Mr. L's School Blog

  • "Turning to One Another"

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 11/9/2020

    I was recently sent an email by Liza Patchen-Short, Snohomish County Mental Health Liaison, that was titled "Turning to One Another." I've included the piece below which was written by the amazing author and thought-leader Margaret Wheatley. The entire piece is truly great but it was the first sentence that struck a powerful, resonate chord with me especially following the remarks I shared with you all in the school newsletter two weeks ago. The first sentence, as you can also read for yourselves below, is "There is no greater power than a community discovering what it cares about."

     

    For me, there also has to be a further understanding within the community itself that they even have the power and potential to realize this. The 'power' that Wheatley talks about is available to every community no matter how one defines the specific circle of influence or social circles (physical or digital) they inhabit. But most communities, especially of late, are not fully realizing this potential due to a number of factors that are not of interest to me here as your school's principal. What IS of interest to me, as part of the Cascade View community, is to personally embody, serve, and help lead what I feel is a community core value (i.e., what this community truly cares about).

     

    In the last newsletter, I shared the dichotomy our community faces in the dialogue of whether students should return to school, in person. The dichotomy, was whether Covid-19 or mental health should take priority and precedence as THE decisive factor. If we can remove ourselves from our own personal and emotional position and opinion, and move to a place of greater perspective above that grey to look down at all the truly tough and heart-wrenching stories and details that we all are mired in to one degree or another, I would trust we would discover the core value, the one thing we all care deeply about: the overall wellness of our children. The thing we care most about as a community is that we do whatever we can to insure our children thrive.

     

    We can go back into the grey whenever we want and discuss, argue, and dialogue further, and try to force our perspective upon others, in order to change decisions. Many of us have to live in that grey often as we struggle with the daily facts of Covid-19 transmission and the powerful stories we see and hear from our families about how their children are doing emotionally and mentally. But, please, whenever we find ourselves back in that grey, and from this point further evermore, let us constantly remind ourselves that we all share a common purpose, a common core and fundamental value--the one thing we care most about. Then, we'll take a collective, calm, and deep breath in solidarity knowing that, when we do this, we'll come to know that we ALL love our kids deeply.

     

    Our WHY at Cascade View is: "In our community, we are passionate about meeting all learners where they are in service of each realizing their innate and extraordinary human potential. THIS is our great mission. Care to join us?"

     

    Every single one of us has value and is important to the conversation. We grow our community and relationships more closely and warmly together when we can set aside heated arguments, acknowledge and honor the strong emotions that do exist, and stay laser-focused on what truly matters. I firmly believe there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can get in the way of helping us realize such a powerful shared purpose. Any hurdle that does prevent realizing our potential as a whole community is the result of our own fault of putting it there, ourselves, in the first place. May we never do that.

     

    So, care to join us?

     

    Mr. L

    Proud Principal

     
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  • Covid 19 v Mental Health

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 11/9/2020

    We are now well into the routine of the new school year--this past week would have been Parent/Teacher conference week--a time when you would have gotten together with your child's teacher to discuss progress. By now you know those communications are still happening--teachers are expected to check in with each family over a two-week cycle of time. But, YOU can reach out to initiate a conversation with the teacher and you are certainly invited to zoom into the teacher's open office hours every afternoon.

     

    An important aspect of remote learning that has also surfaced great and agonizing angst many of us feel involves the mental health of our children (we worry as well about the mental health of the adults surrounding our students, but the focus of my remarks here is solely on our kids). The parallel conversation going on about whether and when it is best to have students return physically to school due to the Covid pandemic involves exactly this: mental health. Mental health vs. Covid. Two GIANT issues that are realities for all of us right now. If you witnessed our school board's conversation last week, you saw they grappled with these two competing issues. "Kids need to stay remote because the risk of Covid is too great and uncertain." "Kids need to return to school asap because the risk of declining mental health is too great and uncertain."

     

    How can one reconcile these two? How does one decide what is truly THE priority among these two impossible and competing realities? For our practical purposes, our school board rightly stayed focused on the advice of the CDC and county health directors. Right now, I believe this is the correct decision. But if we take a larger, 10,000 foot look at the question "How does one decide...Covid or mental health?" embedded in the question isn't "either/or," thinking; it's really "both/and." I say that because the mental health of our children, and the trauma that can sometimes be foundational to their mental health, has ALWAYS been a concern of ours, and of many in our community. BOTH Covid AND mental health are vital issues that we must find a way to "hold" in our hearts, together, with grace, skill, and compassion, simultaneously. One is not more or less important than the other and the last thing we need to be doing right now is dividing ourselves based upon what I call these "false choices." We can debate whether schools need to open solely for mental health reasons--but arguing that point misses the greater point which is something we as educators are keenly aware of--namely, many parents who are worried about the mental health of their child my feel they, themselves, are ill-equipped, or unskilled, or lack any kind of knowledge in how to properly support their child when it appears they aren't thriving. Educators know many parents struggle with this and are sometimes all too quick to hand off responsibility for their child's mental health to the schools.

     

    Which is why we, here at Cascade View, over the past five years have intentionally engaged in professional development focused on adverse childhood experiences AND have implemented tools, resources, language, skills, and strategies with our kids and school community to support a child's development--academic, as well as social and emotional. Parents, YOU, however, have always played THE primary and major role in the mental health of your child. 100% remote learning has simply brought the issue of mental health front and center right next to the Covid pandemic. Let us insure it stays front and center always--educators know, and many parents are now fully seeing and realizing this too, that a dysregulated child simply cannot learn. Dysregulation can result from several different things--mental health being an umbrella term for many of them. As it has always been, whether we want to face it or not, it is up to the adults in a child's life to "figure it out" for the child--it's up to EVERY adult. Parent, teacher, principal, neighbors, community--we are all "on the hook" of responsibility here.

     

    And therein lies your (and our) lifeline in this very trying time. No one single adult is alone on this path. WE are in partnership together. When we need your help to insure your child is more engaged in remote learning, we are asking because doing so is one of the strategies we can employ that helps a child's mental health regulation in addition to their academic growth. I'm inviting YOU to let us know if you need help at home with some additional knowledge, skills, and strategies. We don't pretend to be "experts" in mental health, but we are expert educators with specialized knowledge that may prove useful to you right now. Now is not the time to shy away from, be embarrassed about, or hide from the issues of mental health. For the sake of our children, I'm inviting you all to lean into it with us. We can do so much more to support our children during remote learning--but we here at school cannot do it by ourselves. We need you to understand and realize the power and empowerment you have to maybe "parent a little differently" so that your child can thrive and exercise their resiliency muscles. It IS a fact that many of our children are thriving right now--but those kids aren't figuring it out on their own. Those children are simply in an environment where their adults are mindful of the present moment and are able to provide the support and encouragement their child needs to realize their innate resiliency and potential. Every child can be more resilient, empowered, and skilled in self-care and advocacy. EVERY child can learn and be taught these skills.

     

    Our school district is stepping up in our community and showing you just how important the life of your child is by not wanting them to come into a situation that puts their health and well-being, to say nothing of that of the extended community, at unnecessary risk. As always, we NEED you to stay engaged and reach out to us for ideas and support if you need help to insure all other aspects of your child's wellness are seriously and mindfully considered and problem-solved. But we need, and expect, you to reach out and ask--we cannot and won't impose a deep conversation like this unless we feel fully invited by you to do so. We've always asked this of you--and now more than ever, our children need to see us working closely together as well. If the timeless and indigenous concept were ever true, it's certainly true now: It takes a village to raise a child.

     

    May our community grow together and take full advantage of this moment to BE the village our children need.

     

    Yours,

    Mr. L

    Proud Principal

     

     

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  • Are you getting excited?

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 8/26/2018

    We’re getting ready for you! September 5 is almost here - our school needs you for it to come back to life after its own summer rest.

    Do you remember, Thunderbirds, your three responsibilities of caring at school? When you see me at Meet the Teacher, come and tell me you remember and tell me also you will not only live those responsibilities yourself every day, but that you will also help friends to do the same. 

    Thunderbirds are scholars and become heroes when they go above and beyond in showing their kindness, compassion, and friendship to all others. Thunderbird Heroes are Upstanders when they see something that isn’t right or safe - and then they say something. Thunderbirds CARE. Remember, YOU help us to create magic at school so we need you to get here soon to bring that energy and magic back to life. 

    Together, let’s make this an amazing year at Cascade View. 

    See you soon... you’ve been missed.

    Mr. L

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  • Designing for a Compassionate School

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 7/5/2018

    A few of the things I'm interested in, and reading of late, relate to leadership design structures, trauma-informed practices, compassion, and the art and science of giving care. This coming school year, our staff will be delving much deeper into the theory, concepts, skills, and practices that will allow us to grow a more compassionate-based school (we have adopted the 10 Principles of a Compassionate School framework from our Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction - see this link to see the principles). Specifically, we will be engaging with Snohomish County and two exceptional consultants to expand our awareness of the impact Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs, or trauma) can have on the learner. The majority of our students come to us with some kind of personal experience of stress and/or trauma. As educators, we are learning we have to confront this reality head on in order to best serve and meet the unique needs of each learner. It is complex work but vital to the development of healthy and regulated kids.

     

    My reading on design structures points to the importance of designing routines, practices, and protocols so that "considering what will best serve" becomes routinized and consistent rather than at the whim of a specific adult or parent. For much of this work, our partnerships with our parents also becomes vital but it requires we evolve the way we've partnered in the past--we aren't medical or psychiatric clinicians; we cannot and do not diagnose mental health issues. But what we can and should be doing is engaging each other and our students' parents in matters that have a significant impact upon a child's growth and development--we should do this in an authentic, honest, and compassionate manner so that we maintain a compassionate growth mindset for the benefit of our children.

     

    Over the course of the coming year, look for more information from us about this work and even for some "parent workshops" on trauma, social/emotional learning, and brain development. If we are together on this work, and come to it with a strong sense of openness, curiosity, and a willingness to evolve how we teach and parent to better meet the unique needs of our kids, well, then the sky truly is the limit on the amount of magic we can create here at our school.

     

    If you are interested, check out this link from Dr. BJ Miller. Now, granted, his TED Talk is on "end-of-life" care but Dr. Miller also speaks to specific design cues that better serve for compassionate caregiving, coupled with a sense of wonder, curiosity, and imagination about what matters most in one's life and death. Although he speaks of this in terms of palliative medical care and end of life issues, with just a little imagination, one can see that he is also speaking to us about how we can better serve the care needs of our kids.

     

    Dr. Miller's TEDTalk "What Really Matters at the End of Life"

     

     

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  • Are you reading?

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 6/27/2018

    One of the most effective ways to avoid the dreaded "Summer Slide", (that phenomena that results in a bit of regression for some students due to the fact they are not in school and not, therefore, engaged in activities that continue to grow their minds in tune with academic growth), is to, plain and simply, read. There is ample educational research proving that students who are in the habit of reading are much more likely to experience school success. So, amid the sun, fun, and play, we encourage all families to immerse themselves in the wonders of great books this and every summer. Read them alone, read them together, talk about what you're reading (maybe even encourage kids to write their own stories too--an even greater way to promote academic growth!). Reading ALWAYS promotes brain growth and also primes a mind and body to regulate and maintain sustained focus in a calm and quiet way (in this way, reading, in the long term, combats "boredom").

     

    For me personally, I'm challenging myself to read at least one book a week. I typically have more than one book going at once (and I've found this a common characteristic of avid readers!). So far, I'm ahead of my goal! Much of my summer reading is professionally driven: this year I'm focusing my reading on trauma-informed work; social/emotional practices; compassion; and how to take care of our caretakers in a manner that promotes wellness. Although I'm not a huge fan of fiction, I will sprinkle some of that into my reading this summer as well--the only time I've found when I can do that and really enjoy what I'm reading. I also read poetry quite regularly (I LOVE Mary Oliver!). So, once again...

     

    Are YOU reading?

     

     

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  • And so here we are...

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 6/27/2018
    The end of the year. School is like that; we celebrate the new year in September; and the end of the year in June. And as always, the older we get, the faster the time seems to fly.
     
    If we as teachers have done our jobs well, our kids have benefitted for having been here with us. They arrive at our doorsteps in September, in new clothes and shoes, ready to meet their new teacher, see old friends, wonder about the new friends they will soon meet, and hopefully what they will learn in this new and strange grade. And as they leave us, making ready to head off into their summers, they are another year’s skilled, bigger in size (wow, they grow so quickly!), with now old friends who were new in September, and maybe just a bit melancholy for having to say goodbye to us. We have grown quite fond of each other. As usual.
     
    This is what school is about: relationships. And emotions.
     
    Joy, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, confidence, anxiety, uncertainty, boredom, excitement, laughter, and on, and on.... With our kids, we’ve experienced them all—just like every year’s past; just like it should be. It’s what makes this work of young human development so enriching and interesting. We don’t teach reading, writing, and math, after all. We teach young people.
     
    Our school is about to become “just a building” because it is only a school when our kids are present. The summer will bring some cleaning, some moving, some repairing, and some resting. Already, we are well into planning to make next year even more meaningful and magical for our students. I look forward to sharing more of that with you when next we share our kids again.
     
    Make it an amazing summer everyone. Thank you for sharing the most precious part of you with us this year. We now give them back to you full time—for the time being. Remember to stop in for some open library times on Tuesdays. Remember to read. Remember to be safe (and kind). And remember to have tons of fun this summer. But do come back on September 5. We’ll do it all again with even more passion and love for our kids.
     
     
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  • Understanding the Complexities of Bullying--Part 3

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 2/18/2018

    The Vital Importance of Conflict
     
    It is conflict that is an everyday occurrence at school. Conflict is not the same as bullying—but the two are often thought to be the same by both kids and parents. Here’s a fact: bullying is probably one of the most misunderstood, misdiagnosed, misperceived, and mistreated aspect of a school’s student culture. Now, please don’t get me wrong—bullying cannot ever, ever be tolerated. We need to understand that, because we work with young humans, each of whom bring to our community a life story often fraught with adverse childhood experiences, some will bully others; some will make very bad and hurtful mistakes. We can and do work to eradicate bullying —but that work is vigilant, constant, and never ending. We need to make bullying more and more rare. And yet, because of its emotional impact, inaccurate assumptions can sometimes quickly be made by jumping to conclusions that any form of conflict or hurt is given the often life-changing label of bullying, even when, most of the time, it just isn’t so. 
     
     
    Conflict is necessary in school because (and EACH one of us knows this to be absolutely true), conflict is a reality of life! Whenever two or more people are gathered together or sharing an interaction (ie. texting), conflict WILL be a part of that relationship at some point. Friends will hurt friends; kids will say and do mean things; there will be tears at school; your child will see others not at their best—in fact, they will see sometimes very dramatic meltdowns (what we term “red zone” feelings and emotions). And, an important point here, sometimes it will be YOUR child doing some or all of those things to, or in front of, others. 
     
     
    Now, c’mon mom and dad. Most of you don’t want your child to experience conflict now do you? You would prefer they live a pain-free, emotionally safe, and happy life at all times; that all others, even other kids, will always love your child all the time (and that YOUR child will always love and treat all others in the same way). But I have yet to find that place! (A time out for a moment: Now, know that I love Disneyland—a place that is called “the happiest place on earth--second only to Cascade View.” But if you’ve been to Disneyland and stood in a 90+ minute line, in the 90+ degree heat of the sun, just to ride the 90+ second “Peter Pan” ride in Fantasyland, well, then, you’ve seen conflict in that line, haven’t you? So even at Disneyland...). In short, expect conflict at school, and embrace it. Without it, we can’t best prepare our kids for their future. 
     
     
    The more accurate way to understand this is better said like this: How we teach our kids to RESPOND to conflict (and bullying) is the key to growing resilient young people. So although conflict is normal and expected, teaching and learning conflict resolution skills is vital and essential! 
     
     
    Creating a place of magic involves how conflict is managed and how resolutions, restorations, and resiliency are taught and learned. Places of magic are not always happy and joyful places 100% of the time (after all, those places all have humans in them!). But, they are always meaningful, engaged, and compassionate places where kindness reigns. This is the mission of our staff at Cascade View. 
     
     
    Imagine the possibilities. 
     
     
    Again, more to come!

     

     

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  • Understanding the Complexities of Bullying--Part 2

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 2/4/2018

    The Distinction to Be Made
     
    Just as I mentioned in the last blog entry, bullying has always been a part of school cultures. And it is also always true that bullying is never as pervasive as the “rumor mill” in the neighborhoods surrounding schools can make things out to be. Rumors create reputations and a school with a bad reputation can taint or destroy a school’s culture while at the same time being completely inaccurate. This is why we need to get this right and truly come to a better understanding of how bullying and, the more important concept, conflict is defined within a school. 
     
     
    Bullying is typically a rare occurrence (NOT minor, but relatively rare) as it is usually restricted to a small percentage of students amidst the entire student population. Most students, most of the time, experience school as a safe and joyful place (and in future blogs, I hope to share some key characteristics of these students that help them to create that kind of place for themselves!). And yet, bullying happens; know, however, that bullying should NEVER be tolerated! We at Cascade View are in the midst of new teaching and learning with all our students on the various aspects of bullying, anti-bullying empowerment, and what it means to be an Upstander with kindness and compassion—the norms we are encouraging and want more of at school because THOSE are how we promote a place of magic by taking better care of each other (one of our core values). 
     
     
    The distinction to be made is in regards to another important aspect of school life that is actually quite normal, expected, and necessary if we are intending to truly create resilient, healthy, self-actualized young people. That important aspect is the role that conflict plays in the lives of our kids at school. Yep, you read me quite correctly - conflict is a necessary component of school life in the development our kids. Do you know why?
     
     
    That in my next blog!

     

     

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  • Understanding the Complexities of Bullying--Part One

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 1/28/2018

    Toward Empowering Our Students!
     
     
    Over the course of my entire career at the various schools I’ve served in, bullying has always been a part of school life. And, yes, sadly (but grounded in reality) bullying will always be a part of school (but that doesn’t mean we like that it happens, or that we do nothing about it!). Especially in elementary schools, when we talk about bullying, we enter into a very grey area—despite how emotional we as parents and teachers can become when we hear “our child is being bullied at school,” there is more to be considered than seeking justice (ie severe consequences and punishment) against “the bully.” The understandable reaction and immediate response from most parents is typically, and at times in great anger: “what are you going to do to the other kid to punish them and make them stop?” I’ve actually also had a parent want to press charges against a first grader (a first grader) for assault! But this is not the most helpful or skillful way to proceed if we are truly interested in eradicating bullying--an interest we all have in common. 
     
     
    In school, we must accept that it is a part of normal development for each child to experience each other in different ways as our kids seek how best to “fit in” within the school community. Some will experience great fun and joy from others; some will experience others as neutral (“I just know their name, we really don’t hang out together but I guess she’s okay.”); and some will experience others as hurtful (both with intention and without). And here’s another key point in this dynamic of kid culture—others experience your own child in the same ways!
     
     
    It can be quite normal for a child to experience hurt within a certain group or interaction and then a few minutes later, be a part of inflicting hurt (again, intentional or not), upon others within a different context. Skillful and knowledgeable adults (hopefully every adult who works in a school), recognize these experiences for what they are while at the same time capitalizing on all the opportunities that arise for appropriate teaching and learning. But am I describing bullying here? Maybe, maybe not. Because of the grey, many think any form of inflicted hurt is, by default, bullying. 
     
     
    But, there’s an important distinction to be made—a distinction that is critical we understand in order to be of better service to our kids as their teachers. 
     
     
    That in my next post - stay tuned and engaged.
     
     

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  • Our new initiative--intentionally promoting Kindness and Compassion

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 1/21/2018

    January 22, 2018 

     

    Greetings Thunderbird Parents, 

     

    This Friday, January 26, marks the end of the first semester—our halfway point into the school year. I want to take this moment to thank you once again for your support, positive regard, and enthusiasm that is continuing to be generated in support of our students, staff, and school community. From the efforts and activities of our amazing PTA (are you a member yet?), to the everyday encouragement you give to your own child to come to school, on time and every day, ready to learn and be a part of the magic we are striving toward for each and every individual who walks through our doors, we, collectively, are making a difference in the lives of our kids. To that end, I also want to share with you some important information that is vital you know because it marks a significant shift to new, school-wide learning every student will be a part of at Cascade View.  

     

    I hope by now you know we do not emphasize “school rules,” at Cascade View. Instead, and as a foundation from which we can more meaningfully teach, we appeal to the “better angels of our students’ natures” by living from a set of three core values and expectations that act as our guide, our ideals, for how to be and behave as Thunderbirds—and hopefully not just when they are at school. Those core values are: Taking Care of Ourselves, Taking Care of Each Other, and Taking Care of Our School and Community. Our students know what these are and should be able to provide you with specific examples of what each means—we celebrate our students as scholars and heroes every month for realizing these ideals.  

     

    So, what’s the significant shift? Today, our students were an audience to a kickoff event from which we will begin building a stronger student culture based upon the principles of Kindness, Compassion, Inclusion, Friendship, Relationship, and Courage—principles fully aligned with our Core Values. Today’s assembly was from a nationally recognized performance troupe and was titled: The Power of One. Though the main message was on anti-bullying efforts, the assembly is serving as the initial activity in a series of experiences, projects, presentations, and tasks, that every student will be a part of from this point forward. We are calling this initial kickoff series our Kindness and Compassion Workshop.

     

    Experiences will include: 

    • Additional Anti-bullying lessons 
    • More in-depth learning in restorative practices 
    • The meaning of Inclusion, Kindness, and Compassion at our school for all kids, every day 
    • An opportunity to join “No One Eats / Plays Alone” clubs 
    • Shared read-alouds 
    • Upstander skill-building 
    • Special 6th Grader projects presented to the rest of the students 
    • The performance of intentional “Random Acts of Kindness” 
    • And so much more! 

     

    At the conclusion of this Kindness and Compassion workshop, classrooms will be “certified” as a K/C Thunderbird Hero Classroom and will have the opportunity to place their painted handprints on one of our school walls (a symbol of their commitment and pledge to continue creating a Kind and Compassionate school culture) as well as receive a new challenge from me! 

     

    We know, as educators, we must teach so much more than reading, writing, math, and social studies. Each one of our students comes through our school doors with their own unique life histories—and many have so much still to learn in how to be a true friend and positive presence. So school is also a place where students learn how to be and how to act within a larger community. Our students, as little humans, aren’t perfect—they will make mistakes that sometimes are hurtful and confusing to other students. We need to expect these mistakes because school is an ideal place, with the right mindset and attitude among the educators in the school, for kids to learn and explore behaviors that are in better service to positive relationship-building—in other words, how to better “Take Care of Each Other!”   

     

    Stay engaged with us as we undertake this slightly new endeavor—it is “slightly” new because we’ve always taught students along these social, emotional, and behavioral expectations. But today, January 22, 2018, marks a new beginning with a new intention to bring a greater emphasis on the kind of culture I believe we all want for all our kids—a culture of magic, kindness, and love. Talk with your child about this learning—doing so will reinforce their learning and show them you care about their efforts to promote this magic and that you are taking pride in your school as the vitally important place it is in the life of your child.  

     

    We do the world’s most important work here. And thank you for being a major part of us by sharing the most important part of you…your child. 

     

    In service to our kids and community. 

     

     

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