Thursday, April 30, 2015


Today is National Honesty Day. On announcements we asked students and teachers to debate the question...
Is if ever OK not to be honest?

I found it insightful to hear what students k-5 think about honesty as a virtue compared to teachers. Below are some highlights from both sides of the debate. I have color coded adult and student answers because I see a pattern... kids answers are in RED, adults in BLUE.... notice anything?

It is NEVER OK not to be honest:
*2nd Grader: 1 lie can make all of your truths questionable.

*Kinder kid:  It is NOT OK to not tell the truth because your parents will always find out anyway and you will get in trouble. 

*5th Grader: No, even a little lie could keep going and turn big. 

* 1st Grader: It is not OK to lie because no one will ever believe you again. 

*Kinder teacher: A lie is like a snowball, it starts off small and then grows and gets so big it falls apart and then the truth is discovered. 

*5th Grader: It is not OK to not be honest, you always have to say the truth. 

*Kinder kid: Friends should always tell each other the truth. 

*5th Grader: If you keep lying no one will believe you or trust you again. You will be miserable just talking to your pillow pet. 

...7 students, 1 teacher

It IS OK not to be honest, sometimes:
*Sped Teacher: Honesty always needs to be paired with tact!

*GT teacher: Just have to know whether the person you're talking to can handle the truth/go from there.

Literacy Instructional coach: Knowledge is knowing what to say, wisdom is knowing whether or not to say it. Honesty is not always the best policy. 

* 3rd Grader: It's OK not to be honest only when you're throwing a surprise party for someone and you have to lie to keep it a secret. 

* Math Instructional coach: Is it helpful or hurtful? Does it build people up or tear them down?

*Literacy Instructional Coach: Must we consider little white lies of protection for others?

...1 student, 5 teachers

Obviously there were a lot more responses from this morning's chat but look at the pattern...
adults mostly agree that omission of honesty IS OK at times.
Kids mostly agree that honesty is ALWAYS required.

My take away question is this: When does the innocence of a child seeing this virtue as black/white... right/wrong to become situational?

Is this a you live, you learn type of thing?
I say there is something to be gained here about the innocence of a child.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One of those days... drip

Some days are just "those days" you know the kind where little things continually happen and you begin to wonder, huh?

Today is one of those days.... drip

I woke up barely balanced on the edge of my bed to find my toddler stretched out on my pillow. drip.

While driving her to daycare, I received a disheartening phone call that made it difficult to focus on enjoying one of my favorite times of the day, the morning ride to school. You know there is a problem when a sweet voice from the back says, "Mama, please get off the phone." drip.

I arrived at work late and walked quickly toward the door only to notice my coffee cup had a hole on the bottom and had slowly been creating a coffee pool in my cup holder. drip.

On the way in I realized I had forgotten my badge. drip.

Morning announcements. I use a jeans pass to "patch" the hole in the cup. You can guess how well that worked. drip.

A teacher stopped me in the hall to discuss the schedule for the next two weeks. My schedule is so full I have no idea how to respond. drip. drip.

Returning to my room, I decide to tape the cup. Pleased with becoming a drip stopper, I begin to respond to emails. Lifting my coffee cup to my lips. drip.

The new calendar that I just finished updating sitting below my cup. drip.

That's it, my coffee goes sailing into the trash. drip. 

Realization that I threw my coffee away before I was fully awake sets in. drip.

Now I am left coffee-less. I debate reaching in an getting my cup back out of the trashcan, drip.

I stop for a second allowing my exhaustion to set in and find myself feeling... blessed.

You see, without the occasional drip in life, we wouldn't fully appreciate the little things. You can focus on the drips, but you will be missing out on so many wonderful little things.

Let's try this again....

I woke up this morning cuddled up with my daughter who had been frightened by the storms. Morning cuddles, blessed.

Before my phone rang, I had 15 minutes of quality conversation with my child, blessed.

After drop off I called my wife who immediately answered and helped me talk through some feelings...blessed. 

When I realized I had forgotten my badge there were 2 people walking in behind me that had their badges, blessed.

Morning announcements made me laugh, blessed.

My calendar could be reprinted, but I kind of like this one with a drip... it reminds me that I am blessed.

My coffee is in the trash, but we have a coke machine that is fully stocked and accepts credit cards, blessed.

Truth be told, my coffee was a bit flat today anyways.

Anyone else having a drip kind of day? Take time to recognize all of the blessings shining through the drips.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Are you a STAAR?

The season of STAAR is upon us. (DUN DUN DUUUN!)

Over the past few weeks we have begun to see Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube blow up with videos of teachers and principals encouraging their students to "Pass the STAAR."

Haven't seen it? Ok, open a new tab. Go to Youtube and search the word "STAAR." Now, scroll down. ...But don't get too lost in the videos, be sure to come back and finish reading.
               ...Welcome back!

Long ago I learned that it's always best to start by saying something positive so here it is...
The wonderful thing about these videos is that they show principals and teachers out of their normal "professional" role. Students that watch these videos are sure to laugh along with their educators. They see that we too can act like goofballs. Showing students your silly side is something I am 100% on board with.

Now to my concern.

These videos are made to encourage students to PASS the STAAR test. The message that is being sent to both teachers and students is that PASSing is the most important thing. Think about it as a student... the principal takes time out to make a silly video for the school to tell you that you must PASS this long and difficult test.

I don't know about you but if I were a student watching these videos I am sure that I would feel an unbelievable amount of pressure. Even as a teacher, to see the principal putting that much effort into delivering this message to the students, the pressure on the teacher increases as well. We all know what happens when a teacher feels pressure for her students to perform well... the teacher unintentionally places that pressure on the students.

Let's reflect for a minute... Will singing and dancing to tell kids that they must PASS an upcoming test really make a difference in their test scores? 

Kids naturally want to PASS the test. Kids want to succeed. They strive to make their teachers and parents proud. Some of my hardest working students of all time are ones that were struggling learners who could never in a million years pass that test. The message sent by these videos tells struggling hard working kiddos that their success is measured by a test score instead of their effort. The kids that pass easily are left feeling like they accomplished something incredible... when in actuality maybe the test didn't challenge them much at all.

Ask yourself... What could be the effect of sending messages like this to students year after year?

When did passing a test become more important than effort? What if we avoided ever telling students they had to PASS and instead told them that the test is a snap shot of what they know on one day. It's a chance to show off their skills and use their learned strategies when things get tricky. 

WHAT IF the song we made before the STAAR test didn't tell kids to PASS at all... but instead told them to focus on the things that are really important?

It's not about the test. It's about fostering a society of learners that are able to solve problems and ask questions. It's about the effort one puts forth when faced with a challenge. It's about applying learning. Most of all, it's about fostering the self worth of a child.

We don't need to pressure kids to PASS, they put enough pressure on themselves. We need to make sure that they know they are important. They matter. The outcome of the test does not define their success. We must help to build students up and celebrate successes of those that pass while being very careful to not diminish the effort put forth by students that fail.

At the end of the day, the self worth of a child matters way more than the score on a test.

Go on, make those silly videos... encourage students to do their best... but please don't send the message that student must pass. Adjust the lyrics a bit and you will have an incredibly motivational song about the things that really do matter.

It's NOT "All About The Test"'s all about the effort. It's about preserving the esteem of our students.