Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Educators making a difference...

I recently asked principals and administrators across North America one simple question: What do you love about your job? Here are the responses I got...and I must say, they are pretty awesome. Enjoy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

"The Blind Side"

A few days ago I had the opportunity to watch the movie The Blind Side. As my wife and I sat there watching the movie I couldn't help but notice how "into" the movie we were. This was not the first time I heard of the movie, however it was the first time I could watch the movie in its entirety. At my high school we watched a short clip of the film as part of a Character Education lesson during our academic advisory time. Several students in my advisory expressed their love of the movie, and as a result I put it on my list of movies to watch.

As educators we have taken a vow to not only help our students, but also to positively affect the lives of our students. If you have seen the movie then you know what I am talking about; if you have not seen the movie then I encourage you to move it up on your list of movies to watch. If the movie affects you half as much as it affected me, then it will definitely be worth your time...

I wrote a post earlier in the year titled, Why you matter much more than you think, and I believe the post has a ton of relevance to the movie. Every day we have the opportunity and luxury of helping. That is what we do: we help, we encourage, we guide, we support and we protect our students. We do all of these things not because it is our job, in fact, I would argue it has nothing to do with it being our job. We do these things because it is in our nature to help...we do these things because they are the right things to do...we do these things because we are human, and to be human means to help...

As we approach the dawn of a new year, I encourage and challenge all of us to do just a little more than in years past. If every one of us did just a little bit more than in previous years, we will all be doing a whole lot better! Your actions will always speak louder than your words, but most importantly, your positive actions are highly replicable and highly contagious. Enjoy this 3 minute clip and make 2011 a better year for all...   

Monday, December 20, 2010

How do you define learning...?

I will start this post off by saying you will not find any answers here.  At best you might be more confused than when you started.  This year has been the year of change for my German students and myself.  We have been pushing the envelope when it comes to technology integration in a foreign language class.  Overall, I can honestly say things have been going quite well.  Students seem to be actively engaged and interested, and most importantly they have taken great strides when it comes to taking control of their own individual learning.  After reading this one would think everything is going perfectly well, however the realist in me believes when it sounds too good to be true, it's probably not true...

In the past week I have had two of my best students vocalize their dismay with some of this year's activities.  Whether the students are my best or my worst students I will always listen to what they have to say. However, in this instance I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt just a little more coming from two of my best kiddos.  Their claim was simple and straight forward; "We don't think we are learning as much this year in your class as we did last year."  Who would have thought a simple sentence like that could hurt so much, but I felt as if the air had been knocked out of me.  The sirens and bells were going off in my head and I immediately thought, "What am I doing wrong?"

The more and more I thought about these piercing comments the more I focused on the particular students making the claims.  They are two of my B.O.B.S (best of the best students), and obviously if they think they aren't learning as much this year then I must be doing something wrong. Or am I...?

I have been trying to infuse a little of Dan Pink's book "Drive" into my classroom.  Additionally, I have set a goal of transforming my role as the teacher.  I no longer want to be the only person with knowledge...I no longer want to lay out the learning process for my students like a puzzle...I no longer want to be a teacher; I want to be a guiding hand helping to facilitate an environment of exploration and discovery. No longer will the responsibility of learning be on my shoulders; I want my students to share that burden with me.  I want my students to teach themselves, each other and even me.

Though I still remain hurt by the comments of these two great students, I think something much more devastating is being revealed.  Even amongst our best students, we have ingrained the idea of book work and worksheets as the only source of learning.  I am just as guilty as any other educator in creating this misconception, but I now have an added motivation to rectifying it.  I will continue my assault on traditional book work and worksheet learning.  I am not saying it should be entirely eliminated, but I think we might have a problem when our best students associate learning only when they have a book or worksheet in hand.  Or, I am entirely off base, and my two awesome students are 100% correct in their findings...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Life of an Educator: Top 5 blog posts of 2010...

I started this blog on June 14th, 2010.  For the last 6 months this blog has provided me the opportunity to share and collaborate with some of the best educators in the world.  I have been able to take my self-reflection to the next level, which in turn has hopefully made me a better educator.  This blog has been influential as I embrace the concept of 24/7 professional development...anytime and anywhere.  For the members of my PLN and the readers of my blog, I thank you for your support and encouragement.  I firmly believe that our combined efforts will make us all better educators, and as such we will be better positioned to positively affect the lives of our students.  Happy readings!

1) - Why Twitter Should be a Part of your PLN

2) - 5 Ways to Spread the Power of Twitter as a PD Tool

3) - 7 Proven Strategies that Will Engage your Students

4) - 5 Technology Tips for the not-so-Tech Savvy Teacher - @JPPrezz

5) - 10 Tips for Starting a Technology (Learning) Revolution in your School

The Dream Fulfiller...

"Hey... Don´t ever let somebody tell you, you can´t to something. Not even me... Alright? You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you that you can't do it. You want something? Go get it. Period." (Christopher Gardner)


Every day educators around the world have the opportunity to help, support, and encourage students to strive for their dreams. This is an opportunity most will never have. Please take a moment to remember who and what we are fighting for...

How many dreams are you helping to fulfill...?  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The first step toward a digital portfolio...

My German 3 students are doing a lot of things they have never done in school before.  They are taking part in an experiment of experiment aimed at increasing student interest and engagement levels through the use of technology.  Most importantly, I am learning right along side each and every student of mine.  Together, we are stepping outside of our comfort zones with the hope of growing and learning through sharing and collaboration.  

All of my German 3 students have started their very own German blogs though Google's Blogspot.  They have also pushed PowerPoint to the side in favor of using Prezi.  They have been utilizing a Flip Camera to express themselves while answering questions in German about how we should conduct the class in the future.  They have been answering weekly discussion posts on Facebook to reflect upon prior activities and assessments.  Currently, my students are working on their first Glog about their interests and hobbies.  In two weeks they will be making their first Xtranormal video to display their creativity and German skills.  My German students have also learned how to use Google Docs, Wallwisher and Pindax.

I am still contemplating ideas for next semester both through Twitter and my PLN, as well as by using both formal and informal questioning of my students (through Facebook and the Flip Camera) about what they would like to do.  The one thing that I am really excited about is the last task I will ask my students to complete at the end of the school year.  Since each student has a German blog, I will ask the students to do a short reflection (in German) on each of these activities related to technology.  Additionally, the students will learn how to insert the links to each of their completed assignments.  By doing this I am hoping each student will leave my German 3 class with a digital portfolio.  This one blog post will contain several reflections, as well as the links to their final projects.

I am looking forward to seeing all the finished products at the end of the school year.  I am also looking for ways to improve this process, while getting as much feedback as possible from my students.  If you have any suggestions or advice please leave a comment and share your knowledge and / or experience.  Thank you, and please remember...trying new things can be difficult and at times uncomfortable, but the worst thing that has happened to me this year is I have learned how to improve upon it for next year...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

5 ways to encourage fundamental change...

This post stems from the thoughts of @gcouros' most recent post Is Change the True Barrier?  Change has been and will be for the foreseeable future the most pressing issue in our schools, our communities, and in our society as a whole.  George's question was simple: What is holding us "change" at the heart of the problem, or is it the process leading up to the "change" that is really holding us back?  Most people who will be reading this will be educators, and consequently I have included 5 ways to encourage other educators to embrace fundamental change in an educational setting:

1) - Ask lots of questions...then listen and don't talk...

Change is not easy. Change is even more difficult if you have no idea where your colleagues or staff are in terms of their willingness to evolve and transform. Go on a question rampage and find out as much as you can about your colleagues and staff. Once you have an idea of where they are, you can then begin to formulate an action plan. It is imperative that you use this step to empower and encourage collaboration through discussion (remember, the discussion is one sided - they talk, you listen).

2) - Have a goal...but expect it to change...

We all want what is best for kids...some are just willing to do more than others (this is a reality - both in schools and in the "real-world"). Have an idea and an action plan on what change you would like to implement. Just as important as having a starting place, it is crucial you accept the fact that your action plan will be forced to change. If your original plan is what you end up with in the end, most likely your change is superficial and not well-rooted in the staff and your colleagues. "Real" change can start with you, but it must end with "them"...

3) - Find that one person (or group) who will fight change to the death...

We all know who this person or group is...they exist in every school, and whether you agree or not, they do and can serve an important purpose. I challenge you to utilize this person or group and encourage them to fight your plan tooth and nail. This can be a gamble, but let them know what change you would like, and ask them why it won't work...and most importantly, give them an audience! Give this person or group the opportunity to tell everyone why your plan to help students won't work. Force this person or group to think and reflect about why the plan won't work, and then hope they flip to your side and become your greatest asset and ally...If this works you are golden...risk big to win big (aren't the kiddos worth it?)  

4) - Support and encourage the baby steps...

By this stage you are hopefully beginning to see some small sparks (as long as "that" person or group didn't completely extinguish the flame). Continue to encourage and support these small sparks, no matter how small or faint they may be. Treat each small spark as you would a new born baby...tending to its every need and  desire. Your new roll is now that of a mother and a cheerleader at the same time...good luck!

5) - Remove the training-wheels and let them ride...

Your first job was to initiate change, and once the change has started, your new job is to get out of the way. Drop your pom poms and let the change run its course and allow your colleagues or staff to take the autonomy for doing what is best for kids. They are professionals, and if you want this change to stick and be truly fundamental change it needs to be in their hands. If you made it this far it is time to back off!

I encourage you to leave feedback and comments so I can add to the list. I would also like to thank George Couros for the inspiration. Also, thanks for taking the time to read, and hopefully this will help you both at the classroom or building level...remember, teachers are just bigger and older kids... 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Recognizing the shining stars...

Today I had the opportunity to speak with one of the members of my high school's custodial staff.  This particular team member is assigned to my classroom.  Though we are almost halfway done with the school year, I have regrettably not spent much time talking to this person.  Today was my chance...

It was so nice to speak with the person that is responsible for making sure my classroom is ready to go for the next school day.  As a teacher, I come to work every day and I take for granted that my classroom is clean and ready to go for students.  I had no idea how many things need to happen in order for a classroom to be considered "clean."  I spoke at length with this team member about the very strict and precise checklist that must be completed on a daily, so many things I never even realized that needed to be dealt with.

I wrote a post back in July called "Do you Recognize the Many Pieces to the Puzzle?", and today was a great reminder of the important role others play in our lives.  As the conversation was coming to an end, I simply said "thank you for all your hard work."  This particular team member's response was simple but sad...she told me "you're welcome, I don't hear that very often."  This response made me both sad and happy at the same time.  I know this team member must be doing a great job because I have not had any classroom issues...too bad her great work has gone somewhat unnoticed.  Until now... 

When you go to work tomorrow, please don't forget about the people who make it all possible.  We all have a certain role, and it is together that we make everything possible.  I would like to encourage you to give thanks to the "stars" who help us do our jobs by doing theirs...      

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The School Family - Guest Blogger Tonya Thompson

Oh, Thanksgiving. Time for all those F’s we love: Food, football  Okay, some of those things we love more than others.

I have had many discussions over the years with one of my fellow educators about people; people that we enjoy and those we don’t. Recently, we started talking about the way we perceive people with whom we work and how that affects the way we interact with them and the impact it has on the culture of a building.

It’s a fact, no matter where you go, there’s going to be someone who is, shall we say, difficult. This is true when it comes to your family and your co-workers. Some people are hard to work with. Some are hard to get along with. 

I’m not going to go all touchy-feely, and say, let’s all love each other and get along...that’s not my style. At all.

There is always going to be a principal who wants to push the “Family agenda” at school and try to convince everyone that the sense of community and caring are so strong the building just radiates with a glow of love and happiness.

I just can’t go there. But, are we, as teachers and colleagues, a family? Yes, I believe, we actually are.

What is a family, really? It’s a bunch of people you got stuck with. Some of them you love. Some of them you want to push off a steep incline. And chances are, that’s how you feel about the people you work with. Some of them make your day brighter, some of them you hope will get beaned on the head with a ceiling tile and be out for the rest of the year.

And while a family has the lovable members and the black sheep, the important thing is...everyone in that family is a uniquely talented individual. And THAT is what I care about.

Think about your best friend or the colleague you consider yourself closest to. You probably have a lot in common, but there are most likely ways you are polar opposites. You might be similar in many respects, but in others, you’re everything the other person isn’t and vice versa. Those kinds of differences are what is going to make the place you work fantastic.

Everyone in education should have two things in common – a love of education and a desire to impact lives. If you don’t wake up in the morning and WANT to change a child’s life for the better, it’s time to retire or find a new job. If we can agree on those things, we’re off to a good start because we’re all coming from the same place.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Everybody got their something.” Bad grammar aside, Nikka Costa was on to a great idea. Everyone is amazing at something or several somethings and I think everyone should be given the opportunity to show those talents. Working together helps cover our weaknesses because what someone is not-so-stellar at doing, someone else is a master.

Does this sound idealistic? Of course it does. But I believe every school year - or, let’s go crazy here, every DAY is a new beginning and another chance to refresh ourselves personally and professionally.

There will always be someone that you work with that you just do not like; it might be an administrator or the miserable guy down the hall who never has anything positive to say. But I think you have to believe that somewhere – deep down (maybe so deep it’s hard to find) – there is something in that person that makes them remarkable and has the ability to make a difference in a students’ life.

This Thursday, as you sit across the table from that odd relative bulldozing through their turkey and you’re wondering how you could possibly be related to them, remember, they’re one of the ones you got stuck luck, by chance, by divine intervention, however you choose to see it. 

And, next time you see that person in the hall that you would normally try to avoid talking to, smile and say ‘hi’ to them. Wonder, even if it’s for just a second, why they are where they are? What made them decide to teach?  Because they’re one of the ones you got stuck luck, by chance, or because the HR person was having a lapse in judgment the day they were hired...and make the best of it.

Gandhi said to “be the change you wish to see in the world”, so if we can try to change the way we see people, maybe others will give us a reason to see them differently.

*Tonya Thompson is my friend, my colleague, and a Library Media Specialist at Seckman High School in Imperial, MO.  

Saturday, November 20, 2010

5 Technology Tips for the Not-so-Tech-Savvy Teacher - @JPPrezz Guest Blogger

The popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, coupled with high-tech video games and 21st century entertainment for our students outside of school is necessitating a change in the way we as educators prepare and present information to our students.  Gone are the days where we can get away with 50 minutes of lecturing.  Our students are watching engaging Youtube videos and reading Facebook statuses to get their information instead of reading magazines and waiting for their favorite shows to come on TV.  Today’s students want their classroom experience to be as engaging as their lives outside of school.  The only problem is that most of us did not grow up in the same technological age as the students.  Integrating technology into your daily plans can be a very daunting task for an educator who is not familiar with Web 2.0 tools.  Here are 5 tips that will help you start using technology in your classes. 

1.     Get comfortable with one piece of technology at a time.

Your PLN is probably already inundating your Twitter feeds with more Web 2.0 tools than you know what to do with.  Pick the most relevant tools and get comfortable using them at home. Then, do a trial run at school before you introduce the activity to your students to make sure the school’s computers have all of the necessary plug-ins and updates.  Just like we tell our students, practice makes perfect.   If you don’t feel comfortable using technology, you will be even less comfortable teaching it to your students. 

2.    Involve students in your planning.  

Before I begin any technology project, I introduce the technology to a few of my students and get their opinions on it.  The students know what they like and what will hold their interest.  If they like it, I make that piece of technology a priority in my planning, but if they appear uninterested, I toss out that idea and revisit my Twitter feed looking for something new.  Ask your students what technology they use on a regular basis.  If all of your students use Facebook, make it a part of your class. 

3.    Lean on colleagues who have successfully (and unsuccessfully) integrated technology into their classes.

Whenever you try something new, either professionally or personally, it is helpful to have the guidance of someone who has “been there, done that.” Meet with colleagues in your building or call on your PLN for assistance when you start integrating technology into your lessons.  Most teachers are more than willing to share their successes and failures with interested colleagues. You will be able to learn from their mistakes and not have to deal with some of the growing pains your colleagues had to go through. 

4.     Don’t get discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t work out as planned.

Just like our students, we learn the most when we take risks and fail.  Don’t let one negative experience with technology turn you off to using it in your class in the future.  Ask your students what the positive and negative aspects of the project were and take their advice to heart.  Reflect on their observations, what you noticed on your own, then modify your plans and try, try again. 

5.    Technology integration may be extra work on the front end, but it’s worth it.

Trying something new as opposed to going with the tried and true lesson always produces a little extra work. However, the long-term benefits of engaging your students far outweigh the cost of spending a couple extra hours in front of the computer after school.   As I have learned, the extra effort goes a long way to engage the students in your lesson and leave them wanting more. 

Keep these five tips in mind as you begin to integrate technology into your lesson plans.  With a little research, patience, and creative thinking, you will be well on your way to facilitating a 21st century classroom full of engaged, motivated students. 

I would like to thank @JPPrezz for being my first guest blogger, as well as for writing this extremely informative and helpful post.  JP Prezzavento is a high school English Teacher at Seckman High School, located in Imperial, MO. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

A little help and support go a long way...

Several great and interesting things happened to me this week:

1) - On Wednesday I attended my 2nd #ecosys chat: If you have never taken part in the #ecosys chat, I strongly urge you to check it out.  The #ecosys chat has a new topic every week similar to other Twitter chats, however this chat centers around education reform and the interconnectedness of society and its impact on education.  As the chat continued to develop, we started to discuss the dilemma of lack of educator sharing and collaboration.  Ironically enough, I have found the Twitter chats to be extremely supportive and helpful as I look to grow and develop as an educator.  I have received a ton of support and help from my Tweeps, and I believe the #ecosys chat will be a Wednesday night staple in my house.     

2) - On Thursday I completed my first CSIP mock presentation in front of my classmates and teacher: As you might know, I am currently a high school German teacher.  This means I know a lot about German and how to teach German to high school students, but I don't know a lot about Comprehensive School Improvement Plans (CSIP).  I spent most of Thursday worrying about my presentation and trying to figure out how I was going to respond to the BOE (my classmates and teacher).  As it turns out, I didn't really have anything to worry CSIP team was very helpful and supportive, and they really helped me to understand the process while fielding the questions I was unable to answer.  A little guidance, help, and support from my more experienced team members went a long way on Thursday.

3) - On Friday I was approved to attend the 2011 METC conference with @JPPrezz: What a great way to end the week!  After attending the EdcampKC unconference a few weeks ago, I was hooked to the idea of trying to meet some of the great educators I have been learning from through Twitter.  The METC conference is one of the best technology conferences around, and with the great reputation comes a hefty price tag.  I approached my building principal @MrGrimshaw about getting the available PD funding so @JPPrezz and I could attend.  After discussing this with the assistant principal at my high school the decision was made to allow us to attend.  We were both ecstatic upon hearing the news, and because of the administrative support and encouragement, we have been given the opportunity to further our own growth and development.  In turn, we will hopefully bring back some great ideas to share with our fellow educators.

There is so much we can do as individuals...but remember with the help and support of others we can accomplish so much more.  Help and encourage others to grow and develop, while giving praise to those who have helped and encouraged you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When was the last time...

- you did something you have been procrastinating...

- you asked someone for help...

- you laughed so much that your jaw hurt...

- you made a point to "pay it forward..."

- you tried something new...

- you encouraged a friend, family member, or colleague to do something great...

- you made a list of the great things going on in your life...

- you took a walk and simply observed the world around you in a non-judgmental way...

- you said something positive to someone who was obviously having a bad day...

- you rekindled a strained relationship by being open & honest...

- you listened to some up-lifting music driving toward no particular destination...

- you thanked someone you had forgotten to thank...

- you exercised and broke a sweat...

- you helped someone because you knew they were struggling...
- you pushed yourself to be great...

If we all did just one thing from this list on a daily basis...think how much better the world would be!

Approach tomorrow with the goal of making the world a better place than it is today...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflections of a PD representative - try not to take it personally...

I typically have a clear and well-thought out purpose for each blog post, however for this blog post I am going to simply reflect on today's professional development session.  I lead a PD session about 7 weeks ago for all of the staff members at my high school on social media and technology integration, and today's session was an extension of the previous session for any teachers interested.  We asked each staff member to choose 3 out of 4 sessions as their PD day choices.  I was excited for this because I had high hopes that lots of people would want to come to my session.  I thought the first PD session earlier this year went well, thus lots of teachers would want to attend my second session.  Unfortunately, my high hopes were quickly extinguished as I watched the Google Doc spreadsheet I created for staff members fill up.

The sessions were filling up quite quickly...however most people were not signing up for my session.  My session was only able to draw about 40 people out of 110, and my session was by far the least popular session.  No matter how you slice this, this was a direct blow to my ego, and frankly to my overall self-esteem.  As difficult as it is, I want to be believe the lack of interest was not because of me, but rather because the content was not applicable.  This leads me to my next concern...

Without doubt I presented the power of Twitter, blogs, and a PLN with passion and heart.  I showed concrete examples of how these tools can be used by educators to grow and develop.  I tried to provide specific examples of how teachers can use these tools in their individual content areas.  I tried to inspire, motivate, encourage, and push these educators to their limits...What could have possibly went wrong?  How would these PD sessions not be a huge success?  What am I missing...?

I am currently in the process of reflecting upon these sessions and my actions.  I must be very clear here...I am not looking for sympathy or a pity party, nor do I want anyone to feel sorry for me.  This is the natural process one must take to improve, to grow, and to evaluate something that has been done.  The process can be long, bumpy, and no fun, but it is essential.

If teachers were turned off by the content being presented in my session, then what could I have done to make it more applicable, and what do I need to do to get people (re)interested?  Did I have too much passion and energy during the first session (we all know people get scared off by crazy people!)?  Did I scare people off by giving them too much at one time (we all know we can only handle so much at one time)?  Were staff members just not ready to embrace these new technological tools (we all know people are hesitant toward change)?  The answers to these questions are eluding me, and as I reflect I seem to be finding more questions without answers.  

I feel strongly about embracing social media (learning) as a powerful tool toward growing and developing as an educator, and as such I want to share this tool with others.  I was fortunate enough to have someone share this information with me, and I firmly believe in "paying it forward."  I just want my colleagues to understand I am not pushing an agenda, nor am I getting any kickbacks for promoting social media as a PD tool.  I just want to help them like I was helped.  Hopefully the more I think and reflect, the sooner I will be able to find some answers.  I wish all of my fellow professional development directors, coordinators, representatives, and any other educator working with PD the best of luck.  We are living in a Brave New World, and as society continues to change, we will be expected to change.  Good luck to all of you.          

Monday, November 8, 2010

5 ways to spread the power of Twitter as a PD tool...

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the EdcampKC technology conference in Kansas City, MO.  This was my first "unconference," which basically means the entire conference was participant-driven and each session was presented by someone who was actually attending the conference.  There was a big board set up in the main room, and before the conference officially started any person interested in presenting was able to sign up to present.  This was an awesome format because each session had a presenter who was passionate about his/her presentation topic.

Everything about this experience was great...except for the fact that the people I met all live in different cities throughout the United States.  This completely reaffirmed and reinforced my belief about Twitter as an essential tool in the educator's tool belt.  Twitter is without doubt the best way to learn from and stay in contact with the highest number of great educators from around the world.  Here are 5 ways you can help transform your department, building, and district into an environment that embraces 24/7 professional development and the power of the "Tweet." 

1) - Share resources you discover by using Twitter with others - this is a perfect way to segue into the strength of Twitter.

When other educators start to see and hear some of the great ideas you are discovering, they will naturally want to know where the ideas are coming from.  Take a few moments and show them the benefits of Twitter as they pertain to your growth and development.  As others start to see and hear about your engaged students and staff, they are definitely going to want to know how you are doing it...share the wealth!

2) - Find a "tribe" of like-minded educators who can help you spread the word.

Seth Godin wrote a great book called "Tribes."  This book is about establishing a tribe, and most importantly the strength of a group of people with a common interest.  Find some educators in your department, building, and district who are already using Twitter as a PD tool.  Meet with them and discuss ways to help share the power of Twitter.  Focus first on the educators who you think will be easy converts, and once the group grows the Twitter revolution will be under way.

3) - Encourage and invite others to follow you and see what you are doing - don't force it!

Taking step number 2 to the next level.  You CAN'T force this upon people!  Take some time and slowly show people how they can use Twitter to grow and develop as an educator.  You will need to be a salesman to a certain extent, but it is absolutely crucial you do not try to force others to use something in which they are not interested.  Encourage educators to be consumers of information before becoming creators of information.  Watching and observing how Twitter works can be the perfect transition before really jumping in.

4) - Show your students and / or parents how you use Twitter to become a better educator - students and parents can be valuable "connectors" (Gladwell - The Tipping Point)

Recognizing the power and influence of parents and students can be extremely valuable when sharing ideas and information.  As we all learn fairly quickly, parents and students talk, and they talk a lot.  Let's share the tools we are using to grow and develop by empowering these "connectors."  When parents and students are talking about you, make sure to give them the ammunition so they can say great things!

5) - Lead by example...tweet and tweet like there is no tomorrow (value tweet, don't spam)

Leaders lead by example while simultaneously empowering and bettering those around them.  Help spread the word about Twitter by being an example of how it can positively affect the professional growth and development of educators.  When you tweet make sure you are tweeting information of value...the fastest way to turn off someone on the edge is by tweeting useless information they can't use.

If you have any additional strategies or tips please comment and share your experiences so we can compile an even larger list.  Thank you, and good luck Tweeps!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The "real" stakeholders...students have voices too...

I experienced two very important things recently:
1) - If you ask, you shall receive...

Last week I asked 5 students to answer 5 questions related to education.  The questions have nothing to do with my class content, nor will the students receive anything for completing the 5 questions.  I simply asked 5 of my students to give me their opinion and feedback on certain education related issues.  The questions were about both teachers and administrators and their current roles, as well as the potential of their roles changing as our society continues to evolve.  The answers I got were not quite what I are a few responses:

- "Yes, the role of the educator has changed so that he or she must not only teach us, but also teach us with technology."

- "An educator will always educate; it will just be different than before."

- "The quality of learning depends on the quality of the teacher."

- "The role of the educator should be to expose students to all types of information so they can learn to learn on their own."

- "Thinking is free, technology should be fully integrated, thus learning will become more fun and less time consuming."

Wow!  I was so impressed with these responses.  It is definitely clear to me that we need to be listening a lot more closely to what our kids are saying.  We can't just listen to our students; we need to act and respond to what they are saying.  When given the opportunity to voice their opinion, students have without doubt surpassed my wildest expectations, and because of this I strongly urge schools to sit down and truly involve the "real" stakeholders.

2) - Unleash the fury and fire of the students...

At my high school we just had our first half-day of the school year.  A tremendous amount of planing went into this half-day because this would be a half-day where students would not be exposed to any "typical class content."  On this half-day our 3 main goals were to spend time with our advisory students, have time to discuss service learning projects, and lastly talk about the word "respect."

I would be lying if I said I was not slightly worried and concerned about how these activities would play out, however by the end of the day it became clear to me what we had accomplished.  While discussing each of these topics with my students we were able to go on several side tangents.  Not that I am advocating going on side tangents all the time, but the side tangents were just as productive if not more than our original intended topics!  I could not believe how much passion and heart my students were displaying as we discussed their school...their education...and their future.  It was as if these students were just waiting for the time and opportunity to talk, and more importantly, waiting for a time to be heard.  At the end of each session I made sure to ask my students what they thought and if they enjoyed the day.  I already knew the answer based off of their level of engagement and participation...they loved it...

As educators we have to reevaluate how we do business in our schools.  Our students will always be our number 1 client, and consequently we need to know what they think, why they think it, and how they think we can provide them a better service.  The term "stakeholders" gets thrown around pretty frequently, and I want this to be a friendly reminder that the "real" stakeholders have always been and willing always be...the students - are we listening to what they have to say?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Twitter should be a part of your PLN...

If somebody asked me about the last 6 months of my life, I would respond by saying something like this; the past 6 months have been extremely challenging, but yet at the same time I can say with little hesitation that I have grown more as an educator in the last 6 months than in any other time period in my life.

The world in which we live is changing faster than anyone could ever imagine, and because of this the educational system must evolve and make adjustments, both for educators and students.  This summer, a few teachers and myself decided we would use Twitter as a way to communicate with students and parents.  This initiative did not go over very well.  Most students and parents didn't have Twitter accounts, and many had no idea what Twitter is, or how it could be used.  Despite having zero success with students and parents, we discovered a world of opportunity with Twitter as we looked for ways to grow and develop as educators...

Here are 2 examples of how Twitter has positively affected my German 2 and 3 students:

1) - On Saturday morning I was using Tweetdeck to check up on what people were tweeting.  I came across a Tweet about Xtranormal, which is a text-video program.  "If you can type, you can make movies," is the slogan, and I immediately felt the need to explore further.  Two hours later I created this:

I now plan on having my German 3 students write their own movie scripts, and ultimately make their very own movies to share with others.  I showed my students my example today in class, and they loved it!  Without Twitter, I would probably still not know this program exists...

2) - A couple week ago, Thomas Whitby encouraged educators to blog about educational reform.  Once each educator completed his/her blog post, we then posted a short comment and the link to Wallwisher.  This was the first time I had ever heard of or used Wallwisher.  Today in my German 2 classes we created 3 different "walls," one for each class.  I then had each student think about what he/she did on the weekend.  Once each student had time to think, I asked each student to come to the computer projector, and type what he/she did this weekend.  The remaining students in the class were given the task of helping the student at the computer with grammar and proper spelling.  This worked well because the students were able to work as a group to help each other.  Without Twitter, I still might not know about Wallwisher.  Here is the "wall" for my 2nd hour German 2 class:

I can't say enough good things about Twitter as a tool to help educators grow and develop.  There are so many great educators out there who are willing to share and collaborate, and consequently Twitter has completely changed the way I look at professional development.  Accessible 24/7, connecting educators from around the world, and the ability to share and collaborate at the click of the mouse, are all the perfect reasons Twitter should be a part of an educator's PLN.  Even if you don't do a lot of tweeting, following the right group of educators can be inspiring, motivating, and more importantly, a crucial piece to your professional growth and development.

Here are some great educators to follow: @21stprincipal @gcouros @Thanks2Teachers @kylepace @mrwejr @justintarte @NMHS_Principal @L_Hilt @Shellterrell @bhsprincipal @mcleod @tomwhitby @AngelaMaiers @Web20classroom @Akevy613 @principalspage @KTVee @Larryferlazzo

Friday, October 22, 2010

Which island are you on?

I just finished reading The Learning Leader, by Douglas R. Reeves, as a part of my doctoral studies.  I found the book to be extremely well written, as well as extremely valuable for anyone looking to gain a more in-depth understanding of school improvement.

As districts and schools look to both district and building leaders, it is difficult not to notice the "Islands of Excellence," as well as the islands of weakness within our districts and buildings.  We all know where the "Islands of Excellence" are, and we all know which educators are on the "Islands of Excellence."  On the flip side, we also know where and who are on the islands of weakness.  The difficult task as district and building leaders is to identify ways to expand the "Islands of Excellence," while simultaneously shrinking the islands of weakness.

When speaking with district and building leaders the most difficult part of expanding the "Islands of Excellence" always comes back to exposure.  We all know that when we see great things happening, our first response is to share and spread the good word.  This can have both positive and negative effects on a district and building staff.  On the positive side, sharing and collaborating with other educators is probably the most beneficial way to improve both a district and building.  You would be hard pressed to find a more effective and powerful means to school improvement that does not center around sharing and collaboration.

On the negative side, when an "Island of Excellence" gets too much exposure and attention, there will be educators who will form an alliance against this island purely because they feel threatened or left out.  At times we have to resist the urge to share ALL the success stories of the "Islands of Excellence," even though we do this with the best intentions.  District and building leaders have difficult jobs, and this is just one more example of the realities we see in our districts and buildings.

So, whether you are a teacher, a building level administrator, or a district level administrator...take some time to reflect upon how you treat and handle your "Islands of Excellence" and your weak islands.  Additionally, think about which island you are on.  If you are on an "Island of Excellence," then consider some ways to attract some new members who could increase the size of your island, or even perhaps start their own "Island of Excellence."  I believe 100% in self-reflection, and consequently if you think you could possibly be a member of a not so excellent island, then perhaps it is time to take a swim, and expand your horizons.  There is one thing I can guarantee...any "Island of Excellence" would be more than happy to accept you as its newest long as you show you are willing to turn from the dark side!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A small sign of success...celebrate the little victories

I entered the 2010/2011 school year with two goals:

Goal 1 - Try as many new and innovative ideas in my German classes as possible...

Goal 2 - As a Professional Development Representative at my high school, I want to share as many resources and ideas with other teachers as possible... 

Without doubt, I have experienced some minor success with my goals, as well as some "revamping" of how I plan on achieving my goals.  Many of my students have loved the new ideas, while some long for the days of old (zero technology, lots of books and stacks of worksheets...).  Many teachers loved the new resources and ideas for improving classroom instruction, while some claimed it would be too much work because of the lack of time.  Either way, I have learned a tremendous amount about setting goals for myself, as well as how to carefully tread when trying implement new ideas and initiatives.

Since I view myself as a mostly positive and optimistic person, I would like to have a minor celebration of my most recent endeavor.  Last week I polled my students both through the use of a Facebook discussion post, as well as through the use of a Flip Camera activity.  The purpose of these two activities was to empower my students to speak up and voice their opinion on what our next project should be.  Overwhelmingly, the students were against my original plan...and for some odd reason that didn't bother me.  They came up with some great ideas, and in the end, they have earned the opportunity to do a project on a topic of their choosing (as long as it is in German - I am a German teacher).

Long story short, the students are doing a Prezi presentation.  Thus far, I am extremely excited about their presentations.  The main reason I am excited might seem trivial, but if you have ever been a classroom teacher you know it is a big deal.  Most of my students today didn't realize class was over until the bell rang, and when the students are so engaged and interested in their project that they have forgotten to check the time, something must be going well.  What we do in schools every day is similar to a war, and because of this we have to celebrate our minor victories, and push aside our minor defeats.  There will be "ups" and "downs," but if I have to experience a few "downs" to experience an "up" like I did today...then I am ready for war. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

REBEL - Education Reform Blog - revisit...The factory model does not work for schools...

Tom Whitby has encouraged all education bloggers to write a positive blog on how we should reform the educational setting.  I have decided to revisit a previous post of mine...

If you have ever walked into a factory that produces a finished good from raw materials, it is frankly an amazing process.  Dating back to the early 1900's, Henry Ford revolutionized the world and the way it manufactures goods.  How could one argue with a process that can take different materials and products, and in one smooth motion put them together to produce a brand new flawless product exactly identical to the previous one produced.  The assembly line process used in factories around the world is graded on its ability to produce the same product over and over again in the shortest amount of time possible, and for the cheapest price possible.  We are making a dire mistake by approaching public education in the same manner.

In a factory you start with the same exact pieces before beginning the first stage of the assembly line process.  In education we start with a unique child with different characteristics than every other child.  In a factory you follow the exact same steps to put the exact same pieces together as fast and as cheap as possible.  In education we treat each child as an individual, and we use a different set of steps to help that child no matter  what the cost, or the time involved.  In a factory you are assessed by how many identical finished products you can produce in a certain time frame.  In education we are assessed by how well we prepared our students to be responsible, independent and lifelong learners who are able to be successful contributing citizens in a democratic society.  Isn't it time we treat students like students, rather than treating them like manufactured products from a factory?

With state budgets being cut on a nationwide basis, it is imperative we reach out to our policy makers to insist on continuing to fund education.  As difficult as it sounds, we need to fund education in a way it has never been funded before.  We simply need more...more teachers, more SMALLER schools, more opportunities for students to develop their own love of learning, and more opportunities for teachers to grow personally and professionally.  This is a battle, despite the restraints financially, that we can win.  If we approach each child as a unique and different individual, meet every child where they currently are, give every child a part in the process, trust every child to do what is right, and most importantly, believe that every child can and will make a difference, we can overcome the easy street of the assembly line

Please respond to this post with strategies and ways you have achieved this in your classroom, school or district.  We need to spread the word and provide the necessary help and resources to change our factories into schools. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sometimes we all just need a little time...

This past week at school has been particularly busy, and unfortunately this means not getting to spend a lot of time with my two favorite girls. Coming home from meetings, training sessions, and classes late at night are all the perfect ingredients for an exhausted and mentally drained educator. We all have experienced work weeks like weeks that never seem to end and never seem to give you a moments rest.

Despite the unyielding commitments of the job and the long tiring days, we can't lose sight of the people who are affected by our absence. Perhaps the best thing about those who are with us most is that they are continually there waiting for matter what time we come home. They are always sitting there with a smile on their face ready to give us their full undivided attention. They appreciate what we do while at work, but more importantly they appreciate the time we spend with them. Even if it is only 30 minutes before going to bed, they are so happy to talk to us, support us, help us, and spend each second possible with us.

I will regretfully admit, I am guilty of coming home after a long day to only sit down, grab a bite to eat, and march right off to bed while barely acknowledging those who have been sitting there waiting for me to get home. This is WRONG on so many levels, and as hard as it is sometimes, I have to make the change and give them my undivided attention to be supportive and helping. Life is a two-way street, and I don't for one second want to take for granted those who are always encouraging, supporting, and reaffirming my goals and ambitions in life. I think most of us are in the same boat when I say...we would not be where we are without the help of those special people with whom we spend most of our time.

Please take some time to thank those who are always there for you no matter what the circumstances may be. Whether you realize it or not, your success, or lack thereof in life or professionally, is dependent upon the role that others play in your life. No matter how long the day and no matter how much work still needs to be completed, please take time to give time...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Flip Cam, blog, cell phone and projector all in one day - OMG!

In my German 3 class we recently finished a story we have been reading for the last three weeks.  We have done several different types of activities to facilitate the understanding of this story, and each different activity has proven to have both its advantages, and disadvantages.  The unique thing about the activities I have done is that each activity is something brand new that I have never tried before.  As any educator knows, it is always difficult to try something new, especially trying new things for three weeks straight!

Reflecting on the activities we did in class has allowed me to evaluate their effectiveness, as well as if or whether I should do them again, or if I need a slight adjustment or modification.  Most importantly, I have learned one valuable lessen...I am extremely happy I took a chance because I feel there was one main benefactor of my risk taking...the students!

For this post I am going to concentrate on one particular activity.  I will outline my exact thoughts, as well as the detailed process I used to facilitate the activity.  Additional information: German 3 class (juniors and seniors), class is 49 minutes long, and class size is 20 students.

1) I bought a Flip Camera this summer...I really wanted to use it!

- I set up two desks in the hallway (student alone with Flip Camera)
- Students had 45 seconds to answer three questions in German
- Flip Camera was set up on one desk
- The three questions the students were to answer were on the other desk
- Used my cell phone as a timer
- The next student stood near the door waiting to go into the hallway
TOTAL TIME: 20 - 25 minutes

2) We have a class blog...I really wanted the students to write a new post!

- This activity happened at the same time as the Flip Camera activity
- As a group...the students wrote a brief summary of the story we read
- One student typed, while the other students provided ideas and information
- Main focus here was group learning and collaboration
TOTAL TIME: 20 - 25 minutes

3) We just finished the story...I really wanted to empower my students by asking them how they felt about the story, and if or whether they would want to do a project related to the story!

- These questions were the three questions for the hallway Flip Camera activity
   1) Did you like the story...why or why not?
   2) What was your favorite part of the story?
   3) Should we do a project related to the story...why or why not?
- Wanted to empower the students, and make sure they recognize I value their opinions

4) It was Friday...I wanted the kids to have an especially great day leading into the weekend!

- Mission accomplished!!
- After Flip Camera and blog activities were completed...we watched the students' responses
- Students loved hearing what others had to say...especially the funny responses :)
TOTAL TIME: 20 - 25 minutes

Total technology used: 
- Cell phone
- Flip Camera
- Blog
- Data Projector
- TV

Remember this one piece of information...the worst thing that can happen when you take a calculated risk in the classroom learn!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

5 things we can learn from our four-legged friends...

My wife and I have been married for a little under three years, and about a year ago we decided that we wanted to grow our family.  As we discussed the most typical way of growing a family (a baby), we came to the conclusion that we should start small before taking the big leap.  Last summer we purchased an 8 pound, runt of the litter, slightly discolored, adorable, and loving yellow lab puppy.  Maddy, has been a welcome addition to our family.  I would be lying if I said all of our experiences with Maddy have been great, because we have definitely had our fair share of rough patches and disagreements.  However, overall I would say that Maddy has become an integral part of our family, and we would be lost without her.  This brings me to the point of this educators we can learn so much from our four-legged friends, and as guilty as I am of taking Maddy for granted, she has proven to be a valuable tool as I look to grow both personally and professionally.

1 - We must always be patient...

Maddy has tested my patience on several occasions, and because of this I think I have gained a better appreciation for being patient with both students and staff members with whom I work.  Despite it being so easy to get frustrated, disappointed, annoyed, and aggravated, remaining calm and patient will almost always prevail.  Some of the most respected and accomplished people I know are always able to remain composed and calm.  Maddy and I have made it through numerous frustrating and aggravating situations because either she or I have remained calm and patient toward the other...  

2 - We should expect the unexpected...

Even when I think I have the perfect routine set up for Maddy, she always seems to surprise me by doing something completely out of the ordinary.  We spent several weekends building a "Maddy-proof" cage, and after each weekend Maddy was able to find a weakness, so we got used to expecting the unexpected with Maddy.  In an educational setting we are surrounded by smart and witty students who are always doing things we think we have prepared for, but in fact we get something completely unexpected.  One of the most important traits of being a successful educator is being flexible, mobile, and easily able to make adjustments at the drop of a dime.  Maddy has provided me a helpful reminder on why this trait is so crucial as it pertains to the ever-changing educational setting.  

3 - Failure does not mean we should give up...

If we gave up on trying to train Maddy every time she failed to do what we requested of her, we would have given up a long time ago.  No matter how much we train and prepare Maddy, it is quite common for us to experience failure on a weekly and at times daily basis.  Now, perhaps this has something to do with Maddy's trainers (we never claimed to be Cesar Millan), but we have also taken a pledge to never give up on her.  It is vital that we take the same approach with our students and staff members.  We are not always going to achieve success because that is something we can't always control, but we can control if or whether we give somebody another chance.  By not giving up on somebody we are showing we are human, and by doing this we can empower our students and staff members to accept failure as a natural part of the growth process. Maddy has been growing exponentially because of this learned lesson :) 

4 - You can't return figure out a way to make it work...

One week into our journey with Maddy as our newest addition to the family, we experienced a day for which we weren't quite ready.  In one day Maddy managed to potty in the house (# 1 and # 2), eat and destroy the cord to the laptop, and make quite a large scratch in our wood floors.  Needless to say, Maddy was on the chopping block, but fortunately we made the right choice and made adjustments to accommodate our new furry friend.  We are both encouraged and forced to do the same with our students and staff members.  They are not going anywhere, and because they are not leaving it is essential that we make adjustments and modifications so we can make it work.  Who knows, the old saying "You're growing on me," might just come true, and I believe that relationships started under stress can end up being the strongest. 

5 - Enjoy their company...because they won't be here forever...

Maddy is a little more than a year old, however Buddy, my childhood dog, is 13 years old.  Buddy was one of the main reasons why we decided to purchase Maddy.  As sad as it is to think this way, we almost wanted to find a replacement for Buddy even though he is still with us.  We hope Buddy can be with us for many more years, but the reality is...he won't.  We have thoroughly enjoyed bringing Buddy and Maddy together so they can play and enjoy each other's company, and it is evident that Maddy's youth rubs off on Buddy's more wise and relaxed demeanor.  Our students and staff members all bring something valuable to the table, and it is our job to find out how to tap into this value, and figure out as many ways as possible to share it.  Take advantage of their presence, and relish their time in your life, because with our fast paced society they will be gone before you know it.  Buddy's legacy will live on even after his time comes, but it just won't be the same.  The presence of others makes everything worth it, so please do not take it for granted.

Our four-legged friends may be a lot of work, and it is certain they will present us with numerous challenges, but as educators we must always remember that...

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." - Beverly Sills

Friday, October 1, 2010

The power of "hello" and "goodbye"

Every Friday morning I have the opportunity to see and greet almost every single student at my high school.  The high school at which I work has a little more than 1,800 students, and as I stand their doing my duty I can't help but think how amazing it is that this process goes as smoothly as it does.  It is my personal goal to say "good morning" to every student I have, have had, and potentially expect to have.  The typical response I receive from students is a somewhat bewildered, reserved, and hesitant look that makes me think it is almost painful to simply say "good morning" back to me.  I have trouble understanding why this is, because I usually don't have any trouble getting my students to talk in class, and it is interesting that they seem so hesitant to speak with me in any setting outside of the classroom.

The second part of my story takes place on Friday afternoons as school is letting out.  I get the privilege of doing parking lot duty.  I was asked to do this as a favor because we needed someone to help direct traffic for our school buses.  My initial response was not in favor of doing this duty, but as someone who wants to be a part of the solution, I of course said, "Yes, I would be more than happy to help and take this duty."  To my astonishment, I have really enjoyed my Friday afternoon parking lot duty!  I get the opportunity to see my students heading to their cars, as well as leaving the school grounds.  Perhaps the most interesting thing is that my students, former students, and future students seem so excited to say "hello" and "goodbye" as they are heading to their cars and/or pulling out of the parking lot...I can honestly say I feel really good about myself when I walk back into the building after my Friday afternoon parking lot duty.

The main point of this post is to help recognize the importance of acknowledging the people in our lives.  When I greet students before school I think they are shocked and surprised because it is something they do not expect.  They see being greeted at school as an abnormal activity, and this is something we should definitely attempt to rectify.  If the students arriving at school get half of what I feel when students say "hello" or "goodbye" to me, then it could be an extremely powerful tool in developing and growing a school culture.  It is crucial that students see us as more than just their teachers and principals, but rather as humans that appreciate their existence.  It is so easy for us to put our heads down and walk by, but think about how you feel when somebody greets you with a "hello" and smile.  If you are like me, this simple gesture can have a huge impact on your day.

Please take this opportunity to make sure you are saying "hello" and "goodbye," because these simple phrases can have a positive impact on somebody else's day.  More importantly, the person you positively impact with your "hello" or "goodbye," has the potential to positively impact another person, and from here the snowball begins to grow.  You want to make a positive is much easier than you think!  

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Is it time for you to self-reflect? - 5 helpful strategies...

One of the beauties of education is that we get the opportunity to try and explore new ideas.  In fact, we are encouraged to think outside of the box to discover new and improved ways to engage, inspire and motivate students.  Moreover, when we have new ideas and solutions to problems, we are forcing ourselves to evaluate and assess our current practices.  A fancy word that all educators have heard (some so much it makes them sick) is "reflection."  At the risk of potentially sickening more educators throughout the world, I would like to reemphasize the importance of self-reflection by providing 5 helpful strategies as they pertain to "reflection," and our unyielding pursuit of improving education.

1 - Ask yourself if your actions truly represent your beliefs and opinions...

The first step in self-reflection is to really evaluate and assess what you are doing, and how you are doing it.  Looking into the mirror and being honest with yourself is crucial as you determine the consistency of your beliefs and actions.  Most people realize quite quickly that they do very well with certain situations, while other situations are definite weak spots that could use improvement.  If we are saying one thing, and doing something completely different, it is time to change and align our actions with our beliefs.

2 - Accept the fact that what once worked perfectly, might not be the best approach for now...

As educators we are bombarded with new ideas and so called "silver bullets" promising a quick fix to educational issues.  With all of these new ideas, it is easy to slide into a comfort zone to avoid the ever terrible issue of "change."  It is unavoidable, but we all get comfortable with certain strategies and methods, and as the educational setting evolves and changes, we have to be willing to update and modify our approach to educating students.  As hard as this may be, we can not ignore that the students are different, and similarly we are different, and as a result our approach and methodology must be different.

3 - Include others as you begin the self-reflection process.  People are very willing to help when you ask for their advice and assistance...

It is human nature to be somewhat biased toward your own strengths and weaknesses, and because of this it is extremely important to obtain assistance from others as you move closer to self-reflection.  The best thing about recruiting others to help you in your endeavor is that most people will give you honest advice and feedback since they know they are an integral part of your self-improvement.  Additionally, there are things other people see and notice about you that provide insight into who you really are as an educator.

4 - You are like a "living document," and as such you should be in a constant state of change...

Rethink, reinvent, reinvigorate, redevelop, redeploy, renew, reemphasize and any other word that prevents you from being an educator that is stationary.  Just as kids are continually changing and evolving, we as educators need to remain flexible and adaptable.

5 - Remember that self-reflection is an essential piece to growing and developing as an educator...

Almost everything we do in education requires an evaluation along with reflection.  A new program, a new idea, a tweaking of an assessment, and any other piece of education we use to help students should be subject to reflection and evaluation.  There is no greater tool than sitting down and thinking about what happened, why it happened, and how we can make it better and improve upon it for the next time.  Sharing and collaborating through self-reflection will continue to be one of the most important resources for educators, and with the advancements in technology and communicative tools, the process just got a lot easier!

Utilize these 5 helpful strategies as you continue your path toward growth and development, and please remember that when you think you have it mastered, perfected, or you just feel really comfortable, it is time to self-reflect and evaluate your current practices.  Help to share these strategies as we all need a little push and encouragement from time to time.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Never underestimate the power of a child...

I watched this video on TED: Ideas worth spreading (which I highly recommend), and I have to say I was really intrigued by the topic.  Every day at school I get the opportunity to see students growing and developing...some more than others, and some not enough.  However inconsistent their growth may be, one thing is for certain...the growth and development of children can be summed up in one word - amazing!  If we give students the power and freedom, I can guarantee we will be impressed by their natural ability to connect with others, as well as their ability to empower others.  Embracing and unleashing the creativity and individuality of students is the first step in creating a world-class educational system.  Enjoy!    

Friday, September 17, 2010

I hope you realize you have the best job...

The last 4 weeks have been extremely busy for me.  We recently started a brand new gradebook and website system in my school district.  This has proven to be an amazing tool and resource as we look to ways to improve education.  For all the greatness this new opportunity provides, we have been faced with the never ending battle of growing and developing educators so they can utilize this new resource.  As exciting as it is to work with educators with the goal of improving education for our students, it is a tiring and exhausting process of which I have personally never experienced.  Additionally, we have been doing a ton of work in preparation for our first full-day professional development day of the school year.  The last 6 years I have spent in the district we have conducted half-day PD days, and I have been really looking forward to the full-day PD days we are starting this year.  Needless to say, the last few weeks have flown by, and they have put my organizational and instructional leadership skills to the test.

Today we had our high school's first full-day professional development day.  Overall I am very happy with the outcome, and I look forward to hearing the opinions or others, as well as the comments which should hopefully help us to continue to improve upon our professional development days.  I would be lying if I said I believe every single member of the staff was completely satisfied with our first PD day...but overall, I think it went rather well and our teachers were able to get some valuable information and resources to improve the educational climate at our high school.  As a leading member of the professional development team, it is hard to accept the fact that some teachers left our first PD day looking like this:   
By no means do we try to make the lives of our teachers more complicated or difficult, but rather we are trying to concentrate on the kids, and the ways we can make the educational process more effective and relevant for them.  I will concede to the fact that we threw a ton of information at our teachers today, and it is totally possible that some left today's PD day overwhelmed and searching for answers.  One of the great advantages of having full-day PD days is that we get a ton of of the most apparent disadvantages of having full-day PD days is that we have so much time that we run the risk of introducing too much to our teachers.

I am not saying our teachers can't handle the large amounts of information, but we have to be aware of their feelings.  If our teachers feel stressed and overwhelmed we will most definitely see a decline in overall teacher effectiveness in the following weeks.  I am cautiously optimistic that any feelings of stress will be short-lived, and will hopefully culminate into feelings of inspiration and motivation toward using this new information to enhance classroom instruction.  Hopefully, teachers will come to school on Monday looking like this:
"I hope you realize you have the best job," is the title of this blog post.  As educators we work in a system that provides us with the time and resources to grow and develop.  This job accepts that we are not perfect, and that we all have room to improve.  This job recognizes failure as an integral part of success.  This job pushes and encourages us to share and collaborate in an effort to completely eliminate the concept of isolation.  The job of an educator is the best job because it gives us all the opportunity to grow, develop, refine, reinvent, evolve, and most importantly the opportunity to impact the lives of others.  The struggles and tribulations we face as educators are merely pit stops on the NEVER-ENDING journey of growth.  The job that does not allow and encourage you to grow, is the job you should be thankful you don't have...