Author: Elaine Menardi

Heading off on a new adventure! I solve problems and make ideas happen.
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A Day at the White House

20160504_095532This is Roberto Rodriguez, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Education. That title means he has President Obama’s ear on all things education. He is often called the most influential person in American education.

I was honored and humbled to share key ideas from Every Student STEM during our Innovation and STEM Education spark discussion at the White House last week.

Every P-12 student in our schools today is a digital native. From the first moment they interact with any digital device, children begin developing STEM skills. It is the inherent nature of a digital world. 

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HMW Rewrite the Code for Teachers?

1st Year Teacher

I have been educating young people for more than 25 years, so I am not a first-year teacher. But this is my first year in a public school classroom… or at least an academic core subject classroom. I was prepared for the gifts and the antics of adolescents, although there have been a number of surprises.

I was not prepared for the high-pressure demands on teachers both from within the educational system and with-out. Every new career calls all previous learning and experience into play, so I knew what was coming. The stress in teaching has just come from so many unexpected angles and places that I leave school each day exhausted. I have yet to feel that exhilarating moment when a student gets it like so many teachers describe. Sometimes I wonder… what’s wrong with me?

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Every Student STEM

For Your Consideration

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Colorado Senate Education Committee

I was asked to submit a letter to the Colorado House Education Committee in support of two upcoming bills regarding technology education in public schools and career development courses for high school students. These two bills HB-1289 and HB-1291 would provide additional funding for students and teachers to gain tech expertise and opportunity while in school. I am a 2015 Colorado Educator Voice Fellow and have been actively involved in the legislative actions in education during the past year. Here is my letter: House Ed Committee Letter.

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A View from 10K Feet

Trees-for-the-Forest

Sometimes it’s easier for an outsider to see a situation more clearly than an insider. The whole forest-for-the-trees thing. When we are too up close and personal, it’s all too easy to miss the simple solutions to complex questions. The longer we live and work among the trees, the more attached and invested we are in nurturing the growth of each one individually. It is ever so easy to lose sight of what is happening in the forest.

And vice versa. We know there are always two sides to every story or another viewpoint to balance our own. I have had the privilege to live in the forest and among the trees in EdWorld. I have a story for you. It is a true story.

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Are We Willing to Change Our Lens?

Change IS Hard

The hardest part about change is that it’s hard. No matter if we are talking about personal or organizational change. Real and lasting change requires sustained dedication to a cause. Quite honestly, that in and of itself, goes against the flow of every fiber of being for those who live in the 21st century. Which is all of us. We are all about instant gratification these days. Sustained dedication is not the normal mode of operation.

Care Enough

A student left me this message on my whiteboard.

Anymore, we are socially/ emotionally/ developmentally and professionally conditioned to resist change. Which on the surface appears ironic, and even untrue, given the outrageous, incredible blur of speed that dictates our everyday pace these days. Looking from the outside in, any stranger might rightly assume we all embrace change in this modern-day whirlwind of a culture. So not the case.

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To Solve Real-World Problems

The Back-Story

My sister-in-law called in a panic the other day:

Come help me with math! Now!!!

Good thing we are a family of math nerds. Between my husband and myself, we got her covered all the way from long division to calculus and perhaps even differential equations if the need should arise.

No sweat, Mary! We’re on the way!

We immediately donned our superhero capes and raced across town in the Batmobile.

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Teams vs. Non-Teams

Fascinating Dynamics

Last week was my turn for morning duty outside the building. I was watching these two groups of 7/8 boys play football when my brain exploded!  I noticed the deeper dynamics of the games at hand.

I usually stand in front of the doors to have a good vantage point at all the potential antics. On the left is a patch of grass dominated by 7th grade boys in a fierce duel — two teams going at each other in a competitive game of touch football — full-on with positions, play-calling and raucous cheering when either side claims a small victory. They all start the day hot and sweaty after a fast and furious gridiron battle.

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The Parallel Tale of a Student and Teacher

This One Student

I have this one boy in my 7th grade math class just like that one you have in your class. He’s a ringleader. He’s an instigator. He always wants the spotlight. Bottom line: he’s just difficult.

Altogether, he is pretty bright in math.  Intellectually, this young man is head and shoulders above many of his classmates. Academically, he is a successful student. Emotionally, he is quite immature. [Par for the course as far as adolescent boys go.] We can easily go the distance on this one and surmise that he is bored in my class, so his behavior is too often less than stellar.

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A Tale of Two Students

Let me give you descriptions of two typical students and see if you can relate.

First Case

The first is an 8th grade boy in my math class. Veteran teachers know that classroom behavior is critically dependent on seating placement — where and next-to-whom a student sits is often an accurate predictor of how much learning will sink in. But with this kid, it doesn’t matter in the least. Front / back / side / middle / friends / no friends, he will not learn. Even if he brings paper and pencil, he won’t use them. [He showed up empty-handed to the last test.]

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Marshmallow Physics

You Want Us to Do What?!?!

Among students at my school, I am famous for making them build bridges out of popsicle sticks. [Or infamous… however you want to look at it.] Then we break the bridges by hanging free weights to see how strong they are.

So when I recently told my students that we would be building more bridges, I got eye rolls so big that eyeballs nearly rolled right out of their sockets. I heard Do we hafta? way more than once or twice.

When I pulled out the supplies, a magical glow quickly filled the room and immediately, seventh graders become eerily quiet. But let’s get real… that only lasted for about one breath. Then… raucous joy.

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Yes. We are going to build bridges out of marshmallows and toothpicks.