Tag Archives: k12

Classroom Deals


As much as we despise the thought of thinking that in a few weeks summer will come to an end–I must say that thoughts of new adventures for the school year have me quite excited!

Elementary and middle school teachers are already raiding the aisles at Target and Dollar Tree with $1 deals and steals as seen in her tweet. Everything from clipboards, bulletin board borders, Crayola crayons and markers, sharpies, expo markers

Jen William’s Tweet on Target Dollar Spot deals or Rachel from her  blogpost giving 3 quick tips to make your bulletin board standout. I even remember blogging about Piktochart as an easy way to cover classroom wall space for cheap at the start of last school year.

As some school systems are well underway and others getting ready to start in another week, I wanted to talk about classroom supplies. New teachers usually struggle with this the most because they are fresh out of college and are limited in their budget. Unfortunately for most, they may have spent money on moving expenses to be closer to their jobs and away from their families. For others, they are waiting on that first paycheck to come at the end of the month.

While you can make friends with the clerical staff to gain access to the secret stash closets and scour the GoodWill for those great bargains, there is one company making their mark in the area of teaching and school supplies.

School Supply Giant was created by a teacher but that isn’t even it. This website offers a discounted price on items purchased and then gives back 5% of those purchases to the classroom teacher to use as needed. That has never been seen or done before. Not only do you get money back for purchases you have made but the 5% back applies to purchases your parents make when you create a classroom registry or wishlist. The items will be shipped directly to your school for your use.

More deals and steals will be offered throughout the year to help teachers with professional development and scholarship possibilities. I was privileged to have a full ride to ISTE2016 in Denver, CO because of School Supply Giant. I love that they are willing to open this up to more teachers in the years to come.

Scholarship on School Supply

So avoid the long lines at Walmart, expensive supply lists that come through the catalog mail or hoping to find someone’s leftovers or garage sale finds and get money back while spending money to help your school year be a success for you and your students!

Visit them on their  website and on Twitter and put the money back in your pocket that we so deserve.

Thinking in a New Design


Into the school year 4 weeks, I cannot help but to reflect about the great things this summer has taught me. One experience that has truly shifted my mind frame was my experience with my new family at The Teachers Guild in San Francisco, CA.

It is funny how the stars align because in the spring I attended an event hosted at SteelCase on Design Thinking through The Teachers Guild but had no idea that I would later be selected as a Summer Fellow for them. Thank you Jordan Pedraza of Remind for suggesting I apply and giving a raving recommendation alongside my principal, Dr.Gene Taylor.

So my journey began with little knowledge about what Design Thinking was or what I had just gotten myself into. At this point, it was entering a space and time zone (literally) I had never experienced before. I didn’t have a colleague nor my family to travel with but I was excited nonetheless to….LEARN and TRANSFORM!

As I exited the plane, my nerves rattled but I countered them with thoughts of conquering fears and doubts. The train ride from San Jose to San Francisco gave me time to soak in the opportunities that exist daily for us all to “make moves.” As I headed on into the pier, I stopped to smell the roses and literally couldn’t contain my excitement. The view from the pier as the sun hit the water reminded me to sparkle in all I do. There in close proximity was IDEO.


As you enter the red door into the building, the mission of this space is plastered on the wall so there is no confusion about its purpose.





I was ready to work, learn, bring the better parts of me to the table and learn from those seated at the round table with me. We began with an overview of our mission and ultimately how design thinking can be married to education. With this being said, we began our summer design on how to build character in students on Day One.

I was so amazed with how supplies were not rationed out in portions with a warning note about making it stretch across the months or year. There were sharpies of all colors and sizes, post it notes, large foam boards, computers, televisions, attachments and cords for their functionality and sharing features, books/magazines that inspire, food, drinks, flexible seating, quiet spaces and collaborative ones alike. This was a teacher’s WonderLand!

As we began to brainstorm ideas on how to teach character but addressing it from the angle of the user, it was clear to me that when we talk about student-centered learning we are approaching it all wrong. Students are usually never given the microphone to amplify their voice. Yet we are putting programs in place for them. This is problematic and made me uncomfortable thinking about how we have convinced ourselves that we alone know what is best for kids.

As we moved into the next phase of interviewing and hearing from the Voices in the Field, we gained some valuable insight. It did help that my co-fellow, Kim Vinh and I were practicing educators. During this process, I understood that questions matter! It is necessary to ask the right questions in order to yield more accurate results. Kim and Emma really pushed my thinking here.

Emma helped me to see the importance on getting the answers to those questions in a timely manner and then being able to act upon them or create a product in a timely manner. Her focus and ability to crank things out was a superhuman ability. She simply ROCKS!

Molly had a zest for life that was proven in her  experiences from traveling the world and ability to speak another language or two or three. Her heart for people was clear on how she interacted with the workers that made sure the building was clean, dishes were cleaned, and food remained stock. She wore a lovely smile whenever you saw her and this made you feel safe and welcomed! I know her classroom would always be inviting and full of a serious case of the giggles!

Brett helped me to realize that how you communicate is important. If you want the work you are doing to have reach and an impact then this matters. I really enjoyed  being able to push beyond the edges in this area to ensure that we explore more platforms where educators hangout. However, we wanted to make sure that there were spaces and forums for teachers to grow and cultivate relationships with each other and the existing team. We moved into Voxer so we the conversations went beyond 140 characters. Brett and Kim both helped to open my eyes on the analytics side of things which gave critical information about our users but also on how to be more effective at the work we were doing.

I cannot forget about Matt as the design King. He could put together any visual, brochure or related item together and make it stunning! I just want hours of sit down sessions so I can create and teach my students to do the same.

The process was chock full of phases and stages which included onboarding new users, hearing existing users’ experiences, and touching base with coaches for their input.

All the meat and potatoes cannot be served in this post but I included a link below that summarizes the learning that both Kim and I shared.

Our Learnings from Build Character Design Sprint

In conclusion,  I will share 5 takeaways from this journey:

  • Design Thinking is more than just me putting my ideas and concepts out there and asking others to receive it. In the classroom, we have often “scripted” the learning in such a manner that isn’t relevant to the user and we’ve failed to really be human centered in our design. Asking the “how might we” Question_Card inquiries to get us to go beyond a one and done solution but dive deeper over a period of trials and try agains. This is where empathy and the human-centered approach make their mark.
  • As a system of educators, we tend to function as singletons  and separate the real world from classroom learning. This is contradictory to our mantra for preparing future innovators. Their training ground is flawed and doesn’t equip them for the battle ground. Therefore, I recognize my view on how they should learn cannot be up to me. During week one of this school year, I made sure to redesign how we think and learn. 20160819_142456
  • Every learner is afraid to give the “wrong” answer but the reality is that no idea is a bad one. Those concepts just need to be revisited and improved upon until they are built to become strong! What a magnifying lens on how my students may have often viewed themselves or approached failure! 20160827_133738 (1)
  • Any member on the team can only be as strong as the weakest link. Every individual holds a strength that isn’t meant to dim the light of others but instead brighten their spark. I learned so much through this process about myself from the talents of Kim, Emma, Brett, Molly and Matt. We are the real life Big Hero 6! image1 (2)
  • The future depends on our ability to advocate for them because we are the agents of change. The experiences we design will impact who they become. Our traditional way of thinking no longer has a safe place to nestle with the kids of today nor the ones of the future.  I am thinking in a new design–won’t you join me? Hats off to…SMASHING BOXES!




Many Faces of Me

I know this post is several months behind but I am glad I got around to doing it.

You know I get a little bothered when people think they have the recipe for what you should do, how to do it and how much of it you should serve up. I guess somewhere along the way they figured that they were masterminds behind our God-given talents. Though I am open to suggestions and feedback that will build me up– don’t try to puppeteer how to make me dance. I have my own set of drums and choose which rhythm I want to play!

I am cut from a cloth of many colors and because of this my tribe has helped to cultivate some AMAZING things within me –I am proud to say that I am multi-talented. I dream in rainbow colors and my passions cannot be limited to a single digit. I figure there are many of you kindred spirits that come from similar tribes and have matching drumsets.

  • I am fortunate to be bilingual. I can speak and read Creole fluently.
  • I am thorough, detailed and organized (most of the time)
  • I have a knack for connecting with people (tiniest toes to the more established feet)
  • I can help others LEARN and can be TAUGHT by them as well
  • I have an ear for music and can hold a decent tune
  • I am a juggler of hats (mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, educator, co-host to DCTV430, teacherpreneur)

The list can go on and on but I won’t—-instead I will just focus on one way I INSPIRE and UPLIFT!

All of this to say that these are The Many Faces of Me! 

When I think of this particular aspect I have to reflect on the tribe and rich legacy of my people. In February, we celebrated Black History Month which may be short-lived but everyday is a celebration for me. I do not look at this as a time to elevate one culture over another but more importantly it is necessary to look at history from everyone’s perspective— from everyone’s truth.

With these HOT times in America —it was important to resurrect the Living Museum after a 3 year hiatus. The injustices can no longer dominate because people are no longer sitting silent and watching helplessly. In fact, they are up in arms and protest vocally on a regular basis about the wrongs happening more frequently than they would like to admit. The quiet Sit ins, Stand Ups, About Faces or Turning the Other Cheek– JUST. WON’T. DO!

My husband (Xavier Lewis “The Antidote to RnB”) is an artist, a visionary and he too wears a coat of many talents. Our blended fibers hold a stinch of 16 years in the field doing great work with young people from Florida, MAryland and Georgia. Creating this production and telling the story of our tribe was not going to be in the form of a SUPER talent show –it needed to be intentional and impactful. This was just not for the attendees but also for the participants themselves.

We live in a blended society (which isn’t a bad things at all) but those church leaders often do not look like me and cannot teach the history from which my ancestors journeyed. Parents are sometimes too busy to give those rich cultural experiences that will help shape the lives of the younger generations. So the story is lost and that is problematic.

So here is my BEEF–the curriculum that is taught boasts stories usually from the powerful or the victors. A 360 view is never shared out and because of this–the story is missing important pieces or ultimately incomplete.  Their history books often do not publish the stories of inventors and innovators that look like them or have contributed in major ways. So we pride ourselves in digging in the crates and finding information on things they did not know and have not learned.

Through the process of creating we recognized that students need to own their learning (outside of our facilitation and advisement) and so we allow them to have voice and choice in their monologues. We push, pushed  and continue to push  them beyond their limits and often into places they never realized existed because “school” has placed limitations on opportunities to cultivate these talents.

To watch the students brainstorm and test out their monologues, collaborate with their peers and receive feedback from others is where the magic truly happened. This was a PBL all in itself because of the varied components involved, mutiple disciplines included, the span of time spent over several weeks researching and gathering, and revealing answers to questions that soothed a painpoint or lead to deeper understanding was the great reward.

One of my good friends Valerie Vaughn, sent me a list which was acquired from http://www.blackinventors.com to assist us (but not limit us) in the process on determining our museum exhibits, props and setup. This was a great spark to conversation not only amongst the students but even in my EduMatch Voxer groups with other educators. The discovery of new information and the dialogue that occurs can be powerful. When you look at the list below, what things can you admit that you did not know before as inventions by African-Americans?

Black Inventors List Part1 Black Inventors List Part2 Black Inventors List Part3

This list gives me life and you can only imagine what it did for students that could see the Many Faces of People that looked like them. We are more than just athletes and rappers but are the foundation of many things within a country that for too may years kept us oppressed.

3D First Place Winner

My goal is not to sit and highlight the wrongs that were done but I also feel that those conversations still need to happen. Because of this, the production is inclusive. Not only did our high school kids participate but the elementary and middle schoolers from our cluster were involved in the production as well as the schoolwide art contests which were displayed throughout the museum. We used tech by incorporating social media, Kahoot! trivia challenges for attendees, and a GooseChase (scavenger style game) which unfortunately we could not get to activate because of the overwhelming numbers of users trying to log into the application.

This wasn’t a movement by blacks for blacks but a movement of humans for humans. Students included the contributions of other races to Black History so we can settle the ignorance that “Black History is only for the black kids!” The support from the community and many sponsors are so apprreciated and speaks to the testament that there are lots of do-gooders that exist!

2D First Place WinnerDuke Ellington

So if I had to pick one stripe to shine a light on for this blogpost then it would be the one that ENCOURAGES, INSPIRES, and UPLIFTS. This video (done by Gwinnett County TV) captures the essence of the program. You missed the whole of it if you did not attend (but there’s always next year).

I am paid in FULL from the joy that fills my heart when students give their testimonial on how much they have learned, reflected on the process, and sparked a lasting impression that has charge them to go forth into the world with their heads held high and their chests puffed outwards because they come from a tribe that celebrates them as an IMPORANT SOMEBODY!

These students, this generation of new innovators represent The Many Faces of Me and I am everyday proud and inspired mostly by them and the great things they will become.




Because They Call Me…. M.o.M.

On February 26, 1978 this little brown girl was born to an immigrant mother from Cap-Haitien, Haiti. As a single mom of 3, it wouldn’t be easy but LIFE in the 305 (Dade County, Miami) was going to toughen my smooth baby skin.

The Journey

Let me tell you about a woman who raised 2 boys and a little girl with little to nothing. The funny thing is they didn’t realize that they weren’t exactly rich. The kids were conceived from different dads but you aren’t allowed to judge their mom. You see the first man was one she was in love with and bore a child out of wedlock; but a jealous woman (perhaps a side chic) made sure that their union wasn’t complete. The 2nd man forced himself in and upon her causing her to conceive a man child. She chose not to press charges and the irony is they could come together and co-parent that baby with no hard feelings for over 30 years. The 3rd man had a family and a wife but simply wanted to gain residency in the United States (so the story goes) and I was conceived after their short stint of a “marriage”. But that is neither here nor there—you can read more when I write a full length book about it.

Life is a Journey

The Lessons

As Mother’s Day approaches, I think about how sometimes my heart feels hardened because she was always just a mother and not a friend. Life was structured, stern and full of RULES! I think back to those embarassing times my friends would dial my number and she would answer the phone singing the first 2 verses of the hymnal. She spent most of her time giving us the side-eye and lectures longer than the Nile. I guess it was her way of being a perfect role model to us but sadly it was the same delivery she was mimicking from the aunts that forced her teenage laboring hands into adulthood.


The Experience

Fast forward through life and I found myself having to take a series of tests that had been prepared for me —MY LIFE! The things I’ve observed with my eyes and held in my heart would now paint me a colorful narrative. In 2007, I welcomed Carsyn-Piyere in my arms, followed by Xander-Ma’Chi in 2010, and then my beautiful Bella-I’man in 2013.  In this leg of the race, I was blessed with a partner that could share the laughs, wonders, heartaches, and ultimately…happiness.

These tiny and beautiful humans bless my soul each day because they call me MOM! Unfortunately, I  had to give up some kids over the past 16 years and that guilt drives me insane. You see from year to year I spend time with them but then from year to year they are taken away. I care about these kids but cannot live with myself as a M.o.M. knowing that some of their names I have forgotten and birthday cards and special occassions are not celebrated with gifts, balloons, cake or ice cream.  I was only responsible to push and challenge them beyond their greatest dreams.  My challenge was to pull those dreams out of the dark hole that somehow faded to black at some point over the last decade and a half.

The Moment of Clarity

As I reflect on this journey, l do not say how much I love her enough or celebrate her in a  way where she truly knows she is appreciated. She sacrificed a lot to be sure my brothers and I were okay and she fought for the opportunities that would make us better. She was a teacher at home before anyone else would claim that title officially. She moved mountains and oceans so we could go far, deep, wide, and high! She possessed a strength and work ethic that could not be contested even when she answered the call in the only way she might know how. I cannot say that we are BFFs or that I do things the way she would like but she is still my MOM and the one that has given me strength beyond her own.

When a new milestone of a school year begins, I sadly think of the spirits of those lost children which seem to haunt me in some reincarnated manner through the bodies of the new learners that sit at my desks and eventually fill a space in my heart. I recognize that I too am and will always be their M.o.M.  Whether they come back to visit or  not, I am the “Motivator of Minds”! I served and continue to lead as their sherpa in this leg of the journey. As we pay tribute to the mom’s and teachers across the world this week–think also upon the Motivator of Minds (M.o.M.) that have also pushed you to greatness. I am rich because they all call me… MOM!