Friday, August 28, 2015

Branding your school? The questions that follow.

So we come into this era of branding our school and classroom to promote our students.  There have been many trailblazers before to explain how to "do" this.  I am not champion for the how to "do" this, as I think that map is already pretty well developed.

I want to talk about the effect of doing this in your building that may or may not be thought of.  I promote collaboration, sharing, talking, and to some extent bragging.  A little #eduattitude. This comes with a warning!  When you brag and or have an attitude, you inherently develop critics, haters, and enemies.  Bring it on!  I just don't want them to be at 1201 Delaware St.

How do you feel about promoting your classroom?  How do your teammates feel about your level of sharing?  Are you bragging?  Do you think you are better than someone else?  The critics say, "I can do that, I just don't put it on social media..."  Isn't that the accountability piece we always talk about?  Want to be accountable, more than test scores, put your message out there and back it up with evidence, just saying...

Here is our first "Carrie Downie Weekly Video"

Do we make decisions based on what we think may effect someone negatively or by what we think will benefit our best people?  I say promote the best, that is what we are all striving for.  I do not operate based on the what will offend, but based on what is best for our students.   Branding our school and promoting the #cddolphins message is part of that.  Right now there is no question that is who we are, lets not hide from it, let's push this.  We are 380 students on a good day, lets show the world what we are.

The questioning about who you are professionally may become overwhelming.  Biggest question then is, "Am I authentic and living up to my own beliefs?" That is a hard question, one that only you can answer as as an individual.  Like going into an interview about your classroom, be ready for questions.  The teachers @carrie_downie have these answers.  By that I mean, they know they back up their message and they stand by it proudly.  We are #cddolphins! Our kids need us to push them to live to that standard!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Goals... Are they Smart or Audacious or Both?

Part of my PD delivery this week included walking down a line of tables with the idea of "what song do you enter your class listening to in your head?"  Whatever your choice the message is clear.  What mindset do you have to push yourself and your students to be better.

My choice was:

This song gives me an edge and attitude.  This is important for any job, but as a principal, someone who is always watched even more important.  How does this all relate to goals?

Well that might be a tough analogy, but let me try.  When you make "Audacious Goals" in education people tend to think you are not focused on incremental growth, which for years has been the roadmap for school improvement.  I don't disagree that to get to the end goal you need steps along the way, but if your eventual goal is so AUDACIOUS, that no one thinks you can achieve it, then you are on to something.

Put your goal so far away, that no matter what, all the steps you take to get there are incremental growth. You need an edge, an attitude, a vision, a calling... Without that you are nothing more than another suit doing a job.  Audacious goals push you, push those around you, set a tone.  That is when the work comes in, and you need to be willing to work.  By announcing AUDACIOUS goals you put yourself out there.  You put a target on your back with no going back.  Is that not what our students deserve? We as educators need to be willing to take risks, be vulnerable, and put ourselves out there.

Whether I ever achieve my AUDACIOUS goal is not important.  The steps I and we as a staff take to try and achieve them is the progress, journey, and improvement that will move schools.  I rely on these goals to move #cddolphins to be a community of risk takers that never say "no" and/or " I can't do that".  We would never achieve AUDACIOUS goals if we utter those words.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Why are we here and How do we move forward? Simple PD plan...

On the eve of the first day with the teachers back in the building tomorrow, I have put my finishing thoughts together and organized the 2 days that I get to set the stage for the year.

We will have a day of "why" and a day of "how".  They are driven by a few simple questions and lots of activities, examples, and hopefully some inspiration, deep reflection, collaboration, and some fun!

Day of "Why":
  • Why are we here, what is our main purpose? (always good to revisit this question)
  • Why is it important to not only spread our message globally, but even more importantly locally?
  • Why is it important to support each other and do some of this work together?
  • Why is it important to have both audacious and less audacious goals?
  • Why is important to continue to push each other within a framework of sharing in order to continue forward progress in the process and journey
  • Why is never okay to say we are done or I can't do that?
  • Why is it always okay and expected to say "what if..." and "explain that to me better..."

Day of "How":
  • How do we become even more awesome than we are?
  • How do we begin, first steps to achieve the goals we are striving for?
  • How do we set up systems that fit these goals vs. fitting into a system that may lead us down the wrong path?
  • How do we use technology to better assist our students and our own work as educators?
  • How do we create lessons that don't waste time so that we have the ability to push our students to a deeper understanding?
  • How do we only focus on 2 objectives to drive all this movement?  Yes 2 main focuses.
Why and How 

Could it really boil down to that simple a concept?  Probably not, but that is how we are starting and our focus is clear and detailed.  Knowing the #cddolphins I know we will fill in the rest together and as always, "Make it Awesome!"  Be ready, because the 10 month journey is about to start again and I may have 2 cups of coffee tomorrow!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Change Again? Why Steps forward are like buying new shoes

Got an email today.  Certainly not earth shattering, I get about 100+ a day. But this one said we are moving from being cloud based by Dropbox to Google.  Without getting too technical, we already had both, but dropbox lived on our computers.  Dropbox was like our "hard drive" and Google was a swiss army knife.  Now Google will replace that...  You might say, "no big deal". But this announcement was district wide and I already hear the deep breath of apprehension to this idea.

Why is change so difficult to understand these days? Because change is going from what @mwiersy quoted today in my @voxer bookchat on the book Influencer by, Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

Here is Mike's favorite quote from the book that relates so well to the email I read.

"First people tend to resist new behaviors because they're crystal clear about what they'll lose by change but uncertain about what  they'll gain. Like it or not, when it comes to change, humans tend to overvalue what they're losing while undervaluing what they gain.  So don't eagerly embrace the verbally recommended strategy."

Drop the mic moment for me! So true, don't let go of what we know for what we might not know because it is uncomfortable.

If you live in a "change and tweak world" world, you want this! You want change, not to change direction, but to continue to grow within the focus on innovation and improvement.  If there is better way to travel your journey, why would you not embrace it.

Here is my simple analogy to explain this.  Why do you buy new shoes? Shoes never last a lifetime, especially if you are a runner.  Sure you have preference, but you still go shopping and try to find a new pair.  You embrace that new pair and live with them for a while and then repeat the process.

Learning and change is like buying new shoes.  We buy new shoes when old ones are no longer comfortable or don't work for us anymore.

We are at a pinnacle of advancement, either embrace it or be left wearing shoes that no longer feel or look good!

Monday, August 10, 2015

What if classroom connections went beyond classrooms to individualstudents

So the school year is about to start for us and I have been tooling around with an idea in my head for a while.  #mysteryskypes, GHO's, reading to each other, and many other classroom connection mediums are great.  But what if we could collaborate with another class on a much more personal and intimate way between individual or small groups of students.  What if they each had a way to talk with and collaborate?  Here is the idea.  Create rooms for small groups or individual students, that then connect with another class.  Simple, but effective.  Most ideas that are influential game changers are taking an existing idea and tweaking it slightly.

BIG WARNING!!! you will need serious bandwidth, but my school is lucky in this sense.  I screencasted the idea below, but you basically go to and set up an account and then create rooms for each of your students, like,,, you should have more creativity than me. Then you post the links via symbaloo, shared google doc, phone conversation, whatever, with another class.  It works just like a but with video/audio and ability to share screens which is the cool part.

You could do a million things.  Modified #mysteryskype, collaboratively work on a project, writing, ask each other questions, debate, etc.  The ideas are endless.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Regurgitation/vomiting is for birds not connected educators

I am prefacing this with the fact that I have only been "connected" for a little over a year.  In that time I have made a few observations and think there needs to be a voice for the not so popular at times.  Before I go on, I need to explain the context of this blog.  It is about the following words; regurgitation/vomitting, sharing, and creating.  I need to first define regurgitation/vomitingsharing and then also creating to fully understand my stance.

I will use regurgitation rather than vomit, just has a better feeling.

Regurgitation - In my humble opinion is just taking something you may or may not have read and never really thinking of applying it and just sending it along just because.  Maybe you are bored, maybe you are looking for more followers, maybe you don't focus well on your own vision and goals.  Whatever the reason, it is like a bird during the mating season trying to win a mate with a scent or action to create an attraction.

Sharing - This is important in that it is finding an idea you have read about, have tried, invested in, talked about with someone face to face or virtually.  It is something to some extent you have vetted, even if in your own head.  It may be viable for your situation and you feel like others in your situation or your PLN could actually use. This is power, this is collaboration, this is one way to use Social Media to benefit your PLN.

Creating - Creating a Thinglink where you have curated and vetted tools like my friend Amanda Rogers +Amanda Rogers.  This is a great visual and organizer of tons of tech tools.  Or Sarah Thomas +Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur with her creation of @edu_match where she is not only managing a @voxer chat, website, etc., but also doing a virtual edcamp this weekend on Saturday at 2 pm, sign-up.  Just create, curate for others, put it on youtube for others to view.  Creating is doing and showing.

Back to my initial point. Regurgitation gets in my way, makes me want to vomit, and ruins my filter of information.  It makes me not want to read my feed on twitter or listen to voxes that I know have no backing or "real" information behind them.  I am in this to learn, share, and create.  If you are not in this cycle then just read, take-in, and learn. There is no need to regurgitate, we will all get it anyway if we know where to look, who to ask, or want the information bad enough.

If you want to regurgitate information just send yourself an email with the link, blog that you did not read, or video you did not watch for the content or the idea.  Abraham Lincoln wrote himself more letters to himself than he ever sent or spoke about.  Follow Abe and start a journal, not everything needs to be regurgitated.

We want our students to go beyond surface level and really dive into our lessons with depth.  Please practice the same in all aspects of your PLN.  This does not suggest to take the social out of Social Media, that is important and necessary.  That needs to continue, just don't send out another tweet about how we need to be "student centered".  I wholeheartedly agree with being "student centered", but if you are anything worth your weight, at this point that idea should be implied and understood.  Sort of like the idea we should plan our lessons.  We know that, tell us how you are "student centered" specifics! or how you plan your lessons!

Don't regurgitate!

Invigorate, innovate, share, and create or at least try!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

What a Brook and Rocks can teach you about school.

Spent the week staring for hours at a brook (creak for mid-atlantic folks) and millions of rocks underneath, that were all different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Some were rigid, some were smooth, some even teased you into thinking they were something they weren't, and then a few had all those characteristics with unique colors.

I often grabbed the teases right away thinking I had something special, only to realize that after further examination they were often weak and I could break them with my hand.  They were surface level, like "quick fixes" in schools.  They look good, but fall apart under pressure.

The rigid rocks had sharp edges, build with them, but did not inspire you to keep them.  They have a necessary purpose as building blocks for the brook, but I did not bring any of them home with me.

The smooth rocks attracted me as well as they were shaped into something from the running water.  They had been weathered and knew the test of time, but again I felt the need to leave them behind to continue to be formed further and live out their life under water.  Much needed but the analogy to education is time tested traditions and ideas, that aren't going anywhere and should be left in place.

The ones that had all characteristics with color were few and far between.  They had a smooth side, a sharp edge or two, had a few colors, and could stand on their own as a promising paper weight.  I grabbed those, put them in my hand and imagined how does this apply to academics.

We need rigidity, we need good smoothness, we need some teases to push us, we need color, we need all of those things in order to push movement or in the case of rocks to hold paper down in a windy office!

Each rock is unique as is every person, lesson, student, building, etc.  We all have our own DNA that makes us special.  We may not reach for every rock to take home, but they are all important in the make up of a great brook or creak.  Simple analogy, but I love analogies and this seemed to fit.