A Leader?

I am attending Elena Aguilar’s 3-day Conference in Pasadena, California. Today, we were asked, “Who do I want to be as a leader? What kind of animal do I want to be?”

I am still searching for my description of a leader. However, I could answer the question about what kind of animal I want to be.

I want to be a wolf.

The pack’s strength is in the contribution of all its members. Everyone has a vital role in the success of the pack. When one leaves, there is an empty space in the pack. A void that will live on. One doesn’t contribute any more or less. The contribution is as unique and creative as the individual. And everyone benefits. One’s core value is family. We benefit. Another core value is humor. We benefit. And my core value is compassion. We benefit. The strength in the pack is at it’s peak when all members are vested in the significance of the tribe.

Brene Brown defines a leader; anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes (Brene Brown, 2018)

My gaps will have me chasing the steps and actions to become the leader I’m still trying to define. Yet, to some I am a leader. The role changes when we are in the pack.


What kind of animal do you want to be?

The Bus Ride

I just read a fun fact, the average human will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools. Yuck and Hmm How big of a pool? Didn’t say….Squirrel!

I went to the beach today. A nice cool breeze sent a chill around my nape. This airy little sweater isn’t enough. I held my arms tight around my waist keeping the warm inside. Yet, the breeze felt good against my skin. It tingled. The warmth of the sun kissed my cheeks. Spring is in the air.

The big puffy clouds filled the sky as the sun danced between them all. A touch of gray was not quite enough to make it rain. The sidewalk was hustling with people and puppies. I sat and remember the days when it only cost a quarter for a bus ride to the beach.

The kids throughout the neighborhood would wait for hours for the bus to take them to the beach. Three-Quarters of them have traveled down this highway before. A dozen of them have taken the other bus that isn’t as crowded to the beach. Half-pint has never taken the bus to this beach before, nope, never.

The bus is very long and very crowded.

It takes a very brave person to squeeze in. However, a quarter of them decided it’s not worth it to them and leave. Ninety percent of the adults will decide to take a different route when they see the jam packed bus with screaming kids coming around the corner. After an hours wait, the bus has arrived. The door swings open and the drive says, “Are you coming?”

K-e-r-p-l-u-n-k our coins drop into the machine as the doors slam shut behind us. Sqeak, ppssss. Sqeak, ppssss. Sqeak, ppssss. Bouncy. Bouncy. Bouncy. Suddenly…

Whoa! Three-Quarters of them slid from side to side in their seats. A dozen of them held on to the dangling straps. Half-pint squished between the bodies with nothing to hang on to.

The bus barreled down the road.

It screeched to a halt.

It swings it doors open for more people to pile on in.

Everyone including half-pint is pushed further toward the back of the bus. Ppppplllllleeeeeeeaaaaaaaassssssseeeeeee!

Hours later, we arrived.

Three-Quarters of the people head for the doors. A dozen remain behind. Half-pint races for the sandy shores.


May I borrow a line?

Writers borrow from other writers all the time. We learn the craft of writing from one another. The way in which we apply the skills is the development of our style and unique qualities that set us apart. That’s what I learned today at the Carl Anderson Conference. It was so worth a Saturday to listen to him share is wisdom and knowledge. Creative people have masters/ mentors.

Carl shared the beginning of an author’s article. He used it as mentor text with a young writer. He created his own. Now I will give it a go.

Summer Homework Should Be Banned

“Nancy Kalish coauthored The Case Against Homework. She believes there is no reason to overload kids with assignments during the summer. “

“Swimming. Softball. Camp. Book reports. It’s pretty easy to recognize that one of these things does not belong with the others. Summer is not the right time for homework-and not just because kids hate it. There are some very good reasons why teachers should think twice before piling it on this summer.”

Here’s mine.

The alert awareness. The wolfish stance. The loyal protector. A bred for profit kept in tiny, filthy cages. It’s obvious which one of these shouldn’t describe your newly purchased German Shepard puppy. Puppy mills use dishonest techniques to allure customers to purchase damaged adorable goods – don’t do it, no way, no how. You really need to do your research before you bring home your fluffy four-legged family member.

I learned so much today! The two big take-aways: Confer Daily and have Mentor Text Ready.

~ The best was to provide equitable individualized instruction. All writers are creative. We just need to share the craft to allow creativity. Okay that’s a few more than two. Thank you @conferringcarl Conferringcarl.com


A Page Right Out of My Life

Day #8

As I read Onward by Elena Aguilar I thought I was reading about my life. I was caught off guard reading her story. I felt as though she must of knew me from afar. I too curled upon the floor crying unable to help make sense of my mother’s death. How do I make sense of a strong, healthy woman dying of cancer?

I thought of you today.

You told me happiness lies within when you take care of yourself. You showed compassion. Tears balanced on the edge. I struggled with the shame. I should have known better.

I thought of you today.

You’re not here to hold me in your arms to remind me that I am compassionate. You’re not here to remind me how proud you are of who I am.

I thought of you today.

I held my heart and reminded myself of your warm smile as we celebrated my successes along life’s path. I held my heart and reminded myself as you looked over me through smooth and bumpy roads. I reminded myself how much you love me.

You’re not here today to remind me. So I will cast the compassion I deserve and tell myself that I am a better human being because of your compassion first cast upon me. For today, I will release the shame and understand the guilt. I love you and did my best with what I knew.

I too would gladly return the lesson for another day with you. That isn’t going to happen. So, I will continue to share the compassion on myself and others. It is where true happiness resides. For today I know better, so I do better.

Moments of “Bright Spots”

I am reading Elena Aguilar’s book, Onward, Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators”. This books inspires reflection. Chapter 7 is all about finding the bright spots in others. I think she is “spot on” about looking at others and ourselves with an admiration lens.

One thing she shared that she did in her classroom was to have students draw names of your classmates and become that person’s “secret admirer”. How charming it that. The rules are it must be kept a secret. I’m sure this will take a bit of practice but imagine how you’d make someone feel when at the end of the day, you were able to share acts of kindness you “caught” them doing. Everyone is focusing on identifying behaviors we appreciate. I think this is so cool. I want to introduce this to staff. Maybe on a Monday we draw names and throughout the week make an effort to find their “bright spot” and share the following week at a staff meeting. I think it would take longer to capture them doing something with admiration. This has the potential to make a huge impact on the school environment. I’ve heard it before but it’s so wonderful to be reminded of the power of highlighting the good in others rather than braying over the bad behavior. What do you want to reinforce? How do you create that environment?

The next thing I read about what how we are wired to see the bad. It has been with us since the days of being chased down by a saber-tooth tiger. “The brain perceives negative stimuli faster and more intensely than positive stimuli. Within a tenth of a second, we can store negative stimuli in our memories…whereas a positive experience requires at least 12 seconds to be absorbed.” pg. 179 That blew me away. That is such a huge difference in the amount of elapsed time. We need to practice empathy about our “complainers” and bring this knowledge to the forefront of our brains. The chapter continues with how we even go as far as praising one another when we focus on the negativity in a person or program. A real interesting read.

She does offer steps to retrain our brains. Some of us need it more than others. I’m going to copy this chapter and share it with my principal and staff.

I’m going to Elena Aguilar’s conference next week. It’s a 3 day conference. After reading most of this book, I really excited about what more I will learn and be able to make a positive impact on those I work with. In addition, I’ll be getting 2 more of her books. Yeah! Another book I need to read is Dare Greatly by Brene Brown. If you haven’t listened to her TEDTalks on vulnerability, you should. I’d love to hear what you think.


One definition of reflection is a serious thought or consideration.

Are we capable of reflection when we are directed to work with some to improve our classroom management? If it is not self choice, are we able to look deeply into our practices and make positive change? Is a teacher able to identify a need to change their practice if they were successful in the public school system? I like to believe yes, but I don’t have the answers yet on how to support a colleague to accomplish this directed change.

I’ve been in her room three times the past couple of weeks. I try to document just what I see. Could my data be a misconception because of my lens of understanding is skewed? (Does that make sense?) I write down what she is saying and doing for the most part. I scan the room and document what the students are doing every 4 minutes to provide a glimpse of what people see when they enter her room at this particular moment in time. The data speaks for itself. Is it too much for her to take in?

I always stress when we begin our debriefs on reviewing the data with an admiration lens. I use this method when working with students. I look for what they are doing well and build on that. As for teachers, I believe we can be very hard on ourselves. We can tear ourselves apart. I don’t want her to do that. I do want her to reflect on the data.

With each debrief, it comes back to fixing “those kids”. She shares a long list of all the things they are not doing and all the things she had tried to get them to produce work. I feel it is an avoidance strategy. It’s a delicate situation to guide her back to the data.

If I told her what to do, it would be used to say, “See I did what you said and it didn’t work.” I want her to reflect on her practice and find areas she thinks would be a good next step.

I’m stuck on how to do this. I know it will take time. I’ve worked with 5 teachers now for over the past two yeas. The difference here is we all wanted to take this journey with a particular foundation. It’s not easy to think about what “we” are doing and work on our next step to improve our craft. It’s easier to give a long list of all the reasons why something is not working rather than looking at ourselves and our practice. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a complaint session. I think we need to get it out so we can move past it. However, I don’t believe we should stay there.

I will continue to build trust with her. I’m asking her to be vulnerable and take a risk with me. Last year, I tried to introduce her to a philosophy on classroom solution and management techniques, but she wasn’t buying into it. What’s a good next step?

You see, when I was in school, I wasn’t always a “good girl”. I didn’t always follow the rule because a teacher told me to. I knew where the line was and rarely crossed it. So when I became a teacher, I kind of understood those kids who would challenge me, my lessons, my practice, and my pedagogy. I’ve always worked on improving my craft. I wonder if she was a “good student” and followed the rules or one of those rascals who challenged the system. I’ll have to ask her. At least she is getting me to reflect on what I can do to better support her and the students.

Struggling with a Thought

I’m sitting here wondering what I should write about. I feel as though I have no stories to tell. Sure things are happening. I was able to go to the specialist. My root canal is taken care of. I did given in and register to see Carl Anderson. Last, I’m reading an interesting book, Find Your Yellow Tux, How to be Successful by Standing Out, by Jesse Cole. Yet, I still don’t have a story. I’ll just write for now.

The rain has returned. I’ll share a splash of moments of my day. My tooth is saved for now. The visit to the specialist office was fabulous! I was so impressed with the staff and most of all the Dentist. He is a specialist in his field and it showed. I now rest in my chair with just about no pain. All I could think about as I drove home is that it’s time for me to find a new dentist. I like mine as a person. He’s a great man. However, after getting a feel of this, I want someone current in the field and one that takes advantage of the technology to enhance their abilities. Who would think I would say the afternoon at the dentist was fabulous?

The drops turn into a drizzle as it bounces off the wall air conditioning unit. I remember being in New York and seeing towels draped over them. Finally, we figured out why. It dulls the sound. To silence the debate going on in my head, I gave in and registered to see Carl Anderson. I want to hear about his new book on conferring with writers. I’m sure I’ll by it too. I really enjoyed his older book, How’s it Going. It gave such practical advice on how to carry on a conversation with writers. It changed how I interacted with the writer and not focusing on the product. I wonder what I would tell myself right now as I struggle getting something down on paper. Hmmm…

As fast as the rain came, it has stopped. Just like me. I’m about done with this day too. However, I was able to get a couple chapters in with Jesse Cole’s book. He has a lot of great points about breaking away from “normal”. He challenges you to find out who you are and what is the best version of you. I’ve been thinking about that. I have a job opportunity to be a coach at my school site. I’m on the fence with it. I’m not sure if it’s the best version of me. I know what I love about teaching. Here are a few things. I love telling stories about silly characters to kids and making silly voices to match them. I love reading aloud books and enjoy the conversation that come from book talks. I love having students lead the lessons and share what they’re passionate about. I’m worried that I’ll be giving that up and all the other little things that go with this job. It’s so important to me. Yet, I know this opportunity will allow me to learn and grow even more. I like that idea. Time is ticking. I have to make a decision.

With that, I’m calling it. I’m going to have to continue waiting it out. And for my next writing, I’ll have to better spy on myself to find the gem to write about tomorrow.

Hurry up and relax

My First Slice of Life

I awoke this morning with my list of things to do for the next couple of weeks. Things seem to be busy. My mind keeps organizing the events in chronological order and then breaking each into manageable steps. I keep going over them. The logical side tells me I’m prepared. Then I hear, “No your not. You’re stressing again.” Here’s the list of things my brain thought I should sort through at 5 am.

The Mentor Meeting

I have been “asked” to be one of two presenters at our next mentor meeting. Last time, I put in so many hours planning it out with my partner through meeting and on my own. Today is our first meeting for our March meeting two weeks from this Friday. My partner asked if we could stay all day and get as much done as possible. Part of me cringed. I have so much work here. The other part of me reflected and I do believe it’s best. Hit the ground running while the ideas are fresh in your mind. Two hours from now, I’ll let you know if I’m feeling the same way.

The Inquiry Meeting

Next, I have an inquiry meeting to plan for. That will happen this Wednesday. I believe that will be okay. I just have to get some minor things done and I’ll be ready to go. I usually plan too much for a 1.5-hour meeting. A lot of items will be carried over from our last meeting.

The Elena Aguilar Conference

The following week, (before I knew I would be presenting at the Mentor Meeting and at the CUE19 Conference in Palm Springs [alone]), I signed up to attend a three-day coaching conference presented by Elena Aguilar. I’m excited. She’s a well-known coach in education. If you are going to learn about coaching, you should go to the best. That’s three days though that will be taking me away from my other responsibilities. I will be practicing mindfulness so I am present for this event and get the most out of it.

The Equity Think Tank

On the last day of the conference, I’ll be driving down to Downey to meet with a crew and continue to think about equity within the educational system. One colleague canceled because she’s going to the conference. Should I? I don’t want to. I just hope I’m able to focus and think at this point.

The CUE19 Conference Presentation

After the Elena Aguilar conference, I drive to Palm Springs for the CUE19 Conference. I think I’m ready. I have done some practice runs in front of some educators at a past conference. I am working on making adjustments to the slides to keep it fresh and based on input from the audience. I don’t think my partner will be joining me at this event. She’s still dealing with her medical situation. However, I feel capable and confident to move forward.

The Recruitment Team

I’m in the team leader to conduct classroom observations and interviews at a school site applying to be a part of the Cotsen Family. I participated last year as a team member. This year they are thinking I can handle being the lead. We will see about that.

Carl Anderson Conference

Oh, and did I mention I could go see Carl Anderson? That’s this Saturday. I’m on the fence. I just want to go, but my logic side says it’s too much? But it’s Carl Anderson! I just have to go…don’t I?

Yes, on March 22, 2018, at 2:30 pm, I will be done with all of my obligations to work for the time being. Spring break is the following week. I haven’t had a chance to plan some fun. Honestly, I just am a nerd at times and I enjoy “nerding” out at conferences. Those days are a sign of a good time for me.

Awaiting The Root Canal

I like to think I have a high tolerance for pain. I can put things off easily. Things I shouldn’t. My teeth for one thing. My dentist doesn’t help matters either. He is very practical. Usually, I like that quality in him.

One of my back teeth, now known as #18, has been acting up. I knew it wasn’t good. It’s been far too long since it’s been checked. Finally, I made an appointment. “You have to remove the filling to this tooth! It’s hurting.” I clambered as soon as I sat down. He shared that he just got back from China at 12:30 am. He is an incredibly generous man of his talents and time to extremely poor people who haven’t seen a dentist in years, if not their entire lives. Yet, I’m thinking to myself, “Great. I need some serious work and you’re dealing with jetlag.”

“How bad is the pain?” He asked.

“It’s a toothache. It just hurts all over.” I said. My tongue instinctively glides over it as if to comfort it for what’s about to happen. I knew it wasn’t good. I settled back in the chair as he lays me flat and received my first shot. 5 minutes past. He begins to drill the filling out. You know it’s getting worse when your dentist is making faces and apologizing. He starts rambling about the tooth calcifying. Please don’t let that mean I’m losing a tooth. A tear follows the crease of my “laugh line” into my ear. Apparently, my tooth was trying to repair the damage. I’ve kept my filling for far too long. The drilling continues. I clamp my mouth shut from his grasp and pull away. My fits tighten up along with my whole body. We both just want to get this done, but the pain is too great. He keeps sending sharp pains as the drill touches the nerve. He gives me another shot.

10 minutes later, I touch my chin to feel that rubbery flesh that isn’t your own. He comes back in, adjusts the drill, and yanks my mouth open. I’m exaggerating, but I just wanted to run, run somewhere but here. His new LED light is strapped to his forehead blinding me. He looks like a miner getting ready to drill for gold. His spectacles are splattered with water stains. I hope. No sooner does he get started and I jerk away. This time he gives me a shot directly into the nerve of #18.

Finally, I’m completely numb. The drilling continues. 5 minutes later, he stops. He can’t get through the calcified tooth. He apologizes. He packs the tooth. He gives me a card for a specialist. I walk out the door complete numb on the left side of my face. That lasts for a little while before I feel the gravity of the situation.

Yesterday I was too busy to focus on the pain. Today, not so lucky. If I breathe on it, it hurts. Tuesday can’t get here soon enough. I just hope the specialist is able to repair the damage and save the tooth.

A Dash of Damper

We bounced on down the freeway. Every adult in their own seat in their own world. A Wet winter day didn’t stop the science olympiad participants from showing up at Occidental College. An event where the only one you are in competition with is yourself. Each individual students’ score is added to the school’s total score. These points fall into categories such as participant, bronze, silver, and gold. Our score does not matter to the other participants outside of our school. But the medal does matter to us. Last year, we scored bronze. Shouldn’t we expect silver this time?

The events have come to a close. Our camp spot is broken down. The scores are being tallied up. Now, we could wait. The ceremony was canceled. And the downpour continues. It was just too wet. 11 children, 4 parents, and one teacher took our spots on the bus. We were going home not knowing if we “won”. Everyone was on the bus except for the three in charge.

Outside the bus, the principal and two others were deep in conversation. I couldn’t read their lips. Next, they are walking back to the registration office. We shouldn’t leave until we find out if we won a medal. Seconds later, a text arrives, “We are going back to find out the results”. We must find out! How could you leave not knowing, was their debate. Should it matter? Is mine.

“I don’t think we’ll get anything. And I’m fine with that.” chimed one 6th grader. She says I’m okay with not getting any medal. Yet there’s a faint quiver in her voice. It’s subtle. But if you listen real carefully, you’ll hear it.

Others quickly agreed. “You’re right. I just didn’t do as well.” They all agreed science olympiad changed up the activities. It wasn’t the same as last year. Feedback and reflection danced within their talks. They found out quickly, that they mix it up every year. It was a different kind of hard.

“Now, all this pressure is on you. You’ll be the next sixth graders.” she proclaims to the fifth-grade team with a sense of release. She’s ready to pass the torch. A strange silence came over them, like the winter’s chill coming through the open door, waiting…

Quietly, we stared out the window, wondering how long it would be to find out. Slowly, technology distracted one. Then another. Just I was ready to plead to the bus driver to take me home to my dry warm cozy couch and slip into some comfy sweats, I saw them coming in the distance. Unable to stop myself I announced, “There on their way back.” A roar filled the bus drowning out the pitter patter of rain falling on the tin can again. The tension returned.

They came in. An awkward silence took over as we stared at our leader. Tell us! The usual speech about hard work and then… You got bronze. Cheers soared up and down the aisle. They did well. Who comes out on a wet soggy Saturday morning at 6 am to spend an entire day in under a pop-up? Some crazy dedicated kiddos, parents, and staff!

For now, it was over. Technology distracted the youth. The adults settled back into our own seats and bounced down the bumpy road in our own worlds. Wet, exhausted, and proud of a job well done. Yet some are already talking about silver.

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