Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transforming Learning Spaces (1 of 2)

Last week I attended #nErDcampMI and the electric atmosphere was contagious!  I was working one of the check-in areas on the first day and at approximately 11:30am I looked up to witness dozens of educators collaborating, connecting and sharing stories.  I was proud to be an educator and I was also proud to be a part of #nErDcampMI.  This year #nErDcampMI moved to the Western School District where I am an administrator.  The event took place in our newly re-designed high school.  I was impressed with the use of space and the opportunities for people to gather in groups.  Some of the best parts of #nErDcampMI were the scenes of educators gathering together.

During #nErDcampMI inevitably I reflected on what I was hearing and learning.  Several topics came up frequently.  These were my big takeaways from #nErDcampMI:
1)  The importance of building relationships with your students and tapping into their interests as learners and readers.
2)  Incorporating some level of choice in student reading, writing and learning.  As educators we can still narrow the scope, but choice creates intrinsic learning.
3)  Educators should be modeling and sharing more.  Let students see what you are reading and talk to your students about the book.  
4)  Embrace technology in the learning environment...unfortunately this still exists in our classrooms...

All of that was wonderful, the discussions were engaging, productive and thoughtful.  But there was one more topic that really caught my interest...

5)  Classroom Learning Spaces!  Teachers were openly discussing getting rid of student desks, teacher desks and transforming learning spaces to best meet the needs of students.

What I enjoyed most about these conversations was the simple fact, it wasn't about the cutesy was centered on pedagogy and student learning.  I consistently heard educators talking about open spaces and having the ability to meet the changing needs of their students.  The conversations were fantastic!  As an administrator I enter several classrooms each day and I see the benefits of well organized, student friendly learning spaces.

What happened after #nErDcampMI was ironic.  Within days I was contacted by +Erin Klein and +A.J. Juliani about doing a post on Classroom Learning Spaces.  Then I read a post by my friend +Nicholas Provenzano his post is titled: NerdySpaces 

This really got my wheels spinning.  This is the ideal time of the year for educators to redesign classroom learning spaces.  As I wrap up this post I will leave you with a couple of things to think about - 

First, classrooms must be hinged around student learning.  Is the space student-friendly and flexible in meeting the diverse needs of our students?

Second, classrooms should be interactive, creative and adaptive.  Does the space allow for communication and collaboration?

Finally, is your learning space teacher-centric or student-centric?  Have you ever asked the students how they feel in the space?

Next week I will be focused squarely on Learning Spaces and I will share an exciting challenge that begins in August.  Stay tuned for part two...

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Re-Designing the Classroom Experience (8 min)

Finish Line... (8 min)

RE2PECT! (2 min)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Worth Hiring?

Almost eight years ago I was asked to be on a committee to select two teachers to join our staff. I was happy to be a part of the selection committee...but I quickly found out that it was a very difficult process.  I remember looking through nearly one-hundred resumes, I remember sorting them into piles and having lengthy discussions about candidates.  The process was tedious and a bit frustrating.  The frustration came from the fact that nearly all candidates looked strong on paper.  Eventually we narrowed to eight candidates.  

At this point you would think things would gain traction and the real excitement would start. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.

As we sat in our air conditioned computer lab and interviewed candidate after candidate I was simply amazed. Each one of us on the committee took a different approach, in hindsight this was a good thing.  We all had unique perspectives and thoughts.  Yet after the interviews concluded things became awkward.

I'll never forgot sitting in that room and listening to the comments of my colleagues.  Not one comment focused on who would be best for kids.  The comments were -

"They would be a great fit with our staff."

"I could really team well with that person."

"Their positive attitude would lift up our morale."

"I would love to work with that person."

As I listened and took in these comments I began to wonder, do educators hire the best candidate or a possible friend?

You may be reading this and thinking, Hire a Possible Friend?  Yes, I've witnessed it first hand...going back eight years ago the teachers I was on the committee with had a selfish viewpoint.  They focused on who they wanted to work with, not who the best candidate was.  

What I've learned through participating in nearly two dozen interview committees is this: The person that is best for kids will likely be a great fit with staff.  The focus must be squarely on, who is best for kids.

I feel compelled to offer a few ways I look for the best candidate...

I've been told the first three minutes are crucial.  Some even say you know if you want the person within the first three minutes of the interview.  My personal viewpoint is, you can't be hired in the first three minutes, but you can shoot yourself in the foot in the first three minutes.  It's important to come in positive, upbeat, happy and ready to share.

Does experience matter?  I would say no.  My personal viewpoint is, I want the candidate that has a growth mindset and shares a passion to work with ALL kids.

Finally, when interviewing a candidate the answers do matter, but the connections and personality matter more.  Here is why, if the candidate has a growth mindset, I'm confident they will learn new methods, strategies and procedures.  I don't expect candidates to know everything, in fact, I appreciate the honesty when candidates admit they don't know something.

If you have had the opportunity to be on a hiring committee I hope you have kept the core values of teaching at the forefront.  Hiring a new teacher is a life changing decision.  It's life changing for the individual, but more importantly it's life changing for 25+ students.

This week's big question: Would you be comfortable hiring a candidate that pushes you as an educator?

Articles Worth Reading:

When Teachers Bully Teachers +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

A Balanced Approach To Social Media for Teachers +TeachThought @TeachThought

The Thin Line Between Passion and Anger... +Jeff Zoul @Jeff_Zoul

Common Core or Guided Reading? @ReadingShanahan

Reflections of a 1st Year Administrator +Colin Wikan @ColinWikan

Excuses Hold Us Back +Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal

16 Things You Shouldn't Have to Justify to Anyone Else +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

5 Things that make Summer Awesome! (3 min)

Jim Gaffigan makes me laugh out loud! (3 min)

Easily one of my favorite speeches of all time... (17 min)

What makes a hero? (4 min)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Letting Go

Has anyone ever said to you, "Kids grow up way too fast"?  I have heard these words for years...I've heard them as an educator and as a dad.

My philosophy with my kids has always been, Be the engine to get them started...and then get out of the way.  When my kids were younger the activities would include kicking a soccer ball, sliding down slides, attempting the monkey bars and playing the game "lava" around the edge of a park.  I have wonderful memories of our visits to the park.  As time has passed the activities have changed.  Now we ice skate, golf, build things, swim, read and explore.  Whether it is past or present I have tried to make activities fun and entertaining.  

As a classroom teacher I took a similar approach.  I wanted to make learning an enjoyable experience.  I remember a time when I was able to step back and watch with sheer pride.  Our class was working on a project, and each student had the choice of how they could show what they learned.  Years ago this would have been my version of Project Based Learning. I had a few students that wanted to use music or song to show off their learning.  One young lady that struggled to show what she knew in a typical setting really blossomed with anything that involved music.  Her name was Macy.  Macy approached me and asked if she could memorize and sing the Star Spangled Banner.  During the final quarter of the school year we had discussed the song and I thought that this would be fitting for Macy.  I told her to learn the basics, who wrote it, when it was completed, and then I had one more caveat for Macy...I told her I would be videotaping. Macy smiled and got nervous, she knew she would be in front of her peers, but also being taped...I thought that might be a deal breaker.  I was pleasantly surprised when Macy excitedly took the challenge!  The day finally arrived and Macy dressed up in red, white and blue. Then the moment of truth...Macy absolutely hit a home run!  All year long she struggled to fit in and find her niche.  I was so proud to watch her excel and nail the Star Spangled Banner!  As I reflected I was happy that I gave Macy the freedom to be herself...but I was most proud she stepped up to the challenge and did it!

I remembered that moment this week after I took my youngest son to his first ever junior golf event.  Troy is nine years old and for the last four or five years he has joined me on the links during the summers.  Last year I could see that Troy had a little drive to improve, so this year I decided to get him started in the Spring and then ask him if he wanted to join the Junior League. He excitedly accepted.  The Saturday before his first event I took him to the course and we walked nine holes.  I got to listen to his grumbling about being tired and carrying his bag, but I was also able to encourage and give him some tips.  I felt fairly confident that he was going to be just fine. Finally, on the morning of his big day I drove him to Sharp Park.  My plan was to watch him on the first tee, encourage him and then leave.  At this point some might wonder, why would I leave? The fact is, I could have walked all nine holes, I could have watched, caddied or even been the score keeper.  I told my wife that I thought it was important to let Troy grow up. Letting Go is a tough thing for adults.  My approach is to try my hardest to put my kids in a spot to succeed and then, let them take it from there.  That's what I did.  I let go and allowed Troy to figure it out.  I could go on and tell you all about that first tee shot, but I won't...I'll let you see it for yourself. (Yes, Troy is the one that looks like he should be on the basketball court...not the links.)

As I drove away from the course I had mixed feelings.  I was proud that he was growing up...he wasn't the little baby anymore.  As a dad I wanted to stay and watch, I wanted to see all the good and bad and just take it in.  Finally, my feeling was one of peace.  I was letting him grow up and figure things out.  (I'll admit, I was pretty proud that he ripped one up the right side about 150 yards!)

The two stories are very different...but they do have parallels.  Both Macy and Troy had the ability to show their stuff.  They needed opportunity, trust and for adults to get out of the way. These two moments will always be with me; they teach me two important things: 

1)  Every kid can succeed...we as adults need to figure out how to bring it out and let them show their stuff!

2)  It's okay to let go.  Our kids are growing up fast and our responsibility as adults is to help put them in a spot to succeed and then get out of the way.

Letting Go is very difficult. I encourage adults to be the engine that gets them started, and then get out of the way.

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Hilarious!  (4 min)

Validation...great short film, you won't regret taking the time to watch. (15 min)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Fun Filled Learning?

For many educators school is out, or about to end for the year.  The educators I know have completely dedicated themselves throughout the school year and a bit of a break is well deserved. I do believe it is unfortunate that educators receive a bad rap for having summers off.  The fact of the matter is, many educators use the summer to re-connect with family and to organize themselves for next year.

I, like many parents, try to get my kids into summer camps.  These summer camps allow for learning, fun and new experiences.  Personally I think summer camps are great for kids.  It teaches our kids how to adapt and that learning can happen at any moment.  

As we grow older we as adults sometimes lose this perspective.  Can we relax and still learn?  I believe the answer is yes...

I do want to encourage all educators to never stop learning.  It's vital to keep balance and to spend quality time with family and friends, but you can also keep learning.  

Learning looks different to everyone.  Here are some ideas for summer learning:

1)  Start a personal or professional blog.  Reflecting = learning and this would be a great way to step out of your comfort zone, while also being in a safe summer environment.

2)  Meet with other educators/colleagues.  During the school year we always feel strapped for time.  Summer allows for conversations about practice and it allows for collaboration on new ideas.

3)  Read a book.  Possibly the easiest way to keep learning is also the most basic.  I would encourage you to read for professional growth as well as for pleasure.  If you have trouble sitting down and reading, why not look into downloading the audiobook.  Whether you read it or listen to it, I'm confident you will have your thinking pushed.

4)  Challenge yourself to trying something new in your classroom/school.  The possibilities are endless...create a weebly page, use twitter in your classroom, flip a lesson, have students blog, redesign your classroom space, try Genius Hour, Mystery Skype, create student eportfolios, or even utilize tools such as Edmodo or Evernote.  Making small tweaks to what you do can re-energize your craft.  Don't be afraid to try something new.

5)  Reflect.  In the safety of your own space honestly reflect on what you believe is a strength, and what is an area to work on.  Set some goals for the upcoming year and never stop learning.

These are just a few simple ways to use your summer as an opportunity.  I don't expect people to fill up all 10 weeks of their summer, the key is balance.  I hope you find your balance.


Monday, June 9th:  KDG trip to Potter Park Zoo
Monday, June 9th: Fire Drill in the AM
Monday, June 9th:  Volunteer Luncheon located in the library
Monday, June 9th:  4th grade to Discovery Center
Tuesday, June 10th:  5th grade Graduation 10am
Wednesday, June 11th:  Last Day of School (1/2 day for students with dismissal at 12:05)

*  Is it safe to say we are going to line the hallways for our 5th grade send-off?  Please let me know so we can be organized.

*  Before you leave for the summer please be sure to complete the checklist and paper work.

Panthers Podcast:

Panthers Podcast 5 - Paul Wiley

Panthers Podcast 5 - Paul Wiley (iTunes version)

Articles Worth Reading:

A new chapter begins... +Todd Nesloney @TechNinjaTodd

11 Bad Teaching Habits That Are Stifling Your Growth +TeachThought @TeachThought

The Beginner's Guide to #20%Time +A.J. Juliani @ajjuliani

5 Steps To Better Lesson Planning +Lisa Dabbs @teachingwthsoul

4 Things You Must Give Up To Move Forward +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Helping students with Autism find jobs in tech... (3 min)

@TheEllenShow sums up awkward encounters... (3 min)

Brian Regan...Spelling Bee humor (3 min)

Warner 5th Grade chant! (30 seconds)

Friday, May 30, 2014

I bet you aren't alone

What a week!  I can't begin to explain the roller coaster that was my week.  What I can tell you is, I bet I wasn't the only one that had a stressful week.  I imagine many of you had a week that made you scratch your head or leave feeling exhausted.

It is very easy to get stressed or overwhelmed this time of year.  I don't believe I've encountered one educator that isn't feeling the end of the year crunch.  This time of the year I try to do a few things to help myself remain sane.  I'll admit I'm not always successful at doing them...but I try.

First, I try to slow down and live in the moment.  For those of you that know me you know I'm analytic and reflective.  I often reflect on situations and conversations that occur during the day. This is my chance to keep it in the moment.

Second, I try not to work in absolutes.  By nature I'm not an extreme person, but this time of the year I hear things like, "I'm done!" or "If I never..." or "This year has been..."

These statements lead to extreme feelings.  This week I had a few parents contact me with both fantastic comments and not-so fantastic comments.  I love to celebrate the greatness, but I also realize I have to listen to the constructive.  The negative conversations typically lead to a discussion, and during these discussions I try to focus on a few shining moments.  By shifting the focus I have changed the tone.  As we look back on the year, many of us would have a mixture of highs and lows.  Let me whisper something to you...that's life...rarely is everything perfect, or on the flip side, terrible.

Third, I try to praise those around me.  This one is my favorite.  The more I praise the individuals around me the better I feel inside.  In fact, when I feel down and out the quickest way for me to get back on my feet is to do something for someone else.  If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed I encourage you to take the time to write a colleague or friend.  Let them know they matter to you.

Four, find a release.  This is another one that I struggle with, but it is crucial to my own mental health.  All people need an outlet, a getaway, a release.  For me, I run, I exercise, I golf, I spend time with my family, I read, I try to laugh and I focus on my faith.

Finally, (and this is my toughest) I ask for help.  This time of the year I fully realize I cannot be everywhere.  I often times don't have all the answers.  Thank goodness I don't have to.  I'm surrounded by fantastic people that will support and assist at a moments notice.  This time of the year it is imperative to not try and do it all.  (Special thanks to my #eduvoxer friends for talking me off the ledge this week.)

Everyone is different when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety.  Here's a story to sum it up.  As many of you know I enjoy running and I occasionally dabble in local races.  Some time ago I was finishing up intervals (speed work) with my good friend Eric.  I was absolutely whipped.  (Oh you know the feeling...hands on knees and gasping for air.)  Eric slapped me on the back and said, "Nice job." I heaved out, "I feel awful."  He then responded, "Good!  Don't you know every one hurts in a race?"  I didn't respond, but I thought about this.  He was right. Anyone running for a strong time was clearly in a spot of bother.  I relate this to education in this way...right now everyone is stressed and feeling overwhelmed.  Adults are running low on patience, kids simply want to be out for the summer.  These are the days that we must slow things down, stay in the present and enjoy our final days.  I guarantee students will feed off of your attitudes, if you shut it down, they'll shut it down.  If you maintain high expectations they will continue to give good effort.  Attitude is everything!

Our time is dwindling with students, I hope you will choose to go out smiling and remembering the greatness that has occurred during the year.  I, for one, know the good times have far out weighed the stressful ones.

This week's big question:  How do you best deal with stress and anxiety?


Monday, June 2nd:  Kathy Sharp retirement breakfast
Monday, June 2nd:  Turn in names for Volunteer Lunch
Monday, June 2nd:  1pm 1:1 Tech Meeting at Admin
Tuesday, June 3rd:  3rd Grade to Mackinac
Wednesday, June 4th:  3rd Grade returns from Mackinac
Thursday, June 5th:  2nd Grade to Impression 5
Friday, June 6th:  Grades 3-5 morning assembly 8:45am

Panthers Podcast:

Episode 4 - Nicole Kelly

Panthers Podcast Blog

Articles Worth Reading:

Should Educators Talk About Summer? +Justin Tarte @justintarte

What drives You? +Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal

The value of everyone else +George Couros @gcouros

This is what learning looks like +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

9 Videos for Teachers to laugh, cry and feel inspired +Erin Klein @KleinErin

Much More Than A Field Trip +Daisy Dyer Duerr @daisydyerduerr

What do you LOVE about teaching? @PrincipalHowell

The goal should be: Not To Finish @ugafrank

30 Lessons to Excel in Life in your 30s and Beyond +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Nerdcamp is coming July 7 and 8 to Western high School...have you signed up? (4 min)

Brian Regan talks flying... (7 min)

A speech that will surely make you think... stay hungry, stay foolish (14 min)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Teaching versus Learning

Let's take a walk down memory lane...

During my fourth year teaching I remember sitting in a MEAP debriefing meeting with my fellow fifth grade teachers.  I sat at the table and we went through the entire item analysis.  It was a tedious process that was designed to have us adjust what we were doing in the classroom.  What I reflectively remember is the conversations.  I remember our principal sharing what areas we did not do well.  I remember saying, "I taught that!"  I remember listening to my colleagues and the conversation was very deflective.  We blamed parents for the lack of support and we even pointed the finger at the kids.  Our meeting was all about what teachers taught...not about what students learned!

Truthfully, we could not have been more wrong.  The number one factor in student learning is Tier 1, general education instruction!  Teachers are the number one influence to learning.  The next step is ownership.  Let's think about two mentalities...

First, the old school approach:  I must cover everything! The key word here is cover.  Teachers often feel pressured to cover all materials.  This approach simply does not work.  I refer to this as, Mile Wide and an Inch Deep.  At one time I attempted to cover everything.  I'll admit, I felt good when I was on page 231 and my fellow colleagues were on page 197.  I felt as though I was doing great.  Boy was I an idiot!  It isn't about teaching material, it is all about STUDENT LEARNING.

Second mentality, every student does not learn it the first time.  This mentality is thought of as, Check Your EGO at the Door!  It's critical to have a support system for students.  The number one support system is the teacher.  True story, during a particular tough school year I had one student named Travis.  Travis lived on a farm, he was athletic and he was an all-around nice kid.  Travis struggled with reading and writing.  When it came to helping Travis I tried a plethora of strategies.  I pulled in his mom to heighten her awareness.  I worked with Travis after school.  I supported Travis in a one-on-one setting.  I went to his baseball games and tried to let him know he was a priority.  Nothing was working.  Travis continued to struggle with reading and writing.  I finally opened myself up.  I went to two teachers I deeply respected and I asked them for help.  It was now not about me, it was about Travis.  I needed new ideas, fresh perspectives and support from my fellow teachers.  The good news, Travis made gains, he was below grade level, but he showed growth, he was making progress.  I miss Travis, but I know that we all have a Travis in our classrooms.  We all have students that we don't always reach.  Are you willing to seek assistance and admit you haven't reached every student?  Will you check your ego at the door?

How do we begin to improve?  Let's listen to Becky DuFour point out the four points of a PLC. I hope you'll choose to listen to the two-minute video.

This week's big idea is focusing on student learning.  We are all at the time of the year where we assess student learning.  Let me say that again...assess student learning.  We aren't assessing what was taught.  I had a nice conversation with a couple teachers this week, they both shared the fact that they felt their students were ending the year with gaps.  Let me share a secret...gaps will always be there.  No person is perfect.  Students will not be 100% on every standard.  So now how do we move forward?

First, I hope you watched Becky DeFour, if you didn't please check it out.  Becky DuFour talks about being clear on what we want students to know (Essential Standards).  I believe we must be focused on our teaching.  This will create focused learners.  When I was in the classroom I simplified my teaching.  I taught multiplication one way.  If I had a student not understand I pulled the student aside and tried a different approach.  What I learned is that teaching multiple strategies often confused students.  We need to simplify the process.

Second, are you a lone ranger or a team player?  We call ourselves a PLC, but yet we rarely discuss data and we rarely call ourselves out on the carpet and try to get better.  A true TEAM encourages and empowers teammates to improve.  What I appreciate about my #PLN is the simple fact that they are honest with me.  They push me to improve.  Do you push your colleagues to improve?  

Third, let's state the obvious:  EVERY STUDENT CAN SUCCEED!  Over the last few years I have listened and watched students not receive support.  We have justified it by saying, "They're a resource room student."  OR "I don't want this student to receive support because they are taking away from others."  Our mission is to educate kids.  
- 80% or more of your students must learn through Tier 1 General Ed. Instruction!  
- Our intervention groups must only be focused on ESSENTIAL STANDARDS, with no more than five students per class.  If it is more than five something was wrong with Tier 1 instruction.
- Review the data and be a reflective PLC team player.

This Week's Big Question:  Do you believe we are a Professional Learning Community?


Monday, May 26th:  No School, Memorial Day
Tuesday, May 27th:  Grades 2/3 Envision Math at Admin
Wednesday, May 28th:  Grades K-2 Assembly 8:45 (Jackson District Library)
Wednesday, May 28th:  Jackson District Library visits individual classrooms (gr. 3-5)
Wednesday, May 28th:  Anne and Jeff from the Middle School visit 5th grade in the PM
Thursday, May 29th:  Field Day grades 1-5 at SAU
Thursday, May 29th:  Grades K-1 Envision Math Training at Admin
Friday, May 30th:  CP Federal Credit Union Assembly 2:50pm

Panthers Podcast:

Panthers Podcast 3 - Nancy Pack

Panthers Podcast on iTunes

Articles Worth Reading:

Personalized Podcast with Voxer +Joe Mazza @Joe_Mazza

But that won't help test scores... +Justin Tarte @justintarte

5 Reasons To Embrace Change +Justin Tarte @justintarte

One Last Day... +Tom Murray @thomascmurray

What is Your Vision? +Tony Sinanis @TonySinanis

If you work in a school... +Brad Gustafson @GustafsonBrad

Why My Students are Connected +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

Changing Landscape of Professional Learning +Brad Wilson @dreambition

Agree to Disagree +Spike Cook @DrSpikeCook

I was just a girl in a dial up world +Krissy Venosdale @venspired

9 Things Happy Couples NEVER Think +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Sure to make you laugh!  (4 min)

Are we truly a PLC? (4 min)

Transforming School Culture... (2 min)

Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe... (12 min)

Hilarious! (3 min)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Something to work on...

Over the past several weeks I've read several articles that have focused on how to end the school year on a positive note.  These posts have made me think, reflect and share with others different ways to flourish rather than survive.  As I say that I also think about how we end the year on a positive with staff, and not just students.

For many, the final stretch of the year means observations and evaluations.  This is familiar territory for me as well.  This year I had noble intentions of finalizing evaluations earlier...but it hasn't happened as I hoped.

I also have my own evaluation coming up in the next few weeks and I've been reflecting on what has gone well and what I need to improve on.  I'm definitely my own toughest critic (I think).  Let me begin by saying that my own philosophy is that everyone has room to grow.  I know my mindset is to continually improve.  With that being said, I'm personally looking at a couple areas that I've got to get better at.

First, I need to learn to say no.  This week I had two really great conversations about this topic. The first was with my wife.  I appreciate the way she tells me the truth, but she always follows it up with a positive. Our conversation centered around me always trying to be there for everyone. She was spot on...and I needed to hear it.  The second conversation was with my friend Brad Wilson ( @dreambition ).  Brad and I chatted on a Google Hangout this week and we were discussing conferences and events.  I then shared my struggle with saying no.  I told Brad that it is not uncommon for me to have several people ask me to help in one way or another.  Rarely is it the same individual asking all the time.  My biggest challenge in this respect is that I don't want to let someone down or let an opportunity slip away.  My fear is that by saying no I will shut a door or let someone down.  I realize this probably isn't the case, but it is still a fear of mine.

Second, I need to improve on analyzing data.  It is critical to balance relationships, content, differentiation, joy and data analysis.  These five areas need to be present in the learning process. I feel pretty good at relationships and joy.  I'm improving on content and differentiation.  Yet the area that I need to spend more time in is data analysis.  This will allow our building to pinpoint our areas of need and our areas of strength.

Third, I'm always looking to improve on overall consistency.  I feel we need a more consistent building-wide behavior plan.  I also believe I can always improve on parent and community relations, and the final area of consistency is with professional development choice.  I need to become more consistent in these three areas.

I say all this because I feel everyone has room for growth.  When I have a conversation with a student, friend, parent or staff member and I simply ask, "What areas are you hoping to improve?" The answer usually tells me all I need to know.  Does the individual have a growth mindset?

The school year is winding down, and I enjoy sitting at lunch with students or stopping in the hallway and just asking them what they think went really well this year and what they hope to improve on next year.  Kids are usually pretty honest, and just last week I had a 5th grade girl share a story with me - 

The young lady got hit by a ball at recess and she was not feeling the best.  I asked her if she wanted to eat lunch in my office.  She quickly responded with a, "Sure.  Thanks Mr. Gilpin."  As we sat there and she ate her chicken nuggets and I enjoyed my pretzels I asked her about her year. The conversation was positive.  She told me how she wished she had science and reading all day long!  She shared her favorite stories and experiments.  I loved how she talked about getting her hands dirty and learning by trial and error. She had that glimmer in her eye as she shared her experiences.  Then I shifted the conversation to what she is nervous about in middle school.  It came down to two things:  First, she was most worried about the amount of homework.  She admitted that she needs to be better organized and to not put things off.  The second area to improve on was very cute...she mentioned her fear of the locks on lockers.  I chuckled, walked over to my desk and pulled out a lock.  We sat in the office for ten minutes practicing.  It's these moments that I won't ever forget! As I sent her back to class she began to walk out and then she turned around and said, "Mr. Gilpin, thanks."

As I think about the year coming to an end, I think about the willingness to honestly reflect.  It all comes down to each individuals mindset.  When you sit down for your evaluation, will you go in open-minded and looking to get better?

This week's big questions:  What has been a real strength this year?  What do you feel you can improve on?


Monday, May 19th:  1:1 Tech Meeting at 1pm
Monday, May 19th:  PM Firedrill
Monday, May 19th:  Lego Club 4pm
Tuesday, May 20th:  Kids Hope Teacher Luncheon
Tuesday, May 20th:  Lego Club 4pm
Wednesday, May 21st:  Grades 3-5 Assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, May 21st:  MAISA PD Discussion 4:30pm
Thursday, May 22nd:  RTI Conference at JCISD
Thursday, May 22nd:  Envision Math Training grades 4 and 5 (8:30-3pm)
Thursday, May 22nd:  Last Day of Lego Club 4pm
Friday, May 23rd:  RTI Conference at JCISD
Friday, May 23rd: 8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Archer's room
Friday, May 23rd:  Mrs. Holton's 3rd grade to visit Pen Pals
Saturday, May 24th:  Happy BDay Pat Rouse

Check out the Panthers Podcast:

Panthers Podcast 1 - Ryan Tripp

Panthers Podcast 2 - Steve Kim

Articles Worth Reading:

One Last Day +Tom Murray @thomascmurray

Confessions of a Grade Inflator shared by +Nick Gilpin

Not How...But Will You Be Remembered? +Amber Teamann @8Amber8

Refuse to be a Boring Teacher +TeachThought @TeachThought

The Grading System We Need To Have shared by @Suz_Gibbs

Positively Push For Good Behavior +Charity Preston @theOCBlog

What's Your Class Story +A.J. Juliani @ajjuliani

9 Defining Ways Educators Can Tug Education Back in the Right Direction +Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher

5 Ways To Influence Change +George Couros @gcouros

You Matter Day 2014 +Todd Nesloney @TechNinjaTodd

20 Great Free Apps for Elementary +Matt Gomez @mattBgomez

12 Rituals Happy, Successful People Practice Every day +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Awesome Skype Session in @Suz_Gibbs classroom  (1 min)

Nerdcamp JR! (2 min) @dreambition

Note to self: Never invite Ellie to Warner! (4 min)

Bad Prom Photos! (4 min)

Tom Thum Beatbox amazement! (10 min) WOW!