Sunday, June 4, 2017

Closing One Chapter and Beginning the Next....

It is so unbelievable that tomorrow we embark on our last week of the 2016-2017 school year. We have all learned a lot this year, both students and staff alike. We will never stop learning and growing. The post below was shared with me and I thought it a poignant way to end the school year. 

I wish everyone a relaxing summer. A summer that provides you an opportunity to reflect on what went well this year and where you can capitalize on growth for the new school year. We have established quite a TEAM and we will only get stronger with time. 

Trees Shedding Their Bark

Like a tree our growth depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed boundaries and defenses we no longer need.
Trees grow up through their branches and down through their roots into the earth. They also grow wider with each passing year. As they do, they shed the bark that served to protect them but now is no longer big enough to contain them. In the same way, we create boundaries and develop defenses to protect ourselves and then, at a certain point, we outgrow them. If we don't allow ourselves to shed our protective layer, we can't expand to our full potential.

Trees need their protective bark to enable the delicate process of growth and renewal to unfold without threat. Likewise, we need our boundaries and defenses so that the more vulnerable parts of ourselves can safely heal and unfold. But our growth also depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed boundaries and defenses we no longer need. It is often the case in life that structures we put in place to help us grow eventually become constricting.

Unlike a tree, we must consciously decide when it's time to shed our bark and expand our boundaries, so we can move into our next ring of growth. Many spiritual teachers have suggested that our egos don't disappear so much as they become large enough to hold more than just our small sense of self--the boundary of self widens to contain people and beings other than just "me." Each time we shed a layer of defensiveness or ease up on a boundary that we no longer need, we metaphorically become bigger people. With this in mind, it is important that we take time to question our boundaries and defenses. While it is essential to set and honor the protective barriers we have put in place, it is equally important that we soften and release them when the time comes. In doing so, we create the space for our next phase of growth.

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Thank You.....

Thank You.....

Thank you to all of the educators that #create #engaging lessons that are #relevant and #meaningful for students.

Thank you to all of the educators that take #risks to make school a #better place for students.

Thank you to all of the educators that #challenge their colleagues to #reach new heights.

Thank you to all of the educators that #build #relationships with students.

Thank you to all of the educators that take #time to give #real #feedback to students.

Thank you to all of the educators that are using #technology to #enhance and #redefine their lessons.

Thank you to all of the educators that #believe in ALL of their students.

Thank you to all of the educators that are #passionate about teaching and #teachlikeapirate.

Thank you to all of the educators that #listen to #student voices and #lead from what they have #learned.

Thank you to all of the educators that #share and open up their classrooms for other educators to observe.

Thank you to all of the educators that are #reflective and willing to make needed changes because #kidsdeserveit.

Thank you to all of the educators that still remember their #why. 

Thank you to all of the educators that #encourage me each day to become a better person.

Thank you to all of the educators that make learning #fun.

Thank you to all of the educators that make students #laugh.

Thank you to all of the educators that see school as a #home and the students as their #family!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Priorities and Prioritizing

I have been enjoying connecting with my PLN this evening on Twitter. I am super excited about our week long Twitter Challenge; #FSUSDtweets that begins tomorrow.  I am even more proud to see how #EdcampFSUSD which began as merely an idea about only a short month ago has now blossomed into a full fledged REALITY. There is now a Twitter account, a website, a Google folder with many docs,  a multi-member planning team, hundreds of amazing donations flooding in, a date and a location!!

The reason I am so pumped and excited about #EdcampFSUSD is similar to the reasons I was so excited several years ago when I was principal at Crystal Middle School and we were planning our first Innovation Day. There is something so exhilarating to see an idea germinate, then how it grows with input and creativity from others, and it then begins to take on a momentous life of its own. I am so appreciative of the educators that are taking part in planning #EdcampFSUSD. They aren't planning because they will get paid or for kudos. They are part of the team because they are passionate, eager, creative, innovative PIONEERS. They are willing to take on something BIG because of the potential that it can have!! A HUGE shout out to the #EdcampFSUSD planning team. They are: Colleen Hutchinson, David Avery, Allison Klein, Gayle Horsma, Andy Meyers, Shareen Choy, Stephanie Budenthal, Meghan Cannon, Steve Trotter, and Jeff Kubiak.

I am currently reading "Lead Like a Pirate" and I was able to make some good connections with the text while on the drive up to see the in-laws for Easter. The one takeaway that has been at the forefront of my mind since Sunday is the idea of prioritizing our work. Thinking about our weekly tasks and determining of those tasks how many are really having a major impact on student achievement.

I have begun to wonder what are the priorities I am focusing on in my blogs and in my weekly newsletters? Are they the same? Do I send similar or conflicting messages? I have put myself to a test. I decided to copy and paste the last three blog posts into a Wordle and the last three newsletters into a Wordle to see what key words/phrases rise to the top. Here are the results.  There are some similarities, but not enough for it to be a clear, consistent message. There is work to be done.

My blog Wordle:

My newsletter Wordle: 

Now my next task is to evaluate my calendar and cross reference that with what my true priorities are that I want to see happening to have the largest impact on student achievement. I may need to shift and reprioritize. It is always good to reflect and refocus. It is so important to always keep the Goal in mind: Student Success!!! 

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!!

My Family: My motivation to be the BEST that I can be. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

This is what it's all about!!!!!

What an AMAZING day!! Today was a day for the record books!! It has left me feeling  #Proud #Energized #Motivated and #Encouraged. I am PROUD to be working with #innovative, #motivating, and #strong educators. I am ENERGIZED by the positive activities that are happening with students and staff. I am MOTIVATED to employ new strategies to "lead like a pirate." I am ENCOURAGED that the efforts that so many people are putting in day in and day out are starting to pay off.

My day began at Armijo High School where a team from the County Office of Education had begun their visitation to analyze the contents of their Gold Ribbon application. The County Office has the task of determining if the practices highlighted and outlined in the application are in fact taking place at the site. The time I spent there in the morning definitely showed that the Collaborative Coaching Process they highlighted is not only in effect on the campus, but is proactively changing the culture. Teachers shared how they are supporting one another and feeling safe to take risks with new ideas. The team spent the day visiting classrooms and speaking to staff, students, and parents. At the afternoon share out the County team shared that they were happy to announce they were giving their stamp of approval to send the application to the state level. They commented that they were so impressed with what they saw on the campus and what they gained from speaking with the students. It is a telling moment when senior students are able to verbalize that they are aware of the differences in how their teachers are teaching now compared to when they were freshman and sophomores. The students shared they are engaged much more in class since their teachers are having them talk instead of the teacher just talking, and they appreciate that their teachers are learning and trying new ways of teaching. Armijo's Collaborative Coaching Process was referred to as "exemplary."

My next stop was at the PSA where they are in day three of a four day WASC visit. I participated in a similar process as earlier in the morning, but this time the WASC visiting committee is working on validating the items described and outlined in the school's WASC report. The visiting committee will have their findings shared out tomorrow afternoon. The feedback so far is that they have seen a plethora of evidence to support what is written in the WASC report. The committee members we spoke to were thoroughly impressed with the structure, culture, and collaboration occurring at the PSA. They commented that this is the first time they have a seen a school that is a public school employing such a unique structure. I am confident that the share out tomorrow afternoon will be very, very positive. I must also add that the PSA had a Gold Ribbon site validation last week and the County is moving the PSA application to the state level!

Midway through the day I was humbled as a I partook in the ceremony at Matt Garcia Career and College Academy. Today is Victim's Memorial Day which is part of Crime Victim's Rights Week. The Matt Garcia Foundation in collaboration with the District Attorney's office, City Council, Fairfield PD, Solano County Sheriff, and many other community groups unveiled a statue and provided words of wisdom to the youth of our community. The ceremony bells were symbolic of #resilience, #strength, and #justice.

While I was at these three sites, there was so much going on at all of our other campuses across the district. I am so happy I get a glimpse through my "window" of Twitter without even being there. Over at Cordelia Hills, Principal Trotter was infusing innovation at his staff meeting by incorporating Flipgrid into collaborative conversations. Across town at Fairfield High, Assistant Principal Balthazor was infusing innovation at her staff meeting by incorporating Breakout Edu with the staff. These site admin are taking risks and modeling engagement they want to see in their classrooms.

This was a GREAT day in FSUSD. I am super excited to close out my night by starting to read my newest book, "Lead Like a Pirate." Tomorrow I will be part of a group of admin and teachers that will begin planning the VERY FIRST #Edcamp for FSUSD!

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The many voices in my head......

"The many voices in my head...." was not just my attempt at a catchy title. I am referring to the many messages/concerns/issues I hear from co-workers, students, family, media, and mostly..... my own self.  Some of the messages are competing and it is hard at times to drown out the "noise."  At times it can seem daunting. I truly want to make things right, help those that need it, fix those things that are broken, and make every day better for our students.  My attempts do not always succeed. But, my hope is that those that are on this journey with me, are able to recognize that my intentions are always good and that my ultimate goal is help our "team" unite and become even stronger than we are right now. I believe that with that strength and trust in one another we can chip away at the resistance that some may be putting up that is getting in the way of change. Not change for the sake of it, but change that makes things better for everyone involved. Change that can be seen and felt. Change that is real and empowers both students and staff so that they leave at the end of the day filled with knowledge and joy knowing that things were accomplished, problems were solved, questions were asked, and yes struggles were had.

The reality?? We are all human. We are all trying to do our best. We have many competing interests tugging at us. Therefore, we must support one another. Tonight, a colleague shared with me something that someone had said about me that at first I thought was unfortunate and I didn't think it bothered me. But, as the night went on, I realized that it really did hurt. It wasn't the words that hurt. It was the idea that someone did not see the "true purpose" behind why I do what I do. It hurt because I want nothing more than everyone to be successful. I do ask people to take risks and try new things and I do push them out of  their comfort zone. But, I do this not out of control, but because I want to empower each and every one of them. That one negative voice took over for awhile tonight....However, I now see it as a challenge!! A challenge that I must work harder to show through my actions and words that I am all about positive improvement and a team working together to be champions.

"The quality of every human activity ultimately depends on our motivation." --Dalai Lama

Monday, March 6, 2017


Listening to our students, staff, and even ourselves is such an important part of what we must constantly do. We cannot make assumptions or base our decisions on a single viewpoint.  We must reflect, adapt, and learn what is necessary. It can be discouraging at times, seeming as though others around you are "just getting it" while you are stuck and wondering what is going wrong. We are all faced with those days when it feels like nothing can go right. It is what we do with that moment that is key. That is where true leadership comes out.  I was super impressed with a tweet shared by Social Science teacher, Shari Patterson today. She recognized the lesson didn't go well and instead of making excuses she is brainstorming how to make it better. Sharing this publicly took a lot of strength and trust with her own PLN. This is exactly how we can continue to support each other through the #observeme movement. Other teachers can now share ideas that may spark an even better lesson for Shari in her classroom. I can guarantee you that Shari is working right now to design a lesson that will top what she planned today and that will be shared via her tweets tomorrow. #growth #reflection

I am constantly learning each and every day from those that are part of my Professional Learning Network (PLN). I am inspired and motivated to try new things and encourage other educators to do the same. I find a sense of euphoria while on Twitter. I was trying to figure out why I am always so happy while reading and posting on Twitter. I think it is because while on Twitter I am surrounded by people that are encouraging one another, facing and conquering challenges, and continuing to improve their practices and do what is best for kids.  My challenge to myself is to take that same intense joy and energy that is felt while on Twitter and infuse it into the regular day.

If you haven't heard/seen/read there are some new bloggers in FSUSD!! Take some time to read the blog, "FSUSD Innovates" co-authored by Steve Trotter, Colleen Hutchinson, and Allison Klein. I have a feeling that a few more authors will join this amazing group of innovative educators very soon.

One of our very own Ed Tech's Andy Meyers has an amazing blog, "Embracing the Whole." He is part of the #IMOOC with George Couros, and Andy is taking on the #IMOOC with a gusto:

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Teachers Building Up Other Teachers

We are just a few days into a new Twitter Challenge, teachers posting daily using a school hashtag and taking time to read each others' tweets. We began on Friday and we already have momentum!!

I am very excited about what is happening. Teachers are posting what their students are doing in class AND they encouraging other teachers to join in and get on Twitter and share their class successes as well. Real movement and change occurs when people see the relevance, meaning, and purpose to their work. When teachers feel the need to get others on board, we are in a GOOD place! The beauty of this sharing is that it is breaking down the walls between our classrooms and opening up the possibilities for teachers to try new and innovative approaches. It is safe to try and "fail forward."

The reality is that not everyone is on Twitter and therefore teachers are reaching out and sharing other ways to collaborate on ideas, share practices, and encourage each other. One way is the the #observeme movement that has been and continues to take place in our district and across the nation. Teachers inviting other teachers into their room with the #observeme sign to observe and provide them with feedback. Yes, they want feedback so that they can improve on their lesson delivery.

A teacher reached out to me this evening to help share another great resource called Flipgrid. This is an amazing way to capture student voices through video responses. I love how he referred to the tool as a "force multiplier." A way for teachers to capture and share what is happening in their classrooms without even leaving their campus. If we "multiply"our impact the potential is limitless!! Check out a recent Flipgrid from Colonel Avery's classroom:

Publicize this link, share with your staff! Let's create a "force multiplier" 

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!!

Monday, February 13, 2017

HOPE and Revolutionary Love.......

I cannot take credit for this week's post title. I must give credit to Alisal Union School District in Salinas, CA. I continue to follow Josh Harris on Twitter, our previous amazing Ed Tech, who is now the Director of Technology in AUSD. Today #AlisalStrong was in force on Twitter. Their district was engaged in a district wide Good Teaching Conference. Among the many sessions they were offering they, just as we do in #FSUSD, see the need to help develop the whole child. I was struck by one of the presenter's slides titled, "What is Revolutionary Love?" The presenter listed seven bullet points:

  • Defined by inputs rather than outcomes
  • Unyielding BELIEF in EVERY child
  • Demands energy and passion aka Never Giving Up...
  • Continual search to be better
  • Taking responsibility
  • Being courageous
  • It hurts...

“When students feel a sense of self-worth, they’re five times more likely to be academically motivated.” --Professor Russell Quaglia

My daughter brought this Ellen video to my attention this weekend. She said to me, "Mom you will like to see this." She was right!!! 

As we head back to work this week on Valentine's Day, take some extra time to reach out and show that you value EVERY student in your classroom and on your campus. Be that one caring adult every child needs! Provide your students HOPE that they CAN and WILL be successful. It is up to us to provide that HOPE and Revolutionary Love!! 

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Every Child Deserves the BEST!!!

At the start of the school year, each member of the Ed Services Team reflected on his/her WHY? We then shared our WHY with all of the site administrators. Many of you then took that activity and shared it with your teachers who also reflected on their WHY. I think it is a pivotal time in the school year for each and everyone one of us to PAUSE and reflect back on our WHY. Why do you do what you do? Why are you in education? Why do you teach? Why do you lead?

Our students need us to be present in the moment, to appreciate them, and to make every effort to improve their overall experience in our schools. We can't connect if we are sitting in an office. We can't appreciate them if we aren't part of their experiences. And, we definitely can't improve their overall experience in our schools if we are only interacting and listening to the adults. I challenge each and every one of you reading this to go out and #ShadowAStudent. Walk the hallways, engage in discussions, be part of the classrooms and view our schools from the perspective of a student. You can learn a lot from walking in the shoes of a student for just a few hours.

GlennRobbins, @Glennr1809, a Superintendent in New Jersey, took on the #ShadowAStudent challenge. Here you see him with his backpack on enjoying one of his middle schools.

James Lane, @DrJamesLane, Superintendent in Virginia is seen here taking #ShadowAStudent to one of his local high schools. 

"Every Child Deserves Someone to be Crazy About Them" 

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Let's... #RethinkSchool.....

I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason. People and experiences come into our lives and either leave a strong impression or spur a thought, action, or emotion. Think of it this way, everything is connected; there is an action and a reaction, a force and a motion. I was kindly reminded this evening by a well respected colleague of mine, Lt. Colonel Avery, that we started a movement last year to #RethinkHighSchool. A movement that HAS the potential to impact thousands of lives. I do believe that reminder was just what I needed to write tonight's blog. I don't want to just rethink high school, I want us to #RethinkSchool!! Please watch this video: Designing a Super School

We see the messages all over Twitter and in Educational publications. We need to #rethink our approaches because #KidsDeserveit!!! There are teachers in #FSUSD that are breaking out of the box and creating classroom environments that are not just safe and welcoming, but that are challenging their students to problem solve, critically think,  and take on projects that give back to the community! I  want to hear and share your stories. It takes spreading the message to create a chain reaction. There are some educators poised and ready but are unsure of how to take the first step to #rethink school. I need your help to share what you have done and what you continue to do that is providing an engaging, relevant, and meaningful experience for your students. I encourage you to comment on this blog and share with others to do the same. I know that I can count on Colonel Avery to get his AFJROTC cadets to comment on this blog. We CAN and NEED to do this #FSUSD.

Join me and the other educators that are committed to #RethinkingSchool 

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!! 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Pay It Forward.....Kindness

A smile, a kind word, a helping hand; all acts of kindness. How impactful can one positive act be? You may or may not be surprised to find out that kindness can be LIFE CHANGING!  A happiness researcher, Sean Anchor, found that if you perform random acts of kindness for two minutes a day for twenty-one days, you can actually retrain your brain to be more positive. The Power of Kindness Article

Sean Anchor also argues that happiness inspires us to be more productive.  The more kindness you sow, your mindset will shift to live and lead a happier life. See his Ted Talk here:

Jamil Zaki, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford writes about the Kindness Contagion.  He explains that when someone carries out a single act of kindness, three people benefit.  The person doing the act, the person receiving and anyone who witnesses the act.  He goes on to state that a single act of kindness can spread faster than a virus.  Kindness Contagion Article

Here are a few inspirational videos to help spread the message of Paying it Forward!!

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Remaining True to Your Purpose.....

It is usually about this time in the school year that I start to question if I am doing enough. Have I spread the message of change and positive intentions to as many people as I can? Have I supported all of my colleagues enough? Have I made things better for our students? 

Today's blog post is a compilation of posts from throughout the school year. These are the messages that I want to ensure people are hearing with the hope that ACTION will ensue. 

As always the students and their success MUST be at the core of what guides and influences all of our decisions and actions.  The Justin Bieber song "Children" has been my theme song for the school year. Please take a moment to watch this video and listen to the lyrics.

Are you willing to do be that visionary making the changes needed for our students? Whether we want to see a physical, mental or systemic change... it takes time. Most of us, myself included, can be impatient waiting for the transformation to take place. However, if we want the transformation to be lasting and with positive results we must be patient, persevere, and continue to make strides towards that goal.

If we see something about ourselves, our classroom, or our school that we don't like we need to face it. We need to take a good look at what it is we are challenged with. We must determine what we could do differently to potentially bring about the change we want. Keeping in mind that the genesis of the change we desire must be rooted in positivity. Once you are committed to the transformation you must begin to adjust your habits you have become accustomed to. We all know Albert Einstein's famous quote, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Who's got the HEART? 

YOU can make a DIFFERENCE! 

Think about how your are working to create systems at your school that will develop a Culture of Universal Achievement. Your PBIS site team should be at the core in working to establish and maintain these efforts.  As a unified district we must use RTI to establish and maintain district and site systems that align and support assessment, data management and interventions. Our district wide focus on T4S and specifically Academic Discourse aligns and support all of our efforts in the areas of collaboration and standards alignment. 

Don't forget the WHY of what drives our work. We are doing this for EVERY one of our students in our district. We are doing this to engage our students so that they are empowered to be the change agents of the future. We are doing this so that students are excited to go to school. We CANNOT allow mediocrity. We must not make EXCUSES! Don't let your budget constraints get in your way. Think of ways to maximize the dollars that you have. Don't let negative staff get in your way. Think of ways to tap into everyone's strengths and have them be a part of the process and ensure they understand the WHY. We CANNOT be complacent. If you see something going well then share it and encourage others to see the benefits. If something is going wrong then address it and determine an action plan to make corrections, don't allow it to fester. 

We can use our challenges and struggles to develop our passions and to push us to improve. 

Take a moment to think about a positive chain reaction. Engaging in one positive action for another can cause a ripple effect. What if all of our #FSUSD students were greeted on Tuesday to cheers of appreciation that they were on campus? What if we showered them with HOPE and LOVE?  What if we focused on the HEART before the HEAD every day with ALL of our students? People want and need to be loved. Dr. Jeff Andrade, keynote speaker of "Growing Roses in Concrete" and now the Growing Roses in Concrete Community School has said that having just one caring adult in a child's life can be the difference between a child finding success or not. If you have never heard Dr. Andrade speak, you must. Dr. Jeff Andrade "Growing Roses in Concrete"

We MUST commit to spreading the message of self worth and importance. As every child walks across the threshold of our classrooms each and every day we MUST tell our students they are valued, they are important, they are needed. We must use our positive words to overcome any existing self doubt. WE must help them handle negative thoughts and in turn it will help them gain more confidence in who they are.

Take a moment to watch and LISTEN to the words in this video. If you are moved, then take that energy and share with others. 

We MUST not give up on any of our students!! We must empower! We must BELIEVE that anything is possible. We MUST NOT make any excuses. Provide HOPE!

Think about the ways in which you can #Sparkle on campus and keep spreading positivity. We CAN change the reality around us. We can commit with positive intention to reinforce the actions and behaviors that we want to see in our colleagues, our students, and ultimately our society. We must highlight and showcase the strengths of our peers and our students. We must mend any mistrust and replace it with open and honest communication. Don't be afraid to have those that you are leading come out from the shadows and shine bright. True leaders are able to create more leaders and empower those that they lead to be the absolute best they can be.

When I was asked what my #OneWord2017 was, my reply was UNYIELDING. Webster's Dictionary defines UNYIELDING as, "showing or having firmness or determination." It is more important to me now more than ever that I stay true to my convictions and core beliefs.  There are many forces at work that will try to make one sway or falter. But, remaining centered and grounded and joining forces with others that are like minded will provide a network of impenetrable strength.

Imagine a unified movement with the message, "Not In Our School." One student alone can have a difficult time standing up for what is right, but when you have students unite they become a much stronger force and it is then much easier to spread the message of, "Not In Our School." Join me in this effort!! Let's join forces to create this movement at our school sites. Let's work together to transform our schools to be schools FOR the community not just IN the community. We can DO THIS together with the "Not In Our School" movement.

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


When I was asked what my #OneWord2017 was, my reply was UNYIELDING. Webster's Dictionary defines UNYIELDING as, "showing or having firmness or determination." It is more important to me now more than ever that I stay true to my convictions and core beliefs.  There are many forces at work that will try to make one sway or falter. But, remaining centered and grounded and joining forces with others that are like minded will provide a network of impenetrable strength.

Prior to leaving on the winter break there were quite a few tragedies that struck our community. I was compelled to reach out to faith leaders from Liberty Church for guidance on how to best approach and support our youth. It was a great conversation spent with two pastors. We talked about what it would take to create a movement. A movement that would empower our youth. A movement that would work to unleash the potential in all of our students.  A movement that would give our students a voice.  A movement that would provide HOPE.

Imagine a unified movement with the message, "Not In Our School." One student alone can have a difficult time standing up for what is right, but when you have students unite they become a much stronger force and it is then much easier to spread the message of, "Not In Our School." Remember the video of the lone dancer that starts a movement? It takes a few followers and a movement begins.

Join me in this effort!! Let's join forces to create this movement at our school sites. Let's work together to transform our schools to be schools FOR the community not just IN the community. We can DO THIS together with the "Not In Our School" movement.

Continue to be innovativecreative, and a model of excellence!!