Friday, November 27, 2015

Can you stay and play?

"The holiday season is a perfect time
to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways
to make life better for those around us."
- Terri Marshall

Many of us feel joy and gratitude during the holidays.  We are thankful for our health, our friends, and our family.  Our classrooms and schools have an energy that only surfaces once a year.  You can feel it, the anticipation for this special time.

But not all of our students feel this way.

For some, this is a time of uncertainty.  A time filled with dashed hope.  A time that brings anger and disappointment.

Four years ago I went on a home visit and I left thinking of different ways to support the two boys in the home.  I knew they weren't going to have the customary Thanksgiving, and I knew they were facing a pretty bleak Christmas.  Part of me was sad, and the other part of me focused on helping them.  

Supporting families isn't as simple as just buying items and delivering them.  You must be cognisant of their beliefs and their pride.  I never want a family to feel as though I don't think they can provide for their kids.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Reach out to all families in a newsletter or email.  Acknowledge that the holidays can be a stressful time.  Encourage families in need to contact you/school.
  • If you believe a family is in them.  When talking to the family be empathetic and offer support.  Ask questions similar to this:  "Is there anything the school can do to help?"
  • Be creative with support.  Many communities have Shop with a Cop or other ways to support kids.  You may be able to find an outside mentor or a program that is willing to help.
After going on that home visit I chatted with our social workers and I reached out to the parents.  In the end the two boys had gifts under the tree and the parents had a basket full of food to help them provide for their family.

Each year brings a new set of challenges.  This year I was exceptionally grateful.  It was Tuesday night and school was out for Thanksgiving Break.  I had an unexpected visit from a teacher and she shared her concern for one of her families.  After a brief chat I picked up the phone and called the mom.  We had a good talk and she gladly accepted any support we could give.

The next day the teacher and I shopped together and filled the baskets for our families.  Then we went to the house. 

Seeing the smiles of the kids was instant joy.  It reminds us all that sometimes our most challenging kids need us the most.

As we prepared to leave I couldn't help but feel immense pride for our staff.  The girl said, "Can you stay and play?"

The student that you struggle with day in and day out often needs your love and support more than you'll ever know.  It's never to late to offer support to our families in need.

This Week's Big Question:  When you think of partnering with families, does it always have to be families coming to us, or can we go to them?


Monday, November 30th:  Running Club 4pm
Monday, November 30th:  Holiday Musical grades K, 2, 4 at CAC
Monday, November 30th:  Midnight Madness Basketball Kickoff 7-9pm
Tuesday, December 1st:  9am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, December 1st:  Lockdown drill in the PM
Tuesday, December 1st:  Lego Club 4pm
Tuesday, December 1st:  Gym Sports Club 4pm
Wednesday, December 2nd:  K-2 Assembly 8:45am
Thursday, December 3rd:  MEMSPA Conference in Kalamazoo
Thursday, December 3rd:  Minecraft Club 4pm

Articles Worth Reading:

Heart of a Keynote @TonySinanis @gcouros

Unsung Heroes @jon_wennstrom

Good Enough @Jonharper70bd

Schools That Work @MAStewartMA

Making to Learn @E_Sheninger

30 Things We Forget To Say "Thank You" For (Fantastic READ!) @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Choose to Believe in a positive way! (1 min)

Adele on @jimmyfallon  (3 min)  This is GOLD!

Snow Wedding with GoPro - Dog's perspective (2 min) I love this! 

Ted Talk...Teachers, know your brain. (13 min) 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Not Your Father's Classroom

"The illiterate of the 21st Century
will not be those who cannot read and write,
but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
- Alvin Toffler

One of my favorite subjects has always been history.  I'm often fascinated by events, movements, and the courage of a select few.  As I've learned history, I've discovered that some people and events endured a tremendous amount of adversity while they moved our world forward.  

Our current educational system has been in place for over 100 years.  This system did not envision education for everyone.  I believe we are now in the early stages of an educational revolution.

Revolutions over time have taken two steps forward and one step back.  Education has done the same thing.  Let's take a look at the course of events since 1999.

  • 1999 School shooting at Columbine High School
  • 1999 Interactive Whiteboards introduced
  • 2001 No Child Left Behind 
  • 2005 YouTube created
  • 2006 Research released on Learning Spaces 
  • 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 
  • 2009 2/3 of all schools significantly increase standards on educator evaluations
  • 2010 First EdCamp takes place in Philadelphia
  • 2010 iPads introduced 
  • 2010 Highly Qualified Teacher Status developed
  • 2010 Race To The Top 
  • 2011 Common Core Standards created
  • 2012 Sandy Hook Massacre
  • 2012 Standard Based Grading created
  • 2015 Obama Administration denounces Standardized Testing obsession

The Industrial Revolution lasted multiple decades.  I firmly believe we are experiencing the beginning of dramatic change in education.  I often hear people outside of education talk as though they are experts about what happens in schools.  This deeply frustrates me.  The fact is, this is not your father's classroom.  School has changed: 

  1. We now know that hours of homework is stone age practice.  
  2. We now know the practice of teach, assign, collect, grade, and move on, is not best.  The role of teachers is to help students grow and aim for mastery. 
  3. We now understand increased safety procedures are for the good of everyone in the school.
  4. We now understand that technology can enhance learning and should not be stifled.
  5. We now understand that teaching is not a one-size fits all approach.
I remember reading about revolutions.  I remember each one was met with resistance. Sometimes the resistance came in many forms.  For example, can we all agree that the industrial revolution was a good thing?  I think so.  This dramatically changed our world.  Yet some people that lived during this time were called Luddites.  These individuals fought change, destroyed equipment, and derailed innovation.  

Think of all that has changed.  We've experienced increased security.  This is a good thing and our new norm.  We are experience the technology movement.  It's hard to imagine teaching without technology.  We are experiencing a philosophical change in the way we teach.  It seems obvious that we should have been focused on mastery all along...not just covering the material.

So I challenge you.

First, what side of the educational revolution are you on?  Are you for progress?  Or, do you simply want things to stay the same?

Second, it is critical that you expect setbacks.  Naysayers are not going away, but we don't have to let them beat us down.  "Obstacles are put in your way to help you determine if what you want is really worth fighting for."

Third, how can you help the educational revolution?  It depends on you.  Do you teach the way you were taught? Have you re-imagined learning in your classroom?  Are you willing to try new things? 

One hundred years from now I hope my great-grandchildren can look back at this educational revolution fondly.  I hope education continues to evolve and that their classrooms are beyond our wildest dreams!


Monday, November 23rd:  Happy Birthday Suzanne Gibbs
Monday, November 23rd:  Warner Elementary welcomes Todd Nesloney!
Monday, November 23rd:  No After-School Clubs
Tuesday, November 24th:  Last Day before Thanksgiving Break
Tuesday, November 24th:  No After-School Clubs
Tuesday, November 24th:  Video Conference Meeting
Wednesday, November 25th:  No School
Thursday, November 26th:  Happy Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 27th:  No School

Articles Worth Reading:

The Change Revolution @E_Sheninger

What's Best for the Best, Is Best for the Rest @Jeff_Zoul

Google has discovered the 5 Key traits employees need to succeed by Emily Peck

Tweetable Moments @curriculumblog

When a Child's Project Shows a Parental Hand At Work @nytimes

The Power of Audience @SpencerIdeas

Presence @JonHarper70bd

10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Ellen's 2,000th Show! (3 min)

@jimmyfallon and his #ThankYouNotes (5 min)

On the Road with Steve Hartman...AMAZING STORY! (2 min)

@E60 Silent Night Lights...inspiring, motivating, touching! (14 min)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I was wrong

"Being human means making mistakes
learning from mistakes and then
moving on and becoming a better
person from making those mistakes."

The sun was shining, a light breeze cooled us down and our emotions were running high.  I still remember some of our epic games at recess.  As a kid I lived for recess.  My friends and I would talk about what game we would play as soon as we saw each other.  It was one thing we all relished.

But why didn't I remember this when I became a teacher?  Early in my career I struggled with finding a consequence that motivated my students to be more responsible and to improve behavior.  I remembered when I was a student many of my teachers kept kids inside for recess if they misbehaved.  In a weird way, I thought this was appropriate.

I was wrong.

Then I began to learn.  As a graduate student at Spring Arbor University I researched several topics. A few areas really rose to the forefront of my practice. These were technology, movement, and understanding special needs.

The insight and knowledge I gained as I worked towards my Masters Degree made me a better educator.  During my studies I read articles and journals about movement and the need for physical activity.  The funny thing is, as I read the research I began to remember how much I loved and craved recess as a student.

At this point my teaching practice changed.  Not only did I almost never take away recess, but I also added in a second recess/brain break each day.  It began with reflection and charting behaviors. What I discovered was, after about two hours my students needed an extended break.  So each day at 10:30am we went outdoors for a 15-20 minute break.  We often played games as a class and I quickly found that as I played along with the kids it brought us closer together.  Our classroom culture improved, we laughed together, we problem solved together and I got a chance to see my kids in a different setting. I learned a lot about their personalities as I watched them play.

As I gained insight I had to come up with different strategies for students that misbehaved.  This is what I did:

1)  If I had students misbehaving I first looked at myself.  Was my lesson engaging?  Was I consistent in my own emotions?  These two questions determined if it was the fault of my students or if I had to own it as their teacher.  What I discovered on many occasions is, the more I talked and the more I assigned worksheets the worse my students behaved.  Simple, they were bored.

2)  I needed the consequence to fit the crime.  Rarely, but it did happen, did I take recess away.  This occurred when a student's behavior at recess was dangerous or unacceptable.  As for poor behavior in the classroom, I tried these things - 
  • praise the positives
  • separate the disruptor 
  • work with parents 
  • deal with the issue promptly, the longer I waited the less impact it had
  • heart to heart conversations with students
  • invite a parent or guardian to come in and help in the classroom
  • refocus efforts on building classroom culture
What has been powerful for me is that learning has prompted change.  I was wrong to take away recess.  It's easy to fall into a routine and do things the same way year after year.  But the question is, when you learn that a strategy you've done is not best practice do you change?

Check out these quotes from recent articles -
  • When it comes to recess and the importance of play and physical activity, too many schools ignore the current research. Instead of treating recess as an important, in fact crucial, part of a student's day, some schools still act as if recess is a privilege bestowed on well-behaved, compliant students. They use recess as a bargaining tool and withhold it as a form of punishment.  Recess is NOT a Privilege
  • Indeed, no research supports the notion that test scores go up by keeping children in the classroom longer, but there is plenty of evidence that recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. Research shows that when children have recess, they gain the following benefits:  Recess Makes Kids Smarter
    • Are less fidgety and more on task
    • Have improved memory and more focused attention
    • Develop more brain connections
  • Experimental studies and anecdotal evidence point out that in any given school, it’s generally the same children who tend to have their recess withheld, indicating that the threat is ineffective. And, as Eric Jensen, author of several books on brain-based learning, tells us, remaining seated for periods longer than 10 minutes “reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue,” resulting in reduced concentration and discipline problems. Demanding that children move less and sit more is counterproductive. Research, and our own common sense, tells us we should be doing the opposite.  Why Kids Need Recess

The beauty of being a human being is, we can choose to change.  I was wrong, but I look back at my evolution as an educator and I have a sense of pride.  I learned better methods and changed the way I taught.  Everyday is a new opportunity and we always have the choice to move forward in a new way.

This Week's Big Question:  If you knew one of your methods wasn't best practice would you change?


Monday, November 16th:  Happy Birthday to Katie Powers
Monday, November 16th:  Running Club 4pm
Tuesday, November 17th:  9:15am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, November 17th:  3:30 String Team
Tuesday, November 17th:  4pm Lego Club
Tuesday, November 17th:  4pm Gym Sports Club
Tuesday, November 17th:  Conferences
Wednesday, November 18th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, November 18th:  10am Standard Based Grading Meeting at Admin
Wednesday, November 18th:  Conferences
Thursday, November 19th:  1:15pm Crisis Response Meeting at Admin
Thursday, November 19th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Thursday, November 19th:  Conferences
Thursday, November 19th:  7pm Drama Club Performance
Thursday, November 19th:  Board Meeting at 6:30pm
Friday, November 20th:  No Staff Meeting

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Pianist Performs Imagine after Paris Attacks... (1 min)

Schools that work for kids... (15 min) by @E_Sheninger

#StopItDad (2 min)

Ellen's Starbuck Controversy... (3 min)

How We Met: Do the facts add up? (4 min)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Are you on the bus?

"The remarkable thing is,
we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude
we will embrace for that day."
- Charles R. Swindoll

We all heard the hype.  Our coach landed a prized recruit that was going to make an instant impact on our college golf team.  As one of the leaders of the team I was excited to increase the quality and depth of our team.

Our season began with qualifying.  We played 10+ rounds of golf and, as it usually does, the cream rises to the top.  This year we had over twenty players attempting to make the team.  After the first couple of rounds the young phenom was entrenched near the top.  Nick, a lanky, big smiling freshman from Ohio was sitting in the three spot early on.  Unfortunately for Nick, he never got any higher than the third position.  Each round he dropped a little more and he ended up qualifying in either the eighth or ninth spot.  At that point most of us could see he had talent, but he needed time to grow up.  

Several weeks into the season our coach scheduled two tournaments on the same weekend.  He took the "A" team on Friday to Michigan.  The other squad was scheduled to depart Saturday morning. Our second team was high quality!  It had Lindsay, Opie and the young phenom, Nick.  Personally I expected them to compete for the top spot.

What I learned late Saturday as I sat in my dorm room shocked me.  The team struggled at the tournament and what was worse, they only went with four players, someone missed the trip.

I later discovered that Nick missed the bus.  What happened?  Was he sick?  In my mind I thought, how could he miss the bus?  This is college golf, the night before my first tournament I couldn't even sleep.

Over the next two years Nick remained on the team.  But the sad thing is, Nick never made it.  Truth is, after he missed the bus he changed.  You could tell that our coach was disappointed.  He expected his players to manage themselves, and when he discovered that Nick didn't do this well, his view and expectations of Nick dropped.

After Nick missed the bus his attitude sank.  You could see it and hear it.  He was blaming coach for his struggles.  He had a chip on his shoulder and the only time he seemed happy was when he was partying or bashing the coach.  

Nick began hanging out with the other players that didn't care for our coach.  They became toxic together.  It really was sad.  We didn't see it coming, but once the spiral began it was nearly impossible to stop.

As this entire story unfolded a different story was going on.  Our team had a second year player that didn't come with much fan fare.  His name was Rob and he admitted that his scholarship was only given to him because he was going into golf management.  Rob had a unconventional swing and during his first year he was almost always positioned around the tenth spot on the team.  

When Rob returned for his sophomore season you could see a swiftness in his step.  He definitely had a new and improved attitude.  That year Rob worked hard and put himself right in front of our coach as often as possible.  Rob vaulted into the top 5 and was a key staple to our conference championship and trip to West Palm Beach for the National Championship.

I think of these two teammates and the difference in their college careers.  One of them came with a lot of fan fare, the other flew under the radar.  One never really sniffed a start as a freshman, the other dropped the ball when the chance was there.

But the difference in the two was deeper.  They both had talent.  They were both capable. But in the end only one made it.  The key factor was attitude.  Rob's determined attitude drove him.  Some would call Rob a gym rat, but on the golf course he was more like a permanent fixture.  You usually saw Rob hitting balls or working on his game in some way.  His attitude and approach carried him.

Then there is Nick.  Nick was never the same.  Once his attitude sunk he was never the same player or person.  It saddens me to think how quickly things went south.

Looking back it is a valuable life lesson.  I realize that my attitude shapes me every day.  I can tell when my attitude is poor, I get cynical, irritable and pessimistic.  I don't like that person and I imagine others don't either.  It is in these tough moments that I try to slowly change my course.  My number one tool for improving my attitude is lifting up others.  Sometimes I write a note or card, sometimes I spend time with people.  When I invest in others I feel my attitude shift.

This Week's Big Question:  How is your attitude?  Do you lift up others or pull them down?


Monday, November 9th:  4pm Running Club
Tuesday, November 10th:  7:30am meeting at the ISD to discuss literacy
Tuesday, November 10th:  Panther Pride Lunch
Tuesday, November 10th:  Bible Release 9am
Tuesday, November 10th:  String Team, Lego Club and Gym Sports after school
Tuesday, November 10th:  PTO Meeting at 7pm
Wednesday, November 11th:  K-2 Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, November 11th:  Veteran's Day
Thursday, November 12th:  Mobile Dentist
Thursday, November 12th:  CP Federal Credit Union in the PM
Thursday, November 12th:  Minecraft Club after school
Friday, November 13th:  Picture Retake day
Friday, November 13th:  Fire Drill in the PM

Articles Worth Reading:

What's Yours Going To Be? (worth your time)

ABOUT that kid, the one that hits, disrupts and influeces YOUR kid

How Teachers Prepare Future Citizens @edutopia

Never Give Up Hope  @Jonharper70bd

Press Pause - The "R" Factor @Vroom6

Change your Attitude, Change your Life

What two airline companies can teach us about school culture @SpencerIdeas

5 Things To Remember When You Are Stuck and Desperate For a Change @marcandangel
(my favorite is number 4)

Videos Worth Watching:

Opening Doors and Hearts (6 min) *sure to make you smile

Haunted House PART 2 with @TheEllenShow  (4 min)

What causes headaches? (2 min)

#HalloweenFail (4 min)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Cause Bigger Than Ourselves

Since 2003 men from around the world have participated in No-Shave November or Movember.  I for one, have not joined in the movement...until now.

Here's why...

For a handful of years I have watched others grow beards and mustaches during November.  I knew the movement was in the name of men's health, but I wasn't sure I could make an impact.  My tune has changed.  As a principal and dad I see a tremendous need for our kids to have strong, male role models.

For several years many students have made their way into my heart.  I could sit here and list them, but instead I'll share a story that sums up my changed perspective.

At the end of last year I had a mom approach me.  She asked for a minute of my time.  Her son had been at Warner for a couple years and she told me that I was the only male figure he looked up to. She thanked me for driving him home on multiple occasions, having several one-on-one talks with him, and for simply taking him under my wing.  I graciously smiled and told her that she has a great son that needs her guidance and support in finding positive influences.  It was a brief, but powerful conversation.

There are many men around this country that have stepped-up as male role models.  I'm fortunate to see men each week mentor our youth in the Kids Hope Program.  I also have friends that are Big Brothers and Big Sisters, they support our youth in a crucial way.

Here are some statisitics on why we need more men to step up as role models:

  • 43% of U.S. Children live without their father
  • 85% of all children who show behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
  • 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes

So what does all this have to do with No-Shave November?  As a father I see the importance of good health and setting an example for our youth.

The most common cancer for men is prostate cancer.  Screening is suggested for at risk men between the ages of 40-45.  For all others at age 50.  Are you at risk?  It is best to consult your physician.

American Cancer Society

Here's the challenge I'm issuing:  

  1. Participate in No-Shave November and encourage your colleagues/friends to donate to the cause.  On the 10th, 20th and 30th days of the month you need to post a pic of yourself and how much you have raised.
  2. Set-up a visit to your physician.  If, at the very least, for a physical.  Be proactive with your health.
  3. Get active!  Set an example for our youth by making exercise a priority. 
  4. Donate to a worth while charity.  Most people donate to the American Cancer Society, but you can also donate to these great causes - 
      • Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
      • Testicular Cancer Foundation
      • Zero - for prostate cancer
      • Larry King - cardiac foundation
This Week's Big Question:  Are you up for the Movember Challenge?  

Articles Worth Reading: