Author - Cori Orlando

Primary Happenings At #CUE18

Are you one of the lucky ones who work with our littlest learners? If so, there is a new “Primary Track” created with you in mind! For your convenience, there are primary based sessions all in the same room (8 out of the 11 sessions): Primrose C in the Palm Springs Convention Center.

Check them out and sign up here: Sched

There are sessions on Digital Citizenship, Centers, Math, STEAM, Writing and more. Join us in Primrose C for your one-stop Primary shop.

#CUE18 Food Guide

Are you gearing up for Spring CUE? If so, check out this crowdsourced food guide created by Lisa Nowakowski (@NowaTechie ).

#CUE18 Food Guide

Check out favorite local spots, eateries, meet-ups and Affiliate meetings. Do you have something to add? Please share with others by adding to the map. Check back often to see the new additions.


The Power Of Can’t

closed door


Words have power…we know this…we say this, but let us really think about this. There has been one word that I have been hearing a lot of lately- the word is “can’t”. It seems as though I am hearing this word, now more than ever. Either that or I am just now tuning into it.  What happens when we use this word? What is the power?

I believe that when we use that word, it automatically shuts the door. It puts a stop to possibilities and it puts an end to forward movement. It is one thing when we say WE can’t, but it is a whole other, more powerful thing when we say our students can’t.Picture

We have all used the word, I have caught myself saying it multiple times in the last two days. But since I have had this post in my mind, I catch myself and I reframe it. I have heard many educators say “But, I can’t…” followed by a reason to justify. Some of these are legitimate, but some might be more of an excuse. When we find ourselves at this crossroads, we need to stop and think…


Is it that we can’t, we won’t, or we don’t know how? This is a hard question to ask ourselves, but the answer makes all the difference.

My friend, Brent Coley, shared this graphic today. His words here are important. In terms of being an educator (or parent), the implications are tremendous. Our decisions and actions have an effect well beyond ourselves. It affects children. And to me, if something has a negative effect on kids, we need to stop it.

But, I can’t…

This is often heard when someone is being asked to do something differently. I am guilty of saying this, a lot. But I have also realized that it is a great roadblock and I do my best to choose a way to jump over, go around or bust through for kids.

But, I can’t…
because I don’t have time…
because I don’t know how…
because my students have so many needs…
because my students won’t…
because my students don’t…
because of the district…
because of my principal…
because I have so much…
because I have so many…
because I don’t have help…

Whenever I hear these things, I do my best to approach it with empathy. I try to understand where this is coming from. I pose questions, I listen and I try to help reframe, I try to help come to some solutions or brainstorm ideas to counteract their statement. Why?

Because school is about the kids, not us. We can’t let our own limitations, place limitations on them. We owe it to our students to let them live in the land of possibilities.

I say- let’s take risks for kids. Let’s get comfy with the uncomfy…for them. What if something doesn’t go as planned? We yell, “plot twist” and keep going. We won’t break and we won’t break the children. In fact, those moments are an amazing opportunity for growth- for you and them.

But, they can’t…

This one is a lot harder for me to swallow. Why? Who are we to decide what our students can and cannot do? By making that decision for them, we take away their power of possibility. We have shut the door before they even had a chance to approach it.

Our students have already had many doors closed to them before they even walk in through ours. Let us not be another.

But, they can’t…
do the work…
figure it out…
use this…
pay attention…
So how do we remedy this? We can reframe our thinking. Rather than focus on what we perceive they can’t do, let us focus on figuring out what they can do and use that to move them forward. We have no idea what our students are capable of if we don’t even give them a chance. We need to know what is going on inside of their brains. We are not minds readers, so how do we do that? Well, we talk with them. We need to know them to grow them. In order to do this, we need to be intentional with our time with students, our talks with students and our tasks with students. We need to make students’ thinking visible (and audible), not only to us, but to them and to their peers. It is only then, that we can help them unlock their own learning and their own potential.Here is a scenario:In a discussion about students and math, a teacher says “But I have a handful of kids that just can’t to do that.”Here is the beauty of math- there are so many ways for students to access, understand and explain…if given the right kind of tasks. If we give “lower floor, high ceiling” tasks- this allows all students to have an access point. So let’s get into their minds and see what they can do. Rather than ask students to come up with an answer, what if we asked them how they would solve something? Or ask “where would you start?” With this change in questioning, students’ thinking is honored and shared. What if they struggle to come up with a solution? We shouldn’t end it there. Give them the key ring to unlock their thinking.

Ask them open-ended questions:
What are you thinking?
What do you see?
What do you think?
What do you wonder?

And then listen…by doing this, you can quickly assess where your students are in the process. Use that information to plan forward. Use what they can do, to their own advantage. They may not be able to produce what you were looking for, but is that what this is about? I hope not. At this point in education, we know that a focus has shifted from “knowing” to “doing”. The focus is more on the process, the thinking…these are the skills that our students need to live beyond the four walls of our classroom. We want our students to be thinkers, creators, and problem solvers. When we say they can’t do something, we close the doors on those possibilities.

*The above isn’t isolated to just math- the questions and ideas can be used with any content and in any context. If this kind of questioning is new to your students, know that you will probably get “crickets” at first. Don’t stop. Model, meta cognate, support and scaffold…but they can do it. We must operate from the belief that all students can learn. They can do it in Kinder and they can do it with limitations. They just need time, space, guidance, support and a culture where they are comfortable to risk.

My call to action: Be cognizant of our word choice…for us and our students. Reframe things to ensure that we are door openers, rather than door closers.

Author’s note: This post was cross posted on Cori’s personal blog site: leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/

CoriCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

The Game…

girl looking out window

gameI am blessed with two amazing children. Both incredibly smart, but both quite different. My son, Trevor, used to be that kid who always walked around with a book in his hand. He would read any chance he got. He devoured the entire Harry Potter Series before he entered fourth grade. He loved learning and he loved school…until.

In his first week of middle school, they were asked to bring in a “book of choice” to read in class. He chose to bring Middle School, The Worst Years Of My LIfe. He had struggled to find a book he enjoyed, because as he told me, “What’s left after Harry Potter”?. We picked that particular book because of the humor and the relevance. When he pulled the book out to read in class, the teacher let him know that he needed to bring a different book tomorrow, because that book was far too low for his reading level. And that is where his love of reading and school, ended.

He continued to get good grades because that is who he was…he played the game of school well. He completed the work that was required, he aced his tests…he was compliant. He admitted to me that he never completed reading another book after that and that he learned things only for the test and to get his grade.

I am sad to admit, that it was school that ended my son’s love of learning.

He is now 19 and just began his second semester of college. Earlier this week, I couldn’t believe what I witnessed and heard. My son was excited about school…about reading, learning, and writing! My quiet kid (technically a man) volunteered to tell me about his day at school. Not only did he tell me about it, he was excited to tell me. Not only was he excited to tell me, he was excited to tell my mom and was dying to share his writing with us. I can’t recall ever seeing any of his writing before this.

He talked about his English class and how much he enjoyed the professor, how he made the class “interesting”. His required reading was filled with philosophical books, which Trevor was really digging. He was reading about things that caught his interest and sparked interesting discussions. But here is the thing that I have known, I have written about and I often speak about…but just finally witnessed first hand and close to my heart.

TrevorSee that device he is using? This is a new sight. Somehow, in his schooling, he missed the technology boat. It was never really a part of his academic life. I can’t remember a time that he used technology beyond “research” and an occasional essay written from home. But here’s the thing…this isn’t about technology. It is about what technology opened up for him this week.

He was given an assignment; that to me was pretty standard; but to him, it was a whole new world.

After he had read a chapter in the book (that he really loved), he was assigned to write up a “response to literature” and post it in CanvasThis was a whole new concept that was foreign to him.

Here is where his mind was blown. Not long after he posted it, he received a lengthy comment from his teacher. And this was not a grade, this was not a “good job” or “great effort”…this was well thought out and personalized feedback. Before he read it to me, I wondered if it was going to be some canned response that was cut and pasted on to everyone’s…but it wasn’t. We could tell that this teacher took the time to read through his work, digest it, reflect on it and give feedback. Here is the kicker…this was done almost immediately! This was new, to Trevor. He was so excited to not only read his own writing to us, (which blew me away…I had NO CLUE he was a such a talented writer) but he was excited to read us the comments from the teacher. He was proud, he was enlightened and he was empowered. THEN, he began reading the comments from his classmates. Yes…his peers also gave him timely feedback…and it was good, specific, thought out feedback.

As this kid, my adult son, was beaming, I didn’t want him to see the tears in my eyes. I had tears not only because I was incredibly proud of his work, but I was even more moved by how proud HE was. He saw the power of writing to an authentic audience. He felt the power of real, timely feedback and he was changed.

He then began to read me responses that he wrote on his classmates’ writing. His feedback was authentic, specific and timely. He took the time to really read through their writing piece, digest it and respond…and he was excited! He couldn’t wait to go back to school, he was excited to go back to that class and he was excited about learning again.

This all happened on the same night that my 13 year old crawled into bed next to me, upset that she was going to fail her two tests the next day. She was dreading school and all she could talk about that night and on the morning drive in, was how worried she was that she was going to get an “F” on her multiple choice Social Studies test. She has always struggled with memorization, but is highly intelligent and has a great analytical mind. This girl was built for Common Core and the 4 Cs, but unfortunately, that is not the experience she had been receiving. She has learned to make her own accommodations, to play the game- but at what expense? She put undue stress on herself, apologizes to me before she takes a test and doesn’t recall anything after the test is over.

As educators, we have great power…we can make or break a child. This is an immense responsibility! We effect students through our words, our actions and in this case, our tasks. Let us be cognizant of these, let us be empathetic to our learners. Let us think about them, that is who we are in this for, right? We are dealing with humans here.

We are tasked with serving these important and special humans. Let us make sure we are doing that…in all we do. It makes a difference.

My call to action is this: Let us really think about the purpose of what we are asking students to do. Are the tasks helping them to learn and grow? Are the experiences helping them to think? Are our students, becoming prepared for their future, their life or are they just playing the game of school to survive?

Editor’s Note: This post is cross-posted on Cori’s personal blog site: Leading In Limbo

CoriCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

Design To The Edges


edgesThere have been many instances that stand out in my mind when discussions with non-educators have sparked ideas and blog posts. I often find that some of the best ideas come from those outside of the profession.

PointeMy favorite came out of a shopping trip to a dance apparel store with a pointe shoe (ballet shoe) fitter. My daughter entered the store and explained what she was looking for. “My teacher said I can only wear Grishkos!” (Some fancy-schmancy brand of shoe). The fitter shared that she hates when teachers tell students that they all HAVE to wear a particular kind of shoe because each shoe is so different and each dancer is so different. She said earlier that day a girl came in and said the same thing as my daughter. The girl had a very wide foot but that particular brand was made for narrow feet. The little girl squished into a pair and went on her merry way. The fitter expressed that she didn’t feel right selling those because they were not a good fit and could actually do harm.

This whole scenario, of course, triggered the educator in me. In our classrooms, there is no “one kind” of student and no “one way” that works for all. So many times we hear “Well I taught it. They should know it.” This phrase punches me right in the heart!

There IS a difference between teaching and learning.

It brought to mind one of my favorite TED Talks: “The Myth Of Average.” It is worth the 18 minutes, I promise.

The premise of the talk is that there is NO AVERAGE learner so we can not teach to the average. No “shooting down the middle” because there isn’t one. If we do, we are missing all of those students on the “edges” (where a majority of them lie). There is no “one way” that works for all, just as there is not one pointe shoe that fits each dancer. There are many layers to getting both right.

My team uses this TED Talk often, and every time I cry. I cry because most of my students, as well as my daughter, live on the edges. They don’t fit into a box and a box isn’t going to teach them. They think differently; they act differently; they come with different backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, passions, and personalities. These ALL come into play because the anatomy of the learner is so complex.

We CAN NOT ignore the differences in our students. We need to, insead, celebrate them AND play TO them.

I cry because I think of all of those amazing students who would have missed out on learning had I just “shot down the middle”. I think about the students who struggled in academics but excelled in performing arts…I used that to their advantage. I think about the students who told me at the beginning of the year that they couldn’t do math and were scared of it…only to shine and reflect at the end of the year, calling themselves “mathematicians” who LOVE math. I think about the little girl who struggled to speak in class, but we figured out if she wrote her thoughts out first, she could contribute greatly. Or the little boy who, in second grade, could barely read pre-primers but had an amazing critical mind. His door was opened when he was given the opportunity to use that gift to discuss read-alouds. The list goes on and on.

I also cry for those students that are left to hang out at the edges, never getting tethered in. Those are the kids I worry about…those are the kids I fight for. Why change? I don’t even think that is a question anymore…we need to change because our kids deserve it.

The thought of personalizing learning can feel overwhelming and like an impossible task. I am not proposing that each student should have an IEP. That is not the case I’m trying to make. So, how might we meet those “edge” students? Here are some my thoughts…

1) Relationships matter: I believe that we need to know students to grow students. We really need to know those in which we serve. What works, what doesn’t work, what are their passions, their strengths…what makes them tick? This takes time, but believe me, this important time on the front end will offer great rewards on the back end for both you and your students.

2) Teach protocols: This is something I learned from my friend Jon Corippo : See video here: Edu-protocols. If we create a framework that students become familiar with, the content can be differentiated to meet their needs. One of his favorite examples is using the Frayer model. When you first teach these protocols you use a very low cognitive load, something fun and familiar. Once students become familiar and at ease with the “frame” of the protocol, that piece falls into the background. These protocols are done on an ongoing basis, but what changes is the content and/or the rigor. The students can spend their cognitive energy on the content rather than on learning a new “strategy” AND content. This also is very low prep for the teacher as you are not creating new activities for each new lesson. Win-Win.

3) Provide multiple entry points and exit points: This is the idea from Jo Boaler’s Low floor, High ceiling” activities. What does this mean? The questions, activities, and tasks are open-ended. Students will enter where it works for them, and take it as far as they can, and with a little scaffolding…they will take it further. They will feel success and valued in their thinking. This confidence is key.

4) Give students choice: Allow students choice in how content is taken in, how they process it and their output. This may seem like a lot of work on the teacher, but it really isn’t if your tasks are student-centered. More them, less us. The students are doing all of the work, our job is to set up the options. Many use things like  “choice boards” to help facilitate. The choices can stay the same (or add new one in every so often), but it’s the content and/rigor that changes.

5) Honor differences: Acknowledge, honor and celebrate students’ differing ideas, answers, solutions and paths. One thing I loved about teaching math was the different ways in which students would come to a solution. When they shared out a new way, we would name it: “Shane’s Way” and make a poster that would hang in the math area. This not only empowered the originator, but gave other students new ideas as jumping off points or something to grip on to. The ultimate was when a student would come up with a new idea that clicked with me…I had many “aha” moments from my students.

Keeler6) Teach skills: The skills we teach our students will take them well beyond our four walls. To me, these are more important than content. Alice Keeler often says “We need to teach like Google and YouTube exist”. We should not be spending time feeding students content that they can find at their fingertips. We instead should be teaching and supporting them on what to do with that information. We need to shift them from consumers of information to being creative critical thinkers and problem solvers. This can only be done by providing tasks, time and space to practice this.

My call to action is to start thinking about the edges…how can we design to them? When we zoom out and think of our students, and their “profiles” we will find many hanging out in those edges…Therefore;

We need to design to those edges, our students need US to meet THEM.

Editor’s note: This blog post is a “mash-up” of two original posts: “Design To The Edges” and “En Pointe” from Cori’s personal blog site: Leading In Limbo.

Cori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

Walking Your Why


“Why do you care?” –  Just four words. Pretty simple question. But it captured all of my thoughts one day. This question was posed after I vented to a friend. I shared some frustration about what I call “running on the hamster wheel.” I feel like I just keep saying the same thing and I am not being heard, so why do I keep talking? Sounds like there should be a logical solution to that problem. Just. Stop. But I can’t. Why? My answer to the question was this: “I care because we can do better because our students deserve better.” 

If I didn’t care and I didn’t keep fighting the good fight, I wouldn’t be me. I have learned, as of late, that I am a fighter and fighters don’t quit. What do you suit up, stand up and fight for? What is your why?

WalkThis idea of starting with “why” is not a new concept. Most of us have either read or seen Simon Sinek’sTed Talk. But I think this is an extremely important concept when we are self-reflecting. To me, our “why” is our purpose and our purpose is what grounds us. It is also our compass, our thermometer, and our springboard. In the book Emotional Agility, Susan David writes, “Walking with your why is the art of living by your own personal set of values- the beliefs and behaviors that you hold dear and that give you meaning and satisfaction.” Whenever I feel uncertain about my path, whether it is chatter from others or chatter in my head…it always helps to focus back on my true purpose. Is what I am doing and saying aligned with that? If so, I feel more confident in moving forward, if not…time to course correct.

This idea of finding and pulling from our purpose has come up in a lot of conversations lately. I have learned that regardless of who someone is, their role, their title, their success…there is struggle and there is doubt. We are all human. In those times, people often begin to question themselves personally. Am I making a difference? Is this worth the fight? Am I good enough? Am I on the right path? Can I do this? Why bother? This is when it is most important to refocus on our “why”. If what we are doing is not aligned with our purpose, then maybe we need to rethink our line of action. But as Dr. David writes, “To make decisions that match up with the way you hope to live going forward, you have to be in touch with the things that matter to you so you can use them as signposts.” When people share with me that they are at a crossroads and questioning themselves, I often take them through a series of questions to get them to hone down on their purpose. Once they are armed with that, they can more confidently “walk their why”.  

This blog post was inspired by many conversations as of late, but it was also inspired by a single tweet from my good friend, Tony Sinanis. 

My reply to his tweet was: “Especially when it’s not easy,”. That is the sticking point. It is those uneasy, uncomfortable, frustrating times where it is most important to align with our purpose. To me, our purpose is where we get our strength. It is what we can draw upon, it is what all of our words and actions should be tethered to and grounded in. THAT is how and why we push through those hard times.

What is your “why”? What captures your heart? What moves you? Find it…share it…live it…walk it.

Author’s Note: This post was originally published on my personal blog site: Leading In Limbo. I decided to republish (with some edits) after responding to this #cuechat question posed by my colleague @dustin772:

Cori OrlandoCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

It’s New Year’s…Yeah, But…

Happy New Year!! This day is often a time for retrospection and planning forward. People create lists of things they want to accomplish in the coming year. There is hope, there is renewal…but is there actual change? I know that I, for one, never do well with New Year’s Resolutions. There is always some obstacle, detour, roadblock as to why I can’t start or follow through with something. So I challenge myself and you, to look beyond New Year’s.

Why do we need our calendar to tell us when to do “new”? I argue that we don’t and we shouldn’t.

Greatest ShowmanThis quote is from a song that I just I can’t get it out of my head! (The Greatest Showman). “From now on, what’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight!” Imagine if we did this. Instead of thinking about doing something…we just do. Why wait? If we want to be innovators in education, we must be risk takers at the core. We look outside the box (literally and figuratively), we color outside the lines and we act now.

Don’t wait until the end of the year when it “doesn’t matter” if we “try new”. Don’t wait until the beginning of next year to “start over”. Start tonight! What is the worst that can happen…a fail? Well if we “look at failure as feedback “(@burgessdave ) then we just use it to grow.

If we aren’t growing, we are dying…we need to be alive for our students, they are counting on us.

As long as there is a need for change, there will always be obstacles. But what if we turn our “Yeah, but…” into “Why not?”. This little switch in wording causes a huge shift in mindset. Rather than being frozen, we can become mobilized by the possibilities. Let’s knock down some of these roadblocks…

“Yeah, but…why?”: For some people, they don’t see a need for change. This is how things are done, it’s worked in the past, this is how they learned.  Example: Two students go to the same school, five years apart. Two different teachers, one is brand new to the school. This is their science project…

Science Project

Cell Project – 2012

Science Project

Cell Project – 2017

One big thing that has changed at the school, in those five years, is that every student has a Chromebook that they take home. Now, we know that technology is not the magic bullet, but it can be a great catalyst for a change. A shift in how information is delivered, processed and shown. This project could have been a great opportunity for student choice and creativity. A way to show understanding of concepts. But…

When asked what they learned, both students replied: “We learned to look up a picture, copy it and label.” So, why do we need to change? Because our students should be thinking, learning, understanding and creating. Our students have changed, our world has changed, our future is changed.  Why not take every opportunity to change with and for our students?

“Yeah, but…there isn’t time.”: Last year, my colleague and I were sitting in a teacher’s classroom, as she was venting about all of the stacks of papers she needed to grade. We began offering alternate ideas to help decrease her workload. Her response: “Yeah, but…I don’t have time to change.”. We honestly didn’t have a response. I still don’t. If the obstacle is time, why not make the time to knock it down?

“Yeah, but…I’m afraid”:  It seems like fear comes up a lot. Fear of the unknown, fear of failing, fear of messiness…the list goes on and on. These fears can hold back a lot of good…a lot of great. Is it fair to let our own fear impact our students? Why not show our students that we are ok with being uncomfortable? Life is messy, and part of our job is to help students learn to navigate through life. If we, ourselves, are agile and adaptive, our students can be the same.

“Yeah, but…I don’t know how“: Everybody was at the “I don’t know how” stage at some point, so why not learn from each other? When I don’t know something (which is often), my answer is “I don’t know that, but I can find someone who does.” We are so fortunate in our current time, to have a plethora of resources, literally at our fingertips. Twitter, Voxer, Facebook…we have ways of connecting with others that were not available before. So why not work together to create a better future for our students? Education should be about sharing if we all have a shared goal-doing what’s best for kids. Let’s not hold on to our amazing ideas, but make them available to benefit all students. If we don’t know how, let’s seek to learn.

“Yeah, but…I have to teach the curriculum…”: Do we? Do we need to teach the curriculum or do we need to teach students…standards? “Covering” curriculum is very different than the other two. We teach students-above subjects, above concepts, above curriculum. Why not start there? We must first know them, to grow them. Once we know those that sit before us, we can create experiences to meet them where they are, using tools (such as curriculum) to teach the standards.

We teach students first, standards second- how we teach the second depends on the first.

calendarWhen should we make a change…try something new? On any given day, no matter what the calendar says. Why not start today? Our students-their futures and ours, are counting on it. 


Cori OrlandoCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

Courage Over Comfort

uncomfy“I don’t want to fail”…”I don’t want to make a fool of myself”…”I don’t want to be embarrassed”.

These are some of the phrases that seem to be blocking a lot of people from a lot of great. These statements and the like are what Susan David calls “dead people’s goals”. Why? She explains in Emotional Agility that “the only people who never feel discomfort for having made fools of themselves are-you guessed it- dead.” Wow! That is pretty in your face, but so true. As living beings, we are faced with uneasiness, but what matters is what we do with it. Do we limit ourselves from the fear of unknown or do we lean in?

I am a huge advocate for the latter. I have been lucky to bear witness to the magic that happens when individuals choose to risk. David continues; “We need to choose courage over comfort so that we keep growing, climbing and challenging ourselves…”.

“If we aren’t growing, we are dying and we are all too young for that. Our students are counting on us to be alive, really alive, for them.”- Cori Orlando

This idea brings to mind something that I speak and write about often: #failforward. What does this mean? It means that when we choose to take risks,  we are going to fail. But when we do so, let us find the learning and use that as we grow forward. I can think of many of my own moments and the numerous stories that others have shared with me, but I thought it would be more powerful to share someone’s journey from the viewpoint of an observer.

One of my first encounters with this first-grade teacher was when our district decided to offer supplemental material money in lieu of using the outdated workbooks for ELA, four years ago. For many, those workbooks were a staple in their classrooms. I was trying to support this teacher in making this transition and she was scared. What were her students going to use to practice writing and reading? What would the classroom management look like without these independent activities? There were a lot of unknowns for her, but by the end of that year, she had started experimenting with new strategies. Not all were successful, but the fact was she was taking risks and growing.

As she began the next year, she was “workbook free” and jumped into a station rotation model called Daily 5 to which she continues to this day. Throughout this process, she also began participating in our weekly Twitter chats, getting more and more out of her comfort zone. Within those chats, we often talk about risk-taking and failing forward. I remember one of her comments, clear as a bell-“I don’t want to mess up my students.”.

dare greatly

I created these plaques to give out to teachers in our district to encourage risk-taking.

She, like so many others, put in so much effort and so much heart to do right by her students. It’s not that she didn’t want to try different, she was afraid if she “messed up”, it would be detrimental to them. This led to many talks about the benefits of “daring greatly” and “taking risks”.

Fast forward to earlier this year. She went through our district training to receive a Chromebook cart for her class. These devices were new for her and her students-implementing them was a huge leap. But guess what? It didn’t stop her. In fact, she sent herself to CUE Rockstar Primary to learn more. I was lucky enough to join her on this journey. Here is the funny thing, after the camp, she shared something that I said in my sessions that resonated with her:

“Just try things…you won’t break the devices, you won’t break Google and you won’t break the children”.- Cori Orlando

That is what stuck with her. Boy, talk about a switch flip! I am happy to report, that she has taken off and become quite comfortable in the unknown and it is just amazing to watch. What is more incredible to watch are the students. They are taking risks in their own learning, they are creating and they are owning their own learning.

Why am I sharing this teacher’s journey? Because I believe there is power in sharing stories. I am lucky enough to be able to walk alongside so many amazing educators on their learning journey. I get to witness the huge shifts in their mindsets and practice. They are in it, they don’t see it…but I do and I want to celebrate it.

We are in this profession for children, so we must choose courage over comfort because they deserve the best. Will it always work out? No. Should it always work out? No. I believe that there is incredible learning for all during these risk/fail processes. It is important for us to model, discuss and encourage this in our classrooms, on our sites, and beyond.

Here is my call to action: Just leap! What is that “thing” that you want to try? What is holding you back? Remember that part of living IS the uncomfortable. Let us get comfy with the uncomfy and make magic happen!


Cori OrlandoCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

Beyond Band Aids: How Do We Heal Education?


Ed note: This blog was co-authored by David Culberhouse, Jon Corippo, and Cori Orlando.


“Is that quick fix, that Band-Aid, what is needed for truly sustainable change? It’s time for a new conversation, time for a different plan of action…we need to look deeper than the surface wound.”- Orlando, Culberhouse, Corippo

Urgency. The time to create educational change is now, it isn’t an option. Our students, our world, and our future are changing, therefore our students’ education must change as well. When organizations feel the urgency to solve or heal a problem, it is easy to look for a quick fix. That is part of human nature, see a problem…fix the problem. Makes sense, right? But let us ask: “How is that working for you?” Is that quick fix; that band-aid, what is needed for truly sustainable change? It’s time for a new conversation, time for a different plan of action…we need to look deeper than the surface wound. We must look under the band-aid. We need to diagnose the origin of the holes to heal them at their core. So what is holding us back?

Gaping Holes: Disconnected systems: Many systems try to increase cognitive loads on individuals in the organization. But adding “one more thing” diminishes space for new learning and creating new knowledge that should be focused on better idea flows. Instead, we should identify things we can let go of – schools are a mile wide and an inch deep. What if we narrowed our scope and dug deeper? Like the quote that’s attributed to Einstein says: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” When is the last time we tried to make the process of education more simple?

Unhealing Holes: Initiative fatigue across organizations: When the focus is on implementing programs more than shifting mindsets, people become fatigued. Their mental bandwidth for change decreases with every new event. So let us increase leadership capacity to make a shift in our educational organizations. Let’s focus our change efforts on mindsets, mind shifts, future and around the corner thinking, internal and external awareness, greater emotional intelligence and empathy, greater understanding of improvement and transformational processes.


“We can change the look to make it more attractive, but it still just covers the wound.” – Orlando, Culberhouse, Corippo

Rather than a short-term, new initiative every year (replacing with a fresh band-aid) let’s think more long range. The president of Honda was once asked how long their long-range plan was by American MBAs. He replied “250 years”. We need to think the same way. We must develop a real plan for raising healthy human beings not test scores. To do this, we need to shift our minds and actions to be student-centric so we can focus on the best ways to help all of our students become their best.

The wound that begets the band-aid: Lack of awareness: If there is not a deep understanding as to the “WHY” change and transformation are even necessary, it will be difficult to create and sustain a plan. It may create an unwillingness to look beyond what we’ve always done to better prepare students to be adaptable and agile to a changing world. It could blind us by not seeing our own “Napster” moment staring us in the face. Educators (all levels of educators, including administrators) should look at books like Dumbing Us Down and The End of Average and films like Most Likely To Succeed and Race To Nowhere and grapple with the idea that to some degree, we are culpable. We can not change unless we are willing to understand our own responsibility and power within the system.

Self-inflicted wounds: Facing the enemy within: We create our own internal divisions (between teachers, administrators, district office, parents, etc.) that inhibit collective transformation and impact. This keeps the system from having any type of momentum as it is constantly stepping on itself. Communication and transparency are key when creating change. Involve those who will be affected. Ask for and listen to ideas, regardless of where they come from. Listen beyond titles, rank, role, age; because amazing ideas can come from the most unforeseen places.

Change is never easy, large change can be painful. “Pain is mandatory, misery is optional”. At all levels, education takes a Herculean effort to be excellent. Education is COMPLEX, INTENSE and requires SACRIFICE. Being an educator means long, hard days. But by keeping our eyes on the prize – a healthy, creative and connected next generation- it is worth the cost. When we believe that and work together, the misery dissipates.

What is the antidote? We can start by ripping away the band-aid to allow holes to scab over. We need people and organizations who have a (disruptive) beta mindset. Those who have a willingness to engage in ongoing learning (should not be an event), as well as a willingness to disrupt mindsets that inhibit change. Those who see and share new possibilities that lead to new learnings and new behaviors. We have to be willing to ask hard questions, have tough conversations and be transparent and honest in doing so. We have to also be in tune and truly listen to what students want and need from their education – it is their future we are creating.

DavidDavid Culberhouse: Educator, Ideapreneurial, Exponential Mindset, Social Architect, CUE Rockstar Admin Faculty, TEDx, Facilitator for NISL, Proactively Designing the Future… @DCulberhouse


JonJon Corippo: CUE Interim Exec Dir. Creator: CUE Rock Star. CUE BOLD. Co-Founder Minarets HS, EdCamp Yosemite.  @jcorippo


CoriCori Orlando: TOSA at Co-mod & #VCHSChat   faculty, CUE BOLD Faculty @CoriOrlando1

CUE Rock Star Primary Edition – There’s a First Time for Everything!

logo primary
CUE Rockstar Primary Faculty

We have to model the fun to bring the fun! Lots of laughs from the CUE Rock Star Primary Edition faculty!

Where else would you see 100+ educators enthusiastically dancing to Pop See Ko, but at the inaugural CUE Rock Star Primary Edition? We just closed out an amazing two days of fun, learning and connecting wrapped around our littlest learners. As I reflect back over the last two days, my mind is blown! I witnessed new learning, new connections, many “aha” and “switch flip” moments. The beauty is, that these things were not only happening within the sessions but throughout the whole two days. There were hallway conversations, lunch and learn opportunities, whitespace, and after-hours gatherings. Through these experiences, a camaraderie was formed and relationships were built that will transcend beyond the two-day camp. To me, this is key! It is not only what happens during the camp, but what continues…forward.

The chatter throughout the whole camp was the appreciation of the participants and presenters. They were appreciative to finally have some great professional learning opportunities focused specifically on their students and needs in mind. They felt valued and understood. Words that I heard repeatedly were: inspired, hope, empowered, energized and excited.

The camp was lead by an amazing CUE Rock Star faculty who acted as “activators” within and beyond their sessions. The passion, enthusiasm, and professionalism were apparent in everything they did. They went above and beyond just presenting in their scheduled sessions. All took on extra “lunch and learn” sessions or were involved in collaborating and connecting during “unstructured time”.  

Another wonderful thing about these two days was that the learning and growing went both ways. I think we would all agree with faculty:

It was great to be with like minded educators, and learn from them too! – Helen Kamali & Jackie Knudson

rockstar lesson 1Beyond the faculty and the sessions, there were three lessons that we hoped our participants took away from the camp. One of the biggest pieces of the CUE Rock Star camps is the empowerment that the participants ARE the rock stars. This group owned it. Not only did we overhear amazing conversations, but we were able to see visible learning via Twitter.

On day two, we opened up the floor to those who wanted to share their learning or “aha moments”. This was one of the best parts, for me…it was amazing to witness. They shared about things that they planned on taking back to the classroom to implement the next day or how the ideas and people within the camp spoke to them.

rockstar lesson 2The second CUE Rock Star Lesson was: All learning is play…even for teachers. I believe that all in attendance would agree that not only was there tremendous learning but an incredible amount of fun. The positivity and laughter was contagious.

We all witnessed that there is power in pulling educators together that work with like populations, who have common environments and needs. In these more intimate setting provided through CUE Rock Star Camps. the conversations flowed, the ideas sparked and the enthusiasm was contagious. There is power in sharing our stories and we witnessed that power over these last two days. And although it was a long weekend, filled with a lot of learning, people were enthusiastic and on fire to put their new knowledge to use, and that is powerful.

rockstar lesson 3Lesson number three was to “Be like Kayden”. If you don’t know Kayden, just look at her picture above as she experiences rain for the first time. We wanted our participants to leave the camp filled with a renewed hope, enthusiasm and empowerment to bring back and share with their staff and students.

Our hope is that these goals were met during this camp and look forward to the continued connections and learning as we all move forward.

But, I believe to truly understand the power of this CUE Rock Star Primary Camp, it is best to let our participants speak for themselves: CUE Rock Star Primary Reflection. Enjoy and keep doing amazing things for kids!

Thank you to Ben Cogswell for capturing attendee shreds at the end of Day 2. Check them out! 

Rock Star Primary Faculty

Katherine Goyette: “Seesaws And Slides: Writing Past The Playground” and “Level Up Your Literacy Centers”

Susan Stewart: “Where Are We Going Next? Little Citizens In A Great Big Digital World” and “Hyperdocs: Interactive Lessons For Little Learners”

Helen Kamali and Jackie Knudson: “Take The Sheet Out Of Worksheet” and “Got Tech?”

Cori Orlando: “Primary Math Served Two Ways” and What Are You Thinking? Show Me.”

Sissie Lola: Social Media Director

Cate Tolnai: Director of Member Engagement, CUE

Cori OrlandoCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/