Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Graduation Speech 2020

I matter AND you matter

Every year I write a speech for 8th grade graduation.
This year, I decided to embrace vulnerability and share the speech with you.
There are some allusions that you may not have the full context for, but I hope the message is something you can relate to.
Here it goes:

Wow. Class of 2020, what a year!  As I sat down to write this speech, reflecting on all of you, on all of the things that are happening, two major themes came up:
The first, Mutual Respect.
The second, The power of your voice.

Not only are we in the middle of a global pandemic that's keeping us from celebrating together, but right now, in the media, we're seeing the next movement being born. RIGHT. NOW. Bernard Shaw coined this movement as, "A movement against hatred."  The 60s had the Civil Rights Movement.  This is OUR movement.  OURS. OUR generation's movement.  Yours and mine.  It is a movement that encompasses our CORE value of MUTUAL RESPECT.

At Indigo, we used Respect Groups, Project Cornerstone, and Communication Lab to teach interpersonal respect.  To teach the mutual respect between person to person.  This movement is certainly about that interpersonal, relational respect... in part... it is also a social, political, cultural, and economic movement.

But, I want to explore that first idea a little more.  The idea of mutual respect.  Mutual respect is about I matter AND you matter.

I matter.
You matter.

I am important and worthy.
You are important and worthy.

Black Lives Matter is not a movement that devalues any other race, experience, or perspective.  It is about using voice to call attention to a community of human beings who are continually being told explicitly and implicitly that they don't matter.

Me Too is not a movement that devalues men.  It is about calling attention to the ways in which women have been told by society that they don't matter.

Love Wins or Untold Pride is, again, about calling attention to the ways in which stereotypes and institutions have left the LGBTQ+ community marginalized.

Are you seeing the commonality?

I matter.
You matter

I am important and worthy.
You are important and worthy.

Speaking up for my worth does not in any way diminish your worth.

This brings me back to you and your experiences at Indigo, and in particular in 8th grade.  At least from my lens... At some point along the way, I think some of you lost your voice.  Someone expressed to you, either directly or indirectly that you don't matter.  Maybe you heard it so often, you started to believe them.  Maybe you thought it was normal (which let's look at the greater context of our society, it does seem pretty normal to be marginalized)... maybe you started to lose your path, you stopped trusting your gut because your friends, who you respect, talked you into something.  Peer pressure is so real.  It became easier to just, deal with it, laugh about it, go along with it, and maybe even participate in it.  Heck maybe you thought it was funny... at first...  But going through this with you left me reflecting on how I can become a better leader of our school system, a better coach, mentor, and when needed, a better enforcer of those core values.

BUT, I will say, I've seen growth, glimmers of hope.  Glimmers of where you understood the power of being an upstander, even when it's scary  Even when you feared retaliation.  There have been moments where you found your allies and spoke up.  This year alone, you grappled with bullying, racism, ageism, and even perfectionism.  And you began to find your voice.  Even if you didn't use it in the whole group context, I would venture to say you started to think about it.  You filed that information and checked in with "your gut."  You started asking yourself, what feels right?  As Keith said in his panel discussion, "how can I handle this assertively instead of passive-aggressively?"

Today, you look back and remember your experiences AND look forward to starting a new journey.  At some point today, and maybe during each other's speeches, you may experience excitement, anxiety, fear, anger, joy and sadness all at the same time.  And that's OKAY.  Emotions are okay.  They are indicators too what really matters to us - never forget that.  Today, I encourage you to embrace that vulnerability of understanding that fact - emotions are UNIVERSAL - it's what you choose to do with them that makes the difference. 

I hope you use those mindfulness tools (or maybe you've found your own set of tools) to allow yourself to understand the emotion, the trigger of the emotion, and to get yourself to a place where you can act instead of react.

The mindfulness tools are the tools that are helping me (personally) to:

  • Trust my gut and follow my passion
  • Be assertive for what I need and compassionate
  • Decide on a mutually respectful course of action
  • Get help and set boundaries when I need it.
  • Have courage
  • And to know that I am valuable   
so are you.

Class of 2020, I wish you the strength of character and the strength of voice to always remember that you matter... and so do they....

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Personalized Learning Profiles

Personalized Learning Profiles

The Spark

Today, I was reading THIS article from EdWeek about what's next for education.  I wanted to reflect here, to document these ideas before I lose them in the busyness of the day and time of year.

My mind started running after reading this quote:
      At Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab, we’ve been exploring the idea of personalized      student success plans for several years. These plans are both a diagnostic tool that captures students’ academic progress, interests, strengths, and nonacademic needs and a concrete plan for action that must happen inside and outside of school.

My Half Baked Idea

My school colleagues and I have been talking about assessment plans, digital portfolios, and students understanding themselves as learners.   What if, I created a google slides template that could be pushed out in all classrooms.  The title of this template would be something like, "Leela's Personal Learning Profile, Fall 2020."  The names and dates will change, of course.  Slides can include elements of our assessment plan:
  1. Interest inventory
  2. Multiple-intelligences survey/inventory
  3. SEL skills self-reflection
  4. Work habits self-reflection
  5. On-demand writing sample 
  6. Reading recording (via FlipGrid or RAZKids)
  7. K-3 Words Their Way diagnostic
  8. K-1 Various ESGI assessment components
  9. Math diagnostic, CGI Problem, or Math Performance Task
Thinking Through Process

The slide deck would be the template, checklist, etc., that the teachers could use to progress through their assessments.  They could hide the slides that they don't want students to see or respond to yet or they could copy the slides they want students to complete on the day they want them to complete it.  All of this could be pushed out through google classroom, so each student gets their own copy of the appropriate slide/slides. The potential problem with pushing out one slide at a time versus hiding slides, is that teachers would then have to compile the slides to create a complete "Personal Learning Profile."

The various performance tasks would be followed by a slide with a rubric and a reflection where teachers and/or students could evaluate and summarize where they are and next steps for learning.  At our school, we write narratives for student progress, this slide could help inform the narratives that teachers write.  They could just copy and paste the information on these reports.

I think it's important for students to engage in this process with their teachers.  They will engage with it at various levels depending on their developmental level, but it's okay for them to see their progress.  We want to promote growth mindset, so we really want to honor that there is NO SHAME wherever you are in your development, just next steps.  They might engage in this level of assessment and reflection as a summative process 3 times a year.  The first time is baseline, the second time is the winter interim, and the third time is the EOY summative reflection.  

I'm visualizing using this process along side and to support the portfolio reflection process.  For the winter interim and the EOY summative students and teachers could add various project and work samples to back up (or maybe contradict) their performance on the above diagnostics.  These can be stored in a digital portfolio (possibly a google site they add to year after year) for the students and parents to keep track of during their time in school.  It could also serve as evidence for teams to evaluate as we are looking at the intervention/SST/Assessment processes.

Needs for Implementation

  1. Outline of process
  2. Agreement on assessment and rubrics
  3. Training on both (1 & 2)
  4. Understand how to integrate google slides, google classroom, and the portfolio (google classroom)
  5. Clearly articulate how this will help teachers communicate progress on narratives.
  6. Make it a part of the PLC & team planning process.
  7. Making the slide deck.  I wonder who might be willing to help develop these slides - engage the PBIS Leadership team and the Instructional Leadership Team.  
  8. Differentiate slide deck by grade or developmental levels/ranges.
Okay, please help me flesh this out more.  I'd love questions, suggestions, and feedback!  

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?

Graduation Speech 2020

I matter AND you matter Every year I write a speech for 8th grade graduation. This year, I decided to embrace vulnerability and share th...