About Me

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I've been an educator since 1995 where I've served as both a teacher and administrator. I believe that serving others is the key to success and make it my goal to be a servant leader for students, teachers, parents, and the community. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The last six can be the best six

Six more weeks. This is the time when people are getting tired. You and your kids have experienced intense learning and growth and that takes hard work from everyone.  Behaviors tend to become more erratic as the year comes to an end.  Students (and adults) are getting anxious and ready for a break.  The temptation as the year comes to a close is to think, "I hope I can just make it through."  I've felt this way and I know others have as well.

But, I'd like to make another suggestion.  Instead of just making it through these last six weeks, how about we do the opposite. How about making the last six weeks the best six weeks?

Here are some ideas:

1)  Focus the fun -   As you create your lessons, intentionally ask questions like, "How can I add some more fun to this?" For example, you could turn a lesson into a game.  You could let kids create something related to what they are learning.  You could let them teach something, possibly using an app like FlipGrid.  The possibilities are endless.  

2) Can the count down - When you count down the days to the end of school, you may be doing the exact opposite of what you want. You could be sending the message to kids (and possibly to yourself) that school is something to be endured until summer break instead of an opportunity to learn to the very end.  We could also be creating a sense of anxiety in some of your kids, especially those to whom school is the one stable factor in their lives.  Instead of counting down the days, think of ways to make each day count. 

3) Love em' with letters - Write a note to every student to give them at the end of the year.  Start now.  Remind them of all the positive things they have done and learned.  Tell them what you appreciate most about them.  Reflect on a fun or funny moment you had with them.  In doing this, you are also reminding yourself of how special your kids are.  When we focus on the good things about people, we start seeing more of those good things in people. 

4) Pursue the positive - As the school year wraps up, there tend to be more challenges than usual.  Calendars are full, time is short, behaviors are often less than desirable.  The interesting thing is, you tend to get more of what you focus on.  If you focus on difficulties, you are going to see more difficulties.  However, if you focus on the positive, you will see more positives. Like how much growth your kids have experienced.  How so many have matured since the beginning of the school year.  How you have improved and grown in your profession.  Focusing on the positive helps you keep a positive attitude and that spreads to your kids. 

5) Leverage the learning -  Squeeze as much learning as you can out of the year.  Although routines will be altered due to activities, it is imperative to stay focused on learning.  Indeed, that is why we are all here.  Do everything you can to use these last days to help your kids continue to grow academically.  Stick to your learning routines and keep the expectations high.  It is not always easy, but I've never met an educator who looked back and said, "I wish I hadn't taught my kids as much as I did."  It will be worth it.    

The last six weeks can be the best six weeks.  We just have to choose to make it so.

What would you add to this list?  I'd love to hear more ideas from you. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Political involvement

I've never been very politically active.  For whatever reason, politics were not a priority.  Now that I'm older, I see the mistake in that.  Politicians make laws.  They determine how are taxes are used. They decide the direction of our cities, our state, and our country.  By not being politically active outside of voting, I've let others decide my fate and the fate of my state and nation.

This year, all of that changed. My eyes have been opened and I see the potential harm that can come from allowing the wrong people to be in office.  Politicians (I wish I could say statesmen, but they aren't) are elected to serve the people.  All the people. Sadly, many choose to serve their base and leave the rest to fall.  I've let that happen.  I've not let my voice be heard.  By not speaking out and talking to our leaders, I've allowed others (lobbyists, special interest groups, campaign contributors) to get the ears of our leaders and take us places we don't need to be.  It is time to change that.

My voice may be small and quiet, but it is a voice.  When I join with others who have the same voice, we can bring about change.  That is what we are trying to do right now with public education in Texas.  The first hurdle is the Republican Primaries.  If we win this race, change will be much easier to put in place.   If not, we will be running uphill.  But we will keep running.  The future of Texas is on the line and I will not give up.  Not now. Not ever.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Where do they stand? - For Texas Educators

Normally, I don't get very involved in politics.  This year is different.  The public school system in Texas is under attack and I refuse to stand on the sidelines and watch the battle.  I wrote this post for educators to see the stances of those who wish to represent them as Lieutenant Governor of Texas. I was especially disturbed by current Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's responses, or should I say lack of responses.  It seems to be a thumb of the nose to Texas educators saying, "If you want to know where I stand, go look it up yourself.  But don't bother me."

Where do they stand? 

Recently, the Texas PTA sent out a questionnaire to the four candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor. The questions had to do with education and public schools.

Below are links to the responses from all candidates, both Republican and Democrat. Please read so you can make an informed decision when you go to the polls and vote in the Primaries. Remember, whoever wins the primary for each party will be their candidate for Lieutenant Governor. In Texas, which tends to vote Republican, whoever wins the Republican primary is usually the favorite to win the general election in November.

As public school educators, it is imperative that we choose someone who best represents the interests of public school children, educators, and retirees.

Republican Candidates:

Democratic Candidates:

Remember, early voting begins Tuesday, February 20 and the official Primary Election Day is Tuesday, March 6. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018


Last week, Empower Texans sent a letter to a number of Texas educators asking them to be "whistleblowers" against districts that used school resources to encourage people to vote. Empower Texans is a highly conservative group that is also vocally pro school choice/voucher and supports candidates with this same stance. 

Instead of firing back angrily, Texas educators decided to turn the tables instead. They took to Twitter this week to "blow the whistle" on the great things that public educators are doing.

The next step is for Texas educators and public education supporters to get to the polls and vote for pro-education candidates in the primaries, particularly the Republican primaries, in March.  

I’m #blowingthewhistle on my teacher friends who spend extra hours, use their own money, and lose sleep trying to ensure that their students have the best learning environment possible. (@bbcorno)

Hey @EmpowerTexans I’m #blowingthewhistle on our Sped teachers and aides who work with students across every grade level and subject no matter the students disability all in a public school setting with no vouchers needed. (@bagrumbles)

Hey @empowertexans I'm #blowingthewhistle on my daughter's kinder teacher and all the parents who chip in our own money to buy snacks for her class, so everyone can have enough brain power throughout the day to learn to read and no one goes hungry. (@mrsbriggle)

Hey, @EmpowerTexans, I’m #blowingthewhistle on @Roxanne_Will & all the librarians who make sure kids have the books they love to read. #blockvote (@breckq)

@EmpowerTexans #blowingthewhistle on teachers who will stop at nothing to get students with disabilities the services they deserve Bc we want to see them SUCCEED #blockvote #txed #TxLege (@heyitsjay14)

Hey, @EmpowerTexans, I'm #blowingthewhistle on every teacher working late tonight and heading in early tomorrow, staying late, spending their own money on classroom needs and somehow staying relentlessly positive day in and day out... #txed #txlege (@JoelNihlean)

@EmpowerTexans I’m #blowingthewhistle on my colleagues and myself who love our students like our own kids. We do more than just teach, we build relationships. We spend our own $ on supplies and foster a safe environment in our classrooms. (@celintx55)

@EmpowerTexans I am #blowingthewhistle on a teacher who takes her student’s clothes home to wash every Friday afternoon so they will have clean clothes to wear on Monday morning. #ETgohome (@CajunTexan77)

@EmpowerTexans I am #blowingthewhistle on my math team. We all completely turned our classrooms into operating rooms when teaching ‘order of operations.’ The kids had their own surgical masks and caps, simulated operating room sounds...the works! (@CarolJFernandez)

I am #blowingthewhistle on my children's teachers. They are a second mom/ dad to them while they are at school. They love them, push them, and grow them. @EmpowerTexans go slink back to whatever rock you came from (@CounselorCG1)

Hey @EmpoweringTexans I’m #blowingthewhistle on all the dedicated paraprofessionals who serve kids faithfully despite being paid so little. (@breckq)

Public educators in Texas are doing great things, often with very limited materials or funding. If it will benefit a child, Texas public school educators will do it. That's just who we are. Don't ever let the words and actions of those who don't support public education change that.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Behavior Influences Behavior

I spent the first four days of last week at CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention training. I am now a certified NCI Instructor.  

The NCI course is focused on developing skills to minimize crisis situations as well as respond to them when necessary. It was beneficial and I hope that we can get more in our district trained soon.

One of the key points in the training is a concept called Integrated Experience. In layman's terms, this means "Behavior influences behavior." Think about that. Behavior Influences Behavior. Simply put, the way we behave can influence the way our students (or spouses, coworkers, family, etc) behave.

Let me give you some examples. Let's say you are teaching and your keep raising your voice. What do your kids do? Usually raise their voice. If you are talking softly, but with authority, your kids will usually talk quieter as well.

When I am at home with my teenage son, I will sometimes get frustrated and raise my voice at him. He responds by raising his voice back. What do I do? "Don't you raise your voice to me!" This only causes him to raise his voice again.

A student is visibly anxious, slumped over, tapping their feet. Their teacher approaches them and says sternly, "Sit up straight and stop tapping! You've got work to do." The student jumps back and shouts, "Leave me alone."

Picture the same situation. This time the teacher approaches, bends down, and quietly says, "You look like something is bothering you. How can I help you?" The student says they are not feeling well and asks for a drink of water. The teacher sends them out and they come back and go to work.

In each of these cases, the adult's behavior directly impacted the child's behavior.

As educators, the way we respond to a situation can either help defuse it or cause it to escalate. The course goes into this in detail, but in a nutshell, our behavior is often the deciding factor in how a situation turns out.

I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on situations you have faced this week. Ask yourself some tough questions such as, "How did my behavior influence how the other person behaved?" and "What could I do differently the next time I'm faced with this?" 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mission Statement Breakdown

Below is a post I sent to staff this week as we introduce our new Mission and continue working on our Vision, Values, and Goals.

“The Mission of Northside Primary School is to create a safe, nurturing environment where each Kindergarten and 1st Grade child learns to his or her highest potential.”

Last year, a team of Northside staff took input from the entire faculty and crafted our new mission statement.  It was a time consuming process going through all of the great input to craft a succinct word picture of what we are about. We literally selected each word with care and a fair amount of debate.  In this post, I’d like to break this mission down and talk about each part.  

“The Mission of Northside Primary School” - While this may seem like just a placeholder, it is really saying this:  “What follows is why we are here.”
“To create a safe, nurturing environment” - When kids walk into Northside Primary School, they should feel that this is the safest place they could be, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.  They should know that every adult is working hard to keep them safe all day long. They should also know it is a place where they can grow and develop among people who love them unconditionally and are committed to their success.

“Where each Kindergarten and 1st Grade child” - We are a Primary campus.  Our focus is on primary kids and everything we do must reflect that.  Every lesson, every activity, every word we say, every action we take.  What we do here may not be the same as at higher level schools, but it will be what is best for our Kindergartners and 1st Graders.

“Learns at his or her highest potential” - The primary purpose of Northside Primary is learning.  That is the reason we exist. We recognize that every child is capable of learning at high levels, often much higher than we give them credit for. We also know that every child is different (hence the “his or her”).  For this reason, we will do whatever is necessary to help each and every child reach their potential.  We will set goals that stretch them instead of holding them back.  If a child needs extra support, we will give it.  If they are not learning in the way we teach, we will teach differently.  We will ensure that every child is successful, no matter how much we have to stretch to make it happen.  

Will fulfilling this mission be easy? No.  Will it stretch us and make us uncomfortable at times?  Yes.  Will fulfilling our mission be what is best for Northside kids?  Absolutely.

Protecting your best

Often, our mistakes teach us our greatest lessons.  This was brought home to me clearly this week.  I had a student who was behaving poorly for a number of reasons in a class.  His behavior was interfering with the learning of the rest of the students in the class.  The teacher was fairly new and had a demeanor that seemed to conflict with the student.  She also was regularly visibly upset by the child's behavior.  So, after spending a couple of days trying to find a solution, I chose to move the student.  I moved them to one of my best teachers classrooms, hoping that the change would help the student. It didn't.  Instead, it disrupted the better teachers classroom and affected the learning of her kids.  Now, my average teacher is happy and my better teacher is threatening to retire if she makes it through the year.

In his book, Shifting the Monkey, Todd Whitaker says that we need to do everything we can to protect our best people by not putting someone else's monkey on their back.  I did just the opposite.  I took the problem child monkey from my poorer teacher and placed it squarely on my better teacher's back.  Bad move.

What should I have done?  I should have left the child where they were and provided support and additional training to their original teacher.  This would have helped her grow professionally while protecting one of my best.  It would have created more work for me, but in the name of protecting my my best, it would have been worth it.

This was a hard lesson to learn, but one I will take to heart.  As Todd Whitaker says, monkeys need to stay on the back of the people to whom they belong.