The Importance of Story and Deep Listening

As a teacher and as an instructional coach, I’ve tried to improve my listening skills. It is such a gift when one feels deeply listened to and I strive to provide this for others. Deep listening continues to be a goal for me. I have always been intrigued by the power of telling stories. In classrooms making space for, and deeply listening to students’ stories, insight, and feedback is critical. In this blog I want to highlight some of the ideas in Chapter 4 of Street Data as they relate to listening. Continue reading “The Importance of Story and Deep Listening”

Tools for Calling In to Conversations About Race

A colleague recently said to me, “We know we are doing important equity work if people are asking lots of questions, when people are getting uncomfortable.” Like many, I like to refer to the conversations we have as Healing or Courageous Conversations rather than Hard Conversations. In a recent email, Elena Aguilar called these simply “Conversations About Race.” Aguilar writes, “Even if they’re uncomfortable or complicated, these conversations can bring relief, closure, and closeness.” I think that Hard Conversations are about me, while Healing and Courageous focus on the purpose which is to address racist actions, biases, and microaggressions. The purpose is to be an advocate for marginalized groups and to plant seeds of awareness, reflection, and potentially transformation for those who intentionally or unintentionally cause harm. The purpose, in education, is to continually ask “How Are the Children?” In this post, I want to share two tools to help engage in Conversations About Race.

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Making Space for Student Feedback and Voice


“My job as a teacher is not to teach the curriculum or even to just teach the students; it is to seek to understand my kids as completely as possible so that I can purposefully bend curriculum to meet them.” – C. Minor

“Creating a collaborative culture is the single most important factor in school improvement for those seeking to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning.” – R. DuFour and B. DuFour

The quotes above are on my mind as I celebrate the publication of my second piece, Making Space for Students in PLCs. The processes I describe in the article are built off what we learned from our students and what we learned together as collaborative teams of inquiry.

As always, I look forward to feedback as you read the article!

Focus Students and Process Observers

In previous posts I have written about the importance of having Process Observers to provide feedback on meeting processes. In addition, I have written about improving one’s practice by observing and listening to ideas from a Focus Student. In this post, I want to consider how using the Process Observer ideas around language, tone-of-voice, and body language can support deeper learning from  (and in service to) Focus Students.

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My Why

It’s interesting to me that this, my 50th post, brings me back to my “why.” I’ve written in previous posts about the importance of knowing one’s why, and acting within one’s why.

“We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.”
– Simon Sinek


Today I want to delve deeply into my why and the reasons behind my why.

My Why:
“Be a mirror to reflect back to our students their beauty and brilliance
so they feel: belonging, safe, heard, seen, valued, joy, and LOVED.”


Continue reading “My Why”

Experiencing Success + Belonging = Thriving

Anyone who knows me or follows my blog knows that Belonging is one of my core values. It is my goal that every student in my school feels a sense of belonging, based on how they define belonging. In this post, I want to synthesize Elena Aguilar’s definition of Equity with the model Dr. Amante-Jackson uses to highlight the importance of Belonging.

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The Power of a Process Observer

I have to admit I was initially afraid to use Process Observers to give feedback on meetings. I read about the Process Observer (PO) role in Elena Aguilar’s The Art of Coaching Teams and was intrigued. However I had never participated in a meeting where a person was designated or trained as a PO. Fortunately a colleague modeled the process for me in a meeting we co-facilitated. I immediately saw the benefit for team growth. In today’s post I will summarize some of what I’ve learned and tried with the PO role.

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Building Resilience: Create and Play

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about play, creativity, and nurturing oneself. We are over a year into the Covid Pandemic and many schools have shifted instructional programming several times this year. I am tired, yet find it sometimes challenging to shift to downtime and self-care. I am in need of some respite and fun. In Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown states that:

“Play is how we are made, how we develop and adjust to change….But in the end the most significant aspect of play is that it allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves, and in others.”


Brown’s book is on my “next read” stack and for today, I am going to share some of Elena Aguilar’s suggestions about play and creativity.

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Michele McDonald introduced the R.A.I.N. technique more than twenty years ago and I’ve read about it in coaching books, mindfulness resources, and most recently in The Inner Work of Racial Justice, by Rhonda Magee. R.A.I.N. (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Non-Identify) can help one develop insight by pausing and noticing thoughts more deeply in order to see more clearly. This is particularly useful when feeling stress, strong emotions, or confusion. In this blog, I will summarize how Magee, Elena Aguilar, and Janet Baird present the technique. I find Magee’s focus on using R.A.I.N. to increase self-awareness around racism and biases to be powerful.

Continue reading “R.A.I.N.”


Last week, when talking with my Kid Equity group about activism, we considered how self-care is a part of effective activism. By taking care of ourselves, we are better able to be co-conspirators who stand up, speak up, and act in order to build a more socially just world. So, when I read Fernandez and Stern’s Self-Compassion Will Make You a Better Leader, I saw many connections to the work I was doing with students. To hear more, keep reading….

Continue reading “Self-Compassion”