How do we and why must we build an inclusionary community for our children and ourselves? Consider these data points:
Since COVID there has been an increase in people expressing feelings of angst, stress, and depression in the US and in our own community -- these sentiments were on the rise prior to the pandemic. The same technology that adds to our ability to explore our curiosity and innovate, can deplete our sense of self when it eclipses being in community with one another.
Mayo Clinic studies indicate that the more time teens and youth spend with social media, the more likely they are to have experiences with bullying and unrealistic self-perception. When we are overly involved with our digital devices we are giving permission for our children to do the same. More importantly, we are missing out on strengthening relationships and modeling presence of mind. Our digital devices have a place in work and life productivity, and it is our responsibility to demonstrate how to place boundaries around their use. Our full attention says to another, “you matter and I value our time together,” our children need to feel and see that.
Setting boundaries provides all of us time to focus on our well-being with activities such as rest and sleep. The Sleep Foundation recommends 8-10 hours for teens, 9-12 for school age and 7+ for adults. Without sleep we are more prone to tension, depression, and disease. Sleep deprivation impacts the mental health and cognitive abilities of youth exponentially. Additionally, good sleep prolongs life as described in this Feb 2023 article from the American College of Cardiology.
We can influence the data towards greater life satisfaction and improved sense of belongingness for our youth through strong family and school partnership. Listening to our youth and asking them about the story they are telling themselves when they feel stress and asking them to instead observe what is happening so they can manage the situation successfully is one way we can do this. These and other tools described in this article on mindfulness for teens will provide them with the means to build their own capacity for self-efficacy and awareness. Mental health is not only about “me time” it is about quality of time with others and working through emotional and difficult situations alongside one another. Our village is our strength, within and beyond the classroom walls. A Culture of We is the foundation for developing an inclusive community and strengthening a sense of belonging within our MUSD family.
In recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s be mindful of our own well-being, create a welcoming space for others, provide support and raise awareness.
Three years ago our global community experienced a seismic shift in how we learn and work. In 2020, while we were limited in our travels due to the pandemic, researchers could study the blue skies possibilities that curbing transportation might have in resolving air pollution. People went outdoors and as they walked they met others who live in their communities. People need to express themselves and connect with others, as these window concerts in COVID illustrate. Humanity paused for a collective moment -- we witnessed beauty as well as horror such as George Floyd’s murder and Asian hate crimes. In Milpitas, we made a concentrated effort to be present with one another, to stand alongside and to make this journey in life one that matters, especially on behalf of our MUSD learners.
Three essentials for teaching and learning that we carry forward from MUSD’s nimble response to the pandemic and its persistent changes are mindfulness, technology as a tool for learning, and increasing pathways to career. Encompassing all of these is our Culture of We, which holds diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at its core.
Since 2020, we have embraced the need for learners (children and adults alike) to be in the moment, to learn how to recognize when emotions such as stress or anxiety cloud thinking and deter us from being our best selves. Mindfulness strategies can take less than five minutes to learn and practice, while yielding so much more. Pausing for a moment to listen, to experience nature, just as we did in 2020 provides our brains with the opportunity to downshift the emotional wash and turn up our cognitive function. Connecting with one another before diving into subject matter fosters belongingness.
Technology tools such as Google Workplace/Classroom, Nearpod, Slido, Flipgrid, and Padlet provide learners and educators with the ability to learn, communicate, and collaborate from anywhere -- across the desks, from home, and across countries. MUSD EducatEveryWhere, developed during the pandemic, is the symbol of our ability to adapt and innovate. It now houses our independent study program and represents one of many pathways we strive to provide for our learners. Every student in MUSD has a district-issued digital device which can go home if needed. Our teachers use Google Classroom as a way for learners to organize their work, prepare for learning and demonstrate creative ways of applying what they learn.
COVID data in Silicon Valley where 48% of all service sector jobs were lost, while the health care and tech industries saw an increase in jobs, is a reflection of why MUSD Strategic Goal #3 building pathways for all learners is top of mind. The MUSD Innovation Campus will house Milpitas Adult Education, Calaveras Hills High School, and the MHS 2nd Campus -- its phase I buildings are 4 months away from completion! While this campus illustrates ingenuity, every one of our school programs has an element of signature practices and deeper learning. Every MUSD family, every MUSD team member, and every MUSD student has been an essential part of our evolution since 2019-20. Our Schools are Our Community, and together WE persisted throughout the COVID crisis. We are MUSD and We are on the Move!
The Ben Gross Education Park is home to our learners on Escuela Pkwy who spend time learning at the SJCC Extension. Ben Gross was one of the first people of African descent in the USA to be elected to a city council where he also served as Mayor of Milpitas in 1966. Mayor Ben Gross was a leader in developing the Sunnyhills Neighborhood, the first planned integrated community in America. On Feb. 1st at the SJCC Extension, our students were celebrating Lunar New Year. What a legacy Ben Gross and many of our community leaders established in 1954, where our young people can celebrate their Asian heritage while learning about the cultures and histories of their peers. Black History month is an opportunity for all of us to delve into discovery about our friends and community members of African Ancestry.
Global impact -- African empires influenced history with mathematics, architecture, philosophy, trade and language. SCCABE President Leon Beauchamp and ABEN Executive Director Debra Watkins are local leaders in Silicon Valley who have invested their lives in assuring that the Black history of art, science, technology, culture, and so much more is known to young people so that they can embody the dynamic leadership of their ancestors. Debra Watkins founded the Greene Scholars Program to further the work of Dr. Frank S. Greene, who forged pathways for people of African Ancestry to accelerate in Science Technology Engineering and Math. Dr. Greene holds the patent for the integrated circuit which elevated Fairchild in the semiconductor industry. Dr. Mark Dean, who holds three of the nine patents on the original personal computer and envisioned a device like the iPad long before it was created, plays a major role in our Silicon Valley Tech industry. Dr. Dean said, "A lot of kids growing up today aren't told that you can be whatever you want to be. There may be obstacles, but there are no limits."
Dr. Valerie Thomas, inventor of the precursor to 3D imaging and the longest running satellite imaging program in the world is one example of a learner who knows no limits. Dr. Fern Hunt, a biomathematician who has worked with chaos theory and genetic variations is a proponent of learners finding their pathway based on what excites them in the world. Sunnyhills historians Mr. Daniel Mosqueda, Mr. Donnie Eiland, and Mr. Henry Nichols are driven by their desire to keep us focused on what is possible when we live as a community wrapped around all of our children and youth.
Three MUSD alumni who embody what it means to live in a Culture of We where we seek to know one another are; Ms. Nyla Choates who founded My Roots are Rich, Interim Principal Chuck Gary who has returned for this school year to support our MHS students and team, and MUSD Board President, Chris Norwood. From the City of Milpitas to the Milpitas Unified School District Board of Education and beyond, our students and their families create the tapestry of history that is Our Milpitas Story.
I recently attended a celebration of life for a member of our MUSD family, Frances Paragon-Arias, and as I was leaving, someone asked me if "I enjoyed it." I replied that I learned more about Frances, and that I wished I had known her better. He reminded me that people experience different parts of what makes us who we are. Our multifaceted Milpitas community is similar.
The season of celebration in Milpitas is one that embraces our community with many cultural and faith based traditions. From September thru February we share in each other's experiences of holidays focused on renewal and relationship that incorporate the radiance of life. It is in these moments that we have the opportunity to learn more about each other.
During this winter's festivities, let's be fully in the moment with each other, and take time to tell others how they have enriched our lives. I will tell you that being a part of our Milpitas community since 1989 has positively impacted my life. I look forward to the years ahead with you as we continue to develop world class educational experiences for all MUSD learners.
Happy Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and a joy filled New Year✨
Academic Data thru Pandemic Indicates Community and School Partnership is Key to Educational Gains
Stanford Researcher Sean Reardon and Thomas Kane of Harvard developed this national Education Recovery Scorecard to measure learning outcomes during COVID. They used state scores as well as the Nation's Report Card (NAEP) to develop the database with a focus on how economic disparity impacts student achievement. MUSD saw a -.06 school year decline in overall math scores compared to 2019 standardized assessments and a school year gain of +.21 in reading scores. Breaking the data down however, shows that for our MUSD learners living in low-income households, they experienced a school year decline of -.53, while those in higher socioeconomic households saw an increase of +.09 school years in math. Economics and opportunity cost impacts learning.
As educators, we are dedicated to improving conditions of learning for all of our students. MUSD team member convenings outside of school hours, such as our professional development days or Professional Learning Community time, allow us to examine the data and implications for instruction. Research provides tangential evidence that high dose tutoring, intercession and extended school year learning opportunities can increase learner gains, these are strategies MUSD is implementing already or has in process for the near future. Our capacity to elevate all learners is greatly enhanced when we are working in concert with our students' families and other partners throughout Milpitas.
Strategic Goal #1 --Build a Culture of We-- requires listening to different perspectives, being present with one another, and engaging our community in solutions and possibilities for learners. The District provides our parents/caregivers and team members with opportunities to understand better what the data around learner progress says for MUSD. Some examples are our Local Control Accountability Plan Advisory Committee, the Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services Plan, the Calaveras Hills High School Transformation Committee, and every school’s Parent Teacher Student Organization.
The Sinnott PTA for example has partnered with the MHS student Extreme Robotix Team and Odyssey of the Mind to provide learners with after and in school opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise. The Randall PTA provides the Project Cornerstone Los Dichos reading series, and the Zanker PTA has developed culturally responsive units of study for Black History Month and Latinex Heritage Month. Parent advocates like Michelle and Spike Jones, Jim Zhang and Meenal Honap, in concert with teacher leaders such as MHS Math teacher Wai Lan Tsang and Curtner teacher Naomi Patner, provide learners with experiences as mathletes in team competitions. Accelerating strides in student achievement takes a community and school district working together.
Recently, I had a conversation with colleagues and researchers about how technology in education has changed, which reminded me of the days when I would take my US history classes to a computer lab to play a simulation game called The Oregon Trail. Two students per clunky desktop computer inserted a 5-inch floppy disk into the external drive and waited for the game images to emerge after a few moments of whirring and clicks booted it up. The game provided a digital simulation of the journey that pioneers made to Oregon. It required students to use their recall of content learned in class to move the pioneers through their journey while surviving hunger, storms, and treacherous terrain. Juxtapose that to Minecraft, a cloud-based game that can be played anywhere, introducing learners to the global connections of economy and culture. Unlike the first edtech games, Minecraft provides learners with a virtual environment where they can develop skills for careers such as engineering, architecture, computer science, and commerce. Even more, it facilitates the development of soft skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal communication. Technology has adapted to and facilitated innovation in education.
The evolution of teaching and learning strategies is multi-faceted, and while the pandemic surely accelerated the use of technology in our lives, it also exposed gaps that need to be bridged. In MUSD a clear example of how we are bridging learners for the future of work is our MUSD Innovation Campus and our drive to forge partnerships with business, governance, community organizations, and institutes of higher learning such as SJECCD and SJSU. These collaborations benefit our learners of all ages. A few of the partnerships that are at work now in our schools are:
Our innovation in MUSD is fueled by our collective experiences of these last 29 months and ignited by the promise of what we can accomplish as a community of learners in Milpitas.
Education is about what's possible in the increments of time between now and the future. Learning builds on knowledge and skills we have acquired through prior discovery, discussion, and practice. Learning with purpose is what guides us towards our future pathways.
In MUSD there are students who have discovered how to advocate for themselves and others such as 8th grader Nia who has firmly established herself as a leader in environmental science with CliMatters. High school students Annabelle and Jaina collaborated with their teachers on the Milpitas Elementary Science Olympiad to assure our students are exposed to the joy of innovation through scientific practice. Aditi, a 4th grade student, published her book for younger students about life lessons, Dino Morals. Charu, a student in our MUSD Middle College High School, presented her project to the teachers at Weller where she shared with them how much more meaningful learning is when students feel represented in what they study.
Charmaine seized the opportunity of attending an in person learning lab last year where her teachers wove a tapestry of community with she and her peers at the center. From there Charmaine forged a new pathway which will lead her to a career in sports psychology where she will do the same for her patients. Jubilation in education is when our learners see themselves as capable individuals who matter in our world.
There are times when learning is easy, and others when it comes through productive struggle. All of us are learners, and we have braved through tremendous change and at times, heartache. As a community of learners in MUSD, we value diverse thought, cultures, and experiences. We've learned that we make things possible through ingenuity and compassion for one another.
As we cheer on our graduates towards making extraordinary possibilities a part of their futures, let's also remember that it is both our own purpose and theirs that brings our Culture of We to life.
We thrived through this year together MUSD!
Global. We are globally interconnected. Over the last two years we have learned and experienced more about the lives of people who live beyond Milpitas than ever before. We have shared in their joys, sorrows, injustices, and triumphs. We have come to know others through our stories, concerns, and invitations for action in service together.
Community. We are intertwined through generations and across cultures. On April 8th, our MUSD Kiwanis 18th Annual Crab Feed was held -- smaller than in the past, but with greater enthusiasm as it was in person! With joy we chatted with people we hadn’t seen outside of a zoom box in over a year. This was service and action in unity to support our students in need of school clothes and scholarships.
One poignant experience a family shared with me was their high school students’ ability to be more of who they are when they returned in person to MHS this year. They formed new friendships that they may not have had if not for the expansive changes that impacted learning and living. Flexibility and adaptability, that is what these students demonstrated.
Communication and an ability to understand different perspectives and biases are skills our learners experienced as they participated in our global community. In the very near future of 2030, our students need to build skills in these Cognitive and Interpersonal examples, as well as areas of Self-leadership and Digital competency. Self-leadership skills include motivation and wellness needed for working effectively while remote. Digital ethics and adept use of software are skills found within Digital competency. This latest McKinsey Report on Skills for the Future illustrates the imperative that we continue to respond and plan so that our students are prepared to develop, create, and shape the future of work. Be a part of our MUSD Innovation Campus planning by participating in this MUSD Thought Exchange about pathways to career for our learners.
Shaping the future of our Global Community together,
February in Milpitas is a celebration of Black History and Lunar New Year, an opportunity to strive towards MUSD Strategic Goal #1—Build a Culture of We. Lunar New Year beckons families to celebrate with traditions that offer elders and children time to be present with one another. It is a time to recognize the contributions of our ancestors and to honor all with sentiments of good will and togetherness in the year ahead.
MHS alum, Nyla Choates, debuted her children's book, "My Roots are Rich," this weekend. During the celebration family and friends expressed sentiments of pride, affirmation, and commitment for her continued success in pursuing her purpose. There was a rich feeling of connection to a greater sense of humanity. Nyla’s family assured she knew her roots, and that she too, like those who came before her, is a Flamekeeper. A person through whom we can learn about who we are together in this village.
Family. Heritage. Culture. Generations. These are the facets of our Milpitas community that intertwine and connect us. Parents, caregivers, teachers, paraeducators, principals, and all of our MUSD team create experiences where our learners can see that they matter. In partnership with our schools, Milpitas wraps itself around our youth, and it is this deep-rooted tradition of open hearts and minds that makes MUSD uniquely committed to its community.
2021 weighed heavily on all of us, and yet, like the Phoenix, we have demonstrated resilience in so many ways:
WE are MUSD, a community of learners committed to All.