Saturday, March 28, 2015

Time To Go?

"Our lives improve only when we take chances - 
and the first and most difficult risk we can take is
to be honest with ourselves." - Walter Anderson

It had to be ten years ago when I was just finishing my Masters Degree at Spring Arbor University. My goal was to give myself options...that's always what I wanted, the power of choice.  I had a real passion and love of teaching, but I also believed I had a higher calling.  

I finished my Masters and planned on teaching for the foreseeable future.  But as time passed I found myself thinking, "What if..."

Spring is an interesting time of year.  Most educational professionals have one eye on the now and one eye on the future.  Some are actively seeking new positions, some are tossing and turning at night unsure of what to do next and some have resigned themselves to riding things out...just staying put.

Six years ago I decided to take the leap.  But to be frank, it wasn't a huge "Leap of Faith."  It wasn't even going to require my family to move.  I snuck my resume in minutes before the deadline and then days later I was interviewing.  I'm not sure what I did right, but the position was offered to me.  It was very exciting, a little nerve-wracking, but very exciting.

Looking back I know why I chose to pursue a change, it came down to these things:

First, I believed I was ready.  I believed I could make a greater impact.  

Second, my personal philosophy was far different than the philosophy I was working under. 

Third, I needed a jolt...I felt my current spot was restricting me.

Fourth, I felt as though I was in a win-win situation.  It's easy to take a Leap, when you believe their isn't a bad choice.

Finally, I had the blessing of my family.  They encouraged me and supported me every single step of the way.

I sit here today and share because many of us struggle with thoughts of, what next?  Only you can truly answer the question, Are you happy in your current spot/role?  If the answer is no, you've got some soul searching to do. If the answer is yes, your decision comes down to belief, confidence, opportunity and external factors.  

Sometimes we over think decisions.  Here's how I decided years ago.

The date was June 23rd, 2010.  I had finished my 9th year teaching about three weeks earlier.  I sent postcards to my new families and summer had begun!  Then I stumbled across a short article in the newspaper that talked about a Principal vacancy at Warner Elementary.  I sat on the couch and day dreamed.  I thought about the what ifs, the challenges, the responsibility and my family.  I closed the newspaper and went out for a run.  The next day, my wife asked if I noticed the article in the paper about the open position at Warner.  I nodded and she asked if I was thinking about it.  I just shrugged. Two more days passed and I had done nothing.  Then late on Thursday after a full day of Geo caching and golfing with my boys, I sat down on our porch.  I watched the dogs jump around and the kids playing.  I then asked myself why I was dragging my feet.  The little voice in my head said, what would you tell your students to do?  What would you encourage your wife to do?  What advice would you give your own boys?

It was then that I realized I would tell them all, GO FOR IT!  Take a risk.  

"If you want something you've never had,
you must be willing to do something
you've never done." - Thomas Jefferson

Ultimately it came down to something so simple - 

Articles Worth Reading:

Positive Post-It Day @TonySinanis

13 Years Ago @jon_wennstrom

Surviving Tuesday @ServantPrincipl

HackPD @kristenswanson

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Worst It'll Ever Be

Do you remember the "Good Ol' Days?"  I remember.  I vividly recall moving into an apartment with my wife, Amy.  We had a cozy two bedroom apartment with one of the rooms dedicated to being our home office.  In the office was a Compaq computer that had dial-up Internet.  On one Saturday afternoon I decided to participate in an online Football draft.  The draft began at 2pm and I was expecting a two-hour draft.  The geek in me has always loved participating in Fantasy Sports! Just minutes before the draft was set to begin the phone rang.  It was an important call for my wife. For several minutes I paced back and forth...I couldn't get on the Internet because she was on the phone! Do you remember those days?  The days when dial-up monopolized the phone lines for hours on end.  
Those were the Good Ol' Days...right?

Last week I connected with several PLN members at MACUL in Detroit, Michigan.  This is always one of my favorite conferences.  One quote during a bit of downtime stood out:

"This is the worst technology will be in our students lifetime."

Think about that.  It's 2015 and I choose to believe technology and innovation will only improve.  I truly don't see us going backwards.

I predict -

  • In the future wifi will be everywhere.
  • Someday we won't have to pay for data.
  • We will look back and be astonished that some schools blocked YouTube.
  • Digital Citizenship will be a phrase rarely mentioned...we will simply say, Citizenship.
  • Technology will be used as more than a tool. Technology will transform learning.
  • It will be educational malpractice for teachers to not be willing to learn and try new things.
  • Many educators will blog and model writing to their students and community.
I think back to my days in the 5th grade classroom.  For years all we had were two desktop computers.  One was for the teacher and one was for all the students to share.  Funny thing was, the kids loved getting even as few as 10 minutes on the computer.  Then we got a Smart Board...the youthful exuberance was visible on their faces.  Simply put, technology has the potential to excite, engage and transform learning.  But looking back to 2001...I'm confident that was the worst technology was in their lifetime.  It has only moved forward.  Not convinced that technology can change the World?  Just check this out and tell me technology can't change lives.

This post was inspired by my trip to MACUL.  If you have never had the opportunity to attend MACUL I encourage you to put it on your list.

These are my three takeaways:

First, I always enjoy becoming an active learner!  This year was no different.  I went to a session on Augmented Reality with @WeverWorld after her session I spoke with @GustafsonBrad about the next steps.  I can't wait to create business cards and opening up the new possibilities of learning.

Second, I networked with many educational people.  It's very powerful to connect and learn on Twitter...but then you go to a major conference and you have the opportunity to connect face to face. These connections truly expand a person's network.

Finally, the positive energy was contagious!  Nationwide the chatter has been focused on Standardized Testing, funding and endless debates about CCSS.  From the opening keynote delivered by @gcouros I felt empowered and fired up to - Be The Change!

I'm excited about the future and I'm excited to see what our kids will do with the World at their fingertips.


Monday, March 23rd:  Poster Contest Due Date
Monday, March 23rd:  Technology Meeting 3pm-4pm
Monday, March 23rd:  String Team 3:45pm
Monday, March 23rd:  Girl/Boy Quest 4pm
Tuesday, March 24th:  Admin Meeting 9am
Tuesday, March 24th:  Spring Musical 7pm
Wednesday, March 25th:  K-2 Assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, March 25th:  String Team 3:45pm
Wednesday, March 25th:  4pm MiCI room meeting at Bean
Thursday, March 26th:  Family Reading Night at Warner
Thursday, March 26th:  9:40am Football players reading with KDG classrooms
Thursday, March 26th:  1:15pm Crisis Management meeting
Thursday, March 26th:  Girl/Boy Quest 4pm
Friday, March 27th:  Admin Meeting 9:30am
Friday, March 27th:  Reading Month Assembly in the PM

Articles Worth Reading:

Work is love made visible @Jennifer_Hogan

Y2K @jon_wennstrom

Everybody has a Story @danpbutler

Drawing the line between success and mastery @kristenswanson

Remind introduces chat feature @AngelaMaiers

Collaborating with Colleagues who don't support your creativity @AngelaWatson

Innovation has no age barrier @gcouros

Teaching vs Rocket Science @Jeff_Zoul

8 Things Emotionally Stable People Don't Do @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Tell me 3D printers are just toys... (3 min)

No Fear in Love (5 min)

WOW! One person can make a difference! (5 min) @TheEllenShow

Ariana Grande with @jimmyfallon  (2 min)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Fire Within

"Getting ahead in a difficult profession 
requires avid faith in yourself.
That is why some people with mediocre talent, 
but with great inner drive, 
go much farther than people with vastly superior talent."
- Sophia Loren

What ignites the fire from within?

One of the most exciting times in my life occurred when I left for college.  I vividly remember heading down to Indiana, moving into my dorm room and heading up to the golf course to meet my coach.  

After a few days of getting acclimated to college life we had tryouts.  I wasn't nervous about making the team, I had a scholarship.  It wasn't about simply making the team.  My goal was a top spot.  I expected myself to come in and immediately contribute as a Freshman.

The day began with Coach creating the pairings.  I played with my high school rivals, Shaun and Brian.  Everything began as I would have expected, I shot a tidy 35 on the front nine and was in prime position. Then things went a hurry.  I spiraled to a 45 coming in and shot 80.  This left me angry and in roughly 13th position out of twenty-three players.  For the first time in my life I was faced with a deep team and an uphill battle.  

Growing up in small town USA, the number of quality players was always thin.  But now it was a new ballgame.  We were college athletes and nothing was guaranteed.  
For several weeks I dedicated myself to cracking into the traveling team.  I spent hour after hour practicing and trying to improve.  In hindsight, my game was fine...unfortunately I was in a bad mental spot.  My poor start led to pressing and a pursuit of perfection.  I wasn't myself and I clearly lacked inner belief.  

Sometimes I think to myself and wonder what ignites my drive to improve?  

Would I work harder with twenty-two others constantly trying to take my spot?  


Would I be better if I knew my spot was secure?  

For many people safety creates a sense of complacency, a sense of "good enough."  For me, there has always been an inner fire to be the very best I could be.

Here's how the story ends...  After weeks of hard work I finally got myself into the mix. With an upcoming road match our coach chose me to play, in large part, because of my familiarity with the course. I went out and shot a solid 76.  Coach shook my hand and told me he knew I had it in me. From that day forward I never let go of my starting position.  I was driven to be my best. I vowed to not get outworked by anyone.  

Looking back I think about what pushed me more.  Was it my inner fear that someone might take my spot?  Or was it my inner drive that never allowed myself to be outworked?

What I can tell you is this, when I had twenty-some guys trying to take my spot I NEVER worked harder.  I bordered on obsessed to win my spot.  When I knew my starting position was not in doubt my confidence was higher...but I'm not sure I worked harder.  

Does this have anything to do with education?

What ignites your fire?  Do you have an inner drive that pushes you?

A big part of my drive has always centered on making education better than I had it.  Over the years society has evolved and learned...I want to take this knowledge and provide a better experience for kids.  

When I was student-teaching I constantly beat myself up, I was a tough critic (and still am) and expected that every one of my lessons was going to hit the mark.  I poured hours into planning and preparation. My inner drive to be my best would not let me rest.

Sometimes my motivation comes from outside. Here are some people that push me to be better - 

@GustafsonBrad leading his school with 3D printing and sphero coding.
@TechNinjaTodd feeding community members with no strings attached.  
@TonySinanis inspiring his students to start a cafeteria DJ show.
@Joe_Mazza using high & low tech to connect with families around the country.
@casas_jimmy motivating teacher leaders at Bettendorf to believe that anything is possible.
@TedHiff having some of the coolest after school plays/musicals that I've ever seen!
@TimLauer posting amazing pictures of his school & community!
@JasonMMarkey creating an amazing culture with his strong ability to build community.
@DaisyDyerDuerr turning a school, community and State around with her leadership.
@KleinErin balancing home, school, speaking and classroom re-design...amazing!
@MicheleCorbat having the courage to start a District Twitter chat to change the culture.

Every day I'm motivated to get better.  Sometimes the burning drive comes from reading a book, other times it may be listening to a podcast and still other times it could be connecting on social media.  No matter how, I'm constantly trying to be the best I know how. 

I ask you...what drives you?  Is your burning desire the same as it has always been?


Monday, March 16th:  Author Visit Leslie Helakoski (beginning at 9am)
Monday, March 16th:  Happy BDay to Becky Holton
Monday, March 16th:  String Team 3:45pm
Monday, March 16th:  Boy/Girl Quest 4pm
Monday, March 16th:  Warner Pride...dress in Western/Warner gear
Tuesday, March 17th:  Grades 4 and 5 have guest speaker Anthony Ianni in the Library at 1:45pm
Tuesday, March 17th:  Library closed from 1:30 - 3pm (guest speaker)
Tuesday, March 17th:  Boy Quest...special day 4pm
Tuesday, March 17th:  St. Patrick's Day
Wednesday, March 18th:  Grades 3-5 assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, March 18th:  String Team 3:45
Thursday, March 18th:  CP Federal Credit Union 2pm
Friday, March 19th:  RED Out...wear RED for Reading month

Articles Worth Reading:

Embrace the Change @MrPowersCMS

Sure of Me @jonharper70bd

Videos Worth Watching:

What's Your Goal - Cammy (1 min)

Blind Devotion...motivates me to be a better man! (8 min)

Central High...this is real! (14 min)

Mean Tweets...Obama Edition (2 min)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How Prepared Are They?

Who creates and mandates curriculum?  Who developed the CCSS?  Who developed NCLB? 

There is probably several answers for those questions...but I will simplify everything and say the answer is ADULTS.

I often wonder if the adults are part of the problem.  Are we simply living in an educational system that mirrors what WE experienced?

In the 80's & 90's some things we learned -

Math Facts
How to write essays
Historical Events
Spelling Words
Geographical Locations

In 2015 some things we now teach -

Math Facts
How to write essays
Historical Events

A small percentage of schools and classrooms have accepted that the World is changing.

In 2012 Meghan Casserly wrote an article that received quite a bit of attention.  It is - 10 Jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago.  This should have been a wake-up call to ALL of us.  Whether we like change or despise it, the World is CHANGING!  In 2025 it is extremely likely that the top careers are not yet created/developed.

My personal belief is that we must find a balance between the old and the new.  Some of the essential skills for the future will be...

Check out that info graphic.  It is extremely telling.  What do our kids need to be prepared?  In 2025, the number of Americans over 60 years of age will increase by 70%.  Bottom Line - People are Living Longer.  You can deduce, jobs in Health Care and Assisted Living will likely increase.

The second one that grabs my attention is, Our Globally Connected World.  The walls have fallen and information is at our fingertips.  Our kids need to be able to adapt and process information much faster then we ever had to.

Are our kids prepared?  

I believe some are on the front foot when it comes to being ready.  In September, I met an amazing young man... @joshuasheart

He has made it his mission to end World Hunger!  Check this out! (1 min)

Twenty years ago the likely hood of a 13 year old changing the World was unlikely.  The World has shrunk for our kids.  

As adults, are we unleashing the potential in our kids?  


Are we stifling it by making education the same as we experienced?

My challenge is this, we must find the balance between educational basics and preparing our kids for a new World that even we can't predict.  

Next Friday is Digital Learning Day.  Digital Learning is one way we can engage our students in new learning experiences.  

Check out what others around the country are doing for Digital Learning Day - 

3rd Graders in Wisconsin will Skype with others and talk about ways to end Cyberbullying!
5th graders in Minnesota will be developing digital commercials.
5th graders in Michigan will be blogging online and embedding a video book review into their blogs.
4th graders in Pennsylvania are creating an Augmented Reality Project about their school.
Students in Baltimore are planning to use the app VoiceThread to explore poems.
Students in Virginia are planning to create Photostories about the books they are reading.
2nd graders in North Carolina will GHO with other States and discuss their Global Book Club.
Kindergarten students in Alabama are planning to create their own storybook with an iPad app.

Here's the full site to explore #DLDay Digital Learning Day Activities

These learning opportunities are exciting!  I hope you will step out of your comfort zone and think of the possibilities that Digital Learning Day can provide.  

Bottom line, as educators we have a responsibility to open the door for our students.  Ultimately they decide whether or not to walk in.  Will you open the door of possibilities?


Sunday, March 8th:  Happy BDay to Jen Reed
Monday, March 9th:  Happy BDay to Micki Archer
Monday, March 9th:  3:45pm String Team
Monday, March 9th:  Boy/Girl Quest 4pm
Tuesday, March 10th:  Grades 4/5 to Bean for Writer's Workshop
Tuesday, March 10th:  Admin Meeting 9am
Tuesday, March 10th:  Bible Release
Tuesday, March 10th:  PTO Meeting 7pm
Wednesday, March 11th:  Grades K/1 at Warner for Writer's Workshop
Wednesday, March 11th:  Grades K-2 assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, March 11th:  3:45 String Team
Thursday, March 12th:  Grades 2/3 to Parma for Writer's Workshop
Thursday, March 12th:  Boy/Girl Quest 4pm
Friday, March 13th:  Book Character Dress-Up Day
Friday, March 13th:  Happy Bday to Lisa Prichard
Friday, March 13th:  3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers meet with Dave Hood in Library (7:50am)
Friday, March 13th:  3:45pm String Team
Saturday, March 14th:  9am-12pm Western Interest Fair at the High School

Articles Worth Reading:

The Mask @twhitford

Getting To Boston @Jeff_Zoul

Balcony People @Aaron_Becker32

EDUin30 @gcouros

Videos Worth Watching:

MIRACULOUS! (16 min)  

Dreams and Roadblocks (7 min)

Shake it Off... @TheEllenShow (2 min)