We Can Do It!

As educators, we know what works in classrooms. There have been thousands of studies around effective leadership, school improvement and raising student achievement. In schools that have high academic optimism, there is a concerted belief that “Learning and student success is our priority” (academic emphasis/press), a palpable teacher attitude that “We believe in our students” (trust in students), and the knowledge of teachers that “We can do it!” (collective efficacy).

Schools are under much pressure to close the achievement gap between students of different races, those who are rich or poor, and those who live in suburban or urban areas. In the US, No Child Left Behind (2001) was the federal response of calling for more accountability vis a vis Common Core and standardized testing. Australia pioneered a national curriculum and NAPLAN (National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy) standardized testing. But where are we now?

Understanding the social contexts in classrooms and schools allows education leaders to work with faculty in examining current practice in an effort to improve the educational outcomes for all students, even those who must overcome the obstacles to learning posed by their low socioeconomic status. Academic optimism, a schoolwide confidence that students can succeed academically, is crucial to nurture. Below are some strategies to nurture the three aspects of AO in schools:.

Academic Emphasis/Press. Education leaders must work with teachers in order to establish an environment where academics are the most important aspect, in order to nurture and raise student achievement. Leaders must ‘lead the way’ in ensuring that school is a place for learning, not just a place where extracurriculars (such as sport etc) occur. Teachers may need additional training in order to meet the difficult demands of the classroom to meet the needs of all students. In urban schools particularly, where the teaching and learning environment are pressed by many other challenges, it is crucial that school leaders provide leadership and limit disruptions of instructional time and provide training for teachers on ways to build a serious learning community where students work together to meet high expectations and where academics and successes are celebrated.

Trust in Students. Faculty trust can be built in several informal and formal ways. Education leaders can act with benevolence, trusting that stakeholders will act in ways that are appropriate and respectful. If teachers act professionally and fairly and students work hard to achieve, education leaders can assume that parents are willing to collaborate in order to help students meet and exceed their high expectations. Education leaders can further build trust by being reliable and competent. This can be demonstrated by leaders beginning and ending meetings at their appointed times, following through on requests or promises, and backing up teachers as the need arises. When there is follow through with the expectations of the class and the school, stakeholders feel more confident that the leadership of the school is adept at their job of leading the school. This in turn may encourage others to believe in their abilities of professional competence. Finally, education leaders can lead their schools with honest and open communication and transparent actions. Leaders can be accessible through email and telephone, and can also hold parent meetings at various times to meet the needs of working parents. School newsletters, memos, and websites can all be used as communication tools in order to strengthen the relationships between home and school, which in turn may inspire parents and members of the community to become more engaged with the school. Regardless of the ways in which education leaders seek to foster and build trust, it is a necessary component of improving student achievement.

Collective Efficacy. If teachers believe they can influence positively their students, most likely they will. School leaders can work with teachers to nurture their self efficacy. Teachers who attend relevant, targeted professional development or by visiting classrooms of teachers who have high student achievement have the opportunity to learn instructional strategies through vicarious learning experiences. Once they take these instructional strategies back to the classroom, such as metacognitive strategies for helping their students become better readers or more students centered approaches to math using manipulatives, mastery experiences occur as student achievement in math and reading improve, thereby enhancing their affective states. Social persuasion as a tool to build collective efficacy can be powerful. Teachers can work with coaches and more veteran teachers in an effort to provide support, share successfully implemented instructional strategies, and collaborate on ways in which improved student achievement in reading and math can occur. Collaboration among departments may also provide another way for teachers to work together to provide opportunity for vicarious experiences and social persuasion on teaching tasks or instructional strategies as a way to refine their practice in order to best meet the needs of all of their students.

If policy = money, then the public, particularly elected representatives in the United States and Australia, have not exerted enough of their will to support all students on their journey of education. We can do it. Classroom teachers need to be supported.  For a myriad of reasons, however, public policy fails to support the work needed in schools, especially in schools with high proportions of students who are poor. Taking a macro look at both societies enables one to see that money spent on education now saves millions in the future. Again, we know what works in classrooms and school systems, but there does not seem to be the public will to support schools that are ready for students. Instead, policymakers and some education researchers focus on students being ready for school, an age, rather than stage approach, standardized curriculum, standardized assessments and standardized instruction to produce nations of test takers, who will be unable to highly function in the future (for those jobs have not yet been created) because of lack of creativity, innovation and a personal approach to students in classrooms. It is our duty as the public, and those of us who have the privilege to be educators, to not give up ‘the good fight’ in doing everything we can to advocate for our students in order to improve their life chances. We are truly better together and we can do it!


Retire, already! (DRAFT)

There’s definitely an impatient next generation ready to move.

Eric Garcetti is right. The 46 year old mayor of Los Angeles, California is making moves to become a contender for the Democratic Party in the next election.  One thing he has got right is that we are indeed “ready to move”.

There is a glut at the top and the younger generation, the ones behind us, are pushing hard and fast, noticeably to the point where talent eats talent and perception of value is in constant flux.

For all intents and purposes, I’m at the top of my game (except I’m not) and I’m certainly in the decade where I need to have a high salary to pay off my still six figure student loans in the US, as well as support self and son.  And I am not alone. There are many of us, and yet many more who are not in the same privileged position of paying bills (mostly) on time and having more than the basics.

I say that I am part of the impatient next generation because so many tell me I ‘should’ be happy/satisfied/content with what I have. And that’s when I realise, this person in front of me doesn’t get it. I have a comfortable life. It’s not about that. It’s about something bigger. It’s about wanting to do more because I can; I am more than capable; I have the passion. But I am impatient. Retire already. Or change careers (again).


Trump This…


Oh, America.  Surely, I have nothing more to add to the cacophony of conversation around the election’s most recent deeming.

But I do.

I will be heard.

This is not an over-reaction.

This is life and death…for some, at least for the eight sweet souls who chose to end their lives rather than live under The Donald’s rule, where difference isn’t appreciated (ironic for the ‘anti-establishment pres’ who is firmly entrenched in the establishment) and conformity is the norm.

And if I am wrong, please provide EVIDENCE and citation so that I can see it, too.  I am sooo keen to see the counter to my perception, that I beg any Trump supporter with an internet connection and a critically thinking brain to PLEASE send me evidence, peer reviewed evidence, that we who are not white with penises can get behind.

And so help me if any man or woman tries to grab me by the pussy. Yes, I am angry. Yes, I am a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands, lips and penises of more than one white boy, but surely that’s not my objection.

My objection is to my being an object. An object to grab. An object to gain power over. An object to grab, leer, jest and in general, have fun with. It’s open season on difference to white male penis privilege.

Am I being over the top? Perhaps. Am I being provocative? Definitely! Why not? If he can be, then the playing field should be level enough for me to take it on by the balls (oh, no, did SHE just type that?).  FUCK YES I DID.

Ladies, wtf has just happened?!? Anyone who is marginalised will most likely be ostracised.  Difference will not be tolerated.

This is why son and I must gtf out. He will surely be different.  Coming into one’s own is difficult enough without the bullshit of other people’s opinions.   Why make it harder for our fellows on this planet?

Oh, yeah, white privilege.

I get it. You’re disillusioned about what’s going on. You don’t feel your voice is heard.

Well, please, just wait. Your voice won’t be heard, just muted with all the other hate mongerers, just waiting for a chance to begin discord on those who aren’t male, white, hetero…

Yeah, this means you, you white motherfucking entitled asshole.
What are you going to DO?????

Stop talking. THINK.


Then let’s talk.

Don’t let that male privilege between your legs fool you into thinking anything less. Don’t talk to me until you’ve been marginalised for at least half your life if you’re too much of a coward to advocate for equity for all.

Oh, you Poets, Philosophers, Teachers, Professors of now, do tell me what’s up. But do so only when you prostrate yourself before those most affected.

I’ll be waiting.







Photo by Author: Bald Mountain Overlook, 24 October 2016





Notes on my Return: On Observing the Madness

As I have trekked across Washington, Oregon and Northern California on my own for the last week and a half, I have noticed that the further south I get, the more difficult it is to tell where I am.

Little boxes, everywhere. And one town looks like the next.

But then I scratch the surface a little more deeply and notice. Fast food abounds, as do gyms…have you noticed? The quick fix is everywhere! Hungry? Drive through here to fill you up. Need gas? Pull into the gas station, pay at the pump, pull away. Feeling fat because you eat all that fast food? Pull into the gym, it’s open 24 hours, and slim and tone that Monster Style In & Out burger away.

Then I start to notice the people, observe, listen.

The Uber driver I used the other day in San Jose, CA commented that he felt like he was just part of a big machine that he couldn’t see. That each day was the same, just work, work, eat, TV, sleep, repeat. He complained there was no time or money for holidays. That when he was younger, his dad made sure they took a trip every summer. But he wasn’t able to do it. With two jobs and two kids, it wasn’t going to happen.

And yet so many persist in the madness, almost intermenably. Seemingly even sometimes gleefully and quite willingly.

I cannot watch. It’s almost too painful.

I was reading an old interview of Sally Mann and in it she said that she did not own a TV. She was adamant that she wasn’t a luddite, that she was very computer literate, etc, but did not own a TV because of the consumerist aspect. What I took from her words is that the television invites it into your home, makes it so accessible.

Then I’m reminded of a moment in some department store outside of Seattle, WA two weeks ago with Son saw some stuffed animal blanket thing and says, ‘Mum, that’s what they told me I needed on the tele’. WHAT?! So we talked about commercials and how their whole purpose is to get you to buy what they are showing.  But often, we do not need what they are showing.

So I asked Son if he needed one of the blankets, and he replied that we didn’t have room, so no.  He said he’d have to get rid of something if he wanted to get something, and he much preferred his ‘Mawmaw quilt’ as a blanket (the quilt my grandmother made for him when I was pregnant).

If a nearly 5 year old can reason that if he doesn’t have room for something, as cool as it is, he can’t buy it, why can’t the rest of us?

And how many boxes do we need for our stuff, anyway?

I’ve enough of observing the madness. Heading out into the woods for a few days…camping, clean NorCal air, cleansing vibes. Some yoga, some walking, some drawing.

Photo taken by Author, Washington State, off of Cle Elem Lake, 6 Sept 16

Space, Grace & Healing

The love we give will free us.

But first, some space to make way for grace and healing,

To allow a place for the possibilities of infinite love

To blossom

and flourish, grow and change

Age and mature. To light the darkness.

And meld into one love, full of grace.

if all of the strength
and all of the courage
come and lift me from this place
I know I could love you much better than this
full of grace
full of grace
my love

~ Sarah McLachlan

#ChooseLove #SelfLove #BuildYourTribe #BetterTogether #Space&Place #41

Everything’s falling into place
Throw me tomorrow
Seeing my past to let it go
Throw me tomorrow

~ David Bowie


Thirty six years ago today, my father woke up for the last day in his life. At 3am on 8 June, he was pronounced dead at the scene, our back garden, due to a self inflicted gunshot wound under his chin. I was 4.

Nineteen years ago today, I woke up to the day before the ‘big day’, my wedding day, where I was marrying the man I thought was my best friend, soul mate, my everything.  At 11am on 7 June, we began the ceremony to become husband and wife, till death do us part. I was 21.

Eight months ago, at 39, with the unburdening of lifelong secrets, came the uncoupling of a union far from perfect, but one I had tried for more of the over eighteen years than not, to keep afloat, to keep going, dragging and being dragged at times. I loved fiercely. Z loved in his way.

But when the element of trust has been absolutely and selfishly exploited, no matter how seemingly noble the reason, I chose my dignity and self respect over staying with someone who had demonstrated for nearly two decades just what he felt of me, despite the words he says that are in stark contrast to the way I was exploited, blinded and treated.

So, no more.

But my ‘brave’ (aka ‘stupid and silly’ to far too many opinionated people in my life) choice But my life now has many side effects, those of which I am finally emerging as I have gotten accustomed, or desensitised, to doing it all on my own, of course with support from friends, but essentially alone.

Alone, wounded, lonely.

I’d like to let the past just fade out.

Yet here I am, wondering, working, awake.

Working towards reclaiming myself, towards awakening my soul, wondering if it all will work out well in the end, for our son, the namesake of my father and great grandfather. Son is my priority, as my words and actions show, but Z, your words and actions here, yet again, are incongruent. I will trust when your words and actions with our son are in sync, and don’t involve me pleading for a break after orchestrating an international move while grading 90 research proposals and finalising paperwork for the end of the semester.

I am spent, alone, wounded, lonely. And I need to grieve in a way that I have not allowed myself over these past 6-8 weeks since I have been doing what must be done.

So space has been granted today for me to make some time for self care, for me to realise that I am not really alone, although I am wounded and lonely. I know we are all better together and I know I have built a solid tribe, even added to the fam. But it all takes time and I will get there…I just need to remind myself of this. And practice self care and grace.

So hug a friend and let them know they are not alone, today or any other day. It’s the only way we will all emerge from this journey with the ‘better angels of our nature’.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. ~ Abraham Lincoln

#BetterTogether #BuildYourTribe

Life building in all its messy glory