Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hesitation

Hesitation is a word that ruins many and separates the few.   I think it is defined by your experiences and what you do.  I was hesitant the first time I went to observe a teacher, because I had never done it before.  I was hesitant the first time I had to deal with an angry parent, because I understood the mood.  I was hesitant the first time I had to speak in front of a large number of students.  I was hesitant the first time I had to speak to my staff.

Hesitation always gets a bit easier to deal with.  It always leaves you a little queezy in your stomach. It always makes you think twice and refine your practice.  It always is there, it is your conscious, that has your back.

It is your filter, your second guesser, your corner man.  It is your feelings, your brakes, your heavy hand.  When you answer its questions, when you make it feel okay.  You realize eventually it is a gatekeeper, not the ruler of the day.  You fight it and love it, hate it and thank it, you need it and want it to leave.  For hesitation is the voice in your head that eventually allows you to be free.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Experience or Formal Training?

Question 5 on #delachat tonight was delivered by a college student.  All the questions were from college students, which was just cool in itself.

Here was the question:


There are so many things to think about with this question.  I always think experience trumps formal education after you have the basic certifications.  Experience his hard to start, and formal education can certainly open doors for experience, but if you are lucky enough to have a choice, always choose experience.

Experience gives you stories.
Experience gives you moments
Experience gives you mistakes
Experience gives you successes
Experience gives you heart break
Experience gives your elation
Experience gives you relationships
Experience gives you a vision of who you are
Experience gives you contacts and connections
Experience gives you that "it" factor not learned from books.

Go with experience and a willingness to learn, formally, informally, and however to make yourself better.

There is no substitute for experience, and those that don't have enough of it become transparent in a way that is not good.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pushing Realities - Short thought

A push is really anything beyond asking staff to plan, assess, grade, give feedback, and respond to parents needs.  Those are their primary jobs.  Anything more is a push, managing when and how much to push is key to keeping an environment where staff feel like the work they are doing is making a difference vs. just making days go by.


When pushing you must always keep in the back of your mind that school is for some 30% of their overall life and maybe for others 90% of their lives.  This needs to be understood as the outside of school life certainly affects the inside of school life.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why do you write, Why do I write, Why should you write

I thought I was a math/science guy in school for the longest time.  I convince myself as most of my friends in high school excelled in these areas.  One was a finance major, the other an architect.  Then I realized, maybe sophomore year in college that I liked writing more.  I liked explaining my ideas with words vs. figuring out complex problems.  I did try my best to be a math/science guy, but I have given up that love and succumb to what I find to be more natural.  By more natural I do not mean accomplished, prolific, but serviceable.  I think I can put an idea down and with some grammatical leniency, the idea can be understood by a second and possibly third person.


All that being said, I write now to separate myself from my thoughts and ideas.  They live in my head, and they need to get out.  I can't keep them all in my head.  If I try to keep them in my head, I get stuck, I feel restricted, and I have this overwhelming sense of not being able to move forward with new thoughts until I get them out.

I have written a few how-to's, a couple "good ideas", and most of my public writing has been my thoughts on an idea, reflection, or trend I see.  I don't write "top ten" or "lists", there are plenty of those, and at this point putting one more list out there seems a waste of time for me.  Besides, my writing is totally selfish, if someone gets something from it, great, but the purpose is strictly for me.  I share my blog to keep me honest in thoughts, but I only write when I feel a sense to write.  I have no schedule, I get paid no more for doing it, it just feels right to me at the moment and I go with it.  I am embarrassed by much I have written, not ashamed embarrassed, but more, "why would anyone care?" embarrassed.  I have realized that is not up to me, that is up to the reader.


I am writing a book or more a manifesto on School Leadership that will never be published (I may put in PDF at some point, if it is ever done?), and a Memoir that will probably never be read.  I also of course write this blog.

I also want to write a Philosophy on Dealing With Life for my kids to read when they are too old for it to help them in any way.  These are all ongoing projects with the Philosophy hopefully to start soon.  Five minutes here, ten minutes there, many times early in the morning.

The whole point being I write to move forward.  I write to have it somewhere.  I write a public blog because it organizes things for me really nicely in chapters of thoughts.  Sometimes I write my frustrations, sometimes I write things that are dark, many times they attempt to be uplifting, and sometimes just thoughts.  Many of these are never published.  I write because it is my meditation, I disconnect, I put things in perspective, I move forward even if it is a reflection.

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Redefining Education - I am TOTALLY serious!!!



Please understand that the following is not to be taken seriously
The fact is we as educators make our own work far too messy

I want to redefine and reword education
You seem to do it, I see you, why can't I

Actually I do, guilty as charged, I am no different
Just using this as a joke to think and reflect on all of it

That being said, I move forward with my thoughts
Thinking is the process of Pensive Introspective Application of Deliverance
Or PIAD if you cut it down for\ a need to make it short

I want development to be learning
I want benchmarks to be mastery

I want to call a quiz a formative
I want to call a test a summative

Wait, have these already been done?
So none of this is new, not even one?

I want to distract you with as many acronyms and words to define
That you always feel like you are a step behind

I want to make sure to give you a look when you look confused
Especially if you are right out of college or somewhat new

Makes me feel smart to have a new way to say the same thing
I can then put it in a quote or a program with a spin

Here are a few of my ideas, maybe they will take off
They have been sitting for too long collecting dust on my shelf

Pronounced Mobilized Triggers of Thoughts or PMTT
How else do you introduce students to new ideas as they take their seat?

I want to turn the exit ticket into a back end bookmark of assumption.
BEBA is my entry in the acronym journal already up for submission

The mnemonic device should be a cognitive illusion or Cogill for short.
Don't confuse me with words that have a M and N so tight

A pencil is no longer a pencil, lets sharpen then erase with new
A utensil of reflection, equipment of self assertion, or may just call it double agent number two
You can write and take back, your influence grows as you get smaller
You are easily replaced, But your stance in school will always be first place.

Oh my I go on, I need a Hyper Yet Pinpoint Expression form
Graphic organizer, Acronym HYPE, I have seen the light!

I want to call management in the classroom something different, why not?
Students ability to self-actualize their pre and post decision theory, that sounds about right?

Could I start a program, put together a binder, or sell a book with any of this as my nproof
I just want it to stick, put my name on it, I want the credit. remember this is a spoof

In all seriousness, haven't we gotten a little bit ridiculous with renaming what already has a name?
We all want it to be ours...  just be okay with where you are, keep it simple, keep it real
Keep on working, not overthinking what is already there.
Just make it a little better, try not to confuse, remember our products are a generation of people
A generation, such a big powerful word, should I rename it, no I will leave that one to you.







Thursday, November 17, 2016

#mannequinchallenge as a learning tool

So sometimes in popular culture you see things that may or may not have an educational connection, but we adopt them anyways.

Minecraft = Yes
Virtual Reality = Yes
Pokemon Go = Probably NO
Running Man Challenge = Absolutely cool, but educational = NO
JuJu on That Beat = Probably not, but also super cool

So at first I saw #mannequinchallenge and thought = What, NO WAY?

Then I started looking closer and thinking, they are starting to really think out these poses!  This is no joke, you had to cycle through all sorts of stuff in your head to settle on the exact pose you chose. For many, you even had to collaborate to make it right!

MMM... Maybe there is something here.  If you are just doing a dance (retrieval), if you are just collecting pieces (comprehension), if you are building (creating), but if you are thinking about something and then doing just ONE pose that means something to you? (metacognition)

Think about that, how could you leverage this in education?

Here are some examples:

  • Setting - Reading a story, have your class recreate the scene as a pose
  • Conflict - Again have your class give their own interpretation of the conflict.
  • Problem/Solution - Half the room is problem, half the room is solution
  • Plot - Could you tell a whole story in one room?
  • Character Development - Can the faces of the class show a characters growth through a story?
  • There are so many more. 
We need to jump on the relevant to make it connect, this is a perfect opportunity.


This is like a breakout box with one lock that is always solved, but answers are individualized and personalized by the participants to explain.  That is powerful! At least in my book if framed correctly with the right tasks for students to explain.

Use these questions as a start:

  • This pose by you was chosen because it made you connect with text or the story for what reason?
  • Why did you choose to pose with that look on your face as it relates to the story?
  • Why did you show an aggressive, passive, or some other body movement in your pose as related to the text?
  • How does your pose fit into the bigger picture of your classmates poses?
  • How did you collaborate to come up with each of your poses?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Active Vs. Passive OUR country now!

I find it hard to write and think after the election
I also don't want to write another "white guy" reflection

As a matter of fact, I was just going to leave it...
Ashamed that my only post was a parting mention

Then there was a moment at a meeting tonight that made me stop
Strong African American Admin friends admitting their fright

So lucky that I work in a place that not only values diversity in leadership
But I have 12 years of these very important relationships

I did not ask them to write in response to their feelings
It was off the cuff, and not the topic of tonights meeting

So I leave it at this...
They said they will need to do a lot of kneeling
In prayer for this country they hold so near

When something happens that makes a group feel a way
It becomes about that time when you have something to say

It became personal
I became ill

People I respect, have worked with, called my sister and brother
Have had my back as I have had theirs
No matter what, I will be there for them in dark days

This is not for them, this is for you, this is for those
The ones that aren't as lucky as me
Those that have not been able to experience diversity
You have missed the boat, the plane, and the automobile

I know it is hard in leadership, it is hard to put it out there
It is hard to represent all and still find your where

Then you go to what is appropriate? what is politically correct?
I am a principal that represents a school, not my own sect

Does not mean I can't express my opinion or have to stand erect
I think I can stop the conversation that all white people know

I think I can intervene, insert my opinion, try to push
Move the needle face to face, that is how we win
You need to be active in this, no time for passive

Join me in the fight to right the Titanic of our country
Lets search the sea until we find that gold
Our country is new, we are learning, let's not go to sold

I have faith, I have belief undying, but it takes all to be active
Don't be passive in the thoughts of bigotry and ignorance

Take a stance, stand up for what you know is right
No voice right now should be giving up the fight




Monday, November 14, 2016

Time Travel

I don't know why I choose to write in this format
dormant until an idea hits swiftly like what I saw with my eyes

A high school senior today, a high school poetry champion
Then a day with the idea of travel, not on a plane, as it unraveled

We do it so much, we plan for future, but what if we could go back
Attack what we did, not what we will do?
That power would be unlimited and so
It leaves me with these thoughts, as I reflect on time travel

But back in time, and do it all again?
What if we could, what if we would, is it something we should?

I may go back to that garage sale in 2002 when I sold that thing
That cost a thousand and I may have gotten a few dimes

I may go back and that day in 99
When I should have studied
But instead I took the test and ran out of time.

Time travel would be so difficult, what moments to choose?
Assuming life would be change forever as I listen to Kendrick Lamar

Not the new album, but the one he did in 2015
Is that time travel? Listening to music? When you had different dreams?

Time travel would be dangerous, because I would change it all
I would always want something to go a little different
I would always want to take advantage of the situation
Is that fair to me, anyone, event, or position

Then I realized, I have a time machine, it is already built
It is what I choose to remember and recollect

It is what I do with experiences, I learned recently to live in the moment
Don't dwell on what happened, plan for future, but don't count on it
Don't get stuck in the muck of thought, don't defeat before you give effort

I would not time travel, I will live, I will do as I see fit
I will not quit, I will not give up, I will not wonder what if or what if not?

Not in the sense of past, not in "what if not", I am happy with my decisions
There are certainly regrets, there are certainly feelings, but I am okay with them

This is my place, where I have put myself
For better or worse

This is not a writing to answer questions, but more to be okay
More to grow and be okay with each day

Not perfect, not even close, trying not to pretend
But sometimes, I feel a victim of my own self

To time travel may fix all, as I pull dates off the shelf
But that is the reset button I am not dealt

If I could just go back 30 minutes and rewrite the beginning?
I send this off as a true stream of thought, maybe with no meaning.




Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How do I answer Questions about "Our Vote"

As soon as I woke up this morning, my son was already awake.
He wanted to know who won the election debate, state by state

I told him Trump as he watched the state ticker
I went back and forth CNN and FOX on the clicker

To hear both sides, to get a clear picture of the divide
Questions followed, answers I gave him true

Then I realized I had another big problem I needed to handle
My students, my staff, myself I needed to dismantle

Realized my role was not to push here in my thoughts
My role here was not to promote

I have thoughts, I have opinions
But that is not my role at work in this decision

At home I push what I want, but in my role at school
I want you to be able to express how you feel

At 8:20 when students came in, they asked me the question
"Who did you vote for?" Even from those that are seven

That was not important, I wanted to know what they felt
I met many of them at the door, as I knew they needed more

They needed me to show them school is school
We love them no matter what, maybe even more



Monday, November 7, 2016

Maintenance and Incrementalism

How do you deal with boring?  How do you deal with apparent half steps or side steps of growth, that you know you have to do in order to keep moving forward?  Even if it seems like treading water? Especially when you want to take full steps.

What do you do when you think you have a great idea or think you are really clear in your thoughts, only to be challenged or look out, and see nothing but evidence of confusion?

What do you do when you speak about vision, process, and consistency, then realize you have misstepped somewhere in your own steps?

How do you move forward and grow as much as possible while still dealing with incremental growth and maintenance? 

How do you do this in a school, that is a true moving target at all times, an ecosystem, that really can not be measured with sales numbers, likes, views, or consistent analytics.  There is certainly data, observations, and evidence, all very important, but it often tells stories that you feel are not 100% accurate.  There is still and probably always will be "softness" in school metrics.    

An anaolgy: If I was the coach of a team I would measure my team based on wins.  If we were losing, I would call a team meeting, talk about what is miss firing and set up practice around those struggling areas.

I am not a coach, at least not like the sports world.  I do consider my job a little like coaching, where encouragement, feedback, setting up practice, creating plays, and sometimes acting as a sounding board.

That being said, I don't think you ever lose working in a school, and certainly not how I feel now.

I ask my staff to push their students to reflect, construct, defend, justify, explain, create, etc.  We have practiced it over and over and I have seen so much evidence of this taking hold in classrooms.  It is subtle and not flashy, it is in the questions, tasks, and level of responses I see from students.

It is maintenance and incremental.  It is not flashy, sexy, or apparently evident from the outside.  It is practice, it is why I am having so much trouble reflecting on this right now!

How do we make practice and repetition of the same thing over and over again interesting?  How do we not just accept that we "got this" and move on.  Do we need a "program" or do we just figure it out on our own?

Do you explicitly explain what you want?
Do you leave it open for interpretation?
To what level do you monitor it and give feedback?
When do you judge that a tweak or a change is needed?

These are the questions I consistently ask myself.  My reflection is my own maintenance and incremental growth.  It is mind numbing, frustrating work within one's own self thought.

It is knowing you have to change the oil in your car, but really wanting to just upgrade your speaker system.

It is knowing you have to spend time doing laundry, when you wish you could just buy new clothes.

It is knowing you have to run 2 miles today so you can run 3 tomorrow, when you just want to run 5 and be done!

It is knowing you should drink 8 cups of water a day, but you really just want a Coke!

It is all of that stuff you do because you have too, in order for real growth to happen.

In a school is looks like training, conversations, feedback, reflecting on your plans, looking at student work, and practice.  The basics, it is the basics, and although they are not always fun, it is necessary.  
It is not a challenge, not a pilot, not an idea, but work.  Pure honest work with reflection and input that moves you through maintenance and increment growth.

I just wish it moved faster, and wish I could spend time upgrading the speaker system in my car instead of changing the oil!

It is ugly dirty work, but it is necessary, and it is getting easier knowing that there is evidence of real growth!
  



Thursday, November 3, 2016

Can school be compared?.... NO!

Can school be compared to church on Sunday?
Congregated speech for at least an hour before Monday.

Can school be compared to a boat?
"All aboard" the captain yells before setting sail.

Can school be compared to a game of baseball?
Station to station, make a catch, throw it out, past time of our nation.

Can school be compared to a gossip magazine?
Kardashians, Brad/Angeline, attention at times for all the wrong things.

Can school be compared to an Oligopy?
Go ahead and Google it, I did, to see what it means.

Can school be compared to a mall?
Lots of choices, lots of doors, one stop for all.

Can school be compared to a motor?
Moving parts, pistons, add some fuel

Can school be compared to a game of chess?
Move your piece, strategy, just don't end with less

Can school be compared to all of those in a way?
Can you compare school to anything any day?

School is one thing we all know, except for those that stayed home.
Something we all know, no matter how we have grown

Something we all share, but only a few continue
With the work that means so much to me and all of you.

This is the part of this comparisons that makes it tough.
It is not the same as anything else, comparing is not enough.

It is a feel, a temperature, a culture, a living organism.
Our most prized commodity, living breathing children.

As I hear more and more about what we should
And what we should not do

As I hear more and more about you messing with me
We uplift with you

As I hear more and more about how we can not
And yet we will

As I hear more and more about too much, too tired
And yet realize it is how we are wired

We are not normal those that work in schools
We want to always do our best regardless of tools

Give us what you got, we will find a spot
We do not shy away from what the negative say

We are rare, not like a steak or a coin
We are rare in the fact that we want you to join

We want students, parents, naysayers, policy makers
We want them all
Because at the end, our biggest fear is the same as yours
We don't want any of them to fall

This is why comparison is not fair to anything else.
There are losses everywhere, but our losses are felt.

Our losses are felt and real consequences I fear
That is the weight and responsibility we carry near

To all my educators, all my parents, all my community and all "our kids".











Thursday, October 27, 2016

Voice - Who should it belong too?

Here is my Ignite in video format (Words although not exact to ignite below)




Are you tired at night?  

Do you sometimes leave the job dragging and wondering if you can make it another day?  

Do you drive home and say to yourself maybe I need different work?  

Do you know that you are working too hard and yet don’t know what to do?

Do you think of education as a package you need to deliver?

What if rather than a unit or plan you thought of lessons as collection of experiences with multiple opportunities for students to show you knowledge with creativity in their own method.  

Besides we are all aware of how we have shorter attention spans than ever! Some of you have already started to tune you out.  I know, I am beginning to see it right here! Already!

I don’t see this as a bad thing, I see this as an opportunity, but we have shift our thinking around what we put in front of students.  

I was told once and once believed that I was an entertainer and needed to be one as a teacher.  

This is inherently a disaster.

Which like a snow storm, may be fun to watch until you have to dig out afterwards.  If you are always needed to drive everything, on days when you are off, the whole train runs off the tracks.   

**************

You must give voice to others and in turn give up power.  You may have to show them how and you may have to push them a bit, but your ultimate goal is to give voice to others.   

***************

You must give the voice to the student.  You will need to ask good questions and need to have good tasks for them, but ultimately, get out of the way and let them speak, write, solve, or do whatever.    

You must make them do the work not by yelling or demanding, but by showing them there is no other way.

You must establish an atmosphere of creators.

You must foster an environment where students know to seek each other out or go through a feedback process independently before claiming, “I am done!”

Just stop talking so much!  

Don’t be that person that you all have seen speak. The person that after, “hello my name is….” you have already tuned them out.  

Trust me, no matter how captivating you think you are as an educator and how great you think your jokes are, by November even your most loyal student is beginning to say, “why don’t they just shut up”.

Create activities that require them to explain verbally, write reflections or observations, record their thinking, conference with them one on one, ask them good questions, and a million other ideas.

Not only about the content they are learning, but also how they “feel” about that content.  Always try to bring it back to a feeling, where they have to think through their own experiences and history to explain.  

No matter the age, they will never get tired of telling you what they “think”!

*******

Here is an example of what I am talking about.  What does he mean “feel”, that makes no sense to me.

What would keep your interest more?

A typical pool is 5.5 feet deep and 10 X 20 feet wide and long. How many cubic feet is that?

Or

Are you a diver or a lap swimmer? What is important to you in a pool?  What would the dimensions of your pool need to be to satisfy your needs.  Label each dimension and identify the cubic feet so we know how much water to have delivered.

You won’t get a standard answer.  You may not know the answer right away, this is a good thing, ask them to prove it and explain why they chose those dimensions.  They now have to apply some emotion and opinion to math.  

This is a very basic changes in wording to a question.  I would challenge you to come up with much more creative multi-tiered tasks.

Remember standards do not require answers.  They require you to think, explain, share, and apply what they learn.  Please remember that.  

*******

It is not good enough to stop or only allow students to tell you what they learned.  I can ask Google questions and it can literally tell me what it has found.  Ask them to tell you from different perspective including their own.  

I want to know how they “feel” about what they have learned.  
I want them to “explain” in their own words what they learned.
I want them to “apply” to a new medium what they learned.
I want them to “share” what they learned, possibly with a link.

If we can get them to that, a link, then they can share it with anyone.  I want them to know that what they share is important, what they share does matter, and what they share should be shared.  The creation of something as simple as a link is proof that you have confidence in their message.

As I speak on the mic, I ask you to give up yours.  I am tired, I am working too hard, I have already said too much, I need to hand this off!  

You need to show students they are going to change the world, not us.  But in order for that to happen, we have to get them ready to lead their own voice, not be told what to say.  

We just want to allow, push, maybe even hard at times, and help them just develop their own voice.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What is the difference between now and then?

Pens used to be the only way to say
Station to station you moved information

Touch and delivery, the methods of the day
Conversations and stories were the only way

Opinions and thoughts were farther apart
Never heard and never dropped

Digital advantage has come to stay
Say what you say, the ability to save

Don't need to be present, don't need to be there
Now, where you are, no one cares

Video and recordings change the conversation
How is this changing human evolution?

Actions have not really changed
Movements and growth is still the same

What is different is the reach and speed
Just more to hear and see

This rate of change and information is good
Some argue that conversations are a lost art

Disagree with premise just not as private
Openness reveals ugly truths
Now that all sides have a voice
Social Media is that proof








Monday, October 3, 2016

What question do you wish your admin would ask you?

Educators are Dreamers
Educators are Believers
Educators are Changers
Educators are Leaders

If you believe all of those, then you understand that at times teachers want to be asked questions that do not have easily to recall questions.  They want to be asked things that may be out of reach, things that may push their thinking, things that "in a perfect world" may actually happen.  Things that they can hold on to as inspiration to move forward.

As a principal I often ask my staff questions and provide feedback that is very specific to their practice.  I often ask them to explain their thinking, which many times probably comes off as challenging their thoughts.  This is always left up to perception, the relationship you have built with them, and how previous interactions have gone.  I also understand that this separates me from them, and the closer I am to them the more it might hurt.



Side Note - I think so many on social media talk about getting feedback, and want you to respond to a blog, grow together, blah blah blah, it is easy when you have no personal connection with someone.  It is totally different getting feedback from "SM person" than from someone that knows the name of your kids, has been to your parents funeral, understands your Starbucks order, knows the name of your sister, and has shared moments of deep thoughts and sorrows.  So for all those SM folks "seeking feedback", is just getting a critique or a suggestion you can easily ignore.  Realize that we are giving deep and personal feedback to our teammates that goes so far beyond what anyone on social media claims to be feedback. just saying... 

That all being said, I have a job to push people, challenge people, and do what is best for "our kids" in as much a non-judgmental environment as I can.  So we have a process, I have written about in previous blogs.  It is multi-tiered, just understand that.  Sometimes small tweaks, sometimes as we are doing now, deep dives with instructional rounds.  

I also know that I can not flip the switch from critical specific feedback person to tell me how you think that went, without a little bit of questioning of my motive or intention.  I understand this, and it is okay, because at the end of the day improvement from all angles is the ultimate goal.  Which in the end will benefit the students.  Then there is the human aspect, the constant feedback cycle wears you down, even the most growth mindset educator you have ever met.  They get worn down from constant questions about why they chose to do this or chose to do that.


What if you from time to time you change the question from; "Why did you choose to do that in your lesson?" to "What do you want me to ask you or wish I asked you about your lesson?"

What if I asked, "What is it that you want me to know about your class set-up?" vs. "Why do you have your class set up this way?"

What if I asked, "What do you want me to derive from this reading data?" vs. "Why do you think there are so many kids that struggle with reading?"

You tell me what to ask you, it is definitely a switch, and certainly can not happen all the time, but does it not sound better and isn't ownership more shared in this approach?

HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS ON THIS SWITCH 


I can tell you flat out that if you ask me what I wanted you to ask me, it would require me to reflect.  It would require me to be honest with myself.  It would require me to give myself feedback at a level that would better prepare me to answer any follow-up questions.

I tend to be honest with my supervisor +Peter Leida and we have a relationship that is strong.  I know I have faults, he knows what they are, I work on them.  He does not judge me, he works with me, we figure them out together.  I am also brutally honest, tell on myself constantly, and because of our situation, I never feel like I am not supported.  I consider myself super lucky in this way.  He knows I have kids, he knows my wife's name and he still pushes me, knowing I may hate him for a few minutes, but his intentions are pure, therefore, I forgive him for his position and who he has to be to make me better.

So make a switch at times... Give honest feedback to those you care about deeply, but also ask them to ask you what they want...

   

For example:  If I was asked - What is one question I wish my supervisor would ask me? It would unveil immediately what my real beliefs and passions are in education.  It would reveal what I value, what I think about, and what I spend most my energy on.  

If my supervisor just asks me - What is one thing I find important right now? My answer is already tainted by my previous interactions, what I know about their beliefs in education, job security, how they might react, etc.  It is already loaded and tainted, not 100% authentic.  Even with the fact that I feel 100% supported.



I need to do this for my staff.  I need to know what they want me to know about them, about their class, and about their beliefs.  We created a belief poster at the beginning of the year, it is time we revisited that.

It is time they told me what they want me to ask them. 

Obviously we can not live in this "WISH" world forever, nor should we... It is not always reality and our "WISHES" may not actually be in line with what is the highest leverage action steps to help kids. But, until we identify and feel that our "WISHES" have been heard, do you ever get past feeling like you are ever heard?  Can you ever feel like you can commit to what you are passionate about? 

Rub the lantern leaders, grant just one "wish" ask your staff one question that I got via +Peter Leida 

"What question do you wish your admin would ask you?"

This whole train of thought was generated by that one question above.  You never know where a "WISH" will lead you!

DO IT, DO IT SOON! I PLAN ON IT #CDDOLPHINS... SO START THINKING ABOUT IT!

I CAN ALREADY SEE THE QUESTIONS I AM GOING TO GET! HAHA

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Two Simple Practices that Make a Big Difference

Kneeling Down and Keeping it Private


Whenever you speak to kids whether it be at their desk, in the hallway, or wherever… Try to get to their eye level.  As a school leader you don’t want to be viewed as a dictator and one of the simplest ways to connect with the students in your building is to get at their eye level.  This is important at any and all levels of education.  


Keeping it private means taking the effort to walk over and quietly address things as much as possible.  Yelling or speaking more than just a child’s name over a few others immediately puts yourself at risk of a power struggle and could embarrass.  There are moments and times for that, don’t get me wrong, but your practice should be to keep it private.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Instructional Rounds Season 3

So they say that a sequel is never better than the original and therefore the third installment is probably always the worst.  I hope this is not true as I embark on my third year of doing instructional rounds and our staff embarks on the second.

I write this as a timestamp to look back on later to see how we evolve throughout the year.  This is a major part of our professional development this year, probably the single most expensive endeavor, and hopefully the most meaningful as a staff.

The idea is to get 3 substitutes over 18 days, 54 substitutes ($7000+) total and have them cover classes all day so a day of learning can occur for each grade level.  At my school each grade level has 3 teachers.  Below is the basic schedule of what the day will look like.


So I will explain in bullets:
  • The day before the teacher being observed gives the others on the team a description of the lesson to build their understanding so they are not going in cold.  They are all same grade level, so concepts should not be too foreign.  
  • The team observation (Just say, 2nd grade team) (3 teachers).  One teacher is teaching, other 2 teachers, coaches (I have 2), myself, etc. are observing and taking scripted notes.  No inferences, only descriptive evidence, which can be pictures.  The student said.... The teacher asked.... The students were asked to answer the following questions....
  • The whole thing is being recorded for the teacher being observed to review later.
  • The team of 4-7 people spend 35-45 minutes in the room on the process of taking notes.  
  • Everyone breaks at 10ish and the teacher that was observed goes and watches the video.  We will use a SWIVL to record.  This is only for them to build context as to what they did and what they discussed.  They should take descriptive evidence of themselves at this time. 
  • Everyone reconvenes at 1:00 to debrief.  We all spend and hour or more talking about our problem of practice within the context of their lesson.
  • Problem of Practice - Increasing the cognitive rigor of lessons from recall and comprehension to metacognition, reasoning, creating, analyzing, self-actualizing etc. with an integration of technology that is meaningful.  All under the umbrella of addressing standards.
  • This debrief is professional and judgement free.  It is not about good or bad at all, but what the observed teacher and students did.  What were the tasks assigned and accomplished?
  • Then how could they have done it differently?  If I hear the words good or bad, I freak out and call it out as an inference and we move on.  
  • This is a diagnosis, that is it!  Can not stress this enough.  A diagnosis, there is no bad or good! This is the single most important emotional element that has to be facilitated or managed.  Then a prescription to improve.  
  • That is PD, real practice, real conversations, real growth.  Not a session, but practice analyzed.  I say forget all other forms of PD, this is it.  Analyze my job, give me ideas in a nonthreatening environment... please, does it get any better?
  • The last part of the day is to reflect, take some time to process, and figure out how to apply immediately.
  • We collect data all year on this to measure our growth. We have seen good growth from last year. Here is data from last year and a half





  • This is real data with all of 2015 and Spring of 2016 showing with over 100 data points a large decrease in recall/retrieving.  You will always need and see comprehension, but I was so happy to see analyzing, reasoning, and the other grow!  I was so proud of this work and this data.  My staff worked so hard at analyzing their own lessons to think differently. 
Has this meant the highest test scores in the state or the district, NO.  Has this meant that my staff more fully understand blended learning, they more fully understand lesson design, they more fully understand how kids need to think in the 21st century, they more fully understand how to be creators, facilitators, and educational leaders...

We are playing the long game. To play the long game takes discipline, practice, challenges, and struggle.  

I will be spending probably 25% of my budget this year on this process.  My staff knows it, or if they did not hear it before, because they were not paying attention, they will know it now.  After I share this with them.  This is a sacrifice, which I hope to have sponsored by a grant in the future, which we tried for this year, and failed.  You are what your budget says you are.  I like to think we are continuous improvers, sharers, not afraid of peer feedback, and doing what is necessary to produce experiences for "our kids" that are unparalleled. 

Go ahead and ask me for a "link" to any kids learning in my school, and I can give you thousands, any time, from anywhere, from any classroom, maybe more...  Just think about that?  

If they are just answering questions and nothing more they are not learning.  They are regurgitating information.  Without explaining and creating, analyzing, reasoning, and using metacognition they are just robots.  Why our problem of practice is what it is with the infusion of technology to create those "links" and experiences of learning that are real.     




Thursday, September 22, 2016

#GoOpen is not a movement and it is not a "thing".  It is a mindset, not a growth mindset, innovative mindset, or #MONDAY mindset.  It is an open mindset, a mindset that does not care about accolades, does not care about recognition, does not care about name dropping.  It is "here is my stuff, take it, leave it, change it, push it, whatever, but here it is!"

People way smarter than me will figure out how to curate and share this, but without you sharing openly, we have nothing.

It is a mindset that does not care if you are jealous, does not care if you talk about me, and certainly does not care if you critique my work.  It is a mindset that we all should have, a mindset that allows you to be free of perception and truly create your own.  If you are always worried about credit, your image, brand, product, or whatever, you are never #GoOpen.  If you promote yourself over your work, you are never #GoOpen.


#GoOpen is walking over to a lunch table of strange "cool kids," as an awkward freshman in high school, and telling them your life story.  Then sitting down and asking them about theirs.  Chin up, confident, knowing that with true transparency, and openness, comes true conversation and movement.  And if you get punched in that same chin, knowing you will get up and go to the next table with the same story.  You may make a few modifications to avoid being punched again, but the message is the same.  

That is what #GoOpen is at times to me. Sure we can get rid of textbooks, stop worrying about copying things, put things on digital platforms, etc.  But until we are ready to say, "here I am, take me for what I am and then you own it..." You are not #GoOpen.

Hopefully you understand my analogy in this.  If not, I am open to your questions and feedback.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Relativity

Relativity in what you do and who you be
Believe me, what I know is not what I see

Experience, history, and life are unique
Each blink I think and think

How you feel, meshed, with what is in your sight
It is all relative, righteous, not necessarily what is right

At a loss I toss and toss
In my bed at night in a fight

Your ideas and your attention
Are relative to my perception

I find something important and you don't
What does that mean? My will... your won't?

Tell me this is the direction, I tell you stand back
You lack my understanding you never ran my track

Ever go up an escalator and not moved an inch
In a pinch do you cut corners and justify with a wink

Complaints are not mine, what's the pressure?
It lives in every conversation and every gesture

My stance is different than yours
You don't understand me, you've never been on my tour

Relative to your history, your story, and your worries
Experiences are all we have with our memories

Therefore relative to the lens that you apply with emotion
Commotion is a revolution within that moves your perception

What is hard for me is not for you
You lose! You applied you to me

It is relative, not an aunt, uncle, or even a mother
Confession... If it is all relative, why do I even bother?

Because being understood regardless of difference is the goal
Only variance that matters, is if you feel you are not heard at all







Thursday, September 15, 2016

I was asked to write for 8 minutes...

I was asked 2 nights ago to write for 8 minutes about who #cddolphins are... I did not write... I researched my own writing to find 2 blog posts that fit what we were supposed to write about...

I realize now after reading both posts again, that I did this exercise a disservice.  I do feel everything in those 2 posts, but they were from 6 months+ and over a year ago.

I actually probably should redo my 8 minutes of "who WE are". I am setting the timer on my phone and I am writing... NO edits, no corrections after 8 minutes... Here it is:

Who are We? That is so hard!  I start with dismissal.  We are families, mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, etc. picking up our loved ones!

We are TEC#, but not like what you would expect.  WE incorporate it now 3 years in with purpose, we may not have the greatest test scores, but we can "show" you learning like no other.

Come to Carrie Downie, you will see happy kids learning, creating, loving the process, struggling at times, maybe even shutting down.  But not forever, the staff is so dedicated to reaching every child that tears have been shed by me and others over how we have failed.

We have not the most difficult population in history, but we do more with less, than any other school I have ever been a part of.  We have so many kids and parents wanting to get in it is hard to say "no" to anyone.

We are who we are.  We do everything, every teacher, every educator in the building is everything for every child.  We are #cddolphins not a hashtag, but about 30 educators committed to making a learning experience for kids more than words, text, questions, and tests.  We are allowing "our kids" to create learning and making learning real.  Create a "link" that can be shared with world.

Our audience may be small, but it is a start.  Our mission is to allow, not make, students have a voice that does not stop at 3:25.  They need to think about those projects, assignments, and etc. way past our regular school day. We are creating learners, not regurgitates.  I have 14 seconds, I guess I am done.

I did spell check and grammar check past 8 min. SORRY! Otherwise I stuck to the constraints!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Best Practices - What are They?

If you are in education you have heard the term, "best practices."  What are they? What does that mean?  In delivering a prescriptive program a consultant will tell you about researched based "best practices" and how, if implemented correctly, you will teach the curriculum with fidelity and success.  I do agree with this, I have done my own case studies where I compared teachers that were trained in programs vs. those that weren't and their relative effectiveness.  This was on a very small scale within in one building, but I would agree with the statement; when a prescribe curriculum or program is taught within a context of "best practices" fidelity occurs and your maximum gains are achieved. 

But I want to go a little deeper.  What about the other 70% of the time you don't have prescribe programs.  What about "best practices" in those quick interventions, quality conversations, feedback sessions, management techniques, engagement tricks, etc. What are "best practices" in these situations?  Areas where you may not have been trained, but are still important.  We can never be trained in everything we do in education.

I feel they are individualized.  Your "best practices" may not be mine. I may not be an outgoing over the top actor in front of my class.  I may not be the most creative lesson planner.  I may struggle with technology. I may think outside the box continuously.  What are my "best practices"?

In these instances I believe "best practices" are individualized and repeatedly improved with coaching, conversations, collaboration, trial and error.  When you have never tried something before and you can find very little to go on as a guide, what are the "best practices"?  My opinion is that "best practices" are necessary at times, but growth in development as a lesson planner and teacher occur outside of "best practices".

They occur in "new practices" that become "best practices" after practice.  Sorry Allen Iverson, practice is important.  It just may not always be your best, which is okay if you are getting better.

So next time someone says to you "best practices" ask them what they mean?  Do you mean a program or that other 70%, because there is a difference in how we practice.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

reality, relativity, reliability, really...

For months I have been working on writing about relativity in education, classrooms, and how perspectives are the driving forces beyond so much in our thoughts and feelings about school.  Then my thoughts shifted to how reliability in message, people, circumstances, and systems drives your relative perspective.  Thoughts were getting out of control.  This exercise brought on a reality that forced me to think about how history and experiences may be the actual reason we make decisions and have opinions.  I really want to be able to finish the writing, but struggling.  Because my reality is relying on reliable thoughts about relativity which is solely related to my own experiences and not others.  That is my problem on this topic!  It is all relative right....?  I have a headache...

It is really only one paragraph as I have deleted so much.  This is never going to get done and maybe it shouldn't.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Why wait to write... A blog for teachers teaching thoughts

When I have an idea I toss it around, write about it right away to let it sit, talk about it with others for feedback, and just marinate on it for a while.  Sometimes this is days, weeks, or even months.  But I always try to follow this procedure with big ideas.  I follow the footprint that Adam Grant explains in this TED talk about procrastination.


When I taught and from what I have seen in classrooms writing generally begins either with something read, a brainstorming session, a writing prompt, or a quick reflection on a personal experience.  It could be a letter, a poem, a persuasive essay, a summary, or an opinion to name a few.  It usually starts 3-4 days before the final product is expected and you work diligently through the process getting some feedback and edits before submitting the final product.  All in all 3-4 days is the average time.

What if writing (at least the longer pieces) started weeks or even a month before the eventual expected date of being finished.

So let me take a standard:

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.  

This is an overall standard, not meant to be all inclusive, but will use this to explain my idea.


One morning or afternoon and a lot of days before the eventual date of final copy you ask your class to write for 5 - 10 minutes about something they have done that they could explain to someone else.  Have them put it in an open discussion platform if you have the availability to do that even.  If they are younger they could record themselves or draw a picture to explain.  Let it sit there a few days.

In the mean time ask others, for 5 - 10 minutes, to go in and respond either with questions or compare/contrast to a similar topic or ideas that they could explain.  Then have the original author, having been given a few days, think about the concept and get feedback from peers.  Have them rewrite or add to their original writing.  Do this 4-5 times before you give them the assignment

This written assessment I see as coming in the form of something they read, let's say "how gemologists determine the value of a diamond?"  Maybe not the most interesting topic, but the assignment for the class is to write an informative/explanatory text to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.



Make sure they:
  • Introduce a topic clearly, provide a general observation and focus, and group related information logically; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
  • Link ideas within and across categories of information using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., in contrast, especially).
  • Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  • Provide a concluding statement or section related to the information or explanation presented.
The idea is that they have informally without threat, already done this a number of times leading up to this moment.  Obviously there would be more practice, explanation, modeling, and showing that I have left out.  The point being why not allow students time to practice and think through their ideas over and over before you get to these big landmark/benchmark assignments that show mastery of standards.  

If they are able to show you they can do this after practice, you have satisfied more than just the writing standards I listed above.  The main point is to give them many many chances to formulate ideas and think through the process before the unit or curriculum brings you to that moment of truth.  We all have moments of truth when you have to hit publish or submit.  I think the trick is allowing plenty of opportunities to hit save and redo before.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Educators First Day of School - #cddolphins

The first day of school begins with the last day before
A new beginning with new students wanting more

Energy, anxiety, feeling of purpose in your head
Certainly 3 am is the appropriate time for bed

Looking at plans, making sure room is right, school is tight
You only have one chance you think, before you say good night

I will mess up, what if I come off wrong, what if it is awkward and weird?
Will they like me as much as their teacher last year?

I will smile, I will hug, I have my clothes ready to go.
I think about those kids that come in smug not ready to grow

How that will hurt, how that will feel, how can I turn it around this year?
That is my job, I tell myself, already worried about how I will help.

I am confident in me, I have had so much success.
Why am I still the most important and difficult one to impress?

I wake up early, get coffee, and double check the space.
I say "hi" to colleagues, but only thinking about that face.

The face of the students, special, each and every
The time I spend this year will be a forever memory

I have that control, I have that influence, I have that power
To change ideas, show new learning, and allow them to climb great towers

I will now go to bed knowing this is paramount, this is mine
For tomorrow will be the beginning of the most important time




Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Educational Beliefs


I believe that no matter what we think, every day our students come to school wanting to be loved, learn, succeed, and smile.  I smile at them and tell them it is going to be "great day".

I believe that given a little confidence even those that struggle at times will stop the class or his/her partner and tell them, “I got this… let me try…” One of my favorite memories ever from last year. I know it happens every day in your classes, allow it to happen.

I believe that given the right motivation a group of students will not only work together, but want to share what they are doing, and get so excited about learning that it almost becomes a management issue.  I believe management issues when you are calming students down because they are so excited about learning are okay!

I believe that no matter how difficult the home life of some of our students, the abuses, neglect, trauma, and questioning of whose house they are sleeping in at night or who is feeding them dinner, don't take away from their desire to learn. They still are willing to get dirty with us, in learning, if we allow it, and support it.

I believe that our students just have friends. They see each other differently than we see them. They judge differently without experiences we have had.  They need to be able to continue to think this way as long as possible.

I believe our students are excited to come to school everyday, They even wake themselves up early at times, get their own food, dress themselves, cross streets, and show early. Everything ready to go. Make sure when you show up, you are ready for them.

I believe our students want to read outside, they want to lie on the floor, they want to close their eyes and just think for a minute in a quiet room.  They want the experience of school to be more and better than we could even imagine.  For many it is their everything, let’s make sure we remember that.  

I believe regardless of what their faces show you, they deserve the same patience, respect, and love.  Even if you know all the reasons for their struggles, even if you know the horrible "true" story, this does not change what you believe, just maybe your approach. They should all be pushed and forced to struggle at times, while providing supports to help build their confidence in their academic abilities.  

I believe there are moments in each year when things get tough, you need a break, so you just stick your blue tongue out as my students do at times and... You move on realizing that your beliefs and feelings have not changed, just the way you were looking at your current attitude, needed an adjustment.

I believe they want to be pushed, they want it to be “not too easy”, they really want to just “show us” their work.  Give them many ways to do this, don’t just ask them questions and wait for answers, ask them to show you what they mean with their statements and their problems.  

I believe when I say good bye in the afternoon that they all don't want to leave. Many of them want to stay and do more. The best part is that we are going to do it all over again the next day.

I believe in the power of you, we, us, and them. These are our students, our community, our staff, our supports, and me. I believe we do this every day because of everything I listed as beliefs and so much more... What do you believe to be true no matter what and can never be taken away?