Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Mindful School Leader Chapter 4 #worklifebalance



Full disclosure. I read chapter 3, and just never got my blog post together. Why does this matter? I'm sharing because I'm trying to be mindful about my mindfulness. Trying not to obsess or be a perfectionist. So I read chapter 3. And now I'm blogging about chapter 4 and I am GOOD with that! 

Onward and forward.


This chapter was focused on being mindful in communication and connections. So many great quotes in this chapter, and this chapter also references several other books that I either need to read or highly recommend.

The opening quote for this chapter comes from a must read book that I read this past summer: Fierce Conversations. 
"Our work and our relationships succeed or fail one conversation at a time." 

This is so true. In this chapter, the author refers to conversations as "mini-mindfulness moments", where we can focus, listen, breathe before replying, and truly be present. Conversations should should allow space for quiet and reflection.

And as leaders, we have to have hard conversations. Fierce Conversations is a great read- and has really helped me this year to build better relationships and say the hard things- which are really difficult from this girl who loves to roll in sparkle and celebrate mode most of the time. I love the following quote in this chapter by Brene Brown in Daring Greatly- a book I need to read.

"To reignite creativity, innovation, and learning, leaders must re-humanize education and work. This means understanding how scarcity is affecting the way we lead and work, learning how to engage with vulnerability, and recognizing and combating shame. Make no mistake: honest conversations about vulnerability and shame are disruptive. The reason that we’re not having these conversations in our organizations is that they shine light in dark corners. Once there is language, awareness, and understanding, turning back is almost impossible and carries with it severe consequences."
- Brene Brown, Daring Greatly 2012

Finally, something I loved in this chapter is the idea that we need to hardwire ourselves for happiness and consciously build moments of happiness into our daily lives.


"Every day you have countless opportunities to create good in your life, and these can be very simple." Some examples include:
  • complimenting someone
  • greeting another person (I'm thinking drop off and pick up every day!)
  • giving a small gift (I thought of thank you cards or notes of appreciation)
  • gazing at a flower (or clouds, or the sunset, or faces, or the sky)
  • listening to beautiful music
What I'm loving about this book is how much I am noticing everything. I've been so busy that I've been missing a lot. 
image credit





Monday, November 30, 2015

The Mindful School Leader Chapter 2 #worklifebalance

THE BAD HABITS OF GOOD READERS BY CAROL JAGO

I read this #NerdyBookClub post and saw myself. I love to read. I read a lot. And I don't always remember what I read. 
This totally describes me:

Jago writes...
"Avid readers often...
1. Value speed over reflection. Such readers seldom pause between books to think about what they have read. They reach for the next one with hardly an intake of breath.
2. Skip anything they find boring. Unlike inexpert readers, these “master” readers feel free to jump past anything that interrupts the flow of a story. They skim descriptive passages and skip altogether imbedded poetry or quotations (for example the medieval tale within Edgar Allan Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher.”)."

And so, I embark on chapter 2 of The Mindful School Leader, a book I read last Spring, and can hardly remember. I remember the essence of it, but it's really like I'm reading it for the first time. 

This time, I'm determined to remember. With each chapter, I'm writing a little blog post, just to mark my journey, in case I forget it all again. And I breeze past some of the drier science-y stuff. 

This chapter is all about the science of mindfulness.  Mindfulness and the brain. 


Things to note:
  1. Kids and adults are under stress every day. This reminded me of a blog post I read this summer about AP tests, kids, stress, and suicides. 
  2. It is not mindful to text and email school-related stuff late at night and on weekends.
  3. Our experiences are important. So are our thoughts about them.
Some quotes:
"A key element of being an authentic leader is being present."

"To acknowledge an emotion or thought is like opening a door to freedom...you begin to change your relationship with yourself."

The quote below:


This chapter also has some great beginner's mindfulness exercises, some as short as 30 seconds. I especially want to try the beauty bath. Five minutes like this sounds amazing.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why do I lead? #savmp

image credit
This post is part of #SAVMP, the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program and I am excited to be participating with an amazing group of school leaders for the second year in a row! You can find out more at savmp.edublogs.org. This week's blog post topic is a question that I've been thinking about all week.

Why do I lead? 
I love this question. I think about it a lot. People often ask me how I like being a principal. I hear other administrators talking about being in a leadership role. Sometimes they say things like, "I was ready to be out of the classroom." Others say, "Being a principal is the best job ever." The path to school leadership is different for everyone, and I wonder sometimes if people love it, and if they don't, why not? How did they get there? Why do they lead? And I think about myself. Why do I lead?

I'll start by saying that it IS the best job ever. I love it. I can't wait to go to school. I love all of it. Yes, even budgets, even bell schedules, and drop off in the morning is one of my favorite parts of my day. 

I lead for three reasons.
  1. I love learning.
  2. I love sharing.
  3. I love small moments.
I love learning.

Learning is magical. There is nothing quite like being there when kids are learning. I spend as much of my day as possible in classrooms, talking with kids, and watching them as they try to make sense of their world in big and small ways. The book that delights them, the math problem they conquer, the idea that takes shape and you can see it in their eyes. Every day, it's like I've blown on a dandelion and my wish has come true because I get to be see magic happen for kids. Passion ignited. Smiles of success. Kids digging learning so much that they don't even notice me. 




I absolutely loved being a classroom teacher. It was magical and I was able to create a space where my goal for 26 students every year was to discover the world and a love for learning. I wanted my kids to be so excited about school that they would run to school every day. As a leader, I have the opportunity to help create a whole school with a mission to make every day AWESOME for kids. I get to say yes to all kinds of ideas that might seem crazy but are amazing. I get to create a budget that provides kids with opportunities to prepare for their future- a budget that includes robots and coding and creativity and not just textbooks that inspire no one. 

And the learning? It doesn't stop when school gets out and it's not just for kids. It happens on weekends, at night, on Twitter, and Voxer, and Facebook. I love learning with and from others. Learning happens in the teacher's lounge, on my commute, and at conferences. I think that schools are amazing when everyone in the building is a learner. 

THIS just happened today. On a Sunday. On Facebook-- our teachers learning and sharing! It happens all the time.



And at school...

Teachers PUMPED to open Project Lead the Way materials!
K-12 teachers learning from each other
I love sharing.

As a classroom teacher, I celebrated my students. As a principal, I get to share the story for our whole school! Every day, I get to visit classrooms and share what's happening on Facebook, on Twitter, to our families and the world. I get to make awesome phone calls home for students. I get to post the amazing things happening in our school on our school blog. I love being the storyteller for our school. Love it.

Caught being awesome!
Celebrating our student-led Lego Club! 
Awesome phone calls home on the speaker phone!
I love small moments.

This might be the reason I most love to lead. The small moments. I love getting to know students and families. To be able to take the time to connect and to learn their story. I love being able to provide the quiet, safe space for a student who is having a rough day. I love hugs. I love eating lunch with the funny 4 year-olds who make me laugh every day. I love seeing little brothers and sisters in the car at drop off because one day they will be our students! Every day is made of of many small moments. I lead because I hope that every child piles up enough small moments during their time at our school that they will never forget us.

I lead because each day we are given a dandelion. Just blow, and our dreams might come true.

image credit

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Notice #gratitude

image credit
As a kid, my dad always told me I should slow down. As an adult, my dad tells me to slow down. "You're always on the go." And he's right. I like to go places. I like to drive places. I like to see people. In a recent blog post, Amy Fadeji reflects on being on the move, and her post really resonated with me. I think it's just who I am. 

And yet, I've felt this year a need to intentionally slow down. To take a breath. To reflect. To just be. 

I'm not good at it. 

I have to intentionally plan to be more mindful. I write it down. I set an alarm to take 10 minutes of quiet at work. I walk. Sunday, I walked 12 miles, today 11. It was beautiful.

About a month ago, our counselor Caroline Hines showed me this TED Talk called Nature. Beauty. Gratitude, and we watched it at one of our staff meetings. 

It reminds us to notice our surroundings. To notice people. 

And I've been noticing more. 



Here are a few quotes from the TED Talk that I can't stop thinking about:

"Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open, that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for pure enjoyment. Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky.We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment, with clouds coming and going. We just think of the weather, and even with the weather, we don't think of all the many nuances of weather. We just think of good weather and bad weather. This day, right now, has unique weather, maybe a kind that will never exactly in that form come again. That formation of clouds in the sky will never be the same as it is right now. Open your eyes. Look at that."

"Look at the faces of people whom you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face, a story that you could never fully fathom, not only their own story, but the story of their ancestors. We all go back so far, and in this present moment, on this day, all the people you meet, all that life from generations and from so many places all over the world flows together and meets you here like a life-giving water, if you only open your heart and drink. "

This week, I'm so thankful for my life, the beauty that surrounds us, and all of the people I have had the opportunity to meet. I'm grateful to have time to walk, to travel, and to connect with so many people who shape my life and me. 

By taking time, I notice more. 

Beautiful friends 
Fall colors
The reflection of clouds
Sun on the water
People who inspire and energize me
The Golden Gate
Lines and signs
Sunsets from home
What do you notice?

Monday, November 23, 2015

What's the big deal? #cuerockstar admin




What's this CUE Rockstar Admin camp all about anyways? From the outside, it probably looks like this:
A beautiful location
Selfies with Yoda 
Did I say beautiful location? 
Maybe some dancing?
Or is it just a fancy technology camp for school administrators that happens to take place in a cool venue? 

Why should someone attend one of these camps? After all, we're busy people who don't have time for fun and games. Right? What is CUE Rockstar all about?

I think it's like this video. Watch.



If you think a video about 7 year olds sounds crazy, stay with me. The experience these kids have at this amazing restaurant isn't that different than CUE Rockstar Admin. Here's why:

  1. Amazing location. These kids are in one of the fanciest restaurants in New York City. It's memorable, it's special. They will never forget this experience.
  2. They are together, enjoying each other, being social. This video would not be the same with one kid in it. The sharing of this new and rich experience is more special because they are experiencing it together.
  3. These kids are out of their comfort zone. They're trying things they would never eat at home. But somehow it feels safe because they are all in it together.
  4. They are energized by the experience, and they celebrate. The toast at the end is their high five and their smiles couldn't be bigger!
I also have to think that the expectation these kids have for a dinner out is changed forever. How will McDonalds ever compare?

This IS Rockstar Admin. We are those 7 year olds. 

  1. Skywalker Ranch is "the" beautiful location, one of many different venues chosen to create a special feel and experience for those who attend. For a few days, we journey off to a special world together. I think changing our place helps to change our mindset, too. We're primed for something special to happen when we journey to somewhere awesome.
  2. Connecting. Perhaps the most important thing that happens at these camps. These camps aren't about learning to make a Google form or write on a Padlet wall. Will you learn some new tech skills? Probably. But you'll also learn how to use the tool to change your school or district. The most important learning happens in the conversations, the reflecting, in the thinking out loud. What are you doing that I can take back? What didn't work for you that I can learn from? How can we inspire each other? (See Rockstar Admin reflection posts by Andrew Schwab hereJoe Wood here, Amy Fadeji here, Catina Haugen here, and Ken Durham here)
  3. Get out of your comfort zone! The dancing on Day 3? So fun, but really something we would never do alone. If we can dance together, a room full of school administrators, then what can't we do?    In our sessions, we ask each other tough questions and get vulnerable. In one session, someone said something like, "We do a great job of preparing kids for school. We don't prepare them for the real world." These conversations are HARD to have, or don't happen at all back in our districts. But maybe, just maybe, if we say these things out loud to each other at Skywalker Ranch, it can get easier to have hard conversations when we get home.  
  4. We are energized by the experience! It's tough to be gone from our school sites. But the experience shared over three days can spark inspiration and passion that will hopefully continue to shine on! On the last day, participants also reflect and share publicly their takeaways from the three days. It's not about having a polished plan or even about what you present. It's about making your thinking visible, about being truly open in a group and sharing that we often have more questions than answers and that we are willing to try something new and even scary to make school more awesome for kids. 
Keep on dancing when you get home! 

The Mindful School Leader #worklifebalance chapter 1


Work. Life. Balance. is a HUGE challenge for me, and one I've been trying to be very intentional about this year as a school leader. I'm trying to leave work at a decent time, and earlier on Fridays. I'm trying to take more time to rest and recharge. I'm trying to take time to just breathe during the day at work and actually eat my lunch without working at the same time. I've been doing pretty well, although I could exercise a lot more.

I'm also reading The Mindful School Leader starting this week with a group of school leaders and we are discussing a chapter a week on Voxer. This week we've read the first chapter and each Monday we'll be talking about the book and just informally sharing thoughts, quotes, and questions each Monday. Here are some of my takeaways this week:

A quote:
"School leadership demands time and energy.The interesting thing is that taking time for mindfulness makes school leaders feel like we have more time, not less." 

A thought:
Everything is not urgent.

Things I'm finding make a difference:
  1. Not checking email until I get to work in the morning. The author shares the story of a school leader who started every day at 5 am opening emails and being filled with a sense of panic. By not checking email until I get to work, I'm finding I actually enjoy my quiet commute to work.
  2. More on my commute: I'm now taking that drive time to notice more and practice gratitude-- to see a beautiful sunrise, to notice the clouds or the fall leaves. It's become a time to reflect and just "be" for about 35 minutes each morning.
  3. Trying to not email staff if at all possible evenings and weekends. I use Boomerang to send it later if I really want to write the email on the weekend. Teachers and staff need to recharge at night and weekends to be able to bring their best for kids.

This TED Talk was also mentioned in chapter one. It's beautiful. Interestingly, we had used this TED Talk in one of our staff meetings earlier this year as we focused on mindfulness and gratitude.



"When people see my images, a lot of times they'll say, "Oh my God." Have you ever wondered what that meant? The "oh" means it caught your attention, makes you present, makes you mindful. The "my" means it connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard. And "God"? God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we're connected to a universe that celebrates life." ~Louie Schwartzberg

Finally, this quiz was mentioned in the book  in case you'd like to try it out.

How mindful are you? Take this quiz: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/4 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Big Rocks First. #threethings


My three things
One week in, I'm already loving the concept of three things. On my wall I have posted the three things I want to accomplish to feel good about my day. Here are my three things for each day:
  1. Prioritize three things to complete and do them in 45 minute chunks of time.
  2. Show appreciation in writing.
  3. Take 10 minutes each day to eat lunch and have a quiet moment.
This week, I felt super successful at accomplishing my three goals, and every day I write a messy little sticky note with the three things I'm allocating 45 minutes to that day. Most days, I've completed my list. Last Thursday, I entered my office at 4:15 after a training and only had one thing on my list completed. Since no one was at home waiting for me, I decided to stay and get the remaining two things on my list done. At 5:38, I walked out the door with my three things completed. It felt so good! And my to-do list for the next day was already written.

image credit
I'm the first to admit that I need time to process and think about new ideas. Jen Duston had shared the concept of three big rocks, and I needed to hear that again before it sunk in. In our Voxer group, she explained that if you put the big things first, you'll have more time for all of the little things. She calls her three things her three "big rocks" for the day, and she shared that it came from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits. I watched a few videos on the topic and realized something important. 

I was working hard. Doing a lot. But I was choosing to do little things first. My little things weren't necessarily trivial or unimportant, but they were the things I knew I could do in a day. But the result of focusing on just the little things? My big things, the things that needed more focused time weren't getting done and were piling up. Bell schedules. Furniture orders and spreadsheets. And I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the big things that I wasn't finishing. I needed to put my big things, my big rocks, first. Last week, I finally checked some big things off of my list. And I found I still had time for the little things! Even better, I rewarded myself for finishing my list early by filling my time with awesome things like getting into classrooms with teachers and kids. 

Little by little, I'm getting the hang of this balance thing.





Here are a few Big Rocks videos I found that you might like. Thanks for the inspiration, Jen!





Sunday, November 8, 2015

What did I do today? #threethings


I like to think that I'm organized. That I'm an efficient person and school leader. Every single day I feel a sense of purpose. I love my work. 

And I struggle.

At the end of the day, I often look back and wonder if I accomplished anything at all. According to my FitBit, I average 13,000 steps at work. I'm going places. I'm in classrooms. I'm connecting with kids and families and teachers.

But am I getting anything done? My to-do list is the bane of my existence. I've moved it to the Google tasks calendar. I'm checking off things here and there but it grows faster than a California wildfire. 

This week, the number 3 is calling my name. I'm inspired to do three things. 

Three.

Last April, Joe Sanfelippo sent me a message via Voxer about his "three things". You can read his blog post where he describes his three. But ever since last April, I've been thinking about THAT vox. The concept of "three things" is a topic for one of our upcoming staff meetings. I've played that vox probably ten times. 

His idea was simple, yet brilliant. What three things do I want to accomplish at the end of the day so that I can feel good about my day?

Then, last week, in another Voxer group focused on finding balance in life and work, Jen Duston shared her strategy for getting things done each day. Her idea, also simple and brilliant: 

  1. Identify three things to get done. 
  2. Allocate a 45 minute chunk of time for each item.
  3. If you finish early, fill the remaining time with something awesome.
For me, the spirit of "three things" starts tomorrow. 

Here are my three things for each day:
  1. Prioritize three things to complete and do them in 45 minute chunks of time.
  2. Show appreciation in writing.
  3. Take 10 minutes each day to eat lunch and have a quiet moment.*
*Yes, this is a real goal. Many days I don't eat lunch or stop for just 10 minutes to breathe, think and recharge. So many of my principal friends share this struggle! 

Every day, I put kids first. I get into classrooms. I'm out and about in my school. I like to think I'm good at what I do.

But I can do better-- starting with three things, posted where I can see them, every day!

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Dreaded Parent-Teacher Conference by Autumn Ernest #A3WP


I went to a well-known, highly rated credential program. Not once did we discuss or train on how to have a parent-teacher conference. I was allowed to sit in on a few conferences as a student teacher, but I was not part of the preparation or discussion. When it came time within my own classroom, the idea of sitting down and conferencing with 27 different sets of parents in my first year as a 4/5-combination classroom teacher was jump out of my skin frightening.

I talked with other teachers, I talked with my grade level, I researched the best ways to conduct a conference, but in the end it was just me on one side of the table and the parents on the other. My first conferences were a blur. I had packets of test scores and work samples, I tried to be positive, I tried to answer questions. I tried, I tried, I tried. In the end, I cried. It was difficult to be put in that situation. Lost in the dark and being expected to be the light for so many students and their families. I couldn’t answer questions about our testing program because I hadn’t been trained, I didn’t know some of the policies about the school, while many of the parents were part of the school board and knew more than I did. But, when I was done crying, I brushed it off and heavily reflected.

For the next round of conferences I garnered from the Internet a schedule of what to talk about and how long, areas to address and areas to avoid. I had everything written out and prepared. I had a timer and some chocolates. I tossed my hair over my shoulders, straightened my back and began. I was very straightforward. Here is this, here is that, this means this, this means that, thank you very much, email if you need to. There were very few questions and no emails from parents. I patted myself on the back for a job well done. No crying, no need for reflecting. Instead I had a well earned drink and toasted to a job well done.

A few weeks later a funny thing happened. I was put on the other side of the table when I went to my son’s preschool conference. His preschool is so hard to get into that he was actually put on the list when he was born. There are many great things about the program there. As a novice teacher, I was already intimidated by the preschool teacher, and at the same time eager to learn whatever I could from her.

We had to wait at the door until it was our turn. She brought my husband and myself in and we took the long drop from standing to sitting on the tiny preschool chairs.

She welcomed us and had us sign in.

She was very straightforward. Here is this, here is that, this means this, this means that, thank you very much, email if you need to.

Without understanding why, when we left I felt raw. My heart was broken.

Sitting on THAT side of the table, I realized that what I needed most from my son’s teacher was to know that he was loved. That he was valued. That no matter what obstacles he may face, he had a team behind him. At the end of the conference, I cared less about his scores and his work samples. What I wanted was to feel the positive relationship he had with his teacher.

So I cried and I reflected.

I realized that the reason the parent teacher conference is always dreaded is because we don’t know each other, the parent and the teacher. We don’t know, as the parent how our child is valued or how their education is valued. By introducing your teacher self, truly, you create a bond with the parent that you always make with each child. We teach our students, we take each of them into our hearts, and their parents allow that, they hope and pray for it. But, they need us, teachers, to show them how much we care for each child.

What it really comes down to is communication. I try to begin the year by welcoming parents and students personally. I email parents about successes more often than concerns. I keep track in my grading book to make sure that I have emailed everyone at some point. It can be difficult to do this with my now 100 sets of parents as a middle school teacher, but that 10 minutes a day keeps the angry parent away. By doing these small things, by the time conferences come around, parents aren’t surprised by anything because we have been in constant communication.

So, when conferences began that next year, I welcomed parents into my room. I tried to make sure we were seated in a circle instead of across from each other, and I would always start out with how much I enjoyed each child. Even with my challenges, because everyone had something that they needed to be praised and bragged about. I would tell parents how excited I was to be able to have this time to celebrate their child and all of their accomplishments. There were times that we needed to discuss some things that were harder, like behavior contracts or ways to increase their participation in class, but I found it was easier to do now because I came into each conference with the intent of love and celebration. I was able to develop a relationship with families, prior to the conference, where the dreaded parent teacher conference turned into just another conversation about our team because communication with parents had became commonplace.

That first year of conferences, as the teacher and the parent, were rough. They were also not something I could have been taught; I had to experience the pain for myself. Sometimes it takes some crying, offering some chocolate, maybe a glass of wine or two. But what teaching and parenting always comes down to, is our relationships with each other. This can only be done through communication. Communicating can be scary, it feels raw and vulnerable, but when it’s done through honest caring and commitment over time, it creates trust. We want parents to trust us because parents entrust us with their most valuable part of themselves, their children.

Autumn Ernest teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English at Dixon Montessori Charter School in Dixon, California. She has been teaching there for 5 years and is very lucky to be able to grow with her students. She is an Area 3 Writing Project Teacher Consultant and has taken courses with the Reading and Writing Project at The Teacher's College. She also trains local middle school teachers in the art of writing and cross-curricular collaboration.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Good Life #health #happiness #school

Last year during our Spring Break, I visited several schools to learn what other great schools were doing to make school more AWESOME for kids. (You can read the entire post here.) I always get great ideas when I visit other schools, and more often than not, I find something that wasn't what I set out to look for in the first place. Our first stop was The Cove School.


When I visited Cove  in Larkspur, CA, I was mostly there to research their flexible learning spaces and Google-inspired furniture and design as part of designing our new school. My friend Eric Saibel had also mentioned that we should check out Cove In Motion, a start to their day with a focus on health and wellness as a school. You can check out the kids and Eric below getting fit and having fun. Just 15 minutes every day. It was amazing!
Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?
Mrs. Fadeji in motion
A great way to start the day!

Inspired by The Cove School, Schools In Motion, and a TedX Talk by then 13-year-old Logan La Plante called "Hackschooling Makes Me Happy", we decided to "Dive In" to health and happiness as one of our key school-wide goals. Our focus on health and happiness encompasses several areas including mindfulness, fitness, and building positive relationships among our students, staff and families.



What does diving in to health and happiness look like at our school? We have started Star In Motion at our school and four days a week, we start the day with 15 minutes of movement, positive messages, and fun! Truly, that one visit on one day to see Cove in Motion has truly transformed our school. It's not by accident that the song that now starts our day together is The Good Life
Diving into health and happiness!

photo 2.JPG
3rd-5th Grades In Motion

What better way to start my day? 
And, every Wednesday is Workout Wednesday, where you'll find the whole school--teachers, kids, parents, and me wearing workout clothes and walking as a school outside to music. Usually you can spot some kids dancing with huge smiles on their faces! Some might say it's too casual- but we believe in modeling for our students and families. We're all in.

Walking on Workout Wednesday
photo (7).JPG
Kindergarten In Motion! Teachers, parents, and kids!
Workout Wednesday and the Whip Nae Nae-- here's Kindergarten and the 4th grade lunch!




Every once in awhile, amidst conversations around data, instruction, and the new CAASP test results and I wonder if I shouldn't be spending more time crunching numbers and spending less time focused on building a healthy and happy school. And then I look around and I notice that I'm spending most of my time in classrooms supporting teachers and kids because behavior problems have largely disappeared. Kids are happy. They love school. They run to get here in the morning! And we are receiving positive feedback from families, like this letter:

As a parent of two new Star Academy students I just wanted to thank you all for a fabulous start to the school year! They are more excited about school then I have ever seen them! When I pick them up each day they can't wait to tell me what they learned or to see if I know what their vocab words mean. Then after school [he] is showing me his blog with pride and [his brother] is practicing his piano with excitement. Each morning they have something to look forward to (Minecraft Club, Astronomy, Art, Spanish, a reading buddy, the list goes on and on!) 
Both of them are engaged, curious and proud of their new school. I sent this to all of you because its clear the entire campus culture is one of innovation and excitement about learning and walking through the halls anyone can feel it.
  

Kids are learning. Teachers are focused on instruction. Everyone is working hard and doing their best. And at the end of every day, if just one more child, one more parent, one more teacher can say...

image credit
It will be worth it. Health and happiness. Every. Single. Day.