Slow and Steady Wins the Race…

Today is the first of the month and usually I have my goals ready to start on the 1st. Right now I only have 1 goal for the month, and haven’t figured out the rest. The prize is still a pen from DJ Climb Woodworking since I didn’t earn that in January, and my 1 goal so far is to blog at least 5 days a week. This gives me some time off from blogging and if something comes up that demands my attention I can have a “make up” day on the weekend. Ideally, I’ll be blogging Monday -Friday.

Why the change? Well, when discussing my blog, most people are telling me to blog 1-2 times a week or once every 1-2 weeks. I understand that this might be the “normal” blog pattern, but I’m certainly not normal; I enjoy blogging, and I think it helps me stay on track with my goals. Obviously it’s not fool proof, as I demonstrated last month, but I think overall it helps keep the flow going.

I have a general idea for the rest of my goals for the month, but I want to spend the day getting back into the swing of things and bouncing ideas off of others before I commit to specific goals.

I have a full day planned today starting with a SCORE Workshop “Promote Your Business On-Line” with  Robin Warren Internet Strategist from CSRA Web Strategy. As I have so little technical/digital experience, I try to attend these free workshops whenever I can, AND Robin is a great mentor and teacher. I always enjoy her workshops.

In this way, I set the example for future students. This is what it means to be a lifelong learner. We continue to work on our weaknesses by learning new information and skills while teaching our strengths to others which continuously improves our strengths.

After the seminar and a quick bite, I’ll be going back to Jessye Norman School of the Arts to volunteer in their homeschool and after school programs as well as speak with staff about some educational ideas I’ve been kicking around with another teacher who works there Art the Artist.

I’m happy to get back in the routine after my down time and pity party, but a little embarrassed too. I’m nervous about how to present myself and what all I should say. I suppose, since I’m pouring my hear out on my blog, I can leave it at that. I’ll just run today “business as usual” and keep moving forward with a more slow and steady pace rather than the frantic run I was doing before.


Gooaaaallll! NOT!

Well Shoot! I was going a hundred miles an hour it seems and then I took some time to  truly reassess my steps and had a bit of an emotional pity party.

I’ve spoken to other business owners that relay the same kinds of feelings when their plan isn’t going in the direction they want. Not that I’m not still headed in the right overall direction, I’m just having to readjust my thought processes so I don’t feel like I’m failing because my goals aren’t happening fast enough!

I do believe in pulling from as many sources of information as possible, and through my conversations with mentors, experienced private school personnel, small business owners, friends and family, I’m realizing I have a whole elephant to eat, and I need to thoroughly chew each bite, one at a time.

My goals for January did not work. I did not file my 501(c)3 paperwork, and I stopped blogging when it hit me that I wasn’t going to meet my goals. I probably shouldn’t have, but I was in a pretty negative space and didn’t want to put all that out into the universe! So I kept it inside and took a few weeks to break down the negative bits one by one and expel them.

I feel I’ve let my followers down, and I hope I can maintain a better balance of my time and emotions in order to be more successful and consistent in the future.

Tomorrow will bring a new month and new goals. I’ll continue to share my progress, good and bad, and am open to suggestions and questions and any time.


Jessye Norman School of the Arts – After School DRAMA!

Upstairs at the Jessye Norman School of the arts, several students, most sitting on the floor, listening and interacting with their Drama teacher Mrs. Carmen, are excited about putting on another play.

After homeroom, they go to the class they chose for the semester. Students submit their top 3 choices for their classes and are assigned accordingly, this ensures the classes are balanced.

When I entered the room,  the students, with Mrs. Carmen, were reflecting on the play they performed last semester. Each student is an integral part of the group, and like most drama groups, there’s lots of potential for animated and funny conversation.

That’s not to say that these students don’t take their job here seriously. They want to put on the best show they can.

Reading through lines is not always the most exciting part of learning a play, but it is absolutely necessary, and the students use feedback and constructive criticism as a benefit to improve their performances. They repeated lines with inflection while listening to Mrs. Carmen give examples and explanations on why lines need to come across a certain way.  Students felt free to chime in, adding their opinion and some asked questions obviously wanted to learn more and get this right.

They also worked with the orchestra score which is provided with the play’s package. Some of the students wanted to have a live orchestra for the play, but through the discussion realized the recordings will have to do.

During the 1 1/2 hour class everyone was engaged and participating, all after a full day of traditional school. These students are dedicated, and it is wonderful to see. Ending a learning day with the arts, and specifically drama in this case, has to be very fulfilling.

The whole experience reminded me of being in Drama class in high school, one of the best classes I took. It brought back memories of my Drama Teacher. Mr. Roy Lewis, demonstrating, explaining and encouraging us to get it together! We had our drama class at the end of the day, and it too was never dull or draining.

Toward the end of class, the dance teacher came in to speak with Mrs. Carmen. We then packed up a little early and went to watch the dance class perform. The students had been back a week and were working on a dance routine.

Amazing things are happening every day at Jessye Norman School of the Arts!

*Side Note: This was the same day as the no photos of photography post, so I don’t have pictures of drama and dance either. Will have to get permission to take pictures for future posts.

Jessye Norman School of the Arts – Photography with no Pictures!

I know, crazy right? Photography with no pictures! How is that even possible?

When I say photography with no pictures, I don’t mean the photography class doesn’t take pictures.

I didn’t take pictures!

With camera’s clicking and whirring all around me, and the excited joy of the students exploring their world through mechanical lenses, I was completely absorbed into watching, admiring and assisting, and forgot that when I write my blog, I like to post pictures!

As I stated in the previous blog, I did forget to ask about taking pictures of the students, but I should have at least taken pictures of the props, or hands on cameras, or something!  That’s OK though, I’ll be back, and hopefully I’ll remember to take a few photos!

In the meantime, you’ll have to use your creativity and imagination to “picture” what it is like to attend or work at Jessye Norman in the homeschool photography appreciation class.

With the week cruising along, and me working on my goals, I have created an automatic reward through volunteering on Friday’s. I believe in goals and rewards for everyone, but the reward doesn’t have to be an item(s) purchased, they can be as simple and free as taking a walk in a special place, sleeping in a bit, or volunteering! What? Volunteering as a reward?  Yes! Absolutely!

I love volunteering! I learn so much from interacting with and helping others, and I feel good at the same time.  Everybody wins!

I like the fun stuff (don’t we all?), and the thought of just doing paperwork this month is a bit blah, so of course I have my 30 day goal, but then I added my weekly goal and rewards. The cost? Gas money to drive downtown to work with the students and staff at Jessye Norman School of the Arts on Fridays!  What a fabulous way to spend my Fridays!

I got the times mixed up, was running a bit late, and arrived while the homeschool crew was finishing up their lunch. I called to let them know, and left a message. I wasn’t overly worried about running late as Gary Dennis is very understanding and appreciates volunteers, as do most organizations.

I asked a few questions of staff and observed. The homeschool group comes in on Fridays from 10:30-2:00 and two classes are offered each semester. This semester the classes are photo and music appreciation.

The classes are split into the younger students and older students. Teen’s that attend can help with the younger students if they choose, or participate in the class.

I stayed with the photo class which started with the older group. Students were told the week before to bring an interesting object in order to work on still life photography.  The teacher, Mrs. Carmen, went over the rules for handling the cameras and we distributed working cameras to the students. Pretty much all the equipment is donated, and this is a hands on program with students working with and caring for equipment, so it took a little bit of time to figure out whose cameras were working, and get charged batteries into the cameras, as well as SD cards. The students took their time familiarizing themselves with the cameras as well.

It is important for the students to be able to take every step with the camera. This increases their familiarity with the equipment, and they also understand that photography is a process, not just a point and shoot activity.

With all the cameras working, they took a few practice shots and Mrs. Carmen reminded them to remember the pictures they are taking and not to just take pictures of everything! Her policy is, if students argue of the photo, the photo gets deleted in order to prevent discord. This way, the students take more time with setting up their photos and learn more from the process.

We moved out into the gallery and Mrs. Carmen described and modeled how to use the blocking pieces and pedestals, then split up the group into two smaller groups.

Students were instructed to place their interesting items into a still life and take pictures from different angles.

Every student was engaged. A few got a little frustrated with items that would not stay the way they put them, but they worked well together in creative groups to find still life poses that worked for everyone. Students took turns using cameras, and the different groups came up with different ways of sharing the cameras.

Once everyone had time to take pictures, we moved back into the classroom, and students talked about at least one thing they learned from today’s process of taking still life pictures.

Some students commented on the rules of how to take care of a camera, others commented on elbows bumping pedestals , or items moving during the shoot. Everyone was engaged throughout the lesson and happy to learn.

Returning to the classroom, students broke their camera elements back down, removing SD cards and batteries and turning them in. Mrs. Carmen will download the pictures and next week the editing process will begin.

The same routine was repeated with the younger students who were just as interested and engaged. Each group and child was able to use their creativity and problem solving skills to take still life photos.

Next Friday, unless I’m needed in photography because of the numbers of students, I’ll join the music appreciation class. I was very curious about the class, as I could hear noises and music coming from the classroom. I can’t wait to see them in action!

*Side Note: I have a tendency to volunteer to my maximum it seems, and then I get burnt out a bit (I really should work on a balance there. I wonder if other volunteers do the same…), and I need a break. I just realized I do this, so this time I will be more cognizant of how I spend my time and evaluate and reflect on why I step down from volunteering after being so incredibly active, but that is a blog for a later date.


Jessye Norman School of the Arts

Jessye Norman School of the Arts has an after school program and summer program that are absolutely FREE!  There is an extensive application/interview process, but there are no monetary restrictions. Whether the student has a family income that is low, or upwards of six figures, the process is the same and every student has access to the same wonderful, creative, artistic, resources!

This picture represents a portion of one of the painted pianos in front of Jessye Norman. There are painted piano’s around Augusta, GA as part of their Painted Piano Project, which encourages people in the community to explore and appreciate the arts.

These beautiful pieces of art and potential musical energy remind me of a YouTube video I saw of a homeless man who’s life was changed by playing a piano in his community: The Story of Donald Gould – The Homeless Piano Player. While this story shows an amazing result of pianos in the community, each piano the Jessye Norman School of the Arts provided to the community envelops the potential to inspire everyone that spies it.

Jessye Norman is not just about the arts, but is an integral part of our community. They collaborate with several organizations to increase exposure to the arts and creativity, for everyone.

I’ve visited twice now, once before the kids came back from their break and once to see the kids and staff in action.

I neglected to ask if I could take pictures, and so I took a picture of the January photo on their school created calendar. Students from the summer camp photojournalism classes created the photos and interviews inside the calendar.

I put this monthly piece of artwork on the wall over my work desk. What an inspirational way to start every day!

I’ll start with my visit before the kids.

Gary Dennis, executive director welcomed me to the school and we discussed some of the logistics. He shared information and was realistically supportive and encouraging. He suggested I come in and spend some time at the school while the students are there.

One of the main things that sticks out about Jessye Norman is it is completely free. I wanted to do this for my school as well, but have changed to tuition based because it is very difficult to get complete funding for a program. Amazingly, Jessye Norman has managed to keep their after school and summer programs free.

They have a part time grant writer, and everyone helps to write upwards of 25-30 grants per year. The grants and individual contributions make the free programs possible. Gary shared with me that after a few years, nonprofits are harder to sustain, because many people are willing to support new nonprofits, but then move on to support newer nonprofits. He suggested I join someone else that has resources instead of starting a school on my own as there are finite funding opportunities in the nonprofit world.

He also made me think about and state the need in the community I plan on filling. We discussed how my school has to fill a need that isn’t already being filled. I still feel I’m not explaining my philosophy quite right, and I need to spend time refining my “elevator” speech. We had a long conversation though, and I was able to explain what it is that I want to accomplish. We discussed the future direction of education and how changes are coming, which was encouraging as well.

When it comes to staffing, Jessye Norman chooses teachers that align with their creative philosophy. The staffs’ skills and passion to teach the young people who show up daily to learn are paramount. Staff are flexible and fill a myriad of needs as they arise. Every staff member wears multiple hats and contributes their strengths to the program.

While “Arts” is in the name of the school, they also provide academic help through tutoring.  Students grades are not a determining factor for getting accepted into the school, but they must maintain a C average in their core classes in order to remain a part of the school. In this way Jessye Norman helps support and create balanced young people who will blossom into a balanced, creative adults.





Reevaluating My Goals

I sooooo want to skip blogging today! This seems to be a steady theme as I try to figure out how I’m going to proceed with working on my school. I am not giving up, I’m just trying to figure the best route to get where I want to go.

Splitting time leaves me exhausted, and I cannot write as well in the evening when I’m exhausted.

I also set my goal as 30 days of blogging again, plus filing state and federal paperwork, when I meant to set as the goal at blogging 5 days a week! I really want to take time off on the weekend, and I wonder if that reflects on my level of passion. I look at it more as self care to avoid burn out, but I wonder what others think…

Since I already posted my goal and my reward, I’m going to stick to the 30 days of blogging, but next month, I think the 5 days a week will still be good and will give me a bit of leeway.

I’m constantly working on balancing everything and some days are more full of personal and family business than others.

I also started out this month tracking my time spent on different projects, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside as well. I had planned on making my own planner, but now I’m thinking another trip to Barnes and Noble is in order, and I need to stop being so picky!  I’m just tracking activity for goodness sake!

I looked for the PERFECT planner and organizer, and when it didn’t exist, I figured I’d just wait or make my own – both approaches are not effective.

Goal this weekend, get back on track! AND get ready to start Whole30 again too. I feel so much better when my food plan is in place!

Feet Dragging, Head Banging!

I am seriously dragging my feet on this con/con list, and I’ve had a low grade headache all day as well. Coincidence? Possible but not probable. I’m stressing myself out apparently.

I thought I would work on my con/con list and refine it before posting, but it doesn’t look like I really want to do that since I’m seriously procrastinating. So I’m going to just bang out my con/con list for all to see. Hopefully It’ll make sense.

Cons for starting a school now!

  • Not understanding possible pitfalls I would gain from more experience
  • No pool of students from which to pull
  • No funding except possible parent support
  • Not having the personnel or financial support needed for longevity
  • Possible burn out because I don’t have help right now
  • Having to swallow my pride to ask for money from friends and family

Cons for waiting and doing more hands on research.

  • Feel like I’m failing my project because I’m not moving forward
  • Getting into volunteer opportunities and not having enough time to work on my school
  • Not being true to my philosophy on a daily basis
  • Fear of losing my vision/giving up
  • Money going out for travel and other expenses to volunteer, still no money going in

I wish I could say this was helpful, but it wasn’t.

Usually there is one option that sticks out more than the other, but honestly I want to do both!

Is it possible? I think so, as long as I reevaluate my goals and take things slow and work on both.

…Maybe this was very helpful, only time will tell…

Struggling with Direction

I’m really struggling with direction lately.

I feel so torn between moving forward with the school and waiting until I have more experience in the private school world. I feel like my momentum is starting to waiver as my thought process gets all jumbled up going from moving forward and doing more research.

It’s a different kind of research though. More hands on and experience based rather than theory based. I may need to step back from my January Goal of filing paperwork for the 501(c)3, which kind of makes me feel like I’m failing this project.

At the same time, I feel it is important to know more about what I’m getting into so I don’t fail overall.

I guess I need to stop looking at it as failure and look at it more as a delay for education and a better chance of success in the future.

When I talk it through with friends and family, they are supportive either way,  ultimately, obviously, the final decision is mine.

I just realized with that last sentence, I need to reach out to my SCORE mentors and see what they think about my progress over the last few months. I wanted to be able to go to them at the end of the month after all of my paperwork was filed, but now that I think about it, I should reach out to them sooner… I think.

Today I followed the ALC (Agile Learning Center) Map in order to find the local start up listed, but both locations are closed. I didn’t visit the first one I found because online it said it was permanently closed. I went to the address listed for the second location, but the counseling business that is there had not heard of the ALC group. I was hoping to connect with like minded people so we could join forces.

I usually make a con/con list. I wish I could remember the article I read in graduate school about the con/con list. I’ve looked for it since, but haven’t been able to locate it.
At any rate, the journal article showed that when we make pro/con lists we still vacillate between the two choices, whereas if we make a con/con list the choice that is right for us usually jumps right out!

I haven’t made my con/con list. I think I’m procrastinating on this list because I’m afraid of what I will discover. My heart is pulling me toward creating the school now, and my head is telling me to research more. No better time than the present. Haste makes waste…and the debate goes on…

Goal for tomorrow?  Making a con/con list for real!  Time to get real with this whole process. For tonight, I’ll rest, meditate, and focus on finding the perfect solution.

Social Media Infant Gets Hacked!

Today was just the craziest social media day for me.

I was contacted in the late afternoon by a Facebook friends telling me they thought I had been hacked.  Thank you to all of you who shared with me that you were getting double friend requests and requests to join them in making lots of money!

Since I struggle with the logistics of social media, I’ve been working on trying to make all of my accounts more secure including the email accounts my social media accounts are linked to.

For me, this is a logistical nightmare. It took me almost an hour to figure out how to change the settings and passwords on my phone app that manages all of my email accounts.

I hope this doesn’t effect how people see me on Facebook and I hope I can get it sorted out soon. I’m still working on the problem.  I got so frustrated today, I just had to put everything down for a while.

Please let me know if there is anything fishy going on on my sites, or if you have fishy requests, and know that I am not asking for money, nor am I asking for you to sign up to follow or like anything except my Changing Education Now Facebook Business page and/or Changing Education Now Blog.

Savannah River Academy – What Do You Mean MISTAKES are OK?

That’s right! Mistakes really are OK! We all make them, every day actually, but when we think of traditional education and mistakes, we just see the red marks, the low grades, or the head hung in shame! How is this in any way conducive to becoming a lifelong learner? An enjoyer of education?

It’s NOT and Savannah River Academy has not only figured this out, but has started a school that puts thinking outside the box into practice!

Happy students! This is what we all want to see in our schools! No matter if you have no children, school aged children, or grown children, it is always nice to see happy learning children. I don’t think anyone would argue with that!

Here the kids are learning, AND happy about it!

Everyone starts their day with a school wide morning meeting which was described more as a family environment. Sometimes they have character education, or talk about pressing issues, the meeting doesn’t last long and it freshens and prepares everyone for the day.

When children go to their classrooms, they are grouped by skill level, which means multiple ages are in each group. The classes rotate from subject to subject throughout the day with the exception of kindergarten. Students started the school year saying, “I’m in _____ grade.”  Now they say, “I’m in the blue (or what ever color) group.”  The distinction between traditional grade level is gone, and the child is just learning on a daily basis.

Teachers can dress in jeans and were given a supply of Savannah River Academy T shirts (but they can dress how they want). They are expected to get dirty while they enjoy teaching. They also decided what furniture they wanted in their classrooms – tables, chairs, floor seating, or alternative seating. Teachers are welcome to teach from their comfortable space as well, with some sitting on the floor with the children.

In every classroom I observed teachers interacting with student groups or students were working independently making the teacher available for one on one attention. In a well working traditional school, this is standard right? The difference is, the students were all engaged in their work. They glanced up at me, some for a longer stare, but then went back to work and continued their learning.

Math classes use the Singapore Math Curriculum with each level being broken up into 2 books. It is self paced and students can finish more than 1 “year” of math in a school year. Based on real world necessity for problem solving, using mental math and math sense as opposed to memorization, this curriculum works well at Savannah River Academy. Our observation barely interrupted the class when we entered and within seconds kids were back to learning math! MATH!  Everyone knows that’s one of the hardest subjects for a LOT of kids. The teacher was teaching a small group of students while the other group worked independently. While looking through workbooks, I saw many blank or partially completed pages. If the student knows the material, it is skipped, no need to keep reviewing what is already known. If the student doesn’t understand the material, it is covered again. Basic common sense at use here!

Cross over classes cover social studies and science with everyone learning about the same topic, but at different levels. For example, learning about how vision works, older students might dissect cow eyeballs (wow!), while younger students learn about pin hole cameras.

Reading class uses guided reading, small groups read with the teacher every day. Different reading strategies are employed and not all students are reading the same book. The Running Record Assessments assess reading fluency and comprehension and are based on higher level thinking following Blooms Taxonomy. A dyslexia program with one on one support is available for students who struggle with dyslexia.

Ok, so hold on, you said no tests! So how do they know where the kids are if there are no tests?

No, there are no regular classroom tests or standardized tests in the traditional sense of the word, but there are assessments that show the teacher and student the student’s strengths and weaknesses. This enables both to understand where improvements need to be made, goals set, and progress tracked. This is how we all learn, we just don’t usually use such a formal format as adults.

Think of it like this: It is IMPOSSIBLE TO FAIL an assessment at Savannah River Academy. You simply discover what you need to work on and what you know already.

In a traditional setting “50% is considered failing, but here we celebrate success and set goals,” a beautiful statement by Maribeth Burns, Principal of Savannah River Academy. “Kids feel more successful because we’re meeting them where they are,” they have “less stress” from “not feeling inferior,” and the, “faster kids” are, “not twiddling their thumbs.” Isn’t this what we want as a society for each and every one of our students?

One very interesting point is this school does not have parties.

What? The students don’t get to enjoy themselves?

That’s just the point. When students are enjoying every day of school, there’s no need for blow out, waste of classroom instruction time, parties!  Students work from the time they get to school until they leave, every school day, and they enjoy it! Truly Amazing!