far this school year, where I am in my career, how I want to develop, and what I want to do next.   I wouldn't say I'm the most articulate or well-spoken person, so I even looked to online thesauruses to figure out what resonated with me.

I finally chose GUTSY, n. showing courage, determination, and spirit.

Thinking a little more about what this means to me, I came up with this graphic:

What's next?
  1. Post my affirming #OneWord in my bathroom and in my office.
  2. Lean in to vulnerability (a la Brene Brown's, Dare to Lead)
  3. Read and reflect often.
  4. Connect with PLN and ask for feedback.
What's your #OneWord2020?  What does it mean to you?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Launching the School Year

Launching the 2019 - 2020 School Year 

 Some of us have been in the swing for a few weeks, and some of us are getting ready for opening day.  As I was reflecting on the magic that's happening at my school site right now, I thought I'd take a moment to share some of the big ideas that keep coming up for me.  So here's my first attempt at a "listicle," thanks to middle school teacher extraordinaire, Nupur Sethi, @nupurssethi for the idea!

I'd love to hear from other leaders and educators what you think contributes to a successful culture and environment.  What are the ingredients for your success?

Friday, August 2, 2019

Rethinking Monday Memos

Does writing the Monday (or Friday Memo) seem like a chore to anyone else?  Does anyone else struggle with getting people to read their Memos? I hear a lot of people offering candy or gift cards just to get staff to read their Monday Memos.  I don't know how I feel about that, if people aren't reading the memos, then why am I writing them?  For myself?  The memo needs to be useful, connected, and inspiring.

In the past three years, I've experimented with different formats, sending it in both digital and print form, and playing with giving or "re-presenting" information in a focused and digestible manner.

So, I decided to figure out how to make my Monday Memo more dynamic, more innovative.  A teacher suggested possibly doing a podcast.  I like that idea, but I personally like being able to focus my attention in the areas I want in the time I need, but the podcast, as far as I know doesn't allow for the listener to do that.  So, I think I'll save that suggestion for something else.  I decided to take to the internet to see what some of my fellow school leaders are doing with their Monday Memos.  I came across this blog
I'm excited by the idea of a blog for a Monday Memo!  Instead of sending a PDF, I send a link with the most recent post.  Teachers can have access to past blogs, calendars, links, etc.

For my Memo, I want to include a calendar widget that connects to our staff google calendar.  I love the "Great Things I Noticed" from PrincipalJ's blog, I called it "Inspiration/Kudos" in last year's Monday Memo.  I also plan on having a "Nuts & Bolts" section and an "Instructional Focus" section.  One thing that I struggle with is sharing the research and reflections I do as a result of listening to staff and observing what's going on with them.  I'd love to have a section sharing either my flipboard collections of research and/or my reflections as a response to that research.  In that same vein, my teachers are also doing their own research and reflections, it would be amazing to be able to share their insights as well.

I think the thing that also makes me excited about doing a blog for a Monday Memo is that it provides a convenient way to make the Memo reciprocal.  Teachers can comment on what is posted and connect to other comments made.  We are always struggling with time together on the job.  This is a way to use media to remedy that.

Does anyone else use a blog for a Monday Memo?  Would you be willing to share with me?  What are teacher thoughts on a blog as a memo? What other considerations should I make?