Love Letters: 6 Essential Actions That Support Growth

These actions are very important in our work as educators.  Take a look and if you have essential actions that you believe in, I hope you’ll consider sharing your ideas with me.




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I have really enjoyed listening and learning from others via this site!  What a great opportunity to talk about Inquiry-based workshops & authentic learning objectives  ~ Re:Teaching podcast

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If I Could Have Lunch…

…with John Hattie, I would shake his hand and thank him. Okay, for those of you who know me well, know I would actually hug him and then thank him ~ most likely before I even introduced myself. Those around me would be embarrassed, for themselves and for me, and I probably wouldn’t even notice if the interaction was awkward. I would just be in awe.

I’ve spent time this summer digging into what really matters in education…topics ~ concepts ~ people… who, I believe, influence the ideas I have swirling around in my head about what counts…WHAT REALLY COUNTS…for all learners. Some of my thinking is inspired by re-reading “old friends” hanging out on my bookshelf. I’ve also been inspired by some new friends. It has been a summer of centering. A summer of defining and re-defining. A summer of reading and a summer of writing. What fun it’s been!

John Hattie says that, “Visible Learning means an enhanced role for teachers as they become evaluators of their own teaching. Visible Learning and teaching occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers.”   We all know John Hattie is smart, but what strikes me is the logic behind all of his thinking. He knows that it isn’t until we (educators) set our own goals, reflect on our own practices and look for evidence to support growth (or lack thereof) ~ coupled with learning with and from our students, their ideas, their work, and their reflections ~ that we can really support them as independent thinkers, readers, writers, talkers, and doers of the world. Furthermore, when teachers create their own feedback cycle for growth, it affords them the know-how to provide like opportunities for their students.

Since I don’t currently have a lunch date on my calendar with Dr. Hattie, I will have to work to honor his research by putting his findings into action. As I launch into the new school year, I am going to do my best to stay focused on my beliefs related to:

I’ve got a lot to do. If only I had a date for lunch…

What My Mentors Have Taught Me

It’s funny how a few decades in the field, coupled with all of our own educational experiences from pre-K through post-graduate studies, teach us what we know about what matters most in education, for both our youngest of young and our “lifers” who just can’t get enough of learning every single day! The threads of those lessons provide a center for us as we navigate the pages of life, new experiences, and learning. Regardless of what is thrown our way, there are mentors ~ people, experiences, words ~ that shape our goals, our decisions, our actions, and our path. Here’s some of the things my mentors have taught me. And the best part is, I’m certain I’m not finished learning from them!

What My Mentors Have Taught Me

By Julie Wright

  1. Be kind. People notice.
  2. Be safe. It’s necessary.
  3. Work hard. It pays off.
  4. Have fun. You may live longer.
  5. There is no such thing in education as a “No Vacancy” sign. There’s always space at the table.
  6. When others ask for help, the answer is always, “of course”. It will come back to you two-fold.
  7. When you make a mistake, say you are sorry. It makes a difference.
  8. Go to museums. Read a good book. Take up a new hobby. Live an enriching life by “feeding” yourself through experiences. It will make you a better teacher and colleague.
  9. Anyone who works to stand out or get noticed (even if it is in a negative way) is trying to tell you something. Pay attention.
  10. Say what you mean and mean what you say. It’s really that simple.

What have your mentors taught you? What lessons serve as your center?  Give it a whirl and let me know your thoughts!


Waffles or Spaghetti?

My husband and I have redefined what is considered a “date”. Why? Well…

  • Five days a week
  • Four grandparents who still live in Ohio (who used to help us with our crazy lives at any given point)
  • Three growing children
  • Two careers with daily commutes into NYC
  • One pet Goldendoodle, turtle & bunny

Nowadays, a date is pretty simple. A quick coffee or glass of wine at one of our favorite Westchester establishments, a movie (on Netflix…let’s be real the last time we saw a non-Disney produced movie in a movie theatre was in 2009…maybe), or a trip to Home Depot to get new covers for old, beaten up light switches. This morning we went on a “date” to the grocery store. Our daughter was hanging out with our boys so we ventured out into the snow before any crowds or lines formed. As we were walking in to begin our weekly grocery run, my husband said to me, “You know, some people may not get you because your ideas are like spaghetti.” Spaghetti? Really?

I won’t bore you with how our conversation unfolded as we walked through the produce, cereal, and dairy isles. But, I will tell you that while picking out ham (I don’t even like ham!) in the meat department I realized something. My husband was trying to teach me something…something about myself and something about other people. He was trying to give me a nibble…something to ponder and put into action.

For those of you who know me, you know that I pondered our grocery store date conversation all morning. I even came home and did a little research on ideas that unfold like spaghetti. The idea was familiar to me, but I needed to put it into action in my own mind. You know…gathering a bunch of interconnected ideas just like a plate of spaghetti. I read a lot of ideas, but some written by Bill and Pam Farrel intrigued me. They say that:

Men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti.

Their ideas are interesting because they compare men to waffles. They say that men process life in boxes, often a collection of boxes that become “convenient holding places for information.” They claim that men only really focus on one box (or issue, topic, problem) at a time. They explain, “When men are at work, they are at work. When men are fixing something, they are fixing something.”

On the flip side, they say that “women process life like a plate of spaghetti.” There are noodles that flow all over the plate and most, if not all, touch, interact, or intersect with others. The Farell’s claim that if anyone can multitask by loading the dishes, talking on the phone and making a grocery list all at once, it is women. They believe women think of their thoughts, actions and life as “connected to other issues in some way and that life is much more of a process.”

This whole idea – waffles and spaghetti – gave me things to ponder. Is this notion just about men and women?   I don’t think so. For me…it is about our work in schools, the ways in which people learn, the ways we construct deep learning. Learning? Now, I know, I’ve lost some of you because I’m talking in ways that only other pieces of spaghetti can appreciate – taking one idea and thinking about its connectedness to other things. I move all over, twisting and turning, to get to some clarity about what matters…what makes sense to me.

In a very concrete way, this experience made me think about the learners in our schools. What do they need to make some gains? What stepping-stones do we need to create for them? I don’t think what I am referring to is gender specific, at least not exclusively. I think it is person specific. I think it is learning specific. Some things to consider:

Do the kiddos in your care think like waffles or in boxes?

  • Do they need to compartmentalize nuggets of information before they can do something with it?
  • Do they need to think separately before thinking together?
  • Do they need to understand one piece before moving on?
  • Do they think, act, design, or talk in part to whole ways?

Do the kiddos in your care think like spaghetti or in interconnected ways?

  • Do they take a bunch of ideas, sifting and sorting through them and then make something new?
  • Do they need to think about ideas related to other ideas and then put them all together?
  • Do they need to understand all of the pieces and parts and how they fit together before moving on?
  • Do they think, act, design, or talk in whole to part ways?

I’m going to continue thinking about these ideas because keeping them in my front pocket will help me support those around me. I will be asking myself if my teachers need smaller bits of information (scaffolded over time) or if they need to simmer about a number of ideas connected to one another? Understanding how someone thinks, learns, or creates understanding will help me design experiences and coaching conversations that will support them. It will directly influence how I design my next coaching moves. I can’t wait!

I’ll keep you posted. Until then, think about yourself and your students – waffles or spaghetti? Both are really important!