Saturday, October 26, 2013

Who's Jurisdiction?

In this clip from Beverly Hills Cop 3, Billy asks the million dollar question:  Whose responsibility is it?

As a young educator years ago, I found myself in an awkward position during classroom parties, field trips, and in daily interaction with parents.  The awkwardness occurred when students misbehaved or simply "crossed the line" in front of both the teacher and parent.  

I distinctly remember one incident that happened during my first year as a teacher.  The local Lions Club had come to my classroom and asked that we decorate two large Christmas trees in the village.  I gladly accepted.  I believed this would be nice PR and it would give my students a chance to "give back".  We created dozens of yards of cheerio string ornaments and tried very hard to be eco friendly. The day finally arrived.  I asked parents to walk with us given the fact that we'd be traveling about a half mile on foot through town.  I had a handful of parents volunteer their time.  As we began walking to the Post Office I had a student running ahead of us and "clowning around".  His mother was walking with us as well.  When we reached the first stop sign I pulled him aside and quietly asked him to stay with the group.  We continued on past the ball fields and fire department, and the young man held it together until we got to the Post Office.  At this point it became awkward.  The student was the definition of "class clown".  He was loud, showing off and getting others riled up.  I was busy with the other students as I tried to help organize the decorating.  But deep down I was struggling. I expected the young man's mom to step in.  Unfortunately she only said the occasional, "settle down" or "come over here and help your friends".  He blew her off and continued to act out.  The final straw came when he began throwing pine cones on the roof of the Post Office.  I stepped in and had him sit on the ground by the curb.  This was very challenging for me.  

In some ways I still struggle with this.  When I'm out front waving goodbye to students and families I see some things that shouldn't occur.  I hesitate and I wonder if I should speak up or should I defer to the parent?
The question is: Who's jurisdiction is it?  We're at school, shouldn't I speak up?  Or...they're with their parents, isn't it up to the parent to deal with it?  This can be a daily conundrum...field trips, pick-ups, classroom parties, you name it.

My first year as principal I vividly remember our overnight Greenfield Village Field Trip with our third graders.  That night the students and dads were preparing for bed.  There were easily 50 bunk beds in one spacious and industrial room.  It was roughly 10:25pm and the room was very raucous.  I was exhausted and I walked around informing students and dads that we had lights out in four minutes.  The time passed and lights went out.  But the noise didn't.  In fact for 4-6 minutes I swear the noise increased!  I finally glanced at my watch and decided enough was enough. I sternly raised my voice and shouted, "Knock it off! Lights out!"  You could hear a pin drop.  The next morning several dads approached me and thanked me for "putting my foot down".  This was a tremendous learning experience for me.  

As I reflect on those moments I still wonder, Who's Jurisdiction?  I believe many teachers defer to parents when they are in the room or with their child.  Some teachers are comfortable disciplining students in the presence of parents, but I believe most walk a fine line.

We've always said, "It takes a village."  I believe this, but it doesn't make it any easier.  My advice on Who's Jurisdiction is -

*  Be professional - when disciplining in a public area, remain patient and professional

*  Discipline with dignity and respect, as you would if the parent was in the room - don't fear the reaction, but be aware of the day and age we live in.

*  Remember we deal with student issues more than parents; don't expect parents to have all the answers.  Sometimes parents look to the teacher to take charge because they know that they aren't strong at disciplining.

*  Partner with parents.  Don't be afraid to speak with parents and "team" up to get the best results.  The goal is getting students to improve the behavior or conduct. This shouldn't be an issue we tiptoe around,  but instead one we work together to improve.  

So who has jurisdiction?  I believe it is ours as educators.  I'll admit this can be touchy, but I believe in whole child education.  This mentality means we must step out of our comfort zones and address behavior we do not approve of, even if parents are in attendance.

This week's big question:  Classroom parties create a lively atmosphere, do you adjust your behavioral expectations or keep them the same?

Next Week At A Glance:

Monday, October  28th:  Tech Meeting at 1pm
Tuesday, October 29th:  TEAM meeting at 9am
Tuesday, October 29th:  3rd grade to Jiffy Mix
Wednesday, October 30th:  Assembly 8:45 for grades K-2
Wednesday, October 30th: TAT at 2:50 (email invites)
Wednesday, October 30th:  Halloween in the Science Lab 7-8 at SAU
Thursday, October 31st:  Halloween Parties begin in the PM.  Parade is set for 2:15 around the walking track.
Friday, November 1st:  No School, PD day (meeting at Parma Elementary)

Articles Worth Reading:

Steal Like An Artist #nerdybookclub by Jason Griffith

Educational Tweeting shared by +Erin Klein @KleinErin by @YollisClass

Videos Worth Watching:

MUST SEE! +TheEllenShow  (5 min) This is hilarious!

If you love watching great Marching Bands this is an impressive video! (11 min)

This is inspiring! Anything is possible with a positive attitude. (8 min)

Added to make you smile!  Enjoy...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Assessing Quandary

As I walk out of my office knee deep in MEAP I shake my head and think there must be a better way.

Most people know that I am not an advocate for standardized testing or testing in general.  With that being said I feel it's important to clarify my position and thoughts.

Let's start with Standardized Testing, my big issues are these: Attaching funding, using the scores to determine school value (AYP, Focus, Priority, etc...), turnaround on results, format of tests and the questions.  In short I have many issues with standardized tests. They were never designed to be "High Stakes".  Supposably this is the final year of our MEAP test, but then next Spring we get to begin Smarter Balanced assessing.  I'm not looking forward to it.  I will hope for the best, but expect to be frustrated and annoyed.  I feel as though I'm a positive person, but testing sucks that inner positivity out of me.

Next, the complexity of Quarterly Common Assessments.  For four+ years we have worked to create district common assessments.  I believe our thinking has been in the correct place.  The goal is to gather data that drives instruction, increases collaboration between classes/schools, review the data for differentiating, and keep classrooms appropriately paced.

All this testing and attempted testing makes me reflect and think about what is most important.

We can all agree there are really two types of tests: Formative and summative.  Formative assessments should and typically do occur on a daily basis.  This is simply good teaching.  Teachers formatively assess to gauge student understanding and confidence in the topic.  Summative is a little different. This now takes understanding to a different level.  In summative assessments we now put a number or level on the learning.  I don't think this will go away.  

Almost none of what I have stated is groundbreaking or rocket science.  I do believe we should be looking at doing something different from what we have been doing.

I believe we need to Universal Screen students with a screening tool.  There are many tools out there. I've talked with others about various tools: AIMSweb, DIBELS, MAP and PALS.  I'm not an expert on these tools.  I will say that I've talked with @susankhaney about MAP and it intrigues me.  So why a Universal Screener?  

I believe this sums it up well: Screening is conducted to identify or predict students who may be at risk for poor learning outcomes. Universal screening tests are typically brief, conducted with all students at a grade level, and followed by additional testing or short-term progress monitoring to corroborate students’ risk status.

What Do We Seek in a Screen?

Screening approaches should satisfy three criteria (Jenkins, 2003). First is classification accuracy—a good screen accurately classifies students as at- risk or not at-risk for reading failure. Second is efficiency—because screening is universal, the procedure must not be too costly, time-consuming, and cumbersome to implement. Good screens can be administered, scored, and interpreted quickly and accurately. Third is consequential validity—overall, the net effect for students must be positive (Messick, 1989). This means students identified as at risk for failure must receive timely and effective intervention, and no students or groups should be shortchanged.

As we move forward I do not know what will happen with Common Assessments. I do know that we have struggled for years.  I believe a valid solution is Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring. The Universal Screening would take place in the beginning, middle and end of the year.  We would progress monitor as interventions take place, and teachers would continuously do formative assess. This to me is the best model.  This would allow us to best use our RTI resources and to observe student growth.

This week's big question:  As an educator, what are your thoughts on Universal Screenings?

Next Week At A Glance:

Tuesday, October 22nd:  Fall Festival 5:30-7:30pm
Wednesday, October 23rd:  All School Assembly in Gym at 8:45 (CP Fed. Credit Union)
Wednesday, October 23rd:  iPad Media Camp at Warner El. 3:30-4:30 topic is interactive writing/blogging  check out -

Friday, October 25th:  5th Grade College For A Day
Friday, October 25th:  Staff Meeting in Mrs. Hurt's classroom at 8am

*  Our Lockdown Drill was good.  Please remember to put color coded cards in window.
*  If you need any assistance with Fall Festival please email Maria or Ben.
*  Halloween Parade will be schedule for outdoors beginning at 2:30 sharp.  All classes will parade around for one lap and return to classrooms.

Articles Worth Reading:

The Biggest "Game-Changer" in Education +George Couros @gcouros

5 Things Most People Don't Know about Poverty and Student Achievement +Peter DeWitt @PeterMDeWitt

Creating a Least Restrictive Environment with Mobile Devices shared by +Erin Klein @KleinErin

How To Create Effective Homework shared by +Todd Nesloney @TechNinjaTodd

Secrets to Creating a Positive School Culture +Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal

Encouraging Risk-Taking with Teachers +Reed Gillespie @rggillespie

Training Teachers To Teach Critical Thinking  shared by +William Powers @MrPowersCMS

My Daughter's Homework is Killing ME! @karltaro

Lessons From My Sister, A Teacher Who Left Too Soon @DrJoeClark

Data Driven or Driven by Data...? +Justin Tarte @justintarte

Tips to relieve CCSS pain shared by +Craig Raehtz @CraigRaehtz

7 Shortcuts You Will Regret Taking in Life +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

One Size Does Not Fit All! Sound Familiar? (15 min)

Beautiful Oops! Love this for reminding ALL people mistakes are okay. (1 min) @SueVanRiper

The World Can Be Better! (4 min)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

One Size Does Not Fit All

Most people are now entering the "meat" of the school year.  I have been very pleased with what I've seen at Warner Elementary.  Our students are working hard, they're creating, they've been positive and they are learning to be proactive.  Our staff has been terrific!  The teachers have handled the technology integration with professionalism and they are working hard to meet all student needs.  I've been pleased. My biggest issues this year have been the building budget, standardized test materials, getting the technology to do what we need and learning about our new students.  In a nutshell things have been very positive...not easy...but definitely positive.

As I say all that something smacked me in the face a short time ago.  It's called the Common Core.  I have never been against the Common Core.  I was the guy that believed that anything that wasn't a GLCE was a good thing.

As a 5th grade teacher some time ago, I was under the "delusion" that I HAD to cover ALL of the GLCE's.  This was frustrating.  I've written about this in a previous posts... Mile Wide and An Inch Deep .  When I first came to Western over four years ago I sat down with @susankhaney and that's when she shared the philosophy about "Power Standards or Power Objectives".  She went on to tell me that each grade level and subject had 8 Power Objectives.  It made so much sense!  I literally said, "Why didn't I think of that?"

When word first came out that Michigan was strongly looking at the Common Core, I was excited.  I was excited for a National Vision.  I was excited for fewer Standards. I was excited to get rid of GLCE's.  When I went to conferences I heard people discussing the ability to "dig deeper" and "master content".  I loved all of this talk.  I believed this was exactly what we needed.  Now I'll admit, it is a change and I didn't think this would be all roses from day one.  But I did support the Common Core movement.

Now that I'm watching it in action and I've been able to look closer I see something that frightens me.  I see that while it is more narrowed than what the GLCE's may have been, it is still too broad.  There is a lack of spiraling...which makes me wonder about the validity, but I see it as still very broad.  If teachers try to "master" or "dig deeper" on every standard they will move too slow.  In some ways it feels like a rat race!

So what do we do?  Well, this week we began to take positive steps forward.

First, in the area of Math CCSS, there are approximately six standards that are the "power standards". These six make up 75% of what Smarter Balanced believes to be most critical.  By focusing on these "Big" six we are lessening the load a bit.

Second, we are pumping the brakes on our common assessments and standard based grading initiatives. These are still very important topics that we want to have accomplished, but until we have a better handle on curriculum we must pump the brakes.

Third, we are having vital discussions.  This is critical.  Without open communication, people become angry and disgruntled and then morale suffers.  This is not a matter of winning and losing.  This is a matter of working together, compromising and moving forward the best we can.

So now what?  I'm going to share why I believe the shift to the Common Core is very difficult.  (I've already said it is too broad, but there is another reason...)

The Common Core is a set of standards.  It is not a curriculum.  Our government is struggling with this concept.  As a district we have adopted the MAISA units which is essentially our curriculum. Here is the catch.  During the time of GLCE's, districts would purchase curriculum(s).  It could be EveryDay Math or Reading Street, Pearson, Houghton name it.  This curriculum matched the GLCE's...or at least came close.  It wasn't rocket science as a teacher.  You had your basal or text book and you had to begin in the front of the text and end near the rear of the text.  Of course you still had to be a teacher, you still had to adjust and modify.  

The Common Core in all of its broadness has allowed for greater flexibility.  (Of course text book companies will tell you they align with Common Core-- what else would they say?)  This flexibility can be viewed in multiple ways.  I believe this has created three specific viewpoints:

1) The Educator that is feeling scattered, discombobulated or frustrated.  This is the person that craves crystal clear direction, structure and the base of a text.  This educator does a very good job when he/she is confident in materials, resources, pace and a common message.

2) The Educator that is feeling a bit scattered, but mainly enthused by the new found freedom.  This person enjoys finding materials and resources and creating lessons to meet educational targets.  At times this person may feel self conscious about pacing and rigor, but for the most part they enjoy the professional freedom to meet student needs in the way they believe is best.

3) The blended Educator.  This person is a blend of the above two.  This person enjoys freedom, but only to a degree.  This person works best with a base to fall back on.  Ultimately the blended educator has strengths and weaknesses.  When they feel most comfortable they enjoy the freedom to create and pull from other areas.  Yet, when they are not as confident they want to lean on a consistent structure or resource of a textbook.

From a personal standpoint I like the freedom and individuality that the Common Core allows.  The last thing I want is for teachers to feel "handcuffed" and forced to do lessons a certain way.  I do know in some countries every teacher is supposed to be on a specific page, on a specific day.  I realize this is extreme, but the point is that Educators are professionals. As a professional, I want to be trusted to teach my students the way I believe is best.

From an administrative standpoint I want teachers to have the tools to be their best.  Some will want autonomy and freedom, others will need a text or basal.  I need to support teachers and help them be their best.  This is why I left Friday disappointed.  I reflected about our staff meeting and I heard the voices echoing in my head.  I wish I could have been the leader that made a profound statement that eased everyone's frustration.  I wish I could have provided that "silver bullet" approach that people would have left the meeting feeling as though Ben was going to make this okay.  I didn't, and because of this I felt a feeling of disappointment.  

I have confidence in our district.  We will find a balance.  I do believe the Common Core is a game changer.  We won't find the perfect fix overnight, but with collaboration, problem solving and a positive attitude I'm confident we can do this together.

This Week's Big Question(s):  How do we move forward?  Are you part of the problem solving effort?

Next Week At A Glance:

Monday, October 14th:  1:1 Leadership meeting 1pm
Monday, October 14th:  MEAP make-ups grades 3-5 in the AM
Tuesday, October 15th: Flu shot clinic at Administration Building
Tuesday, October 15th:  1st Grade to Safetyville
Tuesday, October 15th:  MEAP testing (math)
Wednesday, October 16th:  K-2 Assembly at 8:45
Wednesday, October 16th:  String Team at 3pm
Wednesday, October 16th:  MEAP testing (writing/science)
Wednesday, October 16th:  MacAirs will be used by 5th grade to complete online Science MEAP tests. Thursday, October 17th: 1st Grade to Safetyville
Thursday, October 17th:  Crisis Response Meeting
Friday, October 18th: 4th Grade to IndianBrook Farms
Friday, October 18th:  Lockdown Drill in the AM

*  Fall Festival is coming:  Three Questions that I need you to let me know about.
1 - Do you need prizes for your game?
2 - Do you need times filled to relieve you or someone else?
3 - Do you need assistance with a game or idea for a game?

Articles Worth Reading:

And Then I Met A Teacher +Amber Teamann @8Amber8

The Art of Managing Middle School Students by Ben Johnson

Feeling defeated or tired already? +Amber Teamann @8Amber8

The most creative hour of our day +Erin Klein @KleinErin

Choose Your Own Adventure +Joe Sanfelippo @Joesanfelippofc

12 Conversation Starters: What Parents want (teachers) to know +Joe Mazza @Joe_Mazza

Being Connected Saved My Career +Tony Sinanis @Cantiague_Lead

Invitation to a Dialogue: Don't Teach to the Test shared by +Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal

Maybe She'll Put It On Twitter +Shannon Degan @shannondegan - @studiobree

Embracing the Unknown @DCulberhouse

60 Ways To Make Life Simple Again +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Northern Hills School Song +Curt Rees @CurtRees

Videos Worth Watching:

Malala on the Daily Show! (5 Min)

"When You Say Nothing At All" (3 min)

"Perfect" the story of a Father's transformation... (14 min)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The More Things Change, The More We Appreciate The Things That Don't

This week was our annual trip to Mystic Lake for 5th grade camp.  All four years I have witnessed and experienced change at Mystic Lake which is near Clare, Michigan.  Most of the changes have been very positive.  Our students love the giant swing, our parents appreciate the uploaded pictures and the upgrades to the facilities are nice. As I took in the changes it struck me that I really appreciate the things that haven't changed.  For multiple years we have had three outstanding Mystic Lake counselors.  It should come as no surprise that the people are what truly matter.  

The first is Mundo.  Mundo is a veteran at Mystic Lake and it shows with his patience, understanding and leadership.  5th grade camp is full of adventure, challenges and teamwork.  Mundo is the consummate teacher.  He has a unique way of provoking thought and involving EVERYONE.  I truly appreciate how he mentors our high school counselors; he's always trying to help prepare them for college and beyond.  Camp wouldn't be the same without Mundo.  He is a constant that helps make Mystic Lake a wonderful place to learn and grow.

The second is Ezra.  Ezra is another longtime Mystic Lake Counselor.  Ezra has always struck me as "over qualified".  He's great with the kids and high school counselors and he has a nice blend of fun and seriousness.  I appreciate Ezra because he can easily run any Trail (activity) and make it a memorable experience.  Each time we travel north to Mystic Lake, I'm always relieved to see Ezra. Ezra has this way of sharing stories, promoting independence and keeping calm.  His leadership is a true asset.

The third is Grant.  Every camp needs a Grant!  Grant is the livewire, the energizer bunny, the practical joker.  Grant keeps everyone smiling and on their toes.  Without a personality like Grant, camp would be missing something.  When our students return from camp many of the stories will involve crazy stunts that Grant did.  I see Grant as someone that loves to give back.  He is very loyal and I imagine he once attended camp and I would venture that it made a huge difference in his life and he's now trying to make a difference.  Grant is a good guy- it takes a lot to be constantly "on" and Grant is always going full blast!

These three I appreciate because they haven't changed.  They truly make camp special and memorable. I'm not looking forward to the day they aren't there.  

All of this created a deeper reflection.  I began to think about all the change that has occurred at Warner Elementary.  I do believe it has been positive change and I do believe we will continue to move forward.  Yet the things that don't change we truly appreciate.  The lifeline at Warner is our very own Mrs. Katie Powers.  Mrs. Powers is the front line.  She deals with all parents, staff and students.  What I'm grateful for is her consistency, loyalty, dedication and calmness.  Mrs. Powers is the first person people talk to at Warner and she is often the first person people see at Warner.  Her warm smile and nature are qualities we come to expect and depend on.

On a daily basis I appreciate Katie more and more.  I believe we can all agree that our secretary is critical to what we all do.  She's a friend, a confidant, a supporter to all and a key ingredient that has not changed at Warner Elementary.  

We live in a time of constant improvement and growth, and we know that change is a process and that we will need to embrace it.  Yet I truly believe we appreciate the positive things that don't change. Every organization has key individuals that are the constants.  I hope you are as lucky as we are to have a Katie Powers.

This week has reminded me that change is inevitable, but the things that don't change can be what we appreciate the most.

• It's People, Not Programs - Programs are only as good as the paper they are written on without the people who implement them. A school culture doesn't exist because of a program. It exists because of the people within the building. That includes aides, secretaries, food service, teachers, administrators, parents and most importantly, students.

This week's big question:  What is it that we appreciate about the things that don't change?  

Next Week At A Glance:

Saturday, Oct. 5:  Happy Bday to Jeff Kinney
Saturday, Oct. 5:  Happy Bday to John Raymond
Monday, Oct. 7:  Tech Leadership Meeting at 1pm (if you have a question, concern or suggestion let me know before I go)
Tuesday, Oct. 8:  PTO Meeting at 7pm
Tuesday, Oct. 8:  MEAP testing begins grades 3, 4 and 5
Wednesday, Oct. 9: No assembly due to MEAP testing
Wednesday, Oct. 9:  Happy Bday to Carmen Hinkle
Friday, Oct. 11: Assembly grades 3-5 at 8:45 (moved from Wednesday to Friday because of MEAP)
Friday, Oct. 11:  Staff Meeting 8am in Mrs. Nash's classroom
Friday, Oct. 11: Picture Day
Friday, Oct. 11:  Homecoming Football Game!
Saturday, Oct. 11:  Happy Bday to Deb Trudell

*  Mrs. Archer shared an excellent idea last week.  Starting this week I would like to include, "App of the Day" on the student led morning announcements.  I would like to see a class a day have a couple students sharing an App they enjoy.  

Articles Worth Reading:

Feel, Function and Flow by +Brad Wilson @dreambition

Lost Time Capsule from 1960 Found at Western High School by @Gibbychip

Guided Reading Organization Made Easy shared by +Jessica Johnson @PrincipalJ

What Does It Mean To Be A Leader? (5 yr old Geniuses Respond)  +Angela Maiers @AngelaMaiers

Changing Face of Classroom Instruction +Justin Tarte @justintarte

You Can Close the Door (Sometimes) +George Couros @gcouros

StoryBoard Apps to Inspire +TeachThought @TeachThought

Who is helping you get Better, or Better Yet, Be Great? by +Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy

Power of a Positive Learning Environment by @jlh842000

One of My Least Favorite Questions... +Daisy Duerr @daisydyerduerr

8 Chances Unhappy People Never Take +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Phlegm Friday by @ShutUpRun

Videos Worth Watching:

Authentic, Touching. (7 min) Worth your time...

12 year old App developer. (4 min)

Sammy the Squirrel at the President's Cup. (30 seconds)

Mystic Lake Pics!