Saturday, August 31, 2013

Never Been Better...

I, like many of you, have heard the constant bashing of education for years.  There have been times that I've felt beaten down or unappreciated.  The nay sayers point to test scores, violence/bullying, social media, school finances and management.  I've heard it.  Oh yes, I've heard it!

Then this past Tuesday I had the opportunity to listen to my Superintendent Mike Smajda - @Smaj40 and then Dr. John Draper (  Mr. Smajda made a comment that immediately made me reflect.  He said, "Education is better today than it was when I (he) was in school."  I pondered that statement.  So often we hear about the "Good Ol' Days".  I thought about Mr. Smajda's comment and I thought about my own education.  I remembered my favorite classes and teachers.  I'm blessed to have learned from some great educators, but Mr. Smajda was absolute spot on!  Education is FAR better today than it has ever been.  The World is different now.  We move at a much faster pace, to teach and learn the way we did 10, 20, even 30 years ago would be a great disservice to our students.  

Next came Dr. John Draper.  Dr. Draper is an accomplished educator and speaker.  I valued three things from him.  The first was his humor!  He had just the right blend of humor and substance.  When he needed to lighten things up, he did.  The second was his facts.  I'm a very factual person and I appreciated seeing the "data".  The third was his unending message that schools today are doing an excellent job!  Dr. Draper is a data collector and often speaks to government officials.  He understands the need for a positive message.

After I listened to Dr. Draper I thought:

Why is it that so many people talk about the negatives?  

There are a lot of great things happening in education, here are my reasons why I believe education is stronger than ever!

1)  Safety is the #1 Priority!  I can confidently say that every school views safety as the top priority.  Schools across the country have missions and visions, but at the end of the day we MUST get all students to and from school safely.  I believe all parents/guardians hope their child learns and grows on a daily basis, but they EXPECT that their child will come home every day.  Schools practice drills, have plans in place and are very diligent to protect students.  The awareness of school safety has never been higher.

2)  Parent/Teacher Partnerships.  Years ago parents spoke to the teacher at conferences, occasional phone calls and if something very bad or possibly very good occurred.  Nowadays it is common practice to receive daily emails, newsletters, phone calls, text messages and even home visits.  Educators of today understand that it is a partnership.  We need parent support to help students meet their true potential.  The partnership between parents and educators is stronger than ever!

3)  The Educational Arena Embracing Technology.  There is truly no comparison to the past.  I take myself back to high school and I can remember taking keyboarding class on a typewriter.  You read that correctly...a typewriter!  I can also remember that none of my teachers had a computer at their desk. If we walked into a classroom today we would see a variety of technology.  Classrooms today have Smart Boards, iPads, iPods, MacBooks, PC's, Chrome books and more.  The accessibility to technology is stronger than ever.  Educators understand that we must embrace technology to best prepare our students for the future.

4)  Connected Educators!  Teachers have always talked on some level.  When I was in school I can remember seeing teachers stop each other in the hallways and chat for a minute or two.  I also remember seeing some of them in the lounge when I'd walk by.  I'm sure collaboration to some degree was happening.  Education of today is different, I believe it is stronger than ever.  Today teachers learn the value of PLC's (Professional Learning Communities), the importance of a PLN (Personal Learning Network), the unlimited resources online and the positive power of social media.  I unequivocally believe being a Connected Educator is stronger and more important than it has ever been.  Educators have unlimited resources and connections to help them be their best.

5)  Project Based Learning/Genius Hour as tools of creativity, learning and engagement.  True story: I had some teachers, let me rephrase that, I had many teachers that I could predict the lesson plan on a daily basis.  I remember the days of entering the classroom on Monday and opening to page 74.  I knew that when we finished page 76 that day what would be coming on 77.  To some degree I thought I could teach that class.  I remember saying to my friends, "what would the teacher do if we took the teachers manual?"  Some education looked like this.  I see less and less of that now.  I watch teachers dive into Project Based Learning assignments, I listen to students brainstorm during Genius Hour, I witness teachers becoming facilitators and allowing students to direct some of the learning. This excites me!  I don't believe education has ever been better!  Teachers are trying new things and relinquishing ultimate control.  Education is heading in an exciting direction.

6)  Standard Based Grading system.  I believe the days of student GPA's as the end all say all are dying.  I have talked with University officials and many are telling me that GPA isn't what it once was. I believe a students extra-curricular accomplishments, volunteer work, application to college, SAT/ACT and portfolio will be a collective tool for colleges to dive deeper into incoming students.  Standard Based Grading is a healthy system.  Students are meeting standards and learning to share their knowledge.  The old system of grades was based on averages, it was punitive and hurt students that willingly took risks.  The new system points to student growth, failure as a learning tool and healthy risk taking.

7)  Differentiation in today's classrooms.  Growing up I knew my friends who were the brightest and which one's struggled.  Yet we would enter a classroom and sit in rows  and all learn at the same pace.  My friends that were very bright would answer the majority of questions and finish their work in a timely manner.  Others that struggled would copy and just scrape by.  This was the "one-size fits all classroom".  Education today is different, it's better!  I walk into classrooms today and I see students in cooperative groups, I see individualized learning, I watch intervention specialists assist students that are struggling, I see teachers sending an enrichment group to create an iMovie!  Education is far better today, we now differentiate, we individualize and we don't allow students to fall between the cracks.

Education today is different.  One thing that will never change is that relationships are the core of what we do.  Without the development of relationships we won't connect with students.  Educators of the past and Educators of today realize relationships matter.  Our country is doing amazing things.  I'll not soon forget a visit to Warner last November.  I had the opportunity to give a tour to six Chinese delegates.  I took them to three classrooms.  They spent 10-20 minutes per room.  We then returned to my office they asked questions for over an hour.  One delegate's comments really struck me, he said, "How do you get your students to be so happy?"  I knew right then that we were doing amazing things!  We talked for some time and the discussion centered around creativity, deeper thinking, individuality and technology.  But the love of learning was what they noticed first and foremost.

What we must do as educators is share the positives, we cannot get caught up in bureaucracy.  When a parent, community member or politician tries to get you to say something negative about education I challenge you to switch the conversation and share the great things going on around the country!  I learn from educators across the country every day and I aim to share the amazing stories.  What message will you share?

Next Week At A Glance:

Tuesday, Sept. 3rd:  First Day of School!
Wednesday, Sept. 4th:  8:45-9:15 Grades 3-5 Assembly in cafeteria
Wednesday, Sept. 4th:  No Early Release, dismissal at 3:35
Thursday, Sept. 5th:  Happy BDay to Jenny Shearer
Sunday, Sept. 8th:  Happy BDay to Jenn Schaible

*  Reminders
- sign up for CP Fed. Credit Union
- schedule goals meeting
- complete safe schools online training

Articles Worth Reading:

Why Instilling a Love of School Should Be Your Highest Priority shared by +Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal

5 Bad Education Assumptions the Media Continues to Recycle  shared by @klnielsen74

PPLN - Powerful Personal Learning Network by +William Powers @MrPowersCMS

Joining the Dark Side  by @happycampergirl

Only Cosmetic? I don't think so...  by +Suzanne Gibbs @Suz_Gibbs

Back To School With iPads shared by +Shannon Degan @shannondegan

Standards? Yes! Current Implementation? No!   by @grantwiggins

I Am A Nine by +Tony Sinanis @Cantiague_Lead

Our Future is Bright  by +Jay Dostal, Ed.D.  @jaydostal

Connected, Semi-Connected and UnConnected Educators  by +Tom Whitby @tomwhitby

Tired or Inspired?  by +Brad Waid  @techbradwaid

I'm Not Ready Yet  by +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

One Question You Should Ask Everyone You Meet  by +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

We Need More Misfits  by +Justin Tarte @justintarte

Afraid of Twitter?  shared by +Joe Sanfelippo @Joesanfelippofc

Great Edmodo Cheat Sheet  shared by @medkh9

Videos Worth Watching:

I wanna see you be BRAVE! (4 min) How do we get our kids to be willing to take risks?

Tyler DeWitt: Hey Science Teachers - make it fun! (11 min) Love this reflection...

My Wish Series! This is sure to make you smile. (7 min)


  1. Love this. Love. This. Absolutely. I think this time in public education is about perspective. There are some amazing things happening and the opportunity for teachers to grow has never been better. Also loved the Brave video...fantastic song and we challenged our staff this year to see how big their brave could be...very cool. I continue to enjoy your posts and truly admire the communication you have with your is exceptional. Great post....the good old days were filled with more skill and drill and less personalization for both students and staff. The only things that have remained from when I was in elementary school seem to be the importance of relationships with kids and the amount of time I spend in the principal's office! Thanks for sharing, Ben. Well done.

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