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?