In December I attended professional development in New Orleans and had the pleasure of sitting next to Mike Archbold, one of my favorite educators. During our time together he mentioned how he starts his day with a thankfulness journal and listening to the Quote of the Day podcast which includes little “nuggets” of inspiration. I have incorporated both of these activities into my life and the benefits of these two small daily rituals has made a big impact in my relationships and how I approach life. The moment he shared with me could have been lost if I was not present and engaged in the conversation. I could have missed one of the biggest blessings in my life without presence in the moment.
From the podcast Mike mentioned that is now part of my daily ritual, I felt so reassured by the speaker. Dashauna Barber is the first soldier to become Miss USA. Someone encouraged her to compete while she was working at Target and had she not been present, she would not have even considered the possibility of competing. She competed several times before winning her state. This persistence reminded me of my own journey to my current position as an administrator. I applied at many, many high schools as a teacher for the first several years of my career. Although I had some interviews, I was often told I would not be able to obtain a position closer to home without going into administration. In 2008, I went to school to increase my opportunities through getting my administrative degree. From there, I was mildly successful at getting interviews but was told I needed more experience. I kept knocking on doors, applying, and was told no many times. Finally, after my school district took a chance on me through promoting me to an administrative position I was able to land my current position. If I would’ve taken “no” for an answer, I would not be where I am today. Persistence is so important. Similar to how Ms. Barber was told “no” and it now invigorates her efforts, I will now see the “no” as the opportunity to look for another door.
Today I presented on a topic I feel pretty confident about. I also have experience with Zoom but am much more Google Meet minded. About halfway into the presentation when I was attempting to have a conversation with the participants, I was unable to see their faces. The experience was very humbling and the participants, all seasoned teachers, were very gracious. I was continuously impressed by staff during the pandemic as they learned new technology immediately to be able to help students and now I know I have plenty of work to do with myself in order to be better for the future. I hope this experience will help guide my interactions in the future to be gracious and supportive as others learn unfamiliar platforms.
I am excited the TIME has come to start my new position as a Division Chair at East Aurora High School. I am so excited as this journey to get a position at a new school started many years ago. I was employed at Rich Township High School District 227 since January 2002. Prior to that I spent August 2001 – January 2002 at Carl Sandburg High School. When I think back over the last 20 years, I believe TIME management has been a huge factor in my success as well as achieving goals in the future. Additionally, use of written goals and plans has been a contributing factor. To that end, I want to make the TIME now, before I start the new endeavor, to ensure small practices are in place to add to larger results. I am placing a calendar hold to devote time to this blog once a week. I am hopeful to hit “publish” during that calendar hold each week.
I had an idea a couple of weeks ago to incorporate walk up/theme song music (think John Cena making a WWE entrance) into a professional interview. Luckily, I ran the idea by a trusted colleague and she encouraged me to impress them with the interview itself as opposed to a gimmick. Instead, I used the idea as part of the closure questions. I asked “If you had walk up/theme song music, what song would you use?” to which one panelist slapped the table and said “easy, the Imperial Death March” and I lost it laughing. Others on the panel piped up with “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere” and “Thunderstruck”. I took note of who said what song and when I wrote my thank you note I linked people’s songs to their names. I wish I could say I got the job, but I did not. However, the idea of discovering people’s music has continued to stick with me. I’ve been inquiring with people ever since and compiled an Apple Music Playlist of my friends’ songs. It’s fantastic because not only do I feel empowered when I listen but I can totally picture people when I hear their music. What is your walk up or theme song?
Being the good statistician I am, I LOVE a good normal curve 😂. In the spectrum of new initiatives at work, I tend to be on the cusp between visionary and pragmatist. I WISH I was an innovator but I am just not there. Especially when it came to our implementation of CT3, I resided in pragmatist completely. It probably did not help moving the initiative forward that I would ask about the “why” and not only did no one answer the question, but no one could tell me who started the initiative or the goals of the initiative. HOWEVER, even though I have been resistant to some of the process I can honestly say now I am so grateful for it. There are some parts of the protocol that will become staples of my coaching (and dare I say it, parenting) practice while others I will say good bye to after I bid farewell to my awesome coach/mentor, Chris Cantu. Here are some of the experiences and key take aways from the last couple of years.
Year 1 – Let’s Learn How To Coach During a Pendemic
During the first year we did not have much direction for the “why” of this program. We attempted to coach teachers in virtual environments. Now that I have learned the process in person, I realize why coaching virtually was so difficult. Sometimes the small wins in a class come from one student in a class of 20 engaging in the activity. However, when students don’t have their video up, finding the small wins is virtually impossible. I liked working with our coach, Heidi, and she set us up to take on in person coaching this year. Now that I am reflecting on it, I might try to use some of the cell phone work around we used virtually if I am ever in a situation where I don’t have walkie talkies available.
Year 2 – Enter Hurricane Cantu
Chris hails from New Orleans and came in like a hurricane. He had all the energy and unpredictable nature of a CAT 5 storm. However, his passion for all students to receive quality instruction plays out in every interaction with him. He lives and loves the art of coaching teachers to do their best so students reap the benefits. He came in promising to always have fun doing this work and I can honestly say this work was truly challenging but honestly fun.
Chris was able to articulate “the why” behind this work and this has permeated into my coaching practice as well. The “why” of this work is to reach toward the goal of 100% engagement. When 100% of your learners are engaged, the impact is more learning is taking place. The goal is worthy and attainable, though we do not hit it 100% of the time.
The training this year involved two separate four day weeks and one two day session where training for the coaching was job embedded. He would run the first cycle of coaching for us and would allow us the opportunity to discuss our feedback and findings. Immediately following, we would run our own sessions and provide feedback for each other. We learned the CT3 protocol for coaching and I believe this process can be used to coach anything you would like to see appear in a classroom.
First, I realized the first step to the pre-conference, begin with establishing relationship, was a huge step I tended to jump over in conferences and I think was a stumbling block to me. Similar to how Ms. Battle, the guidance secretary, would correct me when I wouldn’t say hello because I was so mission focused, I think in conferences I want to jump to the issue I want to confront. Through taking the time to establish relationship I have learned some valuable things about my staff which allowed us to move through the process more efficiently because I understood them better. I now use this step in as many interactions as possible such as beginning of meetings, evaluative conferences, or just regular conversation.
I’ve always been one to give praise but this protocol addresses recognizing the positive in a different more empowering way. The protocol calls for affirming positive attributes ALONG WITH the impact on students. Adding the impact is powerful because it speaks to the why behind the positive attribute we are naming. One of my teachers really leaned in when I noted her engagement in the hallway before class was a staple which allows students to count on her presence and establish better relationships and therefore they are willing to engage more in lessons. Starting with these affirmations and their impacts helps the teacher feel seen just as the positive narrations help students feel seen. Often staff does great work that seemingly goes unnoticed and this process unearths some of those hidden gems.
Another part of the process that speaks to me is the strategic use of data. We collect baseline data based on a chart of lookfors. Then, through collaboration with the instructor we set coaching targets based on increasing the lookfors by 2 or 3. During the real time teacher coaching, we are only looking for the targets and through the use of a walkie talkie, we remind the instructor of the target. This part of the process was the part I was most apprehensive about given my seasoned tenure. I always am of the ilk that I will never ask someone to do something I myself am not willing to do. However, the point of the walkie talkie is to just be a reminder and not talk constantly to the teacher. In fact, if the teacher hits the established targets you won’t be talking to them at all. After the real time coaching is complete, a debrief meeting is held to help establish next steps. The power of the data is the growth from one baseline collection to the next. Upon returning to the same teacher’s class for another cycle, the hope is the instructor has maintained the lookfors from the original baseline and increased the number through the coaching.
Part of the pre- and post- conversations involves having the teacher write down the targets. This part of the coaching sometimes felt awkward. Now a common part of my practice involves quoting research related to being 42% more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down. I won’t get into the Statistician existential crisis related to correlation and causation here! However, when I quote this, it seems more natural to both me and whomever I coach to write down the targets. Next year, I would like to provide staff with a journal during our first session to capture not only this professional development but all their professional development to help give it more purpose. Several years ago I discovered sketchnoting and it has helped me tremendously with consolidating my learning and sharing it to others. Maybe my staff will learn that joy as well.
During the pre- and post- conversations involves time to allow me to model what I would like to see in the classroom and for the instructor to role play what they plan to do in class. This is another source of awkwardness in my practice given the size of my office and the task but we make it work. After I model the behavior, I will usually inquire “what about my modeling do you want to incorporate into your own practice?” This question empowers the teacher to notice and wonder as opposed to feeling like I am telling them what to do. After the modeling, the teacher has the opportunity to practice. I like the practice because it helps reduce the scripted-ness that teachers tend to report as a source of anxiety about the coaching. Additionally, the practice allows me to have a better idea of whether the teacher understands the coaching targets. Feedback from my staff has been mixed regarding the practice with veteran teachers often reporting feeling that this aspect should be removed because it seems babyish/belittling. I appreciate the feedback as I have tried to tweak my process to address these feelings.
The end of each pre- and post- conversation involves getting feedback on my own coaching. This has truly helped me feel more empowered as a coach as teachers have named aspects of my coaching I have been working on (big win for me) as well as given me actionable feedback to help make me a better coach. Just as I have seen the benefits of both students and teachers receiving much needed feedback, I have reaped rewards in my own practice through this and have expanded this practice more broadly through asking staff to #observeme through a form I provide at the end of meetings, PD, and even my email signature.
JuryIs Still OutOn Walkie Talkies
Given that I have hit my coaching goals this year, I have been experimenting with eliminating the walkie talkies as we did not use them last year when we were remote. I have found that when I have gone without a walkie talkie I wished I had them. However, sometimes I don’t know if the effort to practice and use them is worth their use in a classroom. I’ll continue to experiment with this aspect of my coaching practice to do what best serves my staff and the goals.
I have seen such positive benefits of coaching around the No Nonsense Nurturer Four Step Model as well as Do Now protocols/checklists. Therefore, I have begun to develop my own checklists for the math work we have been doing in partnership with Tim Stoelinga from Loyola as well as for the Pre-AP implementation we did with College Board with partnering with Rodney Jones. In both cases, I took time to collaborate with these other entities to help them understand the coaching protocols I am using and garner their feedback on the lookfors, or in the case of Pre-AP, “more ofs”, to help collect data on where we are at with these initiatives as well as where we would like to go.
Note: apparently I never hit publish on this post in July of 2018.
I accepted an administrative position in my district for next year as the Division Leader for STEM and CTE at my school. My first day is Monday, July 2 as July 1 is on a Sunday. I’m not a stranger to working in the summer. Heck, for about 10 years I ran a pool as a manager which for about one week at the beginning of summer and three weeks at the end of summer meant that I held two full time jobs. I should be ok with this 🙂 and for the most part I am. I remind myself regularly not to complain because this is how the REAL world is anyway. However, on PERFECT summer days like today I am a little sad that I will most likely have to work and not randomly make my way to North Avenue Beach (pictured below) or to a local park or something outdoorsy.
I guess it would be a little strange to not be a little sad about this so I will allow myself that little bit. I am also reminding myself of all of the good that can come from this opportunity. I am so excited to share the love of mathematics and affect so many more students and staff than I was previously able to do. I will have an office to call my own which is amazing because I have had MANY years of sharing a classroom (there was one year that I shared with three other people… that was crazy… and will NEVER happen under my watch if I can help it). I’ll get to make new relationships with staff members and hopefully help them aspire to their very best version of themselves. I love my youth and this opportunity to breathe life into this position that is new in our district.
I’ve thought long and hard about keeping this blog with my transition. I don’t want to censor my voice in any way as this blog was a was to reflect and refine my teaching. Some of that reflection can probably go into a less public domain 🙂 however, some of my best posts from a personal learning standpoint as well as a “views” and “comments” standpoint has come from my public descriptions of my mistakes and what I planned to do with them. I need to consider my readers (shout out to you if you have made it thus far) and what would they benefit from. As I have scoured the internet looking for math leader blogs I have come to the realization that there are some but maybe I can be part of that crew and offer my voice to the mix. I know that I will make some mistakes this year. I also am well aware that I am perfect for this position and I will do some amazing things for students and staff. Sharing all of this with my typical authentic voice I believe is something that I owe myself and the world that has given me so much. With that said, if you see me changing too far off of my typical true north I trust that you will let me know.
Still The Same Ol’ G
Ever since the DAY after the board meeting when I was approved to serve in this role, people started treating me different. I wanted to scream, “But I’m still the same ol’ G”. I’m hoping this transition will help me enhance the good. I’ve questioned whether I still get to call myself a teacher. It seems so strange not to. It doesn’t necessarily DEFINE me but it is such a big part of who I am, what I
A running joke I picked up from my friend, Bob LaFrance, involves after being told to do something to say “say less”. For instance, tonight my husband told me I really need to not lose any more weight before my competition because my powerlifting gear will not fit and if anything I need to put a little weight back on until the competition, to that I said, “say less”… and then proceeded to stop at Culver’s on the way home and get anything my heart desired! (I didn’t get to 70 pounds heavier than I am now without knowing how to eat!)
This idea of “say less” can be more poignant though. Today while organizing in our engineering lab, I was jamming out to a playlist that included artists like Matthew West, for King & Country, and Chris Tomlin. The voice teacher came in on her flex time with a student and I warned her that she could stay but I would be over here listening to my Jesus music. She replied, “that’s the only music I know” and sat down. I continued to sort and listen to my jams and she began to teach her student how to sing Mariah Carey’s “Hero”. Although the student was fine singing on that side of the room with the accompaniment while I played my own music, I found it fitting to “say less” by turning off my music and live into the moment to listen to her “joyful noise”. Such a blessing. Ya know, the student’s name is Elizabeth, same as my mom, and she has big college plans that do not involve music BUT here she was on her flex time with a voice coach on her flex time trying to become a better musician. Amazing, I tell you.
In another arena of my life, someone has GROSSLY underestimated my ability and potential because they based their judgment of me without knowing me very well. They told me they “don’t believe [I] am capable of [greatness] without significant hand holding”. To them I say, “Say Less”. I have now made it my mission to not only “say less”, but rather, show the world EXACTLY who my God and I know I am. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I will allow my actions to speak for my words and not just show up to the challenge but show out as well. For whomever made the decision to try to throw me out like trash, mark my words, they will eventually understand the STONE they thought was not worthy is a precious diamond worth all her weight, no matter what it is these days 😅.
So here the rubber meets the road and it is my time to “say less”.
Back in December, I attended a conference and my biggest takeaway from the conference actually came from the plane ride. I had the blessing and opportunity to sit next to one of my favorite educators, Michael Archbold. When we sat down, he took out a book and started writing. He said the gratitude journal idea actually came from another educator I respect greatly, Sherrie Towery. The idea is to write down three things you are grateful for every day. He indicated some days can be deep and thought provoking, while others might seem insignificant, and others you might feel like you are going through the motions. While in New Orleans, I picked up a blank journal and started the activity.
About two weeks ago, I was blindsided with some devastating, hurtful news that seemed to be absolutely horrible at the time (trust, there were PLENTY of tears and swear words). However, today when I write in my gratitude journal I will honestly be grateful for the experience because it has lit a fire inside me I haven’t felt in a very long time. I’m actually inspired to be my best because that is who I know I am regardless of what ANYONE might think.
Thank you, Mike, for teaching me this practice. I truly believe it has helped me to look for the blessing in EVERY situation, even the most gloomy. I am grateful to you today and always.
Side note: As I write this, I can hear the lullabyes my daughter turns on the Alexa herself each evening. Here are the lyrics:
Come Thou fount of every blessing Tune my heart to sing Thy grace Streams of mercy never ceasing Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet Sung by flaming tongues above Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer Here by Thy great help I’ve come And I hope by Thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger Wandering from the fold of God He to rescue me from danger Interposed His precious blood (Precious blood)
Oh, that day when freed from sinning I shall see Thy lovely face Clothed then in blood washed linen How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace
Come my Lord, no longer tarry Take my ransomed soul away Send Thine angels now to carry Me to realms of endless days
Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be Let Thy goodness like a fetter Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above
Here’s my heart Oh take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above
This blog has traditionally been about math instruction and educational administration. However, I will take a quick deviation to discuss my intermittent fasting as I keep getting asked about the details and would like to provide people with my information. Here is a graph of my progress. I started intermittent fasting in July 2020.
Eating Protocol – When I Started
Fast between 8pm and noon (to start)
Have a “clean fast” with only water, black coffee, black/green tea, carbonated water without any sweeteners or flavors. Flavors can provoke an insulin response.
Commit to at least a month of fasting as you LEARN your body. You will be tempted to eat when you are not hungry. I know I would have a fear I would get hungry prior to breaking my fast the next day and eat at 7pm even though I didn’t really feel hungry. As you begin to tune into your body you will know what hunger actually is. My favorite author on the topic talks about how during that first month as you are learning your body you might lose weight, stay the same, or gain weight.
I find I am more alert and focused when fasted so I will remain fasted longer at times when I would normally eat to reap that benefit I’ve discovered for myself. Also, I typically train fasted on Sunday morning for squats. I have not noticed a difference in the weight that I am able to lift. There are other people in the online communities that run marathons fasted as well.
I used an app to track my progress and keep me honest. It was motivational and provided insight into when I was in autophagy
The author of the book I mention below made a suggestion to weigh daily and take note of the trends in average weekly weight. The FitBit app will do this for you. I highly recommend this activity as your weight will fluctuate 3 or so pounds each week but the averages will tell a better story.
Some Tweaks I Made Later
Treat yourself as an experiment of 1. If something doesn’t work after a couple of weeks, try something else
I got tired of bringing a lunch to school because I just found I wasn’t hungry for at the time. Now I eat from 4pm-8pm
We sometimes brunch after squats on Sunday so then I will move my window up to noon to 4pm. Sometimes I let it go more to 5 or 6 on that day. I do find it difficult to close my window when I open it early
Rate of change might be one of my favorite topics in math class. I have a fun kinesthetic activity called Slope Simon Says that gets students on their feet and learning. I love how the topic of change is important to pre-k through post secondary education and being able to quantify change is helpful to so many professions. However, experiencing change has been super challenging to me. In my formative years, I was quick to find a way that worked and continue on that path. I was definitely from the camp “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. As I continue to grow, I have become more observant of the world and have learned how to embrace change and welcome it more. I am proud of how I have been forced into significant change in my professional career during the last three years and I have continued to stay true to myself and values. I highly recommend my current read, The Untethered Soul, as it helps to give perspective on your self. Realizing that change is not only inevitable but necessary for life has been an important understanding. I am excited about the new opportunities that lie ahead and cannot wait to see the other side.