Saturday, March 15, 2014

What Story Is Being Told?

Just the other day I read an online article about education.  The article talked about increased safety in schools, more tools for students than ever before and individualized professional development for staff. The article was very positive and lifted me up.  Then I scrolled to the comments at the bottom of the page.  In a word...disappointing.  Person after person bashed education.  I chose to stop reading.  The sad thing is that I left with a bad taste in my mouth rather than feeling uplifted.

So this got me thinking.  What story is being told about our school?  What story is being told about our classrooms?  Who is telling the story?

In the very near future Standardized Test scores will be released to the general public.  When this occurs I'm sure the negative bashing of education will increase exponentially!  We will all hear how we are failing our students.  We will be told that education is broken.

I believe we have three options, but if you read between the lines you only have one real option:

1 - Make excuses and blame others...this is a popular option.  It is called deflecting.  This is when an educator blames government and leadership for lack of funding/resources. Sometimes parents are blamed. Deflecting tears down communities and simply doesn't work, in fact it often makes things worse. Unfortunately too many educators choose to blame, make excuses and deflect.  I urge you to not be a deflector.

2 - Do nothing. Assume that the way you've always done things is good enough.  I see this from many educators.  My 2 cents...the World has changed.  If you believe staying the same is a positive, I'm afraid to say you are very wrong.  The saying goes, "If you're not improving you're going in the wrong direction."

3 - Tell Your Story!  Try to outweigh the negatives with positive stories.  You have an opportunity each day to tell your story.  Do you?  Are you sharing the wonderful things that happen in your school? Are you sharing the fantastic things that take place in your classroom?  

Recently +Tony Sinanis and +Joe Sanfelippo began a Podcast that is all about Branding.  It is called BrandED you can click on the link to take you to the podcasts.  I encourage all educators to listen to these podcasts.  First of all they are all approximately 12 minutes long.  In my opinion that is very manageable as far as time.  Second, the ideas and knowledge you gain will help you share your story.  Whether you choose to listen to one of them, or all of them, they will lift you up!

At this point you may be asking yourself, why do I need to tell my story?  Here's the fact, +Eric Sheninger states, "When we don't tell our story someone else will.  When we don't tell our story 9 out of 10 times it's not the story we want told."

Think about your classroom or your school, what do parents and community members say about your classroom?  What is the perception of the school?  If we sit back and believe our school or classroom is not a topic of discussion we are being naive.  Community members and parents constantly talk.  They talk on Social Media and they talk Face 2 Face.  Is this the true story?  

We have an opportunity to share what is happening in schools and classrooms more now than at any other time in history.  I take tremendous pride in our school and I want to share it with the World!  Just this past week we had so many phenomenal things happen at Warner.

First, @julieoliver333 and her students @JOliver3rdgrade were featured in an article on +CNN You can read the article - Genius Hour: What Kids Can Learn From Failure

You might ask, how did this happen.  +Julie Oliver has been sharing #GeniusHour activities on Twitter for months and @CNN has noticed!  The power of POSITIVE social media.

Second, last week we had @gibbychip attend our Annual Doughnuts with Dad event.  Leanne then went back and shared the positives in this article - Sweet Morning at Warner Elementary kicks off Reading Month

Third, we are fortunate to have not one, but two ladies presenting at MAJOR Michigan Conferences.  @studiobree just presented twice at #macul14 and @Suz_Gibbs is presenting in three sessions at the #MRA14 conference.  Both of these ladies stepped out of their comfort zones and submitted proposals. I'm extremely proud!

Fourth, just recently our own +Melissa Moffitt was named Jackson Area Teacher of the Year by @JacksonMagazine

My point is, look at all the things to celebrate!  What does our community focus on?  Standardized Test scores or the amazing things happening in our school.  Are we telling our story?  If you're not I have a few suggestions to help you get started.

First, share the good news EVERY DAY!  Think about it, each day our kids go home and each day parents ask, "What did you do today?"  Instead of having this be the routine, we should have parents connected.  Parents should have an inside look into the learning.  This would be powerful, kids would then get home and parents would say, "I saw what you did today, tell me more about it."  This would be truly meaningful.  

How can we share every day?  There are lots of ways.  Teachers can have a Classroom Twitter account, Classroom Facebook account, Daily emails, Animoto...the possibilities are endless. Basically the tools are out there, it's just a matter of using them.  If you aren't telling your story someone else is.  My advice, parents want to connect. Parents want to know their child's teacher.  You're with their pride and joy for 6+ hours a day.  When you reach out they want to feel your passion and pride for what you do.  Parents don't want simple facts and regurgitation.  They want to connect!  When you share, are your parents getting to know you better, are they feeling connected?

Second, get your students excited about learning.  The best storytellers are the kids...period.  If the kids dread school this is a bad thing.  We need students to engage and want to come to school.  Then when they get home they will share the positives of the classroom.  This POSITIVE story will reach farther than any of us can.

Third, get involved in some way.  I encourage educators to attend an extracurricular event of your students.  If you have a student that you struggle to connect with, go to the event.  I bet your relationship with the student will turn around pretty quickly.  Think about the message that would send to the child and to the parents.  That's POWERFUL!

Times have changed, if we are aloof and simply believe the Status Quo is acceptable we are wrong. Now is the time to rethink learning.  Are we getting students engaged?  Are we giving students a global voice?  Are we connecting with parents on a personal level?  Are we telling our story?

This Week's Big Question(s):  What story is being told about your classroom/school?  If you don't know how to begin to tell your classroom story are you willing to ask for help?

Next Week At A Glance:

Sunday, March 16th:  Happy BDay to Becky Holton
Monday, March 17th:  1:1 Tech Leadership Meeting in Boardroom at 3:45
Monday, March 17th:  Preschool Visits to Cherubs AM and PM
Monday, March 17th:  Minecraft Club 4-5pm
Tuesday, March 18th:  Linda Urban Author Visit
Tuesday, March 18th:  Wear your class shirts day!
Tuesday, March 18th:  Minecraft Club 4-5pm
Wednesday, March 19th:  Assembly with K-2 (make-up for the snow day last week)
Wednesday, March 19th: 3:30 - 4:30 Tech PD with Brad Wilson at Warner (topic is Video Discussion Board and Student Responses)  HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Wednesday, March 19th:  Minecraft Club 3-4pm
Wednesday, March 19th:  After School String Team
Thursday, March 20th:  Doughnuts with Mom at 7:45am
Thursday, March 20th:  Turn in reading logs
Thursday, March 20th:  Tornado Drill in the ready in the lunchroom...hint, hint.
Friday, March 21st:  2nd Grade to the Air Zoo and 4th Grade to Lansing
Friday, March 21st:  Dress-Up like an Everyday Hero
Saturday, March 22nd:  2nd Annual Warner 5K 9am for 5K run/walk and 10am for Kids run
Saturday, March 22nd:  Thought1 Basketball Game at Western HS 7pm.

Articles Worth Reading:

Would You Want To Be a Teacher In Your Classroom? by +George Couros @gcouros

Thank You and a quick thought #MACUL14 +Nicholas Provenzano @thenerdyteacher

50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education (I love this!) +TeachThought @TeachThought

There Should Be No Invisible Children +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

Things That Have Me Thinking... +Steven Anderson @web20classroom

10 Tips for engaging all students @edutopia

Dear Students: You are so much more than a test score +Angela Watson @Angela_Watson

What Do We Do When Genius Hour Fails... +A.J. Juliani @ajjuliani

40 Things I know about education +Tony Sinanis @TonySinanis

Take it easy on them... +Joe Sanfelippo @Joesanfelippofc

8 Things You Should Never Give Up For A Relationship +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

8 Raunchy Things Runners Do and Why @ShutUpRun

Videos Worth Watching:

Powerful!  This is student created!  We must be thinking big when it comes to what our students accomplish. (3 min)

Be More Dog!  Are you more dog or cat?  Check this out... (1 min)

Spread the word!  This is fantastic! (8 min)

Password Rant!  Sure to make you laugh out loud. (3 min)


  1. Nailed it Ben!
    Keep up the great work buddy.

    1. Thanks Bill! I miss you man. Hoping life is treating you well. Any chance we can talk you into EdCampLDR on August 4th in Philly?

  2. You are always looking for the positive Ben and I am sure that is what makes you such an incredible leader. You never look for excuses and you always think about moving forward. You are truly a long distance mentor to me. Thank you!

    1. Just remember Jon...A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships!

      Sharing the positive stories lifts everyone up. It isn't about ME...It's about WE. I appreciate you reading and commenting. Keep inspiring and doing what is best for kids.

  3. Well done! Thank you for this post and always keeping students at the forefront of your educational beliefs. There are so many great things happening in education that are often overshadowed by the vocally negative. We all need to start sharing our positive stories and experiences that makes what we do the best job in the word! Keep up the great posts... very inspiring.

    1. You hit the nail on the head Keith. There are so many great things happening. Most educators don't want to brag...I don't view this as bragging, I view it as sharing. We all should share our stories. I appreciate the feedback. Be the Change...

  4. I am just beginning to jump into the educational blogging world, and I'm so thankful I found your blog--specifically this entry! This is such an strong testament to the power of blogging. Your leadership, especially your positivity and digital high-fives for your staff, is inspiring. Thank you for writing and sharing your stories!

    1. Thank you. I applaud you for jumping into the blogging world. I read several blogs each day and I'm so impressed with the quality and ability to make me reflect and think. I appreciate your feedback and I'd really like to check out your blog. How can I access it?

  5. After MACUL, I saw how powerful students sharing their story is. I've got a lot of ideas to get started to allow my students to begin to share more of their own stories to the world!

    1. I'm really looking forward to seeing this in action! I'm glad you found the conference motivating.

  6. Thank you for this reminder to all of us and to the rest of the education world. There is a lot of negativity out there -- we have to keep working to be beacons of light, celebrating the positives! Thank you for celebrating your staff and students in so many ways!

    1. You all make it easy to celebrate the positives! I'm grateful for your passion and love of teaching. Keep sharing your students stories.

  7. Ben, once again your post inspires me. It is a great reminder and your point number one relates to a post I just finished up on the use of scapegoats. We can easily get caught up in the blame game or start to deflect criticism when we should really be looking at ourselves in the mirror and asking ourselves, what else can I do? To make me better. To make things better for our students. Great post my man!!

    1. Appreciate the kind words Tom. I enjoyed your post on Scapegoats! I see this all too often and this simply tears down classrooms, schools and communities. Attitude is critical! We must share our stories and bit by bit change the focus in Education. Thanks for reading and commenting. I always appreciate your feedback.