Author - Kristina Allison

Coaching is not just for the New Teacher


The traditional model of coaching in education has always focused on supporting new teachers. This assumes, of course, that the rest of us who have been in the classroom for years are not in need of growth and improvement. In this recent article, published by the ASCD, Kim Greene suggests that every teacher deserves a coach. Instructional support should not be focused on deficits, but the idea of growth as an opportunity. The culture of coaching needs to change. Teaching is not something that you master, but something that is constantly evolving. Building relationships with educators of all levels and giving opportunities to reflect and collaborate, coaches can make huge differences. As Jessica Johnson, principal of Dodgeland Elementary School in Juneau, Wisconsin, states, “Sometimes it’s easy to think my best teachers don’t need me in their rooms. But if you want to grow your other teachers to be like your best teachers, you need to get into the minds of your best teachers.”

Isn’t it time to change our culture of coaching? Read this eye opening article here.

Choosing Little Changes

Two Signs with Choice pointed in opposite directions

You’ve seen the blog posts. You’ve read the Tweets. Heck, you may have even read the research. Well, what are you doing about it?

Choice in the classroom matters.

Are you finding ways to give your students choice?

Many of us work in traditional school settings, often large school districts that spend millions of dollars on adopted boxed curriculum. We are expected to use it. Often we feel there is no room to veer from the prescriptive path. “I’m no maverick,” you think. “I’m not like Mrs. Solo down the hall that doesn’t follow the rules. I want the best for my students, but I also respect my administration and want to be a team player.”

Remember, you can do both. It only takes tweaking. Little changes.

I am an English teacher. I teach other things, too, but I think like an English teacher. I can’t help it. When my district decided to adopt material to use at every grade level, I was optimistic. The curriculum was theme based and had tons of embedded writing. Always a plus for this bibliophile. The second unit was a study of dystopian literature. The curriculum offered two choices for whole class novel study: Fahrenheit 451 and The Giver. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention to young adult fiction lately or even the many books that have been made into movies, but dystopian literature is one of the most popular genres out there. Kids (and adults) are devouring books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, Ready Player One. These stories are also making movie studios millions of dollars at the box office. To say dystopian literature is ubiquitous, might be an understatement. So, why would we limit our classroom readers to one forced book study? Why not give students a broader choice. A real choice.

That’s exactly what my colleague and I did. We divided our classrooms into smaller book clubs, let students explore different titles, then let each book club choose a novel. Since we didn’t have copies for all students, we asked that they find the books at libraries, or simply ask their parents to shell out the $4-$8 for the book. (That’s really just two Starbucks drinks, after all). For the few who still couldn’t get a book, I ended up purchasing. It was worth it to me.

The choice wasn’t even just about the book. Students also got to choose their book clubs. Being in a reading group with their friends made a huge impact on motivation to read. In my own (very unscientific) survey, 54% of my students responded that they enjoyed reading the same book as their group. Many claimed that’s what kept them on track. The peer connection kept them reading.

Daniel Pink writes that intrinsic motivation comes from three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is a sense that we are in control of our own destiny. Students need to feel they have some say, some choice in the decisions that affect their lives. Are we honoring that element?

As my favorite musician, Frank Turner sings, “The big things stay the same until we make little changes.” Start with something small. Let your students choose their seat. Let them choose their own research topic. Let them choose music for writing time. Make that little change of choice. No need to be a total maverick, just yet. We can work on that later.

The Barboza Space Center’s Robotics Showcase Comes to SoCal this Summer

Showcase Information

Looking for something to do with the kids this summer, or maybe something super cool just for you? Why not check out some robots? Bob Barboza, a long time CUE member, has put together an impressive line up and his showcase is coming to Long Beach and Los Angeles, California this summer, free of charge!

Bob Barboza reciving 2018 Gohardani Presentation Award in Aeronautics and AstronauticsBarboza, who has has recently been honored as this years recipient of the 2018 Gohardani Presentation Award in Aeronautics and Astronautics, a certificate and award sponsored by the Springs of Dreams Corporation and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, works with high school students participating in the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures Fellowship Program. His students are currently designing and prototyping robots, satellites, Mars science labs and Martian habits. Barboza is hoping to share with educators by bringing the Mars Robotic Showcases to Los Angeles and Long Beach California this August.  At least 20 of the top robots used in education will be displayed at the showcase. A hands-on, fun packed experience will be expected for all!

Check out the following press release with all the details:

Master robot designers and builders are coming to Long Beach, California. Bob Barboza has invited some of the most creative robot designers and builders to showcase their robots and support technology at an event that is free to the public. He has called upon Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Texas Instruments and Barnes and Noble to provide cutting edge products, training materials, software and hardware. It is rare to have such a collection all in one place at one time.

The general public will have an opportunity to witness hands-on demonstrations of humanoid and other types of robots. Members of the Robotics Society of Southern California and Riverside, for instance, will be demonstrating robots built with 3D printers and artificial intelligence, rolling robots, and custom robots. Audience members will hear about STEM solutions that are leading the way in K-12 education, as well as in the larger community. Students who have been designing and building robots will display their work. And throughout the day, attendees will be able to ask questions and glimpse technology that has the capacity to change the way we learn and live. Of special interest to many will be demonstrations of ways in which technology is enhancing the lives of children and adults with disabilities, as well as people identified with autism.

Among the most inspiring projects for young people is the Barboza Space Center’s Fellowship Program. These five-day events staged in schools engage students in simulating the tiger teams used by NASA to address challenges of interplanetary travel. Themed around the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures, the fellowships provide abundant opportunities to put knowledge into practice in dynamic and memorable ways. Aspiring astronauts, designer’s and engineers will find specific information about participating. The Long Beach Robot Showcase has something of interest for everyone seeking to understand and participate in the world of robotics. You can catch it Saturday, August 25 at the Long Beach VA Blind Learning Center Auditorium , 5901 East 7th Street, Building 166, Long Beach 90822.

The Barboza Space Center will also stage a Robotics Showcase Saturday, August 4, at The East Los Angeles Rising (formerly, Boys and Girls Club), 324 N. McDonnel Avenue, Los Angeles, 90022.

Both showcases are free to the public. Times: 10:00 AM. To 3:00 PM both days. The robot showcases are projects of the Super School Design Center (SSDCC), a California 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations of both money and STEM learning materials will be used to promote participation by K-12 students in summer and after-school robot & STEM programs.

Super School Design Center Production
California Nonprofit Corporation

Check Your Backyard

This week, CUE posted the call for presenters. Presenters. You know those confident educators that are the experts in their field. The ones that are willing to draft a beautiful slide presentation, share resources, anecdotes and examples of how you can improve your understanding of the seamless integration of technology at your site or district. You know. Those people.

Well, why aren’t you applying? Not quite ready?

That was me, not too long ago. I remember my first CUE event: CUE Rockstar, Lake Tahoe. The first time I saw Joe Wood teach a session on Google Maps. He was so confident. He barely spoke, really. Just guided us through the tool. Let us click. Let us explore. Let us play. It was invigorating. Joe created a safe space for me to learn: a safe space to collaborate with the other educators in the room.

I was hooked. Hooked on learning. Hooked on connecting. After that, I knew I needed to step beyond the Twittersphere and actually do some IRL connecting. But how?

My journey began at CapCUE, the local CUE affiliate in the Sacramento area. I answered their call for presenters. Each Fall, CapCUE hosts their own collaborative learning opportunity: Techfest. I threw my hat in the ring and decided to share a plethora of tools for speaking and listening.  About five people showed up to my session, but we had the best conversations!

Since that tiny session, I have only grown as an educator through the connections I have made getting involved in my local affiliate. I eventually joined the board as a director. Better yet, I have made some incredible friendships with like-minded and crazy fun people. CapCUE has become an important part of who I am. The members support me in my professional and personal life. CapCUE has become my extended family. Soon these educators pushed me to present at FallCUE, then Spring. My journey started a few miles from my house.

So, if you’re thinking about sharing all the great ideas you have, all the ways you make a difference in students’ and teachers’ lives, but you’re not quite ready for a large event, don’t forget this advice: some of the best connections you can make are right in your backyard. Seek out your local affiliate. Apply to present at their events. You might even consider joining other affiliate events and reaching out beyond your backyard. Check the CUE blog page for opportunities to connect near you.

Get involved. It might just change your life. It changed mine.

“My first time presenting was at the CapCUE TechFest at Natomas Charter School.  It was after lunch and only three people showed up. I had so much fun working with CapCUE and the connections I made led me to present at more and more conferences.” —Corey Coble CapCUE Board Member

“After being excited and going to CUE and wanting to get involved, I reached out to my local affiliate. It offered me a chance to be a part of something larger and get connected to a community. It allowed me to grow as a professional and share that learning with others.”Tom Covington  SGVCUE Board Member

The SVCUE affiliate Board of Directors is comprised of educators who seek quality, fresh, collaborative, and vibrant members who have identified strengths to embody and execute the team’s mission. We work collectively, with students at the heart of what we do. Beyond that, I stay with this affiliate because I remember my roots. I remember where I started. I remember where I was given a chance, and even a second chance. No matter where you go professionally, remember who helped you along the way. That’s SVCUE! —Kristina Mattis SVCUE Board President

“Looking back, it wasn’t unusual at the time to find myself helping my colleagues develop their tech skills, but I will never forget that first time I stepped out and presented for total strangers at my first CapCUE Techfest. The experience opened my eyes to possibilities and network connections I never knew existed. Since that first presentation, I have traveled the country dropping nuggets of knowledge that I have learned along the way, I have learned to blog, to podcast and to curate the most amazing support network imaginable within my #CapCuePLN.” John Eick CapCUE Board President

A letter from a teacher


I get it. I really do. But…

As I sit in my classroom, watching my students struggle to concentrate, scrolling through page after page of reading, responding to multiple choice questions, highlighting parts of the text, (zoning out) and typing, typing, typing, my heart just aches. I see the turmoil in their faces. The exhaustion. They HATE this. HATE. And so do I.

But I get why we do it.

As an educational system, we must see how our students are mastering the skills they will need. Data needs to be gathered. Strengths and weaknesses of our pedagogy have to be measured. I get it. One of my students even convinced me of it in her recent essay. She wrote, “For me personally, I had scored not so high on a certain part of my CAASPP test in my 6th grade year. The next year I focused on that certain area of my test. When my results came back it gave me a great deal of happiness to see that my hard work had paid back.”

Yeah. I get it.


Glancing around the room, I see

  • the child with furrowed brow
  • the child staring back at me
  • the child staring at the clock
  • the child picking at his fingernails
  • the child who is grasping his forehead
  • the child with his head down on the desk
  • the child who is thinking faster than she can type
  • the child who keeps getting up to
    • blow her nose
    • get a drink of water

They all look so tired. So deflated.

I know. It’s valuable information.

Just maybe, though, there can be a better way. Just maybe these children will want to come to school everyday. To learn. To create. Just maybe there is a way to measure progress without torture.

Just maybe.

Sincerely emotionally exhausted,

Mrs. Allison

P.S. Don’t worry, CAASPP police. I didn’t draft this on my unauthorized electronic device while I spent hours observing student testing. I wrote it in my composition book with a number two pencil, OG style.

P.P.S. During testing, a student fell asleep in my colleague’s classroom: “Yo. Ms. V. I just fell asleep and had a dream I farted. Did I really fart?” Yeah, we work with children. Even testing is an adventure.