Thursday, April 28, 2011

Patched in....

I've been asked to blog for our local on-line newspaper in Maplewood, is an AOL idea to bring news to a hyperlocal level. In a time when all news organizations are trying to figure out how to monetize the news business, it seems like local, local is a place where money could be made. Here is the first of my efforts as a community member to blog. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks to the folks at the for giving voice to the members of the communities that they serve. The concept of hyperlocal news as a model for keeping an informed citizenry has always been an intriguing one for this journalism major turned teacher, learner, and educator. I'm hoping to use this space to slow down, smell the roses, and really notice the details of our community. I've been reading Tony Hiss' book on the concept of Deep Travel, and it has me realizing that I zoom past the beauty of our community each day without a second thought. Having to write each week about a place, a moment, or an experience in our local surroundings will hopefully bring me closer to the heart of our community, and maybe give the readers a few things to look at and think about.

I spend quite a bit of time at The Heights. It is an incredible facility that residents get to use for an unbelievably low rate. They have a great pool, gym, workout facilities, classes, and day care. On most days, I zoom in, work out, and head home. It isn't rare when I don't even talk to a single person in this highly social, community atmosphere. There is little to no experiencing the present. I'm focused on my bike ride or time on the treadmill letting my mind wander to my next race or the stress from the day, but the other day was different. I chose a different routine, and it changed my entire view of the place. Here's what I saw.

Instead of riding on one of three exercise bikes with views of the televisions, I took a seat on one of the two exercise bikes that are on the track. They are tucked into one of the corners of the oval squeezed into the square space for the track. They looked lonely. The view from here allowed me to watch the gym below. There was the normal basketball game taking place below; sometimes they are two-on-two, or three-on-three, but they are all the same, energy, shots, rebounds, and arguments about fouls. Today the game was the melody for the harmony throughout the rest of the gym. There was one woman shooting hoops on one of the side baskets. It seemed like memories of college games of the past filled her head, but she could shoot, handle the ball, and probably didn't hear the rest of the noise in the gym. Closer to the game, there was a tweener, a guy 6'4 or 6'5 that probably scored 15 ppg in high school, and he may have been the best kid on his team, but he stopped growing, and he wasn't mentally ready to go to a D-II school. He looked at the game. He kept looking at the game. It was clear that he wanted in, but there was no coach to put him in, and he wasn't ready to step up to the game on the big court. Finally, there were two guys working the heavy bag and the tug-of-war ropes attached to the wall. I forget that MMA has changed the workout landscape, but this was clear indication.

Beep, beep, 30 minutes on the bike were over, but my efforts at deep travel were a success. Everything looks different when we take time to look at it. Looking forward to next week.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Changing the Laundry

I'm officially over-posting today, but I think that Will Richardson does an excellent job framing why education has to change in a way that prepares kids for life and not tests. I also heard Will say that he hasn't heard anything new, innovative or different from educational thinkers in a while. He claims that Twitter is sort of a washing machine with a load of good, but tired stuff just swirling the same ideas around and around. I want to challenge anyone that reads this to find, propose, discuss, risk changing the load of laundry. We need some new ideas, and my guess is that they will come from an experience outside of education (vacation, conversation, observation) that brings new clarity to something in the current system.

What is Possible when you Dream?

This video is a combination of two of my loves, soccer and learning. Too often, we have teachers that bring us ideas that sound crazy, "I want to do tree climbing with my students." or "What do you think about making traps to catch squirrels on campus?", and the easy answer is to laugh and walk them away from their "silly idea", but I'm convinced that the best leaders find ways to make these things happen. They look for the possible in the impossible, and the end result is a huge learning moment for kids. This video embodied the vision of great leaders to believe when all signs say silly.

Schools of Future

After reading Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs, I was energized about the possibility of schools of the future. This recent TED talk from TEDxNYED is a great road map and conversation starter for school personnel everywhere.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Five for Friday- Links and Resources

Are you a 21st Century Teacher? Are you going your students a chance in this changing learning environment?

Looking for ways as a team to expand your portfolio of learning expeditions? Try sending your students on a virtual expedition. They can do it on their time, and our guiding hands can make this an incredible learning experience.

By placing the right stakes on testing, trusting our system, and having the best people in place to build relationships, make nimble instructional decisions, and carry the passion of the art of teaching into the classroom, we can avoid many of the effects of Campbell's Law. Great video explaining Campbell's Law included.

If you are looking for some of the little things to bring into your classroom to teach, here are some of the big things that we miss.

As we inch closer to the start of our home visits with seventh grade families, I wanted to share this video clip with you about the power that a few words can have on a family. The time that we spend in homes with our parents is a precision resource. Be prepared to use it wisely.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Thanks to the folks at for naming me to their 50 best blogs for Edu Leaders. This is a tremendous honor as I am on the list with many of the people that I learn with each day. View the full list at:

Hiring the Best

These are the people that I want to hire. I want personality. I want shtick. I want vision. If you aren't finding a passion for these traits in your school, come find us @mrhmiddleschool, let's find a way to work together.

Photo originally from Joe Bowyer, for the love of learning blog

College Prep??

Over the past year, we have spent time bringing the concept of college to the eyes and hearts of our middle school students. This is a shift for our district as we provide additional students with the academic capacity necessary to be successful in college. As we move forward, it will be great to point to our 1:1 environment as one of the best leverage point for preparing our kids for college, especially, as this inforgraphic represents, colleges begin to ask all students to be technology literate from even before they set a foot on campus.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to Minimize College Debt?

I worry with college on the horizon for my kids at school, and my kids at home, how do I minimize the impact on my future savings, ability to retire, and my chance to live my adventures in retirement. This infographic describes how college debt is a tough vortex to get caught in.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Great Message for Schools of the Future

OK, I have to admit that I have all kinds of issues with for-profit schools that mount debt on kids with no real set of skills that can in short order neutralize the cost of the learning, but this is a great piece from Kaplan University. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Moving to Excellent

Over the course of the year, we have talked about providing the time and space to allow students to create and perform at an excellent level. This philosophy was built on the ideas of Ron Berger, and his book Ethic of Excellence. This video provides a great example of what we can learn from the precision of the fine arts, and how we should be striving for this type of excellence in all classes. Passion-driven education only works when students are able to be proud of their excellent work that stems from pursuing their passion. We all need to see the fruits of our labor.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Five for Friday- Links and Resources

While listening to a podcast on the way to Florida, I stumbled on this phrase that really pushed my thinking about taking risks for kids when we know that we can't totally invest in all 150 kids as deeply as we would like.

"Do for one which you wish you could do for everyone."

Seems like a great place to turn for increasing the blended learning model in our classrooms.

Academic Earth is extensive video library that lets students (and adults) take video courses from the worlds top scholars all in one place…for free! The mission of Academic Earth is to give everyone access to a world class education. Subjects covered by Academic Earth include art, architecture, astronomy, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, education, electrical engineering, engineering, entrepreneurship, environmental studies, history, international relations, law, literature, mathematics, media studies, medicine and health care, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, religious studies, test prep, and writing.

Need to learn some technology, looking for new ways to integrate. How about this great site?

Incredible TED talk about the digital world that our kids live in, and how it needs to impact education now.

Another great educational TED talk entitled teaching Jetson Children in Flintstone Schools.

This site is in beta stage, but it is a search engine for how-to education videos. It seems like a tremendous resource for our blended learning environment.