Sunday, January 14, 2018

Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I sat in church this morning and listened to the words of the Rev. Dr. Timothy Ahrens, I was inspired to read more closely these words (What is Your Life’s Blueprint?) of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., written just 6 months prior to his assassination.  
Our students in Worthington Schools and several other schools around the world, will not be attending school tomorrow as Monday is a day for all of us to celebrate King’s birthday, honor his legacy and shine a light on his leadership during the civil rights movement.  I am hopeful that everyone, including our students, use this day to take the time to read the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or give back through public service.  Dr. King’s message to Barratt Junior High School students in Philadelphia are powerful and it is my hope that our students in Worthington Schools reflect on their own blueprint and continue to focus on being the best they can be, wherever they are and whatever they choose to do in life.  We believe in you and thank you for honoring the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America.

What Is Your Life's Blueprint?

On October 26, 1967, six months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life's blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life's blueprint. Number one in your life's blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don't allow anybody to make you feel that you're nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life's blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You're going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life's work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you--doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, "If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door."

This hasn't always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don't drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you're forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

"Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!"

"Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!"

This is a statement I often say in my leadership work and thus, I introduce you to an Academic Achievement and Professional Development (AAPD) Team who models the true meaning.  

It has been just over 2 months of getting to know and working with this team of educators at Worthington City Schools and I could not be more impressed with their care for, collaboration with and commitment to our school community.  They truly love what they get to do each and every day as a member of this professional team.  On Friday, September 22, 2017, we had the opportunity to spend the entire work day together at what we called a "Family Meeting," formerly titled, a Retreat.  I chuckled a bit during a planning session when a member of our leadership team made this suggestion, however, after the day was over, it was easy to see why the title was due for a change.  

Our day started with dedicated time for each of us to share our "WHY or our PURPOSE" with one another.  Needless to say, my ability to gauge the amount of time this would take for all 30 of us to share was off just a bit.  😆   But for this, time did not matter.  In fact, it really was the last thing on our minds.  I learned immediately, as a new member of this team, that knowing each other through understanding one another's why or purpose adds to the depth and ongoing success of a true team.
Our leaders shared why they chose to do the work they get to do and what they value most about being a mom, a dad, a wife, a husband, a son, a daughter or a sibling.   As a team, we determined quickly that our purpose must be a balance of work and family.  We believe that any successful team must take the necessary time to self-reflect, share their purpose and listen to learn from others.  What we know about those working alongside of us, matters.  The time spent learning about each other is a part of our work and will continue to make our team stronger.

Thanks for a great day, together!  I know it's hard work at times but you are and will continue to make a difference in the lives of our Worthington students and families.  I appreciate your team-focus and your continued care for, collaboration with and commitment to our school community.

"Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!"

(By the way, for those of you reading this blog, we did have a full agenda which included our continued work around the 4 Academic Focus Strategies.)


Monday, August 21, 2017

Purpose Statements > Goal Setting

I often equate the beginning of a new school year to the process of setting new goals for myself, both personally and professionally.  Already, I have shared that dreaded “2017-18 Goal Setting” form with our team and asked them to return to me by September 15th.

I say "dreaded" because,

“What does this really mean?  
Will this be a form that is completed for compliance purposes or will it be a true reflection of who they are and how they identify with their purpose?  
By setting goals, do we get too caught up in the result rather than the process?”  

Maybe we should set purpose statements that include timeline processes and checkpoints along the way to measure our growth.  Our value as leaders comes from getting lost in the work with others. It’s about maximizing our own learning and collaborating with others to help the organization succeed.  It’s about building capacity in others through trusting relationships.  It’s about collectively growing our students and our organization.  It’s about developing our identity as a leader, over time, not in whether or not we reach a goal at the end of 12 month period.

Think about others whom you admire.  How would you describe them?  Which of these leadership qualities do you hope for in yourself?  

Developing a purpose statement as leaders seems to make more sense than developing goals in isolation.  A purpose statement will help us reflect on the process and focus less on the outcome.  I care more about the process leaders take to reach their goals.  In the end, no one will remember whether or not we achieved our yearly goal, but they will remember how we persevered along the way.  As leaders, we all want to reach the top of the mountain, but what good does it do if we are at the top of the mountain alone?  The end goal doesn’t matter much if the camaraderie of team hasn’t developed along the way.  It’s about the process and those who band together during that process.  The process is personal.  Through processes, others get to know us and understand what we value.  Let’s also not forget the important role failure plays in this process.  I’d much rather work alongside someone who has failed a few times, knows how to navigate the bumpy road and lead our team to success. From failure, we grow.  Goals are boring in isolation, but a purpose statement allows us to focus on the process, keep our perspective and keep moving the organization forward.

So, if you have already started your Goal Statements that are DUE by September 15th, please HOLD, we have a few changes to make!😀

Monday, August 14, 2017

ALL teachers working together to better understand and grow ALL learners!

It is my honor and privilege to introduce you to Alison Palermo, a very talented Worthington City Schools Literacy Coach and guest blogger for "Dream Big!". I had the pleasure of learning from and with Alison and group of our teachers last week during a Wilson Reading System workshop and I was amazed, yet not surprised by the amount of deep learning and collaboration that took place.
ALL teachers are working together to better understand and grow ALL of our learners.



Worthington’s Framework for Literacy Instruction, Wilson Reading System and The Culper Spy Ring

This week I had the privilege of hosting a Wilson Reading System workshop for Worthington teachers.  In attendance at the workshop were Intervention Specialists, Reading Specialists and general education teachers.  You might be asking yourself why in the world would Reading Specialists and general education teachers want to attend a Wilson Reading System workshop? Isn’t that only for students receiving special education services?  

As teachers- whether general education teachers, reading specialists or intervention specialists- we are all responsible for instructing the Ohio State Standards.  The Ohio State Standards that were the focus of our workshop (and are the focus of Wilson Reading System instruction) are found in the areas of Reading Foundations and Language Standards.  

RF.K.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
a. Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one grapheme (letter)-sound correspondences by producing the primary sound or many of the most frequent sounds for each consonant.
RF.1.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
a. Know the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs.
b. Decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.
c. Know final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds.
d. Use knowledge that every syllable must have a vowel sound to determine the number of syllables in a printed word.
e. Decode two-syllable words following basic patterns by breaking the words into syllables.
RF.2.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
a. Distinguish long and short vowels when reading regularly spelled one-syllable words.
b. Know spelling-sound correspondences for additional common vowel teams.
c. Decode regularly spelled two-syllable words with long vowels.
d. Decode words with common prefixes and suffixes.
e. Identify words with inconsistent but common spelling-sound correspondences.
RF.3.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
a. Identify and know the meaning of the most common prefixes and derivational suffixes.
b. Decode words with common Latin suffixes.
c. Decode multi-syllable words.
RF.4.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words by using combined knowledge of all letter-sound correspondences, syllabication patterns, and morphology (e.g., roots and affixes) to read accurately unfamiliar multisyllabic words in context and out of context
L.K.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
c. Write a letter or letters for most consonant and short-vowel phonemes (sounds).
d. Spell simple words phonetically, drawing on knowledge of sound-letter relationships
L.1.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
d. Use conventional spelling for words with common spelling patterns and for frequently occurring irregular words.
e. Spell untaught words phonetically, drawing on phonemic awareness and spelling conventions
L.2.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
d. Generalize learned spelling patterns when writing words (e.g., cage -> badge; boy -> boil).
L.3.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
e. Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to base words (e.g., sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).
f. Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g., word families, position-based spellings, syllable patterns, ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing words.
L.4.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
d. Spell grade-appropriate words correctly

So while we are all teaching the same content, for students who need the additional support from either a reading specialist or an intervention specialist- what changes is not the content being taught, but the instructional methods we use.  

The Framework for Literacy Instruction we use in Worthington has three main components:
  • reading
  • writing
  • word study  

Word Study consists of:
  • phonemic awareness
  • phonics
  • vocabulary
  • word analysis
  • spelling

Within the context of the Framework for Literacy Instruction, we as teachers have to differentiate our instruction to meet the unique needs of each learner.  

The group of learners who were the focus of our workshop this week are those learners who (for various reasons) have a documented deficit in the area(s) of: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, word analysis and spelling.  These are students who are struggling to acquire the necessary skills to be able to read in order to fully grasp the writer’s message and write to send their own message.  Upon in-depth analysis, we discover that at the core of these student’s reading and writing deficit is an inability to decipher and use the code of the English language.

Now to the Culper Spy Ring- (Washington’s spy ring during the Revolutionary War and made popular again by the A&E show Turn) their success was rooted in the development of a code only understood and utilized by those in the spy ring.  For students with deficits in the area of phonological processing (which means once they visually decipher the symbols we use in English, attach the symbols to the sounds of our language, and finally blend those sounds together to form words that have meaning) anytime they read or write they feel as if they are trying to decipher a secret code that everyone else in their life completely understands (and uses easily and effortlessly) but for some reason- they cannot break.

So for our students who feel like they are on the outside looking in as we all use this “secret code” when we read and write- we owe them nothing less than being able to instruct them at their point of need using methods that make sense to them.  I love the title of the resource Words Their Way.   It is a good reminder for us as educators that our responsibility is to teach skills and content- not our way, relying on our preferences, and teaching within our comfort zone- but their way.  We have to know each student’s unique learning profile and then differentiate our instruction so that we are teaching skills and content THEIR way.

For the group of teachers that gathered this week and spent three full days exploring a method of instruction to teach phonics, word analysis skills and spelling to students who  just can’t seem to break the code- they will now head into their classrooms this week with a deepened ability to teach each student THEIR way.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Power of Positivity

I am just returning from some time away from work and it is amazing how a week away with family and friends allows for our heads to clear and our minds to be refreshed.  While the month of July is a different pace for me, it is refreshing because it is a time where I am able to be more creative.  More creative to dream and to really process the "What If's" for a new school year.  July is a time where I feel like I can dig deeper into my own personal beliefs and reflections.  I've already had some time to read a few books and yes, most of my reading has been either leadership focused or personal transformation related.  My friends tend to make fun of me for not being able to just get lost in a murder mystery or a romance novel.  I'm not going to lie and say I don't think there is some merit behind this, but I guess it's just not my thing.

For several years now, author and speaker, Jon Gordon has been a part of my July learning.  After reading and rereading his most recent book, "The Power of Positive Leadership," I continue to reflect on the importance of such a simple word...POSITIVITY.  Being positive, be it in the work place or that time away with family and friends, makes you better and more importantly, makes everyone around you better.  People (co-workers, friends and family) are our most important assets and if we take care of each other, others will feel your care for them and keep the organization moving forward.  I certainly understand that not all days are happy days and that in life, bad things can and will happen, but I do believe that we are in control of our own behaviors and that the commitment and love for those around us is where differences are made.  We must be committed to people as this is where trust is built and this trust is necessary in any successful relationship. We achieve with people not with fancy programs and expensive resources.  People create the positive energy that is necessary for a positive culture.

"Positivity is a difference-maker and investing in relationships builds a strong culture.  Driving your culture is not something you can delegate.  Culture beats strategy!" 

Thanks for making a difference in my growth as a leader and as a person.  I will continue to invest in relationships and lead with the positive energy that is necessary to keep our organization moving forward.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Reading Camp

Today a READER, tomorrow a LEADER!”

Friday, June 23rd was a great day because I had the opportunity to visit teachers and students at our Summer Reading Camp, a Leveled Literacy Intervention Program for grades K-3.  This is an intensive, 4-week, summer reading intervention program that takes place at Worthington Estates Elementary.  One might think, “It’s Summer, does learning really happen in the Summer? What does it look like?”  

WOW! I was so impressed.  As I walked around and toured the building with Tricia Palko, our Coordinator of ELA and Social Studies, I was impressed with the focus and structure.  Our teachers and students were so engaged in the learning that I might as well have been a poster on the wall.  I walked in and out of classrooms to observe and finally realized that if the students were going to know I was present, I’d have to introduce myself and engage in the learning with them.  There was no time for small talk because they were there to learn!  Our teachers care about our students and go above and beyond to help them discover success.  They have created a culture of learning and our students are happy to be there because they know their teachers care about them.  Thanks to all of our teachers for doing what you do best...Taking Care of our Worthington Students.


Katie Eschliman, Kindergarten teacher at Colonial Hills Elementary,  and Sarah Tsung, 5th grade teacher at Liberty Elementary, helps students to develop skills in phonics, decoding, vocabulary acquisition, fluency, comprehension and writing.  

Katrina Turner,  1st grade teacher at Brookside Elementary, monitors progress of students through running records and leveled text assignments.  

A big “Shout-Out” to Worthington Estates Elementary School for hosting this outstanding learning experience for our Worthington students.  Friday, June 23rd was a great day for me as I begin my new role as Worthington Schools Chief Academic Officer!


“To empower a community of learners who will change the world.”