Kelly Camak

Passion, Pain, Priorities

In Reflections on August 14, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Teaching is not for the meek of heart. Teaching is endurance work that requires one to withstand the ebbs and flow of education.

Passion is the flame that the teacher heart needs to continue to be the light; ready and willing to support students day in and day out. Passion is in the long hours, the emotional labor, the sifting through policy and bureaucracy to see the north star. Passion is in the collaboration with peers, the shopping trips for supplies and the continous search for quality resources and strategies for meaningful lessons.

Pain is in the joints of this work. Pain is when systems let teachers down. When lessons fall flat. When everything you can do is not enough for a student. Pain is in the lack of appreciation; time lost with family, student debt, lack of resources. Pain is in the new initiatives and simple measurements that pervert the highly nuanced work in teaching and learning. Pain is in the what if’s, the what?!, why? situations, the where are they? moments, the ideas fallen on deaf ears and lost follow through when needed most.

This beckons the ability to prioritize- where must teachers focus their energy? How do they keep in the light of what is best for the students they serve? The imperative priority: standing in the space between the passion and pain and holding students up. It is a priority that teachers speak truth to power, truth to students, truth to self. Prioritize the strength building for endurance work-  the capacity lies within.


The Practice of Culturally Responsive Leadership

In Reflections on July 30, 2018 at 8:43 pm

Culturally Responsive is a current buzz term in education. There is an excellent book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond that has helped inform educators of the complexities of culturally responsive teaching, and the necessity of educators being aware and responsive to the developmental needs of all of the students they serve.

In this new learning, the term practice rings profound. The oppression and proactive nature of education systems have systematized a dominant and “right” culture. The culture that exhibits appropriate behavior, acceptable values, and “academic” habits that reflect the dominant values but does not reflect or welcome the cultures of all the students we serve.

As education digs deeper into the practice of cultural responsiveness, we need to open ourselves to the practice in diversity, equity and inclusion. Practice takes continuous action, focused on skill development. Cultural responsiveness is not something we read about or get trained in and then “we’ve arrived” and can say we are culturally responsive educators. It is an ongoing practice, requiring our attention to detail and growth. It requires community. It requires our ability to notice our moves: bias, actions, language. This practice requires us to learn the game of education, to look more intentionally at the plays in curriculum, system structures and power dynamics.

We all need to keep practicing, growing and learning into being culturally responsive educators. We need to lead the movement to shifting schools to be diverse, equitable and inclusive spaces. We need to change the learning environment from being a system of compliance to a system of justice.


Here are some great resources for first steps into your culturally responsive practice:

#cleartheair twitter chat

CRT & the Brain resources

Robin D’Angelo books


Prioritizing Learning

In Reflections on July 14, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Much of school improvement efforts are focused on learning. Improvement of student learning, professional development (adult learning), systems design for improvement measurements and outcomes (evidence of learning). There is little mention of the explicit learning organization, however. If schools are to become places that truly prioritize the learning, there will be significant shifts in how the school functions. If districts truly want to support the (learning) outcomes of schools, there will be significant shifts in how the district supports schools. Educational concepts would take on new meanings such as:

  • Leadership: an action lived out by all participants in a school, especially students. Leaders are not classified by title, but rather exemplified by all in the learning community.
  • Schedule: hours for school, organization of classes and levels of learning would be structured to enhance optimum brain development and student learning interests
  • Roles: adult and student learning would drive the function of the school, expanding our understanding of teacher, administrator, aid, assistant, etc. This expansive view seeks fluid scopes of work rather than standardized roles.
  • “Expertise”: is evolving since new knowledge and information is part of a continuous learning organization- the value shifts from expert knowledge to expert skill in inquiry
  • Culture: is rooted in the reconciliation of the systemic oppression in past/current schooling and builds upon the abilities of all learners from varying races, contexts and identities to create community and interdependent learning experiences for the betterment of humanity.
  • Partnerships: are integral to school learning communities. The lines of “outside” organizations are blurred with partnered learning experiences, space and community to support whole child and whole community development.   


Right now, the majority of policy and system design prioritize outputs & production; not learning. But society and research prioritize learning. These influences must clash and reconcile to pave the way for the new order of schooling. This way, the “why”, “how” and “what” of school will live out the needs we have for our future.