Beyond subject-verb agreement

Kelisa Wing said:

What kind of world do you want to leave for those who come after us? Who cares if my students know how to make their subjects and verbs agree if they use language to promulgate hate? Who cares if my students know the Pythagorean Theorem if they use numbers and statistics to minimize others? Who cares if my students know the stories in their history books if they do not use the past to ensure that we create a new equitable future?

Is your school preparing students to help create an equitable future?


We shouldn’t pretend neutrality in the face of injustice

Following up on my previous post, I’m going to share a fantastic blog post from Michael Kaechele:

I have grown weary of the call to avoid controversial topics and stay neutral. Silence is compliance. There are many things in history that do not have two equal opposing sides: slavery, genocide, imperialism, colonialism, segregation, etc. There is only one side to these events that is fair, just, and equitable. Educators should help students understand how oppressors justified their actions in history without giving credit to their arguments. Done properly it would be a warning against similar tactics used today.

Educators don’t take stock in conspiracy theories. We stand up for truth, justice, and decency. Please do not let students defend positions based on speculation and hearsay. It is our job to present truth to students even if they and their parents don’t want to hear it. We can not necessarily change their hearts and minds, but we can force them to confront the truth. Teachers should interrupt and challenge any student who presents conspiracy theories and false information with questions of its source and legitimacy. We can not allow bigotry, racism, sexism, or any other discrimination in our classroom.

I would add administrators and students to this list. We shouldn’t let them defend those positions either, and we surely shouldn’t pretend neutrality in the face of injustice. Nicely said, Michael.

How are the conversations going in your school system?


“Neutral”

Yesterday, after a morning of incitement from President Trump, his family members, and his personal lawyer, his Republican supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol and forced the evacuation of Congress as Presidential electoral votes were being certified. People died, tear gas was deployed, and the Capitol was looted. The scenes from yesterday will live as one of the most disgraceful, infamous events in American history.

Today I am hearing that school administrators are telling their educators to remain “neutral” as they discuss yesterday’s events. I respectfully ask these administrators, “What is ‘the other side?’ What does ‘neutral’ mean to you in this situation?” 

Your educators await your answer.


The importance of social studies and information literacy

As someone who grew up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs and whose parents worked for the federal government, today’s events have been… challenging.

I think that what I will say here is:

  1. Policymakers, you know how you’ve minimized the importance of history, government, and civics in all of your education reform efforts over the past couple of decades? Yeah, that was probably a big mistake…
  2. Superintendents and principals, are you ready yet to pay more attention to information literacy throughout your P-12 curricula?

#CUDENVERSTRONG

Class updateGreetings, amazing CU Denver principal licensure students!

Before we send you some logistical emails, we just wanted to reiterate how proud of yourselves you should be. 

The past year has been awful, and yet you have survived every terrible day, every difficult thing, every horrible circumstance, and every horrendous heartbreak and loss.

You’ve adapted. You’ve fought through adversity. You’ve served as caring educators, nurturing family members, supportive friends, and local leaders. You’ve given even when you thought you had no more to give.

All of us recognize that the pandemic has negatively impacted our collective visions for this principal licensure cohort. As your instructors, we will be the first to admit that we have been learning through this too. We’ve made some decisions along the way that we’d do differently next time, and we will continue to try and refine what we’re doing in order to best serve you. Thank you for your continued willingness to give us feedback. It helps us make things better.

We are ONE SEMESTER from being done. In May you’ll have your graduate degree and be done with classes. Together, we’ve got this. 

Thank you for all that you do to nurture our cohort community. We hope that you had a chance to rest and recover a little bit over the winter break. We are looking forward to an awesome four months of learning with you this spring.

With gratitude for every one of you,

The Leadership for Educational Organizations (LEO) Faculty


How much time are we already wasting?

ClockIn one of my favorite sections of The Passionate Learner, Robert Fried says:

If we are to act boldly on behalf of passionate learners, we will have to stop wasting so much time in school. . . . Most teachers and students waste 50 percent or more of their time in school. I say this with no disrespect. . . .

There are, of course, various ways of wasting time we all acknowledge as such:

  • Teachers trying to get the class to settle down so the lesson can begin
  • Teachers having to deal with kids who are disrupting the learning of others
  • Students talking or daydreaming instead of doing their work
  • Students who come to class without pencil, textbook, paper, or homework

. . . 

But there are other manifestations of wasting time that we may have never even considered:

  • Students having to listen to things that they either already know or can’t understand
  • Teachers obliged to ‘cover’ material that’s required by the school or district but whose value and relevance they deeply question
  • Students not caring about what’s being taught, seeing no connection to their lives
  • Students who just don’t learn well by sitting still and who decide not to pay attention
  • Teachers handing out ‘busy work’ to keep students occupied and in their seats
  • Teachers grading assignments that have been carelessly or sloppily prepared
  • Students who cram for the test but then forget everything as soon as the exam is over

. . . 

Imagine asking yourself every class hour: How regularly do students come to school anticipating that they will be discovering valuable information, practicing useful skills, and engaging in interesting activities and challenging conversations? And imagine viewing everything that hinders or prevents these kinds of engagements as potential time wasters. (pp. 70-72)

I love that big question (and accompanying proposition) in that last paragraph. As we think about ‘learning loss’ during the pandemic, how much time are we already wasting with our students, particularly as we have moved into remote, hyflex, and blended class environments?

Image credit: Clock, Richard Wezensky


Women in school leadership: A few awesome initiatives

WomenEdThere is some incredible work happening right now related to women in P-12 educational leadership. Below are four initiatives that have caught my attention over the past few months…

  • Women Who Lead. The first initiative is Women Who Lead, which is led by the always awesome Kim Cofino and her team at Eduro Learning. Women Who Lead has more than 500 curated video conversations with over 70 women who hold leadership positions in education. There are 8 different learning modules, customized pathway options, protocols, scholarship opportunities, a private discussion forum, a curated Twitter list, and much, much more. 
  • SheLeadsEdu. The second initiative is SheLeadsEdu, which is led by the phenomenal Jody Britten and Missy Emler and their team of ‘hell raisers.’ SheLeadsEdu hosts frequent Twitter chats, online video meetups, and book clubs. There also is a private community for participants as well as a SheLeadsEdu directory of women leaders around the world. 
  • WomenEd. The third initiative is WomenEd, a ‘global grassroots movement’ that brings together both existing and aspiring women leaders in education across the globe. WomenEd boasts a community of over 35,000 participants and has hosted hundreds of events. The leaders of WomenEd have a new book out, titled 10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead Education, as well as an active blog, mailing list, and a variety of networks that you can join.
  • Women’s Leadership Incubator. The fourth initiative is the upcoming Women’s Leadership Incubator, sponsored by the Office of Professional Learning and Community Education (PLACE) in the University of Wisconsin School of Education. The incubator experience begins in July 2021 and will feature ongoing coaching, regular meetings with experts, community action projects, and access to relevant research from one of the best colleges of education in the world.

If you’re a woman in educational leadership – or another school administrator who wishes to be an ally in this work – be sure to check out the amazing work happening in these communities. In addition to the initiatives featured above, tune in to the #SheLeadsEdu#WomenEd, #WomenEdLeaders, and #WomenWhoLead Twitter hashtags for some great discussions.

If you know of other initiatives that bring together awesome woman leaders in education, let me know!


Will schools acknowledge where and how they failed during the pandemic?

In an article about the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball, Howard Bryant said:

Baseball should have taken the honest road, which would be to carry its stain and leave the tattered, piecemeal records of the various Negro Leagues as a historical reminder of its own destructiveness. Baseball did not do that — not because it was so important to give Josh Gibson a posthumous batting title but because like most of white, mainstream society, it does not want to carry its share of the responsibility for the condition it created.

While baseball has taken what it considers to be a step toward reparation, it has taken another away from accountability. Part of the strength of an institution is in its acknowledgment of where it has failed, and who suffered because of that failure.

This idea pertains to schools and the pandemic as well. The first months of 2020 were an emergency that caught most school systems and their leaders off guard. In the summer months of 2020 (here in the United States), school leaders had an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that they made in the spring and do things differently in the fall. While some school administrators used that window of opportunity, others did not and their schools and districts have repeated many of the mistakes they made in the spring again this fall. This winter break has given us all yet another chance to rethink what our schools are doing and make significant changes for January and beyond. How many school systems actually did so?

It’s one thing to make new mistakes. It’s another to keep making the same ones again and again. How many school leaders will look inward and, as Bryant said, ‘carry [their] share of the responsibility for the condition(s) [they] created?’ How many students, families, and educators have we failed as school systems, and will we ever hold ourselves accountable? If ‘part of the strength of an institution is in its acknowledgment of where it has failed, and who suffered because of that failure,’ how many school organizations are actively examining and owning their current failures in order to not repeat them over and over again?

Is your school system acknowledging where it has failed and who has suffered as a result? Are your school leaders making new mistakes or repeating the same ones again and again? Why?


Command and control versus key principles and autonomy

In Leadership and the New Science, Margaret Wheatley noted:

Scientists now describe how order and form are created not by complex controls, but by the presence of a few guiding formulas or principles repeating back on themselves through the exercise of individual freedom. The survival and growth of systems that range in size from large ecosystems down to the smallest microbial colonies are sustained by a few key principles that express the system’s overall identity combined with high levels of autonomy for individuals within that system. (p. 13)

In the rush to serve children and families and create new modalities of learning and teaching during the coronavirus pandemic, I wonder how many school systems gravitated toward greater ‘command and control’ and how many embraced ‘a few key principles … with high levels of autonomy for individuals within that system.’ I also wonder about the organizational contexts and leadership mindsets that fostered one or the other, as well as which approach worked better…

Thoughts? Experiences?


Books I read in December 2020

Call for the DeadBooks I finished reading (or rereading) in December 2020…

TOTAL FOR 2020 = 104 books

My goal was 100 for the year. Made it with a strong December and winter break…

Hope you’re reading something fun too!