Saturday, August 30, 2014

Excited with Anticipation!

Exactly 80 days ago we waived goodbye to our students.  For many of us the summer was filled with re-connecting with family, re-charging our own batteries and getting re-committed for an exciting new year!  In just three days we get to welcome our students back and do what we do best, make a difference in kids lives.

Every Summer something occurs that leaves me in awe of our staff.  

My first year at Warner I attended a PLC Summit in Lincolnshire, Illinois.  I spent days connecting and learning from/with Warner teachers.  We went to dinner together, we talked about family and we discussed education (we even scrunched into a cab together... boy that was tight quarters).  As a professional it was the first time I had ever attended a multi-day conference with so many team members.

My second year I remember teachers spending hour after hour in curriculum camp.  Teachers developed calendars, activities, assessments and strategies.  It was once again an eye-opening event to watch the dedication of our team!

Summer number three was a critical time.  Teacher evaluations had taken place and it was vital to take the time during the summer to meet with staff and let them know I care about them. That summer I had several heart felt conversations.  The efforts made that summer by our staff helped build our culture to new levels.

My fourth summer literally blew my mind...we had committed to creating inviting spaces at Warner Elementary.  The plan was to paint the restrooms (beginning our Leader in Me journey).  By the end of the summer the restrooms, the entryways and most classrooms were painted.  That summer I remember walking past teachers and staff and listening to the conversations.  That summer I was so impressed with what I watched.  The building transformed!  The surface looked beautiful, but the connections and relationships are what grew the most.

This summer I fully expected most staff members to getaway and recharge.  Last year's changes simply zapped us.  I knew people needed time.  But then it began to happen.  One by one I began seeing staff come in to the building.  Some came in to get their hands on the new math curriculum.  Others came in to paint and still others came in to redesign their classrooms.  I walked the halls and talked to many staff.  In those conversations you could hear could hear the excitement, the passion and the anticipation in their voices.

Last Thursday was our Back 2 School Night and I can say, in my five years at Warner I have never been to a better Open House!  Families came in droves and the positive energy was simply amazing.

I can't tell you how often I hear people share negatives about public education.  I hear people talk about testing and funding.  I hear people talk about educators leaving the profession.  Most of all I hear people talk about the stresses of teaching.  I may be naive, but I believe Warner is simply different.  Our focus is on relationships.  We have endured challenges and the beauty of it is that we went through the challenges together.  You find out a lot about people in times of crisis.

Everyday we continue to build our culture, we take risks, we put relationships first and we pride ourselves in strong communication.

In three short days our kids come back.  I know this will be a great year!  I know this because I know our staff.  I know we can handle adversity, we can handle challenges, we can handle bumps in the road...because we love kids!  I can't wait to walk side-by-side with all of you.


Tuesday, Sept. 2nd:  Make Sure SafeSchools Online Training is complete
Tuesday, Sept. 2nd:  Boo-Hoo Breakfast for parents (in cafeteria from 8:30-9:30am)
Tuesday, Sept. 2nd:  First day of school! 8:30am arrival and 3:35pm dismissal.  If you can assist with bussing and dismissals that would be wonderful.

Wednesday, Sept. 3rd:  No assembly (early release begins on the 10th)
Friday, Sept. 5th:  Happy B-Day to Jenny Shearer

*  A few reminders
- discuss fire drill, tornado drill and lockdown procedures with your students
- please do not leave doors leading outside propped open, if you need a key please see me
- please be patient with lunch (remember we have a brand new Kitchen Assistant and she doesn't know the kids yet
- the bus situation is always a test at the beginning of the year, please prepare your students early for dismissal
- remember patience...your technology may not be where you want it for day one...but we will get there!

*  I will be posting the lounge schedule on Monday, Sept. 1st


Why Have a Classroom Site +Beth Still @BethStill

Finding Our Element +Dennis Schug @DJrSchug

The Issue With Comfort Zones +Joe Sanfelippo @joesanfelippofc

The Power of Branding +Tony Sinanis +Joe Sanfelippo @TonySinanis

Change Your Mindset... +Angela Watson @Angela_Watson

The Obsolete Tech Director +Tom Murray @thomascmurray

What if... +Geniene Delahunty @GenieneD

20 Things Life is Too Short Not to Appreciate +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel


Every Kid Needs a Champion! Must see for ALL EDUCATORS.  (7 min)

If you watched this each morning it would be tough to ever have a bad day.  (10 min) Music starts at 4 min mark.

The Tale of Two Brains... (13 min)

Morgan Freeman on the Tonight Show.  Great stuff! (3 min)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More than just a Challenge

Growing up with a brother often means taking on odd risks.  I remember some ridiculous things we did as kids.  The whole "I dare you" or even the dreaded "double dare", would push us into precarious spots and test our manhood.  I'm not proud of it, but we watched a lot of WWF wrestling and this would typically start the rambunctiousness.  I do remember a specific dare that I took, and if you know me, I'm not really a daredevil.  As kids, my brother and our two cousins, played this game that we created called Shin-Up Steve.  We were nuts. We chased each other through the woods with a rope and some kind of object (rocks, etc) attached to the end trying to whip it at the others. Obviously, this often inflicted physical harm.  I'm pretty sure the whole game started as a dare.  There's something about accepting a challenge that lights a fire in many of us.

Just last week I was challenged again.  I was challenged by +Brad Gustafson and +Tom Whitford to do the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.  I had heard about the challenge and I even watched a few celebrities do it, but I didn't know how it started and I couldn't tell you much about ALS.  This is what I did know, I knew ALS was synonymous for Lou Gehrig's disease.  I knew that once diagnosed a person's life expectancy was less than five years, but I didn't know a whole lot more.  That didn't stop me, I took the challenge...

But then after I took the challenge I realized the importance of understanding the how and why.  My two boys helped with my #ALSIceBucketChallenge and I could quickly tell it was all about the challenge and not about ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).  So the dad and educator in me decided to share, but first I needed to be a bit sharper with my facts.  So this is what I learned:

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects your nerve cells in your brain and the spinal chord.  That's a mouth full.  So what I told my boys was, ALS often includes muscle weakness/loss, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing and breathing.  

My words seemed to make a small difference, but then I decided it would be best to sit down and watch the #SCFeature, Pete's Challenge.  It was after watching this video (below) that my 9 year old started to truly understand that this was more than just a challenge.

So often our society and our children see the final product, but often times the story is an afterthought. I believe the stories are what provide the lasting impacts.  A few weeks ago I didn't know the name Pete Frates.  Now, I'll never forget the name.  We as adults have the power to take these viral moments and create teachable moments.  I urge you to take the time and educate our youth.  With knowledge comes power to be a true difference maker.  Pete Frates' impact on society is only possible if we choose to learn his story and share the real reason behind the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.

Kids around the World are heading back to school, and viral moments will continue to happen. Will we choose to treat them as "teachable moments?"  I know that the #ALSIceBucketChallenge is more than just a trendy social media's people joining together to create a genuine movement.


Sunday, August 24th:  Back-2-School Bash at the Gilpin's 5-8pm
Monday, August 25th:  New Teacher Orientation
Tuesday, August 26th:  (Optional PD day)  All-Staff are welcome to come to Parma at 11am for our Nurtured Heart Training.  11:30 - 3:00pm
Wednesday, August 27th:  7:15 All Staff BKfast followed by Welcome message
Wednesday, August 27th:  MAISA Writing PD day
Thursday, August 28th:  8:30am All-Staff meet at Jackson High School for Ruby Payne
Thursday, August 28th:  12:15pm Staff Luncheon provided by our PTO!
Thursday, August 28th:  1:00pm Staff Meeting followed by classroom time
Thursday, August 28th:  5:30-7:30 Back-2-School Night

Articles Worth Reading:

5 #ALSIceBucketChallenge Takeaways for Educators +Joe Mazza @Joe_Mazza

10 Things to do with QR Codes on Back to School Night +Gwyneth Jones @GwynethJones

Looking for a Silver Bullet? It Begins with Us. +Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy

Some Ideas for Book Clubs +Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp

Bright Ideas: How Voxer changed my personal & professional life +Angela Watson @Angela_Watson

The Most Dangerous Phrase In Education +Terry Heick @TeachThought

Opening Day! +Jeff Zoul @Jeff_Zoul

15 Examples of Student-Centered Teaching +Terry Heick @TeachThought

Classroom Cribs Challenge +A.J. Juliani @ajjuliani

OK, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Worked, now where will the dollars go?

25 Things to Remember When Life Gets Rough +Marc Chernoff @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Lou Gehrig's famous speech... (1 min)

Rhode Island Coach Truly GETS IT! I wish all adults had this mentality. (2 min) MUST SEE!

Moments to Fill Your Heart (5 min)

Facebreakers with Jimmy Fallon (3 min)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Together We're Better

The other day I was sitting in a conference and I heard an amazing story by a fellow educator. Some of the people in the room were brought to tears...but everyone in the room was inspired. After I heard the story I approached the individual and thanked him for sharing.  Then I asked him what his twitter handle was.  I told him that his message was moving and I wanted to share it with others.  His response surprised me...he laughed.  In the next moment he turned and began to talk with other people.  As I stood there for a moment, I began to genuinely wonder why there is such a divide in our profession. 

I hope I never come across as pushy or forceful when it comes to being a connected educator.  I simply see being Connected as a tremendous resource.  I believe the World needs to hear the positive stories. As I reflect, I think his story reached a couple hundred...but what if his story reached more...?

Recently I attended #edcampldr in Philadelphia.  For me the event actually began months earlier. My good friend +Tom Whitford reached out and asked if I was interested in doing a road trip to Philadelphia. Without much thought, I committed!  I was all-in for this event.  I viewed it as a chance to build stronger relationships and to be a part of one of the most amazing think tanks in the nation.

Shortly after Tom and I committed, others decided to join in the fun.  The Road Trip was taking on a life of its own.  Our group communicated through Voxer and Twitter for the better part of three months.  Some of us even got together in May and took in a Cubs game.  Finally the time came and we flew to Philadelphia and stayed at the home of +Tom Murray.  

People that aren't connected look at me in disbelief.  I had one person say, "You're flying to Philadelphia to spend four days with people you've only met once or twice in person?"  I casually responded, "Yes."  You see, being connected is about learning...but even more importantly it's about connecting.  You've probably heard it's about relationships!  For over four years I have leaned on my #PLN for support.  I'm blessed to work with several of my #PLN members, but what's great is I have friends around the country willing to help out anytime.  Would I be an effective educator without my #PLN? Maybe. But I truly believe "Together We're Better!"  

During the weekend leading up to #edcampldr I had the opportunity to talk with experts.  We discussed Google+, Blogger, WordPress, Instagram, Learning Spaces, Edcamps, Conferences, Books, Voxer and more.  The learning and connecting was truly fantastic.  

If that wasn't enough, Monday arrived.  All of us got there early to help +Joe Mazza set-up and get #edcampldr rolling.  Watching a group of educators acting in a completely selfless manner is powerful. It wasn't about one person. Again the attitude was "Together We're Better!"

I will tell you that I've attended a lot of conferences, but nothing compares to the four day learning experience that #edcampldr was for me.  That Monday, over two hundred people were tweeting and sharing their learning on Twitter and Voxer.  The positive vibes at Penn Law were contagious.  

I do have one regret though.  I wish it would have been longer.  I left thinking that I can't wait to connect with +Brad Gustafson and discuss Augmented Reality.  Plus I was thinking of more ways to stay in contact with +Victoria Day so we could discuss #PTcamp.  The day flew by and I was only able to spend minutes with some of my favorite #PLN members.  

I share that with you because I strongly believe that Together We're Better.  

This Week's Questions Are:  Who pushes your thinking?  Who challenges you to be your best? Who gets you out of your comfort zone? 

Whether you are connected or not we all need a Personal Learning Network.  I encourage you to build your #PLN; find those people that make you a better person.  I feel lucky to have so many caring friends.  I truly have an amazing life!  Thank You 

For more on #EdCampLDR check out these photos: EdCampLDR Photos

For more on the Power of a #PLN, check out these posts:

Upcoming Dates For Your Calendar:

Tuesday, August 12th:  Jackson County EdTech Kick-Off at Western High School
Sunday, August 24th:  Family Cookout at the Gilpin's 5pm
Monday, August 25th:  NEW teacher orientation
Tuesday, August 26th:  TBD...stay tuned
Wednesday, August 27th:  ALL Staff - 7:30am BKfast followed by 8am Western Kick-Off!
Thursday, August 28th:  ALL Staff - 8:30am in the Jackson High School Auditorium
Thursday, August 28th:  5:30 - 7:30pm Back 2 School Night
Tuesday, Sept. 2nd:  First Day of School

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Stuart Scott's Moving Speech... (7 min)

Young Boy and a Soldier (7 min) +TheEllenShow 

I'm not a huge Badger fan, but I must say this gets me jacked up for College Football! (2 min)

Thanks for Leading Sessions with me friends, I appreciate you all. @thomascmurray @KleinErin @Joe_Mazza