Friday, November 17, 2017

10 Reasons Why Cooking With Kids Matters...And Impacts Literacy

I’ve been cooking with my littles, friends, and a few non-earth-shattering, but amazing-to-me, realities have emerged.  I will admit that in times past, I’ve only wanted their participation in little ways--because, well, it takes longer and gets messier when Pre-Ks are in the kitchen! But I declare, I have been realizing the POWER of this experience in shaping these little minds!

So these are my random thoughts on just TEN ways that cooking can impact learning and literacy (These are in no particular order):

  • Vocabulary--What is “sifting”? Why do you call that a funnel, Mommy?”

  • Elapsed time and patience become your trusted friends

  • Reinforcing the knowledge that life is about process

  • Real-life literacy opportunities like interactive writing (we see this recipe and like it; let’s write the ingredients in a list we can take to the store!)

  • Close reading--Does the recipe say “Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes,” or “Simmer for 20 minutes; cover”? It makes a difference.

  • Hands-on connection between cause and effect with clear criteria--does it taste right? How do we know?

  • If phonological awareness is being able to hear, “feel”, what words do and how the parts go together, what is the mathematical equivalent?  Whatever that’s called, that’s what the math of cooking helps kids to get.   Also related to math, I know that the ability to estimate, to conceptualize amounts related to each other, is a powerful indicator of math ability.  Kids who cook get good at this! Don’t you think it’s possible that our cooking kids can learn the power of a “pinch of this or that”?

  • A healthy respect for the power of useful but dangerous things--fire, knives, etc.--and a knowledge of how to stay safe around them

  • Relationship-building--Burger King may pass us sandwiches and onion rings through a window, but no packaged product can seal our hearts with our families and create lifelong memories!

  • People who know how to feed themselves live out self-sufficiency in powerful ways.  They may even be motivated to grow their own food later.  Creating something from nothing sparks a HUNGER for building our own creative capacity!

And there you have it, friends.  Ten good reasons to cook with the children in your life, or at the very least, to think about how to incorporate what our students may know from the kitchen into the life of the classroom.  Happy creating!

Love and light,

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Every Month a Milestone

Teachers Like Me

I've come the conclusion that teachers are probably some of the most taxed, stretched and pulled people on the planet.  For real.  We give, pour out, cover, protect, teach, evaluate, explain, mediate, and share.  And then many of us go home and do even more of that as caregivers to husbands, children, parents...with little room left for ourselves. I realized just this weekend that a powerful model for me is going to be a consistent goal-setting for life goals I have outside of education.  It's a given that I am eating, sleeping and breathing some of the important goals I want to accomplish in my job.   But I am not always as intentional about making sure my personal needs and goals get met.  But this, friends, is a self-care issue, and one I am now excited to say I am addressing.   So, I've decided that my theme for the rest of this school year is "BLOOM."  I'm going to bloom despite any challenges--any dung, if you will--surrounding me, and I'll take that dung and use it to help me grow.  From now until the end of the school year I will have a milestone goal I'm focused on just for me, and here are some examples:

  • February: Give a TEDx talk through my alma mater (just found out today I've been invited to share my idea with the committee! Woo hoo!)
  • March: Publish my first picture book
  • April: Publish my first book for adults
  • May: Be able to play my school's song on the guitar (a goal I'm pursuing in front of students)

These are just some examples, but they illustrate how valuable it is and will be to have things I'm pushing for in my personal life, to add balance to the press that professional life can be.  Hope this can inspire someone else to do some of the same!  

Monday, October 23, 2017

Crucial Conversations

I have been fascinated by the idea that you can learn to have hard conversations well, for years.  My father, an H.R. guy, first introduced me to Crucial Conversations, and I have been a fan ever since.  I confess that I have not ever finished the whole book or audio book (which I need to do soon)...but the pieces and principles I've picked up are enough to make me slightly dangerous. :-)  I am THRILLED that I will be taking the Influencer training through the Vital Smarts organization (makers of Crucial Conversations) this week...but meanwhile, they are also offering this online training that I think can help me get a good start. I've literally been saying for years that teachers are trained in curriculum, differentiation, assessment, and even trauma--but never in effective communication on behalf of children and in concert with stakeholders.  Teaching is a fabulous world! There are aha moments, breakthroughs, community-building, learning and innovation, self-esteem building and collective victories to revel in.  But there are also challenges-- lots of self-interest, teacher conflict, adult self-preservation, parent denial, lawmaker cluelessness and student apathy to wade through! I want to know to wade through the hard stuff in respect, partnership and camaradeire.  I want to know how to do it well.  I'm convinced that Crucial Conversations can help!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

This is Probably the Shortest Blog Post Ever, But...

I just have to share this...I subscribed to a stock photo membership, and did a search for pictures featuring "teachers collaborating."  Also tried "teachers meeting."  What I found was fascinating!  The only pictures I found were the ones below. Notice that they didn't even have a frame of reference or an image for this idea! What do you notice about the pictures they did offer?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fire Starters

So, a friend recommended that I check out an online community of entrepreneurs, and as a budding teacherpreneur I figured I'd better listen.  Decided to join, and  last week they had a fascinating thread going where someone asked for names of members' favorite entrepreneurship influencers.  I was pleased to see that some of the people I've started following were on the list--but so were many more whose names I'd never heard!  I'm sharing their list here because I suspect there are readers of this blog who may be having the itch to do more and expand their territory, as well, but may not be aware of all this inspiring work out there.  I am excited to be able to explore these names...and would love to know from you--are any of these your favorites, too? 

An Inexhaustive List of Influencers We May Need to Know

  • Seth Godin
  • Jill Stanton
  • Ryan Holiday
  • Ramit Sethi
  • Bushra Azhar
  • Kerwin Rae
  • Gary Vaynerchuck
  • Pat Flynn
  • Patrick bet David
  • Amy Portferfield
  • Grant Cardone
  • Melissa Pharr
  • Daymond John
  • Lori Greiner
  • Chalene Johnson
  • Nicole Walkters
  • Ryan Blair
  • Marie Forleo
  • Simon Sinek
  • Noah Kagan
  • Neil Patel
  • Courtney Foster-Donahue
  • Melyssa Griffin 
*Please note: I have not vetted each of these names and cannot speak for all of them.  Some, I can.  But in case anyone's content is out there, just know that they're not being endorsed here, just listed. :-) 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

...I'll Be Your Best Friend!

The Cost of Friendship?

Almost daily in my home life, I hear a negotiation going on between the preschoolers I'm privileged to parent.  It sounds something like this: "If you give me that (or go with me, or let me go first), I'll be your best friend!" Even beyond the sing-song-y, self-serving feel behind this refrain, something jumps out at me.  I see a metaphor.  

Schoolhouse Talk

I fear that in education, our unspoken social code will ruin us if we don't address it. The code goes like this: "If I like you, and we've got relationship, it's impolite, gauche, even, to push your thinking regarding the work you do for children."  "Really?" some would say? Really.  It's no different from a good old boy or crony network in any other field.  When we build collegial relationships with colleagues, in many camps it is quietly expected that being "for" our colleagues includes never broaching hard subjects about things like:
  • how they treat students
  • work ethic/mutual accountability for the work
  • keeping promises & carrying weight for the team
...and all manner of matters that humans  in working relationships work through. 

I want to submit to you, friends, we, almost more than other people, should give ourselves a different standard.  Make it our expectation and culture that we'll be courageous enough to have these conversations, respectfully.  The life outcomes of children are at stake.  It's not about adult comfort--it's about us constantly being in a state of improvement for our own sake and theirs. 

Continuous Improvement

In Japan, the business model of kaizen, or continual improvement, was what allowed the nation to develop cars and technology so excellent that they excelled right on past American businesses that settled in their comfort zones and rested on their pre-war laurels.  What if American education had adopted a continuous improvement stance 30 years ago? Where would we be today?

The book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything tells of the drastic drops in hospital deaths which occurred in spaces where staff members were trained to have hard conversations.  Prior to the training, staff would see doctors treat patients without washing their hands, for example, but be afraid to speak up.  The culture of complicity was causing them not to say things that could literally save patients' lives.  But the knowledge they lacked--and what their more powerful colleagues knew but ignored--was hurting someone. Once they learned that liking and respecting colleagues was not mutually exclusive with holding them accountable, things changed.  THIS is what I think education can do!  And it starts with creating our own language.  Stay tuned, because this is on my constant radar, and of course I will share as I hear more and more some of what that language should be...

Love & light,

Monday, September 4, 2017

Our Moses Moment

In the Old Testament book of Exodus (chapter 18), Moses was trying to manage several thousands of people--ensuring justice for their legal needs, tending to their spiritual needs, establishing and administrating government for their daily needs--and keeping track of the twists was exhausting.  Managing a classroom of 30 can feel this way--I can only imagine what it felt like with that  many people. Anyway, his father-in-law, Jethro, observed what an impossible task this was and had heard a strategy from God. He told Moses, "Why are you laboring at this morning till night? What you’re doing is not good.  You and the people will wear out this way, because it’s too much for you alone. Let me help you set up a system for sharing some of this responsibility..." It's the first place where we see delegation explicitly being taught in the Bible.  He was counseled to choose a set number of people to do specific tasks, and to assign the work to them. But now, how about the enormity of the teaching task in public schools (and  in most schools, I suspect)? Today we would call what Jethro was teaching him distributed leadership.
I want to put this in big, bold letters: I believe that in this day and time, only distributed leadership will allow public schooling to stand. The needs are just so great, and the limitations of one human mind so real, that we can't possibly move forward or grow without a model that makes room for leadership to arise from the ground up in all kinds of ways. Right now, I am learning first-hand about this--and it is fascinating.

In my building, there is a grassroots work emerging, where a small group of staff members “accidentally” discovered our common love of strategy and problem-solving around school culture.  Our principal has brilliantly opened the door to this personal ownership of the school’s work.  She has given the green light to creating our committee, securing funding to pay many of us to work over the summer.  She let us plan the opening day of school meeting for staff, in which we arrived at homegrown solutions affecting us all.

Essentially, the existing systems for school operations, particularly in urban centers, have holes in them.  If we wait for our school district to create solutions that make our buildings run safely, keep employee morale high, and encourage student/family ownership over learning, it will be a very long wait.  High-needs schools like ours just look different from most other buildings in our district. This is no one’s fault, but it absolutely points up the need for differentiation.  In light of these unique needs, we have two choices: wait to be saved, or throw our own capes on!

Our Jethro is Here

It is literally, physically impossible for one person to do all that a public school like ours requires.  This year we are realizing that we must own this work in order to have the school culture we envision. Our core group has learned that “owning” the work does not look like signing our names to lists of required committee choices--or at least not in this case, since the choices do not exist.  We literally stumbled upon our work, but now recognize that it need not be a stumble.  We are coming to believe it may be as simple as a group of similarly invigorated folks coming together to find solutions...and creating an ongoing shared commitment to it.  This is truly grass roots delegation, in that it is self-appointed, -realized and -driven.  It can only work when the particular work happens to also advance the goals of the administrator and higher administration, of what if, even beyond our small group, across our building we could find those sweet spots where the self-designed and the organically necessary intersect? This is our new question.

This is our Moses moment, friends.  At least in public education. More and more, I’m realizing that to spread the leadership load in ways like this is the only thing that will help us survive in the years to come.  This term “distributed leadership” literally brings to my mind a picture of a band of hard-working ants, shouldering something way bigger than they should be able to carry, using the power of synergy.  That image strikes awe in me even just imagining it.  But this is where we are.  For us in our building, it is an exciting moment, because along with our self-directedness comes a shift in each individual’s professional development focus.  When you are conducting your own “action research”, you seek your own development opportunities, your own networking ties, your own ‘tribe’ beyond your borders.  

Our current quest is to train with Vital Smarts, in its Influencer program.  If we find the value there that we think we will, it will have scored 4 times:  directly impacting our work in the building; building our professional skill set; making connections beyond education; and boosting our people skills to the benefit of even personal and family life. What a win!  Some of us are even interested in certification after the initial training.  Who knows where we’ll go from there!  Who knows what industries we’ll connect with, whose work will fascinate us or who we may inspire.  Our world will grow bigger, our students and families will directly benefit, we can help our school district shine, and our job satisfaction will automatically stay high. Who doesn’t want something like this? And we want it for ALL of our colleagues, as each finds his or her “thing”--and runs with it!

Moses moment, indeed.