October 11, 2013

Tabula Rasa

When I was a sophomore in high school I had a teacher named Mrs. Giest at Largo High School. She loved vocabulary just as much as I did. It was in her class that I was introduced to etymology and latin/greek roots. You have no idea how excited I was to learn about the history of forming words.

From that moment I knew I would have my students complete etymology projects each year and I did just that as a classroom teacher.

One of the words that stuck with me is Tabula Rasa - latin for blank slate or empty slate before receiving outside impressions.

It stuck with me because I made a connection with Tabula Rasa and new mercies that scriptures speak of, with the idea that everyone deserves a chance to recover, right the wrong, atone, have a second chance, etc.

Are you willing to give that student, that teacher, or that parent a tabula rasa. Think about how many times you have failed, disappointed or embarrassed someone and they gave you a clean slate?

Continue to foster visions of success...

October 10, 2013

There is a King in You

During my personal devotion this morning and the song, 'There is a King in You'.  I connected with it for many reasons. Please allow me to build with you on the fact that there are king and queen like destinies for everyone. 

Everyone has a purpose and a future. Everyone has a past. In order to help our community members and students reveal that purpose, we must speak positivity and encouragement each day. For me, speaking life into a situation includes using words or phrases that keep their dream alive. Let's continue to motivate and encourage, even in our thoughts.

Do you really believe that all students can achieve great things? From the core of who you are? It is essential to believe it yourself before you can give authentic encouragement to another.

As a young child, there were several words or phrases we were not allowed to say. At the time I didn't fully understand why my mother added the word 'can't' to the list of things we aren't to say.

But, now, as a mother of six - I get it! She wanted to us try everything before giving up. Don't say you can't, say I have a hard time trying, she would say. That meant, I had to try. So many of us are ready to give up and you haven't even tried. You can open that store, you can go back to school for that degree, you can reach your fitness goals. There is a King (and Queen) in you. 

Live on purpose and be mindful of the words you speak. 

Donald Lawrence's says:

You come from royalty

An aristocratic dynasty
The goal of the enemy
Is that you don't know who you are

There's power when you speak
Be mindful of words you release
But the King in me speaks to the King in you

You were born to rule there is a King in you
Speak with such defeat?
Speak with such low esteem?
But the King in me speaks to the King in you
You were born to rule, there is a King in you

October 7, 2013

Sage on the Stage - Increasing Parental Involvement

Have you ever been to a sports contest for students and think to yourself: 'it would be great if parents were this excited and came out in these numbers for PTA or family workshops.' 

I mean it is during the EXACT same time as a PTA meeting and the entire community is there cheering on the student. 

How can we, then, transfer that same enthusiasm to math night, PTA and honor roll?

Put the students on stage. Let them plan, lead, and execute the activities and the parents will rise to the occasion. To teach is to learn twice so having student presenters is a benefit to them also. 

Student presenters:
Practice planning and problem solving
Collaborate with co-facilitators
Model best practices
Gain great leadership ability
Increase self esteem and self efficacy

Learn from their students
Get accustomed to school wide strategies 

Facilitate and clarify when needed 
Support parents as guides
Ensure family contact info is accurate

Do you have experience with this model or are you willing to try it and share? 


September 12, 2013

21st Century Organization

Being a mother of six children, I am often asked how I do it. While I don't have a full response which satisfies the shocked inquirer, I do know one thing for sure: Technology has helped me to become a more organized advocate for my children.

Taking tweeting and texting beyond its social realm of existence, I have learned that collaborating with practitioners as partners scores a home run for team Student Success. The use of Google Calendar and video messaging services like Google Hangout and Skype have allowed me to meet with teachers while I am sitting in the parking lot awaiting the children's dance class to end (like right now). 

Now the Google Calendar can be synchronized to all family devices and alerts can be programmed also. So if you are always forgetting to do the reading log, place it on the calendar with an audible alert and hold yourself accountable. Count out how many days are left on the lunch account and add it the calendar, with any school testing dates, then doctor and dentist appointments when assessments are not scheduled. The calendaring doesn't stop there. Add weekly chores, SAT words of the week, extracurricular activities and play dates.

Use the tools to your advantage.

September 8, 2013

Back to School: Time to Build

I wonder how other administrators feel as they conduct walkthroughs in their schools. As I enter the classrooms and view student work in the hallways, I feel the positive energy throughout the campus.

The educators in my building make me miss being an educator. They engage students through building relationships with families and communities. Once that foundation of respect, clear expectations and genuine support is established, authentic teaching and learning can take place in a fault-free, non-confrontational environment.

Ways to build relationships with our teachers include:

  • Soliciting their opinion and allowing that data to drive decisions
  • Allowing them to lead programs and professional learning
  • Staff retreats and monthly opportunities to build as a unit
  • Support and encourage learning through attending conferences
  • Remove barriers that may hinder teaching and learning

We build relationships with our kings and queens by: 

  • Greeting them at the door with a handshake each day
  • Checking in with them throughout the day, at lunch and in the hallways
  • Asking their opinion before making decisions which effect them
  • Empowering them to self-advocate and honoring their courage
  • Support them in their community activities
  • Allowing them to create opportunities to lead on campus
  • Coaching them in understanding errors and how to atone with others.
It is through love, understanding, and an unwavering focus of the mission and vision which we are all called to support that provides the greatest opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with our school community.


The Interactive Parent

Act 2, Scene 2
Conversation between student and guardian occurs hours after the school and work day has ended.

Parent:   How was your day? 
Student: Good.
Parent:   What did you learn today?
Student: Nothing.
Parent:   Did you finish your homework?
Student: Yes.

Student puts in earbuds and listens to music while parent goes to prepare dinner and make sure clothes are washed.

How many times has that scene been played in households across America? 

Often times as parents and community leaders, we attempt to engage with our students with limited success. Sometimes its all in the questioning. Instead of asking those input-output questions, try keeping them on their toes by asking a few of the following:

  • Teach me what you learned in mathematics today.
  • How can you apply what you learned in science to our lives?
  • How do you know that number 5 is correct?
  • Bring me your homework and agenda book and show me how they are linked.
  • Describe a challenge you had today.
  • If you could change something about one today's lesson how would you do it? Why?
  • What other supplies or support do you need to make you more successful?
  • What was the best part of your lunch experience today?

These questions solicit a response that is thoughtful and engaging for student and parent. They provide insight on what is really going on the schoolhouse and how you can better support your child. Research says that being able to teach someone else a skill shows mastery on the part of the teacher. That means if your child can teach you why 646 is written six hundred forty six in written form, then you know they have mastered the skill.

Try it out and let me know how it goes below.

August 27, 2013

The Mother

School is back in session and already we have a lost sweater! I finally have an official teenager - 13 years old! That has to be the magic number. Just this time last year I was begging him to take showers and brush his teeth. Now he's juggling appointments between the barber and the orthodontist. Yes, love must be in the air! In just three more years he can drive, and in five he will be well on his way to adulthood. It was just August 2000.

I'm really seeing the shift in demand towards common core through the rigor in assignments that my four elementary children are bringing home. I am pleased with the preparation and awareness sessions that the first grade team took the time to have with parents last year. 

Now that my twin girls are in the second grade, they are using more academic vocabulary and justifying responses with ease. Although they are twins, one reads above grade level and doesn't like homework. She is a people-pleaser who says she knows everything and only goes to school to help the teacher. Her sister is a very hard worker who spends hours on homework and has issues focusing in class. She loves to dance, draw, write songs and try on numerous outfits.

My nine year old mathematical superstar loathes reading and has always found a reason not to read. He's the quiet, observant one who reminds you of everything and empathizes with everyone. His goal is to manage the little sisters while trying to keep up with big brother. 

Kindergarten Cop just loves learning to pieces. He is super ecstatic about finally being able to participate in cub scouts and sing in the choir at church. He has been looking forward to being five for a very long time. His time has come and he has had a grin on his face since the first day of school.

Then there is baby number 5, or Super Baby, as we call him. Any and everything that you can imagine a super baby doing - he's done it. More about this scholar later.

Back to the school-aged offspring. As each year progresses I find it increasingly difficult to separate my role as an educator and the role of familial advocate. I spend lots of time governing my thoughts and tailoring them not as to offend, but inform. It doesn't always work out that way but I am a work in progress also. I find a happy medium in serving as the PTA President. Presidents are supposed to know about Common Core right?