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Posted by on in ShiftParadigm


Never did I ever think there would be a 'part deux' to  blogging about speaking in The White House, until it happened again. Most people don't get invited to the White House, let alone twice. It's humbling, it's surreal, it's one of those experiences that you get to share with your kids and their kids.

About a month ago, I received an invitation from the Office of Science & Technology to attend both the #CSforAll forum and a PD session on what other districts from around the US and its' territories are doing. These meetings are the results of numerous initiatives from The President with the goal of getting computer science classes, programs, clubs, activities, or all of the above into all schools. While it sounds like a very broad and ambitious goal, it is. To give every student the skills needed in order to succeed in today's society has always been prized as a local initiative. However, when the President of the United States sets an initiative, you want to follow through on it, and use every resource you can.

The workshop in the AM was fantastic; it contained leaders, teachers, government officials, and students from around the country, US territories, and even Native American Tribes.  I got to hear about how uber-wealthy, dirt poor, gigantic, minuscule, districts had students writing code from grades K to 12. I heard about how a southern California high school  rolled out a series of CS classes; I heard how a school district of over 230 schools in Florida started an hour of code and turned it into a massive community outpouring.  I was floored with how a tribe in Oklahoma has Kindergarten students coding on the reservation. Meeting students where they are is an understatement.

The afternoon was a summit with national partners that highlighted students, companies, colleges, public & private schools, and the government have come together to promote computer science for all.   From the Girl Scouts to Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, it was a fascinating afternoon.

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Posted by on in ShiftParadigm


Last week I had the privilege of joining over 5000 of my Independent School colleagues at the FISA Conference in downtown Vancouver. I found it to be an uplifting two days, but there was also an underlying call to action to all of the teachers in attendance. (I will get to that later)

On my way home I was on the Skytrain and couldn't help but overhear three younger teachers talking about how they enjoyed the conference, but that they all still had a sense of being overwhelmed with all of the things that teaching entails and feelings of guilt that they just can't do enough to feel like they are being successful both as teachers and as people. What I really wanted to do at that point was to interrupt them and add my two cents to their conversation. I don't profess to be any sort of expert, but I have worked at four schools and have learned from many excellent teachers and principals over the seventeen years that I have been a teacher. I think I have picked up a few tidbits over the years that might be common sense, but that I think some people might need to hear.

So, in place of interrupting random strangers on the Skytrain, I thought I would offer my advice here. First, an affirmation:

  • Teachers, you are doing good things for kids. I have been in a lot of different teacher's classrooms and what I can say is that, without exception, the teachers I know are influencing kids in a positive way. What that means is that you can let go of the guilt that comes with not being able to get to everything on your to-do list. As teachers, we could work twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and would still find things to do. It is okay to let some things go. You are doing good for kids.

With that said, my one big takeaway from the FISA Conference was this: The world is changing. We are preparing our kids for a world that is changing rapidly and we have a moral imperative to change. I think many teachers find this overwhelming, so I would like to offer just a little bit of advice that I hope someone might find helpful.

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Posted by on in ShiftParadigm


I remember the day very well. It was 2002, and my husband and I lived and worked in a small community in southern Indiana. I had just finished my English teaching licensure after I had received my Bachelor’s degree two years prior, substitute teaching as much as I could, and I was looking for a permanent teaching position. There were no open positions in the area, and since we were young, without children at that time, we decided to go to a job fair to see what was out there in the state of Indiana. While at that job fair, we met Ben.

Ben was a former Hoosier, now living and working in Pasadena, California, as the human resources director for Pasadena Unified School District, and he told us that he always made a trip to Indiana to recruit teachers, as there was a shortage of teachers where he was and he loved Indiana teachers. He was a former teacher and building administrator himself.

At the job fair, we stopped by his booth, just curious. What we didn’t realize was that Ben was about to change our lives.

He wanted to interview both of us that same afternoon. What?!?! I had my resume and a short version of my portfolio with me. My husband had the same. I did not feel prepared for this at all! We interviewed with him together - not separate interviews - and he drilled us. We answered question after question, truly walking away feeling like we were not ready for this job hunting process to begin! We started the drive home, both concluding that that was good practice, and we would continue to see what opportunities may arise.

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Posted by on in ShiftParadigm


It’s no secret that countless students eagerly wait for the final bell to ring—not to go home, but to play a team sport. Why is that, and how could we get students to show similar enthusiasm for learning during the actual school day?

Great coaches have an edge when it comes to inspiring today’s youth to greatness, and parents, classroom teachers, administrators, and reformers should take notice of the following traits of effective coaches:

  1. Encourage Failure: The best coaches encourage failure, and they don’t harshly penalize students for making mistakes. Instead, they review with an athlete what he or she did wrong and move on with the next play. In the classroom, the permanent nature of grades and high-stakes testing damages moral and reinforces futility and despair. Too often, well-meaning teachers do too much to ensure that students never fail. But if kids never encounter adversity in the classroom, it’s doubtful they will successfully manage it in real life. Like coaches, teachers should encourage students to try daring new things, and rethink how failure can turn into even greater, more meaningful success. 

  2. Acknowledge Individual Progress: On the field, coaches praise athletes for reaching their fullest potential—whatever that may be. In September, I spoke with legendary cross-country coach Joe Newton who over 50 years has led York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois, to 28 state titles. “I’ve got three guys on my team that are like 250 pounds,” Newton says. “They’re out there in front of the whole team at the team meeting. I said to two guys, I said, ‘Look at their bodies. They’re not made for running and they’re out here every day busting their butt.’ I said, ‘I just love guys like that. That’s what our program is all about.’ Then I gave them the old shot: ‘You choose to be average. You choose to be good. You choose to be great.’ Those guys don’t ever score a point for us, but in my eyes they’re great because they come out and they give me what they’ve got.’” How many teachers would say as much of a math or history student, trying equally hard, but only managing to earn a D?

  3. Affirm the Power of Hard Work: Great coaches help players see real improvement. I coach varsity cross-country, and at the start of the season, I discuss fitness goals with my athletes. It’s not long before many of them are sporting six-pack abs, along with impressive race times. Even my slowest runners revel in achieving new personal records, in turn motivating them to continue working just as hard—or harder. In the classroom, teachers should provide students with analogous goals and measurements for progress to encourage (rather than discourage) continued growth.

  4. Affirm the Power of Teamwork: On the playing field, no matter how talented an athlete, victory is impossible without teamwork. The best coaches cultivate productive relationships, and their athletes revel in accomplishing something they couldn’t do alone. More still, the entire team is only as strong as its weakest player, and it’s the job of that team to help that individual improve. In the classroom as well, pursuing individual academic competence must remain paramount, but teachers should encourage students to support each other. Too often, students compete against each other for high grades and standardized test scores. Just think of what happens when all of the players on the same team compete against each other for possession of the ball—they all suffer.

  5. Teach the Value of Struggle: During training, my varsity cross-country runners follow a strict diet. They aren’t allowed to have sweets or soda, except on special occasions. If they show repeated signs of struggle or a lack of progress, I know they haven’t kept to my workout plan and nutritional regimen. To ensure future compliance, I work them even harder. Eventually, those that stick with it quickly show signs of improvement, not just in their race times, but also in their overall health and appearance. With academic dishonesty reaching ever-greater heights, in the classroom we need to do a much better job of showing students the value of learning through struggle. Just as on the field, by taking shortcuts, they only cheat themselves.

If you’re a coach, what other lessons could teachers learn from your practices? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.


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