Kids Are Curious, Wherever You Go

I have been fortunate to be able to travel to many places in the world.  We like to travel and see different parts of the world.  Some countries we go back to and others, it’s a new adventure.

But, the common thread I find in th various places, towns, on airplanes and in cities, are that young children are mostly the same in curiosity level.  They want to know who you are, where you come from.

For instance, walking down a street in a Panamanian village, kids as well as adults, looked upon us gringos with our nap sacks peaking into stores.  In Colombia, it was clear that we were outcasts in a Festival de Diablos (Festival of the Devils) and the young kids came and threw lots of flour on us to turn us white to be the same.  (I wasn’t sure why we got pelted – maybe because I was going after the kids and they kept coming at me, laughing! Plus I don’t know how much whiter we could get!😊)

Then there are the times we went to the carpet shops.  That wasn’t fun – chil labor at its best in Egypt.  This is when an educator has a difficult time seeing these big eyes look at you saying, “Please take me away.” (How do you change that culture?  They take young kids  to weave the rugs because they have small, thin fingers.  Talk about something out of a Dickens Tale of Two Citirs!

But, as always, it strikes me that kids are the same.  They want to learn, they want to dream,  they want to be curious, they want to be creative.  Let’s pave these opportunities in our schools and classrooms and let our kids be curious and creative!  We need to do that, so let get going.

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New Years Goal 2016 #Compelledtribe

So, I am a member of the #compelledtribe, a bunch of great educators writing and sharing out thought input education, teaching, learning and sharing our passion for and about kids!

I have to admit, I have been slacking lately writing on this blog, so I am taking the time now as I wait for my delayed flight in Panama back to Newark to share my assignment, my goals for 2016.  (This is my second time writing this thank you 3G Panama!). So, here it goes on my handy dandy iPhone: (These are in no particular order.)

  1. Continue to watch my health and be more active with exercise!  ( I am 7 years in remission breast cancer survivor!  Yay me!)
  2. Write more on this blog!
  3. Be the best educator, I can be!
  4. Not stress about things.
  5. Be there for my husband and family and not let the work consume me!

And that is it.  If I can stay true to these 5 things, I will be content!

Happy New Year!  Let’s make 2016 the best! 😘

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The Lucky Quarter #compelledtribe

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Albania – The Land of Eagles or as we Albanians are called, Shqiptar’s, which means, “EAGLE”.  My sisters and I crack up because we say, “Can you speak Shqip?”  Basically, can you speak eagle, but really can you speak Albanian.  Actually, I know the language pretty well since I am  a second generation child born to first generation parents on both paternal and maternal sides and shared a home with my grandmother, Victoria, yes, my namesake, who couldn’t speak a word of English.  Full blooded Shqiptar!

Growing up in an ethnic culture brought about many traditions.  We grew up in the Eastern Orthodox faith and yes, just like the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, I got married at my Albanian church, we spit over our kids’ heads three times to ward off the evil spirits, we are loud and proud, we eat lamb, drink Raki, but most of all, we have a passion for life.

The traditions have been passed down and have stayed with our family.  One of the best traditions I fondly remember is the Lucky Quarter!  New Years for me growing up was a hectic time because my father celebrated his Name Day, St Vasil or St. Basil on New Year’s Day.  In our religious tradition, this was an open house for all our relatives and Albanian friends from church.  It was crazy!  My grandmothers and mom would be slaves to the kitchen cooking throughout the holidays all the wonderful Albanian fair – Lakor, Byrek, Brushtull, Baklava, feta cheese and black olives galore and whiskey shots for the old men with their cigars.  My sisters and I would bring the jelly dish around with glasses of water and the guests would say some congratulatory saying in Albanian with “Gezuar” at the end.  (Good Luck, God Speed, etc.!)

The best tradition, I think, that we celebrated was to have our New Year’s family meal with a nice hot bryrek pie (spinach or leek pie in a filo dough) with a wrapped quarter in it.  My grandmother would hide the quarter in the pie, and the lucky person who got the quarter had the best of luck for the year.  After my father passed away, we continued to carry on this tradition and we would swap, my sisters and my mom, putting the quarter in the pie so we could have a go at getting the lucky quarter for the year.

To this day, we continue to have our New Year’s Day Byrek with the lucky quarter.  We have passed the tradition along to our  nephews.  They look forward to it every year and we wonder, who is going to get that lucky year?  I feel that I was a lucky kid to have these unique family traditions.  I wonder if some of my students have something unique to share?  I am sure they do.  But I also wonder if there are some who do not have that special tradition.  Those are the students I always worry about during these months and school may be their only salvation.  I wonder….. can we make it better for our kids?  I am sure we can!

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Byrek Hot Out of the Oven!

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Moral Purpose in Education #CompelledTribe

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What is Your Moral Purpose?  Why do you do what you do in education?

I have been fortunate to be accepted as a fellow in the New York State Council Of School Superintendents “Future Superintendents Academy.”  No it is not “moving to the dark side.”  Actually it is a huge honor and we have a wonderful cohort of aspiring future superintendents that met the past two days, thinking, discussing, listening and sharing beliefs and theory of leadership.  It truly is an honor to be in this with these 22 men and women throughout New York State! 

During our second day, our speaker, Bob Reidy, the executive director of NYSCOSS had us buddy up with a partner and our assignment was to each other ask what we did and what our moral purpose was in education.  “Why do we do what we do in schools?  Why do we want to be superintendents?  What drives us?”   We got to introduce our partner and we were able to listen to all 22 beliefs and moral purposes.  It was humbling and a wonderful reminder why we do what we do.  (This is Michael Fullan 101.  He brings this question about moral imperative realized which is really deep and the ‘why’s’ of what we do in schools throughout his books and essays.  Moral imperative realized is deep.  Check it out and listen here. )

As a Compelled Tribe Blogger, we were tasked to share something about “Back To School” relations, activities with staff, students whatever.  Principals, why not bring this forward to your staff meeting and have teachers share their moral purpose?  Superintendents, you can bring this to cabinet meetings and have your principals introduce each other and share their moral purpose.  You could even do this with board members, what is your moral purpose to serve on this board of education?  Even if you don’t have the opportunity to share during a meeting, find someone and have a conversation.  Even reading this blog will stimulate reflection.  

Ask yourself, “What is your moral purpose?  Why do you do what you do in education?”  Then write it down and revisit it!

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Reflecting on #ILA15 – NUMBER 1 Take Away

International Literacy Association

I was blessed to be able to attend the International Literacy Association Conference in St. Louis this past weekend.  To be honest, I felt out of my league, but that was a good thing.  Being the principal or “Lead Learner” of an elementary school, I have to observe teachers who are teaching literacy.  Literacy is in EVERY subject, and for me being a music teacher, this is an area that I continually enhance my learning and knowledge to be the best coach and instructional leader for my staff who in turn will help teacher our students who will learn.

After listening to many fabulous speakers from Ruth Culham to Donalyn Miller, Kate Messner, Lester Laminack, Phyliss Hunter, my NUMBER 1 take away from this fabulous conference was to give our students VOICE and CHOICE in what they are reading and writing.  It is about being in the zone of reading and writing – the process that can take you away and create adventures within your head.

Pam Allyn put it nicely about reading and writing; “Reading is like breathing in and writing is like breathing out.”  What a profound statement.  As adults, we need to model the love and passion for reading as well as writing.  As Phyliss Hunter stated throughout the conference, “Reading is our new civil rights!”  Let’s get our kids reading and writing and into worlds they would never dream they would be in!

Thank you ILA!  Every building leader and principal should attend your conference, July, 2016 in Boston, MA!

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