Friday, October 31, 2014

A Great Fall at BSN Learning Institute

It is hard to believe we are already one-fourth of the way through the school year. The Learning Institute at Blended Schools Network has bustled this fall with the addition of courses like Physics, Chemistry and Probability! The Language Institute has made the transition to the Learning Institute as districts like Glendale, North Penn and Shikellamy needed alternatives to help students with courses that were not available due to certification issues or just lack of time in the school day. We have been excited to help with our award winning courses and certified teachers!
Over the past few years we have dreamt about building on our strong World Language program delivering high quality live, on-line instruction. In our inaugural offering as the Learning Institute we are hosting 360 students who have chosen World Languages and 147 students who have chosen Physics, Chemistry, English, Probability, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education. Building on this strong foundation we have expanded to Advanced Placement, Core and Elective Courses for districts. Schools often looked to fill the needs of students who want to extend and enrich their school opportunities. With our unique approach that includes both a mentor, a teacher AND live on-line classes students can participate in course that meet both student and districts needs.
As new and emerging technologies make their way into classrooms we can help districts bridge the gaps with innovative ways to help schools discover, develop and deliver authentic and meaningful content. Scott at Tuscarora School District recently sent me this feedback, ..." I’m in a position where I have to judge/assess, somewhat, the effectiveness and progress of students in language courses (async vs. sync). We have nearly a split roster of language kids --- equal async and sync --- and while my feelings in the past have been mixed when it comes to the pros and cons and each, and which may be the better learning tool, I’m leaning more and more of late toward the “live” instruction model." He reiterated what we believe at Blended Schools Network when he said, "You each take a great, personable and relative approach to teaching these languages. Async courses have some things to boast about in the way of convenience, but they fall short in the flexibility, monitoring and “care” departments."
So whether you need to supplement your current curriculum or build the confidence in own teachers to deliver courses in online and blended platforms we are here to help:
  1. Supplement your schools' spring schedule with Blended Schools' Learning Institute Core, World Language and Elective courses! Our courses are developed and taught by certified teachers trained using Blended Schools Professional Development.
  2. Explore our credit recovery options for students who really want to graduate, but need a few extra credits. Our specially designed credit recovery courses are competency based and offer a problem based learning solution to provide an authentic learning experience.
  3. Enroll in an online Professional Development course. Our BSN teachers use our Professional Learning Opportunities to sharpen their skills!! Sign up and meet new colleagues with great ideas or join a course with a group of friends (near or far).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Footprints and Imprints

On a visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park I found myself in awe of how many footprints were in the sand! What is it that I want to leave? In this place with high mountains and big sky I found myself among millions of grains of sand against the backdrop of mountain peaks that seemed to touch the sky - and I was struck by the value of small, the value of each footprint.

I am not alone, we are not alone. Our footprints are here and gone. What I add and subtract in this moment by how I bring myself to this place, is the footprint I leave. I may never pass this way again. Trite, I know, but I may never meet the stranger again who smiled, who held my door, who greeted me along the path. In turn can I give the same smile? The same gratitude for sharing the beauty of this one wild and precious life?

The footprint may fade and I hope to leave an imprint of love, grace and gratitude for the stranger who at first I did not understand. Gratitude for the Insight of the stranger, for things I may not have experienced, books I may never read, places I may never go. In that one fleeting moment of holding the stranger - I hear God! Not a footprint, here and gone, but an imprint on my soul. The days and weeks may pass from my consciousness like the footprint in the sand, but it will always be a part of the fabric of who I am, woven gently into my being. Grateful to have found a place in my heart to welcome myself and welcome the stranger.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hope in the Horizon

Have you ever tossed and turned, early in the morning, with so many thoughts swirling in your head that you just have to get up and greet the day??

I woke up this morning and knew that there was no way that I was going to get back to sleep. Angry that big companies get federal dollars for education (click here to check it out) that could go to fund teachers, technology, and transportation, after-school clubs for kids! I don’t understand why big for-profit companies get the federal dollars? I wonder how they can turn around and make a profit by selling us and our states "standardized tests", books and services they develop using these federal dollars AND make a profit? And I wonder – is this why we are all so tired?

Traveling to lots of schools over the past few months and talking with teachers and administrators I realize that there are struggles everywhere! Lots of great educators, who care a lot, are tired! Working with less of everything as PA struggles to fund schools; less books, teachers, technology and clubs. Still, people show up every day and do amazing things, despite the struggles. And I am grateful to push the edges with the courageous people who show up every day, with heart and passion for giving kids a chance. 

As the sun comes up over the horizon hope replaces the anger that welled up this morning, way before the sun came up.Grateful for all the folks who are working in schools this morning everywhere, showing up with the hope of helping every child reach there full potential.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Summer Peaches

I didn’t just buy a couple of peaches at the roadside stand yesterday; no I bought the whole bucket! Traveling home from a meeting with some amazing school leaders – I couldn’t help but hope to steal away a few more days of summer.

I never dreamed Li-Young Lee’s poem “From Blossoms” would appear in my regular morning reflection. The universe unfolded as I was eating my peach, pondering the day and listening to his amazing use of words. I thought about what is blooming? What blooms? The poem reminded me that the “dusty peach” emerged from a blossom, that came to life sometime in spring. The juice of the sweet, yellow peach rolled from my mouth, down my hand, to my wrist as I listened. I reveled in the glorious taste of summer peaches. But, it blossomed in the spring and grew through May, June, July and August. It probably was the fruit of an old tree planted many years ago. The farmer who planted and tended that tree does not know the joy the sweet fruit brought to me this morning. Nor does Li-Young Lee know the impact of his words. Yet we were all connected for a brief moment this morning!

I think of the teachers, preachers, doctors, poets, police, factory workers, farmers, dreamers, writers, and musicians, and more, planting seeds of joy in our world. I have more hope as I think of all of us being connected, planting seeds of our own. Blossoms across the universe! Grateful for a long list of people who inspire us all and plant seeds. I am thankful for the peaches, the songs, the meals around the table, the healing touch, the poem, the bread, the hammer, the quick note to say hello. Joy blooming – taking the time to savor the sweetness of the universe!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Looking In - then Out

When I opened my inbox the other day I had an email from The Center for Courage and Renewal with this video. I loved Terry Chadsey's wonderful summary - yet I am sure if you watch it for yourself you may find another perspective, angle or insight. Our unique ways of seeing things are what make life so wonderful for me!
These past few years have been much different than I expected. I thought I would finish my career as a Superintendent. I thought we could open the School at Kirkridge this fall. I thought I would live in one of my many closets all of my life! None of that happened and I am still standing, happier than I imagined possible. So - the idea of facing hard conversations, by being "authentic, direct, and unapologetic" seemed so simple. 

But sometimes I forget how much harder it was to live apologizing all the time – and trying to live as something else. Interestingly – for me, some of the hardest conversation I had to have, and continue to have, are with myself. Living authentically makes life so much simpler. I am glad I pressed play and took a few minutes to listen to this message - it reminded me how great my life is. It made my day! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Learning from Beads to Blogs

Learning is unique to each of us. Several famous researchers have talked about learning styles trying to help educators make learning easier for children and less perplexing for the teacher. The truth of the matter is, we are innately wired to learn and to seek to knowledge and understanding. From the time we roll over in our cribs, until we take our last breath, most of us are curious. Knowing how to guide your own learning might be more important than having a teacher, or someone else, tell you what it is you need to know. Not that guides aren't necessary - but why go it alone when someone else may be able to lend us a hand.
Looking at how we learn can be a bit perplexing. Take for example, some of the things I like to do; making prayer beads and writing my blog. I didn’t know how to do either of those things until a few years ago. Learning to bead came out of volunteering for a program with young adults with disabilities. Our objective was to find a way for these young people to work side-by-side with more abled people, so a task that fit us all was what we hoped to find. The prayer beads seemed a natural fit - how hard could stringing some beads be? And we could sell them at the retreat center where to group was meeting.
Low and behold, beading was not so simple. After a trip to the craft store this idea seemed more amusing than fun. There were hundreds of types of beads, string and gadgets. I needed expert help to navigate this sea of ceramic and glass, hemp and nylon, tassels and grommets. After wrestling with the string and beads, trial and error, visit after visit to the local craftspeople, we had a product that looked good and might even sell. We made templates and work lines, we counted beads and packaged them for production. We sat together and one suggestion after another lead to a system that had us all working at what we did best. Doing made the difference - for me and others as well. We learned from one another through trying and failing, getting up and trying again.
While beading started as a group effort, writing a blog came out of my personal journals and workshops. It didn’t happen all at once and writing in this manner was a personal journey. In fact, writing was not what I trying to learn, blogging was about learning to trust my own instincts. I penned my thoughts freely in journals for myself. I walked in the woods observing nature and metaphors. I drew pictures in pencil as sat and listened, working through my own fear, joy, pain and life. I had written in the academic world for years - more than I want to count. I wanted to tell a story then, but was always called back to the data points. I had faces for each child that didn’t make AYP (adequate yearly progress). Now, sitting with others, walking in the woods, observing life in airports, the sacred in the moment, I was pulled to tell the story of these faces through my heart. Little by little I shared with strangers at workshops, considering going public.
A blog is public. The choice to step out into the world took time. I was really trying to start a conversation - wider than my circle of influence. A snippet of my view of the heart and soul of education. From the line of a poem - ground out as I listened to the words of others as I was beginning to gain courage. I was getting better with practice. Yet, I worried, what might others say or think? I don’t remember exactly why I let go of the fear of failing or that my stories would seem trite or vain. I was Riddled with doubt about my own ability and value. I remembered the first time I read a poem aloud in a group with fear and doubt surfacing. I had good stories to tell about children and learning. Yet, it was like jumping off a ledge - into cold, dark water and I emerged - alive and renewed. Writing had been mostly a quiet and solitary affair, that changed when I went public with my words. While I thought of writing as a solitary experience - with the push of others and a button it was public and I was OK.
Learning for me has almost always a community effort, but I found I also learn in other ways; by creating, observing, listening, trying, failing and trying again. Alone and together, trying to make meaning of the day to day. I like synthesizing ideas, culling the best of what each person has to offer, working together to shape the plan - but other times I like to learn alone and then seek feedback. The next thing I want to learn is when to let go - and move on to the next adventure! There is so much to learn - so much to do. Leaving the fear of failing behind, the voice in my own head that keeps my from stretching my wings, that’s what I want to learn next. We only really fail when we don’t try, right?