Thursday, December 16, 2010

Enveloped By Others

It is nice when islands connect. Today, another island connected as I listened to this TED talk on learning, real learning, authentic learning. The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia isn't a new place for me. The principal and teachers from this school are out talking about their programming in a number of ways. It is comforting though to know that you aren't the only school out there trying to do things the right way, not caving to test prep and state requirements. I trust our process. I know our model is good and headed to great, but there are days when it feels lonely. There aren't other public expeditionary learning, 1:1 schools in Saint Louis, so here we are to rise alone or sink alone. Today, I think we will rise, but I can see across to the next island and so today we don't feel so alone.

Meeting Basic Needs

Every once in a while, I have an experience in my work that is both insanely frustrating and moments later completely fulfilling. Last night during the band and choir concert, I realized that the front stairs were beginning to ice over. The concert was less than five minutes from its finale, and the custodians didn't know where to find the salt for the front stairs. By a crazy set of prior circumstances, I knew where the ice melt was, rushed to the get two five pound bags, and started feverishly applying it to the stairs. We were able to get everyone out safely.

The purpose of mentioning this story goes beyond the success of the evening. When moments like these happen, I really enjoy my job. There is something really fulfilling about providing the basic needs for kids. I get the same feeling when I drive a student home when it is cold or provide lunch for a student that is hungry. Most of my day consists of planning for the future, thinking big, talking to teachers, and enjoying the company of the students in the building. These are all parts of the reason why I love my job, but there is something special about doing the little things for people.

It is probably the same feeling that nurses, firemen, and other first responders feel each day. I'm glad to be in a position that allows for these opportunities. I believe that too often we forget about the little things that our students and our teachers need. Hopefully, we can all find a few more ways to give in this way in the coming weeks and months.

Merry Christmas from The Dillons

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stepping Off the Accelerator

Life as a first year principal has been wonderful, challenging, and filled with smiles, but as the Christmas holiday approaches, I find myself taking my foot off of the accelerator. The desk is clearing. The long-term list is shrinking and being converted to the 2011 list, but the oddest thing is that slow doesn't feel comfortable. I am experiencing the annual physical aches and pains that come from slowing down. This probably means that my life is too fast. It is consumed with direct messages, 140 word statements, e-mails, and voicemail. My thoughts lack clarity in these moments. I fall out of the flow. Life isn't the same at this pace. It isn't as much fun, but I know that it is needed. I need to rebalance, recharge, find zen. I want to find a good book, workout daily, have mornings without kid noise, and try to travel in a daily way that appreciates all that is around me.

Does anyone else experience this malaise of actually having a break in the pace, speed, and momentum of life? I can't be the only one, but it does feel lonely.

How do other people handle this slow down? Is it possible to go cold turkey on work especially when you love your work, you are passionate about your work, and when your work is your calling?

I'm trying my best to ease my way into Friday. Let the final day of school be a part of the transition, so my family doesn't experience these moments of downshifting as the break begins. Wish my luck. This is harder than it seems.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fearing Mediocrity More Than Failure

I have been hanging on this mantra for some time now as I look to push for excellent programming and best practices at my school. I have been reading other blogs about the importance of failure and the fears that administrators have for their kids , and I realize that so many of us are wandering around in the same woods. It isn't about being lost, but it is about looking for the shortest path. It is about taking a bearing, trusting the bearing, and attacking full steam ahead. It feels good to be have company in the woods. This seat can be a lonely place, and the voices of others keep the loneliness at bay.

Below is an excerpt from George Couros' blog link above. What a great list to drive our thinking forward.

As I thought about the “traditional” list of fears that have popped up as we progress, they were not driving me at all. I sat back and thought about what “fear” drives me. Here they are:

Fear of students learning “compliance” instead of just “learning”.
Fear of students asking why they have no grade on their report card because they don’t know how they are doing.
Fear a student asks “why are there no awards” because I have not taken the time to show them I value them every chance I get.
Fear that we teach our students that rewards should drive their learning, not their passion.
Fear that we prepare our students to be good at school, instead of being good at life.
Fear of the world changing around our schools, while we stay the same.
Fear that students will NOT ask powerful questions.
Fear that students will not see themselves as artists.
Fear that students will not have the opportunity to create and collaborate.
Fear that we are not giving students opportunities to lead within our school.
Fear that we do not focus on the importance of connections and relationships.
Fear that our students and staff are not having fun.
Those are some of the fears that drive me. I am blessed that I have the opportunity to work with a community that puts my mind to rest

What fear drives you?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

It is adventure race weekend, but I didn't want to break tradition.

In an effort to make your journey into Google reader a bit easier, I found this great bundle of resources that houses 75 subscriptions for education.

Great article find by TKA. We have to make sure that we are just moving the deck chairs around on the Titantic, but instead building a speed boat to move closer to our destination and as far away from the sinking ship as possible.

These next few weeks lend themselves to the need have greater classroom structures to maximize learning. Cooperative learning structures are an excellent way to achieve this. There are number of great resources and ideas lower in this post. --

As we start to think about students using twitter as a learning experience, here is a really good rubric to judge learning through twitter.

As we continue to uncover the mission and vision of our stewardship program, it seems like this focus on the five global giants may hold some promise.

Middle School Beauty and Art

I have bought into the idea that beauty is in the eye of beholder for a long time, but this TED talk has shifted my beliefs in this area. There is universal beauty, and we are doing students a disservice in elementary and middle school art classes by claiming differently. It seems very important for us to level with students that it takes hard work, possibly 10,000 hours to become good at something. Our art classes are space and time to work toward these expert levels as well as enjoy the act of creating art. Please be honest with your students that there are beautiful things that aren't open for opinion, and we are on a mission each day to find them. The debate will erupt and that is good.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't Buy the Hype

Spent some time today learning about the hype curve that is published by the Gartner Group. Not sure that I totally get it, but I certainly don't want to hitch my horse to the wrong things when I'm on the long arm of implementing trends. The hard part about being one of the first implementer of things is the possibility of failure, but one of the awesome things about being an early implementer is failure. These charts were a great reminder that learning never stops, just when I think that I have everything rolling, the landscape shifts. Afraid to failure can't be a part of students' thinking, ever... We'll be there to catch you.

Realized the images are awful, click on them for the clear ones.

Great Infographic on Bottled Water

I thought that maybe if I posted this, then I would finally purchase a real water bottle for daily use.

Term Life Insurance

Amazing Vision for Learning

Somehow I missed this video in my pile of learning, but I truly think that this piece paints the picture of the excellence that we are pursuing at MRHMS.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Five for Thanskgiving

Over the past few weeks, I have still been publishing these list to my staff, but I forgot to slide them in the blog. Sorry to those following for leaving you out.

These videos are great for opening our viewpoints to a global lens. I really enjoyed the quality of the work here. The videos are more great examples of digital storytelling.

Someone recently was talking about how to get more from students while they are at home, and I think that there is some hope from this blended learning strategy that engages students with thoughtful questions for commenting and discussion at home

Many of us are putting our toes in the Twitter water in an effort to grow and learn from educators around the country. This is a great set of resources for beginner, intermediate, and advanced users.

More great videos to support and enhance learning can be found here.

This daily post about education from the Washington Post is growing among my favorite. It has a number of voices, and it hits on issues that really matter. I think that there is a lot to the idea that best practices for gifted learners are the best practices for all learners.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Balance, Moderation, and the Tech-driven Life

Looking for more on how to help your kids with this concept. Make the trip to Birmingham in April for edcampbhm. We will be talking more about making sure that the best of technology is balanced with the best that life has to offer.

Birth of an Idea

This list by Seth Godin does a great job of capturing the birth of ideas. How do we set up our schools to let ideas be born?

Ideas don't come from watching television

Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture

Ideas often come while reading a book

Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them

Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom

Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide

Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do

Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner's mind. A little awareness is a good thing

Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week

Ideas come from trouble

Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they're generous and selfless

Ideas come from nature

Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence

Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice

Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we're asleep and too numb to be afraid

Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying

Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute

Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones

Ideas don't need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity

An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn't join us here, it's hidden. And hidden ideas don't ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Powerful Student Voice

I had a chance to listen to this over the weekend. Wow, the whole performance is quite powerful. I hope that we aren't building students that feel this same way about the educational system at MRHMS. I continue to believe that we can remained balanced, trust our process, and allow the test scores to take care of themselves.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MRHMS Technology Integration

I watched this video, and I realized that it is five minutes of gold. It describes what successful technology integration look like in the classroom on an instructional level. I think that we can get our kids here in three years, new lofty goals being laid down right now.

Information Cocoon

There are moments when I get hit over the head by something that I missed. I'm not sure if it is a piece of growing from being such a generalist to being more of a specialist or whether it is something that happens with age. Throughout the last decade, I talked a lot about the importance of lateral capacity building, meaning that I was able to absorb information from religion, politics, and pop culture for the purpose of applying the lessons in my daily work with kids. On the lowest level, this allowed me to make references and examples that resonated with kids, and at the highest level, there were ideas of change and implementation that I plucked from the vine for use in my school.

Over the last few weeks, there has been a story floating around that has gone viral about a mom in Kansas City that allowed her five-year old to dress like Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. Seemed like a non-story to me, but apparently, her blog post about the situation created a buzz This story eventually found its way to the Today Show and The View. The interesting part of this story is that I know the author of the blog, and I stumbled onto the controversy by reading between the lines on Facebook. I applaud Sarah for being an awesome mom, thinker, and advocate for what she believes in, but the point of this is that I totally missed the story.

Missing the story is rare for me. My journalism brain keeps me sniffing for the truth, looking for the stories that have legs, and knowing the stories that will fade quickly. I wonder of my new position has put me in an information cocoon, a cocoon that has you so buried in middle school vision and progress that you can't see the world around you. I worry about this because I know that I am at my best when I am orchestrating many flows of information. Maybe this is overblown, maybe I'm getting old, but hopefully, I just need a wake up call to read bigger and wider to avoid getting burned by my laser-like focus on school.

Monday, November 8, 2010

TED-Educational Design and Systems Thinking

This sort of design thinking and work gets me totally excited about learning and being in school. This is a must watch TED talk.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Top 100 Tools for Learning

I thought that this was an interesting survey of top learning applications.

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

If you don't follow this blog through your RSS, now is the time to do so as he is rolling out the best websites of the year in tons of areas and subjects..

This is a great example of transformational use of technology. I loved the headline also. We should all be asking ourselves this question.

You can now search YouTube by year. This seems like a really engaging way to learn from video, comparing two years in cartoon, political ads, game shows, etc.

I had read the post about the theory of n+1 (meaning that we always have room for one more thing), but I was struck by the power of n-1. Could we all eliminate something that we do for kids without changing the system or the outcomes that we get for kids. If so, should we make some space for ourselves.

This is an incredible list of free courses and youtube channels that you can use to enhance and stretch your students.

This is an incredible set of resources to allow you to stretch your technology use to a global scale. See if you can get a class or your advisory trying some of these global things.

What is good instruction? I think that this blog post echoes my feelings about what I'm looking for in the area of good instruction.

Learning isn't Optional for Teachers

This post was headed to my Five for Friday links, but it rose above just a link. It is an incredible call to action that reminds us that we have to learn everyday to continue to be the best in our position.

Raise your hand if you spent time exploring, challenging, refining, and enhancing your professional practice today? Now, raise your other hand if that professional learning took place in a collaborative context with other professionals?

Is your hand raised high or "tied" behind your back?

I’m not a reform expert, but if all educators are not raising their hands almost each and every day when asked, the talk about school change and 21st Century learning environments is lost to the reality that the professionals that make up educations are not professional learners and practitioners. They are simply rooted managers and defenders of their out dated environments.
In other words, these educators are on the verge of committing malpractice.

As we continue to discuss the importance of reforming school for the 21st Century, we must examine the need to reform the educational profession. There simply isn’t a more important time than now to recreate our profession into a teaching AND learning profession.

I’m talking about a collaborative learning culture where professionals are working towards continuous growth by engaging in daily learning: discussing and evaluating practices, challenging assumptions, engaging in new learning opportunities, embracing stretch moments, observing peers, etc. The research on the need for schools to embrace a collaborative learning culture is immense both in breadth and depth, yet these environments represent the exception not the norm or worse are happening in terminology only (i.e. we are a PLC).

This article isn’t another push for organizations to embrace a collaborative learning culture. It is a push for teachers to stop waiting for the organization and become a collaborative professional learner by changing fundamental behaviors inhibiting this and embracing action items that will allow it to happen.

As Michael Fullan states in The New Meaning of Educational Change, “the starting point for working towards a solution is the sobering realization that it cannot be done unless each and every teacher is learning every day” and Alan November adds, “The best thing to invest in right now is collegiality. The number one skill that teachers will need is to be team-based, collegial, sharing their knowledge and wisdom.”

Behavior to Break: Talking Time

Everyone can point to the myriad of daily “Must Dos” that prevent us from having the time to learn. However, using that as a crutch for not learning is inexcusable. If it really matters and has value, a person will make time as working and learning become interwoven.

How would we react to students if they told us they didn’t have time to learn? they didn’t have time to improve upon their skill set? they didn’t need to know that? they didn’t need to try anything new, challenge their current ideas, or push beyond the norm? Would terms like prioritize, organize, time management, etc. be part of our discussion? Many students have so many demands outside of the school day that if we as educators are demanding their learning be 24/7, shouldn’t we be practicing what we preach?

Behavior to Break: Acting Alone

Educators sharing best practices, knowledge and resources should be a no-brainer, but there are many educators still holding onto these things with their lives. Why? Is there a longing to horde these practices so you are look upon as the best teacher? Do we see collegiality as not showing teachers what should be happening in the classroom? It pains me to know end to have teachers refusing to share their knowledge, practices, and resources.

As Marc Prensky articulated in If We Share, We’re Halfway There, “In our ongoing struggle to engage our kids in learning, I believe we are neglecting (or, even worse, deliberately preventing) one of our easiest and best opportunities. If our goal is to bring our schools and classrooms into the 21st century before that century ends, we need to take advantage of the large amount of innovation that is already going on in many of our classrooms by allowing our teachers to share it. And not just with others in their own schools and districts, but with teachers around the world!” When teachers fail to share the great things happening in their classrooms, they are failing their profession and they are failing students”.

There has “to be deep engagement with other colleagues and with mentors in exploring, refining, and improving their practice”, stated Fullan. When teachers are not sharing their practices, knowledge, and resources as professional learners in a collaborative learning culture, it doesn’t matter how much learning is happening in the classroom or how great students see these teachers. To me, they are not professionals and are just as guilty of malpractice as the teacher down the hall refusing to change their outdated practices.

Behavior to Break: Closing the Door

Rick Dufour told a story in a presentation years ago about his sister going through a painful and dangerous eye surgery that would take nearly a year to fix. A few years later, he went to have the same surgery but the surgery had changed drastically. Through Lasik Surgery, he has 20/20 vision within a few days. If that doctor hadn’t changed his practice, Dufour continued, he probably could have sued for malpractice since eye surgery best practices had evolved along with the technology and skills. Dufour compared this to the current reality of the classroom where teachers are metaphorically closing the door to learning and physically closing the door in order to do whatever they want in the classroom. These teachers are in essence committing malpractice when they choose not to be professional learners and choose not to use research-based best practices.

Professional base everything on the latest best practices and constantly are evolving their practices. When a behavior is to the contrary, it is an intolerable behavior and one that needs to be remediated immediately. When a collaborative learning culture is in place, the behavior of closing the door and doing as one pleased is exposed. This exposure shows one of two things: 1. the teacher’s practices are truly best practices and the teacher needs to open the door as a professional learner so that others can learn and grow 2. the teacher’s practices are not at a high level and the teacher needs to open the door as a professional learner so that s/he can learn and grow from others.

Action Items

1. Dedicate a portion of your day to honing your professional practice both locally and digitally

2. Establish a professional learning network

3. Establish and maintain a virtual professional learning space that fosters shared knowledge and resources

4. Make professional reflection, scholarly work, and learning a priority and make it public.

5. Model professional learning for colleagues, students, and parents

6. Take a risk, rethink your norm, challenge your assumptions, and embrace the idea of being disturbed.

Be proud of your explorations. Let it be known what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how others could join in with you. Talk about what you are learning! Being open doesn’t mean being vulnerable! Share your blog and wiki with pride! Focus on collaboration and networking with all you do and bring your colleagues along kicking and screaming if need be. Thus, your action item is to share your blog, wiki, social bookmarks, and learning experiences with as many people as possible in order to promote local collaboration and networking.

These behaviors and action items are points to move on right now. What will you do with this? Will you close the Knowing-Doing Gap that dominates many schools today. As Schmoker says “we can close the gap – right now – between what we know and what we do with learning communities. The benefits for students and for education professionals will be incalculable. So let’s get on with it”. In the end, we need to stop talking about why we can’t and start talking about how we can, so I leave you with three quotes that I hope you’ll ponder in a collaborative learning culture as a professional learner:

“We effect change by engaging in robust conversations with ourselves, our colleagues, our customers, our family, the world…. Your time of holding back, of guarding your private thoughts, is over. Your function in life is to make a declarative statement” – Susan Scott

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children” – Sitting Bull

“I would like to suggest that a most fundamental best practice in a professional learning community is to promote the qualities and dispositions of insatiable, lifelong learning in ever member of the school community – young people and adults alike – so that when the school experience concludes, learning will not” – Roland Barth

Ryan Bretag
Blog: Metanoia
Twitter: ryanbretag
Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Glenbrook North High School

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rethinking Value Added

I still that we can develop a formula that helps us celebrate the hard work of teachers, but this video certainly points us to the pitfalls of many of these systems.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sisters from Another Mother

Trying to spend my time wisely at the NSTA conference, I schedule a couple of school visits with folks in the Kansas City area. The first was Seton High, a hybrid public, private school, at 23rd and Benton, and the second one was St. Teresa's Academy, located a 55th and Brookside. Both of the these visits were an incredible experience with incredibly passionate teachers in both locations, but two schools less than five miles apart couldn't be any different.

Seton High is a new urban high school that has 80 students who come looking for hope everyday. Students take the city bus, sometimes 45 minutes to reach a place that could end the cycle of poverty for their family. I entered the building through the door designated for the health clinic. The energy of this facility run by the Seton Center, a Catholic community organization, was evident. Though students had left for the day, it was clear that this was a place of learning driven by a passion to serve. Not unlike the concept of the Harlem Children's Zone, Seton provides students with access to dental care, a food pantry, and a thrift store. The opportunity to succeed is growing at Seton High. Even with all of this hope, there was a need for resources: computers, books, Internet access, and the little things that can pave the road to success on those mornings when life has dealt another setback. I feel the need to help, contribute, and be a part of this solution. Leaving the school left me with a feeling of turning my back on justice, equality, and my role in alleviating poverty.

The next five miles of my drive were images of poverty, both sad and true. Poverty is the same, but unique to its location, and I realized the unique nature of Kansas City poverty as I crossed over The Paseo on 55th. I was drawing closer to St. Teresa's, and suddenly things changed, no longer were the boards on the windows, they were on the fences, painted and groomed. I arrived on campus, historic, quiet, peaceful, and filled with signs that said "assisting the poor...saint teresa's academy since 1866." Really?

I saved judgment as I slid into the first academic building. It was clear that the girls were comfortable, and there was excellent learning taking place. I had a chance to talk to a number of students in the school. They reminded me of my friends in high school, happy and unburdened by life. There were certainly warts below the surface, but smiles were easy to find, the joy of childhood still circled the campus. I love tradition, but I really love tradition that builds excellence. I truly hope that these girls will take their genetic success and family opportunity and look East a few blocks to examine their role in the greater community.

The mission of the sisters of these organizations are the same in that they are looking to serve the community from basic needs to building values of awareness. I can't help but wish that Saint Teresa's would send some resources in the way of technology, books, and basic school supplies down the road. I'm never sure the best way to address poverty is to throw money at it, but there is a basic level of need that I would love to see addressed.

Is it possible that two random friends, connected through me could grow something that would benefit both schools? I hope so. I know that it would be easier to drive home and forget about this idea, just let it be because I have plenty to do at home, but this experience has shifted my soul for the moment.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Looking for a Leadership Model?

I found this article to be dead-on. I work each day to try to build capacity in each of these areas, but it is a long road.

The Four Capacities Every Great Leader Needs (and Very Few Have)
This blog is written by a member of our expert blogging community and expresses that expert's views alone.

When I was a very young journalist, full of bravado and barely concealed insecurity, Ed Kosner, editor of Newsweek, hired me to do a job I wasn't sure I was capable of doing. Thrown into deep water, I had no choice but to swim. But I also knew he wouldn't let me drown. His confidence buoyed me.

Some years later, I was hired away by Arthur Gelb, the managing editor of The New York Times. This time, I was seduced by Gelb's contagious exuberance about being part of a noble fraternity committed to putting out the world's greatest newspaper.
Over the last dozen years, I've worked with scores of CEOs and senior executives to help them build more engaged, high performance cultures by energizing their employees. Along the way, I've landed on four key capacities that show up, to one degree or another, in the most inspiring leaders I've met.

1. Great leaders recognize strengths in us that we don't always yet fully see in ourselves.
This is precisely what Kosner did with me. He provided belief where I didn't yet have it, and I trusted his judgment more than my own. It's the Pygmalion effect: expectations become self-fulfilling.
Both positive and negative emotions feed on themselves. In the absence of Kosner's confidence, I simply wouldn't have assumed I was ready to write at that level.
Because he seemed so sure I could--he saw better than I did how my ambition and relentlessness would eventually help me prevail--I wasted little energy in corrosive worry and doubt.
Instead, I simply invested myself in getting better, day by day, step by step. Because we can achieve excellent in almost anything we practice with sufficient focus and intention, I did get better, which fed my own confidence and satisfaction, and my willingness to keep pushing myself.

2. Rather than simply trying to get more out of us, great leaders seek to understand and meet our needs, above all a compelling mission beyond our immediate self-interest, or theirs.
Great leaders understand that how they make people feel, day in and day out, has a profound influence on how they perform.
We each have a range of core needs--physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Great leaders focus on helping their employees meet each of these needs, recognizing that it helps them to perform better and more sustainably.
Arthur Gelb helped my meet not just my emotional need to be valued, but also my spiritual need to be engaged in a mission bigger than my own success. Far too few leaders take the time to figure out what they truly stand for, beyond the bottom line, and why we should feel excited to work for them.

3. Great leaders take the time to clearly define what success looks like, and then empower and trust us to figure out the best way to achieve it.
One of our core needs is for self-expression. One of the most demoralizing and infantilizing experiences at work is to feel micromanaged.
The job of leaders is not to do the work of those they lead, but to serve as Chief Energy Officer -- to free and fuel us to bring the best of ourselves to work every day.
Part of that responsibility is defining, in the clearest possible way, what's expected of us--our concrete deliverables. This is a time-consuming and challenging process, and most leaders I've met do very little of it. When they do it effectively, the next step for leaders is to get out of the way.
That requires trusting that employees will figure out for themselves the best way to get their work done, and that even though they'll take wrong turns and make mistakes, they learn and grow stronger along the way.

4. The best of all leaders--a tiny fraction--have the capacity to embrace their own opposites, most notably vulnerability alongside strength, and confidence balanced by humility.
This capacity is uniquely powerful because all of us struggle, whether we're aware of it or not, with our self worth. We're each vulnerable to believing, at any given moment, that we're not good enough.
Great leaders don't feel the need to be right, or to be perfect, because they've learned to value themselves in spite of shortcomings they freely acknowledge. In turn, they bring this generous spirit to those they lead.
The more leaders make us feel valued, in spite of our imperfections, the less energy we will spend asserting, defending and restoring our value, and the more energy we have available to create value.
All four capacities are grounded in one overarching insight. Great leaders recognize that the best way to get the highest value is to give the highest value.

Reprinted from
Tony Schwartz is President and CEO of The Energy Project, a company that helps individuals and organizations fuel energy, engagement, focus, and productivity by harnessing the science of high performance. Tony's most recent book, The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance, was published in May 2010 and became an immediate The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Follow him on Twitter @TonySchwartz.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Introduction of Patch

The cities of Maplewood and Brentwood have a new media partner in They are a local-only news feed that are nowing filling the void left by the Suburban Journals since they took on a new business model. I love have this vehicle to be transparent with. Our middle school is doing incredible things for kids, but it has seemed for a long time that we have been screaming about our work into a vacuum. Let's' hope that Patch takes hold, and the local media folks can ride sidecar to this experiment turned reality @mrhmiddleschool.

Do These Numbers Matter?

This video is cute, well-designed, and points to numbers that show United States students struggling in the teens on a number of lists, but do these numbers matter? There are a thousand ways to skin a cat, but these international measures are tough to follow and believe. I truly think that I would believe this if we were number one on the list. This year, we were selected to give the NAEP exam to our eighth graders. We are giving the test, but the results are returned to us in anyway that can be used for future learning. If learning is a life-long process, it would be nice to have feedback on how to focus our instruction.

Technology Rich- Now Be Effective, Strategic, Amazing

This infographic places MRH Middle School's effort to empower students with technology in perspective. Each of our seventh and eighth grade students have a laptop computer that they can use 24-hours a day. Our challenge is to make this usage effective, strategic, and amazing.

Technology in the Classroom

Monday, October 11, 2010

Playing Superman

I'm just before a meeting where I get to act like Superman and adjust student schedules so that they may have the best success in high school. These are the high-stakes decisions. How much longer can we wait for these students to fail before trying something different? It is easier to maintain the status quo and hope, but it is morally irresponsible. I'll let you know how it turns out in a decade or so, but until then, enjoy the stats.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

I know that it is Thursday, but it feels good to actually be ahead of schedule a bit for once. Thanks to all of the wonderful folks at the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals for having me as a presenter on Monday. This blog is an extensive of my effort to put awesome resources in people's hand within the context of the learning that we are doing, sort of a wheat versus chaff effort on my part. Have a great weekend. Go Tigers MIZ...

Seth Godin is a great outside the box thinker, and this link is a ton of fun to watch. It got me thinking though. What is broken around here? What systems, signs, ways of doing things are broken? I'm ready to fix them before they become ingrained in my way of doing things. Please send your ideas or thoughts about things to fix at MRH after watching the video.

There was a new TED conference recently that featured only student speakers. I love this idea, and it would be great to share the stories of some of these wonderful kids with our students. They are truly inspiring, and it is hard to think that these efforts wouldn't inspire our kids.

I have always thought that it was difficult to wedge math into our expeditions and interdisciplinary units, but the folks at Plus magazine may have some resources that allow for some windows into our world via MATH.

Though we talked about 21st century skills in TLC, (maybe we should be talking about 22nd century skills and be 90 years ahead as opposed to 21st century skills and by 10 years behind), we didn't really touch on the skills that middle school, high school and college professors need to include. Our friends at Wired Magazine do an excellent job with this article.

This is an incredible visual resource for social studies classes. How incredible to watch the maps shift based on variables like energy resources, religion, and food supplies.

I think this is a great resource. This is volume two of Project PLN.

RSA Animate

This method of learning has moved its way to the top of my list. I love the visuals as it completely fits into my learning style. It seems like a way to bring complex ideas to students also. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Waiting for Sanity

Shining a bright light on a subject at the federal level is usually a good thing for folks that do the work on the local level. This week, education was the theme de jour for the folks at NBC. Though nothing big will come from this week of talking, I hope that a community member or another parent will get interested in what we are doing for kids each day at MRH Middle School. I continue to say and believe that we have some of the best middle school programming in the area, and I hope that this week of television points a few people into partnership with our work for kids. Waiting for Superman, the movie that is moving all the mouths, will be a great opportunity to think, discuss, and push for real solutions for difficult problems. There are no movies that are bad. There are just bad discussions after movies.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Getting this Message to Middle School

I do believe that we as middle school educators face a daily battle with the whys. Why is this important? Why are we doing this? How will this lead to my happiness. I have been working on some ideas to get students to look further ahead. Using infographics like this seem to be a way forward for our visual learners that are always demanding more answers about purpose.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Things that Bug Me

After a long weekend of catching up on my Google Reader, this is the best that I could share out. It is part freakonomics, part insanity, but it sort of thing that seems to fit into my solutionist philosophy. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

Want to connect and partner with another school that has the same philosophy as MRH; try King Middle School in Portland, ME. They are an expeditionary learning school and 1:1. Be bold, e-mail a teacher there and start a partnership today.

Another article that promotes our technology integration policy of teach how to use what is available responsibility, not restrict

This may be one of those articles that sparks a whole new way of gathering and sharing feedback in your classroom.

Great daily bit of professional development from other great teachers throughout the state. --

With the much hyped Oprah episode about schools this week, I thought this essay did a much more fair review of the current state of public education.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Focus and Finding a Rhythm

It takes a long time for a staff to really feel like they are in sync, whether it is co-teaching, common language or team decision-making. I am really excited about how my staff works together. It would be fantastic to keep this group of folks together for five or more years just to see the power of this oneness. One day I hope that my staff can find this level of being in rhythm, enjoy the video.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Poverty and Education

Recently, I read an incredible critique of Ruby Payne's work on poverty that poked at the language of the culture of poverty that Payne describes throughout her work. I began to buy the argument that the language that Payne uses is too generalized to truly help educators and society meet the needs of kids. This doesn't mean though that I don't see the huge ties between poverty and education. If anything, we are the providers of opportunities to help kids escape poverty or insulate other students from slipping back into poverty. This concept along with the recent information about poverty in the United States has me truly grounded in my role in helping kids. See below for the recent poverty stats....

43.6 Million: Census Declares More Americans are in Poverty than Ever Before
by Claire Lorentzen 09-20-2010

It is the highest number America has ever seen: 43.6 million people are living in poverty in the United States, the wealthiest country in the world. According to new data released yesterday by the Census Bureau, the 2009 U.S. poverty rate was at 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. Considering that our nation is facing a 10 percent unemployment rate –- a 2.6 percentage increase from 2008 — “The news could have been a lot worse than it actually was,” claimed Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank at a Brookings Institution panel on the Census data last Thursday afternoon. Others at the panel agreed with Blank, while making it clear that regardless of the higher predictions, these statistics yell out for a renewed “war on poverty.”

Here are some statistical highlights from the 2009 Census data:
One in five children live below the poverty line. The poverty rate increased most steeply for children under the age of 19, jumping from a rate of 19.0 percent in 2008 to one of 20.7 percent in 2009.
29.9 percent of female-headed families live below the poverty line. The rate is up 1.2 percent from 2008.
25.3 percent of Hispanics (up from 23.2 percent in 2008) live below the poverty line.
25.8 percent of blacks (up from 24.7 percent in 2008) live below the poverty line.
One in seven (14.3 percent) Americans are in severe economic deprivation.

Just to put the 2009 American poverty rates in some sort of historical perspective: Poverty declined between the years 1993 and
2000, but then increased between 2001 and 2004. While economic deprivation declined slightly again in both 2005 and 2006, it then increased again in 2007 and 2008. Now in 2009, it has once again increased, but by one of the third highest rates since that data was first collected in the 1960s: 1.1 percent.

Where do these numbers come from? How is the poverty rate measured?
Well, the official poverty rate in the U.S. has been defined and measured in the same way for the last 37 years. The measurement sets the poverty threshold equal to three times the subsistence food budget, which was set by the United States Food and Drug Administration and its Economy Food Plan in 1961. Since its introduction in 1963, the measurement has only been updated yearly for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index. The base poverty threshold was set at three times the subsistence food budget for an individual. This multiplier of three was first chosen because the 1955 census found that, on average, one-third of a family’s budget was spent on food. Whether or not this estimate holds is largely up for debate (and will be discussed in future God’s Politics blogs). The poverty threshold was then adjusted for family size and age. For example in 2008, the threshold for a single individual was $10,991 dollars and for a family of three it was $22,025 dollars.
Then, in order to determine whether or not an individual or a family falls below this threshold, their pre-tax income is accounted for. Pre-tax income includes all pre-tax earnings, Social Security payments (since they are paid in cash — which may help explain why the poverty rate of elderly has not increased). The income measure also does not include any sort of in-kind benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, as well as out of pocket medical expenses. Pre-tax incomes are also not adjusted for according to geographic location.

If a family’s total pre-tax income is less than the threshold for their family size and respected ages, they are below the poverty line. This is the case for 43.6 million Americans.

Claire Lorentzen is the online editorial assistant at Sojourners.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Defining Our Success

This was my open letter to the Comm. Arts 6-12 team today following our first group meeting.

Since we ran out of time to have a discussion on this topic today, I thought that I would formulate my ideas a bit further using the new ning. I hope that this forum proves to be a fruitful way to discuss our road forward as a learning group.

It is clear from our conversations today that there are many instructional pieces on the table in varied shapes and sizes for each of you which makes it difficult to coalesce our learning around a singular topic or area, but I thought that I would generate some initial ideas to see if they spark an interest.

If the Communication Arts CAT team had a successful year, what would that look like? I really like the potential that this question poses to bring a group of individuals who are seeking high levels of learning for their individual kids to a place where they can embrace the potential and power of the team working together on a goal.

The book Teach Like a Champion names a number of best practices, but the power of the book comes from measuring the use of the techniques in the classroom. Should we choose to measure our use of these techniques?

A lot of time was put into the G.U.M.s curriculum. Does it make sense to measure its implementation success?

Do our grades indicate learning? If so, can we measure the growth of the department based on the grades that students receive? Can we average percentages eight times a year and reflect on what this means?

Again, someone will define your success this year. I don't want it to be someone other than you, but it makes sense for us to get out in front of the train.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Education Poll

Too often, I forget that the audience and opinion about public education lies well beyond the small cocoon of my PLN and close friends. It is important not to lose sight of the overall opinion of things in education.

Based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted August 17 thru 19, here are some of the results of a TIME poll on the state of public education in America. Highlights include respondents' feelings about parental involvement, ambivalence about teachers unions and overwhelming optimism about the current potential for reform.

1. Do you think that public schools in this country are in a 'crisis,' or not?
In a crisis: 67%
Not in a crisis: 29%
No answer/don't know: 3%

2. Do you think it is possible to make changes that would dramatically improve student performance in our public schools — or do you think this is a problem that is impossible to solve?
Possible to make changes to improve student performance: 90%
Problem is impossible to solve: 9%
No answer/don't know: 2%

3. Would you be willing to pay higher taxes to improve the public schools, or not?
Willing to pay higher taxes: 56%
Not willing: 42%
No answer/don't know: 2%

4. What do you think would improve student achievement the most?
More involved parents: 52%
More effective teachers: 24%
Student rewards: 6%
A longer school day: 6%
More time on test prep: 6%
No answer/don't know: 6%

5. In general, do you think teachers are overpaid, paid about right or underpaid given their level of training and importance to society?
Underpaid: 61%
Paid about right: 26%
Overpaid: 7%
No answer/don't know: 5%

6. Should teachers' evaluations be based in part on their students' progress on standardized tests?
Yes: 64%
No: 31%
No answer/don't know: 4%

7. Do you support or oppose tenure for teachers, the practice of guaranteeing teachers lifetime job security after they have worked for a certain amount of time?
Support tenure: 28%
Oppose tenure: 66%
No answer/don't know: 6%

8. Do you support or oppose "merit pay," the concept of paying teachers according to their effectiveness?
Support merit pay: 71%
Oppose merit pay: 23%
No answer/don't know: 6%

9. Which view comes closer to your own: "Teachers unions help make schools better" or "Teachers unions are an obstacle that keeps schools from getting better"?
Teachers unions help make schools better: 35%
Teachers unions are an obstacle that keeps schools from getting better: 50%
No answer/don't know: 15%

10. How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
Many of the smartest people in society don't go into teaching because being a teacher doesn't pay enough: 76% strongly or somewhat agree
Teaching is among the most under-appreciated professions in the U.S.: 77% strongly or somewhat agree
Tenured, long-time teachers are not motivated to work hard: 56% strongly or somewhat agree

11. What do you think would improve teacher effectiveness the most?
Better training in universities: 30%
Mentoring by more experienced teachers: 30%
Merit pay: 20%
Higher salaries: 11%
No answer/don't know: 8%

Read more:,8599,2016994,00.html#ixzz0zQmh0sLc

Teaching Paperless

I have enjoyed the Teaching Paperless blog for a while, but I really loved this activity. One, it plays into middle school, high school curiosity about simple things that are really complex, and it is an incredible ways to stretch the concept that we are able to get real-time information through social media to confirm, update, and extend our understanding of things. The graphic also reminds me of a college linguistics course that I loved where we talked about the various terms for a variety of things and their local origins. Soda, pop, soda pop anyone.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

The Responsibility of an Open School

This is a great innovated blog, and this article really applies to our philosophy here.

Great Video about Change in Schools

Could create some opportunities for classroom discussions.

Learning New Technology with Your Students.

What a great way to share and learn from other classrooms...I would encourage you to try to set up Skype opportunities with other classrooms and experts that can share with your kids.

I've completely embraced the power of TED talks, and now there is one for kids. It would be great to have kids watch this and work toward our own TEDxMRH

Looking for ways to WOW with your agenda. All of these Web 2.0 allow you the option to embed features into D2L

We talk a lot about technology integration, but how is it quantified? How do we really know if we are on the cutting edge of technology as transformative tool. This website and matrix goes a long way to answering those questions.

Expedition Preview

Building Trust

I have had a string of great parent phone calls this week. It isn't that they were all about positive things, but the parents seem to really be responding to the culture of outreach and partnership that is being cultivated. It is true that throughout my career, I have avoided my share of parent phone call. It was probably because my skill level to have tough conversations over the phone wasn't where it needed to be or it could have been pure laziness. Recently though, I have found myself in the position of engaging more parents in a variety of ways, and it is paying dividends. The e-mails, face-to-face visits, long phone calls, and extra efforts to see and be seen on the community are working. It is exciting to experience this as an educator, and I hope that this connection can filter throughout my staff to a point where this positive energy can be felt by the community. Building trust is the hard work, and it is the work that can quickly be shattered. Hopefully, our momentum continues.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Building Middle School Confidence

What prepares a student for a successful high school career? This has been a question of reflection for our middle school staff for quite a period of time, and the lack of a quality answer created tension. This tension often blinded us to frame our discussions around the options of building skills, responsibility or some of each. Only when our mental model shifted to include the art of preparation working in lock step with the science of preparation did we have a break through for our students. Looking back to these conversations, the most consistent item to surface was CONFIDENCE. Confidence, as defined by our conversations, wasn’t the easy confidence of being your own person or resisting the temptations of life, but this confidence was a deep belief in the possibility of the future.

One teacher summed up our thinking the best. She said, “It is about real confidence. It is about having kids that can shake your hand and look you in the eye because they know that they belong. It is about kids who showcase the work ethic to succeed in this world. It is about kids knowing, from traveling on trips around the community and nation, that they belong in this world. It is about kids believing that academic success is within their grips. It is about kids dreaming that a college will want them more than they will want that college. It is about kids seeing that winning is a matter of habit and design and not luck and chance. It is about kids determined to make setbacks are a part of growth and life, and without them, success is never possible. It is about kids expressing that mediocrity hurts more than failure. It is about kids promising themselves that they have a chance to be a first, a first college graduate, a first lawyer, a first small business owner. It is about building this sense of CONFIDENCE.”

Are we working hard enough to build this confidence in our middle school students? Do we have structures that facilitate this growth? Are we prepared to unleash confident middle school students?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moving at the Speed of Light

After working in larger school districts for the past ten years, I have found true liberation in the nimble nature of @mrhmiddleschool. We are a middle school of 150 students with teachers that are willing to try new things and take risks for kids. Just today, I signed up 13 students, via parent phone calls, for our extra math tutoring sessions for our students in the middle. Rarely can principals have the freedom to make these changes in a way that can leverage change so quickly. Our program is designed for our students just below proficiency in math based on a number of factors, and we hope that the program will build confidence before any hint of failure sets in. Ahhh, these are the good days to be a middle school principal.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas
These are some guidelines for social media in schools. We are leader in STL in this area, but I hope to continue to build our ability to be transparent to our daily life here as well as provide a steady stream of positive news.
More great resources for schools and classrooms about using social media for good.
This is a good, parent, student, teacher resources. It is a Glossary to DEMYSTIFY the jargon of the online world. Good design, nice visual, and helpful

If you are thinking about ePortfolio work in your classroom, or as we consider showcasing our student learning in the building through portfolios, this seems like an awesome resource.

Beyond being a great blog, this post has a wealth of sites to teach responsible use of technology.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Great Video for Parents

I think that we will use this video for our upcoming Parent Technology Academy. It does a great job of framing our challenges and opportunities.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Ten Days

By Friday, I will have made a lot of rookie mistakes. The first two weeks are filled with pitfalls for new leaders, but none of the things that I am going to list below have caused a major impact on my relationship with students, teachers, or parents. They have been a source of stress and frustration for someone that likes to get things right, but in a month, I'm sure that they will be the stuff for Happy Hour conversation. Here are my pieces of advice for new building principals.

1. Pay a bit of attention to the emergency drill schedule.
I lost the entire school during the first fire drill. Apparently, they were doing an earthquake drill first, and I just walked outside and hoped for the best.

2. Know how to put money in your lunch account.
It is amazing how this source of anxiety for new students can be a source of anxiety for the new principal. I think that I am truly still avoiding the cafeteria line because of the lunch account situation.

3. Don't try to fix any systems in week one.
This is a particularly bad habit of mine. This time, I tried to take on some crazy fine situation. I should have just pushed the problem down the road for a couple of months.

4. Memorize the bell schedule
It seems like kids are in the hall between classes all the time. They are supposed to be there, but it is clear that I can't look at my watch or a clock and truly know where people are supposed to be.

5. Realize that stamina is an issue.
Holding your first faculty meeting the second Monday of the year is a risky thing. People are zapped from week one. They are struggling to get their school legs under them, and most importantly, it is a relearning process for folks to do after-school learning.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Club or Country

Every so often, I digress to talk about something else that I am passionate After a long summer of watching the World Cup (I'm actually still finishing watching the games on my DVR), it is time again to switch to club soccer. Without a MLS team in STL, I find my loyalties in Northern London with the Arsenal Football Club. I work hard each week to watch the game, read some blogs, and stay current on transfer news. There is something wonderful about having a team, no matter the sport, no matter the town. Losing myself in the stories behind this sport, the male drama that comes from injuries and overcoming obstacle is truly exciting for me. Maybe this video below shows why.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

I thought that I should share to a larger audience. This is the Friday e-mail that I am sending to my staff, but I'm going to cross list it on my blog for those that I am learning with outside the walls of MRHMS.

Here are the best links for ideas that you can use on Monday. I use my Google reader to follow some of these sites as it provides a steady diet of awesome information.
This site has great best of... lists.
I have no idea how he pumps out so much good stuff.
If you are looking for ways to leverage Google into learning. Here you go.

This is a great Ning site that connects to you to some of the best people doing your job.
Use this link, along with your twitter account, to access the very latest thinking and resources about education.


This is a huge resource for Google. I'm blown away about where to start.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ripped and Reflected On

Please follow Seth Godin's Blog He provides great parallel thinking opportunities for educators, and the latest that sparks my interest talked about "How Big is Your Red Zone?"

How big is your red zone?

Redzone Every activity worth doing has a learning curve. Riding a bike, learning to read, using Facebook... the early days are rarely nothing but fun.

Take a look at this three part chart. The first shows how much joy someone gets out of an activity. Over time, as we discover new things and get better at it, our satisfaction increases. At some point, there's a bump when we get quite good at it, and then, in most activities, it fades because we get bored. (In the top graph I've also added the Dip, showing the extra joy from being an expert, but that's irrelevant to this discussion).

The second graph shows the hassle of that same activity. Riding a bike, for example, is horrible at first. Skinned knees, bruised egos. Twitter is really easy to use the first few times, so not so much red ink there.

The third graph is just the two overlaid. That zone on the left, the red zone, is the gap between the initial hassle and the initial joy. My contention is that the only reason we ever get through that gap is that someone on the other side (the little green circle) is rooting us on, or telling us stories of how great it is on the other side.

The bigger your red zone, the louder your green dot needs to be. Every successful product or passion is either easy to get started on or comes with a built-in motivator to keep you moving until you're in. This is so easy to overlook, because of course you're already in...

This concept applies to everything that we do in education. If we leave kids in the red zone too long, they quit. They get frustrated. They act out. The whole purpose of our job is to help students obtain ideas and understanding at a high level, and this can't be success if we leave them in the red zone. See original post for graphs.

Making the List

I love the fact that I can't stand to-do lists, but I am often haunted by not making that same list. I love the fact that I have never wanted to be on a list at a club, just not my style. I love the fact that my school is on top of a few lists for top achievement in the Saint Louis area. I love the fact that it is hard to place me on a list for music-type or vacation-type. I love the fact that my bucket list includes incredible travel experiences both state-side and abroad. I love the fact that my daughters list me as one of their favorite people, and finally, I love the fact that my blog entry from a few weeks ago landed me on the list of some of the best bloggers in education.

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant put out the challenge to educational leaders from throughout the country to post their thoughts on Leadership Day 2010. This was his third year of gathering the posts of educational thinkers, and it continues to grow in volume and quality. For those on twitter, check out hashtag #leadershipday10 for details. Many of you have probably read my post, "Hitting the Target, Missing the Point", and some of you may have copied the title for your blog, but the other entries on the link are an incredible infusion of ideas and energy. Take your time. Enjoy the list. Let it lead your forward.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Finding the Right Formula

I have been working on good formula to look at student performance on the MAP tests for some time. Here is my latest effort to try to give credit for growth, progress, and some of the subtle things that make a difference. Should I be looking at things differently? Should I weight things differently? How could this actually be helpful. I removed the actual numbers for privacy reasons, but here is the template.

Each year, I try to develop a system of analyzing individual student data on MAP. Recently my focus has been on three main areas (gainers, stickers, sliders) and a few sub areas that flesh out some other progress and growth. Looking that the data for last year, here is what I found.

XX students rose one level (basic to proficient, proficient to advanced) GAINERS

XX students fell one level (proficient to basic, advanced to proficient) SLIDERS

XX students maintained their level from the previous year (STICKERS)

Digging a bit deeper....

Of the XX STICKERS, XX showed progress on their scale score, while XX declined in this area.

XX students achieved a NEW, HIGHER level of achievement

XX African-American students are in the GAINERS category

XX African-American students are in the SLIDERS category

The average increase in the STICKERS category was XX and the median score was XX.
(Remember this is a average of students both gaining and losing ground on their scale score)

I tried to develop an overall score using these numbers by placing them into a formula. It is the first time that I have used this formula, so I am looking for tweaks and feedback on making it more representative of the progress of our students.

Students Rising One Level +2
Students Falling One Level -2
Students Rising Two Levels +5
Students Falling Two Levels -5
Students Remaining on Level, Higher Scale Score +1
Students Remaining on Level, Lower Scale Score -1
Student Achieving a New Level of Achievement +2
African American Student Rising One Level +1
African American Student Falling One Level -1

My hope is that this formula is something that we can look at and discuss over time as it puts more variables in play when looking at the data. Your overall score is XX.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reaching Transformation

I mentioned to my teachers today that we had to get past the literacy phase of technology, and using technology in an adaptive way, so that we could really feel the power of technology through its transformational uses. Easier said than done, but in our 1:1 environment, we have the best chance possible. The attached video, which I found from one of my favorite tech blogs, Free Technology for Teachers, seems like a call to action for achieving transformational uses of technology.

A bit of an addition...

I found these reflection questions for school leaders and tech. leaders. They originally came from Jeff Utecht. Thought that they supported the ideas of transformational technology.

Is the technology being used “Just because it’s there”?
Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in Old ways?
Is the technology allowing the teacher/students to do Old things in New ways?
Is the technology creating new and different learning experiences for the students?


After returning from a retreat, there is only one direction to head, FORWARD. Students join us on Monday, but the learning at MRH seems to never end. We spent time today learning about Voicethread and Glogster as tools for learning. We also spent some time thinking about how to take our technology integration from the literacy and adaptive levels to the transformative level. When Monday returns, the trick becomes how to continue learning within the pace of the week. Good luck to all of my education friends as the new journey begins. Here is a good ol' motivational video for the start of school.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I have three opening moments this week. The first to parents on Monday. The second to teachers on Wednesday, and the final one is to students the following Monday. The old adage about making a good first impression is weighing on me a bit. I have prepared for all three things in advance, no doing it on the fly, but executing things in a way that demonstrates excellence is always a tricky thing. In the past, I would get really, really frustrated when part of the plan wouldn't work. I figured that is the reason that I planned in the first place.

Instead, this week, I am focused on being myself, allowing my personality and passion for kids and learning to come forward, and not overdoing it. I'm going to make sure that the spotlight is broad instead of narrowly focused on me, and allow the little things to roll to an extent. I really want to leave this week with a sense of urgency for all of my audiences, an urgency that we are in a perfect position to take another huge leap forward.

Finally, I found this video that a teacher is using to introduction his class in a few days. Wouldn't you want to be in this class? Let's frame the passion of our subject on day one. Let's let kids know that we care about them on day one. I watched The Blind Side this weekend, and it reminded me of how one person, who is willing to take a risk, can truly impact the life of a teenager. Find your mission. Find your calling. What is the name of the kid whose life you are going to change this year?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Love Videos with Stats

Though I am showing a few videos at my staff retreat (sorry no cow bell videos), I don't have this one in the rotation. We are spending more time reflecting, journaling, and creating experiences that can be used with students in the first month. Enjoy the video and be awed by the numbers.

The Video that Started It All

Last fall, I showed this video to my staff at Nipher as means to continue our momentum with technology integration. In doing so, I failed to ask my principal if I could show it, and it ended with a letter being placed in my personnel file and a meeting with the superintendent and assistant superintendent to discuss how this was clearly an effort to disrespect the leadership structure in the building. I still love the video, but now it will always have a story behind it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Quiet Preparation

One of the benefits of my new position is that I live 1.22 miles from my office. This is great for number of reasons with the number one reason being that I can walk to work. 4 out of 5 days this week, I made the morning journey, and it has been incredible. There is a sense of peace in the neighborhood in the morning. Sure there are a few people walking their dogs or out for a morning walk or jog, but for everyone, the morning business isn't stressful, but energy building. I have noticed that this time serves as quiet preparation for me. It is setting the table for the trials of the day.

I know that once the students arrive on August 16. The tempo picks up. The pace quickens, but I hope that the beauty of the morning will not become lost to the To Do List. So many of you that read this are educators, and I encourage you to find a new routine in the morning this year that allows for a bit more peace in the morning, a bit of centering to allow purpose and passion to bubble to the surface.

May your preparation be fruitful, our mission returns in force very soon.