Giving Thanks

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I had the great pleasure of visiting a variety of schools this past month.  I love to capture what I see, hear, and experience especially in the hallways and when no one knows I am observing!  I should have taken pictures or videos, but I didn’t want to ruin the moment and not be fully present during my visits.  I am thankful for the educators who are the models for why we choose to do this difficult work on a daily basis.  We spend a lot of time “teacher bashing” – we need to celebrate educators more and on a more frequent basis!

Here are some highlights:

  • watching young children (3-6 year olds) eagerly choose a book to read while waiting in the lobby to be picked up and invite their friends to come read with them
  •  teachers chatting after school in the hallway about their day with smiles on their faces and talking about their kids with passion and love
  •  staff interacting with parents in the hallways during dismissal, knowing every parent by name and knowing specific details about their children
  •  working with teacher leaders that are excited about coaching – when establishing expectations for our meetings, one fellow said,  “outside of the box thinking” – what a fabulous norm.  We should always be thinking differently and I hope to foster that.
  •  observing a Socratic Seminar in a middle school where the teacher is truly facilitating or observing from the sidelines and students own the process
  • observing an elementary school math lesson where students were working in small groups and enthusiastically talking about math
  • listening to young entrepreneurs from the middle east share how they are working to change the trajectory for youth in their countries
  • facilitating professional development sessions at a Common Core conference with educators in Dubai, UAE who were so gracious and invested in learning new strategies

As a school principal, I would capture the good that I saw in children, teachers and even parents and guardians.  I made it a priority send a hand written note (at least twice a year) in the mail thanking someone for something they had done to impact the life of a child in our school.  Although it seems like such a minor gesture, my staff was always grateful to be acknowledged in that way.  Don’t get me wrong, I always had chocolate in my office as well!

How do you thank those that are making an impact in your school?  How would you like to be acknowledged?

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Appreciating Diversity

I was browsing in a toy store at the Dubai Mall looking for some educational type gifts for my nephew and I stumbled upon this…

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At first I laughed, took a picture, and sent it to my family.  I was actually really impressed with what I saw and annoyed with myself that I laughed.  For many families living in the GCC this is their reality even if they don’t come from a gulf (Khaleej) family.  This traditional dress is what all expat and local kids see in their communities daily.  In Dubai, local women traditionally wear a black abaya and men wear a white kandura (dishdasha).

As I reflected on upon my initial reaction, I realized that growing up in the USA, I never saw these toys in the toy store.  I never saw a toy or doll that looked like me or my family.

A little more poking around led me to this:

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I was very impressed with these toys, and looked them up and found that they are made by a company based in the UK called elc.  I would love to see these types of toys in a center in an early learning classroom.

“Another way to ensure diversity in children’s lives is to choose toys, books and media that reflect all types of people (e.g., include images of people with a variety of backgrounds, ages, abilities, characters that break stereotypes about men and women, art supplies in a wide range of skin, eye and hair colors). “

(Bias-Free Foundations: Early Childhood Activities for Families, 2001)

How are you ensuring diverse experiences and materials for your students or children?  Comments welcome.

Catching Up with Alex

I first met Alex Pettiford when he was in Kindergarten.  I remember him running up and down the halls and having a lot of energy!  Alex is a native Washingtonian, sports fanatic and a self-proclaimed comedian.  Currently, Alex is a freshman at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and plays rugby.  I’m pleased to know the running of the halls was put to good use! 

Alex inspires me as he has worked very hard to get to where he is now and acknowledges those who supported him.  Here is a snapshot of his story:

Tell us about yourself.

My grandmother raised me until I was seven years old when I moved in with my father.  When I was younger I had anger issues and it was a huge concern for my family and my teachers.   I was never really introduced to gang violence or street life for my grandmother had sheltered me from that.  As I grew older different people dug within me and helped me find something that I didn’t know was there, morals. I was taught the importance of being honest, respectful and having integrity and as I grew they grew along with me.

Who supported you through school?  Who was pushing you to succeed?

I’ve always had my family’s support, and no matter what I did I knew I could go to them, however the foundation of support that was behind me went way beyond that. I had countless people who supported me through school. During my elementary years at SAIL Public Charter School I felt as though most of the people had my best interest in mind, such as Ms. Kim, Ms. Reem, Ms. Felicia, Ms. Lisa, Ms. Harden, and Mr. Ross. It saddened me that I had to find a new school starting in 9th grade. I was surprised that just as there were people who genuinely cared at SAIL, there were the same types of people at my new school HYDE Leadership Public Charter School.

What is the plan for post-college?

Well obviously after college I want to get a good job, however I’m not sure of the details of the plan. As of now my major is Athletic Training and it requires that I get hands-on experience. Having real life experience will make finding a job much easier.

What inspires you to persevere?

What inspires me is how hard my father had to work because he didn’t receive a good education. Yes, I want to be just like him but I want to do such without putting such a heavy burden on my body. Right now he is 64 (I think) and instead of enjoying himself he still talks about getting a job.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of where I am, mainly because of where I came from and what I went through.

What advice would you give to current high school students?

My advice for current high school students is simply if you work harder in high school, then college will be that much easier. Just do your best all four years and you will have so many more options in life.