Saturday, May 17, 2014

Something to work on...

Over the past several weeks I've read several articles that have focused on how to end the school year on a positive note.  These posts have made me think, reflect and share with others different ways to flourish rather than survive.  As I say that I also think about how we end the year on a positive with staff, and not just students.

For many, the final stretch of the year means observations and evaluations.  This is familiar territory for me as well.  This year I had noble intentions of finalizing evaluations earlier...but it hasn't happened as I hoped.

I also have my own evaluation coming up in the next few weeks and I've been reflecting on what has gone well and what I need to improve on.  I'm definitely my own toughest critic (I think).  Let me begin by saying that my own philosophy is that everyone has room to grow.  I know my mindset is to continually improve.  With that being said, I'm personally looking at a couple areas that I've got to get better at.

First, I need to learn to say no.  This week I had two really great conversations about this topic. The first was with my wife.  I appreciate the way she tells me the truth, but she always follows it up with a positive. Our conversation centered around me always trying to be there for everyone. She was spot on...and I needed to hear it.  The second conversation was with my friend Brad Wilson ( @dreambition ).  Brad and I chatted on a Google Hangout this week and we were discussing conferences and events.  I then shared my struggle with saying no.  I told Brad that it is not uncommon for me to have several people ask me to help in one way or another.  Rarely is it the same individual asking all the time.  My biggest challenge in this respect is that I don't want to let someone down or let an opportunity slip away.  My fear is that by saying no I will shut a door or let someone down.  I realize this probably isn't the case, but it is still a fear of mine.

Second, I need to improve on analyzing data.  It is critical to balance relationships, content, differentiation, joy and data analysis.  These five areas need to be present in the learning process. I feel pretty good at relationships and joy.  I'm improving on content and differentiation.  Yet the area that I need to spend more time in is data analysis.  This will allow our building to pinpoint our areas of need and our areas of strength.

Third, I'm always looking to improve on overall consistency.  I feel we need a more consistent building-wide behavior plan.  I also believe I can always improve on parent and community relations, and the final area of consistency is with professional development choice.  I need to become more consistent in these three areas.

I say all this because I feel everyone has room for growth.  When I have a conversation with a student, friend, parent or staff member and I simply ask, "What areas are you hoping to improve?" The answer usually tells me all I need to know.  Does the individual have a growth mindset?

The school year is winding down, and I enjoy sitting at lunch with students or stopping in the hallway and just asking them what they think went really well this year and what they hope to improve on next year.  Kids are usually pretty honest, and just last week I had a 5th grade girl share a story with me - 

The young lady got hit by a ball at recess and she was not feeling the best.  I asked her if she wanted to eat lunch in my office.  She quickly responded with a, "Sure.  Thanks Mr. Gilpin."  As we sat there and she ate her chicken nuggets and I enjoyed my pretzels I asked her about her year. The conversation was positive.  She told me how she wished she had science and reading all day long!  She shared her favorite stories and experiments.  I loved how she talked about getting her hands dirty and learning by trial and error. She had that glimmer in her eye as she shared her experiences.  Then I shifted the conversation to what she is nervous about in middle school.  It came down to two things:  First, she was most worried about the amount of homework.  She admitted that she needs to be better organized and to not put things off.  The second area to improve on was very cute...she mentioned her fear of the locks on lockers.  I chuckled, walked over to my desk and pulled out a lock.  We sat in the office for ten minutes practicing.  It's these moments that I won't ever forget! As I sent her back to class she began to walk out and then she turned around and said, "Mr. Gilpin, thanks."

As I think about the year coming to an end, I think about the willingness to honestly reflect.  It all comes down to each individuals mindset.  When you sit down for your evaluation, will you go in open-minded and looking to get better?

This week's big questions:  What has been a real strength this year?  What do you feel you can improve on?


Monday, May 19th:  1:1 Tech Meeting at 1pm
Monday, May 19th:  PM Firedrill
Monday, May 19th:  Lego Club 4pm
Tuesday, May 20th:  Kids Hope Teacher Luncheon
Tuesday, May 20th:  Lego Club 4pm
Wednesday, May 21st:  Grades 3-5 Assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, May 21st:  MAISA PD Discussion 4:30pm
Thursday, May 22nd:  RTI Conference at JCISD
Thursday, May 22nd:  Envision Math Training grades 4 and 5 (8:30-3pm)
Thursday, May 22nd:  Last Day of Lego Club 4pm
Friday, May 23rd:  RTI Conference at JCISD
Friday, May 23rd: 8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Archer's room
Friday, May 23rd:  Mrs. Holton's 3rd grade to visit Pen Pals
Saturday, May 24th:  Happy BDay Pat Rouse

Check out the Panthers Podcast:

Panthers Podcast 1 - Ryan Tripp

Panthers Podcast 2 - Steve Kim

Articles Worth Reading:

One Last Day +Tom Murray @thomascmurray

Confessions of a Grade Inflator shared by +Nick Gilpin

Not How...But Will You Be Remembered? +Amber Teamann @8Amber8

Refuse to be a Boring Teacher +TeachThought @TeachThought

The Grading System We Need To Have shared by @Suz_Gibbs

Positively Push For Good Behavior +Charity Preston @theOCBlog

What's Your Class Story +A.J. Juliani @ajjuliani

9 Defining Ways Educators Can Tug Education Back in the Right Direction +Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher

5 Ways To Influence Change +George Couros @gcouros

You Matter Day 2014 +Todd Nesloney @TechNinjaTodd

20 Great Free Apps for Elementary +Matt Gomez @mattBgomez

12 Rituals Happy, Successful People Practice Every day +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Awesome Skype Session in @Suz_Gibbs classroom  (1 min)

Nerdcamp JR! (2 min) @dreambition

Note to self: Never invite Ellie to Warner! (4 min)

Bad Prom Photos! (4 min)

Tom Thum Beatbox amazement! (10 min) WOW!


  1. As we being our end of the year School Improvement Meeting, we will reflect on what we did well and what needed to be improved this year and what we are going to do better next year. Your blog reminded to base everything on a growth mindset. I think I am going to start the day with some quotes from Dweck's book! Thanks for posting!

    1. Appreciate the feedback Jenny. Do you find that your own attitude is different when the person in front of you is reflective, driven and looking to constantly improve?

  2. Ben I always enjoy your reflections and honesty. I agree it is difficult to say no, especially when we are in leadership roles. I read a book several years ago called "The Power of a Positive No" and I think you would like it. I actually read it in one sitting at Barnes and Noble.
    I also agree it is important for us to grow and it is easy to focus on the growth of others and neglect our own. Thankfully I have my PLN and folks like you to help me grow and push my thinking.
    As always your posts help me to grow and cause me to reflect. Thank you!

    1. Jon, actually I haven't read that book. You've got me intrigued. I'm trying to finish a book now and the next on my list is, "The Rise of Superman". It was recommended to it's next on my list.

      Thanks for the feedback and support!