Author - Cori Orlando

It’s New Year’s…Yeah, But…

new years

Happy New Year!! This day is often a time for retrospection and planning forward. People create lists of things they want to accomplish in the coming year. There is hope, there is renewal…but is there actual change? I know that I, for one, never do well with New Year’s Resolutions. There is always some obstacle, detour, roadblock as to why I can’t start or follow through with something. So I challenge myself and you, to look beyond New Year’s.

Why do we need our calendar to tell us when to do “new”? I argue that we don’t and we shouldn’t.

Greatest ShowmanThis quote is from a song that I just I can’t get it out of my head! (The Greatest Showman). “From now on, what’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight!” Imagine if we did this. Instead of thinking about doing something…we just do. Why wait? If we want to be innovators in education, we must be risk takers at the core. We look outside the box (literally and figuratively), we color outside the lines and we act now.

Don’t wait until the end of the year when it “doesn’t matter” if we “try new”. Don’t wait until the beginning of next year to “start over”. Start tonight! What is the worst that can happen…a fail? Well if we “look at failure as feedback “(@burgessdave ) then we just use it to grow.

If we aren’t growing, we are dying…we need to be alive for our students, they are counting on us.

As long as there is a need for change, there will always be obstacles. But what if we turn our “Yeah, but…” into “Why not?”. This little switch in wording causes a huge shift in mindset. Rather than being frozen, we can become mobilized by the possibilities. Let’s knock down some of these roadblocks…

“Yeah, but…why?”: For some people, they don’t see a need for change. This is how things are done, it’s worked in the past, this is how they learned.  Example: Two students go to the same school, five years apart. Two different teachers, one is brand new to the school. This is their science project…

Science Project

Cell Project – 2012

Science Project

Cell Project – 2017

One big thing that has changed at the school, in those five years, is that every student has a Chromebook that they take home. Now, we know that technology is not the magic bullet, but it can be a great catalyst for a change. A shift in how information is delivered, processed and shown. This project could have been a great opportunity for student choice and creativity. A way to show understanding of concepts. But…

When asked what they learned, both students replied: “We learned to look up a picture, copy it and label.” So, why do we need to change? Because our students should be thinking, learning, understanding and creating. Our students have changed, our world has changed, our future is changed.  Why not take every opportunity to change with and for our students?

“Yeah, but…there isn’t time.”: Last year, my colleague and I were sitting in a teacher’s classroom, as she was venting about all of the stacks of papers she needed to grade. We began offering alternate ideas to help decrease her workload. Her response: “Yeah, but…I don’t have time to change.”. We honestly didn’t have a response. I still don’t. If the obstacle is time, why not make the time to knock it down?

“Yeah, but…I’m afraid”:  It seems like fear comes up a lot. Fear of the unknown, fear of failing, fear of messiness…the list goes on and on. These fears can hold back a lot of good…a lot of great. Is it fair to let our own fear impact our students? Why not show our students that we are ok with being uncomfortable? Life is messy, and part of our job is to help students learn to navigate through life. If we, ourselves, are agile and adaptive, our students can be the same.

“Yeah, but…I don’t know how“: Everybody was at the “I don’t know how” stage at some point, so why not learn from each other? When I don’t know something (which is often), my answer is “I don’t know that, but I can find someone who does.” We are so fortunate in our current time, to have a plethora of resources, literally at our fingertips. Twitter, Voxer, Facebook…we have ways of connecting with others that were not available before. So why not work together to create a better future for our students? Education should be about sharing if we all have a shared goal-doing what’s best for kids. Let’s not hold on to our amazing ideas, but make them available to benefit all students. If we don’t know how, let’s seek to learn.

“Yeah, but…I have to teach the curriculum…”: Do we? Do we need to teach the curriculum or do we need to teach students…standards? “Covering” curriculum is very different than the other two. We teach students-above subjects, above concepts, above curriculum. Why not start there? We must first know them, to grow them. Once we know those that sit before us, we can create experiences to meet them where they are, using tools (such as curriculum) to teach the standards.

We teach students first, standards second- how we teach the second depends on the first.

calendarWhen should we make a change…try something new? On any given day, no matter what the calendar says. Why not start today? Our students-their futures and ours, are counting on it. 


Cori OrlandoCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

Courage Over Comfort

uncomfy“I don’t want to fail”…”I don’t want to make a fool of myself”…”I don’t want to be embarrassed”.

These are some of the phrases that seem to be blocking a lot of people from a lot of great. These statements and the like are what Susan David calls “dead people’s goals”. Why? She explains in Emotional Agility that “the only people who never feel discomfort for having made fools of themselves are-you guessed it- dead.” Wow! That is pretty in your face, but so true. As living beings, we are faced with uneasiness, but what matters is what we do with it. Do we limit ourselves from the fear of unknown or do we lean in?

I am a huge advocate for the latter. I have been lucky to bear witness to the magic that happens when individuals choose to risk. David continues; “We need to choose courage over comfort so that we keep growing, climbing and challenging ourselves…”.

“If we aren’t growing, we are dying and we are all too young for that. Our students are counting on us to be alive, really alive, for them.”- Cori Orlando

This idea brings to mind something that I speak and write about often: #failforward. What does this mean? It means that when we choose to take risks,  we are going to fail. But when we do so, let us find the learning and use that as we grow forward. I can think of many of my own moments and the numerous stories that others have shared with me, but I thought it would be more powerful to share someone’s journey from the viewpoint of an observer.

One of my first encounters with this first-grade teacher was when our district decided to offer supplemental material money in lieu of using the outdated workbooks for ELA, four years ago. For many, those workbooks were a staple in their classrooms. I was trying to support this teacher in making this transition and she was scared. What were her students going to use to practice writing and reading? What would the classroom management look like without these independent activities? There were a lot of unknowns for her, but by the end of that year, she had started experimenting with new strategies. Not all were successful, but the fact was she was taking risks and growing.

As she began the next year, she was “workbook free” and jumped into a station rotation model called Daily 5 to which she continues to this day. Throughout this process, she also began participating in our weekly Twitter chats, getting more and more out of her comfort zone. Within those chats, we often talk about risk-taking and failing forward. I remember one of her comments, clear as a bell-“I don’t want to mess up my students.”.

dare greatly

I created these plaques to give out to teachers in our district to encourage risk-taking.

She, like so many others, put in so much effort and so much heart to do right by her students. It’s not that she didn’t want to try different, she was afraid if she “messed up”, it would be detrimental to them. This led to many talks about the benefits of “daring greatly” and “taking risks”.

Fast forward to earlier this year. She went through our district training to receive a Chromebook cart for her class. These devices were new for her and her students-implementing them was a huge leap. But guess what? It didn’t stop her. In fact, she sent herself to CUE Rockstar Primary to learn more. I was lucky enough to join her on this journey. Here is the funny thing, after the camp, she shared something that I said in my sessions that resonated with her:

“Just try things…you won’t break the devices, you won’t break Google and you won’t break the children”.- Cori Orlando

That is what stuck with her. Boy, talk about a switch flip! I am happy to report, that she has taken off and become quite comfortable in the unknown and it is just amazing to watch. What is more incredible to watch are the students. They are taking risks in their own learning, they are creating and they are owning their own learning.

Why am I sharing this teacher’s journey? Because I believe there is power in sharing stories. I am lucky enough to be able to walk alongside so many amazing educators on their learning journey. I get to witness the huge shifts in their mindsets and practice. They are in it, they don’t see it…but I do and I want to celebrate it.

We are in this profession for children, so we must choose courage over comfort because they deserve the best. Will it always work out? No. Should it always work out? No. I believe that there is incredible learning for all during these risk/fail processes. It is important for us to model, discuss and encourage this in our classrooms, on our sites, and beyond.

Here is my call to action: Just leap! What is that “thing” that you want to try? What is holding you back? Remember that part of living IS the uncomfortable. Let us get comfy with the uncomfy and make magic happen!


Cori OrlandoCori is a mother of two amazing children and currently works as a TOSA in Simi Valley Unified School District. She is a co-moderator for both #SVTChat and #VCHSchat. Cori has presented various sessions for CUE Rock Star, CUE BOLD as well as within and outside of her district and county. She is also a frequent blogger on her site: http://leadinginlimbo.weebly.com/  Follow her on Twitter: @CoriOrlando1

Beyond Band Aids: How Do We Heal Education?

Ed note: This blog was co-authored by David Culberhouse, Jon Corippo, and Cori Orlando.


“Is that quick fix, that Band-Aid, what is needed for truly sustainable change? It’s time for a new conversation, time for a different plan of action…we need to look deeper than the surface wound.”- Orlando, Culberhouse, Corippo

Urgency. The time to create educational change is now, it isn’t an option. Our students, our world, and our future are changing, therefore our students’ education must change as well. When organizations feel the urgency to solve or heal a problem, it is easy to look for a quick fix. That is part of human nature, see a problem…fix the problem. Makes sense, right? But let us ask: “How is that working for you?” Is that quick fix; that band-aid, what is needed for truly sustainable change? It’s time for a new conversation, time for a different plan of action…we need to look deeper than the surface wound. We must look under the band-aid. We need to diagnose the origin of the holes to heal them at their core. So what is holding us back?

Gaping Holes: Disconnected systems: Many systems try to increase cognitive loads on individuals in the organization. But adding “one more thing” diminishes space for new learning and creating new knowledge that should be focused on better idea flows. Instead, we should identify things we can let go of – schools are a mile wide and an inch deep. What if we narrowed our scope and dug deeper? Like the quote that’s attributed to Einstein says: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” When is the last time we tried to make the process of education more simple?

Unhealing Holes: Initiative fatigue across organizations: When the focus is on implementing programs more than shifting mindsets, people become fatigued. Their mental bandwidth for change decreases with every new event. So let us increase leadership capacity to make a shift in our educational organizations. Let’s focus our change efforts on mindsets, mind shifts, future and around the corner thinking, internal and external awareness, greater emotional intelligence and empathy, greater understanding of improvement and transformational processes.


“We can change the look to make it more attractive, but it still just covers the wound.” – Orlando, Culberhouse, Corippo

Rather than a short-term, new initiative every year (replacing with a fresh band-aid) let’s think more long range. The president of Honda was once asked how long their long-range plan was by American MBAs. He replied “250 years”. We need to think the same way. We must develop a real plan for raising healthy human beings not test scores. To do this, we need to shift our minds and actions to be student-centric so we can focus on the best ways to help all of our students become their best.

The wound that begets the band-aid: Lack of awareness: If there is not a deep understanding as to the “WHY” change and transformation are even necessary, it will be difficult to create and sustain a plan. It may create an unwillingness to look beyond what we’ve always done to better prepare students to be adaptable and agile to a changing world. It could blind us by not seeing our own “Napster” moment staring us in the face. Educators (all levels of educators, including administrators) should look at books like Dumbing Us Down and The End of Average and films like Most Likely To Succeed and Race To Nowhere and grapple with the idea that to some degree, we are culpable. We can not change unless we are willing to understand our own responsibility and power within the system.

Self-inflicted wounds: Facing the enemy within: We create our own internal divisions (between teachers, administrators, district office, parents, etc.) that inhibit collective transformation and impact. This keeps the system from having any type of momentum as it is constantly stepping on itself. Communication and transparency are key when creating change. Involve those who will be affected. Ask for and listen to ideas, regardless of where they come from. Listen beyond titles, rank, role, age; because amazing ideas can come from the most unforeseen places.

Change is never easy, large change can be painful. “Pain is mandatory, misery is optional”. At all levels, education takes a Herculean effort to be excellent. Education is COMPLEX, INTENSE and requires SACRIFICE. Being an educator means long, hard days. But by keeping our eyes on the prize – a healthy, creative and connected next generation- it is worth the cost. When we believe that and work together, the misery dissipates.

What is the antidote? We can start by ripping away the band-aid to allow holes to scab over. We need people and organizations who have a (disruptive) beta mindset. Those who have a willingness to engage in ongoing learning (should not be an event), as well as a willingness to disrupt mindsets that inhibit change. Those who see and share new possibilities that lead to new learnings and new behaviors. We have to be willing to ask hard questions, have tough conversations and be transparent and honest in doing so. We have to also be in tune and truly listen to what students want and need from their education – it is their future we are creating.

DavidDavid Culberhouse: Educator, Ideapreneurial, Exponential Mindset, Social Architect, CUE Rockstar Admin Faculty, TEDx, Facilitator for NISL, Proactively Designing the Future… @DCulberhouse


JonJon Corippo: CUE Interim Exec Dir. Creator: CUE Rock Star. CUE BOLD. Co-Founder Minarets HS, EdCamp Yosemite.  @jcorippo


CoriCori Orlando: TOSA at Co-mod & #VCHSChat   faculty, CUE BOLD Faculty @CoriOrlando1