I was so excited about the video chat we had with Melinda Gates (still am!!) , I totally forgot to write last night.   What I meant to do was to add some of my favorite quotes from the book. Forgive the incorrect citing.

In wondering about the moment of lift… “What takes us past the tipping point when the forces pushing us up overpower the forces pulling us down and we’re lifted from the earth and begin to fly?” p.3

“Being a feminist means believing that every woman should be able to use her voice and pursue her potential, and that women and men should all work together to take down the barriers and end the biases that still hold women back.” p.7

A quote from Melinda’s mom…” ‘If you don’t set your own agenda, somebody else will.’ ” p.21

“I suspect most of us, at one time or another, say ‘I quit.’ And we often find that ‘quitting’ is just a painful step on the way to a deeper commitment.” p.24

A favorite question from her friend Killian…” ‘What do you know now in a deeper way than you knew it before?’ ” “Wisdom isn’t about accumulating more facts; it’s about understanding big truths in a deeper way.” p.27

One last one for tonight…On the topic of her view on contraception (which she believes in very strongly) and the Catholic church (she is Catholic)…”That’s what listening does. It opens you up. It draws out your love–and love is more urgent than doctrine…ultimately moral questions are personal questions.  Majorities don’t matter on issues of conscience.  No matter what views others may have, I am  the one who has to answer for my actions, and this is my answer.” p 74

 

Today I got an email invite to a virtual meeting that was titled URGENT! Please try to attend. The meeting was at 4:15 and my school day ends at 3:00, so I knew it must be super important and honestly, I was a little freaked out.

It turns out our district is doing an amazingly proactive thing. On Friday, our students will stay home as our teachers use the day to plan for the time we may have to close due to COVID-19.

I don’t want to dwell on the virus, instead I want to commend my district for taking this step.  We have many teachers who use our Learning Management System on a daily basis, and post their assignments, class materials, etc. Many that use it when they have a sub so learning can continue.  We also have many who are still learning, who have dipped their toe in, but are not quite ready to use it for multiple days so learning could continue if we were asked to stay home for a week or more. So we are taking a day to help and plan. Administrators are going to check to see that all teachers are able to get on a virtual meeting. And instructional coaches are going to be working to put together possibilities and “one-pagers” to support our staff.

Rather than waiting and possibly putting teachers in the spot of creating on their own in the last minute, we are actually providing additional support and being proactive in a situation where we may not have much control otherwise.

 

I am currently reading The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates.  Before reading the book, I have to confess I didn’t know a lot about her, other than she was married to Bill Gates and they run a foundation that does a lot of work to support educational endeavors. Wow, am I impressed with her.  She writes with passion, humility, vulnerability and such knowledge.

The subtitle of the book is How Empowering Women Changes the World.  Mrs. Gates spends the first part of the book largely focused on contraception and the idea that if women had more of a choice in their family planning, there would not only be a huge impact on poverty, but on the overall health of the population.  This was an idea that was new to me. I’d always thought about the idea of contraception in terms of choice in my limited, privileged view. I had not considered that in impoverished countries, if women were given the choice to space out or limit pregnancies, not only would it have a financial impact, but would also increase the health of women and children in those countries. Of course this makes sense and I feel naive for not considering this before, but the statistics and the stories in this book have opened my eyes and made me think about  how cultures around the world, including my own in the US could be so different by empowering women.  Did you know that the US is one of only 7 countries in the world without a guaranteed paid maternity leave? That to me is crazy.

Another thing that Mrs. Gates has stated over and over is the idea that she does not want women to “rise to power” and replace men, but that working side by side in a partnership makes everything better. Getting to that equity and partnership is really about finding the people who have been pushed to the outside, the people on the margins, and making them feel included and part of the decisions that need to be made. Yes, of course. I am not doing a good job at explaining what she so clearly does. My comments make this sound like common sense (and I realize that it really is), but the fact that her foundation (and Bill’s) is doing this work and her descriptions of where she’s gone, people she’s talked with and the changes that have happened are amazing.

And the bonus of it all is that my book club gets to Skype with her on Tuesday about this book. I am thrilled and honored to be a part of this.  I have a lot of questions in my notes of things I’m wondering about what she’s written, and I’m sure I’ll have much more to say in a few days!

I like reading other people’s lists about them, so here is a list about me…

  1. I have taught in 5 districts, 11 buildings,  and 23 different classrooms/spaces in 24 years in education.
  2. My wedding anniversary is the same date as one of my best friend’s birthdays (we got married the day she turned 21 and broke her ankle-but we didn’t meet until years later).
  3. I spend a semester in England and lived in a manor house that looks like a castle and was used in the filming of the movie The Haunting.
  4. I had a mini-lop rabbit (where the ears hang down) when I was younger and we had a leash and took him on “hops” around the yard.
  5. I have a daughter that looks like my twin (seriously, if you hear of any mom/daughter look-alike contests, let me know. I think we could win).

I’m almost out of time to post for today, so I’m ending the list there. Also, I can’t think of anything else this late at night. Until tomorrow, slicers!

Tonight we went to see Frozen Jr.  My daughter was on the hair and make-up crew and was also responsible for helping with one very important costume change. The show was great.  The voices of these 7th and 8th graders are so powerful for such a young age. It was definitely not what one would expect for a junior high theater production.

What struck me the most, however, was after the performance.   The cast and crew all gathered in the gym to sign autographs for the younger audience members, but what they were really interested in was seeing other cast and crew members and sharing their thoughts from the show.  Small groups of actors still in costume started to gather. Then it became a bigger group and all of a sudden it was a group picture. Kids calling to each other over the noise of the gym, not wanting the picture to happen unless every person was there. Kids came running and slid to land in the front row. They had their arms around one another and it was just an organic showing of friendship and love. Parents didn’t even realize what was happening at first, then as the knowledge spread, parents came running, cameras held high, not wanting to miss the shot.

As someone who also works in this school, I loved seeing these students in this very different light. They were confident, happy and every one of them seemed to feel like they belonged to something bigger. My wish is for all kids, but especially middle-grade kids, to have this feeling. The feeling of being a part of something, of a larger group who are all connected and bonded.  There may have been bickering and drama at this rehearsal or during that scene, but at the end of the show, they were one cast and crew celebrating together. It was wonderful.

I could easily go on and on about the topic of grades.  I have developed a new viewpoint about grades in the last few months and while it’s hard for me to live by, I’m trying to model my philosophy the best I can.  I’ve decided I don’t believe in grades.  I was listening to a podcast a couple months ago and the host mentioned that grades were developed essentially because a college professor wrote his students’ scores in the back of a notebook and divided them into quartiles, creating essentially the first grading scale. This seems rather arbitrary.  The world functioned, grew, discoveries were made, books were written, all before the invention of grades. People still learned.

Just my opinion, but why do we really need grades? I know the staandard reasons-GPAs and college entrance, etc. Let’s be honest, what do they really show us? Who is compliant? Who can play school well? Do grades truly show who has mastered content or just who can memorize really well the night before a test? What about the student who has mastered the material, can perform on an assessment, but doesn’t do homework. Why should the student who doesn’t play school, but knows the material fail and the student who does the assignments, but may not really understand pass with flying colors?

It’s only day 4 and I’m already struggling to think of things to write about. I’m proud of myself because this is the most consecutive days I’ve blogged ever! I’m a little worried, though because I’m sitting here stuck.  I guess I should try to write before 10:40 at night and maybe my brain would function better and I could think of more to write.

I’m currently working on my ISTE certification and I had to respond to 3 discussion questions yesterday. I had the same issue. It took me hours to answer those 3 questions. They weren’t hard, but I couldn’t get my thoughts to be coherent enough to submit them.  I babbled on for about 4 pages, then spent time cutting and pasting to try to make it work.  It ended up okay in the end and I got it submitted, but it was a very long process.

I need to be on the lookout for small moments to share. I will start tomorrow. Right now, I’m calling it a night.

One of my favorite times of the day is going to bed.  I don’t do it early enough on most nights and sometimes there’s not even a reason for staying awake.  But when I’m finally comfy in my pjs and my face is cleaned of the dirt and dust from the day, and my teeth are brushed and I climb under the covers, there’s nothing like that feeling. But the best part is I just got a new pillow, and when my head sinks into that softness, it’s magical.

I’m lucky enough to typically fall asleep right away, but sometimes I just want to be awake in that small space of time and enjoy the comfort of going to bed for a little longer.

I want to re-write or edit this when I have more brain power. I think it might be a good 1st draft to use with students and discuss how to improve the writing.  I want to give the reader a sense of feeling and I think there’s a long way to go with the 2 paragraphs above. But that’s for another post. Now, I’m going to go enjoy my favorite time of day.

A question I had to answer on a recent survey asked what superpower I wish to have. I answered that I wish I had the ability to stop time.  Imagine what could be accomplished if only the world could be paused now and then; you could finish a few tasks, then resume your regularly scheduled life.

Then yesterday happened.  February 29. Leap Day.  An extra day added every 4 years–but what do we really do with these extra 24 hours? Do we even think of them as such?  I personally do not.  Well, did not.  But yesterday I had a thought. I don’t know if it’s original or not, but I’ve never heard anyone else mention this before and I’ve never read anything about it.  Full disclosure-I’ve not done any research about it either.

Here is my idea…

We make Leap Day it’s own day.  I know, I know, it already is. But it’s also still the day of the week. For example, February 28 was Friday (at least in the US), and February 29 was Saturday.  But what if February 29 was JUST Leap Day.  Then March 1 was Saturday.  Everything could still go on as normal. Stores, restaurants could be open, etc. and employees could be scheduled on Leap Day as a day.  Birthdays, anniversaries, etc. would still be on Leap day and the decision would still be to celebrate on Feb. 28 or March 1.  But this way, we actually see it as an extra day.  I would personally vote for schools to be closed, but that could be up for discussion.

I’m sure there are issues I’m not considering and there are questions to answer (Would the stock market be open? Would there be mail?).  Not to mention the WHOLE world would have to agree to move to this.  But wouldn’t it change things, even just in our minds, to get an extra day in the week every 4 years? It would for me, at least.  Just saying.

Today I spent a good chunk of time supporting the art teacher in my building by helping her create a video to flip her class. While flipping is somewhat of a buzzword right now, and not really a new thing, this situation is a little different.

This art teacher is amazing.  She has several challenges to overcome- the biggest one being that she is visually impaired, but in addition she suffers from arthritis in her thumbs.  Demonstrating how to make a clay pinch pot for 6 periods all day is very painful for her.  So she had the idea to create a video, similar to the YouTube demo videos all the kids watch, showing them how to make a pinch pot. I should also mention this teacher is not one to use technology much, mainly because it’s hard for her.

She spent several hours one evening learning to use the hovercam and creating the videos.  She spent time over the weekend watching the videos, noting timing and writing down the captions and information she wanted to add as text.

I took her notes and added said text because the editing features are very tiny and even with her enlarged screen, it was just really challenging for her.  After the video was complete, she had to learn how to add the video link to the LMS our district uses.

Her whole class watched the first video together today and she shared how hard it was for her, all that she had to learn and how far out of her comfort zone it was.  And after it was over, the class of rowdy, sometimes disrespectful, 7th graders clapped for her. She could not stop smiling.

The video was a bit of a process, and it was a bit messy (literally and figuratively) at times; but what a great example of perseverance and new learning to show her students.  And she’s not finished. She said she really wants to learn the editing part for herself.  So we are going to try to use a giant Chromebit monitor that lives in our Innovation Hub to see if that makes the image big enough.  I can’t stop thinking about her smile of success.  It’s why I do this job.  And it’s so worth it.