Thursday, July 27, 2017

Just Fine (The song that represents my summer of conferences)

I'm a bit of a procrastinator and so I although I've been planning on writing this post, it wasn't until reading Brenda's latest blog post (@PrincipalMN) and thinking of a song title that represented my summer, did I finally sit down to write.  Of course, I was motivated by the opportunity to get my fav Mary J Blige in a blog post!  So why did I choose "Just Fine" to represent my summer?  Just Fine sums up how I feel after a summer of conference hopping that began on June 30th and ended on July 20, 2017l.

June 30th - EdCampldr in Long Island, New York
I have been a part of the EdCamp Long Island scene for a number of years and have grown my professional network across Long Island as a result.  Although school had just ended a week before, learning never ends! I attended my first Breakout EDU session, sat in on a conversation about Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, and co-facilitated a conversation about Parent Camp.  

#learningisjofyul with Uniondale colleagues. 
 "Having a really good time, I'm not complaining
And I'm a still wear a smile if it's raining
I got to enjoy myself regardless
I appreciate life, I'm so glad I got mine"
"Just Fine" Mary J Blige

July 8 - July 10th, Principal's Conference  - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I attended my first NAESP national conference and walked away feeling a bit perplexed at the mix of emotions I felt after the conference.  On the surface, I had a GREAT time! Socially it was like attending an all-star festival of educators that I've only known through Twitter and Voxer.  Like Jay (@posickj) shared in his blog post: People either get it, or they don't.  The connections that we make via social media can have a lasting impression on our lives as educators.  I also had a chance to spend time with Long Island educators and with a colleague that I had worked with over 20 years ago (even though we work less than 10 minutes from each other).  Below are just a few pics that made #NPC17 such a joyful learning experience! 

Members of #PTCamp Voxer
group since 2014
Former Roosevelt SD Colleague 
Long Island Educators 

At the Crayola breakfast with Todd and Brad
Met Kaylen Tucker! 

I have to admit, professionally and academically I left feeling a bit empty.  Sure I went to some engaging sessions, obtained some useful tips and resources but I can't say my heart and soul was moved as there was no fire that was lit.  It was a bittersweet feeling but I was quickly on my way to the next conference stop and accepted the time in Philly for what it was. 

"No time for moping around, are you kidding
And no time for negative vibes, cause I'm winning
It's been a long week, I put in my hardest
Gonna live my life, feels so good to get it right"
"Just Fine" Mary J Blige

July 11th - July 12th - Learn Fresh All-Star Educator Summit - Denver, Co.
Being selected as an All-Star Educator for this organization was such an honor.  Take a moment to visit NBA Math Hoops and follow the them on Twitter (@NBAMathHoops). My students have been participating for the last 3 years.  Reach out to me if you are interested and would like more information.  NBA Math Hoops is developed and distributed by Learn Fresh, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, in association with NBA Cares. Learn Fresh seeks to eliminate racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, and ensure that all U.S. students are engaged in school and have a solid foundation in fundamental skills.   

"Feels so good, when you're doing all the things that you want do 
Get the best out of life, treat yourself to something new
It's a really good thing to say
That I won't change my life, my life's just fine"
"Just Fine" Mary J Blige

July 17th - July 20th  - Reimagining Education: Teaching and Learning in Racially Diverse Schools - Teachers College, Columbia University 
Day 1 - Why Reimagining
Day 2 - Racial and Cultural Literacies
Day 3 - Equity Pedagogy 
Day 4 -Culturally Sustaining Leadership

Hold up, wait a minute...a conference filled with All-Star educators that was specifically designed to talk about the promise, potential and brilliance of Black and Brown children?!?! Please, please, please take a look at the conference curriculum and bios of the Speakers that were present and read their research if you are not familiar with them.   Here are just a few tweets and pics from this powerful conference. 

With Kass Minor! 

With Team Uniondale! 

This conference was just what I needed to fill that gap from the National Principals Conference. Socially, as with all of the other conferences, I enjoyed the experience.  But more importantly the work that has been done and needs to be done for Students of Color was front and center.  That is my life's work and that was "Just Fine" for me! 

 "Got my head on straight, I got my mind right
I ain't gonna let you kill it
You see I wouldn't change my life my life's just fine"
"Just Fine" Mary J Blige 

Thursday, June 29, 2017


Welcome to #LastStopLI project based on the book Last Stop on Market Street.

*Celebrate the uniqueness of Long Island communities
*Create connections between educators on Long Island
*Create connections among students on Long Island

The idea for LastStopLI began at #EdCampldr (2016) after I facilitated the session #BreakingNews  - How to talk about social issues in education centered around race.  As Monique (@MDarrisawAkil) shared in her blog , "the session was devoted to discussing the recent racial unrest in our country caused by the deaths of Black men by the hands of the police and then the murder of five policemen in Texas. What ensued was a thoughtful conversation that acknowledged not only the pain that we feel but the confusion about the role of educators in tackling this topic in the classroom. We debated what we should discuss with students; who is responsible for vetting the message?”  We ended the conversation by asking what's next – and the idea of a LI student book study began.  I thought, perhaps starting small and breaking down the invisible walls that exist between children and communities on Long Island is better than not starting at all.  Thanks to the book suggestion from JoEllen (@JoEllenMcCarthy), brainstorming with Alejandro (@A_RiveraNY) & Rosa (NieveslrRosa), discussions around racial discourse with Don (donald_gately) and technical support from Lisa (@LParisi)- here we are.  

  The How, Why, and What's Next of #laststopli can be anything and everything WE make it.  
The project will run for the 2016-2017 school year.  
All tweets should include #LastStopLI

Thanks to all of the teachers that collaborated with pen pals across Long Island.  However, there is one teacher, Ms. Susan Piano, that deserves a special shout-out for really embracing the #laststopli idea with her partnership teacher, Ms. Foley.  Together they had their classes from Uniondale and Farmingdale write each other, share videos with each other (Video Video 2), Skype with each other, and ultimately visit with each other with a meet-up at the end of the school year.  Here's Sue Paino's reflection: 

Our pen pal experience with Ms. Foley's second grade class at Albany Avenue Elementary was an amazing, moving, inspirational experience that's hard to even put into words.  Two different communities of children cam together and were instant best friends...hugging, holding hands, etc. They did Venn diagrams together and the similarities they cam up with outweighed the differences. This is the beauty of working with young children.  They only know love.  They see color.  They know they are a different color than another, but they don't see it as an issue.  That's a learned behavior.  This is why it's so important that we as educators instill and nurture a sense of acceptance in our students and seal the gap that may come along as they grow older and other influences may try and get in the way of their thinking.  The love and acceptance of our children should be an inspiration to us all.  

Check out a few #laststopli tweets: 

Did you join the #laststopli initiative?  Do you think projects like this can really make a difference?  Why or why not?  Please comment or  tweet/share your reflections using #laststopli. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

My #OneWord for 2017

A couple of days before the start of 2017 and I finally found my #oneword.  But before I share, let's take a look at a few words that first came to mind.

JOY - Personally, I think of joy as a " state of being" that I hold onto fiercely.  As I shared in a tweet, "My joy is trying to exist in that sacred space between happiness and sadness".  It's a constant balancing act to remain joyful, but when you truly believe that you are in control of how you feel and how you react to people/things/events around you - it becomes easy to exist in a state of joy.
Professionally, I believe that #learningisjoyful and serve as an advocate for joyful learning experiences for students.  So choosing joy for my #oneword felt like a cop out since I live with it everyday. 

POWER or CONTROL- The power to control your emotions, feelings, actions, and words was something I also thought of.  Being in control can be a positive attribute but wanting the power to control others can be perceived as negative.  I didn't want to have a negative connotation association with my #oneword so I kept waiting for that right word to come to me. 

INTENTIONAL - Doing things with a direct purpose and knowing my "why" ( led me to believe that intentional would be a good #oneword for 2017.  But for some reason, it didn't stick with me!  

I kept thinking...what #oneword will help me maintain my joy, remain positively powerful and in control, and intentional in my actions?  Finally, it became clear and I chose: 

In a world where I am constantly balancing my professional life, professional goals, personal life and personal goals, it's hard to focus on one thing at a time.  As a Sagittarius, I am true to my sign!  I am known to ...juggle a million projects, hobbies and friends - the more, the merrier!" (
While enthusiastic Sagittarius helps us take risks and big leaps of faith, we can bite off more than we can chew. Under this sign’s influence, we need to know our limits. Otherwise, we can get excited about starting new projects, but fail to follow through. ( 

So yes, as a natural multi-tasker, I live for thrill of doing it all!  But maybe, for 2017, I won't try to do "it" all.  I'll focus on no more than 1 or 2 things, ok, maybe 3 at a time.  I will take time to focus each day and ask myself: 

1.  Is "it" bringing me joy or will it bring me joy?
2.  Is the "power or control" of "it" driving me or limiting me?
3.  What is my intention, purpose or why for doing "it"? 

Answering these questions truthfully may allow me to say NO to a lot of things and YES to things that really matter.  And with less things to juggle, I will be able to FOCUS on the things that really matter.  

Wishing you a Joyful 2017! 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Do you see what I see?

Do you see what I see? 

Sunday evening, I received this (edited) email from a local community organization:   

Dear Members,
(A local) Supermarket will have a hot dog cart out front on Saturday and Sunday Oct 15 & 16.  They are providing the cart and all the food.  They are offering it to us as a fundraising opportunity.

All we need are some students and a parent or two to oversee the students.  This is a great opportunity for the students to get volunteer service hours for helping out. 

Did anything or any word move you?  Make you think, question, or pause? 

An hour later...

...while reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, I read this:  

Did anything or any word move you? Make you think, question, or pause? 

Words matter.  Context matter.  The lens in which I view this world matters.  

Can you see what I see?  Can you feel what I feel?  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Flashback Friday!

One of the best things about working during the summer as a school administrator is getting a chance to read and reflect with minimal distractions.   Today I decided to tackle my closet and review the contents of about a dozen binders that were just collecting dust on a top shelf.  As I went through the binders, I was quickly reminded how so many "innovative" educational ideas are really just ideas that have been dusted off and repackaged.  Not that I have a problem with that.  But it makes me wonder (1) If it didn't work 20 years ago, why do we think it's going to work now?  And more importantly (2) Why didn't it work?!?!?!?   A lot to think and I will probably continue to ponder these questions as an educator but back to Flashback Friday.

As I was reviewing the contents of an administrative observation report binder, I found one of my own observation reports.  It was from 1992, my 2nd year as a classroom teacher that was written by my former principal and mentor Mr. Charles McIlwain (Roosevelt, NY).

Here's a screenshot of the observation report.
Again,..lots of thoughts behind it, but for now I thought it would be fun to share!  

Teacher: Ms. S. Jefferson Date of observation: 1/28/92
Ms. Jefferson began her class by explaining to her class the objective of today’s lesson: Social History: Essay - describe how Rap Music influences the lives of young people. (Rap Music, Rap Artist, Incidents or Messages).
The teacher also explained to the class that this assignment is good preparation for end/year requirements (150 words) - Students were given a work sheet to serve as a guide for the first draft.
It was quite interesting to note that there were differences of opinion as to what was negative or positive influences often stated by "Rap Groups".
The teacher has a lot of influence on the class because of her age and is recommended to continue this type of dialogue more frequently for the sake of our young people
Ms. Jefferson has a very good rapport with her students and displays a genuine concern for energy providing the necessary leadership that
these young people need and deserve. Ms. Jefferson is a true asset to our staff and student population.
Ms. Jefferson is extremely patient, kind, caring and provide the time for individuals and group assistance. She is constantly encouraging students to seek additional assistance during non-class time and after school. Ms. Jefferson arrives at school very early and remains very late in the PM for students assistance.
Ms. Jefferson is a very young teacher and has all the ingredients in becoming a Master Teacher and should often practice being firm, fair
and demanding at all times. This will come shortly if practiced on a continuous bases. Excellent lesson.

Do you have observation reports from your first few years of teaching?  Are your hopes and dreams still the same? If you are an administrator - does your leadership style and expectations align with your teaching style?  For me, I think I have been pretty consistent - meaningful, relevant learning experiences for all students.  #learningisjoyful 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Shhh...Artists and Musicians are Reading

Whenever I get stuck on a blog theme, I always go back to #learningisjoyful.  Why?  Because I believe/advocate/promote/inspire/encourage/demand joyful learning experiences for students. What makes #learningisjoyful such an easy tag line?   For me, it's because joyful learning experiences can happen anywhere and anytime the learner is engaged in something that sparks joy!

Independent reading time can be and should be a joyful experience for students!  This year, I have been encouraging all of the special area teachers in my building to add intentional reading time to their programs. It's been my goal to help them appreciate that reading either to students or allowing time for students to read independently does not take away from art, music, and physical education classes but can actually enhance their program.  The feedback so far has been great - take a look:

Ms. Axel - Elementary Art Teacher 

At clean-up time, I have been using the books that comprise my personal collection of art books (picture books, biographies, books that deal with feelings) and this has enriched the art program.  The students do not rush their work but instead of finding something to do if there is 5 minutes left in class, my student know that they can select an art book and read!

Mr. Allen, General Music and Band Teacher 

By reading books about Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, and Duke Ellington, my students have learned about famous musicians struggles and triumphs.  Additionally they have discovered famous music venues such as the The Cotton Club, Carnegie Hall, La Scala Opera, The Lincoln Memorial, and Constitution Hall.

Mrs. Green - General Music and Orchestra Teacher
I have found that reading to the students at the start of a general music class sets the tone of the lesson.  It is usually a calmer and more thoughtful lesson after reading.

Mrs. Prill - General Music and Chorus Teacher

I love to read stories and children's books about musicians.
It helps introduce them to different genres that I also follow up with videos and of course music!  The best was when I was sharing information about trombones and jazz and the students told me about a book that our art teacher Mr. Sumner had just read to them - Trombone Shorty! Another favorite of mine is Opera Cat, it really opens the students up to learning about opera.

Mr. Sumner  - Elementary Art Teacher
Benefits of reading - It opens your life up so that you can experience history of the world.  Everything that has ever existed, every though, every dream, every big moment, you can read about and dream your own dream.  In some case even visit some of these places or visit through the internet.

I read to my students in my elementary art class because I LOVE reading picture books, secondly because of the great illustrators that capture the feeling of the authors.  Authors give the world a gift that we should always cherish.

How have you spread the love of reading in your school?  Please share some of your #learningisjoyful reading experiences!  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

#learningisjoyful with Minecraft


A couple of weeks ago, I overheard a few third grade boys talking about Minecraft in the cafeteria.  I was really intrigued and decided to ask them a few questions.  They were soooo excited to tell me about Minecraft that I invited them to have lunch with me in my office to learn more about it.  Minecraft has been around for a few years but the educational experiences that come from experiencing Minecraft seem to be gaining new life. I’ve always wanted to learn more about it so I figured why not have the experts in the field teach me.  Yes, these third graders are experts and passionate about Minecraft.  Their vivid language, vocabulary and examples of how to play the game went way beyond what I could master in one setting, I was in awe and as a result, we have decided to meet once a week so they can continue to teach me.  The only problem is that it started off with four boys, but a few more boys heard about it as well as a few girls. What started off as a small lunch club has the potential to grow into something amazing! What a great problem to have...I just have to figure out how to make it work!

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 3.29.07 PM.png

What are your students passionate about?  Have you taken the time to ask them about their favorite joyful learning experiences?  Remember - you do not need to be an expert in everything- what can you learn from the experts in your class?