Grab some inspiration… Gimme 5!

I love the blog challenges that float around Twitter.  Not only am I inspired by what I read but I love them for times when my mind needs the structure of a blog challenge.  Thanks #principalsinaction for the inspiration and motivation!  Here goes!

ONE of my biggest struggles this school year.

Building relationships and being patient enough to not take on too much because I KNOW relationships are key.  In a nutshell.  A new school means meeting a whole new staff, student body and community.  It’s overwhelming.  And for me, I feel like building relationships is a strength but I struggle with jumping to other big ticket items that need attention without giving enough time to building quality, trusting, honest relationships.  I’m excited to get started!  It’s a good problem to have, but I rein myself in constantly to say, “You just got here.  Relax.  There’s lots of time.”  It’s the story of education; the push and pull of priorities, crisis, initiatives, demands, desires.  But none of that will ever come to much without solid people behind them.  People who trust in one another, trust the leader and the plan, feel supported and heart, agree that kids are the center of our work and are willing to get their hands dirty together.


TWO accomplishments that I’m proud of this school year.

I’d go back to my ONE biggest struggle since it’s also one of my proudest accomplishments.  I made a huge point of spending time with staff, all of them.  From classroom teachers to itinerant teachers, from one hour a day noon duty supervisors to one day a week Occupational Therapist, from our Therapeutic Spec Ed classroom to child care.  No matter how much time you spend on campus with our students, you are part of the community.  Your voice matters, your ideas need to be heard, your participation is vital.

My second accomplishment is being present with students and in classrooms.  Teachers no longer stop teaching when I walk in.  Students are comfortable telling me about their lesson or project.  I’ve got 85% of the students’ names down pat.  A few just simply aren’t sticking but I don’t give myself away.  Thank goodness for name tags and ipads where I can catch a glimpse of a name when I’m stumped.  Hugs, high fives and “How’s your day going?” are huge for me.  I love that part of the job most.

THREE goals before year’s end

We’ve made a concerted effort to rejuvenate our garden program this year.  It’s very exciting.  Quite honestly, the program never went away, but we need to rethink our goals, how to integrate without interrupting and keep things growing and thriving.  NGSS are helping a lot.  We’re reconvening a Garden Committee with members from the early garden years at our school (2000-2001).  One of my goals is to serve salad from our garden at least three times before the year is out.  Student planted, harvested, washed, chopped and served.  School to Fork.


School rules are so old school.  We’ve taken on crafting school wide behaviors, and they’re almost ready for prime time.  It’ll be awesome to be on the same page about student expectations in various areas of the school.  What it looks like rather than a list of no’s and don’ts.  The disciplinary “Think Sheet” has already been revamped to a multi-flow Thinking Map to get kids reflecting and planning ahead around behavior incidents.  It’s got a good feel. Less about the consequence and more about the plan for next time.  Yes, the consequence exists but that’s not where students and I expend a lot of energy.  We spend much more time on practicing and rehearsing the right approach or strategy.  All about teaching and learning!

RtI is overwhelming.  We’ve got some decent systems in place right now but we’re not based enough in programs nor are we fully utilizing all specialists on campus.  By year’s end, I’d be very happy if we came to some basic agreements school wide around ELD strategies and which specialist handles which aspect of RtI need.  It would be a bonus if we had a list of programs to explore.

FOUR reasons I remain in education despite the challenges.

I love my job!  I can’t imagine doing anything else.

For all the challenges, negative media and criticism, we are preparing future citizens.  It’s such important work.  If you can’t stand the heat… you know.  But if you can weather it, there’s nothing more gratifying that talking to kids about their future.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

I want to work at the Nike store.

That sound fun.  Do you like Nike shoes?

Yeah.  They’re really cool.

You know someone has to design all those cool shoes.  Have you thought you might do that?

<silence>  I guess I hadn’t thought of that.

Well, you should.  I bet you’ve got a lot of good ideas.

<silence>  I do have some ideas.  Maybe I could do that.

Future-thinking.  Especially for my munchkins that struggle, that don’t see a lot of value in the work they do at school.  What’s next?  Dream big.

The third reason?  The negative people just don’t have anything better to do than beat up on education.  I don’t have time for that.  I don’t have energy to waste on trying to convince them otherwise.  I’ll just prove our good work every day at school.  I’ll keep sharing the awesomeness of teaching and learning through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I’m WAY too cup half full to let the negativity get me down.  There’s way too much good stuff going on.

And finally, I feel constantly buoyed up by my PLN.  Groups like #principalsinaction, #leadwild and #strataproblems keep me excited and motivated.  I stay with this crazy career in education because I’m surrounded by other enthusiastic leaders and teachers who don’t give up and celebrate all The Awesome.  I love this tribe.

FIVE people I hope will take the challenge

Jennifer Kloczko because she’s a huge inspiration!  Good news is, she already posted hers!  Here it is!

Amy Fadeji since she and I can always use a blog nudge.  You’ve been officially nudged, girl!

Eric Saibel because he’s helped me a ton this year with my transition and trying to keep perspective and not drive myself (or others) crazy.

Todd Feinberg since he’s super busy being an amazing principal, dad and hubby.  I’d love to read your take on this blog challenge, Todd.

Mike Taylor because he’s experienced a major transition this year too.  And he’s ROCKED it!



Summer Learning Reflections… thank you Edsel Clark.

It started with a Follow on Twitter.  I like to check out the people who follow me: work, location in the world, family (if they mention it), recent Tweets… it builds a real person in my mind and thereby a potential relationship.

@edselclark followed me yesterday.  I went straight to his blog,, and read a bit.  His June post, Summer learning gains, caught my attention.  And then I came straight here to consider my own sons’ summer learning and how I encourage, impact and foster the lag or gain from these ten weeks off.

Old Cars and Cuba

Joshua and I were heading across town to his soccer practice.  An auto shop at the end of our road had four old cars in the yard.  Joshua launched into a series of questions about these cars: Why don’t cars look like those anymore?  I think they’re cool; could I use one of those for an everyday car? Are they more expensive that modern cars? Why do they look so much more interesting than our cars? and on and on.

We talked about aerodynamics, fuel efficiency and pure numbers of cars on the road in the 50’s versus today.  We talked modern amenities: electric windows, backup cameras, choices of interiors, computerized everything.

And then I brought up Cuba (what little I know).  That’s when Google entered the conversation.  He scrolled through images of Cuba’s streets and old American cars.  He scanned an article on “the Cuban Thaw.”  That led to questions about the United States “giving Cuba the silent treatment for fifty years” (Josh’s interpretation).

Talk about summer learning!  All this on a 15 minute ride to soccer practice.  The conversation picked right back up with his dad two hours later.

Minnesota Humidity and Time Zones

Jacob inherited my old phone this summer.  He’s our “connected kid.” He loves to interact with friends and family via Facetime and texting.  Joshua barely knows where his phone is from day to day.  Jacob has it in his pocket without fail.

We traveled to Minnesota to visit family.  Needless to say it was outrageously humid for most of the trip (typical).  Jacob became our weatherman, “60% humidity today, mom.”  Thanks Jacob.  “Chance of showers today, mom.”  Thanks Jacob.

At some point he decided to compare.  “Why isn’t it this humid in Petaluma?” <stumped mom look> Weather is not my forte.  Thank you Google.  So each day (or a few times a day), he’d make a comparison and read about humidity.  Thankfully some other relative got to hear all about it.

The other standard question from Jacob, “What time is it at home?”  “Subtract two hours,” was the response he got every time.  Every. Time.  And yet he’d keep asking.  “So we’d be asleep now?”  “So lunch is over?”  “So we’d still be asleep?” He just couldn’t wrap his mind around something different happening or some different time of day happening back at home.

This led to other distant location questions.  What time is it in Australia?  It’s tomorrow in Australia.  <stumped Jacob look>

Legos on the Floors and Another Invented Game

This doesn’t happen as often as it used to.  The floor covered in Legos, the search for the right piece, building vehicles and playing an elaborate game.  I listen in and haven’t a clue what’s going on.  “You need wings that would really fly.  Those won’t really fly.”  “I just made a cool droid. Want me to make you one?”  “The cargo stops here first.  Then it can continue on to the port.”

It’s a beautiful interaction that consumes an entire morning.  Building, discussing, trading, moving, arguing, agreeing, rebuilding, “flying,” and laughing.  In school terms, this has the 4 C’s all over it.  From a mom’s point of view, the creativity takes the cake.  No plan, just their own imaginations and buckets of Legos.

Summer Learning Rocks

I’m lucky enough to have a lot of time with my boys over summer.  The learning just never stops.  Neither of them has read a single book this summer.  No joke.  Not one book.  But boy have they been learning!  And reading!

The experiences (big and small) lead to interesting conversations, Google searches and even more questions.  And the best part is that we are all learning!  About questions we have, about ideas in the world and about each other.

With the time I have with my boys over summer, I make big plans: places to visit, hikes, day trips, food experiences… and it never pans out as I’d envisioned.  I sometimes get back to work feeling disappointed that I’ve “wasted” our summer days.  But I realize that big plans can become awesome moments, conversations and Google searches.  It’s about quality of time.  I get to participate as a concept is struggled through and grasped, as a question is posed and explored, as a light bulb turns on.

All from one Follow.  This is what my PLN does… sparks my thinking, asks good questions, challenges my assumptions.   So glad Mr. Clark is a part of it.

Happy Summer!  Back to work tomorrow…