Pretty Paper Napkins

Polkadots, whales, flamingos, watermelons, stripes, butterflies. Choose your napkin. I have a slight obsession with pretty paper napkins. I  have a roll of “fancy” paper towels in my office that has been the target of more than a few snarky comments.

I make regular stops at Tuesday Morning to refill my stockpile. I keep a pile of napkins at home. I have an assortment at work. I have even been known to carry a stash in my car.

Messes, spills, and mistakes are unavoidable, but not unpredictable.

I could blame my deep and thorough knowledge of spills and stains on my boys, and though they have provided a significant amount of data-that wouldn’t be a completely honest picture!

You are going to spill your coffee in your lap some days. The drive through taco should not be eaten while driving. You are going to be served spaghetti when you wear white.

Sometimes you laugh so hard at lunch you spill (or spit out) your drink. Sometime you will feed a little one squash for the first time and watch the messy magic.

Here are a few words for you: Mascara, Bar-B-Q, Toothpaste, Cupcakes, Watermelon.

Pretty napkins are my way of signaling to myself that I know mistakes are on the way, I have what it takes to attend to the inevitable messiness, and I get to choose my attitude about it.

Hard to cry over spilled milk when you are drying it up with a napkin covered in purple butterflies.

Easier to sop up the stain with a smile when you are holding a multicolored chevron print paper towel.

Things are about to get messy (if they aren’t already)!! There is no way to avoid the mistakes and missteps headed our way as educators this fall as we navigate a whole new way of doing school. We will have a to adjust our practices, stretch our skills, relearn and repurpose strategies that we have been using to plan, teach, and assess. We have big learning ahead and learning is rarely a “clean” endeavor! The good news is-we are up for the task!

The teaching equivalents to pretty paper napkins:

1. Permission: This fall can feel like an ordeal or an adventure. There will be days that it is both! You will get to decide how you approach every new challenge, tech tool, online interaction. Give yourself permission to be excited, scared, and not perfect!! Set out a stack of napkins and get ready to get messy!

Brené Brown has shared some thinking about giving yourself permission to be who you need to be, but the first time I heard the “permission slip” idea was from Tina Boogren. She had written herself a note, signed it, and put it in her pocket before a Learning Forward presentation. As teachers we know the power of the “permission slip”, it has to be signed, it has to be specific. It is like goal setting with a twist-when you give yourself the green light to try something, learn from the try, and try again.

2. Scheduled reflection: Put it on your calendar. When do you plan to look back, get out your proverbial pink polka-dot napkin and wipe off the edges of what didn’t go the way you planned?

Do you know what gets done in my life? Things that are on my calendar. Do you want to sneak something on to my to-do list? Send me a calendar invite…I love a good calendar invite!! If it is on my calendar, it is happening. I sometimes feel like things aren’t real unless they show up in Outlook (which is why I REFUSE to add the date that my big guy goes back to college or my baby turns 18-we can pretend those things aren’t happening, right?)

Sometimes we get caught up moving so fast, looking ahead, we can leave a lot of learning on the table. There is always something to learn, even when everything goes well. Scheduled reflection is like buying the napkins-having a stash of time and energy-the two supplies you really need to reflect. If you really want to get fancy, schedule it with an instructional coach, a teaching partner, a trusted friend.

3. Release: Throw it away!! Don’t keep things are meant to be single use! I am a firm believer in pretty PAPER NAPKINS! Don’t hold on to, lament, rehash, and relive the lessons or strategies that don’t work for you and your students!! Reflect, learn, and MOVE ON!

Messiness is inevitable, but so is learning, so is growth. And it is all part of the process and the practice of being an educator.

We serve in a profession that is a practice, not a perfection.

This year is going to feel messy…but that is ok…I have a “few” spare napkins if you need some…

Still learning,


Dear Veteran Teachers

Dear Veteran Teachers,

I had the honor, privilege, and joy to serve with our phenomenal PL team and an amazing group of teacher leaders as we welcomed our district’s First Year Teachers this past Friday. BEST DAY EVER! I truly wish every experienced educator had access to this reflective time machine to catch a glimpse of what we all must have looked like on our first day of professional learning.

I will be honest. I remember NONE of the content from my first day. ZERO. I remember what I wore because it was the only thing that fit me at 36 weeks pregnant. I remember that I was distracted because the first day of inservice was also my grandfather’s funeral- I both could not spare any extra days off and wasn’t cleared to travel. And I remember being worried about whether or not I would be able to make this teaching thing work.

I also remember my principal making sure I had a comfortable chair for the day. My department head showing up for new teacher orientation to meet me when he didn’t have to. I remember sitting with Shanna and she promised to “show me the ropes” because she had taught since January and had figured a few things out. I remember that I left more excited than scared.

Last Friday, our newbies were wide-eyed, anxious, distracted, hopeful, grateful, and excited…it is a familiar mix of emotions as they ready themselves for their first classrooms.

But…they aren’t only excited/anxious about meeting their students-they can’t wait to meet YOU: to be on your team, to learn from your expertise, to build relationships with you, to contribute what they know.

I hope you won’t mind that I spoke for all of us when I told them that we were excited to share what we know and are open to new ideas as they share all the things that they have learned. I told them that we would be available for questions, and cry sessions, and celebrations. I let them know that they would find a place on our teams where they belong, are valued, and welcomed.

I NEVER would have survived my first year of teaching without Mary Edwards, Gail Knight, Jackie McBroom, Jennifer Reynolds, Shanna Mathe, and Cassie Miller. NEVER. They were (and are) my teachers, my friends, my sounding boards, my therapists, my mentors, and my lifeline.

Shanna, Jennifer and I celebrating Jackie’s new book!

I encourage you to take a minute to jot down some memories from your first year (with all the gory details) so you can share how you survived with the newbies on your team. They need to see that we are still excited, that we still can’t sleep before the first day, that we get nervous before a big test that we aren’t taking, and that we feel so privileged to GET to work with these amazing kids every single day!

Teaching is hard. It is harder your first year. It is nearly impossible without a great team!

So grateful to have such great teams to work alongside. So excited about the possibilities we are creating for students. So proud of ever teacher I know who links arms and shows up to make a difference for children every day. You are my heroes! You are the hero for your students! And this year…you may be lucky enough to be the hero for a new teacher!

Still Learning,


Someday, everyone will pour their own milk…

My redheads are 18 months apart. We found out Levi was on the way when Hunter was only 10 months old. It isn’t the same as having twins but we had two babies. Twice the diapers, a double stroller, countless sippy cups, two precious people, dependent on us for everything. The years when they were tiny felt like endlessly fast days lived in a slow blur. It was hard, and messy, and exhausting, and totally worth it.

Now they are both driving themselves to school, talking about college, and getting ready to leave our nest. We blinked. It happened just that fast, in a blink of an eye. But it happened slowly too, diaper by diaper, dinner by dinner, day by day by day.

In the midst of one of the long stretches of days, I walked into the kitchen and both boys had a bowl of cereal. With milk. In the bowl. They had poured their OWN MILK. No spills, no tragedy, no fanfare. They were so casual about it, so nonchalant.

I could have missed the magic that morning, had I not been paying attention. But I was paying attention, I was watching in the midst of the up-all-nights, scraped knees, kool-aid stains, teeth brushing, and bath times. I was watching because someone told me to watch. A friend with littles ahead of mine by a couple of years said it would get easier, in a throw away comment she mentioned that, “one day they will both pour their own milk.” I think I called her a liar with my mouth, but I began to hope in my heart.

And then it happened. The universe shifted just a little that day as we all gained a little independence! It was a day to celebrate!

In the midst of the celebration, I learned such a valuable lesson…you can’t celebrate what you don’t notice. Since then, I have used our “milk moment” to plant celebrations for so many others along the way.

  • I see a mom in the grocery store, wrangling a basketful of babies, I tell her…
  • Friends in the weeds of parenting toddlers, I let them know…
  • Dad of four covering for mom on a girls trip, some day soon…

I PLANT the celebration, like a little seed, full of hope, waiting to be watered by countless glasses of spilled milk, till one day…


I was reminded of this when reviewing Marzano’s High Reliability Framework, as celebration is embedded throughout Level I. If we are truly going to create safe, collaborative classrooms, teams, schools, departments, and organizations we will have to celebrate the “un-spilt milk”, which means we will have to be looking for it!

Leading Indicator 1.7: The success of the whole school, as well as individuals within the school, is appropriately acknowledged.

What do we need to notice as a community? What could be easily overlooked, unintentionally missed if we aren’t paying attention?

Plant the celebration: Let people know what is coming! Students are going to succeed here! You’re collaborative team is going to reach your SMART goal! We are going to make a difference for students TOGETHER! Watch for it. Wait for it! Work for it! Water it with failure and restarts and lessons learned. No one learns how to pour milk on the first day, but one day, I promise, EVERYONE POURS THEIR OWN MILK!


Still Learning,




I love how preparing for professional learning always puts me in the seat of the learner, requiring me to process my thinking, challenge my own assumptions, and grow in my understanding of each piece before feeling ready to facilitate the learning of others.

I often have three separate sets of “aha” moments:

  1. During the preparation and design phase.
  2. In the midst of facilitation, spurred by the questions and reflections of participants and my co-presenters.
  3. In reflecting on the process and changes I would make to the learning experience.

I have recently experienced a new brand of “aha” moment, as I had the opportunity to be both a designer and a participant in a workshop about Professional Learning Communities.

While participating in an activity that I co-designed and created materials for, I felt like I read a sentence for the first time in my life.

The first sentence of PLC Big Idea #3: We assess our effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions. 


How could I have put it on a slide-deck, created activity cards, talked through the quote’s facilitation and not really applied it beyond the scope of the PLC process or collaborative teams? I am really not sure. What I do know is as I stood in my triad discussing what each big idea would  “look like” or “sound like” in a school setting, I was flooded with the realization that some of my own intentions have not produced the anticipated results.

This sent me down a road of revisiting and rethinking intentions. 

Initial Thoughts: 

At The End Of The Day, I’m At Peace Because My Intentions Were Good And My Heart Was Pure  –Anonymous

There are a myriad of quotes and articles and talks that mirror the quote above, and that speak to the necessity of starting with your heart focused in the right direction and trusting that from that intention good things will follow. I believe this…I believe that what you mean to do matters. That the motivation behind the actions is sometimes as important as the action.

Continued Thinking:

Great intentions become tragic action when delivered without careful thought.            –Michael Dooley

Remember, people will judge you by your actions not your intentions.

Reflecting on the areas of my practice and work that are not yielding positive or meaningful results led me to an evaluation of my intentions for those projects, relationships, and strategies. My heart is set in the right direction. My intentions are good…and I have taken action. The lack of results is not from a lack of intention or effort, but there is a disconnect at times between the planned and the product.

Where I am now:

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
-William A. Foster

I should have been able to predict that this learning rabbit hole would bring me to thinking about cycles, growth, and continuous improvement. It should have been an easy prediction, as it was literally written on the back of the card that spurred the thinking to begin with.

Part 2 of Big Idea #3: Individuals, teams, and schools seek relevant data and information and us that information to promote continuous improvement.


In my learning I found this short essay by Paulo Coelho, and am thankful for his invitation to share his words:

The bow, the arrow and the target

The arrow is your intention. It is what joins the strength of the bow to the center of the target.

Our intentions have to be crystal-clear, straight and well balanced.

Once it leaves, it will not return, so it is better to interrupt a process – because the movements that led up to it were not precise and correct – than to act in any way just because the bow was already taut and the target already waiting.

But never fail to show your intention if the only thing that paralyzes you is the fear of making a mistake. If you perform the right movements, open your hand and release the string, take the necessary steps and face your challenges. Even if you do not hit the target, you will know how to correct your aim the next time.

If you do not take risks, you will never know the changes that needed to be made.


Moving Forward:

I am going to check the quality and strength of my intentions, and then reevaluate my strategies and actions before letting those intentions fly unprepared towards an undefined target. I am going to hold myself accountable to results and not intentions. I am going to put this thinking in the driver’s seat and reset my goals, not to perfection, but continuous improvement. And we will see where this arrow lands…

Still Learning,



Your New School “Home”

From the Other Side of the Wall... (3)

The past 6 years have held more change than I could have predicted based on my first 10 years in the classroom. The lessons I learned in my first transition have had a residual impact on all subsequent moves in my career. As we start this school year, and so many of my friends and colleagues find themselves in new roles or with new leadership I thought I would share a couple of lessons that I learned from a couple of my favorite educators.

From Sanger to Guyer:

My first school transition was so much harder than I could have ever anticipated, and the enormity of the change took me by surprise. I still taught Junior English. I still coached cheerleading. I still had to prepare my students for the same state tests, using the same standards. I had a incredibly supportive administrative teams in both schools. I had friends in both buildings. Everything looked so similar on the surface, a surface that only thinly covered the layers and layers of new.

I was homesick.

Lesson #1: You will find your “home” again.

The principal who hired me as a (9 months pregnant) first year teacher was an incredible mentor and influence on my life and my practice. When we discussed the opportunity for me to move to a new school in a new district, part of what helped me take the leap was her promise of continued connection. She kept her promise, and we checked in many times during my first few months in my new position. At the end of every conversation she would ask the same question, “Do you want to come back?”

The first few times she asked, even I was surprised by the speed of my “YES”! However, as the semester progressed, my “yes” slowed, and on some occasions was even hesitant, until one day my answer changed. I will never forget the day she asked and I said “No”.

She looked so pleased and so proud as I sat across from her telling her I didn’t want to come “home”. She explained that she had been asking me the same question because she knew all along that I was in the right place. The question wasn’t for her, the question was for me.

I needed to find my way to my new school home. It didn’t happen overnight, but I honestly can’t imagine the person I would be today without the time I spent at each of my campus “homes”.

Lesson #2: You will fail, but it won’t be final.

The second principal who hired me was equally as influential in my life and still impacts my decision making on a regular basis (What would Barbara Fischer Do)! One of the first conversations we had after the school year started set the tone for my transition into her building, and has helped me navigate every transition since.

She talked to me about grace, assumptions, and communication. She said that there would, inevitably, be things that I messed up. Not because I missed a deadline, or intentionally disregarded a directive, but because I had been taught a different way to do things. I would assume I was doing things the right way, and not even know when an expectation was different than in my previous district. And from her end, she would forget to tell me a detail, or communicate a deadline, because she would assume that we were on the same page.

The challenge of our year, and the commitment we would make to each other: strive to over-communicate, to question our assumptions, and extend grace to ourselves and each other if we messed it up.

As hard as it was to hear that she expected failure from me, it was also freeing and comforting. She extended grace before I needed it (and I did need it). She showed me how to lead with vulnerability and compassion.

My friend Dora posted this quote the other day:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place” Unknown

If there were a way to like this a million times I would. I have work family, people that I dearly love, friends and mentors that have shaped my practice and impacted my life,  spread across 5 districts in North Texas. Little pieces of my heart left on each campus or office space.

Change is hard. Give yourself grace. Expect failure. Challenge your assumptions. And know…your new space will feel like home again, if you let it.

Still Learning,


Just be YOU, always YOU.

I have a minor obsession with personality assessments, aptitude tests, and strengths inventories. And by minor…

  • Original StrengthsFinder Top Five: Woo, Positivity, Learner, Communication, and Developer
  • Newest StrengthsFinder Top Five (yes, I have taken it again): Strategic, Learner, Input, Communication, and Activator
  • Meyers-Briggs: ENFJ
  • True Colors: Blue with some Orange
  • Enneagram: 3 (Achiever/Performer)
  • Compass Points: Naturally South, can be North or East but never a West.
  • Thinking Talents: Connection, Love of Learning, Innovation, Mentoring, Storytelling
  • Love Language: Quality Time/Words of Affirmation

My enthusiasm over personality tools starts at self-observation and extends quickly into a springboard for personal and professional growth. How can these tools make me a better person, wife, parent, teacher, team-mate, and friend?

I am all in! But my relationship with catching a glimpse into what makes me tick has not always been super positive.

My first exposure to these types of assessments was in my senior year of high school when I took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). At the time I was a little undecided on career path, and the possibility that one test could predict my success and lay out my future was intoxicating. An Army Officer came to share the results with our class, providing insight on how to use the assessment and to recruit potential heroes. He used several students’ real scores as examples before he came to mine. He had me stand up and come to the front of the room. My results indicated that I would be best suited for a career that is a cross between actress and religious professional. I was flattered that the US Government had recognized my potential for dramatic service to others, until I realized that I was being used as the non-example.

Uncle Sam didn’t want me.

The ASVAB experience planted a seed of self doubt that I didn’t know was there until it suddenly showed up, many years later, in one of my first department meetings as a new curriculum coordinator. We began to go over our results of the StrengthsFinder assessment and as my colleagues shared their strengths, I remember sitting in fear, reluctant to share my top 5, feeling that this survey had once again revealed a set of strengths that would identify me as the non-example. Everyone else’s strengths sounded so smart, so strong, so necessary.

Mine: Winning Others Over (WOO), Positivity, Learner, Communication, Developer…so different from everyone else’s…so actress/religious-professional…

As I braced for the now metaphorical Army Officer to have me stand up, you can imagine my surprise as my new team didn’t just tolerate and accommodate for me…they welcomed my differences, honored my strengths, and outlined how my uniqueness complemented and strengthened our team as a whole.

Being a part of this team was life changing. It was through working with these amazing people and on this amazing team that I learned to lead with my strengths and rely on the strengths of others. I learned to set realistic goals for myself and ask for help in areas that I know I am weak. I re-learned teamwork and I formed a new relationship with personality/aptitude assessments.

No matter what personality test, strengths inventory, or tool that you use-it is a STARTING point! A diagnostic, not a death sentence. If you are a true blue, #2, with a lot of WOO…Congrats! How are you going to use that to make a difference for the people around you? If you are a strategic #8 who is more North than Santa’s workshop, your people need YOU, to be YOU!

As it turns out, my job my vocation, my calling, my passion looks a little like a hybrid between a religious professional and an actress. I may have been a non-example for the military, but I am a great fit right where I am.

Still learning-Ash


Watermelon Seeds

At some point last year I became obsessed with this quote, “Don’t let the seeds spoil the watermelon.”

Denis Waitley.png

When I say obsessed, what I mean is I might have had watermelon napkins, a watermelon notebook, watermelon screensaver, watermelon home/lock screen…just to name a few ways my obsession spilled over into my real life.

Watermelons became a physical symbol for another aphorism I believe with my whole heart: A bad day doesn’t make a bad life.

It is so easy to caught up, overwhelmed, inundated (and a whole list of other anxiety-ridden words) in the set-backs and negativity that I can forget how much of what I do is pure joy. Watermelons help me remember to take a big bite of what is good and spit out the rest. Savor and enjoy the sweet stuff. Don’t chew on the seeds…spit them out…let it go.

Full disclaimer: I don’t eat watermelon. I never have. I have major texture issues. So I have held on to this metaphor with very little experience related to real watermelons.

The other day I bought a new-to-me breed of watermelon for my guys.


This new fangled fruit got me thinking all over again about those pesky seeds. If we have figured out how to get rid of the literal seeds, why can’t we engineer a way to get rid of them figuratively?!

Obviously…I had some questions for google. If you want the long answer about diploids crossing with tetraploids to produce triploid plants…this is the link for you. The short version is that watermelons without seeds can’t reproduce. They are sterile. In fact, for these plants to grow fruit at all, they must grow alongside watermelon plants with seeds.

I am officially re-obsessed with watermelons.

I am newly obsessed with their seeds.

In this profession and in this life, if there is one thing that I want to do with consistency-it is to bear fruit.  I want for there to be season after season of watermelons. I want for others to grow because they are planted near me. Which means…my life is going to have some seeds.

Looking back, the seeds that I am so quick to discard, are often the most valuable part of the experience, though usually not my favorite. This year’s seeds turn into next year’s harvest, IF I will:

  • Collect them-take an honest look, an assessment of what is going well and what isn’t.
  • Replant them-try again
  • Water them-commit myself to continued learning and improvement.

Still learning…from a fruit I don’t even eat.


Did you have cake?

Pinterest. I can be honest, I love it and and I loathe it. This platform both fuels my creativity and propensity for comparison. Most of what you find here (and really on any social media platform) tends to skew positive, a literal highlight reel of successes from classroom practices to applying eye shadow.

There is often disparity between the reel and what IS real.

Then there is Pinterest and the “Pinterest Fail”. We have all seen them, the wild attempts at crafting, a hair tutorial gone rogue, and kitchen mishaps that smack of inspiration but lack execution. I love the honesty and authenticity in the side by side photos.

I have had my fair share of “Pinterest fails”, in the kitchen and craft scene, but also in a more metaphorical sense: outcomes that didn’t align with the plan, a route that felt more like a detour, a conversation that went off script, an idea turned into an ordeal.

“Shockingly” the stars don’t always align and everything doesn’t always go the way I over-plan it. (I hope you read that last sentence with the sarcastic self-depreciating tone that I heard internally as I wrote it.)

This one has become my absolute, all-time favorite.

You can feel the disappointment seeping out of the bottom photo, as the end result is such a “fail” that it doesn’t even resemble the first image. Is it a lamb? A cat? Is it edible?

I love this lamb-cat-cake with my whole, entire heart. 

As I look at this poor little lamb, I am reminded that we often need to revisit the intended outcome or goal before declaring our efforts a complete failure.

Let’s take the lamb cake:

  • If the goal was the picturesque lamb cake…it’s an abject disaster.
  • If the goal was cake…goal achieved!
  • If the goal was a memorable dessert…WINNER!!

Now, let’s try it with collaboration:

  • If the goal is for everyone to agree and things to always go smoothly without any conflict or disagreement…chances are you area setting yourself up for disappointment.
  • If the goal is a product with everyone’s feedback and fingerprints on it…that is an  achievable goal.
  • If the goal is to move forward into a culture of trust, authenticity and collaborative reciprocity…then every single attempt, every step closer, is a WIN!

It is so easy to label a lesson, team-building attempt, or new strategy as a fail, and file it away, post the side by side photo and never look back. I think sometimes it is harder to recognize the real goal, shift the focus, accept the mess, and trust the process.

I want to challenge you to scroll through the “boards” of your year and evaluate the “pins” that on the surface looked like a fail.

Ask yourself:

  • What was the real goal?
  • Are you beating yourself up or making grand plans for change when you are making progress?
  • Have you lost sight of the good you are doing as you search for something that appears perfect?

Sometimes you need a lamb cake…but most of the time, the GOAL is just to have cake…so…did you have cake? I bet you did…

Still Learning,


Whales & Collective Efficacy

Let’s be honest…it was just a matter of when and not if I would write about whales. I love whales. A lot.

My first whale experience was about 12 years ago when the redheads and I went to Sea World with my grandparents. I was in love from the very first moment I locked eyes with Shamu . Since then I have sought opportunities to see whales, watch whale movies, google whales…I think you can identify a pattern.

In 2016, on a trip to Seattle, my sweet husband took me on a tour to see whales in the wild. I fell in love all over again the first time I saw Gray Whale #56 breach the water.

Last year, before a conference started in San Diego-I booked a whale watching tour for myself. I just couldn’t pass up the chance to see the whales as they migrated north. It was a magical afternoon, truly, magical.

This week I was reminded of my magical, solo whale “watching” trip while learning with an elementary staff about the importance of “small wins” and building collective efficacy. We were connecting the concept of change management in corporations to the massive change effort our teachers undertake in their classrooms as they grow our students over the course of a year.

The article (Change management is a dolphin, not a whale — contained this graphic:

And as we were discussing the connections and applications to our work in schools, I remembered that on my solo, magical, whale watching trip…I didn’t see a whale. Not one whale. Yet, even without the whale-it was one of the most beautiful, memorable, exciting days of my life. I saw more dolphins and sea lions and seals and birds than I could count or name!

Big wins are the goal-but I think sometimes we don’t take time to truly appreciate, much less, celebrate the small wins that get us closer to where we are going.

Next week, I will be back in San Diego, and I booked the same whale watching tour for a second time. Why? Because ultimately it was a successful trip, and you will never see a whale if you don’t get back on the boat!

I am learning to keep my eyes open for the “dolphins” in life, on my team, and in the work we do together for students. I am learning to find ways to help others spot their own dolphin-sized accomplishments. I am learning to honor progress, even in small increments. I am committed getting back on the boat-never giving up on the whale-sized goals-for me, for us, and for the students we serve.

Still learning,



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St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. At my house we skip right over Valentine’s day and have been known to have green colored…well, everything, on March 17th. As the granddaughter of Bob O’Toole, it is a day that reminds me of my sweet Irish PaPaw, and I feel like the whole world puts on green and remembers him with me. For a day it seems everyone feels “lucky”…

Several years ago when I moved into a curriculum writing role I had a conversation that changed my entire perspective. I was talking to a parent who expressed sincere gratitude for their child’s second grade teacher. “We were so lucky to have a teacher who really loved to teach writing, and who passed that love and skill on to our child”.

Lucky. Like finding a four leaf clover or winning the lottery.

The comment took me aback, and I floundered for a reply in the moment, but found a way to accept the compliment on behalf of the true hero. My real response was in the two years of work that followed as we developed a viable and guaranteed writing curriculum and implementation plan for our district.

No student should ever get “lucky” and receive quality instruction. This thinking about “luck” and “lucking out” was a driving force for me in the work that I did as a curriculum coordinator, but I could not have predicted how it would impact my thinking long term.

In my work with adult learners in the professional learning space, I run across the same conversations, with the same theme on a regular basis.

  • “I was so lucky, I had an amazing supervisor during my student teaching.”
  • “My principal is really committed to my professional growth so I get so many amazing opportunities. I feel so lucky that he was moved to this school.”
  • “My mentor teacher was a real blessing to me, they invested so much in my growth as a first year teacher. “
  • “My department does things a little differently, I had a 3 year induction program. I feel so lucky to be on this team.”

I love to hear stories of when professional learning, mentoring, and systemic support work!! I am a product of effective professional learning, dedicated mentors and supportive systems. But what I know in my heart is that for every good luck story, there is inevitably a bad luck story: Someone who was overlooked, who didn’t get a mentor, who struggled on their own for their first three years, who’s leadership didn’t seem to notice they were drowning, who’s department lacked an adequate support structure.

When teachers aren’t lucky…neither are students.

I truly believe that when teachers are engaged in meaningful, collaborative, reflective learning it impacts their practice, extends into their classrooms, and positively impacts student success.

Every teacher, on every campus, in every department, in every district, first year or 34th year, deserves a system of professional learning that provides access to quality, meaningful, relevant professional learning. A system that honors their expertise. A system that engages them in work that matters. A system that prepares them for the challenges ahead. A system that provides coherence. A system that ensures that no one has to hope that they are lucky.

Developing systems to provide access for teachers is the mission that wakes me up in the morning. My hope is that we keep finding creative and innovative ways to support each teacher  in their growth as they support our students. It is my goal that every day in our system feels like St. Patrick’s Day…where everyone is lucky…and we are all…

Still Learning,