researchED US 2016: Assorted Scenes, Name-Drops, etc., from #rEDWash

Yeah yeah, I know I never stop when it comes to researchED. I was taken in with my first conference, and my appreciation for it has gone on and on (…and on and on and on), likely well past reasonable amounts of patience.

At bottom, though, I look at it this way: if all those words have caught your attention at least a little, or if through all the words I’ve been able to make clear how special and important I believe the whole researchED movement to be, they were words well spent.

Based on early reactions to this past weekend’s conference in Washington, DC, though, you may soon have to deal with even more ‘you gotta be there’-type enthusiasm about researchED in your media feeds. In the few days since the conference, I’ve lost track of how many new enthusiasts have engaged me on matters like requests for more such events in North America, queries relating to talks they heard, questions about how to best connect with other conference-goers, etc., etc., etc.

It’s all very exciting, of course, as stirring and sharing ideas about effective education is what researchED is about in the first place. Here’s to hoping it grows and grows. I’d love for all educators to know what it all feels like first-hand.

All that said, I’m following up on my deck-sharing post from a few days ago to give some bulleted glimpses of highlights I took away from Saturday’s conference. I’d give a more complete review (especially of speakers’ talks), but as a conference organizer I spent the bulk of the day running around to keep things like lunch, coffee, A-V, and the like operating (close to) smoothly.

FRIDAY PRIOR:

  • Taking the Metro in from my hotel after learning how close the nearest station was. It was a wonderful tip (courtesy of my well-traveled friend Lori — thanks, L!), as the train became my main transportation all weekend long.
  • Sipping mid-morning coffee with Tom Bennett (researchED’s Papa Bear) and David Didau (Twitter’s Learning Spy and a favorite ed author/thinker of mine — I’m reading his and Nick Rose’s book right now, actually, and it’s brilliant). It’d been too long since I’d seen either of them, so the visit’s a great treat. Might be my first real sense that any of this is actually happening.
  • Meeting a bunch of other speakers for a tour of the White House, graciously arranged for us by the very talented Seth Andrew (one of our conference speakers). While waiting in line and chit-chatting, I introduce Holly Shapiro, one of the WH tourist-speakers, and her husband Matt to David (whose work, by the way, I know through Twitter that Holly greatly admires). Ed Cases, their reaction is one I’ll never forget. So happy to have been there for it.   ddek
  • Riding up into Maryland (thanks, Hilarie!) for a luncheon at the gorgeous Center for Transformational Teaching and Learning, meeting the generous and energetic Glenn Whitman, having a great meal, and sharing a great stand-up chat about education by the buffet table with Dr Ian Kelleher.
  • Dinner and drinks with David, joined by the amazing Optimist Prime and partner. So many laughs, such great people. Perfect before a train ride to hotel, some presentation-cramming, some wind-down reading, and crashing.

CONFERENCE SATURDAY:

  • Rushing around CHEC as the sun’s coming up (took this pic  wm from my Uber during ride in — DC even better than I’d imagined) to arrange classrooms into more talk-suitable orientations, getting assistance from various kind people — even a couple educator-friends of mine who’d made the trip out from Minnesota (thanks, Andy & Carrie!). How deep, the generosity? Bryan Penfound even ran to Starbucks to make sure all the pre-event stress was properly fueled.
  • Emerging from the classrooms area (where I also get to help literacy champion Steve Dykstra and Tom set up for presentations) to registration area and getting slammed aback: LOTS of high education-brainpower has assembled in the past frenetic hour or so. People like Ze’ev Wurman, Ben Riley (who, as he’s now clean-shaven, I nearly walk right past — looking great, Ben!), Giselle Martin-Kniep, Ulrich Boser, and Kate Walsh are milling about, so I welcome as many as I can. Would linger longer with each, but the opening remarks are about to begin…
  • Blowing into CHEC’s ‘Model UN’ auditorium space for Dylan Wiliam (!)’s keynote. I say a quick hello to Dr Wiliam; he tells me he enjoyed reading my book and that he’d love to chat sometime. A little dazed and nodding, say something (but I have no idea what) back. Spot Lindsay Malanga in the house and Lisa Hansel stops me to introduce herself. (This is so awesome.) Dr Wiliam’s keynote is thoughtful and well-evidenced (and funny!), setting the day off on a perfect researchED-ly foot. As the talk moves, I’m pretty sure I can feel the room coming to a proper buzz. Some of my tweets in the moment:

https://twitter.com/erickalenze/status/792375897999433729

 

 

  • Hurrying around looking for the greatest facilities staff ever (thanks, Will & Pankaj!) so we can handle some tech issue or another, I see one of my favorite ed thinkers, Robert Pondiscio, standing at the front door. I drop whatever else I’m up to, let him in, and have a quick hallway-length conversation with him. Oh, then of course I bug him for a selfie with me and he obliges. Boom. rpek Bonus: all three of the amazing Learning Scientists (Yana Weinstein [who is also a fabulous editor, I should add], Megan Smith, and Cindy Woolridge) are at a nearby table doing some last-minute talk prep.
  • Continuing the room-to-room shuttle, I end up missing huge chunks of the speakers. (Through it all, though, I get to stop so I can properly meet TNTP’s great Liesl Groberg. It’s at the door and I’m carrying in huge bags of sandwiches, but at least I get to say a proper hello.) I drop into speakers’ talks wherever I get a few minutes, though, and groove on all the inspiration and insights. Steve Dykstra, Kate Walsh  kw2, Robert Pondiscio, Ben Riley 20161029_154231, and Rob Craigen rc all pretty well blow my mind. Hard to believe they’re all in the same place. Even better, their sessions include watching them field questions from all the other ed superheroes in attendance. Simply, this kind and this level of conversation about our enterprise can’t be seen anywhere else.
  • Giving my talk in the early afternoon, just after a lunch that goes long because people are so engrossed in conversations. The talk goes pretty well, I think, but a bit of a blur. (I will Storify the Tweets later, stay tuned. For now, here’s proof that I was there, courtesy of Howard Greville-Giddings: dsc_3290)
  • Still running all over the place in the afternoon, missing lots more talks. I get a DM from Sarah Thomas (yes, HER, the #edumatch founder) to meet her at the front door. I do, and find her to be one of the happiest, most gracious important people I’ve ever met. (Plus, Sarah and I get to fill our bucket by meeting Will [CHEC’s facilities guy, remember?]’s darling family, sharing a family moment just inside the door. Perfect.) Get Sarah her badge, show her her room, and post up to watch her talk. Here she is: st  Oh, and quick note about Sarah’s talk: if you aren’t familiar with #edumatch and all the ways it’s connecting eds, you really have to check it out. Great, GREAT potential there, thanks to all of her work.
  • Filing in to the closing comments, back in the auditorium. About 3/4 of the original crowd is left to hear Tom Bennett wrap, and the whole thing feels downright victorious. Once we put the classrooms back in order (lucky we took pictures in advance — thanks again, Andy, for your administrative foresight), we’ll be able to head to the pub.

GENERAL NOTES:

  • LOTS of regrets about chats I wanted to have but couldn’t. Was so looking forward to meeting so many of these people, but time just went too fast. All the more reason to book another one soon, right?
  • Made a bunch of new associations I can’t wait to follow up on. You all know who you are, and you all have my contact info. Please be in touch!
  • Huge thanks to all those who helped so much with set-up, tear-down, the day’s A-V and logistics challenges, and the like. researchED is ‘by us for us’ to its core, and it couldn’t run without assistance like yours. It was so great to work with you. Especially big on these scores, by the way, were Andy, Carrie, Bryan, Jessie, Nils, and JoAnne. Thanks to all of you.

FINALLY:

Big cheers to all in attendance (reach out t0 say hello, by the way, if reading this — and feel free also to post your own recaps if able), and big invitations to all who read this and find it intriguing. Watch this space, researchED’s site, and/or some particularly researchED-ly Twitter accounts (start with mine, researchED_US, researchED home, and Tom Bennett‘s, for example, and go from there), and you should have news fairly soon about other things we’re looking at, stateside and internationally. We’d love to have you at any of them!

Now, back to writing about non-researchED-related ed stuff for a while. See you soon, Ed Cases.

researchED DC talk slides, ‘Hip-Waders for Bullsh-initiatives’

After months of planning, we got researchED DC in the books yesterday. And yes, it was again unforgettable on all the usual scores: I was able to meet and chat with people I’ve looked up to for years, see them speak about their work & ideas, connect with colleagues from around the world I’d previously known only virtually, laugh my ass off near-continually, etc., etc., etc. Though being a conference organizer for rED DC provided a whole new view, this may have been my favorite researchED experience yet — really saying something, of course, based on my overflowing appreciation of the org. (See previous gushings on this blog and elsewhere for proof on that.)

I’ll go into all that in more detail sometime soon, promise. Got a DC-based college buddy to meet for lunch and a few hours between to see some DC sights by foot and early morning light. For now, here are my presentation slides: researched_102916. Take, use at home, review and send questions or angry feedback, whatever. Just keep the conversation going, please.

Thanks again, researchED. Waited a long time for you, and thrilled to be a part of you.

At 3-week warning to researchED DC, some things I love about rED

After months of planning, y’all, researchED DC is three short weeks away. We got Tom Bennett, we got Ben Riley, we got Sarah Thomas, we got Ruth Neild, we got Dylan Wiliam, we got Lisa Hansel, we got Seth Andrew, we got Pedro de Bruyckere, we got David Didau, we got the Learning Scientists (Megan Smith & Yana Weinstein), we got, we got, we GOT!

(And these names are only the start, I’m telling you. Click the link event link above and see for yourself. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

CRAZY, RIGHT?!

In other words: if you haven’t registered and have been planning to, you’d better hurry. Some of the biggest names in all of education are going to be in one place — in a school, no less (as opposed to some gaudy hotel conference space with a dedicated hall of desperate vendors) — to share their wisdom and their sparkling personalities. It’s really not something you should let pass by if you’re passionate about improving ed practice. [Plus, if you don’t do so soon, you won’t be included in the lunch count. Seriously: Chop. Freakin’. Chop. What are you waiting for?!]

We’ve still got quite a lot to do behind the conference’s scenes, but seeing this video about researchED yesterday really got me thinking about all the reasons I’m so crazy about the teacher-driven learning & improvement movement Tom Bennett’s led over the past few years. I’ve written about it before (see here and here and here for a few examples), but just feeling like I’ve got to give it another shout.

Here goes: in no particular order, some things I love about researchED are…

  1. It was started by pissed-off teachers, all who believed they could find better PD on their own than the dreck dished out by their schools/districts.
  2. It cares about improving practice first, way before all the ed structures & policies so many are so convinced are the true keys to ed enterprise-improvement (but which keep yielding up only meager returns).
  3. It doesn’t follow marching orders of anyone, really: neither scale-hungry, ed-clueless vendors nor reform organizations nor teachers unions run the decision-making of researchED; if you know something about what works for kids and teachers, and if you have strong evidence to back your position, chances are good that researchED will give you a spot in its program. When ideas clash, they figure it’s actually good for the conversation. Imagine.
  4. It deeply values the idea that improvement choices should be based on sound evidence–not intuition, ideals, or sentimentality alone (as so much ed-improvement conversation tends to be).
  5. Everyone I’ve met from the worldwide researchED community is brilliant, genuine, passionate, funny (!), and generous. At each conference I’ve been to/spoken at, I felt immediately welcome and accepted — even, sometimes, by internationally renowned ed thinkers I’d admired for years. After starting off as such with them, I have since felt very little hesitation when needing to reach out for a tip or additional insight or whatever. In an age when so many choose to stay within their bubbles or preach to their own choirs about what needs fixing in education, this kind of collaborative and continually idea-pushing connection to thousands of practitioners was exactly what I needed. (And, frankly, before that I had begun to lose some hope.)

Thanks for letting me share all that. In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about researchED coming back to the US in a few weeks. If you want to find out more about all this up close, I urge you to take a look at the event site or the video link in this post — or, better yet, the conference in DC. If my experience is any guide, you’ll never be the same afterward — and it’s something we desperately need more of here in US education.

Have great weekends, everyone!

4-Step Starter Kit: Beginning in Ed Research (cross post from TES)

This is another piece from the series I’m doing for TES US on the value of ed research in advance of the big researchED US conference (only a month away! Get tix now! Have you SEEN this program?!!).

Also: Education Post ran an adapted version of one of the series’s earlier pieces this past week, find it here — and, of course, feel free to retweet, share, etc. We really want to get word out about researchED DC! (Which you can follow at Twitter now, by the way…)

Have a great week, y’all.


I’m an evangelist for teachers taking control of their own development by using education research.

But I know there’s a great distance between saying, ‘Reclaim your profession, educators!’ and actually doing it.

If becoming a better user of educational research were not so difficult or time-intensive, countless more practitioners would already have made it a habit by now. And, in turn, the myriad bad professional development courses, wasteful consultants, and misguided improvement initiatives would long ago have been sent into retreat.

So, as someone who has invested time in education research and seen first-hand how it can pay off, here is my quick starter kit of ideas for people who want to give it a try. My Starter Kit won’t make research work magically quick, but it should help you along your way.

1.        To Begin, Ask ONE Question

A simple point, but a very important one as you set out. For once you start looking around, your main issue will quickly escalate from ‘how do I find what I need?’ to ‘what in this overwhelming pile of information is most reliable and most useful?’

Beginning with a single focus for inquiry (‘What is the effect of Balanced Literacy programs on students’ reading outcomes in my state?’, for example, or ‘Is there evidence that 1-to-1 iPad initiatives have improved students’ learning in the metro districts that have implemented them?’) can provide an effective cordon around a much more workable space and keep distracting or erroneous information under control.

2.  Run, Don’t Walk, to the Cognitive Science

Many of the least-effective yet furthest-reaching approaches in education are based on ideals about how people learn best, not on the science of how people learn best.

The good news is that the past 3 to 4 decades of advances in cognitive science can give us much more reliable information about human learning, based on scientific trials.

To anyone starting out as a researcher, then, regardless of discipline or grade level, I’d heavily suggest getting up to speed with these concepts as quickly as possible.

As far as matters to prioritize, I’d recommend starting with these three and learning all you can: (1) Long-accepted truths of instruction and learning (like learning styles, for example) that science have proven to be mythical, (2) The importance of background knowledge to all kinds of what we consider ‘higher-order’ thought, and (3) How learning improves through various forms of practice/repetition.

These three will provide a lot of insight, I’m pretty sure, that your training programs and continuing professional development never would. I would recommend the following pieces of reading as starting points:

3. Plug In to Other Practitioner-Researchers

Back when I first jumped into the ed research stream 13-14 years ago, I basically had a couple books’ reference sections to guide me. The internet was humming, of course, but blogs weren’t much of a factor and Twitter hadn’t even been invented.

Today, one can get daily doses of fellow educator-researchers’ work from huge numbers of bloggers. There are links to lots of good ones on my blog A Total Ed Case if that is a helpful starting point.

Plus, a worldwide community of like-minded professionals can be found on Twitter, which is great at rapidly spreading useful research and resources. If you’ve put off opening an account, at least do it for this. You won’t regret it.

Seek conferences like researchED, too, to connect with fellow educators. My shameless plug, as I’m one of the organizers, is to encourage you to attend our next one on 29 October 2016 in Washington, DC. But if you can’t, follow us on Twitter or seek out other conferences near you to build your professional network.

4. Know How We Got Here

Though you may not feel education’s history applies very well to the day-to-day of your classroom, I’ve found immensely useful over my time in education—maybe because we’re so inclined to repeat our mistakes.

Plus, histories are rich with ‘gateways’ via their usually deep references and indices. From a purely strategic standpoint, taking some time as a researcher to know how we got here will pay off in big ways the further you go.

A couple of recommendations I’d make are Diane Ravitch’s Left Back and The Troubled CrusadeEven The Death and Life of the Great American School System, the book that bridged her move from reform champion to reform enemy, does a lot well to explain American Education in its post-NCLB Accountability Era.

Other titles I’d suggest include The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893-1958, by Herbert Kliebard; Why Knowledge Matters, by E.D. Hirsch;Getting It Wrong from the Beginning, by Kieran Egan; and Ouroborosan ebook by Greg Ashman.

ResearchED is holding a conference at CHEC in Washington, DC, on 29 October, tickets for the conference are on sale now. Click here for more info on the conference program and tickets—and be in touch if you have any questions. 

DIY Instructional Leadership (cross-post from TES)

Here’s another piece I did for TES USA, part of a series urging ed practitioners to take more control of their own professional learning — to dodge the bad stuff they’re so often fed, for one, but to lead their own way out of flawed, over-idealized practices. If we wait for those above us to bring it, after all, we may be waiting forever. Near the end, you’ll also see a plug for the upcoming researchED conference in Washington, DC. If you’re interested in the DIY pathway to instructional leadership herein, I recommend that conference as a great starting place.

When I was a classroom teacher struggling to get the best outcomes for my students, education research introduced me to the innovative new practices I needed but had never encountered in my regular continuing professional development.

As I wrote for TES a couple of weeks ago, sharing what I had learned led to leadership opportunities. Ultimately it also led to me to researching and writing a book that has allowed me to work with educators and schools in and beyond the US.

Though my DIY path had a few right-place-wrong-time fits and starts and often required long hours, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Put simply: the leadership I’m now able to do in education is informed by ideas I’ve intensely studied and personally applied.

I can now stand confidently on these ideas, but that hasn’t always been the case. I have worked, after all, as an instructional leader within larger education organizations, where many times my function was to pass on the organizations’ preferred practices, even though I knew them to be flawed.

It is with some concern, then, that I look around the education enterprise and see all the formalized teacher-leadership going on – in the form of instructional coaches, content leads, program facilitators, etc – that didn’t really exist even a decade or so ago. I know from experience that lots of well-meaning people won’t be passing on effective instruction techniques so much as carrying out what their supervisors tell them to, and I know a lot of that is just plain bad.

My experience also tells me that these aspiring teacher-leaders will be put in many highly confusing and stressful work situations due to their ‘tweener’ (read: not teaching staff and not administration) status and their addition to a system that hasn’t worked out how they should best contribute.

Viewing all this in the light of still-limited research literature on the impact of teacher leadership (which certainly hasn’t shown resoundingly positive effects on student performance, by the way), it’s actually a bit of a mystery how the idea of growing teacher leaders, content coaches, and all the rest has acquired its current high premium. It’s not from past proven successes, that’s for sure.

If you disagree, I urge you to check the available evidence and think about all the money, time, and angst being spent on these approaches. If you find any districts/schools where training teacher-leaders is strong, implementation is efficient, and kids are suddenly growing out of control as a result, do reach me through my blog and let me know. I’d love to hear about successes if they’re happening.

But while I wait on that, let’s return to the idea of DIY teacher leadership, powered by practitioners’ independent research. For I also have experiences with this leadership pathway, and these experiences have shown me definitively this: one need never ‘go into instructional leadership’ to be an instructional leader.

The information that can positively transform teachers’ classroom practices is out there, and existing collaborative structures (like scheduled teacher-teaming sessions— even just hallway conversations, to start) can be leveraged to share what’s working among willing colleagues. All it really takes is the decision to seek something new, making time to look for it, and planning thoughtfully about how the ‘something new’ can be applied.

I’ll admit the independent research was very time-consuming, difficult, and lonely. The ideas I stumbled on back then weren’t (and still aren’t) exactly ones much of the education establishment provides a lot of resources around.

I really could have used some better starting points and a better network of fellow practitioner-researchers to trade ideas with—all items available today, thankfully, through an organization like researchED, the UK-based nonprofit dedicated to building teachers’ research literacy.

I plugged in to researchED and its community after appearing at a few of their conferences to talk about my book, and the connections I made there—to say nothing of the accompanying stream of thought-partnership, new research developments, and good teacher humor now flowing through my social media feeds—make me thankful for the organization every day.

As I’ve nearly no faith left in centralized, top-down approaches to instructional improvement, the type of impact researchED has generated in the UK gives me hope that good educational practices can still be found, processed, and broadcast widely, and that we can do this ourselves, from the classroom up.

*ResearchED is holding a conference at CHEC in Washington, DC, on 29 October, tickets for the conference are on sale now. Click here for more info on the conference program and tickets—and be in touch if you have any questions. 

A Hiatus Disrupter (kinda): Cross-post from TES on researchED DC

Yes, A Total Ed Case does still exist. It’s been a busy summer, is all, with new work opportunities (that I’ll share more about at a later time), researchED DC conference planning, and, well, shamelessly spending more time with family, friends, books, and my bike. I plan to jump back in on new writing very soon, but here’s a (slightly edited) piece I did for TES US last week to get a little more word out about researchED. More than anything, it’s put here as a hiatus disrupter. Wonder if it’ll earn me the ‘Disrupted Something’ credential so sought-after in education right now. (Actually, I don’t really care.) Enjoy — and be in touch if you have questions or anything else. I hope your summer months are going well.


When I took my first solo jump into educational research literature thirteen years ago or so, it was out of sheer—near-frantic, really—desperation.

My problem was this: I was teaching high school English, and I wasn’t getting enough of my kids to actually read the class material. As students’ reading of assigned texts was key to so much of the other stuff we’d get up to in English class, I knew that continuing to fall short simply would not cut it. I had to get better at motivating students toward completing assigned readings, period.

And though I’d been using the directions given to me by my pre-professional training, my teaching colleagues and my professional development, I still wasn’t getting my students to the intended destination.

I had to start looking at entirely different directions and, as the sources I’d counted on to date were only offering more of the same ineffective things, I was going to have to find these different directions on my own.

Delving into the world of educational research soon gave me some different options to effectively motivate my students.

  • One of the first stops in my research convinced me I should be very wary of motivating my students in any way that compromised the academic intensity of the assignment. In other words, making up for students’ preferences by assigning high-engagement/low-resistance titles or skipping reading altogether to watch film adaptations were both out if I was to do this right.
  • When I turned my research attention to ways I could make rigorous texts and tasks more engaging to my students, I recognized (primarily through the work of E.D. Hirsch) that the disengagement I was observing might originate from background knowledge students simply don’t have. Accordingly, I designed background knowledge ‘scaffolds’ and placed them strategically through every work we studied.
  • Research of cognitive science introduced me to framing effects and their impacts on humans’ motivation and decision-making. I accordingly put more thought into how to frame content and lesson tasks—classroom policies, even—toward increasing students’ motivation. (For more on those efforts, see a post I did for the Learning Scientists blog earlier this year.)
  • Moved and justified by Cunningham and Stanovich’s work I created a flexible ‘choice’ space for students’ independent reading.

…And on and on. You get the idea. Really, the point here is that educational research, found independently, introduced me to more good ideas about what to use in my classroom than pretty much everything before it combined.

The kinds of things I learned in this initial foray rippled way beyond my classroom, too: pieces of my independent reading structures were, for instance, later adapted for full-school implementation. Also, my continued research ultimately led me to write a book on ed practice and reform, and that book has allowed me to work with teachers and administrators around the US and beyond. In a future post, I’ll elaborate a bit on role research can play in creating educational leaders.

In light of how positively ed research has impacted my own practices and career, it’s always disappointing to learn of findings like these, by the UK’s Education Endowment Fund, about lack of teacher engagement. The research that can change educators’ practice for the better—and override the useless junk educators so often get fed—is out there. Though I haven’t seen a similar study in the US, my field experience leads me to believe we’d see very similar results here.

The good news, though, is that researchED, a nonprofit organization based in the UK, exists expressly to reverse this reality among the world’s teachers. They carry out their six-pronged mission (explained more fully at researchED’s site) mainly through their one-day conferences, which bring teachers together to learn from and network with some of education research’s best thinkers.

Having been to a few of them (I’ve spoken at a couple, in fact), I can honestly say I’ve waited my whole professional life for a community like researchED. The grassroots, ‘classroom-up’ excitement they’ve created in Britain—and that has spread to Scandinavia, Australia, and elsewhere—is precisely what we need more of in American education.

This is why I’m thrilled they have an event scheduled in Washington, DC, for October 29, 2016. I’ve been able to assist with its organization, and with speakers like Dylan Wiliam, Tom Bennett, Annie Murphy Paul, Robert Pondiscio, IES Director Ruth Neild, Lisa Hansel, David Didau, and many, many others, it promises to be an amazing day of learning.

I’ll be writing more for TES between now and the conference to let you know more about it and to see if I can convince you to join us there. Whether you are desperately seeking new, sound answers or are a seasoned student of ed research, I’m sure you’ll find something to like there.

Thanks, Lucy Laney, for dealing hope

This post from Lucy Laney Community School, a K-5 on Minneapolis’s north side, appeared on my Facebook feed early last Friday afternoon:

It’s great, I know. A perfect communication to families regarding the preceding few days’ horrific, potentially youth-confusing news items and all that. Actively turning adversity into opportunities for learning and dialogue and processing, etc., etc.

Based on what I’ve come to expect from Laney, though, the Facebook communication above was hardly surprising.

Indeed, having admired the drive, vision, intellect, sincerity, and creativity (believe me, the list of admirable qualities could continue here) of Laney’s principal, Mauri Melander, for a number of years and having spent time at the school to observe operations and to pick Mauri’s and her staff’s brains, I’ve pretty much come to expect this type of message from them. They know exactly how they want their kids to grow and why, and they work constantly and deliberately — with, I should add, truly remarkable togetherness — toward those goals.

I’ll put it this way: Though I follow many, many schools across the US in various ways and for various reasons, Laney’s the only school I ‘like’ on Facebook. I simply don’t want to miss anything they put out there, as I know I can learn from it.

All that said, it was discouraging — crushing, more like — to see Principal Melander’s personal FB account not even three hours after the typically great communication embedded above. In response to news that two very young children had been shot, one fatally, just down the street from her school, she offered this:

Don’t fear, however. From the overwhelming emotions of the later post, Principal Melander and Laney Community School emerged with this by Sunday evening:

From the moment I read it, I was in. Not because I thought they’d need support (again: I’ve seen Principal Melander and her staff do their thing) or because I needed a place to vent my anger and shout at a system, but just because of what the posts said: the children are watching. And as they are, they need to see as many adults as possible not, as Principal Melander put it in this interview with the local NBC affiliate, ‘starting to act like it’s normal’. As many adults as possible, in other words, walking alongside them with hurt and confused expressions to mirror their own.

Laney’s walk Monday morning consisted of a silent walk from school, individual students’ tributes (handmade cards were deposited at a memorial site), a silent circle of all gathered, and a silent walk back to school. Though no program of speakers worked to jam any desired takeaways into students/other attendants, I can say for sure that the brief event is among the most memorable times I’ve ever had in a school. And as such, I have no doubt that similarly permanent impressions were made on Laney’s dear students.

Thanks, Principal Melander and Laney staff, for creating such an inspiring learning environment for your kids — and, of course, for ed professionals like me. Your vision, passion, adaptability, and unity — especially your unity — continually provide a way forward for me, thus giving me great hope.