Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How to start a leadership circle?

I wrote this for the CATDC blog last week.

It includes a bit from my previous summary of Women in Leadership Circle plus a section on what I have learned along the way that might be helpful for others looking to start  a group. On my to do list is to plan a meeting for March...

My Bujo February to do list:
Get the baby to take a bottle
Prepare to teach my class at UCLA
Pull together my thoughts to finally write a definitive educational philosophy blog post
Organize 2016 photos
Get kids cleats for soccer
Print all my retweeted articles to PDFs and organize them in my google drive
Plan next WiL Circle Meeting
Make a Facebook group for WiL
Plan a trip to Disneyland
Find Daycare for Luke
Decide if I am going to my master's graduation
Make playlists on Spotify (obvi not crucial)
Declutter the house
Exercise/lose baby weight
Start doing thinking about what I need to do to be ready to go back to work on March 27
Update the baby book and journal the magic that is motherhood

... But since all of this is happening while holding Luke, who prefers to rock in the rocking chair while I watch Netflix, it looks like the next circle meeting will be in April. :)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I look forward to going to the CATDC Women in Leadership workshop every year as I find it inspiring and reinvigorating to hear the stories of women who have sought out leadership opportunities. Their stories are powerful because they don’t hold back. They share, earnestly, stories of frustration, failures, risk taking and heartbreak, along side examples of opportunity, success and exacting positive change.

This year we gathered at The Skirball Cultural Center and heard from several leaders in independent schools whose stories centered around the theme of Yes...and, culminating in an improv activity to encourage better collaboration and communication skills.
From Dr. Bryson's slides
We also heard from Dr. Tina Bryson who shared her research on the brain and how it relates to discipline and engaging cooperation. Her talk helped me to see the science behind attachment based teaching and parenting. Say your student (or coworker or child or spouse) is upset and behaving badly. Rather than pointing out that his or her behavior is unwarranted, try to “connect and redirect.” Validate the feeling - “You seem really mad!” Follow with listening and an offer of help. I am already a fan of this type of child/student discipline and communication style. I seek out reading and professional development opportunities that focus on student social-emotional learning like Stanley-King and How to Talk so your Kids will Listen & Listen so your Kids will Talk. However, approaching communication and parenting through a lens of helping the other person to feel better is difficult. I am not always successful, especially when my own kids challenge my patience. Hearing Dr. Bryson’s talk was provided another chance for me to reflect on my communication practice as well as understand how it works with the brain.

Here are a few many of my takeaways from the day…

  • Authenticity is key - share your skills and your passion
  • Ask for feedback - hard to do especially it might be negative
  • When someone is in the middle of an emotional tsunami, reacting with logic and reason won’t help
  • Social-emotional skills (self-regulation, making kind choices, empathy, flexibility, executive function) are the outcome of secure attachments and can be developed with mindfulness
  • When trying to get people to behave better, replace assumptions with curiosity - chase the why
  • Poor behavior is likely an adaptation to trauma or difficulty; a stress response that speaks to a person’s need for help
  • People can’t learn when they are stressed out. First help the person to feel better so that they can be receptive to learning a new skill or idea
  • Leaders are stewards of the mission
  • Don’t wait to be asked to step into positions of leadership - ask for them
  • Ideal school culture is one where “complacency is not acceptable”
  • Empathy is key for leaders: How will this decision make others feel?
  • Joy and playfulness are still important in positions of leadership
  • “Every school should be a learning place for everybody.”
  • Rules of Improv
    • No Mistakes, only Opportunities
    • Make your partner look good
    • Yes, and

Overall, using empathy and the spirit of improv are valuable for leadership as both should enhance communication and collaboration. To borrow from Maya Angelou, "At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Women in Leadership Circle - Vulnerability & Leadership

Women in Leadership Circle met again on Monday evening at Campbell Hall School. A big thank you to Marina Kheel, for hosting and providing a lovely spread of snacks.

We began our conversation by with Speed Stories; 2 minute introductions in which each person shares their their journey to education and leadership. I think it is important to know your story and the ability to tell it succinctly, allows you to know what parts are truly important. Brevity also allows you to tell people who are before their attention span dwindles. It was fascinating to learn a bit about everyone’s path. I learned that I need to polish my speed story both for content and time. Everytime I share my story, it gives me a chance to reflect both on which experiences have influenced my practice and helps me to recommit myself to my profession.

As we were sharing, I noticed that the stories were resonating because the person sharing was doing so from a place of vulnerability and authenticity. Sharing stories and experiences seems key for leading with vulnerability.

Our conversation focused on Brene Brown’s idea of how vulnerability relates to leadership. Her article and Ted Talk were excellent resources.

Here are our discussion questions:

  • Brene defines a Leader as “anyone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes.”
    • → What processes do you rely on?

  • Brene wrote, “Do we have the courage to show up, be seen, take risks, ask for help, own our mistakes, learn from failure, lean into joy, and can we support the people around us in doing the same?”
    • → Can you remember a time when a leader demonstrated vulnerability? How did it impact you or the community?

  • What are the risks of vulnerability? What is scary about vulnerability?

  • “We use invulnerability as a shield to protect us from discomfort, anxiety, and self-doubt...perfecting, pretending, and pleasing…”
    • → When has the desire to perfect, pretend or please held you back?
  • Vulnerability means asking questions, being open to being wrong. How might we bring this quality to leading?

  • Whole hearted People who are connectors have sense of belonging because they believe they’re worthy of love and belonging, but how do we start the cycle? What gets in the way?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women's Leadership Circle

Long time no blog... I thought I would have SO much time on maternity leave. Ha! It turns out that newborns need constant holding, swaying, feeding, bouncing, changing and shushing, leaving nary a free moment to reflect on teaching, learning and leadership. Given that this is my 3rd maternity leave, it is a bit silly of me not to remember that... alas, Luke fell asleep and let me put him down and I have time to talk about something I have been up to since last spring: coordinating a (somewhat) monthly meeting for women independent schools interested in leadership and personal growth. Here is how this came to be...

One of my favorite workshops that I faithfully attend every year is CATDC’s Women in Leadership. It is invigorating to spend the day in a room filled with educators, passionate about leading schools.

It is a day away from our normal routines, to spend time listening to stories of reinvention, connecting with like minded educators and reflecting on personal growth. At the end of the day last year, I was a bit sad because I didn’t want that energy to dissipate upon returning to work.

Before leaving, I chatted with Carol Swainson, awesome educator and one of the panelists. We found that we felt the same way about not wanting to wait a year to feel the feels again. We agreed to stay in touch and try to bring people together sooner. We emailed the attendees, chose a location and a topic and Women’s Leadership Circle was born.

The goal for Women’s Leadership Circle is to have an opportunity to continue the conversations started at the workshop. We want to create a space for women in independent schools to talk about leadership by facilitating conversations, perhaps framed by articles, videos, books or topics in popular culture, in a group where all members are committed to growth and helping each other to grow. We also want meetings to be fun. To that end, there is always snacks and wine.

After Carol moved back to the Bay Area to head K-8 at Bentley School, my friend Azizi Williams, Assistant Head of School at Sequoyah School, agreed to be my partner in facilitating the meetings.

While there are about fifty educators on our mailing list, we typically have a small gathering of 7 - 10 women. We would love if more people would join us, but we are sensitive to the many demands on our time. Between work, after school events, family, self-care and LA traffic, we know it is difficult to imagine squeezing one more event into the calendar. Also, despite the drought, we have a remarkable gift for picking rainy days for our meetings. Hence our philosophy: come if can, no guilt if you can’t!

Here is a recap of what we discussed at the meetings we have had so far:

Meeting #1 - April 2, 16
We met at R+D (Rubies and Diamonds in mid-city (in the rain). Our conversation centered on mentorship.
  • Who inspired you to pursue a leadership role? Who mentored you? Who continues to inspire you?  How have these people shaped your philosophy for leadership?
  • “...if you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.” Often we have a symbiotic relationship with our students, as they learn from our example, they also inspire us to be true to ourselves. In your experience, how do you see your path to leadership as modeling for students?

Meeting #2 - May 16, 16
We met at EVO Kitchen in West Hollywood. We used the chapter on gossip from The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership to inspire our conversation. Right off, the book’s definition of gossip was a challenging and interesting topic for discussion: “It is not gossip if the statements can pass this two part test: Is there any negative intent? Would you be willing to speak directly and in exactly in the same way to the person?”
  • How do you agree or disagree with the book’s definition of gossip?
  • What is one nugget you will take away from the chapter?
  • When is eliminating gossip difficult for you?
  • Is it gossip if the person you are speaking of hurt you? Or is talking about the person really a way to make the other wrong and gain validation? What is the difference between venting and gossip?

Meeting #3 - September 22, 16
We met at Harvard-Westlake Upper school and continued using The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, but chose the chapter on Living a Life of Play and Rest.
  • Given both the pace of the school day and the typical parent community that seeks out independent schools, is it possible to to leave work at work?
  • Which of our hobbies actually constitute play? What types of things do you like to do that are play?
  • How might an improvisational spirit change our mindsets at work? In what ways might we insert improv?
  • The chapter talks a lot about including play in the work day. The idea of work-life balance seems to imply that play is part of the life (outside of the workplace). How might amending our concept of work to include play, laughter and rest improve our overall work-life balance?
  • Are we modeling the behaviors we want for our students re stress management, sleep, exercise? What might have to change for this to happen?
  • What is currently making us feel pushed to work harder? What is causing us stress at work that is impeding play and rest? Is anyone willing to try an exercise from pg 221?
  • How might we laugh more in faculty meetings?

Meeting #4 - October 23, 16
We met at Sequoyah School, again in the rain. Our conversation was focused on the Badaracco’s idea of Quiet Leadership. Quiet leaders are practical, realistic, and patient. They acknowledge limitations and work behind the scenes. They “address serious problems and live by their values, but without damaging their careers and reputations.” Most often they abide by “preparation, caution, care, and attention to detail are usually the best approach to important, demanding challenges.”

  • Quiet leaders are realistic about what can and can’t happen in an organization. They are ready to react to things going crazy or in their favor. They are neither naive or cynical, they see organizations as flexible and make room for unexpected outcomes.
    • Question: Describe some limitations of organizations that prohibit the ideal from occurring.  How might the perspective of the quiet leader help/hinder dealing with those limitations?
  • Quiet leaders are “well aware of their own self-interest, and they worked hard to protect their reputations and careers.” Often their motivations are mixed - a balance of considering the greater good and self-interest.
    • Question: We work for nonprofit organizations whose missions are to improve the lives and educations of children. When is it okay to work in our own self-interest? When must the greater good take precedence?
  • Quiet leaders aren’t in a rush to make decisions, knowing that time allows for people to “discuss their situations with others and think things through on their own. Time gives people a chance to assess their real obligations and gives sound instincts a chance to emerge. It lets them observe and learn, look for patterns, understand some of the many, subtle ways in which individuals and events interact, and look for small, subtle opportunities in the flow of events.”
    • Question: Do we always have time on our side?
  • In another article by the author, he asserted that quiet leaders tend to stay and fight rather than leave organizations looking for better options.
    • Question: When have you been faced with the dilemma of when to try to work towards change and when to look for new opportunities?

  • Is this work more difficult for women or well suited for women? What are the gender stereotypes we have to overcome to lead in this way?

  • Talk about a quiet leading fail.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Revamping Student Blogging in Math

My algebra and geometry students have been creating digital portfolios (using blogger) for the last 4 school years. Summer 2013, spurred on by my school's upcoming 1:1 laptop program, I attended CUE Rockstar conference. While there, I had time to think about how I might have my students use their laptops in class. I wanted them to be able to look at virtual manipulatives, graph things quickly and interactively using desmos, create constructions using geogebra, use online formative assessment tools like socrative and generally be able to use the internet as a tool to enrich their learning.

All of these enhance learning, but I was also looking for a way to build in reflection and creativity into class also. After all, as Dewey said “we do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.”

My theory was that blogger would be the house for my students' reflections. 

Via the blog they have...

... Reflected on in class problem based learning tasks
... Embedded videos they created
... Published problems they created and results of long term projects

In addition to using varied methods to showing what they know about math, they have also learned a decent amount on how to use tech tools 
(basics of blogger, how to embed videos and presentations, screen-casting, video editing...), which was surprisingly harder than expected for these digital natives.

All of this sounds lovely - students using lap-tops to enhance their learning in a meaningful way, publishing their work, focusing on process and reflection...

...but, blogging takes a lot of time. Time in class, which I am short on given my 135, 40 minute class periods per year. Also time out of class for them to wrap up details and for me to give feedback. Additionally, other teachers of the same course at my school don't require a blog. Is it fair for me to have an added element in my course?

Yet, I know that students creating a math portfolio is a good learning strategy. While some class activities - like formative assessment (socrative, white-board games, Desmos classroom activities, kahoot), don't lend themselves to blogging, other engaging activities like PrBL tasks and opportunities for inquiry are perfect for blogging. Not reflecting would be a waste of a chance to amp the learning. When students reflect, personalize, get creative, their learning is stronger. It allows all kids, not just the extroverted, a chance to interact deeply with the material. Blogging builds metacognition and helps to give students positive, memorable math experiences.

Having both sides in mind, I am throwing in one more challenge for this school year as I started the year seven months pregnant and will soon go on maternity leave. Thus my challenge for the school year is figuring out how to edit my courses such that the the teaching and grading is manageable for a substitute. I want my students to have a cohesive experience AND I want that experience to be rich with student centered, engaging, standards-based-grading, reflective, PrBL goodness.

Slight compromises will be made. One of them is transitioning student blogging to consist of simpler posts that still provide opportunities for reflection. Last year I had a thought to have my students made Interactive (digital) Notebooks. I like how some teachers are enabling their students to create a portfolio of important problems, that will act as a study guide throughout the year. While not truly interactive with fun, foldable elements, students will take key problems from each unit, work them out step by step on paper, and label them with key vocabulary. For the blog then, they will snap a picture of the paper, upload the image and add a reflective caption - not too technical and not too time intensive to complete (or to grade).

We are calling them Concept Poster Blogposts and each one will feature 3 - 4 key problems (with reflections) per unit.

Student samples:





My hope is that when I return from maternity leave in late March, that my students' digital portfolios will be evidence to time spent engaged learning key concepts through inquiry and problem based learning.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Unit Recap: Getting Started

New use the digital portfolio this year - a digital nod toward interactive notebooks - concept summaries and reflections for key problems for each unit. I am trying to make the my students' blogs simpler and more helpful for them as they look back on key concepts. We will see how it goes. I will post student work when I have some examples.


Sample Concept Poster from Cleo

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Back to School Night Ideas with GMD

Tonight I presented in a webinar with Global Math Department for the first time. I always find it strange to teach or talk to a computer screen. It's hard to present dynamically without being able to make eye contact with the audience.

That aside, I presented what I usually do at back to school night - which is a jammed pack 10 minutes of class information & requirements, my teaching philosophy, the rationale behind blogging in math class and explaining how standards based grading works. It isn't ideal, but it is my only chance to explain how my class works to parents.

I also gave a few ideas for alternatives - talking about math anxiety, brain based learning strategies and having parents experience a lesson.

What I really liked about participating in the webinar, was getting ideas from my co-presenters (@MsDiMaria and @algebrainiac1) and from the participants. How had I not heard about Which One Doesn't Belong?!

Check out the recording below.

My slides with links are here...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Learning, a how to

I have been meaning to publish this for quite some time, but have waited because I really want to post a video of the presentation with my commentary.

Well that has fallen to the bottom of my list.

So until I get around to that, here at least of the slides of how I explain to my students how learning works and why therefor, I choose which teaching strategies that I choose.

The bison might not make sense without my commentary, but ah well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016