To the 8th Graders…… and Graduates

To the 8th graders.. Going to high school

The High schoolers graduating

The college graduates…. Of 2020

As I’ve been observing these last few months I’ve noticed that many people have been focused on the loss of the end of the year celebrations.. Milestones. Rituals. Ceremonies… I can feel the loss of much more than these events in the people’s dismay as well as their rallies to create unconventional versions of these events. I can feel and see people wanting to make sure their values are being expressed.

People love their family, their children, their promoters, their graduates. They want them to know it. They want them to feel special. They want them to feel accomplished. These feelings are deep in many cases, and for others they lend to a chance to have a party so people can enjoy life and each other. 

After working in schools for the last four decades I know that the end and beginning of life phases, while celebrated and potentially fun, can also be times of great stress and uncertainty in good times. In coronatimes? Well I imagine that’s amplified.

One thing about staying in educational organizations over decades is the opportunity to develop a long term perspective. For me, I see the constants and the similarities, and also the evolution of students, families, and learners over time. Students have so much information access these days, so many valuable skills and practices, they care so much and easily and creatively find ways to express their care. 2020 students at every level, are the best our society has ever produced ( sorry- “greatest generation”).

My message to all the 8th graders and school graduates out there is to believe in yourself, your family, and your community and move through the phases of survival, resilience and on to thriving. In these times, only a few are thriving, but each of us can see things in ourselves that are coming to the forefront. We hope these aspects of character, courage, and clarity are focused on helping yourself feel ok, helping yourself get on a learning and making path, helping yourself help your family and community and ultimately to find ways to build strength and joy for the gift of living life.

Your Rio friends and teachers and support staff believe in you, we miss seeing you in the normal ways, but we know you are ready for the next thing, the next stage, the next school, in whatever form it takes. We celebrate your learning and past accomplishments and we equally acknowledge the struggles and challenges you go through to get to this point in your life. 

Some things never change. Working hard, caring for people, dreaming of things you’d like to do and taking actions in that direction – these remain constants. We ask that you be mindful of the new safety precautions during these pandemic times so that you can stay well and you can keep others well. We will see you soon in person, until then, the art of being your most full self online is the next great challenge for the students and graduates of 2020 and you have a long lead in this race already.  


From Compulsory to…..

From Compulsory to….. eh…

From Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation

Engagement and Love and Drive to learn

These days teachers are experiencing a great differential in every classroom and learning context. Differentials between students and their engagement and completion of assignments. Differentials between student behavior before coronatimes and during these stay at home times. Even when and if we return to physical school spaces these differentials are likely to remain.

What explains them? Many variables are at work.

Perhaps we can look to the students who are doing well or relatively well with their learning during these coronatimes. If we ask them and their teachers, what would they say?

The Rio School District is getting ready to ask those questions and start Thought Exchanges to explore these ideas. Meanwhile, I think these times are exposing the vulnerabilities and problems of every human organization. Schools for sure. Public school in grades 1-12 is mandated by state law in every state of America. There are extrinsically imposed negative consequences and penalties for non-compliance for both child and parent. Attendance, grades, grade promotion, etc are all elements of this compulsory nature of our schools. 

Our schools are garden/prisons. They function from opposing metaphors. Since the evolution of standards based learning we have struggled to have non-contradictory forces in our learning environments. We have succeeded in many cases in increasing the garden aspects including having actual gardens themselves. Still, kids have to do this, have to do that, or else…

We preach and aim to develop intrinsic motivation while maintaining a plethora of extrinsic motivational structures including both reward and punishment. We do all this under the legal concept of parens patriae…. the state as parent and under the premise that the individual right to not partake in education is abridged by the need of the collective right to have educated citizens which are seen as better for the economy and the rule of law.

Then comes the virus. School Closures. Kids not connecting, disappearing, connecting and disconnecting, connecting but not doing, doing but not connecting and every other possible variation.

Summer loss in reading and academic learning is a battle we educators have designed for for years. Summer? What about virus loss? Who is losing and who is really losing? No one is winning but by virtue of others losing more there are those that will benefit from the growing gap when economic function and academic function returns. Equity the word has been a buzz and its buzzing now more than ever.

Kids who love to learn, who are in the Must learn category. Kids who love and must make things and explore, kids who love and must read and find ways to express their meanings, kids who love to solve problems and who love challenges, kids who are resilient and who have the emotional support and internal resources to deal with war-like conditions, these kids will go on learning. They will lose many opportunities for sure, the greatest of all, the social interaction and learning from their peers, but they will rely on themselves and their families, friends, and remaining school connections to try to thrive rather than survive in these times. 


Deficit models and examining the tragic consequences and conditions will surely yield useful information and compel us to make things better for all, however, these times can be informed by the children and students of every age who are doing ok and learning and developing and adapting. Perhaps, as we listen and learn from them we can infuse our designing for the future with things that will help every learner.


Along these lines, I suspect that we need to design less for compulsory dynamics and more for individualizing learning plans for every child that encourage their intrinsic ownership of their learning as well as supporting their families to develop along these lines. 


Sometimes they call me Teacher.

Sometimes they call me Teacher.

My wife has been teaching for almost four decades. This year, for a variety of reasons, she decided to retire. She began as an art teacher/artist in West Virginia and then came to California. Together, we raised our family as educators in California’s public school systems. In recent years, and I suppose the last years of her career, she served as a transitional kindergarten teacher. This means she worked with four year olds soon to turn five. She loved this work in many ways and her children loved her and her children’s families loved her. Her greatest asset is her willingness and openness to loving people and she has many assets beyond this one key.

Today is mother’s day 2020 and it’s a strange one. Tomorrow and the next few weeks she will have to connect with her class online and through the lessons she provides. Many aspects of these times have been deeply challenging. I know she misses just being with them. Many aspects of regular days teaching have become more and more challenging and that is the topic of another post perhaps. This post is about those times, most times, her children call her teacher. Not Mrs. Puglisi. She never corrects them. She loves that name. Teacher. She became that name the minute she took the job. She became that life. Mrs. Puglisi, formerly Miss McIntosh, is all in. All in for kids and families. She loved that name and what it means to her. Her greatest rewards are the bonds she so easily creates between student and teacher, student and family, and students to other students. 

As an artist, her draughtswoman skills of drawing and measuring come easily. Whether they were honed over time or gifted I’m not sure because as long as I’ve known her she has had them. Our kids have them too. She draws easily and loves easily or so it seems I suppose. Loving people makes you vulnerable to things. It’s also the only way to live and exactly what kids need. 

Retirement is a phase change. This year my teacher-wife has also become a grandmother for the first time. How she loves her daughter’s little daughter is immeasurable. 

Sometimes children just call their teachers “teacher”. These coronatimes we live in hopefully shine a light on the work and vocation that teaching is and will always be. So many parents and media are paying lip service to the role my wife has given her last four decades to, while serving as mother and wife. I can only hope that in the times that follow these pandemic times, when we find some post pandemic way to live, when someone is called teacher in America, it will be with the same love and respect that most children and parents have for Mrs. Puglisi. For Sarah. 

I am sure my teacher wife-mother-grandmother will find new roles in the years ahead and new things to go all in on…. Whatever they are… I am sure she will stay connected to the generations of students who once called her teacher and who still hold her in their hearts and minds.. These days on facebook or phone or instagram or whatever platform. I followed her into this profession some thirty plus years ago…. Sometimes it’s good to follow… sometimes they call me teacher… or in my new role.. They say, “I know you!” and I say, “I know you.”  

Principal profile- Robert Guynn

Robert Guynn


Rio Del Mar Elementary School

2 Year as Rio Del Mar Principal

8 Years as Principal

This is Mr. Guynn’s 2nd year serving Rio Del Mar Elementary School students as principal. Before working in Rio he served as a principal and district administrator for Adelanto School District and prior to that as a teacher for the Victor Elementary School District for 7 years. Before coming into education, Mr. Guynn worked for Gelson’s Markets grocery stores, Young’s Market Company food distributor, and Molded Fiberglass Company and Owens Corning fiberglass products manufacturers.

Mr. Guynn earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography/Ecosystems at the University of California, Los Angeles, his teaching credential at Redlands University, and his Masters in Education through Concordia University in 21st Century Education.

Mr. Guynn brings a wealth of experience to his work as a school principal. Among many attributes, he is a systems person that navigates well the world of data, systems development, implementation, and evaluation. Mr. Guynn is deeply connected to his family and to exploring the natural world as well as the world of Do It Yourself making. Among his many interests is gliding along the highways and byways on his Harley. 

We asked Mr. Guynn the following three questions and his responses follow each;


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


Children want to know they matter. Whether it is their teacher, librarian, playground aide, or custodian, children thrive when they have positive relationships with adults. Children experience importance when adults tap into their curiosity,  challenge them to think, take them seriously, nurture their self-respect, provide choices for learning, and make them feel important, among others; giving them a sense of belonging. 


  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?


Coming from the corporate world of policy, procedure, and the bottom line, I was focused on those when I first came to education. But over the years I have learned that while there is a purpose for them, relationships are the most important aspect of leadership. Caring, listening, supporting. Just as it is important for a teacher to develop relationships with their students it is equally important for me as a leader to develop those same relationships with my staff, students, and parents. Relationships keep an organization healthy and productive. Leadership used to be very hierarchically structured but has flattened over the past couple of decades. I have learned that everyone is a leader and contributes to the success of an organization. I enjoy working with, for example, teacher leaders, office leaders, kitchen leaders, and student leaders. 


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


Working in education has changed my focus on life and given me purpose. It is a mission for me. Education is about people, relationships, and developing young minds to be future leaders, productive citizens. It’s purposeful and fulfilling.  

As a father, I have always been an advocate for our children and their education as my parents were for me. I am glad to say that all of our children have graduated with at least one higher education degree and have gone on to have productive professional careers. I want this same opportunity for all children for whom I am responsible for and for those over whom I can have a positive influence. 

I am blessed to have married Jane, my wife of 32 years, for many reasons. One of the many principles that we have agreed on is that our children’s education was a priority and she played a major role in making that come true. Not only was she a stay at home mom while our children were in school, but she was also heavily involved with their education during school. While she helped at school I helped with homework and worked on projects with them. This “division of labor” helped us achieve our quality education goal for our children and brought us closer together as a couple. We attended every performance, competition, and event over the years to show our support. As a result, we have a very close family and spend as much time together as possible. 

Learning happens beyond the classroom walls and as such, our family took as much time, over the years, to experience the world around us. Camping at the beach, hiking the trails in the Sierra Nevada, traveling to other states, traveling abroad, going to the grocery store as a family, the movies, playing sports or just hanging out in the backyard were some of the experiences that provided me the opportunity to teach our children and be closer to them. As a father, I would not trade that for anything. 

Working in education and the education it has provided me has helped me to understand how to approach learning, support learners, provide learners with meaningful experiences. Not only have I applied this to my professional career but I was also able to provide this for my children to give them the best educational experience possible. Now I am enjoying the grandchildren.


The Next Nine Weeks : April 20 – June 18
Completing the 2019-20 School Year in CoronaTimes

The next nine weeks through April and the last day of the school year on June 18, will mark twelve weeks of conducting school with campuses closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. As we emerge from Spring Break and get back into our developing rhythm of Rio Community Learning, we continue to stay focused on three basic aims;

Connect with children through online, phone, paper documents and supplies, meals, and other means to let them know they are still part of our school community that cares about them and their family.

Engage children in learning through online, phone, paper documents and supplies by reconnecting them with their teachers and classroom.

Improve the quality of learning over time.

Connecting with children is the number one priority. We want to make sure that all children connect with their teachers, counselors, and support staff so that their basic needs for safety, health, and well-being can be supported. In these “stay at home times,” this means connecting with families now more than ever. First, we worked to connect and make contact with every child in one form or another. Next we worked to connect them with their teacher and classmates. This means making sure they have a computer and internet access. This technology challenge remains our number two priority in connecting as we work to make sure any student without a computer gets one as well as any family without internet access receives an internet hot-spot.

Connecting goes beyond technology of course, our aim is for every child to be able to participate regularly with their teachers and classmates in one way or another. For many students, this means they will have weekly video conferencing sessions and other online ways of communicating and learning with their classmates and teachers. We are working hard to make sure students and families that need help with navigating this new online learning model get the support they need.

Connecting also means helping students with their specific needs. As is the case when children come to school in the conventional way, different students have different needs. Connecting to children and supporting them with their specific needs is ever more essential in the coronavirus times. Our staff are learning to adapt to these new times and connecting with families and working through problems and challenges will take patience and time. Students who need special or differentiated materials or support are a major priority in making the child-family-school connection work in these stay at home times.

Engaging children in learning is why schools were built. Now that we are working to support student learning without having them in our buildings, we are adapting to new ways of recreating and adapting the teacher- student and student-student relationships. Depending on the age level of the children and the learning models used in the classrooms before the school closures, this recreation and adaptation to Rio Community Learning can vary from school to school and classroom to classroom. In the next nine weeks we are working to find the models that work best for each child and teacher and find the right balance of formats, schedules, and varieties of activities that can keep children and families interested and learning while not overburdening them and adding to an already stressful situation.

Engaging children in learning implies that they are interested, actively participating and expressing their meaning-making in a variety of modes. There are many new barriers to this engagement in these coronatimes but there are also new opportunities and conditions that may elevate these elements. Children have different levels of support and resources in their homes in order to support their engagement in learning at home and this is a major priority in the initial phases of this learning at home period. Striking the right balance for children, families, and teachers is essential. Engaging children in learning should be seen in terms of the basic fact that children are natural learners and all situations provide opportunities for children to learn. The daily activities of a day in the home provide opportunities for children to read, write, speak, listen, solve problems, collaborate, communicate, think critically, be creative, make things, and care for themselves and each other. These daily activities are always part of children’s learning even when school is in normal session. Families will need to find the balance and appreciation for their own ways of supporting their children’s development. It is likely we cannot replicate everything at home that teachers and schools do when classes are in session and campuses are open. Less is definitely more in these times, and going deeper and more reflectively will be greatly appreciated by children.

Improving the quality of learning over time is our next challenge. As our teachers, support staff, families, and students become more used to these stay at home learning conditions, we are working to learn how to improve the learning. To do so, we are examining data and asking for feedback from all the people involved. In a sense, we are building the models for learning as we use them. We have nine weeks to continue to improve learning and our focus will be on useful feedback rather than traditional grading. We are currently working with teachers to establish an agreement as it relates to grading. The fundamental elements of the agreement will include a hold harmless concept in that students will maintain their grades earned before school closures but also have the opportunity to improve them by demonstrating improved skills and practices by completing tasks during these stay at home times. Schools and teachers will develop greater and greater support for students who are not achieving grade level standards or developing key literacies while supporting all children in their ongoing development of learning interest, fluency, and meaning making over time.

Rio’s community was strong and connected before these coronatimes. In these coronatimes, our sustaining and developing this strength of community will help school staff and families adapt and improve and serve children. We look forward to the next nine weeks of the 2019-20 school year and to engaging with children and families to the best of our ability. We miss working directly with all our children and families and look forward to the times when we all can return from our homes to our regular classrooms and offices and face to face ways of learning.

Principal Profile – Ralph Cordova, Ph.D.

Ralph Cordova, Ph.D.


Rio Del Sol Elementary School

2nd Year as Del Sol Principal

28 Years as Teacher


This is Dr. Cordova’s second year serving Rio students as principal of Rio Del Sol Elementary School. Before working in Rio he served K-University students and teachers at the University of Missouri St. Louis as a tenured professor in the College of Education. 

Dr. Cordova earned a Bachelor’s degree in German Literature & Language at the University of California Riverside in 1992. He earned his teaching credential in 1993 at the University of California Santa Barbara and taught for 14 years at La Patera School in the Goleta Union School District in grades, K, 2, 3 and 4. He completed his Master’s and PhD at the University of California Santa Barbara. Córdova is a trained educational ethnographer with numerous peer reviewed publications.

Dr. Cordova found a unique pathway to school site leadership. His work as both school site leader and educational researcher is connected to seeing and hearing the authentic voices and lives of learners and teachers. Ralph connects theory and practice on his new administrative journey to years of experience supporting teachers and educators in seeing learning and schooling from a natural perspective. Ralph is a natural maker, creator and learner. This desire to learn and create each day is an essential practice in this very dynamic work.

We asked Dr. Cordova the following three questions and his responses follow each;


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


Children enter the world curious to connect to all around them. What matters most for children in school is to engage them as curious meaning-makers of the worlds which they inhabit. All children possess rich experiences and diverse knowledges. The adults to whom parents entrust their children are stewards or learning guides of the children, and it’s essential that the adults, too, practice curiosity on a daily basis as they are powerful models. What matters most for children is that schools become places for children to make new knowledges and not solely consume existing information for the sake of efficiency. Therefore, if done right, schools can become liberating ecosystems for children and the adults who serve them.


  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?


Years ago I participated in a national study on leadership conducted by the National Writing Project. I was interviewed as I had been nominated by colleagues as a leader. I was taken aback as I didn’t see myself as a leader. But as I looked back at the arc of my professional experience, I think I eschewed the label of ‘leader’ because I associated that word with a compliance-ensurer that was what I witnessed as a teacher of my principals, deans, etc., as being. 

It wasn’t, really, until I co-founded the Cultural Landscapes Collaboratory (or CoLab) and a National Writing Project site, that I began to reshape how I understood leadership by living leadership in a way that did right by the people I served. Sure, leadership is about compliance and legalities to ensure all children are protected and learn, but that’s only a small part of it. 

Leadership means not having to know everything, but the willingness to let yourself grow and evolve by being curious about what could be instead of what has always been done. Being a leader means growing co-leaders around you, who too can liberate themselves, in order to be fully present so that their educating practices are about assisting children to liberate their intellectual and socio-emotional gifts. 

Growing up teaching, first as an elementary classroom teacher, then a university professor, and now a principal, I can see that what matters most to me in this leadership role is to support teachers, students and families to co-lead. This part requires all to be ok in the vulnerable space of not knowing. It also means that the answers are there to reveal themselves when we embark together on this ‘lets see what happens’ journey.

I say all this because opening up a new school, with a transdisciplinary focus, from scratch is hard work. It requires all of us to show up fully present and push back at traditional educational structures whose inertia is 100+ years in the making. And what an amazing journey to be part of something new, that I believe will change the lives for good for all our students.


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


I’m super lucky that every day I am invited to see the world through the eyes of children. Their curiosities, openness, and fierce courage allows me to be the learner that I was never allowed to be when I was a youngster in school. Kids are my greatest teachers. The work of a school is a complex ecosystem; something that takes commitment to understand, and courage to reshape. In the 28 years I’ve been at this schooling, the work has shaped me to be more demanding and expectant in all aspects of my life. 

My husband will testify that I can be ‘bossy’ (what I call direct :) at home. I have also learned to let go of the fantasy that I can get everything done in a day. It’s. Just. Not. Reality. I enjoy 10 mile walks with Clifford Terrier Esquire & JRT, our Jack Russell Terrier. Humor, laughter matters. I love my mom and step-dad’s long visits at our house. Cooking, laughing and sometimes, crying, make for a balance between work and home. Anyone doing this job can tell you that our home life often suffers from the demands placed on us as school leaders. I just center myself by attending to the breath, and embrace the journey I’m on, and do good by others.

I’m pretty clear that the river of learning, our children, are still pretty upstream from the downstream work of their later lives. I know what we offer them now will shape the kids of citizens they will become and inform how they will participate in their future worlds. Thus, as the grown-ups, we might do a great deed by allowing ourselves to be children again, and invite the students in our care to rise as leaders and be our teachers. It’s pretty hard to build the new using the language of the old, therefore, this business of school really at its core is an opportunity to get to the basics of ‘humaning’. It’s terrific work and by far the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve grown more in 2 years at the work than I can say I have in the last 20 years. It requires a different kind of knowing and being. It’s pretty awesome.

Spring Break Week One Post

This week marks the first week of Spring Break for the Rio School District in the 2019-2020 school year. It also marks the fourth week of campus closures due to the coronavirus event. Somehow it doesn’t much feel like Spring Break this year. It’s normal for the administrative team to keep working and planning during […]

Nicole (Niki) / JP Collaborative MIT- Rio Blog # 2

It was great to hear from a local student today who has made her way to MIT – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a world class university and seat of science on the planet. From Oxnard to Boston, this blog connects a superintendent of the Rio School District to a freshman (1st year woman student) at MIT who reached out to the District to help in these coronavirus times. Here is the second edition of the Q&A post;

Q4: Can you provide us an update on what’s happening with the CovEd project you are working on?

As of today, we are currently at 680 K12 student signups (we launched a week ago) and over 1100 tutors. In addition, we have a virtual community/Facebook group of about 950+ members (some of these members are also signed up as mentors, but most are community advocates, educators, parents, etc. that have been sharing resources, as well as providing guidance/sort of poking at our system to help us think of ways to improve  We have been featured on the MIT Rapid Innovation Dashboard (this was in the more earlier stages, which really helped us gain momentum):

Mentors represent over 30(rough estimate?) of top universities/colleges in the U.S. – from looking at the Sheets, it looks like most are from Harvard, MIT, Yale, UCLA/USC, Wellesley, Dartmouth and Princeton. We’re continuing to do outreach in more than 40 counties throughout the U.S. and are recruiting more members to reach out specifically to vulnerable/underserved populations (low income, first generation, Title I schools, single parent households etc.) as well as remote areas with limited access to educational resources, such as small/rural towns.  (shoutout to outreach!) Our website is constantly being updated to match the needs of our students, such as resources for Elementary, Middle and High School students, college application/test prep resources, resources for students with complex needs, etc. (shoutout to our web team!) – since launching on Tuesday (3/24), we’ve gone from 33 views/day to over 2K (per Sanjay, who’s working on the site with Johan, Dheekshu and the web team)

We’re working to create a virtual/automated system for pairing mentor/mentee matches, but in the meantime, we have a team of Coordinators who are working to pair students with mentors manually. This helps us gain a sense of what we should prioritize (for example, if a student has complex needs and we need to find a mentor with experience working with these populations, or if a student’s family speaks a different language).

Our plan is to have this project run throughout at least to the end of this semester (possibly summer), and mentors/mentees can choose to continue their connection beyond CovEd (not sure what the fate of CovEd is – we’ve had a few discussions but this is still unclear). We do plan to keep the website running/updated, as that has been a key part that we hope will help spearhead/promote the future of online education and expanding access to free web-based educational resources for students.

Q5: Thinking about your freshman year at MIT, how has your first year of learning there informed the way you are thinking about the pandemic?

Thinking back to my freshman year while still on the campus of MIT, I learned that every moment in life is a learning experience.

The way that I think about the pandemic is that everything that we do or don’t do or did and did not do is going to teach someone something, small or big.

People are finding what they value most in life. Once we return to the normal pace of everyday life outside of social distancing, I’m assuming/hoping people will make most of their lives with those/things they cherish and partaking in activities they love or are passionate about.

The pandemic is also surfacing the issues that have existed beforehand but was not given much attention to. For example, class differences are more noticeable now than ever. As people are forced to virtualize, people are starting to notice the gap in opportunities even more. During this time, as solutions are found, I’m hoping more people will put in the effort to bridge the gap of inequality and continue to do so as things return to normal for the exemplified issue and more.

People have been continuously pitching in to help one another, fostering collaboration and proving ideas all around. I’m hoping this sort of environment will continue to spread and maintain as time goes on.

Therefore, although the pandemic has been awful, I see how it has positives that we could derive from it.

Q6: How have you been doing in these corona times and what are you doing to keep yourself well and productive?

I’ve been trying to make the most of these corona times. I like to think that I am doing pretty well all things considered.

Classes started up again this week which has been very nice. I missed the flow of school. I’m hoping to add another 3-unit class, Special Subject in Disease Transmission and Spread, to learn more about COVID-19 and of the like.

Because we were suddenly forced to leave campus during midterm season, some of my classes were forced to cancel exams/lectures/PSETs or push them off. Therefore, I have been trying to catch up and learn additional topics that were cancelled so I won’t miss key topics that I’d need for classes to follow.

I’ve also been catching up with friends and family whom I am usually unable to converse with on a daily basis. I feel like as we’re forced to stay home, people are making stronger efforts to stay connected with each other, and it has been very nice. I’ve been able to teach my cousins English every day, help my sister with her school work and my parents with our restaurant.

I’ve also been trying to learn new skills or to pick up new hobbies. I’m actually staying with a friend. We started on a 3000-piece safari jigsaw puzzle, some new TV shows, and have been baking and cooking a lot. We also follow youtube workout videos. (Sometimes, I do workout videos with my sMITe teammates through zoom). We make TikTok videos when we get bored, but, for the most part, we’ve been trying to be as productive as possible.


Learning Links for March 30-April 3

They Call it Multi-Tasking

They Call it Multi-Tasking


In the modern times we live in, so infused with demands on our attention and action, we often seem to be juggling many tasks simultaneously. Research on the brain still suggests that we may do many things with our mind and body, but we do them quickly one at a time in serial fashion. We switch from one thing to another and if our plate is full, we may have many things to switch to and accomplish. Our modern lives often have many layers of complexity. Working through complexity requires a variety of balancing strategies or ways of being. In these times of serious medical danger, these times of crisis, I have been thinking about how our daily stay at home tasks as educators compare to those we regularly accomplish in the face to face context. In this thinking, I imagine a line dividing the crisis and the work of being educators.


This line of division is surely a simple visual and mental construct, nonetheless, that’s what I have been thinking. Crisis here, educating there. Left, right, right left, whichever way works. Surely, a venn diagram comes to mind where these tasks connect and are mutually supportive if not the same, but just the same, I’m sticking with the large vertical line division for the moment.


Staying home and washing our hands are our greatest tasks in this crisis. At least the two that connect us all the most. The two we all can try to do. Basically, in this crisis, we can try not to spread a virus or have the virus be spread to us. Of course, there are many, many more tasks we are doing in this crisis that help people. The list is long for sure.


As an educator, I have been focused on three basic tasks; connecting with children and families, engaging children and families in meaningful learning, and improving the learning over time. These three are linear in a sense and prioritized as well. Once accomplished they quickly become cyclical and less linear. There are some equations that seem to make sense with these three variables. The more connected we are with families, it’s logical that we can better engage children with learning. The more connected we are, it’s logical that they can provide valuable feedback to support our improving the learning as well as supporting their own improving their own stay at home learning.


In connecting and engaging to learn in this crisis/stay at home context, we are focused on three simple modes; online connecting and learning, connecting by phone calls, and connecting by providing documents and supplies that are useful for both the connecting and learning. Each mode has its crisis challenges and each mode has its learning challenges. Each mode also can be improved overtime as we reflect on the outcomes, tasks, and processes and especially as children and families provide feedback on their value. After just two weeks of school closures and the stay at home context, this feedback is likely irregular and sporadic. Still, the feedback is a starting point for improvement. 


One of the things that has always given me confidence as a learner and educator is the ability to learn and improve. When tackling new things, new tasks, new jobs, new challenges, we can be sure of one thing; we are likely to need a lot of improvement initially. This improvement always comes from learning and by doing. We plan, we do, we study what we did, then we act on what we learned and we plan, do study, act again. This PDSA cycle from improvement science can be very methodical for some and very intuitive and flow-like for others. Recent times have highlighted engineering like processes of trials, tests, trial and error, failure analysis, etc…. And this is useful. Other ways of improving might seem more artistic as many makers experience the feeling of excitement and creativity and drive while making a piece of art, and then upon completion and reflection many artists begin critiquing and focusing on the faults of the artwork even to the point of only seeing the faults and under-appreciating the better qualities of the outcome. This then leads them to the next work, and next work, and next work and to the process of making that drives them. This is another way towards improvement.


One thing that is common in crises, is their dynamic nature. They change often and quickly sometimes. They are also self generative in a sense. They tend to create crises of their own. You have a crisis that leads to another crisis or subsets of mini-crises or things that before the crisis didn’t seem like a crisis turn into a crisis. As I wrote this last line a whole slew of mini-crisis come to mind and if they weren’t funny at some level they would be tears producing and sometimes they still are, moving into that half cry, half laugh zone. 


One thing to ponder while educating in a crisis is how much to go the venn diagram common quadrant way rather than maintaining a clear division between the crisis and the connecting, learning, and learning to improve. This brings up the should I? Or when should I? Integrate the crisis into the learning questions. In pondering these questions I suppose I have foreshadowed my initial thoughts on the topic by drawing a clear division between the two tasks. That said, I think making wash your hands videos with kids dancing and singing and sharing is just what the doctor ordered. 


In crisis, having universal principles and frameworks to live and work by are very useful. Among my universals as an educator and organizational leader is to believe in, trust, support, and encourage teachers as intellectuals, as professionals, as colleagues, as artists/scientists, as connectors, and as individuals. In this two weeks of school closure context, I think it’s critical to work by this universal. In most cases, no matter how constructivist, student centered, and personalizable learning environments are, teachers are the central figures for kids and they know themselves better than anyone. They need to be supported to make the decisions to achieve the tasks at hand. 


As we work through this next week of school closures and into another unknown period of Spring Break for two weeks during these stay at home times, I’ll continue to reflect and share thoughts on the crisis and on our work as educators. Even in these technology enhanced times, how humans interact with other humans and the natural world will continue to be the river of life on the planet.