…two at a time.

My brilliant colleague Jeff Nelson wrote about the power of good news between teachers, students, and families on his blog today:

It reminded me of a classroom practice that took me years to figure out. I called it, “Two at a Time.” Every day I focused on two students. I didn’t ignore the rest of my class, but these two students would be the ones I would zero in on throughout the day. I noted who they played with at recess, where they sat in the lunchroom, I met with each of them in one-on-one conferences to look through their book boxes, check in on their current goals, and progress monitor if needed. I kept a list of my students grouped in twos to help me keep track and had a running note sheet for each student held in a binder on my desk. Within two weeks or so, I could get through my whole class and begin the list again.

I also sent a note, email, or phone call to the family of that day’s duo. Some of these notes were quick, “Can I just tell you how much I enjoy having Diana in my class?” “I’m so proud to tell you that Simon met his reading goal today and he can’t wait to share with you tonight what his new goal is!” Other notes were a bit lengthier depending on the student. In either case, only communicating with two families/day was do-able for me.

There’s so much on a teacher’s plate on any given day. It’s impossible to do it all, be it all. To steal a line from Desmund Tutu, “There is only one way to eat an elephant, a bite at a time.” I found that I could manage two bites a day!

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

…there’s more than one way to unscramble that!

I have this silly game on my phone, Wordscapes. I play it in the evenings sometimes when I need to do something that doesn’t require a lot of energy or thought. It’s not complicated and I enjoy the simplicity of it.

To solve the puzzle, unscramble the letters to form words.

Although it doesn’t require a lot of high-level thinking, I sometimes get stuck. I stare at the letters available to me and can’t see any words left to create. Other times, the words just jump out at me and I can solve a puzzle in just a few seconds. Sometimes I use a tool that allows you to move the letters within the circle. The letters remain the same, you just see them in a different order. By simply moving them – or seeing them in a new light – the possibilities open back up. Occasionally, I get so stuck I close the app and come back to it later. By walking away and starting again, I quite frequently see a solution I hadn’t seen before, in a matter of seconds.

Last night I made a connection to my role as a leader, especially in this season. Sometimes it’s so easy to be spry, problem solve, and be about our work without any hesitation. Sometimes I need to look at things from multiple perspectives in order to dive in.

…and sometimes, when I’m feeling scrambled, I need to give myself the grace to step away for a few minutes. Knowing that by doing so a world of possibilities may be directly ahead – when I step back in unscrambled and renewed.

Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

…how do we as leaders reflect at the end of a day?

My colleague Jeff Nelson retweeted the following tweet from Jason Kennedy a couple of weeks ago:

Upon reading Jeff’s tweet and subsequent blog post, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my two end of the day questions would be! Jeff encouraged our entire Teaching, Learning, and Innovation team to contemplate this, as well.

We give students exit tickets all throughout the day and we know the power of allowing learners the time to reflect from time to time. Why should we be any different?

We met up yesterday as a team and I asked everyone to share their two end of the day questions. POWERFUL ideas were shared! The best part? They showed the passion our team collectively has regarding our roles and the staff and students we serve.

We are making a commitment as a team to individually reflect upon our chosen questions at the end of each day. I can’t wait to check in at some point down the road and reflect together on how this has shaped, encouraged, prodded, inspired, and directed us.


Here are our collective end of the day questions:

Elaine | Director of TLI
“How did I make someone’s day better?”
“Did the time spent today match my why?”

Jenn | Instructional Facilitator, Math & Science
“What have I done to support?”
“What have I done to inspire?”

Kevin | Director of Instructional Technology
“What did I do well today?”
“How do I need to build capacity?”

Jeff | Assistant Superintendent, TLI
“What did I do today to encourage and inspire educator learning?”
“What did I do today to support students?”

Keith | Instructional Facilitator Instructional Technology
“How did I support teachers in being more effective or solve problems with tech today?”
“What is something new I learned today that I can use to support teachers int he purposeful integration of ed tech?”

Marlyne | Director Career and College Readiness K-12
“How was I present?”
“What did I do to encourage?”

Lindsay | Director Curriculum and Instruction
“What did you do to inspire an educator today?”
“What did you do to cultivate a relationship today?”

Natalie | Administrative Assistant
“Did I get everything done on my to do list?”
“What’s the priority for tomorrow?”

Diana | Administrative Assistant
“What was the best thing you did today?”
“What is something that you know today that you didn’t know yesterday?”


Join us! What will your two questions be?

…what brings you hope?

Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit) has a powerful new podcast, Human Hope, and he ends each week by asking his guest the following question:

I asked my TLI (Teaching Learning & Innovation) teammates the same question this morning and you’ll find our collective replies below:

  • Who we are! We never stopped looking ahead while living in the immediate.
  • The structures we have put in place will serve us well as we continue to be about our work in September!
  • THIS TEAM! Our cabinet, our building leaders, our teachers. The professional conversations we have that hold each other accountable and challenge each other as we work to do EVERY dang thing we can to give our students everything they need and deserve.
  • The puzzle pieces coming together to strengthen how Since Time Immemorial curriculum taught throughout the district.
  • Our new Equity and Inclusion position and the amazing person who choose to join our Fife team!
  • To not get hung up in all of the details always, but to remember that we are going to make it!
  • The power of the team. The strength of each individual within the team is only made stronger by the team itself. The confidence and inspiration that each team member brings me. The teamwork I see all throughout the district is phenomenal. Collaboration is alive and thriving all throughout the district.

Such a simple question to ask; such an important answer to consider.

What currently is giving you hope?

…seeing students and teachers together brings me joy!

“Can you believe we get to be here?!”
– third grade student spontaneously to me when I visited his hybrid classroom

One of the MOST favorite parts of my job is grabbing my camera and capturing, via my lens, the magic that our teachers create for our students. Yesterday was a red letter day – the first time I walked into classrooms, camera attached, since mid-March.

It’s so great seeing students back in buildings, safely learning, alongside their peers and teachers. We began welcoming our youngest learners back two weeks ago and our secondary students are up next!

When I dropped into a 3rd grade classroom, a student met my eyes and EXCLAIMED, “Can you believe we get to be here?!” Oh my. Tears in eyes I said, “We’re so glad you are!”

I heard giggles, saw readers, watched a math lesson, saw students create, experienced teachers and students building culture and routines, and could see the smiles hidden under the masks through the sparkling eyes.

There’s just no replacing the magic that happens when teachers and learners gather together in person. It was a glorious site to behold!!


Click here to take a peek if you are interested in seeing more of the pics I snapped yesterday. They are posted on our district Facebook page.

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