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".