Mr. L's School Blog
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. LComments (-1)
Designing for a Compassionate SchoolPosted 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.Comments (-1)
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?Comments (-1)
And so here we are...Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 6/27/2018The 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.Comments (-1)
Understanding the Complexities of Bullying--Part 3Posted 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!Comments (-1)
Understanding the Complexities of Bullying--Part 2Posted 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!
Understanding the Complexities of Bullying--Part OnePosted 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.
Our new initiative--intentionally promoting Kindness and CompassionPosted 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.Comments (-1)
Is it time yet???Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 8/25/2017
Are y'all getting as excited as we are for the new year? I hope so; you should be. The start of the school year is always a milestone event in the life of a family--and when you have a place to go to that you care deeply about, take great pride in, and enjoy being a part of, then the excitement of the start of school is filled with warmth and anticipation. We want our kids, our students, to "can't wait for school to start again!" When we've got them there, then we've got them for life.
And that is the kind of place we are trying every day to create for our kids. We want Cascade View to be a place of magic for everyone who walks through our doors--where everyone is valued as the unique individuals they are; where we celebrate learning, growth and service; where compassion, kindness and love is felt; where friendships and relationships are established (some for life!); and where, no matter who you are, you know a place is being created that you simply want to be a part of.
The WHY of our work, the reason we, as educators, have chosen to be at Cascade View (and please know that every adult who works here is here by choice!), is because "we are passionate about meeting learners where they are in order to help them realize their innate and extraordinary human potential. This is our great WHY. Care to join us?"
Well, we actually invite you to join us. In fact, it's the only way to be if we are going to be together in this, the worlds' most important work: the education of our kids!
See you all soon!Comments (-1)
An educator's summer...Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 8/23/2017
One of the things teachers do in their summers, in addition to recharging their internal batteries that have been wonderfully spent from the previous year's teaching, is enhance their professional practice by participating in various workshops, trainings, and classes. In Snohomish, one of the things staff have the ability to take part in is something called "The Framework for Intentional and Targeted Teaching (FIT) Institute."
The four elements of FIT Teaching help ensure that students are immersed in challenging, meaningful and relevant learning experiences each and every day. These four elements are:
- Culture of achievement – integrating academic outcomes with a positive school culture
- Purpose – providing a clear and intentional rationale behind lessons and learning activities
- Gradual release of responsibility – delivering scaffolded instructional practices to foster independent learning
- Formative and summative assessments – using assessment data to inform instruction.
This summer, our FIT Institute, a two day immersion into the conceptual frameworks of purposeful teaching, will be centered on "Gradual Release of Responsibility." As the year progresses, you be hearing more from us about this--but your kids, our students, will simply experience this in our classrooms as opportunities to own ever-increasing responsibility for their learning at a pace and in a manner that is appropriate to their uniqueness as a learner and that allows them to realize their innate potential.
So, unlike popular belief, teachers never get "the whole summer off." If done right, the way it should be, then along with the appropriate rest, rejuvenation, and fun that even our students should experience every day, teachers who care also work to become better, more effective teachers. And at Cascade View, we have teachers (all staff!), who care.