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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/493988507924808/.  We have been featured on the MIT Rapid Innovation Dashboard (this was in the more earlier stages, which really helped us gain momentum): https://innovation.mit.edu/rapid_inno_dash_c19/

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.

 

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.    

 

Niki / JP Collaborative MIT- Rio Blog

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 goes a shot at some Q&A that might be interesting on several levels;

Q1: Tell us about yourself. How did you choose MIT and how has the freshman year been?

I have recently graduated from Rio Mesa High School, class of 2019, and am now a first-year at MIT, class of 2023.

When I was applying for colleges, I knew that I wanted to major in engineering. I had applied to all schools as an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Major, so my dream school was MIT. (Big emphasis on dream) (…although coming to MIT has shown me that my interests extend to many other majors so I’m leaning towards declaring as Computer Science with a minor in Anthropology or Brain and Cognitive Sciences).

It wasn’t about me choosing MIT. It was more of MIT choosing me.

The week prior to 3/14, PI day, I made all sorts of plans to volunteer with different organizations to distract myself from the rejection letter that was sure to come. PI day then came. I got out my laptop as soon as I got home from school. My friends and teachers were so supportive. They kept asking me if I had gotten in yet. They were so sure. I went to the decisions page three minutes before it was supposed to come out, so I completely skipped the introduction page and what do you know, I got in! It felt surreal for the next several months. I reread the page every so often, pinching myself, logging onto different platforms to see if it actually happened. Since I didn’t believe this outcome was possible, as soon as I told my parents that day, I left to go help put up posters and update websites for my internship as promised and missed the pizza party that my interviewer threw for alumni and newly adMITted students in our area.

Having said that, there was no way that I would NOT choose MIT.

I am more than happy to say that MIT has not let me down and have even exceeded my expectations.

My freshman year has been amazing, and it saddens me to a great extent that it was cut short.

Grades during our first year is on a pass no record policy. This means that we get credit for our registered classes as long as we pass, and if we fail, there is no record that we ever attempted to take that class and can try again another semester. MIT does this to teach us the balance between academics, health, and extracurricular activities. I learned that we don’t have to sacrifice any.

During the short-lived three quarters of my academic year, I have grown both personally and academically.

Academically, I completed Bioethics, Multivariable Calculus, Physics: Mechanics, Introduction to Biology, Introduction to Professional Success in Biological Engineering, and a freshman seminar called Mens et Manus: The Joy of MIT, where I was given the opportunity to visualize real-time music with frequency and isolate antibiotic-producing bacteria from soil samples I got from the middle of campus (including fluorescent-bacteria)! Currently, I am working towards completing Introduction to Python, Culture and Identity of Israel, Anthropology: Meaning of Life, Physics: Electricity and Magnetism, and Mathematics for Computer Science.

MIT also requires PE, so last semester, I took an archery class, which was such a blast! In regards to fitness, I felt like I couldn’t give up sports, but I wanted to venture out to try something new. I was the intramural team captain for badminton and ultimate frisbee for my dorm, Simmons Hall, and have played other IM sports with friends in Simmons. I am also a proud member of sMITe, MIT’s Women Ultimate Frisbee Team!

In terms of extracurriculars, I learned to find and keep with few projects and groups I love the most so I can put my best efforts into those rather than overextend myself to several. Currently, I am an Off-Campus Outreach Chair for Society of Women Engineers, and the chapter photographer deputy for my sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.

Additionally, there have just been so many opportunities of growth through career fairs, workshops, and just gathering with friends to complete problem sets that take hours to finish half a problem. I’m also researching in Israel through the MISTI program this summer, fingers crossed, as long as it doesn’t get cancelled because of COVID-19.

Overall, the best part of MIT has been the strong friendships and communities I have joined: sMITe, Simmons, my lounge, Kappa Alpha Theta, SWE, First-Year Leadership Program, and more! I can’t wait for sophomore year!

Q2: Tell us about this multischool initiative you are involved with in these coronatimes? 

I have lived in Ventura County my entire life. It has provided me great friendships, fond memories and experiences and has shaped me to who I’ve become today. Therefore, when COVID-19 hit with the school shutdowns, I sought ways to meaningfully support my home community.

Luckily, I had friends who were thinking the same.

I am a part of CovEd, an undergrad-led initiative in response to the COVID-19 crisis to connect low-income K-12 students with undergraduate and postgraduate students for free virtual tutoring during these months. Our vision is to encourage and empower students who may be struggling with online schooling because of limited access to resources and technology or because of a difficult home situation. We also hope to minimize the extra work placed on teachers because of the transition to online classes.

We currently have more than 300 mentor volunteers so far from universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT, and are continuing to expand through our university networks. You can find us on MIT’s Rapid Innovation Dashboard as CovEd!(https://innovation.mit.edu/rapid_inno_dash_c19/)

Here is our sign up form for students, teachers, or parents to fill out. Once it is filled out, we will match the student with one of our volunteers, who will reach out to the student by email to schedule the first session!

CovEd Academic Support Registration Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeQbfc4hukSn67JZIRbXQDBXFM3iWPuHl4k51LIGFsUU64_Gw/viewform

I’m currently leading outreach for this in Ventura County to help reach as many students in need as possible. But, please share our flyer with anyone who might be interested in signing up! We would appreciate any help you can give us in our outreach process!

Let me know if you have any questions at nikikim@mit.edu. I would be happy to further discuss how we can best support our community!

Q3: What are the goals that CovEd hope to accomplish? Any ideas on how you will measure the work you all do?

Our goal is to encourage and empower students who may be struggling with online schooling because of limited access to resources and technology or because of a difficult home situation. We hope to reach students and motivate them during times as such. We also hope to minimize the extra work placed on teachers because of the transition to online classes. When the worst of this virus is over, we just hope that students are able to return to school without having fallen too far behind and teachers up and ready for the normal learning process again without having been burnt out.

We have sign-up forms that could provide a tangible measure of our work. However, it is less of measuring how much we could do for as many people as possible, but rather the quality and depth of positive change we could make to assist the well being of our community in need. 

Math Power… What’s it all about…

Math power rules our money and in many ways money rules the human world and has deep impact on the physical world as well.

Math power rules computer mediated systems such as social media etc.. that have deep impact on our communications, social and emotional identity and well-being.

Math power rules our healthcare systems which has profound impact on our well being and longevity.

Math power rules our politics in many ways which have deep impact on how we impact or are impacted by political decision making and planning.

Math power rules our lives’ simple logistics in many ways from cooking, transportation, purchasing, educational choices, and on an on.

This list could be much more extensive and well described but I think the point is made. Math interest, fluency, meaning making and application are thoroughly woven into human existence in the modern world. 

If we accept, as many do, that a great majority of people… like 70%.. are just not good at math.. Meaning – they do not have the right born in “math stuff ,” than this excludes all those people from basic access to these power domains and as such, to power over their own lives in a free society.

In our schools, we have a responsibility for this outcome during our citizens’ youth. From age 5 to 18 say…. those 13 years of K-12 schooling are what we must own. If we send the majority of children out into the world feeling “math powerless” and maybe being “math powerless” what does that say about what we have been doing those 13 years. 

Aside reading and writing literacy issues of the last 100 years, math literacy has been hanging in the shadows of our focus. Lip service paid for sure.. but little done that perception tells us is as at least equivalent or approximate to what has been invested in over these years in terms of our citizenry’s language literacy. For sure, the assertions in this paragraph can and should be challenged but you get my point… I hope. Math power needs some attention…

Along these lines, the Rio School District and other organizations have been toying with Improvement Science as a method for solving or at least acting on BIG problems like the math power problem. One initial activity of the Improvement Science process is to “fish-head” the problem by getting stakeholders to generate causal factors that connect to the initial problem statement. Of course crafting the initial problem statement is a giant challenge to begin with because it seems so simple but the entire network of improvers needs to be clear on it…. So I say the problem with math power in our American society is too few have it…. That is, the problem can be clarified to the small percentage of Americans who have the math interest, fluency, and meaning making practices sufficient to navigate the many societal power structures that are dependent on math. Now that might not be so clear but this would indicate that no one writer should be crafting the problem in isolation in this networked methodology. Still, it’s my two cents.

So if we temporarily accept that the BIG problem to improve is that too few people have MATH POWER, then here is a list of causal drivers and sub-drivers, and sub-sub drivers that contribute to the overall problem. In Improvement Science, once we have networked and exhausted this problem analytic visual then we collaborate to choose one or two drivers to improve, the ones we think collectively will contribute the most to the overall problem solution with the least amount of effort. Ergo, the elegant action solutions. Here is a short list of causal drivers that first come to mind today;

  1. Math is taught out of context in schools.
  2. Math learning is mainly focused on procedures and computation.
  3. Math teachers who have equal parts high level math pedagogy, math interest, and math knowledge are in scarcity.
  4. Math learning is often isolated from other learning.
  5. Math learning environments often fail to provide necessary time for deep exploration and deep learning.
  6. Math learning is often overly competitive.
  7. The myth that math ability is more nature than nurture is still rampant.
  8. Math use in societal contexts is often hidden intentionally.
  9. Math is rarely taught as it relates to its beauty, fun, or profundity. 
  10. Math is rarely taught as a family activity.
  11. Math learning is most often taught through abstract/symbolic activities with a growing demand for visuals but rarely taught as hands on/ minds on.
  12. Little time is afforded for math play.

And the list might go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and it should and then it should be arranged into a complex fish with drivers and sub drivers and connections etc….

And thus, the soap box version of keyboard linked thinking out loud yearns yet again towards a social justice and democracy bent… Change the world? Change the distribution of Math power – Math Interest, Fluency, Meaning Making…. And have some fun while doing it…. The fun comes in when we learn to struggle for things within the delayed gratification and sometimes joy not only of accomplishing or learning something but even more powerfully – for the joy of the struggle itself…. We commonly glorify this pursuit in the arenas of sport… that are now so fully “Billy balled” with maths…. that there is little difference in the Math/Sport domains in many ways……  still there is a giant chasm of interest that separates the two…. And yes fantasy football and sports gambling may have dragged some folks temporarily into a math powered world only to be left out again as they attempt to make meaning from their medical test results, mortgage papers, or daily weather report.

So here is to doing some social justice work…. Changing the distribution of math power. Inverting it. 30/70 to 70/30 aiming towards 100/0 of course…. Now where shall we begin? 

 

  

 

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  

THRIVE19

This week we held our first annual THRIVE conference, THRIVE19. On two days in late September we came togethers as leaders in our educational community. Students, teachers, support staff, parents, partners, business and other leaders came together to celebrate and learn about what is THRIVING in our schools and educational community and to begin to touch on what still needs to THRIVE. We began with imagining three trees…. A THRIVING tree, a resilient tree and a tree that is just surviving. 

All too often, in our American society, we envision and resource our public schools as places that are just and should just survive.

But we are doing far more than surviving.. In many ways we are THRIVING. Perceptions and narratives though are powerful influencers on those within and those outside the educational community. 

And so this first THRIVE conference in the year 2019 held on the beach in ventura overlooking the great Pacific ocean, set out to establish and experience and reflect on the THRIVING. 

We thank everyone who came. Each was an integral element to the event. We will continue to process the experience by sharing and editing video captured, making websites, sharing thought exchanges, doing some additional surveys and other activities including planning for THRIVE20.

We especially want to thank those who presented or facilitated workshops, explores, or speaker sessions.

Thanks to Sabba Quidwai from Apple for her speaker session on design thinking.

Thanks to Terry Thoren from WonderMedia for his speaker sessions and  David Romano for workshops on StoryMaker animation software.

Thanks to Heli Ruokamo and Marjaana Kangas for their speaker and workshop sessions on playful learning.

Thanks to Jarkko Myllari and Ignacio Mendoza for workshop sessions with students showcasing summer science academy student leader technology activities.

Thanks to Sam Strothers from DMTI – Developing Mathematical Thinking Institute, Fawn Nguyen, and Cesar Rosales for math focused workshops.

Thanks to Dr. Maria Hernandez, Margarita Mosqueda and others for their workshop on bilingual learning.

Thanks to Steve Anderson from Thoughtexchange for workshops on thoughtexchange social media tools.

Thanks to Mike Vollmert and Heidi Baynes for their workshop on Rasberry Pi technologies and Mike’s beach walks.

Thanks to Joe Bruzzese from Sprigeo on his workshops on middle grades learning.

Thanks to Phil Shapiro for his multiple workshops and general contribution to the conference as a whole.

Thanks to partners from OUHSD, CSUCI, CLU, UCSB, CDR, Learning Priority, MJP computers, Ventura County Watershed Control,  Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones, and Feingold Law Firm, Sage Inc, A4E, and other partners for participating in the partnership forum.

Thanks to Juliet Herman and VCOE and Rio teachers for the VC Innovates workshop.

Thanks to Dr. Cordova, Dr Yeager, Dr. Hirsch Dubin and Rio teachers and students for workshops on Inquiry learning and instructional design.

Thanks to Oscar Hernandez and student leaders from RSD and OUHSD for the student leadership forum.

Thanks to Jay Sorenson from OUHSD for his workshop on HighSchool Technology.

Thanks to Gena Mathwin and fellow Rio teachers for their workshop on garden learning.

Thanks to Rene Hohls for her workshop on Library learning.

Thanks to Dr. Carolyn Bernal for her women in leadership forum.

Thanks to BiJian Fan for his workshop on origami math art.

Thanks to Dr. Jerome Clifford for his workshop on Summer Science Academy and beyond.

Thanks to Julee Vollmert for her workshop on empathy and learning.

Thanks to Heather Behrens for her workshop on the Rio/ Channel Islands Maritime Museum partnership workshop.

Thanks to Lacey Piper for her workshop on food and health.

Thanks to Rio art teachers for workshops and explores.

Thanks to Rio music teachers and students for their presentations.

Thanks to Dianne DeLaurentis for her workshop on the dramatic arts.

Thanks to HipHopMindset for their performances.

Thanks to TRSB – The River Songs Band for their performance of Songs of the Pacific

 

Thanks to all those in Rio who worked hard to plan and make the event happen. Thanks to the students – children – who wove the thread of THRIVING into THRIVE19 and who are the reason for the work.         

The Reading Classroom

The Reading Classroom

Rio School District children are thriving in many ways. Our recent years’ emphasis on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and caring has helped the adults in our organization create classroom and school environments that are suitable for young children’s development as full human beings as well as supporting their literacy development which is so essential to their success and sense of confidence in school systems and other contexts that demand high levels of reading, writing, and speaking. While I believe the above statement is evidenced in many ways we continue to look for the right mixtures of environment, tools, methods, practices to create classrooms across every school that help every child to progress to their maximum potential as readers.

This year we are focusing on reading interest, fluency, and meaning making. We put reading interest first in this order because we believe that fluent – meaning making readers are first and foremost interested readers. Next in the order is fluency that we basically define as the ability to decode and produce the text at a rate sufficient to support the reader’s meaning making of the text. Lastly, and most importantly in academic contexts like schools, we aim for children’s meaning making which includes their basic comprehension and understanding of the texts but expands to their ability and choices of ways to express the meanings they have read through writing, speaking, drawing or other media. This short post is a description of an idealized reading classroom from the point of view of the superintendent, educational researcher, and teacher. Its purpose is to spark further discussion and then actions across our District and others that have common goals in helping more children become interested, fluent, and meaning making readers.

In California we typically have 180 school days per year and we divide the years into things we call grade levels. We typically assign one teacher to a group of children for this year in elementary grades and more than one teacher to children in the middle grades years. Regardless of the structure I think it’s important to state early in the post that an idealized school context for readers is one where every teacher in every grade and every subject is a reading teacher involved and invested in each child’s development as interested, fluent, meaning making readers. This post is my description or listing of activities that are observable and should or could be observable in as many of those 180 days as possible across a school year. As a student of learning I know that in almost every context, repetition and time are key elements in learning. Things we do almost every day are understood by children as important as we have valued them by apportioning time to them.

So here we go, here is what a good reading classroom looks like from my point of view in terms of things you see commonly and every day as much as possible.

Reading classrooms let kids read freely for extended periods every day and give them choice in the texts they read.

Reading classrooms have many books in them and also provide access to libraries and other ways to access texts online and otherwise.

Reading classrooms have teachers and educators that read and model reading authentically in their lives not just as professional practice but because they are truly interested, fluent, meaning making readers themselves.

Reading classrooms provide daily opportunities for children to write about their reading and get regular feedback from their teacher and peers on this writing.

Reading classrooms have regular opportunities for all children to be read to. To hear read alouds.

Reading classrooms have teachers who have learned and who are learning about the reading process and who are constantly developing their practices to help children directly and indirectly to become interested, fluent, and meaning making readers through whole group, small group, and one one work with children.

Reading classrooms are visibly rich with texts and the artifacts of reading and writing.

Reading classrooms are very word rich in that they evidence high interest in the acquisition and exploration of words.. the basic units of language…

Reading classrooms have flexibility associated with the different children who populate them. They help the actual children learn to become or develop as readers rather than a homogenized standard established by others outside the classroom.

Reading classrooms have many opportunities for children to read with each other and to read the writing of their peers.

Reading classrooms have socio-emotional environments that create acceptance among all in the classroom for every child as reader regardless of their current status on spectrum across the three elements of interest, fluency, and meaning making.

Reading classrooms provide access and focus on texts that connect with the classroom children’s lives as well as new horizons they have never experienced.

Reading classrooms provide access and engagement with a variety of genre of texts and texts on and in a variety of media.

Reading classrooms strike a balance towards fun in reading but save the space for struggle as is necessary and appropriate in the context.

Reading classrooms are writing classrooms, are drawing classrooms, are literacy classrooms, and are reading more than text classrooms. Reading text is one key but major thrust in learning environments that focus every child to become interested, fluent, meaning making LEARNERS who understand that reading texts is a critical part their learning.

The list could surely go on but I think I will leave it at this for the moment as an invitation to educators and readers out there to add to the post. I will gladly take your thoughts, comments and ideas emailed to jpuglisi@rioschools.org and then see where they go from there. A community of readers working together thoughtfully is likely the best way to support the development of the next generation of readers. In nearly three and a half decades of this work, my wife and I continue to look for ways to increase the numbers of children we are able to guide as truly interested, fluent, and meaning making readers. For child readers living in less economically resourced contexts this is critically important so that they do not fall into the statistical reality that Demography is Destiny. For all children, and for our country, a generation of interested, fluent, and meaning making readers is essential for our democracy to function as one that is driven by an informed and thoughtful citizenry.

 

Thriving

Thriving………….

thrive

verb

\ ˈthrīv  \

thrived or throve\ ˈthrōv  \; thrived also thriven\ ˈthri-​vən  \; thriving\ˈthrī-​viŋ  \

Definition of thrive

intransitive verb

1: to grow vigorously : FLOURISH

2: to gain in wealth or possessions : PROSPER

3: to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances —often used with on thrives on conflict

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thrive. , 1.27.19)

Thriving. At this moment and in this age, the words thrive and thriving have become a new focus. They were always there and present, but now more than ever, I think the Rio School District and other Districts like it might benefit from this solitary focus. Thriving. Are the children in our sphere of influence thriving? Are our employees thriving? Are the families and the community we are part of thriving? What are we doing to promote this thriving? What are we doing to hinder it? If we set aside, and I suggest we do for many reasons, the definition to gain wealth and possessions, we are left with growing vigorously and making progress towards our goals despite and/or because of our circumstances.

Rio’s children need to thrive in every sense as whole, developing human beings. They need to flourish physically, socially, emotionally, creatively, intellectually, academically, and civically. In recent years we have joined and contributed to the now two decades old movement to help children develop what have come to be known as 21st century skills. We preferred the word  “practices,” for various ethnographic and pedagogical reasons. We jumped on board networks of educational institutions that seek to amplify the need for schools to break from old conventions and learn to teach for skills/practices such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. We embraced this movement, contributed to it in the last few years and raised by both modeling, rhetoric, and action issues of equity and asked questions and took actions aimed at who the 21st century should and could transform in schools.

This age of renovation and renewal is recycling many progressive concepts and the work of many progressive thinkers. Many of which I was engrossed in pondering and engaging with when I entered public professional education work more than thirty years ago. These much needed schooling changes are clearly moving in a better direction for all children, for all communities and families and for the American democracy which is so intertwined and driven like an engine by our schools and the development of the next generation of citizens, people, workers.

Here in the Rio school District, where many and most children grow up in homes and contexts with little economic means, with little immersion in academic language experience, and many with little experience with English as a language, I believe it is time to focus on this word THRIVE, and to ask ourselves as their caretakers, questions that inquire into every aspect of their thriving. I am particularly interested in and focused in on three major elements of their thriving, though every aspect of their thriving is likely important. It is hard to tell what every child will need to become who they should be and to find the promise this country suggests we offer; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I am focused on;

  1. Their happiness, safety, and feelings of well-being and nourishment when they are at school and in their homes.
  2. Their interest, fluency, and meaning making when it comes to the most valued literacies in academic institutions: reading, writing, speaking and maths.
  3. Their creativity and interest in learning and pursuing things they want to learn about which is directly connected to their freedom in the schools context.

 

Rio School District

“Educating Learners to Thrive

What we ought to be doing, and what I hope we are doing, is helping, guiding, contributing to, create contexts, environments, ecosystems, where and for children to thrive. In the coming weeks and months I will be working with others to ponder and take action guided by this focus and these words and to renew our assessment of ourselves along these lines. We are a little/big system with nine schools, more than 5,000 students, 500 employees, and a $60,000,000 dollar budget. I will be asking all our employees to begin by thinking about themselves and their own thriving as well as the children around them they come in most close daily contact with. Are they thriving? How can we tell? Can we measure this? Observe this? How will we know if we have prepared them to thrive when they leave us to go to high school and beyond? I can think of no better group of people to do this work with, there is much love and commitment here in the Rio School District community and a developing appetite for system wide learning and excellence.  

S.T.E.A.M. : What’s it all about?

S.T.E.A.M. : What’s it all about?

 

S.T.E.A.M. learning focuses on science, technology, engineering,arts, and math. These disciplines and practices have become more prominent focal points for school  curriculum and learning activities in recent times. The Rio School District has been engaged in developing S.T.E.A.M. learning for the last six years. S.T.E.M. learning has long been valued due to its connection to our modern society’s emphasis on these content areas in the world economy. Rio makes sure to include the Arts in our learning activities for its various important connections to human development.

 

The Rio School District is charged with two basic aims; protecting the children in our supervision and educating them in preparation for their academic experiences and future life. In educating children we are tasked with guiding student literacy such that they can read, write, speak and do math at the levels that California standards based curriculum demands. In addition, we are charged with helping children develop as full human beings and citizens of the United States of America. The arts serve both literacy and human development in a multitude of ways. There are many fully developed reasons to support arts in schools. The following links provide some easy reading on the subject;

 

http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development/

 

https://artinaction.org/resource/arts-education-important-21st-century-learning-5-reasons-go-stem-steam/

 

https://www.americansforthearts.org/by-topic/arts-education

 

https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/nea_arts/neaARTS_2013_v1.pdf

 

https://www.giarts.org/article/elliot-w-eisner-role-arts-educating-whole-child

 

For many Rio students, S.T.E.A.M. learning helps to engage and motivate them to develop their basic literacy skills. Many Rio students depend on their schools to provide  opportunities that more affluent families can afford to support outside school. Rio children continue to have opportunities to experience and learn from a great variety of S.T.E.A.M. activities including visual arts, music, drama, dance, robotics, coding, drones, video production, animation, gardening, environmental science, maker activities, and the list goes on and expands each year. These opportunities support their learning and interest in reading, writing, speaking and math while developing their skills and practices in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and caring.

 

S.T.E.A.M. learning is also an attempt to un-silo student learning and break down the walls and divisions between school subject areas so they can be more authentic and real world. The Rio School District’s aims to provide each child the opportunity to develop their academic literacies and grow as a full and whole human being and citizen is also anchored in providing children a variety of experiences that they can personalize and pursue as their interests.