Monday, October 31, 2011

Marathon Hangover

Not sure what to think about this morning. My body feels better than it has ever felt the day after a marathon, but I feel totally disjointed. Maybe it is having a day to recover (I stayed in Maryland last night), maybe it is not having the next thing to plan for, or maybe it is a chemical, electrolyte issue, but I'm definitely calling this a marathon hangover.

I'm just starting to process yesterday. I bonked and survived. I dreamed big and went for it. I was a part of the ninth largest marathon in the world. I was overwhelmed to the point of crying twice at the finish. I saw the best sunrise on the nation's capitol from Arlington Cemetery. I felt surrounding by great people and lonely at the same time. I wonder about my training, too long? just right? did it matter?

As I fly home and slide back into routine, I know that the weirdness of today will pass, but it leaves me wondering what exactly am I supposed to take away from these moments.

Some day I will be a 3:30 marathoner, but it won't be on a day with I try to be a 3:25 marathoner. Just fading toward normal....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Running in Baltimore

August and Everything After was one of my favorite albums by Counting Crows. It reminds me of the college years, and as I sit watching in snow in October near Baltimore, I am reminded about the song Raining in Baltimore. It is a late track that didn't get any airtime, but it is the sort of song that tells a great story. Tomorrow, I have a chance to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. The weather, though awful right now, seems like it will be perfect. The event seems organized and ready, and 30,000 people are ready to take on the challenge. There are a lot of stories that I'm sure could be told. Every marathoner has a story about what it took them to train for this race, their first marathon, or the obstacles that they have overcome to join a ranks of being called a marathoner. My story isn't that special, but it started in November of 2002, about ten years after playing my final high school soccer game. I wasn't kind to my body over that decade. I weighed 208 pounds. I still remember the day that I stepped on the scale. I had recently bought some clothes for work that were a bigger size because my boss noticed that nothing fit me anymore. I was getting married in five months, and I realized that I looked awful. In March of 2003, after having been married for about a month, I entered my first race, the St. Patricks Day five mile. This race is more of a sideshow with beer at the end, but it served as the first of many races over the last eight years with tomorrow being my first fly-to marathon. I'm staying with friends in Bethesda. It is great to be in the spirit of someone's home, and not a hotel room on this cold day, but I'm longing to be home. It is hard to be away from my family to do something so selfish as run. Over this last ten years though, running has kept me sane as I learned to be a dad. It has allowed me to lose 30 pounds, and maintain a new level of health. Running has opened doors of community with others, and it has given me some legitimacy to my campaign against obesity in schools. Running has shown me my community through a new lens, and running allowed me to see the God given beauty of the natural world. Who knows what tomorrow has in story for me? I'm prepared physically and mentally, and now, it is time to run.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Five for Friday-Links and Ideas

After getting caught up in baseball playoffs for a month, I am back to my blog. Hopefully, this weekend, I'll be flooding the zone with blog posts. Here are some resources for now.

Looking for free ways to get students involved in class with response clickers. Here are some options.

Great piece from Carol Dweck on Mindset.

Does our 1:1 environment lend itself to a flipped classroom? Interesting story...

Here is a great animated commentary on how our brain functions...

How to teacher kids to multi-task while maintaining focus.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hiring the right people

This is another guest blog from my administrative intern, Nate Lischwe. Nate has been immersed in the MRH culture throughout this first quarter, and we continue to have conversations about some of the big questions in education. This post is some his thinking on hiring the right people. Enjoy.

In today’s educational landscape, an open teaching position in the St. Louis area often produces upwards of one hundred applicants. Thus, the importance of effective hiring is magnified. I remember reading about “getting the right people on the bus” from Jim Collins’s book Good to Great, and my teaching and graduate school experience has served to strengthen my belief that having the right people in our schools makes everyone’s job much easier and is better for our students. With this point established, how does a school leader hire the right person from a stack of resumes that approaches the thickness of a ream of paper?

Effective hiring starts with a purposefully developed application process. School leaders should meticulously examine each aspect of this process and make sure that it accurately reflects the values and needs of the school and its students. The process should not only include penetrating questions that give the school leader a picture of the applicant’s teaching practice, but also give the applicant a chance to actually put that practice into action. To give a clearer picture of what this process should look like, let’s use data-driven instruction as an example.

In a pool of one hundred applicants, a majority of candidates would probably be able to say that data should be used to drive instruction. But what does this actually mean to the candidate? We as school leaders have to go deeper.

The applicant should be able to give concrete examples of how he/she used data to improve outcomes in previous experience. The applicant’s resume should show concrete examples of the teacher using and producing results from data-driven instruction. The resume should also show quantifiable achievements and should showcase the candidate’s abilities as a teacher, collaborator, and leader. For example, the statement “taught math” on a resume could be enhanced to “planned and delivered instruction in 7th grade math” and “led students to at least 5% improvement each year on the 7th grade mathematics MAP test.” Statements like these help to differentiate the applicant’s resume. The school leader at this point has probably significantly narrowed the number of applicant choices, but more work still needs to be done.

The leader should have the applicant show a tracking system that he/she has used and demonstrate specific examples of how the data is used to increase student achievement. However, the school leader could go even farther.The applicant could teach a model lesson, and the school leader could critique and evaluate it through the lens of data-driven instruction, as well as other characteristics of an effective teacher.

Another challenge that a school leader faces in the hiring process is how to learn the intangibles about people. This skill can be harder to master than other parts of assessing a candidate. Part of the solution is dependent on the school leader’s intuition, but the hiring process can be crafted to help bring out these intangibles in candidates.

The Harvard Business Review suggests the following three steps in hiring to assess intangibles:
1) Determine which intangibles you want and are most important for success in the open position.
2) Craft targeted questions that reveal a candidate’s personality traits.
3) Distinguish real from rote by assessing signals consciously and unconsciously given by the candidate.

Steps like these help shine the light on applicants who go beyond saying the right things and actually put them into practice for the benefit of students and screen out applicants who simply know the right things to say. While no hiring process perfectly guarantees the best hire, purposeful development of a process with a focus on student achievement can go a long way in this direction. And in the end, our students are the people for whom we as educators work.

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's Like Comparing Apples to Oranges

Five for Friday- Links and Ideas

What do students want to know about education?

Great wiki for 1:1 educators...Are you still trying to figure out the best way to teach with laptops, collaborate with others here

Please watch this video. Tavis Smiley does an incredible job of shaping why we have to double down on our commitment to our African-American boys. 

This global report card site is getting a lot of buzz. See how we do compared to Canada.

This story mentions three areas of low hanging fruit to improve schools. What low hanging fruit are we missing?

The Wisdom of Steve Jobs

Thanks to Kevin Grawer, the MRH High School Principal, for this gem. Exploring, playing, discovery are all road to learning. There isn't such a thing as tangental knowledge. Every piece of information connects.