Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hi-Cap in High School

It was an honor being asked to present at the 2016 Celebration of Talent conference, and I spent weeks figuring how to teach teachers about supporting highly capable students in high school.  Then I realized that the best thing I could do is share the stories of students--straight from their own mouths (or word documents)! I reached out to a handful of young adults from throughout Washington State, asked them 4 important questions, then compiled some of their most poignant answers.


The following presentation includes insights from 14 respondents with a WIDE variety of high school experiences. I hope you'll review these answers with an open mind. And I invite you to share them with teachers, students, and even parents who could benefit by a more thorough understanding of how to support today's gifted students.


Hi-Cap in High School: https://youtu.be/0Kq9_ftAguo


Since the slides have been converted to a video, you'll probably want to pause to give yourself 
enough time to read each person's answers (shift in speaker noted by ****).  
And the video referenced with 6 types of gifted students can be found at  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ksiHIpDkJhY


I'd also like to give a sincere THANK YOU to my former students and to my friends who shared their experiences for this presentation. If you'd like your name listed as a contributor, please just let me know!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Transforming education with Erin Jones

One month ago, I attended a diversity and equity session at the University where I work. I heard Erin Jones speak to two different groups, and I spoke briefly with her one-on-one between sessions. Throughout the entire day, I was not only impressed by her realistic awareness of today's education system, but I was also increasingly inspired by her willingness to confront difficult issues that I am also passionate about. 

Two of her statements resonated the most with me that day. Once, in response to the legislative and systemic challenges facing today's teachers, Erin exclaimed, "I think there's going to be a revolution in education someday soon, and I can't wait to be a part of it!" And I write the word "exclaimed" intentionally because she said this with passion and energy, and a great big, beaming smile. In the last 15 years, I've probably had hundreds of conversations with hundreds of educators from around Washington state; I've heard various people speak of potential change with a voice of hope, or determination, or even doubt and resignation. But I have never heard such enthusiasm about the idea of revolutionizing education! It was truly motivating to hear her speak as if we can can actually make a change!

Later in the day, Erin made a statement that has radically changed the way I view my own purpose and potential as a teacher.  The conversation at hand was the challenge of teaching to the curriculum and/or the test when we as teachers know something else might be truly better for our kids. Since Erin was an educator long before she became an administrator, she understood this dilemma. She described some instructional choices that she had made in her own classroom over the years and one of my colleagues asked how her administrators felt about those decisions. I was particularly anxious to hear her answer because I was about to leave for a fairly nerve wracking meeting at the high school where I also teach. For people outside the field of education, this struggle might not be well known, but it can be incredibly intimidating to stand up for what you believe is right for your students and for yourself when you feel so unsupported by the powers that be.  With that current situation heavy on my heart, I listened intently to Erin's response. Then she literally changed the way I view myself and my sense of job security: "I had to get to a place in my career where I could say, it's OK. You can fire me for something [in the curriculum] that I didn't do, but you'll have a hard time finding anyone to replace me and the things I CAN DO for my kids." That was it! My eyes welled up with tears and I suddenly felt more empowered as an educator than I ever had before because I knew that going into my meeting that afternoon, I didn't need to be afraid even if I wasn't supported by administration. As long as I do what I believe is right, and do it with the same sense of compassion and commitment that Erin had shown all day, I know that I will be OK. Even if I face opposition along the way, I'll still be able to make a difference. Maybe one day I'll even be a part of that educational revolution that she had spoken so passionately about.

Before I left, I told one of my coworkers that I was sad I had to miss the rest of the presentation but I had to leave for my high school meeting. And I jokingly said, "I wish I could hang out some more with this Erin woman. I'm pretty sure we'd be friends if she was a teacher on this side of the state."

When I got home from work that night, I told my husband that I'd had an important realization and I felt much better about the situation I was going through. My plan was to email the presenter the next day and tell her what a difference she had made for me. Before I could tell him anymore about it though, he reminded me about a rally that he had been invited to and said that we wouldn't be able to attend that night because it overlapped with another family event. I asked him what rally it was, and he told me it was for a lady named Erin Jones who was running for state superintendent. I asked to hear her name again, and then asked to see her picture on the Facebook event. Sure enough, the woman who had inspired me and challenged me all morning long was the very same woman running for superintendent of our state education system! Aside from my embarrassment at the fact that I didn't know this already, and my disappointment but I wasn't able to attend her rally, I was ecstatic!  I decided I should take some time to investigate her platform and to really think through the email I had intended to send her. So here I am, one month later, and more encouraged than ever. 

From everything I've seen, Erin Jones is the real deal. She has the mind and heart of a teacher, with the vision and resume of a state leader. She is one of the few leaders who truly understands how important it is to fully support students AND teachers at the same. And she is ready to take on that challenge! 

If you want to see for yourself, you can follow Erin Jones on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ErinJones2016/ 

Erin, I want to say THANK YOU for all you're doing to inspire change--In me personally, and in the system. And I hope you don't mind that I wrote a full blown post instead of a private email. This movement is just too good to keep to myself! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

No, I'm not pregnant but thanks for asking.

Awkward. I just can't find any other way to begin a post about weight gain. For many people, it's uncomfortable enough to deal with silently but it can be downright embarrassing when someone else comments on it. There's so much speculation and judgement surrounding  weight and appearance these days. Either someone has gained too much or lost too much or worried too much about it or criticized others too much for it. It's just awkward and although I've had LOTS of inner conversations about my recent weight gain, this is the first time I've had anything figured out well enough to write about it. 

You see, the only thing I don't really love about my new job is that I spend so much time driving from school to school--Since August, I've basically been in a sedintary job, and judging my the rate at which I've outgrown my wardrobe, the rest of my lifestyle doesn't work too well with a sedintary job. At first it wasn't so bad: I had a new job and a new paycheck, so why shouldn't I invest in some new clothes? And so what if a few of the new pieces were a size bigger than I wore before? 

But today I tried on a new spring dress...and I was pretty disappointed with what I saw. Lord only knows what possessed me to follow that up by trying on a swimsuit!! Maybe my subconscious was trying to make me see what I didn't want to face?! Either way, I walked out of that store empty handed but full of determination: It's time to balance out my lifestyle and get back into the healthier sizes that are now stored in my basement. 

Don't get me wrong, for the first time in forever I'm not doubting myself as a result of this awkward topic. It's as if some magical force has allowed me to separate my physical appearance from the happiness I feel about my job, my family, my friends, my life in general. It's just interesting that it's this same compartmentalization that's inspiring me to change myself.  

That's where my friends come in though: I've loved getting to spend more time with you this last year and I'd like to keep doing that, just preferably with some healthier activities in the mix! I'm not talking about gym memberships or marathon training, not at least until more of my workout clothes fit again! Just something other than our usual coffee/dinner/conversation. If you want to try a new yoga studio, I'll be there.  If you want to go for a walk in the rain, I'll head your way! If you want to take your dog or toddler to the park, I'll help you carry their gear. If you want to try out a trampoline park or go cart racing, I'm your girl! But I will NOT go swimsuit shopping with you ;)

Until then, here's to facing the awkward in life! [Raises glass of lemon water... Cheers!]