amplifi Aug 24, 2020

I was recently asked to participate in a chat that asked how I could amplify my small voice in regards to speaking up and out about beginning to integrate anti-racism, inclusion, and equity issues into my classroom and expand that to the local community. Seemed like an easy inquiry to answer as I had always thought to “amplify” meant to speak louder and to be bolder.


But it wasn’t.


It seemed a bit too easy and shallow to offer up a pat answer that I could give to satisfy the question without any real thought.


One thing I love about the neurological complexity of the brain is that it senses when basic information is just not enough to satisfy the deeper thinking core of our humanness. It is often what drives us into that slow, rational, deliberate, and often reflective way to respond. I decided to take each letter of this word and see if I could create a more multifaceted definition on my own. What I discovered was that “amplify”...

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The School Traffic Controller

amplifi Aug 01, 2020
School Traffic Controller
Buses, cars, and vans all funneling into designated routes for departures and arrivals. Passengers lugging backpacks, instrument cases, lunch boxes, and more. Announcements. Commotion. People moving faster than the average person can jog, with fixed stares. Others chatting and laughing loudly. Numerically labeled entrances. Queues of people.
Some move nervously. Others seem at ease.
Mrs. Sanchez is the former, and she looks so lost.
The school office administrator, Carla, spots that look as easy as middle schoolers find free wifi. Carla walks up to her, smiles, and offers some soothing words. Mrs. Sanchez gives her son a big hug and as she leaves, she looks over her shoulder and mouths, “thank you” to Carla.
Most of the school community is used to Carla’s warmth and calm presence; these habits are well-practiced and very intentional. Carla, herself, has been a parent in a new school and the empathy...
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Being Dr. Suess

amplifi Jul 24, 2020

I can’t connect right through Zoom or Meet or Teams or …

There isn’t enough budget …

We lost half of our team …

My supervisor is a cold fish … 


Yes, this all sucks. Are these really problems or is it time to accept these limits as facts of life? There is a distinct difference between dwelling on a problem and accepting a fact of life. 


Dwelling on a negative fact of life is an energy vampire.


The clock doesn’t stop ticking and the kids and staff don’t stop needing us no matter how many mental calories we burn in frustration. 


Dr. Suess wrote The Cat in the Hat using only 256 different words. His editor responded by betting him he couldn’t write a book with only 50 words. The result? Green Eggs and Ham. 


Oh, you’re like us and you want the 50 words? Here they are in alphabetical order: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox,...

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Professional Learning Menus: What Will You Be Having?

clarifi May 22, 2020
Amanda’s grade 7’s are keeping her on her toes. She’s feeling pretty good about the start to her school year and would like to add a few tools to her teaching toolkit to keep up with her middle school changes.
After six years of teaching in grade 3, the change has been good for her, but Amanda wants the change to be good for the students, too. She has heard many times that she can access Mike, an instructional coach, and begins to search for his email, but stops short of connecting.
Amanda remembers meeting Mike briefly last month, and he certainly seemed nice. But what would she ask of him? "He's probably incredibly busy and it really isn't an emergency," she convinces herself as she starts packing up to leave.
Mike walks by the new teacher’s room. He had met Amanda and hoped she would contact him. In Hopeful School District, instructional coaching relationships are initiated by teachers, and coaches connect by...
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We Talked About This Last Year, Right?

simplifi May 22, 2020
Intellectual Capital is the most crucial, yet easily discarded resource in Education. The universe seems to challenge us by surfacing the best new ideas at the most inopportune times.

The Staff Meeting: Meritocracy vs Efficiency

Here’s a scenario that many will recognize:
The agenda item is very familiar to the veterans in the staff meeting who had lived it 10-12 times before: End of Year BBQ. They are confident it will take only a few minutes to sign up for tasks. But Mike is new. He innocently and cautiously puts the efficiency of this well-worn item in peril, wondering aloud about the Start of the Year BBQ that would follow in a couple months.
“Just a question and I know I am new here, but given we do the same kind of event to start and end the year--which I’m totally good with, it’s so cool--um, could we prepare the set-up of the non-food materials once for both events? We could even purchase the food in the spring for both...
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Crabs in a Bucket

amplifi May 22, 2020
The Analogy
There’s quite an interesting phenomenon that plays out when a number of live crabs find themselves in a bucket. If alone, most of these crabs could easily escape by finding a way to pull themselves up and out of their current situation, but once in a group, their natural inclination is thwarted by other crabs who pull them down.
This certainly can seem cruel and it might well be. A slightly more optimistic perspective is that the crabs act in this manner out of ignorance, and they are pulling on anything that might help them escape. Crabs in a bucket syndrome is analogous to toxic staff culture, and it takes little thought to tie the analogy to the jealousies, thoughtless actions, and harsh words that can infect mindsets and pull down individuals and organizations.
There is nothing healthy in workplaces that operate as a crab bucket and seem set on a course of communal destruction. Eventually, everyone loses in a culture that insists upon...
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The Power of a Kind Voice

clarifi May 22, 2020

Like a Duck

Telephones lighting up.
Line 1: Teacher calling in sick.
Line 2: Angry parent.
Crying eyes staring up: little one seeking an ice pack.
Tap on the shoulder: teacher asking for a student’s file.
Eventful minute for most, but not for Carla.
She politely puts the teacher on hold and pages the assistant principal; she offers a kind greeting and exquisite manners to a slightly confused and well-meaning mom; gives a hug and an ice pack to poor little Michael (while offering a silent thank you to her principal for the phone headset); and gives wide-eyes and a smile while mouthing, “just a sec” to the teacher waiting for that file.
Staff and families are used to Carla’s calm superpowers; what they don’t see is that her mind is churning full speed and she is simplifying and clarifying with deeply ingrained habits.
Like a duck swimming in a busy pond. Cool, calm and smooth on the surface, but so much is...
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I Help Kids Learn by ____.

amplifi May 22, 2020
I met Gerry in the winter of 2002. I was a day or two into my first job as a principal when he nonchalantly offered me a leadership gem that would reframe every conversation I would have about mission, vision, and later my why over the next 17 years.
Gerry was an exceptionally deep thinker, a strong leader, and a lousy caretaker. When I first met him, I was unsure of what he did. I thought maybe he was a teacher.
I opened with my common joke. “Great to meet ya, man. I’m Aubrey. Apparently, I got in the wrong line and somehow ended up as the new principal here. ”
My smile was returned ten-fold. “Awesome! I’m Gerry.”
I had no choice and asked awkwardly, “I’m sorry, Gerry, but what do you do?”
He smiled. “I help the kids learn by keeping things clean around here and making sure the kids and teachers can safely get from A to B.”
My How
How many adults...
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You are THE Thing

amplifi Jan 02, 2020
When I interviewed for my current position, I had to present professional development on student engagement. I thought about the many articles and research I’ve interacted with. I thought about the hundreds of books that filled the shelves of our district professional library. I thought about the hours I’d spent in professional development sessions trying to learn the next best thing for kids. And then I thought about the thing that has the greatest impact on engagement and learning.
I took small boxes, placed the thing inside, and asked teachers to guess. They all guessed research-based strategies with evidence-based outcomes. But not one guessed what was really inside. At the end of the presentation, teachers unwrapped the packages to find a mirror. Because as educators, we ARE the thing.
When I first started teaching, kids liked me. I always thought it was because I was young and they saw me as relatable. I thought I would...
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