Today is my last day as the Assistant Principal of Healdsburg High School. It was an epic adventure! And it was the hardest job I ever had. I’m still humbled by the opportunity. And I’m proud of what we started together. We left the campsite better than we found it. I learned more than I ever imagined. And I loved those I worked with and those I worked for with all my heart. I will miss them very much. To quote the two teachers who serenaded me on my last day with a duet from the musical Wicked, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” I don’t know what’s next except a sabbatical and a trail ride into the sunset. The Muppets said it best: “Somehow I know we'll meet again, not sure quite where, and I don't know just when. You're in my heart, so until then, wanna smile, wanna cry, saying goodbye.” Thank you, Healdsburg. Love you. Mean it.
I wrote the following for a grad school assignment tonight. Wanted to share it here too. It's still somewhat drafty, but it's a heartfelt start. <3
1. Describe the strategies your administration currently engages for building staff capacity within your school. What is working well, and what changes would your staff like to see?
2. As a school leader, as you begin to build a shared vision alongside your staff, what goals, values, and mission will you identify that motivates your staff to a common identity and collective advancement of your school’s agenda? (What you describe here is your Vision Statement as an administrator for your school).
I’m going to address the two parts of this prompt in reverse order because I feel like the why and the what should precede the how and because I believe that building community creates the necessary conditions for building staff capacity, crafting a common identity, and collectively advancing our school’s agenda.
This isn’t just a discussion board post. This is a Vision Statement. No pressure! :) If you think about it, our vision statement for our school is perhaps the most important thing that we will ever write during our tenure as a school leader. Words have power, and these words have more power to inspire and to transform than any others.
According to the Glossary of Education Reform, a vision is “a hoped-for future reality,” (Great Schools Partnership, 2015). Like Meindl, Ehrlich, and Dukerich (1985), I have “a romantic view of leadership,” (quoted in Leithwood & Louis, 2012, p. 229). My hoped-for future reality, my Pollyanna-ish ideal, my personal vision is one in which high school doesn’t suck, one where high school a happy place that students and staff are excited about going to each day when they get out of bed in the morning, and one where we will all look back in years to come and think, “That was awesome. This was time well spent. Those were the best days of my life.”
As for the strategies that my administration currently engages in to build staff capacity within our school, I’ll refer to their own comments from our staff retreat last summer. We shared these dreams during a whole group discussion, that I captured on chart paper, photographed on my phone, and uploaded to our shared Google Drive (Healdsburg High School, 2018). Here’s what we said.
What’s working well now:
Admins who are “warm and welcoming,” “more relational,” and “more focused on team building”
An “extremely talented and dynamic team”
“People here are crazy friendly”
Food at meetings
Time to share
What we’d like to see, and have more of, and be better at:
Current goals and focus
Don’t tiptoe around issues
A show of faith
A sense of community
A sense of adventure
A cohesive team
Steam to carry on
To feel charged up
Onboarding new students and welcoming returning students at the start of the school year
Monitoring our most at risk students throughout the school year
A culture where students do the work
A culture where work matters to students
That what we say in retreats and in meetings shows up in our work
These changes can only come about if we are all rowing in the same direction, and that direction is forward. In the days, weeks, months, and, God willing, years to come, I hope to build this shared vision alongside my staff, my students, their families, and our community. After all, “Vision comes alive only when it is shared,” (Westley & Mintzberg, 1989, quoted in Méndez-Morse, 1993). Or, as I always say, teamwork makes the dream work! :)
Great Schools Partnership. (2015, May 18). Mission and vision definition. Retrieved March 13, 2018, from https://www.edglossary.org/mission-and-vision/
Healdsburg High School (2018, August 10). HHS 2017-2018 staff retreat reflections and next steps.
Leithwood, K. A., & Louis, K. S. (2012). Linking leadership to student learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Méndez-Morse, S. (1993). Vision, leadership, and change. Issues...about Change, 2(3).
Merriam-Webster. (2018). Pollyanna. Retrieved March 13, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Pollyanna
On this last day of my first semester as a school administrator, I am grateful for many things, both the good things that happened and the bad things that didn’t happen.
The bad things that didn’t happen: no news scandals or no media embarrassments, no lawsuits, no grievances, no homicides, no suicides, no major melees traumas or dramas, no sporting events with major injuries or incidents, no school dances with twerking and tweaking.
The good things that did happen: a community that has come together post-disaster, students who have thanked me for the joy I spread in the hallways, teachers who appreciate me for making our campus “the awesome happy place that it was meant to be,” colleagues who keep my fidgets and love notes on their desks, staff students and parents who confide in me their concerns, a feeling of esprit de corps, a belief that we are doing better than before, and the constant encouragement I get from colleagues that my best is good enough for now.
I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made. I’m humbled by how much I’ve learned. And I’m proud of what we’ve begun together this semester.
I have learned that I still have a lot to learn. And I am looking forward to this time off to recharge my batteries so I can come back stronger and more certain that I am where I need to be, doing what I need to do.
I wish you all a restful and wonderful winter break. <3
This video* is about the work I did this past school year as a teacher coach with the Sonoma County Office of Education.
I focused on integrating core academic content and career technical education. The goal was to bridge the gap between school and the workplace that so often exists in traditional educational settings. This work was funded by a grant from the Northern California Career Pathways Alliance.
I supported more than 60 teachers at 12 high schools, plus I was our teacher’s union secretary and treasurer. It was fascinating, challenging, and rewarding.
I was quoted in a local paper saying this about my work, “Students aren't sitting in rows, in desks, with their heads down, hoodies on, and their earbuds in. They’re actually engaged. You see their smiles. You see the light in their eyes. School doesn’t suck for them. And that’s the beauty of career technical education."
There’s a lot of good going on in Sonoma County high schools. I’m so glad that I got to be a part of it.
*Thanks to Brent Spirnak [[User:Bspirnak]] for filming me and uploading his video to Wikimedia Commons under a free license: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anna_Koval.webm
Spent the past 3 months teaching what many people would call "the bad kids." It was the hardest job I ever had. My students had problems that I couldn't solve. So many days, I just came home and cried. But we made it. They didn't dropout. And I didn't quit. In the end, 90% graduated and now have a diploma. And I now have more respect for teaching than ever before.
During the past three years, I have been privileged to be a part of the Wikimedia Movement as staff of the Wikimedia Foundation. 
I admire its vision. I believe in its mission. I uphold its values.
Many projects have inspired me very much.
* Working with the community advocates to keep our community safe from threats of harm. 
* Working with the community liaisons to communicate the rollout of VisualEditor. 
* Working with the legal team to design a user-friendly trademark policy.  
* Working with the grantmaking team to give grants and foster movement diversity.  
* Working with the program capacity team to encourage evaluation and assess impacts.  
* Working to encourage regional cooperation in Eastern Europe and Asia.  
* Working to promote the Wikipedia Library and the Wikipedia Adventure.  
* Working to grow the Wikipedia Education Program. 
* * *
The Wikipedia Education Program is especially near and dear to my heart. It is a means of educating readers, recruiting contributors, and creating quality content. Since 2005, the Wikipedia Education Program has made an enormous contribution to Wikipedia. 
Since 2014, when I joined the team, the number of education programs around the world has increased by 36%.   And now 25% of all education programs are in one of the regions that I supported. 
Wikipedia is being used as a teaching tool in education around the world in more than 80 countries.  The idea behind the Wikipedia Education Program is simple: educators and students around the world contribute to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in an academic setting.
In some parts of the world, this happens in a traditional classroom and the editing is done for a course assignment. In other places, this is an extracurricular activity done for community service, as part of a club or a camp, or at campus edit-a-thons, hackathons and workshops.
In some countries, teachers learn Wikipedia editing as part of their teacher training. And in some countries, there are government partnerships  between Wikimedia affiliates and academic agencies that legally mandate learning about wikis and Wikipedia as part of the local, regional, or national curriculum.
Almost 5,000 educators and almost 50,000 students in more than 500 cities and at almost 1,000 schools have added almost 150,000 articles to Wikipedia and have contributed more than half a billion bytes of content to the free knowledge movement. 
I am so proud of what the Wikipedia Education Program has accomplished. And I am enthusiastic about what great things it has yet to achieve.
* * *
As a regional education program manager, I worked with local program leaders as their colleague, their coach, their advocate, and as an ally for social change.
I traveled to 12 countries 18 times in 2 years: Mexico, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Armenia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Germany, and the UK.
It was a great gift to get to travel the world in service of free knowledge.
I am profoundly humbled by and am sincerely grateful for every opportunity I've had, every place I've been, everything I've learned, and every person I've met.
I want to thank my teammates, past and present, from whom I have learned so much.
I want to thank the Wikipedia Education Collaborative  for sharing their experience and expertise with the greater global education community.
And I want to thank the education program leaders, past and present, with whom I had the pleasure of working closely, especially those whom I had the privilege of visiting. To be able to support their great work was a tremendous honor and a lot of fun.
I couldn't be prouder of the work we have done together. We sought to make the Wikimedia projects a better place to volunteer, to share our learning, and to change our world.
* * *
Now it's time for me to move on and to return to my true calling: teaching.
Recently, the perfect opportunity presented itself, and I have accepted an offer that I am truly happy about and looking forward to. Later this month, I will return to the classroom. I will teach high school students who are struggling academically to learn English.
I will help my students become better readers, writers, thinkers, and communicators so they are more prepared for their adult lives, so they may become better people, and so they can make our world a better place.
* * *
I will always be one of Wikipedia's biggest fans. No matter where I go or what I do, I will continue to advocate for its value to humanity. I love Wikipedia. I believe that Wikipedia belongs in education. And wherever I teach, I will work to make it so.
Wikipedia is a miracle, a monument to altruism. It is vital to the internet ecosystem, and it is vital to the education system. I hope that more young people especially will find their way to Wikipedia and help out. And when they do, I hope that they are met with wise mentorship from veteran community members, just as I was.
I intend to remain a Wikipedian now that I am no longer a Wikimedia Foundation staff member. And, with that promise, I’ll see you on the wikis. 
* * *
Why I signed the library petition posted November 28 2011, 5:55 AM by anna koval
A recent petition to the White House (1) has caused a slew of controversy in school library circles lately.
It stated that there should be a teacher-librarian in every school library -- or else.
"Any school receiving Federal funds should be required to have a credentialed School Librarian on staff full time with a library that contains a minimum of 18 books per student. Failure to have a school library open to all students and/or failure to have a credentialed School Librarian to run that library should be punishable by a immediate withdrawal of all Federal monies."
I grant that it was an aggressive proposition, but with 99,180 school libraries in the United States (2) and 62,364 credentialed teacher-librarians (3), it's appalling to me that the petition expired because it didn't meet the measly 10,000 signature threshold.
Influential leaders in our field came out against it. Buffy Hamilton didn't sign the petition (4) and Doug Johnson didn't either (5).
I, too, had a moment of hesitation, a pause, a gasp even, when I read the petition's fine print.
I think I actually said to myself, "omg, this thing is really hard core!!"
But was it really that hard core??
The petition essentially asked us to stand up not just for school libraries, but for *strong* school libraries.
And strong school libraries require a teacher-librarian at the head of them.
This petition asked our government to do what it's supposed to do: to call schools to the carpet when they violate the law in that regard.
In California, the law is CDE's Ed Code in the form of the Model School Library Standards, and they say (6):
"The school library is staffed by a team consisting of a credentialed teacher librarian and paraprofessional support staff."
It's what Connie Williams, past president of CSLA, aptly calls the "library team" and policy wonks need to know and understand that both members of it are essential (7).
Because in spite of the Standards, in California these days, few school libraries still staff a full-time teacher-librarian. They're reassigned to "regular" classrooms or outsourced to multiple school sites. And the largest classroom on campus becomes a book depository manned by well-meaning but insufficiently-skilled paraprofessionals or even parent volunteers.
We don't let paralegals work as lawyers. We don't let nurses work as doctors.
The school library is a classroom and it must be lead by a teacher-librarian, and this petition was meant to tell lawmakers loudly and clearly that we think so.
We have to be willing to put our money where our mouth is... especially in this economy...
As fabulous as my library assistant is, she could not run our library without me (legally, and realistically), nor would she want to. And shrinking budgets should not require her to try.
If we really believe in strong school libraries, then we all would have signed this petition instead of bickering about semantics or worrying where we'll sit when the music stops.
471 views and 10 responses
Steve Jobs on working and loving it posted October 6 2011, 6:56 AM by anna koval
I find myself profoundly moved by the passing of Steve Jobs.
Though not an Apple user myself, I appreciate the far-reaching impact of his inventions and innovations.
And I am inspired by his philosophy, in particular, his words about work:
"I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what i did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a great part of your life. And the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking, and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."
I am blessed to be able to do what I love and to love what I do.
School libraries, like Apple computers, change lives.
Steve Jobs changed our world. I bid him a fond farewell.
Steve Jobs' Stanford University commencement speech
117 views and 0 responses
Why not let volunteers run school libraries... posted February 4 2011, 6:57 AM by anna koval
State Senator Bob Huff wants to contract out "non-classroom services" and says school libraries as one such easily-cuttable "service." (1) But what Mr. Huff fails to understand is that school libraries *are* in fact classrooms, too!
The school library where I teach (2) is actually two classrooms in one, serving two classes simultaneously almost every single period every single day. Because my students have open access to a librarian (with two teaching credentials and a masters degree), along with a robust and current collection of print and electronic resources, studies show they will score higher on standardized tests of their literacy skills. (3)
Senator Huff's website says he's "a strong believer in parents’ freedom to choose the school they want their children to attend." (4) I would assume that most parents, as well as the Senator himself, would want their own children and grandchildren going to schools with strong libraries and staffed with qualified professionals, not the outsourced unskilled volunteers he proposes for the rest of the state -- a state which, I might add, is all but dead last when compared with the rest of the nation in teacher-librarian-to-student ratios. (5)
This isn't about just "protecting union jobs," as the KABC reporter in the news story below presumptuously suggests; it's about protecting our state's children's equitable access to a proven part of a world class education: school libraries with credentialed teacher-librarians.
The Case for Libraries and Librarians, Dr. Stephen Krashen, 2008, <http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles/case_for_libraries/index.html>.
Haves, Halves, and Have Nots, Dr. Douglas Achterman, 2008, <http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc9800/>.
3169 views and 4 responses
I'm blogging because... posted January 28 2011, 7:29 AM by anna koval
I'm blogging because Stephen Krashen told me to. I met Dr. Krashen for coffee after work yesterday, and after talking about the Beatles, Bill Gates, and the epic battle we are in to save the soul of public education in America, he told me to write more -- privately and publicly and not just in professional journals.
I'm also blogging because when I stopped tweeting for a while professionally and personally, honestly, I felt sort of lonely. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have oodles of online friends and followers, and very few of those I had ever @replied to me, but still, just being able to tell someone, anyone what was on my mind was helpful.
Lastly, I'm blogging because, well, why not? My friend Sarah Ludwig's "Write about it in your diary" post pretty much captures concerns I share with her about blogging. Why me? Why now? Why online where the whole world can read it? And why even bother when countless others will say it first and say it better? Why? Well, why not?! I'm not trying to expand my brand, I'm trying to differentiate my discourse. Not everything I want to write belongs on BigHouseLibrary.com.
I'm not sure yet what I'll be blogging about. Maybe I'll blog about how school libraries are disappearing although we know that school libraries help all students succeed. Maybe I'll blog about the "state of emergency" in California's schools. Or maybe I'll blog to hone my own vision of education reform.
I'm blogging, and I'm capitalizing, but I make no commitments about emoticons. :)
1276 views and 8 responses