Friday, January 25, 2013

Ready or Not, Here We Come!

The "We" in the title statement represents the Common Core State Standards or CCSS for short.  For well over a year I have known the Common Core is coming, but my sense of urgency wasn't "tingling".  I, like others, internally would say to myself, "The Common Core doesn't officially begin until 2014-2015."  Or I would internally say, "As this movement gets closer the materials will be every where."  The fact is I didn't blow off getting prepared, but I also didn't prioritize this at the top of the list.  That is simply fact.  Now I look at timelines and I realize we can't (I can't) continue to put this off.  Here is the timeline that really gets me thinking:

2012-2013 Implement at least one Common Core Unit to be tested

2013-2014 Implement at least five Common Core Units

2013-2014 LAST YEAR of MEAP testing

This is my take, since we are finished with the MEAP next October, we are able to transition from GLCE's to the CCSS.  If you know me then you know I'm not a standardized testing enthusiast.  With that being said, I also believe in moving forward and getting our students ready for the next level and beyond.  

Shifting How We Teach

So what exactly must we do to shift to the CCSS?  Great question.  Check out these FACTS:

1)  The Standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for success in college and their careers.

2)  The Standards recognize that both content and skills are important.

3)  The Common Core State Standards create a staircase of increasing text complexity, so that students are expected to both develop their skills and apply them to more and more complex texts.

4)  The mathematical progressions presented in the common core are coherent and based on evidence.

5)  The common core state standards drafting process relied on teachers and standards experts from across the country.

6)  The best understanding of what works in the classroom comes from the teachers who are in them. That’s why these standards will establish what students need to learn, but they will not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, schools and teachers will decide how best to help students reach the standards.

7)  The Standards are not a curriculum. They are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed.

All of this sounds fine to me.  I'm very goal oriented and this is what I take from all of it.  The way things have always been done must now shift.  We must focus on skills of the future.  The days of memorization and recall are gone.  Technology has minimized the need for memorization.  The priority moving forward is problem solving.  We must create problem solving students, not repetition and recall.

How Do We Get Ready?

Everyone is different.  This is how I felt prepared, I for one read and re-read the GLCE's over and over while teaching 5th grade.  It also helped that I taught the content expectations for years.  This repetition made me feel very comfortable with the content.  The same is needed in shifting to the Common Core.  I have already started to read and re-read standards and claims.  Below are ideas to help you begin to prepare for the Common Core:

*  Download the Common Core App and complete your very own "crosswalk" between what you currently teach and what the CCSS expect.
*  Attend a CCSS workshop or training
*  Read blogs and articles on the CCSS to ready yourself.
*  Begin implementing more Units 
*  Talk to other educators and collaborate with them on how they are preparing
*  Ask questions, seek answers

Finally, it is very fair to admit we are all busy.  For quite some time I have put off diving in.  The teacher in me realizes you are in the trenches and you are doing everything you can to prepare students.  I believe all teachers are trying their best.  Some would say, "Yes, I should start preparing, but I'm just doing the best I can with this years group and the current expectations."  I completely understand this, my suggestion is to begin the shift now, the longer you wait the more it will feel like "cramming".  I think most of us know how that story ends.  If I can help, please let me.

How will you begin to prepare for the CCSS?

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, January 28th:  Beginning of Second Semester
Tuesday, January 29th:  TEAM meeting
Wednesday, January 30th:  K-2 Assembly at 8:45am
Friday, February 1st:  Last Day of Spanish Rotation
Friday, February 1st:  4th graders singing National Anthem at home basketball game 6pm

iPad iNformation:

Common Core Elementary Apps created by teachers  shared by @KleinErin

6 Ways Students can Collaborate using the iPad  shared by @isteconnects

20 Apps to teach through play  shared by @mccoyderek

Articles Worth Your Time:

Q and A on preparing for the Common Core  shared by @Larryferlazzo

5 Technology Tools for the Common Core

12 Most Powerful Words Parents Should Use  shared by @teachingwithsoul

Health Benefits of Cold Weather?  shared by @MsRRReid

@ShutUpRun discusses Vertical Miles...AKA Hill Workout

Top 10 Skills needed in the year 2020

Videos Worth Your Time:

How much should homework count? (7 min) shared by @drjolly

Critical Thinking Part 1 (2 min)

Pics of Ellen! (4 min)

Friday, January 18, 2013

How's Your Glass?

Is your glass half full or half empty?  

I stepped back this week and I analyzed (I know what you're saying, Ben you analyze everything, well you're right) my world, our world.  I came up with some things that made me think about where I stood.  Let's first focus on the World.  These are some of the headlines of late, which did you choose to focus on?

Half Empty                                                  Half Full
*  Fiscal Cliff talk                                                 *  Stuttering Singer WOW's American Idol!
*  Lance Armstrong Admits to Cheating               *  Chris Christie slams NRA, guns not the answer
*  Manti Te'o scandal                                           *  Loyal dog saves man after he falls through ice
*  Devastating Floods in Jakarta                           *  Detroit Auto Show buzzing with "green" tech

I looked at major stories out on the web.  If you chose to read it all you'd probably believe the World is crumbling.  The news tends to be disturbing and depressing, I for one lose a bit of faith in humanity the more I watch.  I try very hard to focus on the positive, I look at websites like:, I also enjoy reading and MSNBC's website: Wonderful World.  These websites remind me that life is good!

I also try to look at my own "small" world.  I think of my family.

Half Empty                                                  Half Full
*  My son Troy was very upset at basketball last week  *  My two boys were all smiles at hockey!
*  My wife has been swamped at work              *  Drew and I have had many good talks about God!
*  I'm taking a new class at Eastern Michigan  U.  *  I'm taking a new class at Eastern Michigan U.

I can choose to focus on the doom and gloom at home or I can choose to look at the good side.  I will tell you that I find being positive is contagious.  When I come home upbeat and happy the household seems to lift up.  On the flip side, negative talk seems to breed more negative talk.

Finally I looked at school - 

Half Empty                                                  Half Full
*  No computer lab                                              *  All teachers now have iPads!
*  We are a Focus School                                    *  We've got great kids and we are seeing growth
*  Feeling overwhelmed by Common Core changes    *  Shifting to Project Based Learning!
*  Wishing the bond would have addressed ________    *  Feeling great that we passed a bond!  
                                                                                           Supportive Community!    

So ultimately it all comes down to perspective.  I believe attitudes are contagious.  I try very hard to spend time with upbeat, positive people.  My running friend Eric and I often talk running, he tells me I must stay positive, focused, and I have to believe.  He pushes me, he encourages me, but he also has a positive outlook that brightens me up.  The same can be said for the classroom.  When I was teaching I knew places to avoid (grumbling and stirring the pot) and who to gravitate towards (uplifting, comforting, collaborative, and friendly).  My belief is that attitudes are contagious, I try to stay positive and upbeat, sometimes life gets me down, I appreciate when people help pick me back up.  We are all in this together, and life is to short to always view the glass as half empty.   

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, January 21st:  PD Day
8-11am HS Tech lab (bring headphones)
11-12 Lunch at Warner (Potluck style, bring soups, salads, desserts or drinks)
12-1pm Common Core altogether in Warner Cafeteria
1-3pm Splitting into grade levels to focus on (Common Core, Smarter Balanced, iPads, and Common Assessments)

Tuesday, January 22nd:  Hearing Test grades K, 2, 4
Wednesday, January 23rd:  Grades 3-5 assembly in gym 8:45
Wednesday, January 23rd:  Grade 2 Ice Arena Trip
Thursday, January 24th:  Vision Testing Grades 1, 3, 5
Friday, January 25th:  Half-Day, dismissal at 12:05

iPad iNfo:

35 Top Teaching Apps  shared by @studiobree

17 iPad tips and tricks  shared by @principalspage

Great Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Love this! (2 min)

Ellen's Favorite Web Videos (3 min)

Orcas escape (2 min)

If we can't agree I say we try this... (1 min)


Saturday, January 12, 2013


It happens to everyone, we get a whole slew of "things" on our to-do list.  At that point we must prioritize what comes first, second, and so on.  As principal my prioritization can influence a lot of people.  For example, if I'm sent an email and someone needs an answer ASAP, but yet I'm preparing for a meeting the email may not be read and responded to as quickly as some might like.  This is a minor example.  A bigger issue may be Professional Development/Staff Meetings.  When I think of the big issues that can be enhanced and improved I come up with this list (in no particular order):

1.  Common Core - One thing that made me an expert in 5th grade while I taught was the simple fact that I knew the GLCE's inside and out for 5th grade.  I knew exactly where I needed students to be to help them succeed.  As we transition to the common core I have an overall sense of the common core, but I'm weak in the "nitty-gritty" details.  I don't think I'm alone, so with that said I have common-core training on the to-do list.  

2.  RTI process - our building has been working on RTI for nearly three years.  We are not doing a bad job in any way.  I do believe we can "sharpen our saw" and improve.  I see great things in the building and I want to share the great things.  I also want to add some training to unify our entire building.  With that said, RTI improvement is on my to-do list.

3.  Odyssey/Compass Learning training - our district purchased Compass Learning to assist with Common Assessments, Individualized Learning Paths, Common Core resources, and additional teacher resources.  The last thing any of us want is to purchase something and not be trained how to properly utilize the materials.  PD is definitely on the list.

4.  iPad training - Next week all teachers are going to receive iPads.  This is to help teachers gain knowledge and get comfortable before 2013-2014. At this time I predict we will be close to double digit devices in each room.  If teachers don't feel comfortable and aren't trained on how to utilize iPads this will not be a useful tool.  iPad training is on the list!

5.  Observations/Walk-Throughs/Evaluations - I bring this up because it's a big issue.  Beginning very soon I will be scheduling several observations.  I'll be very blunt, I'm nervous.  Most people think it should be the other way around, but I'm nervous.  Walkthroughs are nice, I can stay for 5 minutes or 25 minutes, give authentic feedback to share what I think are strengths and areas to improve.  Then we get to observations and everything is similar except that a number is also attached.  The number changes everything.  I wish it didn't but it does.  Some may tell me that this is part of the job, deal with it.  Others may say nothing.  I say this, what is the goal? The goal is what is best for kids, right?  Well if it is, what is best for kids I need to be honest, but I also have to help people be at their best.  I have to find the correct way to be honest, and to get the best out of everyone.  This is why I get nervous.  It is on the list.

6.  Safety and Security - since mid-December all of our levels have been heightened.  I know that we must focus on areas that we can all tighten up and improve.  This is on the to-do list.

7.  Day to Day - dealing with building budget, parent meetings, discipline, and any thing else.  Obviously this is the miscellaneous portion that we can't plan for but we must deal with.  This is always on the list.

8.  State Reporting/SIP/Achievement Test Data - This is always tricky.  Part of me says take this off teacher plates, the other part tells me we should work together.  I lean towards the latter, but I don't want to overload.  Another on the list.

So the above is the to-do list.  My actual list is much longer and involves family, grad classes, and personal goals.  But what you see above is what I must prioritize.  This is where it gets tricky, every person is different.  One person may say it's a no-brainer this should be the top priority, another person might say something different.

The big picture in prioritizing is when you prioritize for yourself, you answer to yourself.  When you prioritize for your family, you answer to your family.  When I prioritize for the school, it effects everyone (I do greatly appreciate the feedback I receive when I ask staff members their opinions).  I know this, I can deal with that.  I believe it is important for everyone to understand, principals prioritize, and I'm sure we won't always agree.  Something has to come first, we can't always have it exactly how we want it.

Finally, we are in it for the kids.  We teach kids to prioritize, we don't want our kids to procrastinate or only choose the fun stuff.  I tell my own kids all the time, work before play.  I try very hard to model good morals, communication, a strong work ethic, and prioritizing what I believe is most important.  I bet you do the same.

As we move forward, think about your own life, when things aren't prioritized the way you want them to be how do you go about it?  How do you confront the issue?  Keep quiet? Go with the flow? Get angry? Vent?  What do we hope to teach our kids?

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, January 14th:  4th and 5th grade Spelling Bee at the CAC begins at 6pm
Monday, January 14th:  8:30-11:30 SAU Mission Group visit
Tuesday, January 15th:  Mrs. Nash field trip
Tuesday, January 15th: NO String Team practice
Tuesday, January 15th:  PTO meeting 7pm
Wednesday, January 16th:  Panther Pride Lunch
Wednesday, January 16th:  K-2 assembly 8:45
Thursday, January 17th: Board Meeting 6:30

Great Things Noticed or Heard:

*  Highlight to my week, really enjoyed teaching division to 5th graders during Intervention time.  Very appreciative of the heads-up of one day so I could prep a bit.  Thanks 5th Grade!
*  Walked into Mrs. Kline's class and the t-shirts looked amazing!
*  While in Mrs. Kline's class Shilah asked me to read to her, by the end of the story my group had grown to nearly double digits!
*  Mrs. Moffitt's students shared with me their new jobs and their excitement in Timmy's return!
*  Loved Mrs. Smith's wonderful reaction on Monday, I walked in and she joyously stated how excited she was that all her students were there today!
*  Got a lot accomplished with Mrs. Archer this week.  Plus Seth couldn't find his afro...good news everywhere!
*  Got a kick out of the hats on hat day.  Reminded me of elementary school, sometimes it is important to find your niche.  Lots of kids participated!
*  Breaking News! 4th grade is going to be singing the National Anthem at 6pm on Feb. 1st.  This is a home Western Basketball Night.  Very excited to come and watch!
*  Walked into Mrs. Gibbs class after break and heard all about the wonderful reading students did over break.  One student in particular raved about reading the Hobbit and then getting to watch the movie with his dad!  #loveoflearning
*  Enjoyed seeing the New Years Resolution papers in Miss Hinkley's room.  Very motivated students and great sharing by Miss Hinkley.
*  Hearing wonderful things about Mrs. Hurt's BrainBreaks!  Kids are more focused, energized, and loving school.  Way to go Joleen!
*  Liked seeing Mrs. Soper's shaving cream Polar Bears.  Smelled good in her room as well.
*  Kudos to Mrs. Powers, Mrs. Williams, Mr. Raymond and Mrs. Rouse for dealing with lots of sick kids and other icky things this week.
*  Well done Mr. Raymond! Brought in his deer head from the fall.  Shared info with young Taylor and he was captivated by the details.  #NiceRackontheDeer #justsayin'
* National Mentor Month, try thinking of something to do for the mentors that come to your classroom. #givingback

Articles Worth Your Time:

Pros and Cons of Computer Labs shared by @POUSDsupt and @principalspage

Denton Elementary Drops Number Grades shared by @drjolly

Prezi Michigan by Kelly Moore shared by @dreambition

21 things 4 students shared by @mi_remc

50 things EVERYONE should know how to do by @marcandangel  (I'm great at #14, got work to do on #5 and #26

Shut Up and Run blog by @ShutUpandRun

Videos Worth Watching:

Ellen cracks me up! (3min)

Very uplifting, love his sense of humor.  Powerful speaker and worth your time. (12 min)

Notre Dame got beat up last Monday, but Bama will never have Rudy. (2 min)

A view from the boardwalk in San Diego, I ran this each day.  Amazing that on Saturday the temperature is 58 degrees in Spring Arbor and only 52 in San Diego.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Grass is Greener on...

The first blog of 2013.  I'm really not the New Years Resolution type.  My mentality is simply, "Why wait for the New Year?"  Yet as I say that I do believe this is the time of the year to reflect on what was and look ahead to 2013.

On a personal note I'm always trying to make the new year better than the last.  I reflect on 2012 and I feel pretty good.  I took classes in Educational Economics, Organizations of Education, Administrative Leadership, and Technology in Education.  I entered into the world of Twitter.  I have found this extremely educational, the resources are abundant and the ideas are vast.

I would also say 2012 taught me some lessons.  Lesson 1: Don't believe everything you hear. Lesson 2:  Always be yourself.  Lesson 3: Have a "Growth Mindset".

Have you ever had the "Grass is Greener on the Other Side" mentality?  I have had this before.  I have hardly ever acted on it, but I have thought it.  For example, I have often thought there are far better places to live than Michigan.  I have dreamed of warmer climates, more efficient State Government, and better roads (those that live in Michigan understand this).  Recently I went to San Diego for a week.  I had visions of grander!  60+ degree weather, running on the beach, six lanes of traffic, fast cars, surfing, lush green golf courses, and a laid back mentality that makes me think Jimmy Buffet or Ron Jon surfing.  My visions were naive!  Each morning when I ran the temperature was between 36-42 degrees, six lanes of traffic were spacious but stressful, the water temperature was so cold that barely anyone surfed, and the laid back Jimmy Buffet/Ron Jon style is ridiculously expensive!  San Diego was wonderful to visit for 3-4 days, but to live there would be too much.  By last Wednesday I was wishing to be home and wanting to get back to work.  

As 2013 begins I start having new "Grass is Greener on the Other Side" visions.  I start believing life
will be great after I finish my grad classes. I start believing enhanced technology will make everything easier, and I believe the time is coming for people to value education like they used to.  Experience tells me this is great to hope for, but I must also be realistic.

I believe it is human nature to have a mentality of "Grass is Greener" thoughts at some point.  I believe it is also easy to fall into the thoughts of, if I only had this, or if this happens then, these in my opinion are traps.  Ultimately we make our own choices.  "You can't always change your circumstances, but you can always change your attitude." - 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life

Here's to 2013, may it bring a sense of reason to politicians, may it bring increased safety to schools, may it bring productive professional development, and most of all may it bring the mentality for all of us to be open-minded, patient, student-centered educators!

As you begin 2013, are you making Resolutions? Are you reflecting on 2012? Are you looking forward to 2013? Is the Grass Greener on the Other Side?

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, January 7th: Welcome Back!
Tuesday, January 8th: 4pm String Team in Cafeteria
Wednesday, January 9th: grades 3-5 assembly
Thursday, January 10th:  RTI training at the ISD
Friday, January 11th: Hat Day, pay $1 to wear a hat (proceeds go to 4th grade for Exchange City)
Saturday, January 12th:  Happy BDay to Julie Oliver

Articles Worth Your Time:

Brad Wilson's Blog on Project Based Learning by @dreambition

20 tips for creating your own Professional Learning Network by @classroomaidinc

Who is Your Role Model?  by @PeterMDeWitt

Why Smartphone obsessed generation Y can't put down their phones  by @ChelseaKrost

Observing the Common Core Classroom by @NMHS_Principal

8 things You Must Give Up to Find Peace by @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

This is a great way to start 2013! (5 min)

Wright's Law: A unique way to teach (12 min) shared by @MrPowersCMS

New Year's Around the World (3 min)