Westward Movement

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Forgive the long time between posts, and pardon the ramble. I promised, and have not delivered, but now I deliver at the end of a very long day with far too little energy. 

Being principal is quite different from being in the classroom. I don't believe I work any harder, but what I do is often far from my comfort zone, and is rarely uninterrupted. In mid word, I'll stop to take care of something that can't wait; a sandwich lasts several hours, and a portion eventually gets tossed (a very good diet, I must say); multitasking is a given; and breaks are unheard of. 

As I finish week four, I've learned more about building codes, construction planning requirements, fire marshals and bodies per square inch. I'm still not completely sure where everyone is going to be come August 12 ... yes, August 12. Just over two weeks away. But I am confident - because I must be and because I just am. These things are not the norm ... but it will never be this unfamiliar. I say to my AP, "it will never be harder," and we both laugh - realizing it's true but still hyperventilating a bit. 

I'm learning to work a budget - something classroom teachers rarely, if ever, have a chance to oversee or even truly participate in. Always a challenge. What a school wants and needs is far outside the available finances. I have lots of ideas for finding financial support, but no time to act on a one. Next year? 

Today I sat in our math professional development, and jumped in and out of the room for phone calls and brief meetings, even though I wanted to just be a learner. I remember being so annoyed when my administrators would do the same thing during a meeting, training, event they'd asked us all to be a part of. I offer an apology!!! I get it.

Tomorrow, I begin my first professional development with our new teachers. Just two days, but how I've stressed that it be organized, engaging, and not a wasted moment. 

I will never forget what it means to be a classroom teacher, so I am a fierce advocate for ensuring what happens in the classroom is directed toward children, but fair to teachers. I've read time and time again, heard over and over, and believe without an ounce of doubt, that what makes a leader truly strong is time spent in the shoes of those she leads. 

Stay tuned! I'll try to get back in a week. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Comfort Zone Attack - week 1

One thought I've had as I make this career transition is that I won't have the same close bonds with children I've had for so many years. That piece makes me a little sad, and also leads me to say I won't have the same sort of stories to share. 

After so many years in the classroom teaching, I rarely thought about what I needed to do on a daily basis - it was second nature. This is a whole different ballgame - and staff and students have not yet arrived! I know the learning curve is steep, and I also know that several months from now I'll look back at these words and be amazed by what I have learned. What's the point of doing anything if you're not learning!? That's an easy thing for me to say at 9:45pm - I may have a different sentiment at 5am!

Last Monday was my first day on the job. The week was filled with making decisions about budget and building - things that classroom teachers rarely have a say in. Arts in Action is expanding, and the logistics of determining which space to use, where to place staff, etc., are hardly issues I assumed I'd be facing as I completed my admin program. Decisions have been made, though, and tomorrow I'll start to dig into areas a bit more familiar. There is so much, but how I handle it all will send a very strong message. Thus, while work must get done, so must living a good life, getting rest, spending time with those I love. And so I shall ... do both. One will likely win for a bit. :o)

Sweet dreams.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 11 marked my last day as a classroom teacher. (A few folks have insinuated I might return to the classroom, but after 24 years, I think it's time to move into the next phase of my career in education). As many of you know, I just completed my administrative credential and masters in school leadership. I've been hired as the principal of Arts in Action Charter School in East Los Angeles, California. July 1 I will take on this new challenge. While I don't anticipate being able to keep up with a daily or even every few days blog, I aim to report on a weekly basis the ups, downs, and sideways of school leadership. At times, these reports will be mighty short, and at other times more detailed. I invite you to follow along, and look forward to sharing my journey.

Monday, September 3, 2012

As I shared last week, I am now teaching third grade with Citizens of the World, Hollywood. Another CWC school opened this fall, and three of my colleagues from SMBCCS are teaching at this location (Silverlake). I am so pleased to work with smart, dedicated, truly constructivist individuals. Each member of the staff brings such a gift - lucky students. 

Wednesday, my students come. We do something called Gentle Beginnings - all 66 students rotate through the three of us (Mike and Sara compose the rest of the new third grade team), and by Friday, we'll make necessary changes, should the need present, and begin with our regular class the 10th. Things won't change much, but the opportunity is there. 

I already have one little story, so just imagine what will happen once I'm spending my days with the kids! Last Sunday CWC had a "work party." Families came to help do all sorts of jobs at the school, from painting and building and papering to organizing libraries and hanging up all sorts of things. It was truly amazing, and I had the opportunity to get to know a few families and kids. One trio of little girls spent about an hour in my classroom library. They introduced themselves to me as two first graders, and one tiny little one who shook my hand and told me in the most ernest manner possible that she was NOT in kinder or first YET ... she was in pre-kinder ... but that SOON she would be in kinder ... just not yet! She nodded fiercely and then added ... "and I'm ready!" 

Additionally, I've begun my master's in educational leadership/administrative credential through CSUN - the Santa Monica cohort. There are 16-17 of us, from varied walks of life with many different levels of experience in and out of the classroom. As I read the first week's assignment, I recognize that the time is right, and that I am so ready to take on the next phase of my career. I should have done this 5 years ago (or more), but better late than never! 

Until the next visit! Have a great week.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I'm back

I stopped blogging back in March, as the remainder of the spring was loaded with too much responsibility, and it wasn't in me to speak out on kids or anything else. 

As many of you know, I left SMBCCS, where I'd been 20 years, in June. The school did away with multiage and was taken over by another charter with a philosophy of education that simply does not jive with my own. I'm constructivist in nature, believing that children best learn by doing and experiencing, regardless of subject matter. I found a new teaching position with Citizens of the World Charter/Hollywood (a new Silverlake school opens this year, and three of my previous colleagues from SMBCCS are there). I'm teaching 3rd grade in a building located on the campus of LeConte MS, the feeder middle school for many of the SMBCCS students. It's a terrific organization, with room to grow, and a group of colleagues who impress me constantly with their intelligence and passion, and deep understanding of what is good for children. I am excited to work with them, and excited to meet my new students on September 5. The website, should anyone wish to take a peek, is

Stay tuned for more regular sharing of stories from the classroom (221), the world of constructivist education, and life in general! Additionally, I just decided to go back for my master's in educational leadership/administrative credential. I begin with a cohort based in Santa Monica on Monday. Stories from that experience may well make it into my blog, as well!

I look forward to sharing! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I'll take your vote.

Life is very busy these days. It's been hard to find the time to write regularly, though there have been numerous stories to share.

A is a student in my math class. He doesn't like to do homework, and gets little support at home. Bedtime is long past midnight and motivation lacks. After too many missed assignments, we had a little talk about goals and the future. A will go on to middle school next year. I don't want to see him spending every afternoon in detention. I don't want to see him in a class composed of kids who are barely able to work with basic facts. He's a good kid, with good skills and, I believe, a desire to have success.

I asked him to write me a letter, along with his regular math homework, explaining himself a bit. This is the letter content:

Dear Ms. Stern,

I like doing math. It's just that I have difficulties with it. I ask for help at home but everybody is doing something. I want and will do my homework for math. I will try to get good grades for math. Like that I don't get detention in middle school, or also go to a class where students don't know their addition and subtraction. If they have to vote for best teacher for math I would vote for you.


Letting kids know you care, that you are watching, holds more weight than we'll ever know. A's letter gives me a bit more information I'll use to help him. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Taking care of ALL our needs!

My friend Lisa is in the classroom next door to mine. She has provided several experiences in her classroom that have made it to my blog.

This week, Lisa had her students create "maps" of buildings in a colony they are building. We both laughed aloud when we saw this student's interpretation of what he deems an excellent living situation. Notice the "area" next to the bar. Just in case you are not completely comprehending ... cooking area was the intention. Now it's dual purpose.