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21st Century Solutions….CEI Presentation at NAESP Conference

By Annie Burch, CEI Intern

This year at the summer NAESP conference in Long Beach, CEI had the privilege of hosting a session on implementing 21st century solutions in the classroom. CEI executive director Dr. Christine Mason described CEI’s work with the CEI Technology Use Guidelines. In addition, with the assistance of intern Annie Burch, Dr. Mason presented on Heart Centered education, including the rationale for the 5 Cs (Confidence, courage, compassion, consciousness, and community) and the current activity to transition ‘Heart Centered Education’ from a rubric to assess or guide activities to a program that includes professional development and instructional activities. Dr. Mason stressed the need to focus not on 20-100 different strategies for developing character in the odd moments that are available, but in the value of a ‘program that hones in on 5 critical features that can be integrated throughout the school day in multiple ways.’ Also from CEI, Sue Mullane, a Consultant working in Appalachia, spoke about trauma and its impact on youth. She also introduced Dr. Bruce Wexler’s C8 ACTIVATE brain and neuroscience based learning program, providing data demonstrating remarkable gains for students using the ACTIVATE program compared to other classrooms in the same school district.

The importance and role of compassion in a school setting was further explored by Jillayne Flanders and Dr. Melissa Patsche. Jillayne Flanders is the Principal of Plains Elementary School in South Hadley, Massachusetts, and has played a significant role in developing a heart centered song and program, KindMinds, for her schools. The program developed out of the previous program in place, Second Steps, an anti-bullying curriculum. It has expanded to include school wide KindMind songs and a Decision Wheel where students can select an act of kindness to employ in any situation. Dr. Patsche, NAESP Board member and Principal of Upper Providence School in Pennsylvania expounded on kindness, resiliency, and compassion in school leaders as a model for the school and community. Dr. Patsche provided several key tips for school leaders, including ‘always assume positive intent’ and ‘never ignore anyone.’

In another look at school leader development, Dr. Nancy Phenis-Bourke gave an overview of the NAESP Principal Mentor Certification Program, including an update on the participation in the NAESP preconference session. The mentoring program builds skills and provides tools for leaders through networking and professional development sessions. The skills and strategies taught relate to several areas including empathy, feedback, listening, questioning, sensitivity, networking, and goal setting. Dr. Kathleen Sciarappa led the group through a metacognitive ‘eye-gaze’ exercise that is part of the NAESP Roadmap to Rigor training that she provides for NAESP using a rubric that CEI developed for NAESP.

In the second half of the session, panelists dove into neuroscience and its place in 21st century classrooms. Heather Brennan Smith, Principal at Lilja Elementary School in Natick, Massachusetts,  spoke about how she is helping her teachers integrate findings from cognitive neuroscience into instruction, schools, and family engagement. Recent findings point to the importance of building on prior knowledge, constructing learning environments that promote cognitive development, reflection, and deep conceptual understanding. Based on those findings Heather and Lilja Elementary School have begun integrating more multiage classrooms, an outdoor classroom, project-based learning, and Universal Design for Learning. Paul Liabenow, Executive Director of the Michigan Elementary Middle Schools Principal Association, also works on incorporating neuroscience findings into his schools. Currently, MEMSPA has implemented Neuroplasty and Education United in 3 of 20 schools districts in Michigan. These programs incorporate what we know about long term memory, oral acquisition, and cognitive development to help improve

literacy starting at even younger ages. The session ended with a few words from Joe Crowley, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association of School Principals. Joe provided some insight into the influence of poverty on student well-being and learning, specifically the effect on the brain, what that means for student learning, and how it can be addressed with 21st century solutions.

Please contact Dr. Mason at if you are interested in obtaining our revised 2015 version of the Technology Use Guidelines for Principals or if you would like to participate in developing the framework for the 5Cs Heart Centered Education program. We are looking for school leaders to review sections and help us develop lesson plan templates and examples.


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