Friday, April 26, 2013

The purpose of honesty

This was an interesting week.  Last Saturday I participated in the Connected Educator conference.  I really enjoyed connecting with so many #EduStars.  Many people believe these conferences are all about technology, but actually they are all about connecting and sharing.  The very next day I was down and out with the crud.  This crud forced me to miss Monday as well.  I really do not like missing school.  It's not because I feel as though the school can't survive without me, it's because I love being at school and making an impact during the school day.  The rest of the week was filled with Kindergarten Round-Up, classroom walk-throughs, College for a Day, various meetings and SAU mock interviews.  All in all it was a busy week.  So busy that I didn't even participate in one weekly Twitter chat : (

I want to begin with a bit from the Mock Interviews with college seniors.  I have been on several hiring committees in the last 5-6 years.  I will not call myself an expert, but I will say that I believe I have witnessed good and bad interviews.  This process was designed to provide feedback for all of the participants in an effort to help them prepare for the "real thing".  I was on a committee with two other administrators.  We interviewed three people, asked them various questions, and provided feedback during the interview and at the end.  I went into this process with one belief:  I wanted to help the interviewers walk away with honest feedback.  The goal was to help the individuals improve.  The entire process lasted about 2 hours and I left a bit frustrated.  I was frustrated by the lack of philosophy and authentic feedback.  

That night I went home and contemplated why I was frustrated.  I realized that my frustration was due to the fact that I'm a believer in honesty.  Then I thought deeper and I realized that it wasn't that someone was dishonest, it was the fact that some individuals struggle with "difficult conversations."  Then I got angry with myself.  I have struggled with difficult conversations in the past.  I have skirted confrontation on occasion and I certainly have not always been good at offering purposeful, honest feedback.

So I discovered the focus of my irritation was me.  I was reflecting on the conversations that I now deemed "less than effective."  This truly bothered me for the bulk of the night and into the next day.  I then self-reflected and decided it wouldn't do me any good to beat myself up.  The fact is, I haven't always got the desired effect out of every conversation, but I'm learning, I'm growing and I think I'm getting better.  This was an important self-talk. I can rest easy knowing that I'm doing my best, and I am improving.

So what does this all mean?  We are coming to the end of the school year.  The end of the year is a time to reflect.  Often times the end of the school year will include conversations with students and parents.  These talks will center around memories, relationships, strengths and hopefully areas of needed growth.  I urge you to have the COURAGE to give purposeful, honest feedback.  When we entered this profession we likely entered to make a positive impact on students.  We now understand that if we don't have those honest, purposeful conversations we are hurting the next educator, as well as robbing the student of the truth.

The final 6+ weeks will surely be filled with more conversations.  If I have learned something, it is that I owe it to the kids to give honest, purposeful feedback.  This final quote reminds me of where I want to be:  

Confidence...thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance.  Without them it cannot live.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Do you have the courage to have honest, purposeful conversations?


Monday, April 29th:  5pm Spec. Board Meeting 
Monday, April 29th:  Brad Wilson will be available in the AM for Tech support
Monday, April 29th:  Fire Drill in the AM
Tuesday, April 30th:  TEAM meeting
Tuesday, April 30th:  String Team 4pm
Wednesday, May 1st:  K-2 assembly
Friday, May 3rd: StoryFest grades K-2
Friday, May 3rd: Last day of Spanish

Articles Worth Reading:

How to Truly Evaluate a Teacher  shared by @NMHS_Principal

Everything We Need to Know We Learned on Twitter by @twhitford and @Cantiague_Lead

Leadership Likeability  by @8Amber8

Why EdCamp?  by @kristenswanson

Running Pains Hurt So Good by @Newbiechronicle

A Glass of Milk, Paid in Full  by


7 new apps you should know about  shared by @joykelly05

5 Myths about Writing with Mobile Devices  shared by @Joesanfelippofc

iPad in Phys. Ed  shared by @patrickmlarkin

Videos Worth Watching:

Challenging the Status Quo: Why I hate School but love Education (6 min) shared by @stumpteacher

Inspiring story, Touch of class Nebraska (11 min)

Sure to make you laugh!  Whose Line is it Anyway? (7 min)

Social Media Trends and Statistics (4 min)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tools of the Trade

During my typical day I will be on Twitter for a few hours (I choose to forego sleep).  Some days more than others. For example on Wednesdays I enjoy the #michED chat at 8pm followed by the Standard Based Grading chat at 9pm (#sbgchat).  Other nights I may just briefly get on to respond to a few messages.  I have noticed a very common theme for months.  The theme revolves around devices.  The three most common devices that are discussed are iPads, Laptops and BYOD.  I have looked at several blogs and articles for months.  Each article or comment has advantages and disadvantages.  This week I'm choosing to blog about my thoughts on the device conundrum.  I welcome any and all feedback.

First, I believe we must all remember that technology is a tool.  Albeit a powerful tool, but it is simply a tool.

I really like how @8Amber8 summed it up. We cannot focus on the device, we must focus on the learning.  How can the device or tool be best used to enhance learning?  
I place this at the top because the big issue is simply, "What is BEST for kids?"  Too often I hear adults making decisions on their needs, not what is best for kids and the learning environment.  Before you even begin to go down the technology road, you must always think, What is Best for Kids?

Second, it is absolutely essential to have a vision and plan.  Check out this info -  Project 24
I'll admit it is common to have leaders disagree on vision.  Communication is important. I know what you're thinking, what is your vision?  My vision does not focus on a specific tool or device.  My vision is mobile learning.  I envision education to change dramatically.  I don't believe in rows and students in seats all day.  My vision is mobile learning, learning in the hallway, learning in the library, learning boundaries.  Whatever device helps accomplish this vision I deem best.

Third, the need for a strong infrastructure.  Integrating technology is a change from traditional methods.  During my years in the classroom, students would write notes to each other, and then I would find the notes after 10-20 people had read it.  Nowadays students post on social media or text.  The comments can be witnessed by hundreds or thousands.  This example is ultimately classroom management, but I believe it relates to infrastructure because you need to have firewalls and have a safe, secure network.  This article explains Access and Infrastructure , definitely worth reading before you make impactful decisions.  

Fourth, as you decide which is the best route to take you must factor in Professional Development.  I'm a believer in "Doing" not "Telling".  By giving teachers the device and properly educating them you greatly increase your chances of the device being used to its full advantage.  Professional Development must be ongoing and revisited.  As a classroom teacher I often remember being trained once and then never revisiting again.  I believe this would create frustration, resentment and misuse.  

Fifth, have a plan to reinvest in technology.  We all know technology is ever-changing.  Technology that is "hot" now will be old news in 2-3 years.  As I write this I'm listening to a report about Google Glasses.  $1500!  Is this the future? Maybe.  No one can ever be 100% sure, that is why a plan must be created to reinvest in technology.  

Finally, here is my opinion. I feel as though I have learned a lot about technology in the past year.  One year ago I would have immediately told you that I preferred laptops over iPads and iPads over BYOD.  I would have told you that I was most interested in "leveling" the playing field.  I would have gone on to tell you that laptops have keyboards and there is significantly more memory.  My last point would have been the fact that laptops can play "flash".  I would have been all-in for laptops.  My second choice would have been iPads.  The apps are engaging and allow differentiation in the classroom.  The iPad would also level the playing field and we would start to get rid of the have's and have not's that divide education.  Finally, I would have told you that BYOD is acceptable, but I would have feared that parents either A) could not afford it or B) would be reluctant to send the device to school.  

In one year my views have changed.

I used to focus on the device.  I was wrong.  It isn't about the device, it's about the vision.  What device or tool best helps support the vision?  My personal vision is mobile learning- anytime, anywhere, etc...
If this is my vision then I must now lean towards iPADS or BYOD.  I have a laptop, an iPAD and a desktop.  The device I use the most, almost exclusively is the iPAD.  I'm on the move, I'm rarely in one spot.  If I was stationary I would prefer the laptop or desktop.  I believe students that are stationary would also choose laptops or desktops, but a student that moves and learns any time and any place will choose the device that is mobile.  Don't base decisions on a device, base the decisions on your vision of learning.  Ask the questions, What is Best for Kids?  AND  What is your vision?

(I realize the one piece I did not include is cost.  I get it. I left this off for a reason.  When I think of what is best for kids the last thing I think of is money or cost.  My goal is always,  choose whatever is best for the kids and figure out the finances later.)


Monday, April 22nd:  Earth Day (remember to where green for our "green out")
Monday, April 22nd:  KDG Round-Up after school Parma El.
Tuesday, April 23rd:  Farewell Reception for Jasmine at SAU 
Tuesday, April 23rd:  String Team 4pm
Tuesday, April 23rd:  KDG Round-Up after school Parma El.
Wednesday, April 24th:  Zach K. "Principal for a Day"
Wednesday, April 24th:  Grades 3-5 assembly
Wednesday, April 24th:  KDG Round-Up after school Parma El.
Wednesday, April 24th: Fire Drill
Thursday, April 25th:  Secretaries Day!
Thursday, April 25th:  KDG Round-Up after school Parma El. 
Friday, April 26th:  Happy B-Day Patti Dault
Friday, April 26th:  Happy B-Day Aaron Baum
Friday, April 26th: 7:55 Staff Meeting, guest speakers Tony & Bill
Friday, April 26th:  5th Grade College for a Day at SAU
Saturday, April 27th: Happy B-Day Joleen Hurt

Articles Worth Reading:

Data informed not Data Driven by @Larryferlazzo

Testing is Killing Learning shared by @NMHS_Principal

Getting Started with Twitter  shared by @NMHS_Principal

iPads: problem or solution? by @patrickmlarkin

10 Signs Your Friend is Toxic  by @marcandangel

From the Bench  shared by @PrincipalJ


iPad as...  shared by @NJECC

QR Codes on the Big Screen  shared by @AugmentedAdvert

Videos Worth Watching:

Ellen being Ellen! (2 min)

To this day...  (12 min)

Rick Wormeli explains formative & summative (5 min)

Wouldn't it be great if we could all do this to our negative critics? (1 min)

The Cornhuskers showing a touch of class! (2 min)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lasting Impressions

Have you ever wondered what students will remember from school?

I wonder this often. I bump into former students every once in a while and we talk about memories and experiences.  The answers vary from individual to individual.  Recently I bumped into a couple of my former students.  The conversations were enlightening and entertaining.  

The first conversation was with Savanna.  Savanna was a sweet fifth grader that did well academically and seemed to always enjoy school.  Savanna started our conversation by asking if I remembered when she sang the Star Spangled Banner.  I chuckled, and said yes.  She told me that she'll never forget singing in front of the class.  Savanna also talked about our daily brain breaks and she mentioned our class field trip to Sauder Village.

The second conversation was with Jacob.  Jacob was far different from Savanna; school was a chore and he didn't always want to be at school.  I asked him if he was ready to graduate.  He emphatically said, "Absolutely!"  I then asked him what he was going to do after he graduated.  Jacob told me that he was going to enlist.  And I told him I was proud of him.  Jacob then said, "Thank you."  I asked him why he was thanking me,  and he said, "Do you remember going on bike rides after school? You listened to me and made school fun."

I often wonder what impression have I left on my students.  I know what I hope for:  I hope for students to leave better than when they arrived.  I hope students will move to the next level feeling smarter, self-confident, as improved citizens and students that love to learn.

Day in and day out educators teach lessons where the goal is to build from one lesson to the next. We all aim for mastery and for students to be ready for the next level.  In the big scheme of things these lessons are essential to help educate our students.  When it is all said and done I believe those day to day lessons will be a degree.  I think back to what my former students told me and I believe what is remembered is a combination of significant events, field trips, continuous patterns and personal connections.

Growing up as a teenager I used to play golf with my grandfather on a nightly basis. We talked about everything and nothing, we had our own connection.  I believe life is about relationships.  It is about the connections we make and the experiences that happen.  We all connect on different levels, I connected with Jacob by listening, relating and understanding.  I connected with Savanna by challenging her, encouraging her and giving her a safe environment to take risks.  It's important to remember all people are different.  What lasting impressions do you have?  What lasting impressions will your students leave with?


Monday, April 15th:  Maggie Moo's Fundraising evening 5:30-7:30
Tuesday, April 16th:  Panther Pride Luncheon
Tuesday, April 16th:  String Team 4pm
Wednesday, April 17th:  K-2 assembly in cafeteria


Appy Mall shared by @JeromeSimon

Score Rubrics on the iPad  shared by @ClassTechTips

Articles Worth Reading:

Don't Teach To The Test  shared by @NMHS_Principal

Why Grade? shared by @twhitford written by @blocht574

10 Excellent Platforms to Create Your Own Classroom Website and Blog shared by @stumpteacher

5 Ways to Continue Growing as a Teacher shared by @MrPowersCMS

Book Clubs: In Our Kids' Voices by @Cantiague_Lead

8 things You Can't Learn in the Classroom by @marcandangel

12 Things I want my daughter to know by @ShutUpRun

Videos Worth Watching:

It is Masters Weekend! I shared this inspiring video with our 3-5th graders at the Wednesday Assembly. (12 min)

Just because this was one of the best shots I have ever seen (4 min)!

Social Media Revolution! Everyone should see this. (3 min)

What's Wrong With Our Food System? Shared by an 11 year old! (5 min)

Ellen versus Michelle Obama...check this out! (3 min)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

April is Autism Awareness Month

I don't typically mix family life with blogging, but today I'm compelled to share my journey.

The journey began a little over 11 years ago.  Our first son Drew was born on January 21, 2002.  Drew was very healthy and happy.  Many people told us it wasn't supposed to be this easy.  Drew was a good sleeper, he ate well, he was usually happy.  Drew was walking at 9 months old and he was very bright.  As Drew got older I consistently took him for long walks and we would regularly spend hours at different parks.  Drew could hold his own on all the equipment.  Then school started.

Kindergarten, Drew came to school with me.  I taught 5th grade and each morning I would walk him down to his Kindergarten classroom.  In the hallways Drew would easily have two dozen people say "hi" to him.  Drew never responded, he held my hand and looked at the ground.  I tried to bribe him.  I remember one day I told him for every smile he returned I would give him a quarter.  I wasn't even forcing him to talk, just a kind smile.  Drew smiled four times and told me that he earned a dollar, I said, "see how easy it is," and he said, "I'm good with one dollar."  Oh boy!

1st grade came and my wife and I started to really see Drew struggling with peer relationships.  Drew was a strict rule follower and he was and still can be very black and white.  Drew was reading well at first grade, but he struggled with some math.  He loved science and he was a collector.  During 1st grade his passion, check that, obsession was Hot Wheels!

2nd grade, was a pivotal year.  My wife and I began to really get concerned about several aspects of Drew's personality.  He was extremely difficult to motivate, he was stubborn, he was very sensitive, he struggled to relate to others and he failed to connect with peers, he seemed to lack compassion.  Most of his classmates in second grade took care of Drew, they included him in many things, and they would even play games he was interested in.  They were good friends in second grade.  During this year we talked extensively with Drew's teacher and then came a visit from a highly recommended doctor.  For two hours my wife and I explained Drew to the doctor.  We explained his quirks, his strengths, his weaknesses, his obsessions, you name it we talked about it.  The doctor went down to the classroom and met Drew.  In less than ten minutes he was done and returned to the conference room.  He then began to explain to us... Aspergers.

Now you've gotta put yourself in my shoes.  I was trying to be extremely respectful, but internally I was thinking, you met my son for less than ten minutes and you diagnose him with an extension of Autism?

Then I sat back and I listened, I listened and I prayed.  I felt at ease, I felt as though the doctor was on to something.  For the next several weeks Amy and I read books and articles on Aspergers (mostly Amy).  We met with grandparents and we consulted our local ISD for support.

A big part of me was relieved to finally have answers for the unexplained behaviors.  Another part of me was still a bit skeptical.  Looking back it is funny how my wife and I learned more about Aspergers.  Amy was and is a reader.  She read several books, the one that sticks out for me is, Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison.  Several nights Amy would read me pieces of this story that were similar to Drew.  Amy's way to better understand was by reading.  I on the other hand attended in-services, consulted leaders in the Autism field and signed up to attend START and CASE (with my wife).  The START program is designed to educate educators on Autism.  It is a six week training offered at our local ISD.  The presenters were Tony and Bill.  I thought the START and CASE trainings were very helpful.  I felt the information that was shared helped me with my kids at school, but more importantly with my son.  Looking back the advice that was best for me came from my wife.  She told me that I was the most patient person she has ever known, but with Drew I lacked patience.  I needed this wake up call.

From about the age of 6-9 Drew was a science junky (still is, but not to the same extreme).  Obsessed is a good word.  He loved Hot Wheels, but he was (and still is) an animal factoid machine.  We would go to a zoo and he would teach the presenters information.  It was remarkable.  Drew would read encyclopedias for fun.  His knowledge of animals is amazing.  Then the obsessions began to change.  He still loved Hot Wheels, but now he was finding a passion for weather.  This lasted a couple years.  Then after weather came Astrology, Star Wars, reading Michigan and American Chillers, and finally Legos.

The change for me wasn't in a book, it wasn't on Twitter, it was accepting Drew for who he is.  Drew hates to sweat, he'll never be a pro athlete.  Drew is still stubborn and sensitive.  I'll never make him be someone he isn't.  I had to accept Drew for all of his great qualities.  How many kids can read Diary of a Wimpy Kid in 2 hours, and then that night sit down to The Hound of the Baskerville's?  Drew teaches me things daily.  He teaches me facts on Star Wars, he teaches me how he sees the world, but most of all he teaches me that patience and love are most important.

This is what Aspergers and Autism is to me.  Every kid is different, if we truly want to help students with Autism we need to see the world through their eyes.  Amy and I still try to help Drew understand the complexities of the World.  We are thankful for Tony Starr, Joann Goyings, Anne Kusch, his first and second grade loop teacher Sharry Royalty, and so many others that have helped Drew along the way.  Autism isn't going away, and because it isn't going away we have to become more aware of how to help students with Autism.  Ultimately we must remember every child is different.  Every child is special!

Autism Statistics:

*  1 in 88 people are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
*  Autism is the Fastest Growing Developmental Disability
*  1 to 1.5 million live with Autism Spectrum Disorder
*  Only 56% of students with Autism finish high school
*  Boys are four times more likely to have Austism Spectrum Disorder than Girls

Information that can help you:

What is Aspergers?

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

If you need to explain Asperger's to someone in basic, quick terms, this is a must-read: This is Asperger Syndrome by Elisa Gagnon and Brenda Smith Myles

Next Week At A Glance:

March 29th - April 7th:  SPRING BREAK, Enjoy the time off : )

Monday, April 8th:  Welcome Back!

Tuesday, April 9th:  String Team 4pm
Tuesday, April 9th:  PTO Meeting at 7pm
Wednesday, April 10th:  Assembly grades 3-5 at 8:45
Thursday, April 11th:  Spring Pictures
Thursday, April 11th:  KDG Orientation at CAC 7pm
Friday, April 12th:  Staff Meeting in Mrs. Moffitt's classroom 7:50am (please be prompt)
Saturday, April 13th:  Vendor Fair at Warner Elementary

Articles Worth Your Time:

Growing Up With Autism

10 Tips for Helping Kids with Autism shared by @jedipadmaster

Autism, Meet Adolescence...Kaboom!  by @hollyrpeete

Raising Modern Learners by @patrickmlarkin

Taming the Test by @8Amber8

Strategies for Addressing School Gender Gaps by @EdWeekTeacher

The New Challenges of Teaching shared by @NMHS_Principal

Reading With Them by @colbysharp

Does Focusing on Test Scores Lead to Inferior Education?  shared by @stumpteacher

How Anxiety Leads to Disruptive Behavior shared by @docrappaport

Should Teachers Be Political? by @edrethink

Teachers Tweet, Administrators Don't shared by @PeterMDewitt

Thanks for the Nomination Kim, here is my page  nominated by @powell4thgrade

iPad iNformation:

10 Ways to Use Offline iPads in Education shared by @MarzanoResearch

50 Fab Apps for Teachers shared by @Tales2Go

4 Incredible Apps for children with Autism  shared by @mccoyderek

Videos Worth Watching:

Treasure Hunting with Google Maps.  This is so cool! (2 min) shared by @web20classroom

John Maxwell, "What are you really good at?" (Interesting perspective...) (3 min)

Trey Burke from the PARKING LOT! (1 min) 

You Posted That On Facebook! I love Ellen! @TheEllenShow (7 min) (Careful what you post...)