There is nothing I know to be more true than the adage that life is a journey. In my journey, there have been times where I feel out of sync, like the things I am filling my time with are off kilter with my inner beliefs. And there are times that I feel completely in sync, where everything I know to be true and believe in with conviction inside is a match for my day to day efforts.
Somehow the stars aligned for me this school year, and I am feeling like everything I know to be true about education, and everything we are focusing on in our school are 100% aligned. I feel completely in sync. Everything came together for me early this summer at the intersection of a PD session on Lucy Calkins Reading Units of Study, and my reading of the Book Whisperer by @donalynbooks. The idea that my reading life as an educator is key to student's reading life, paired with the opportunity to launch Lucy's RUOS K-5 this year with an emphasis on volume and choice in student reading is magical!
As I reflected on my own reading life as an elementary principal, I realized that while I read everyday, most of it is professional books, not books I can talk about with children. I decided (with unease) that when it comes to children's books, I have become what @donalynbooks calls a 'dormant reader'. Just realizing that stirred me with excitement to awaken my inner reader and be a principal who is a model of literacy for our kids.
I set a personal goal to read 100 children's books this school year, so I can talk to the kids in my school about books as a literacy model and partner. I am so excited for this work!
With this week being the first week of school, I read my first book, El Deafo, a graphic novel memoir about the personal struggles of growing up with differences (as we all do) and the realization that our differences are our super powers. At the suggestion of one of my teachers, I announced that I had read this book on the school speaker system and kids came from everywhere to talk to me about the book. One student even dressed up as the main character yesterday for our school spirit day 'Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character'.
This is just the beginning. I am excited for the learning journey ahead. Follow my reading life at jenniferdinielli.com/blog and share yours too. I'd love to hear from other elementary principals and teachers!
Awakening The Learner And Transforming SchoolsBy Jennifer Dinielli
There are moments we experience in life that touch our soul and change us in an unexplainable way. Today's session at NAESP 2015 with Darrell Scott and Robert Marzano, “Awakening the Learner and Transforming Schools”, was one of those moments.
Darrell Scott opened the session sharing the story of his daughter, Rachel, who he lost much too early in one of our nation's great tragedies, the Columbine school shooting. While no longer with us on earth, Rachel's spirit is living on through the message of her life being shared throughout the world. Her life message is a call to action. A call for a compassionate revolution started by one act of kindness and rippled out to a chain reaction across the world, known as Rachel's Challenge.
"I have this theory that if one person will go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. You never know how far a little kindness can go."
From this tragedy, we as educators can learn a profound truth that may shift what we see as our primary purpose in educating young people. Dr. Marzano claimed that we focus too narrowly on academics and the cognitive realm, and he charged us with flipping our current approach upside down. What if we started with something that connects the learner to something greater than themselves? If we widened our current vision in K-12 education to go beyond the cognitive and to reach the heart? What if our primary purpose was to awaken the motivation within the learner? Then we could reach the ideal of engaged and motivated learners in our schools.
As a public school principal, this message rings true to my mind, heart and hands. If we awaken our students, if we engage them as people, if we appeal to their internal sources of motivation, we may begin to shift to a more compassionate nation.
Thank you for the incredible message Robert Marzano and Darrell Scott.
"Be a 'see-througher' and not a 'look-after' and life will be filled with meaning. See through to the heart."
—Darrell Scott's Uncle Norman
—Jennifer Dinielli, principal of Baywood Elementary School in Los Osos, California.
Visit NAESP’s Conference News page to find the latest updates from Long Beach.
This week we have some changes to our usual routine, family conferences, early dismissal, emergency preparedness and sharing holiday wishes. Then, on Friday, we all head home for our first Fall Break where our celebrations continue with our family and friends.
True for some, not for all. As fall and winter breaks draw near, along with all of the excitement, it is not uncommon to see an increase in undesired behaviors and regression to previous behaviors in our students. For many of our students, home is a place where relationships are unhealthy, meals are not prepared, and drugs, alcohol or violence are a part of daily life. For these students, many of whom we may not even be aware of their circumstances, the most consistent, positive and secure part of their life is time at school; which is about to come to an end for one long week and soon another two weeks. No wonder they are exhibiting some stress. When these students walk out our doors on Friday, there will be no breakfast and lunch program, no counseling program, no celebrations, no gifts, and no one to encourage and support them.
So we support our children. We collaborate with our community to provide basic necessities, food, coats, pajamas, meals and gifts delivered to the home. We give our kids books from our classrooms to read over the break. We express that we are thankful for each other and look forward to being together again as a community soon.
And even though we are tired and looking forward to a much needed break ourselves, we keep an eye on those who are acting out more than usual. We give them structure and routine. We give them a break. We give them encouragement. This may not be their favorite time of year.
Thank you for ALL you do for our kids EVERYDAY.
ED Camp SLO
This past Saturday I had the opportunity to be a participant at #EDcampSLO, an amazing home-grown, grass-roots event held at Bellevue-Sante Fe Charter School in Avila Beach. I have been enviously hearing about ed camps from my twitter PLN for the past few years and was thrilled to finally have one in my area. So this Saturday marked two firsts, my first experience at an ed camp and the first ed camp in SLO.
The Session Board
The day started in Ed Camp fashion with participants generating topics and organizing them on the board into sessions that would run through out the day. This was the part of an ed camp I was most curious about, the organic creation of the day. I hadn't seen anything like it before and realized that I had no framework or schema for this type of 'un-conference'.
This is NOT Your Mother's Conference
I decided to go to the first session titled along the lines of "Using Google Forms to Support Learning'. When I walked into the room, I was the second attendee and I said to to the guy already in the room "Are you the Google forms guy?', thinking he must be the presenter. He chuckled and told me that he wrote the topic but knows nothing about Google forms but was hoping to learn. That was my first lesson of what an ed camp is really about.
The next session I went to was on Twitter. I am a Twitter evangelist as my professional life has been enriched beyond measure through the network of people I have connected with on Twitter. I didn't want to pass up a Twitter session as I thought I may learn some new strategies. It turned out that in this session I was one of the more advanced users and I shared a lot of my knowledge with the group. While I tried not to preach too much I did hear myself say "Twitter is the best thing in my life besides my family'. I do love my PLN!
As the day went on, I connected with educators from schools throughout our county and from out of the area. I also had the chance to meet some amazing educators who I follow on Twitter. With each session, the synergy grew and a contagious excitement filled the campus. I joined a group of folks for lunch and our conversation ranged from SBAC assessment logistics to Project Based Learning. After lunch I attended two more sessions, one on genius hour where the elementary students shared their projects with the group (they blew my mind- creating a website about how to play guitar, coding to create a video game...) and my final session was on PBL. All in all, #EDcampSLO was an awesome day of connecting and learning!
A New Framework for Learning
For the rest of the weekend, ideas were swimming around in my mind as I tried to fit this concept of an un-conference into the definition of learning that I had known for most of my life. Well, as you probably guessed, an ed camp doesn't fit into a traditional model of learning, an ed camp redefines learning itself.
Rather than knowledge being protected and passed on from an expert to the learner, the knowledge flows in all directions. There is no one expert. The room, the people who make up the room, as a community create the expertise. That being said, the ed camp experience is about so much more than being both a consumer and contributor of knowledge. It is about collaborating, connecting, learning, and contributing to the learning of educators who share your passion! A perfect Saturday in SLO.
Looking forward to #EDcampSLO 2015!
You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. -Wayne Gretzky