Friday, May 31, 2013

Clarifying Vision

Three years ago I had my first staff meeting.  I remember it very well.  As I reflect, I did a terrible job.  I had a Power Point and I went through approximately thirty different topics.  I believe my first staff meeting failed for a few reasons:  1) I was not conveying confidence 2) I didn't focus on the importance of relationships  3) I didn't share a vision

I share this reflection for a reason.  I know I have a long way to go.  I believe all people can grow and improve.  It's okay to fail, but we must learn from our failures.

The big issue in this is Sharing a Vision.  As a 5th grade teacher I had a vision for my students and classroom.  My vision wasn't a nice, clean statement it was more like bullet points.  I conveyed my vision to parents in my newsletters and in my interactions with students and parents.  I strongly believe all students and parents clearly understood my values and vision.

As I became Principal I made a glaring error.  I didn't communicate my vision.  I feel extremely fortunate that the staff was able to continue moving forward even though I was experiencing growing pains.  As I reflect on my first year I'm able to say that I believe everything happens for a reason.  Our building experienced many challenges during my first year, I truly feel that you learn more about people during challenging times than you do during good times.  My number one goal was to build trust and I believe I made positive strides by the end of my first year.

So why is it important to communicate your vision?  Whether you are a teacher, a principal or a superintendent you are bound to encounter challenging situations.  When you have these challenges occur, it is essential to have a clear vision.  Having a clear vision will allow you to lean on this and not make things personal.  So often when challenges happen people want to make things personal.  Experience tells me that a clear vision informs all stakeholders of the goal.  It makes it about the vision. It's about a shared purpose.

I sat back the other day and I was reading an article.  The article discussed the need for a shared vision. I put the magazine down and sat back...hmmm, could I verbalize my vision?  Is my vision a shared vision?  I became critical of myself, I questioned my leadership ability.  So in the heat of the moment I got up and went to the first teacher I could find.  I walked into the room and said, "I need your help, you cannot get this wrong, but I do need honest feedback."  I then proceeded to ask what she believed my vision/our vision was for Warner Elementary.  The response was well thought out and honest.  I was pleased with what was shared.  I listened and then reflected, maybe I did share my vision more than I thought.  The next question; Was my vision a shared vision?   

I sent out a survey monkey, I gathered feedback on the vision.  I then met with teachers to discuss the shared vision.  I admit, this was long overdue.  Part of me kicked myself for not doing this sooner.  I then counseled our Technology Specialist Mike MacGuinness.  Mike and I discussed vision and the need for a visual.  I shared a lot of ideas and ultimately he created this:

I share this with you in the attempt to get feedback, but I also do this to educate.  If someone reads this and it helps them in their journey then I'm glad.  I'm not perfect, I will continue to learn and grow, if I can help others along the way then I will feel good about my hiccups.  

Please feel free to comment about my process, my journey and the vision.  I hope staff embraces the vision and that we all share in a common goal.  We are student centered and we love of our students!

Warner Elementary is caring & compassionate.  Warner Elementary engages all students.  Warner Elementary is student centered.  We are all Lifelong Learners!

Our Vision Statement: 

Warner Elementary is a student centered school that engages all students.  Our goal is to foster caring and compassionate students that are prepared to be lifelong learners.

What would you change?  Can you verbalize your vision?  Is it okay for teachers to have classroom visions?  Is Vision and Mission different?  

Next Week At a Glance:

Monday, June 3rd:  McKenzie is the Honorary Principal of the Day!
Monday, June 3rd:  Panther Pride Lunch
Monday, June 3rd:  Tornado Drill in the AM
Tuesday, June 4th:  3rd grade trip to Mackinac
Tuesday, June 4th:  2nd grade to Impression 5
Tuesday, June 4th:  4th and 5th grade Field Day
Wednesday, June 5th:  3rd grade in Mackinac (possible Field Day make-up if necessary)
Thursday, June 6th:  3pm Assembly in gym CP Federal Credit Union
Thursday, June 6th:  Volunteer Lunch
Friday, June 7th:  5th grade Graduation practice
Friday, June 7th:  5th grade picnic at Harmony Park
Friday, June 7th:  KDG Music Program


Great iPad APPS for Summer Learning

Illustrate Your Own Story

Articles Worth Reading:

Unpopular Thoughts  by @stumpteacher

Is That Behavior Bullying?  by Marcia McEvoy

New Report Card Frustrates Parents  shared by @twhitford

Leaders Sit On The Front Porch  by @casas_jimmy

Grit is more important than IQ  shared by @patrickmlarkin

Capstone Experience  by @NMHS_Principal

21 Things that will be Obsolete by 2020  shared by @dreambition

Quantity Time or Quality Time   shared by @8Amber8

Coping Strategies  by @cybraryman1

4 Short Stories that Will Change the Way You Think  by @marcandangel

Age of the Learner  by @DCulberhouse

The Things You'll Do For a Porta Potty  by @ShutUpRun

Common Core & High Stakes Hiatus  shared by @Tchr_RachelM

That Wonderful Uncomfortable Feeling by Frank & Brian

Star BasketBall Player Thanks Community  shared by @educationweek

Summer Learning, Happens So Fast  shared by @MrPowersCMS

Videos Worth Watching:

Angel in the Outfield (13 min)

10 Expectations:  MUST WATCH! (3 min)

@gcouros Relationships Make All The Difference! (9 min)

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Last year in May I posted this blog: Thrive or Survive. In this post I talked about making the choice to thrive during the end of the year festivities or simply survive till school is out.  I believe my message was positive and I encourage you all to revisit this post; it has ideas on how to thrive!

As I say this, I will admit that these last few weeks have been a roller coaster ride!  I want to THRIVE!  My mentality is upbeat and positive, but I'll admit some days I feel defeated.  I'm writing today to share some of the ups and downs and to let all of you know that it's okay.  Some days may feel like survival and others you may feel like you are thriving.  It's the end of the year and that's a typical feeling.

Let's rewind to last week.  The week began on a high note.  I was in every classroom on Monday... I love these days!  As the week went on I started having to deal with increased discipline and disgruntled parents.  I say THANK GOODNESS for Enterprise City which was held in Taylor, MI.  That 4th grade field trip was amazing!  It was just what I needed.  The very next day I taught music...and I must admit I rocked it out (which is shocking since I'm tone deaf)!  Those were easily some of the high moments!  Then the lows:  Discipline, parent meetings, disgruntled parents and complaints about transportation.  I know, I comes with the territory.  You're right, I can deal with it.  I say all this because it is completely normal to have moments of thriving, and then SMACK, you jump into survival mode.  

We have 11 days of school remaining.  I'm not going to lie, we will all experience ups and downs in the final days.  As I sit back I reflect on ways I have helped myself get to a "better place".  Here's my list:

After a tough day this has helped:

1)  Exercise. Nothing is better for me than a good hard workout!

2)  Family outing. Go to dinner or on a walk or simply sit on the couch and watch a program together.

3)  Go shopping!  You laugh, but I find when I'm down it's nice to go out and buy myself something.

4)  Write a positive note to a friend. When I do something kind for someone else it makes me feel good.

5)  Call a friend or relative that you haven't talked to in a long time.  This gets your mind off your issues.

6)  Throw yourself into your hobby.  My wife enjoys landscaping.  After a hard day I often find her outside working.

7)  Find a funny book, show, or movie.  Laughter is a great medicine!

8)  Pray.  Trust in your faith.

These eight areas have lifted me up, and so my advice is: Deal with the issues head on, and then move on.  

I read a recent quote that really hit home with me, it said, "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy." -Buscaglia

Recently I watched the movie 42.  This was the story of Jackie Robinson.  I really enjoyed the movie, I left feeling uplifted and feeling as though I could deal with challenging conversations.  Check out this clip:

Favorite Line:  "I want a player that has the guts NOT to fight back."

As you enter these final weeks understand we all experience the roller coaster of emotions.  Ups and downs are a part of the year that we must expect.  How will you move past the "downs"?  How will you recharge, refocus and bring out the best in each day?


Monday, May 27th:  No School. Memorial Day
Tuesday, May 28th:  Spring Musical grades 1, 3, and 5 at CAC 7pm
Wednesday, May 29th:  Grades K-2 Final Assembly 8:45
Wednesday, May 29th:  5th grade to Binder Park
Thursday, May 30th:  KDG to Potter Park
Thursday, May 30th:  Jen's Baby Shower
Friday, May 31st:  Bree's Wedding Celebration Evening

*  Reminders to all staff:

- Now that we have no more early releases, Wednesday's activity schedules will be the same as Monday and Friday.
- Please schedule your exit discussions. Topics include: data, reflection and PD


5 Digital Storytelling Apps for Elementary Students

26 Instructional Activities on the iPAD (A-Z)

Articles Worth Reading:

How Should We Evaluate Teachers?  by @blocht574

25 Ways to Institute PASSION Based Learning shared by @posickj

The jobs of the future don't require a college degree  shared by @NMHS_Principal

For Public Schools, Twitter is No Longer Optional shared by @massp

Difference between Projects & Project Based Learning (chart)  shared by @casas_jimmy

Twitter for Teachers  by @KleinErin

Loyalty Does Not Mean Silence shared by @educationweek

How and (why) Teachers Should Get Started With Blended Learning  shared by @powell4thgrade

Learn Anything in 20 Hours...  shared by @Cantiague_Lead

Every Child Has A Solo.   by @DrJoeClark

9 Ways to Live Better, Longer, Happier  shared by @8Amber8

What Graduation Speeches Should Say, but don't  shared by @dreambition

Videos Worth Watching:

Must See! I always try to find a silver lining.  (3 min)

Inspiring Story of Sportsmanship.  I told our 4th and 5th graders to remember that, "We are all on the same team."  (6 min)

Raising Kids to be entrepreneurs.  (22 min)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

PBL: Leave your comfort zone and try something new

As a nation, a state and a district we are shifting to the Common Core.  One major piece of the common core is the Anchor Standards that all students will learn by the end of each grade.  The Common Core will require a shift in how teachers teach.  One avenue worth exploring is Project Based Learning.  Below are some Anchor Standards and how I believe they connect to PBL.

In the Common Core one anchor standards is:  Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. (The anchor standard is - ELA Reading Anchor Standard 3)

There are many ways to accomplish this; my mind immediately envisions a "PROJECT"!  

Earlier this year, I walked into a classroom and students were reading The One and Only Ivan.  I look at the above standard and the possibilities are endless with PBL!  A project adds excitement and purpose.  Project Based Learning would allow students to choose any book, and it gives the freedom for students to own their learning. 

I often hear educators say, I don't have time or Where do I start?  Projects are vast, and here are some examples of tools that can spark creativity:  Video taping, iMovie, prezi, keynote, power point, posters, glogster, hand-made books, paintings, songs, brochures and more.  Project Based Learning lends itself to differentiation and standard-based grading.

Another Common Core anchor standard is:  Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.  (The anchor standard is - ELA Writing Anchor Standard 6)

I can immediately hear the excuses!  It's all about the barriers... "We don't have this" or "We can't do that..."

The Common Core is not asking for excuses; this is what we must do.  This is the expectation.  So how can we do it?  What about student blogging?  This can be a tool used at all grade levels.  For example: A lower elementary classroom could have the "star student" blog, and then receive "positive" feedback on the entry.  OR it could be a "center activity" where students blog and post on the teacher created page.

The next Common Core Standard I'll share is: CCSS.Math.Content.5.MD.A.1 Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.

When I see this standard I see the phrase, "Real World Problems".  Whenever I see this language I see the potential for a project.  As I sit and brainstorm a possibility, I begin to think about the Olympics.  A fun, engaging project would be to take some of the Olympic events and have students create posters, iMovies, Keynotes, and more.  Inside this project students can simulate or create something involving long jumping or another event.  Imagine the possibilities! Students video tape themselves long jumping, then they measure the distance and convert.  This is real world and this is an engaging project that students can get excited about.

Project Based Learning opens the door to so many authentic learning opportunities.  What I enjoy most about Project Based Learning is that it individualizes the educational experience.  As educators we can assist students in a way that matters to them and in a way that they will remember.

As the year begins to wind down I want to encourage you to try out a project. If you've never attempted Project Based Learning, this is a golden opportunity to get started.  What's the worst that can happen? It flops?  So what! I say try!  I'd rather have educators fall on their face and learn from it, then never try at all.  Don't be afraid to fail.  

If you are looking for Project Based Learning Ideas check these out:

Project Based Learning Blogs

Project Based Learning and the Common Core by @wholechildadv

10 Characteristics of Authentic Learning by @timbuckteeth

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, May 20th:  Security Walkthrough (expect to see visitors with me)
Tuesday, May 21st:  Kids Hope Lunch
Wednesday, May 22nd:  Enterprise City for 4th grade
Wednesday, May 22nd:  Grades 3-5 assembly 8:45
Wednesday, May 22nd: Teacher Meeting 2:50
Thursday, May 23rd:  Art Club after school
Thursday, May 23rd: Leader in Me at Parma
Friday, May 24th:  Staff Meeting 7:55 in Mrs. Dault's room
Friday, May 24th:  Happy Birthday Mrs. Rouse

iPad iNformation:

8 Useful Apps for Working on Video Projects  by @Mizgibson

iPad in the Classroom, can we make it simpler?  by @MoodleMcKean

Create, Innovate, and Increase Student Access with iTunesU  by @RebeccaWildman

Articles Worth Reading:

I Don't Like Food  shared by @Cantiague_Lead

New Look Teacher Interview shared by @joesanfelippofc

How Social Media Improved an Entire District  shared by @gcouros

Why it's time to take ownership of your PLN  shared by @NMHS_Principal

Authentic Learning Cannot Be Standardized by @NMHS_Principal

8 Helpful Assistive Tools For Your Classroom  shared by @casas_jimmy

Teachers Should Be Critical of Bad Teachers by @edrethink

14 Days by @8Amber8

The inconvenient truth of educational reform shared by @stumpteacher

Story of the Woodcutter by

8 Ways Happy People Start Their Mornings by @marcandangel

Make a Tough Situation Good...  shared by @leah_whit

How To Smile: Math & Science Activities shared by @dreambition

Videos Worth Watching:

Sir Ken Robinson: 3 principles crucial to help the mind flourish (19 min)

Positive Reinforcement Big Bang Style! (5 min)

Power of One! Attitude and Demeanor. (9 min)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Back to Your Roots

Have you ever noticed a young child watching the same movie over and over?  Have you ever encountered a student that relishes reading the same book again and again?  Why is this?  Some may say the repetition brings security and confidence.  Others may simply state that the child enjoys it.  I believe both of these opinions, and I also believe it is educational.  By nature people repeat things over and over to master and improve.  A child may watch The Lion King 50 times to relate to the characters, enjoy the movie and feel secure in what is being modeled.  This is fairly typical behavior.  What boggles my mind is that this is accepted at a young age but then as a child grows older the repetition is repeated less and less.

This scenario happens to fit me as well.  I used to repeat things over and over until I felt as though I mastered it.  As I got older, time was of the essence and once I got it, I moved on.  I believe this happens to most of us.  

When I was in college I was introduced to Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I enjoyed the book and I agreed with most of what was presented.  I remember reading some of the habits over and over.  In many ways I lived the habits without really knowing it.  After reading the book I was more cognizant of some of my choices and decisions.

All of the habits are important, Stephen Covey nailed it!  As most things go habits change.  Over time, my approach to the 7 Habits morphed, I tried to have all situations be Win-Win, I was losing touch with what Stephen Covey was teaching.  In almost every challenge I faced, I tried to have a Win-Win scenario.  As you all know this is tough.  Not all situations can be Win-Win.  I recently got the book back out and re-read Habit Four.

Think Win-Win is an attitude:  1) Have Integrity, be true to your values 2) Have Maturity, express your feelings with courage and consideration for others 3) Have an Abundance Mentality

Stephen Covey doesn't come out and say every situation will have a Win-Win solution.  He empowers and educates people with a mindset.  I needed to open the book back up and re-teach myself.  

I believe Stephen Covey sums up Habit Four best by stating: 

"To go for win-win, you not only have to be empathic, but you also have to be confident. You not only have to be considerate and sensitive, you also have to be brave. To do that--to achieve that balance between courage and consideration--is the essence of real maturity and is fundamental to win-win."

I, like most, benefit from gentle reminders and revisiting past materials.  I guess you could say it "jogs" my memory.  I focus on this topic for three reasons this week.  

Reason #1 Have you ever read a book that helped shape you as a person or teacher?  I believe I can confidently say most of us have.  When was the last time you revisited that book?  

Reason #2 When you think about resolving an issue, do you display the characteristics of a "Think Win-Win" mentality?  It takes courage to follow your values.  

Reason #3 Have you read Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?  

The 7 Habits helped shape me as a person and as an educator, over time the 7 habits weren't as crystal clear as I needed them to be.  I benefited from getting back to my roots.  Could you benefit from revisiting a book that shaped you?


The First Days of School by Harry Wong

The Courage To Teach

Why Didn't I Learn This In College

Teach Like Your Hairs On Fire

Power Of Positive Thinking

Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People


Monday, May 13th:  SMILE program will be at Warner
Tuesday, May 14th:  Panther Pride Luncheon
Tuesday, May 14th:  Happy BDay to Miss Hinkley
Tuesday, May 14th:  Western School Board Meeting 6:30pm
Tuesday, May 14th:  Final String Team practice
Wednesday, May 15th:  Assembly Grades K-2
Wednesday, May 15th:  PM Drill
Wednesday, May 15th:  String Team Performance at the JSO 6pm
Thursday, May 16th:  After School Art Club
Thursday, May 16th 7pm Last PTO meeting of the year

Articles Worth Reading:

25 Twitter Tips for Parents, Teachers and Students  by @ijukes

Photo Poems, cool PBL approach  by @ijukes

3 Great Ways Teachers Can Create An Online Identity For Their Class  by @FractusLearning

The Future Of Tablets in Education  shared by @NMHS_Principal

People Do Not Fail In Life Because They Aim Too High And Miss  by @gcouros

Prettier Charts Can Be Harder For Students To Read  shared by @8Amber8

Standard Based Report Card Book  shared by @twhitford

5 Tips for Teaching Close Reading  shared by @Cantiague_Lead

The Story of Two Terrific Teachers  shared by @PrincipalJ

8 Things It's OK To Do At The End Of The School Year  shared by @stumpteacher

What is Possible?  by @DaisyDyerDuerr

I See London, I See France  by @ShutUpRun

9 Ways To Find Peace Of Mind In Tough Times  by @marcandangel

Date a Girl Who Teaches  shared by @studiobree

Videos Worth Watching:

Every Kid Needs a Champion!  Inspiring! (7 min)

The "Art of Asking" (13 min)

The Amazing Chase!  I think this is nuts! (7 min)

The Art of Looking Busy!  I love this! (1 min)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Drive to Improve

It's May!  We all know what May means, flowers, warmer temps, Memorial Day, school year winding down and ... end of the year evaluations.  

How does an individual improve?

This question can fit many walks of life.  As a college golfer I read books on the mental approach.  I diligently practiced.  I repeatedly put myself in a position of being uncomfortable and I was constantly assessing my strengths and weaknesses.

As a teacher I found improving to be different.  First, I had to want to improve.  It's easy to say you want to improve, but it must be genuine, you need to be open to criticism and NOT make excuses.  All people can improve, the question is how.  

True Story.  I was in my 6th year teaching.  I had 9 boys and 16 girls in my classroom.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  Of the nine boys I had zero boys that embraced being a "positive" leader.  I can't tell you how many motivational talks I had with that class.  I was constantly trying to encourage students to step up and be positive leaders.  As the year wore on I found that I was contacting parents more with problems (not solutions), and becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of "personal" growth.  I stepped back and analyzed.  I asked myself a hard question, could I be part of the problem?  The very next week I met with another teacher who I viewed as having fantastic discipline/management procedures.  After observing and talking with the teacher I adjusted and tweaked my approach.  I had to leave my "bubble" to improve.  

This is where you may sense some frustration from me.  During my 15 years in education most of what I have observed has taken place in a large square room.  Day-in and day-out teachers are on an "island of one" teaching 25+ students.  Then teachers go to the lounge and decompress.  Finally, at the end of the day teachers go home, grade papers and make sure they are organized for the next day.  This can become repetitive, I must ask the question, how does an individual improve?  

This is what the most common answers are to that question:  1) Teachers collaborate and work together  2) Teachers attend PD days a few times per year.  3) Teachers take classes to renew certificates and stay current.

These are the most common answers, I believe these are all small ways to improve, but I don't believe this will create sustained, significant growth.  Sustained improvement or growth typically means two things: continual and revisited.

This is how I believe improvement happens:

1) Analyze yourself and be open to critiquing from others 

2) Observe fellow teachers

3) Read for improvement

4) Take risks, try new things 

5) Find PD that fits your needs

I happen to be a goal oriented person and I push myself to complete my goals.  I could be the exception and not the rule, but I don't think I am.  I think goals are important and they push people to meet their potential.

So I ask the question again, how does an individual improve?  

A very good friend of mine recently said this, "If you want to improve you need to put yourself in uncomfortable positions."  I thought about this and I agreed.  If you are never uncomfortable in what you do you are probably playing it safe.  

Are you willing to leave your comfort zone?


Monday, May 6th:  Teacher Appreciation Week Begins!
Tuesday, May 7th:  String Team 4pm
Tuesday, May 7th:  5th grade Band Recruiting concert at Warner 10am
Tuesday, May 7th:  Board Work Session 5:30pm
Wednesday, May 8th:  Walk-To-School Day
Wednesday, May 8th:  Grades 3-5 assembly with SAU track
Thursday, May 9th:  5th grade Instrument Fitting
Thursday, May 9th:  School Improvement Meeting 4pm
Thursday, May 9th:  Kids Hope Dinner
Friday, May 10th:  PM Drill

Articles Worth Reading:

Are Grades utterly useless?  shared by @CurtRees

Mental Hospital to Cult Hero shared by @8Amber8

The 7 Most & Least Effective Ways to Improve Student Achievement  shared by @KleinErin

Gamifying Student Engagement  shared by @twhitford

Is it time to ditch the phrase 21st Century Teacher?  shared by @MrPowersCMS

Teacher Observations Aren't the Only Way to Improve Schools  by @PeterMDewitt

Rethinking Difficult Parents  shared by @casas_jimmy

Minecraft will get their attention  by @CurtRees

12 Things Kids Want From Their Teachers  by @AngelaMaiers

5 Core Skills Your Life Depends On  by @marcandangel

What Goes Around Comes Around

Running with your spouse and what it means  by@NewbieChronicles

5 Ways For Teachers To Get Quality Summer PD  shared by @DrSpikeCook

The Objective of Education is Learning, Not Teaching  shared by @NMHS_Principal

The Leader Podcast (8 min)  shared by @dreambition

iPad iNformation:

8 Educational Apps to Create Digital Portfolios  shared by @NMHS_Principal

12 Advanced iPad Tips All Educators Should Learn  shared by @MrPowersCMS

7 Ways to Use Your iPad in the Classroom  shared by @KimGriesbach

Videos Worth Watching:

Power of Twitter Chats (31 min) shared by @Joe_Mazza

Know or Go with Ellen (6 min) @TheEllenShow

One of the All Time Greatest Stories! JMac (5 min)

TedTalk on Sifteo Cubes (7 min)