Friday, July 18, 2014

Steep Learning Curve Continues

A week of learning about two of the four domains of the Danielson model was stimulating, frustrating, invigorating, and reassuring.  The reassuring aspect is the result of being joined by colleagues of our Effective Educators team and their responses to the videos that we watched.  The nuances of the teaching practice are many and we are charged with sorting out them out according to the components' attributes.  Sounds like a challenge?  Yes it is.  A bit of fatigue set in over time, yet with it comes the realization that learning new ways is hard work, yet we come away with a new skill set to implement.  After a few years of observing teachers practice their craft, these components will certainly assist me in determining the qualities and attributes of those charged with educating our children.  I am very appreciative of the rigorous conversations we had and will use them as I take the assessment next week.  As Paul Simon wrote, "Still crazy after all these years. . . . "

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just When You Thought Twitter Couldn't Get Any Better!

Have you ever hosted or moderated a chat on twitter?  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to host #tlap this past Monday night and it was an awesome experience!  In fact, it's Wednesday night and I'm still "flying high" from the thrill of the whole thing! 

First of all before I go on and try to convince all of you to host a chat, I would like to give my most heartfelt thank you to Dave Burgess.  Dave is the author of "Teach Like a Pirate" and just an all around great guy.  He has skyped with my class, signed my book, and even gave me a big pirate hug!  So when Dave asked me if I would moderate #tlap of course I said, "Yes!" I remember chuckling to myself after blurting that out, realizing I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.  I had only been on chats before, not hosted them!  They say all of the magic happens outside of your comfort zone, though, so I figured I had nothing to lose. Also, I saw this as a way to "give back" to the twitter that I had gleaned so much from in all of my chats.  Dave also mentioned that I would have the help and support from two other amazing educators that I had met at the #ICE14 conference:  Julie Nilsson Smith and Mary Kienstra.   

I immediately voxed (that's a whole different blog!) my principal, Jay Posick, to tell him the great news.  He was just as excited as I was! Then he told me this, which made me feel so good, "I will be sure to be on that chat Monday night."  That put me at ease right away knowing that I would have a familiar face on the chat. 

After voxing with Julie about the topic of the chat, we finally whittled our thoughts down to one: "The First Day of School." With that, I went to town on questions.  I had seen in #complitchat that they posted their questions on visual slides and was inspired to do the same thing.  I enlisted my husband's help and soon we were looking for pirate fonts and images!  

Next, I "scheduled" my tweets which is an amazing feature on twitter especially when you are the moderator of a chat. It is incredibly easy, and allowed me to respond to other tweets without having to worry about my own.

Then I recalled that the chat needed to be archived and heck if I knew how to do that!  Enter Paul Solarz.  Another friend I met at #ICE14.  I've seen him archive other chats so I asked him if he would do the same for #tlap.  He said yes, and I was so thankful.

Next, time to vox with Rik Rowe, another twitter friend who gave me some tips on how to run the chat.  I look forward to the day when I can meet Rik face-to-face.  In fact, I look forward to the day when I can meet many of my twitter friends face-to-face!

It's now Sunday night and I'm pretty sure I have all of my ducks in a row. The excitement is building and I touch base, via voxer, with Julie and Mary. Monday comes and I'm just giddy with excitement.  But first I have to sit through an eight hour training on Reader's Workshop. 

Finally, it's time!  8:00 CST comes and I couldn't be more excited!  The chat starts, lasts 2 minutes, and it's all over!  Well, not literally two minutes, but that's how fast the hour seem to fly by.  As I reflected on the event I came up with my "a-ha moments" from the chat.

1.  There are brilliant teachers on #tlap who have incredible ideas that they're willing to share with the rest of us.  With every tweet I read I just wanted to teleport myself to their classroom!  We can rest easy knowing that #tlap teachers are creating experiences for students all across the globe.  

2.  Educators on twitter are SO kindgenerous, and supportive.  I was blown away by how helpful and kind everyone was to each other and me.  I feel so fortunate to be part of a community that fosters such kindness and generosity among all of its members.

3.  Moderating this chat affirmed my passion for being a connected educator.  

Thanks for reading.  Perhaps one day you will consider hosting a chat and expanding your horizons. Try it!  You won't regret it!  

Looking Through the Window or Looking In The Mirror #ptcamp

During the summer of #ptcamp, an awesome book chat of Beyond the Bake Sale initiated by Joe Mazza (@Joe_Mazza), the Leadership Innovation Manager at Penn, one comment has jumped out at me and slapped me square in the face.

Are you looking out through the window or are you looking in the mirror?

The comment slaps me in the face every day while I take part in the Voxer chat or read someone's blog.  And the slap hurts.  Every time.

Image from

The look through the window is so much easier.  I look out to see what others can do for me, for our school, for our students, for our staff.  Looking out the window is passive.  Frankly, it's the easy way out.  But sometimes I need help with my ideas or for someone to tell me my ideas just aren't practical.  The view out the window, however, can guide us as we look in the mirror.

Image from

The look in the mirror is much more difficult.  It's all about you and what you can do.  You can still ask for help from others, and you should, but it starts with you.  I think it's a good idea to check your own pulse before you check the pulse of those with whom you work or your family partnerships.  Ask yourself these questions-
What should we start?
What should we stop?
What should we continue?
I have a habit of hearing a good idea (and there are so many in our #ptcamp discussions) and I want to get it going in my school- RIGHT NOW.  I really need to step back, look in the mirror, and determine whether it fits in our school.  If it does, then I need to look out the window and ask for help from others.  But it all starts with that look in the mirror.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Patience- Where can I find some?

Patience is a virtue.  Until I read the definition on Wikipedia, I had no idea that it came from Psychomachia, a poem written in the fifth century.  Fortunately my internet was working well so I didn't have to be too patient to find the definition.  It may be that I do have patience, but I don't know if I exhibit it often enough.  When I want something to happen, I want it to happen sooner rather than later.  With everything that I've learned from my PLN on Twitter and Voxer, I sometimes just need to stop and make things a priority.  So that's where my patience needs to begin.

I enjoyed a post from Joe Sanfelippo (@Joesanfelippofc) recently entitled Learning to Lead that made me think about my lack of patience.  It also caused me to determine the three things I will work on this year.
1. Celebrate a risk with a staff member or student.
2. Model energy and excitement.
3. Share out the great things our Merton family is doing.
I truly believe this will help me with being more patient.  Everything that I do as a principal every day can be done with my focus on these goals.

Celebration of risk is a great way to show the importance of learning something new.  Modeling energy and excitement may seem contrary to patience, but if I choose a few items to focus on (Readers' Workshop and family engagement come to mind), hopefully the staff and students will focus on these items as well.  Having fewer things to focus on will help me maintain some semblance of patience.  Sharing out as much as a I can about all that we do in Merton will help me to pause and be involved in classrooms, allowing me to be more patient.

As many of my friends and co-workers will tell you, I can't stay seated for very long.  I always need to be doing something.  I just spent the last week in Myrtle Beach and couldn't just relax on the beach without jumping in and going boogie boarding every 15 minutes.  But I can feel my patience increasing while writing this post.  I was able to sit for 15 minutes to write on my Chromebook.  Maybe I can be patient after all.

Principals are people, too

As I sit in a condo in Myrtle Beach today, watching my daughter and her friends fix their hair and makeup for a dance competition, I realize that I am just a normal person who is a principal.  Now I always felt that way, but some things just bring the realization into more clarity.  Being a dad at a dance competition is one of those things.  So are mowing the lawn, snow blowing the driveway, grocery shopping, and going on vacation.  It's at these times that we are most human to our students and parents because they see us in a different way than when we are at school.  My wife and friends joke about how long it will take until I see a current or former student.  I was given a hat by our real estate agent that just says "NEIGHBOR" on it that I wear to subdivision parties.  And you know what?  I think it's great that students and parents see me as just a regular person.
What do regular people do?  They do great things for and with each other.  They take risks and fail.  They take risks and succeed.  They agree.  They disagree.  They come together.  They ask questions.  They determine next steps.  When regular people have a focus, like what is best for a school, imagine what can happen.  So is it bad for me to be just a regular person?  I think it's the best thing for our kids and our school.