2020 a Collaborative Post – Melissa Wantz (T.O.S.A.) & JP (SUPT.)

The year 2020 is certainly an interesting numeric configuration. If you subtract 1776 from 2020 you get the 244 years of the existence of the United States of America. If you think of the last time a year’s numbers lined up like 2020 (repeating) that would be 1919, which was 101 years ago. Twenty twenty in Roman numerals looks like MMXX, which is cool. The Mayan system counts with 20s, and 2020 looks pretty elegant in this culture, too. Mayan numbers read vertically, and so the shell at the bottom is 0. The dot in the middle is 20, and the line at the top 

is 5 (400s) or 2,000. 

 

Twenty is ten twins. The Mayans had twin gods Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who as kids were challenged to play a game of pok-ta-pok after angering the rulers of the land of the dead. Pok-ta-pok is like a mix of basketball and soccer, played by shooting the ball, literally, from the hip into a small hoop. The twins won the game and were welcomed back home as heroes. They later became rulers of the Earth after one was turned into the Moon and the other the Sun. Our sun has an outer shell called a corona that is 2 million degrees. In literature shells are typically perceived as feminine symbols representing birth, good fortune, resurrection. A conch shell in William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies” governs the boys’ meetings. Whoever holds it holds the right to speak. Freedom of speech has infinite value.

The year two thousand twenty seems like an opportunity to stop and think about numbers. Numbers lead us in many directions conceptually, and one attractive focal point is time. We measure time by counting numbers of events, some related to physical phenomena and others more arbitrary. I like to talk with children about their age, their birthdays, and how many orbits around the sun (years) they have traveled. To my mind, this helps ground them in realities they may not have considered. Thinking about numbers can provide context, and context can help us know the world or the self.

One can be an interesting number. One Euro is what you can buy a house for in the Italian village of Gangi in Sicily. Or 1.12 dollars. Gangi has a population of 189 people and a bunch of empty homes from the 1800s. The emptiness is sad for the citizens because it represents a progression of sons and daughters going somewhere else. The village sits on a hill and looks from a distance like a turtle shell. The Maya associated turtles with water and the earth, and also with thunder and drumming. The father of the Hero Twins, the Maize God, is sometimes shown emerging from a turtle shell or holding one as a drum. Another Mayan deity, Pauahtun, wears a turtle shell on his head as he supports the world all by himself, like the Roman god Atlas.

As inhabitants in the 21st century, we are clearly immersed via our screens in a sea of information that challenges us to wade through its depth and complexity in order to understand a simple sense of what’s going on in the present. For many, the ever-growing, exponentially increasing current of information and our access to it renders the “knowing and connecting to the past or future” even more troublesome. If we can’t see in the London fog-like sea of present information, how are we to know where we have been or are going. Numbers, I say, numbers are a useful tool for this wading.

 

Birds that wade include herons, cranes and snipes. Snipes are real, but a snipe hunt is a practical joke started in the 1800s. It is a quest in the dark for a squirrel-like bird that doesn’t exist. The Byrds were a Los Angeles band, not a joke, and their 1965 hit “Turn! Turn! Turn!” gave comfort to people during a complex time by explaining the seasons of life in a simple way. Joni Mitchell was nine years old at the time of the London Smog of 1952, four poisonous days in December when people died and birds smacked into buildings due to air that was 66 times more toxic than normal. Some 18 years later she sang “I have come here to lose the smog and I feel to be a cog in something turning,” but she was talking about Woodstock, New York, not London. She also said we are stardust.

When I think of 2020 and the 244 years of the USA, I think of dividing the difference (244) of the minuend (2020) and the subtrahend (1776) by a conservative 20th century average American life-span, say 70 years. In dividing 224 by this 70-year life span, we get 3.2. This makes me think that just 3 life spans and some change takes us from today’s America to the moment of its inception in 1776. It seems so long ago, 1776, so distant, and yet just three life spans stacked upon themselves reaches back to the days of our Founding Fathers — yes fathers — in just three life spans somehow the singularity of “Fathers” seems repugnant in our enlightening to gender issues in 2020 America.

 

Split 3.2 in half, and you find a pair of 1.6 twins, which is pretty close to the Golden Ratio (1.618033), related to the Fibonacci Sequence, a pattern where each number is the sum of the two before. Seen in flower petals, pine cones, tree branches, conch shells, DNA double helixes and spiral galaxies, the Golden Ratio is not, however, found in black holes, which are examples of singularity. In mathematics, singularity is the point where a function takes an infinite value, especially in space-time, where matter is infinitely dense, as at the center of a black hole. It is at this point that math ceases to be “well-behaved” (a person entering a black hole would undergo unequal stretching or spaghettification, a term coined by the late physicist Stephen Hawking). Not well-behaved was Virginia Woolf, a 20th century English writer who places characters in situations where they feel, interiorly, time-space boundaries stretch and collapse. Rhoda in Woolf’s 1931 novel “The Waves” stands at the edge of a cliff in Spain one day to watch the ocean and feels that she is being dissolved by the passage of time. “Beneath us lie the lights of the herring fleet. The cliffs vanish. Rippling small, rippling grey, innumerable waves spread beneath us. I touch nothing. I see nothing. We may sink and settle on the waves. The sea will drum in my ears.”

Still, in my numerical and arithmetical wonderings, I chose to sidestep the more multi-step mathematical calculations that might drag both me and you into the potentially confusing and perplexing world of statistics. I could have easily researched the average lifespans of the various centuries and averaged those numbers. And I could have considered the average age that people have had children. If I used that calculation, say between 20 and 40, I could have infused my musings with these calculations to more accurately depict the idea of generations of a single family reaching back to the birth of our nation. With these numbers, I might have talked about how many grandmothers, how many great grandmothers it takes to reach back to that national birthday. I didn’t use those numbers and calculations though, because I was trying to make a simple point: that 1776 really isn’t that long ago—just three 70-year old people in a row gets us there.

 

Oliver Jeffers paints and writes children’s books. He also investigates the intersection of art and science in a series of paintings called “Measuring Land and Sea.” In these, he places statistics across beautiful landscapes — waves, prairies, mountain ranges — trying to dissolve an impasse between feeling and reasoning. However, this doesn’t work, he admits: “Rather than increase our understanding of the work, this combination makes things less clear by providing superfluous distraction…” In pok-ta-pok, no doubt, any distraction at all may result in defeat.

Yes, 2020 is calling out to us in all its morphemic and phonemic splendor. It beckons us to ponder numbers and their impact on our lives. And 2020 is there for at least 365 and ¼ days, till we discard it for another fascinating series of values, 2021… ah, a progression.

 

“The Progression” is a 2010 poem about absurd numbers and putting up houses for absurd money. It was written by Omar Pérez, a Cuban poet who earned an English degree in Havana and studied Italian in Tuscany. Pérez believes poetry is a natural function, like drumming rain and the twin spirals of DNA. “The fact that we can give notice of it does not mean that we make it.” Pérez found out at age 25 that he is one of three sons of the late revolutionary Che Guevarra, but this news did not distract him from his purpose. He told PBS: “When I was 25 years old, I was already a human being….I didn’t want to become anything different. I was…what I wanted to be, a poet.” 

20/20 vision is rare after a certain age.

In honor of 2020, poetry, math, and creative collaboration, I offer this poem for 2020;

Twenty twenty

A repeating year

Numerical meaning

With struggle

Comes clear

The non – numeric

Left to the heart

The mind

The pen

Today 

I will start  

Principal Profile December 2019

Maria Hernandez, Ed.D.

Principal

Rio Real Dual Immersion K-8 School

10 Years as Rio Real Principal

13 Years as Principal

7 Years as Teacher

This is Dr. Hernandez’ 10th year as principal of Rio Real, previously she served as principal at Rio Del Valle Middle School. Dr. Hernandez was a teacher in the Ventura Unified School District and  before entering into public schools work, Maria served as a correctional officer/youth counselor at the California Youth Authority.  

Dr. Hernandez earned her Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and Masters in Educational Administration from California State University, Northridge. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California Lutheran University.

Maria enjoys traveling with her family. She grew up in Oxnard and has served her community for years. Family is central to her life both personally and professionally. Her ongoing travels with family helps her see the world through the eyes of her children.  

Dr. Hernandez has helped guide Rio Real as Rio’s first K-8 Dual Immersion Language School and has been a leader in dual immersion  learning at the local, county, state, and national levels. Maria connects families, culture, community, and academic leadership into a quiet and reserved leadership. Her roots in the community have created countless opportunities for children and family alike and are living embodiments of the potential of local children to develop and grow to their highest aspirations while remaining deeply humble and connected to the local community. Maria is there for children and families and for the power of language and cultural identity that enriches individual and collective lives.

We asked Dr. Hernandez the following three questions and her responses follow each;

 

  • What do you think matters most to children when they attend school?

 

When a child comes to school in the morning they expect to be happy, have friends with which to play, be physically and  emotionally safe, and lastly, whether they will be able to engage in the learning process. When we create an atmosphere in our schools that meets these needs and allow these processes to happen, we provide the conditions for children to learn and grow. Children want to feel noticed, cared for and loved to them, learning is secondary.  

 

  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?

 

Through my years in leadership positions I have learned there are several big picture priorities I have to keep in mind. 

First,  I am part of a team and a community in my organization and at my site. My work does not happen in isolation, we have a collective commitment and focus to what we do and who we serve. I have to rely on my team and let my team rely on me as part of the process of building teams.  

Second, my entire staff and I have to be committed to our school vision and goals in order for the organization to move forward and grow. 

Third, the wisdom of us together is greater than that of any one individual. We have to listen to others to lead and be led. 

 

 

  • What has working in schools meant to you in terms of your own development as a person, mother, and citizen?

 

Working in Youth Corrections before coming into education helped me to understand the utmost gravity of the work we do in elementary education.  Working with elementary students specifically has helped me develop relationships and see life and learning through foundational needs. I have developed relationships that have meaning and I have become a better person, mother and citizen of my community because of my work with children and families. I have a sense of commitment and a need to serve that goes beyond the 8-5.  It is my hope and dreams that I make a difference in the lives of students and my community through the work I do.  

 

Rio and the Arts

Rio and the Arts

The Rio School District supports the Arts. It provides opportunities for learners to learn and develop as creative, making people. It also provides chances for the community and other experts to engage with the arts being made in Rio. This takes many forms. In many and most classrooms, classroom teachers embed and integrate arts activities into learning of all kinds and levels. Rio teachers also teach art for art’s sake. Visual arts, musical arts, theatrical and dramatic arts, dance arts, video arts, animation arts, and performance arts all have a prominent place in Rio learning. We acknowledge that to be human is to have the arts in our lives.

Rio uses its limited funding for these purposes. We want to make sure that Rio learners have these opportunities in their lives. One day, in a better “educational world,” the educational budget will declare this priority at a state level. Regardless, sustaining and developing the arts is up to us as a local community. 

Life is better because of the arts.

Simply put.   

November 2019 Principal Profile – Adeline Mendez

November 2019 Principal Profile

Adeline Mendez

Principal – Rio Lindo Elementary School

1st Year as Lindo Principal

1st Year as Principal

12 Years as Teacher

 

This is Ms. Mendez’s first year as principal, previously she served as assistant principal for both Rio Vista and Rio Del Valle middle schools. Ms. Mendez was a teacher at Rio Rosales  and Rio Real Elementary Schools and has served as summer science academy administrator for multiple years.

Ms. Mendez earned her B.A. in History from California State University, Northridge, her teaching credential from California State University, Channel Islands, her counseling credential and M.A. in Counseling from California Lutheran University, and her administrative credential and Masters in Leadership from California State University, Northridge.

Adeline likes to watch old movies and spend time with her family which is huge. Saturdays are for family and Sundays are for football. Ms. Mendez grew up locally in Oxnard and Port Hueneme. Her family is still very rooted here.  

Ms. Mendez is a great example of the strength and vitality of our local community. While many California communities tend towards breaking families apart and the impersonality of the nuclear family, Rio and Oxnard families commonly are able and interested in developing their community through service. Adeline has always worked in service of others and has stepped up to leadership in a variety of roles. At her heart she is a learner and this is an invaluable asset as an educator. Her humility is a sign of her supportive and forward thinking leadership style. 

We asked Ms. Mendez the following three questions and his responses follow each;

 

  • What do you think matters most to children when they attend school?

 

What matters most to children when they attend school is having positive relationships with peers, teachers and other adults on campus.  When students have positive relationships and interactions at school, it creates a sense that they trulybelong and that they matter, thus building a sense ofconnectedness to school.  I believe that students’ social/emotional well being is just as important, if not more so, than their academics needs.  In my past experiences as a classroom teacher, I found that students tried and worked harder when they knew and felt I cared about them, took interest in their likes and dislikes, recognized their strengths or areas they could improve upon.  Positive relationships with teachers and peers creates a safe learning environment where childrens’ innate curiosity, creativity and happiness are stimulated and energized.  

 

 

  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?

 

Throughout my experience in leadership roles I’ve learned that there is more to being an educational leader than merely managing a school site.  As a school administrator, not only are you responsible for the implementation of academic programs and instruction but also developing the capacity of 

students, parents and faculty.  In my role as a school leader, I have had to counsel, advocate, mentor and develop individual’s abilities.  I believe my success as an educational leader comes from cultivating competency in others’ capacity to lead.  Empowering others to see their own leadership capabilities is a true measurement of an educational leader.       

 

  • What has working in schools meant to you in terms of your own development as a person, mother, and citizen?

 

Working in schools has been a great privilege and honor.  I have been fortunate enough to work with amazing people and schools that have influenced my development as a person, mother, and citizen.  As a person, I have become more empathetic, collaborative, reflective and less reactive. As a mother, I am more patient, understanding and attentive to their needs.  As a citizen, I have a greater sense of purpose and responsibility to the community that I work and live in.  

Throughout, my educational journey there have been teachers, principals, counselors, peers and other school personnel who assisted and inspired me in various ways.  I now feel an immense obligation to give back to the community that has given me the opportunity to develop into the educational leader I am today.              

 

Youth Truth Survey

2 BOOKS

2 BOOKS

Post by the Supt.

John Puglisi Ph.D.

I just finished reading two books, both connecting me to a teacher I have known for some time (Judith Green) and to many other teacher ethnographers. We have many common threads that connect us all but surely ethnography is an elemental part of the weave. 

The first book ties a variety of examples of writer/educators in describing ways schools, classes, teachers can get at “deeper learning.” They offer views into dialogic learning and critical thinking for students. The second book, an older text revisited, takes an ethnographic look at what it’s like to be a school principal. Both books connect me to many well worn though processes as well as new takes on being an educator.

Deeper learning is a worthy aim in almost any context. Deeper learning certainly avails the learner of practice in unpacking complexity through simple routines; observing, taking notes, thinking, thinking with others, and thinking about thinking. In this age of layers and layers of sometimes unnecessary societal complexity, I often see deep learning and deep work as essential to barely knowing what’s going on. What’s going on? The song asks…. Who and what is burying us in unnecessary layers and shrouds of complexity? 

Who shall be practiced in weighing through the unnecessary layers? Who shall be elevated to decision making which chooses to unburden others of unnecessary complexity? Of course there is existential complexity at every level of consciousness and knowledge development. Schools and curriculum in America, though, seem so well designed in dumping the unnecessary layers and unbounded quantities of things to master. This condition often reduces opportunities to go deep and develop deep literacies which are at the core of social and economic mobility and flexibility. 

Great teachers, though, are often great at wading through the challenges to guide learners on their own paths of deep learning while building the reading, writing, speaking, and scientific practices that serve the learner at every age. Most commonly, they do so through a great reverence for the value of the individual inquirer simultaneous with life and the universe itself. 

The second book about being a principal and about the role of the ethnographer in school cultures is deeply connected with my own trajectory as an educator. From teacher to principal to superintendent and all the while with an ethnographic lens. The book, first written in 1973, brings to mind a time of my childhood while framing seemingly timeless aspects of the role of principal. Even then it suggested that principals, beyond being middle managers in school systems, were being asked to be change agents. It drew an interesting comparison between the principal and the ethnographer such that the principal worked to resolve, eliminate, and prevent problems while the ethnographer sought to find them and describe them. This really captured an internal personal conundrum. A never ending battle. It brought to mind educational leader roles in any position in the hierarchy as perhaps agents of improvement rather than change, agents of meaning making, agents of collaboration, agents of advancement of others. In its final chapters it suggested that principals are aimed more at stabilizing than changing as they provide the linkage between bureaucracy and the individual needs of all the many diverse people they interact with each day.

If we accept that everything is changing all the time. What does this ask the principal to do? If not stabilizing to sameness then perhaps helping systems, community, people find balances that too are always changing. Either way, two good books got me thinking, got me remembering, got me connecting to years of work and more than 34 orbits round the sun thinking about and acting on what schools, classrooms, teachers, teacher leaders and educators do and aim to do. 2  good books.

2019 Science Carnival