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.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Element and Common Sense

Sir Ken Robinson does such a good job of getting it. There is so much to discuss here. Read "The Element". Watch the video. Enjoy the truth.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Microlending- College Style

I have been really excited about the impact of microlending on poverty throughout the world. It has led me to donate to This organization allows individuals to make $25 loans to projects throughout the world that help individual lives and micro-businesses. I have been thinking about ways to make this type of lending a possibility on the local level with families in my school community gaining from these loans. I haven't figured out the variables or the organization, but I would love some thoughts about making this happen. In the mean time, I found this organization, They are working to make college a reality for low-income students. This seems like an awesome program, and I am making my first donation today. Check it out, and begin the joy of giving through microlending.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hitting the Target, Missing the Point

For the past decade, middle schools throughout the nation have been working diligently to hit the targets set by national and state guidelines for academic achievement. These new targets helped focus attention on the need to get all students' achieving at a high level, but the laser-like focus on the target numbers have led many middle schools to miss the point. The point being that learning in a 21st century environment requires learners that have proficiency in literacy and numeracy, but also have a set of essential skills like information literacy, strong sense of community, and an ability to work with others at a high level. Many schools have struggled to be nimble in this changing landscape, and many have been lulled into believing that their excellent test scores are the only important target. They are missing the point.

The point...the focus...the metaphor for learning at the Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School is School as an Expedition. This means taking students beyond the school walls throughout the year for community-embedded learning. Our expectations for these expeditions go beyond the typical field trip. We use these experiences to build background and create a shared or interdisciplinary study. In each shared study, a complex concept is investigated from multiple perspectives creating an integrated learning experience. One teacher commented on the expeditionary experiences by saying, "when we leave the school building it’s as though the school layer comes off. Students see teachers in a different light. We become more human and in some ways more vulnerable. This helps build relationships—which is perhaps the most critical part of what we do with teenagers."

The capstone expedition for our seventh graders is a trip to the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont. At Tremont, there is an opportunity for our students to learn more about their environment, its importance, and the delicate balance between humans and nature. Experiences for students include a salamander hunt, an eight mile hike, a trip to the summit of the mountain, and literary readings that help connect students with the natural world.

For our eighth graders, the final expedition takes them to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama where they are introduced to estuaries and their importance to marine ecosystems. Students measure the salinity of the water at the beach, take water temperature readings, and measure wave crests and wind speed. Working side-by-side with scientists at the Sea Lab, students identify a variety of marine organisms collected to prepare for their trip on the lab's research boat where they assess different physical parameters of the ocean. Next door to the marine lab is Fort Gaines, where the students spend time learning about the history of the area and the importance of the fort to Mobile Bay.

Not only do these week-long expeditions provide a depth in understanding cross-curricular concepts, they also foster a keen sense of love for surroundings. By embracing our students' desire to learn on these topics, we continue to grow our sustainability programming throughout the middle school. Our guiding principles are very close in nature to the work of the Center for Ecoliteracy and their framework for schooling known as Smart by Nature™. Smart by Nature™ is based on four guiding principles. Nature is our teacher. Sustainability is a community practice. The real world is the optimal learning environment. Sustainable living is rooted in a deep knowledge of place. Further influence on this focus comes from The Caldwell Collaborative, an organization focusing on sustainability education and school design. They outline the essential knowledge, skills, and values of sustainability including: ecological knowledge, the ability to think systemically, the ability to think critically and to solve problems creatively, the ability to assess the impact of human actions and decisions, and the ability to envision long term consequences.

Looking for a set of techniques that would complement the expeditions and learning surrounding sustainability, MRH middle school has committed to using cooperative learning structures throughout the school day. At its best, our cooperative learning allows for purposefully developed teams, containing students of different levels of ability, to use a variety of learning activities to improve understanding of a subject. Teachers continue to build their proficiency in using these structures, but great moments of learning have already come from using structures like: think-pair-share, round robin brainstorming, three-minute review, numbered heads together, team pair solo, and circle the sage. These structures ensure that each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught, but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. We have seen increases student retention, enhanced student satisfaction with their learning experience, greater development of oral communication skills, growth in students' social skills, and better harmony in our race relations.

Our efforts with cooperative learning are buoyed by our knowledge that twenty-first century learning requires a new way of cooperation that isn't bound by classroom walls or national boundaries. Global classroom collaboration continues to grow and grow, and can be seen through use of Web 2.0 tools like Twitter, Skype, and projects like the Flat Classroom Project. Our staff truly understands that, though many jobs are increasingly isolating people behind computer screens, the best careers and leadership positions will require a keen sense for cooperation and its more mature relatives; systems thinking and collaborative leadership.

Both expeditionary learning and cooperative learning have been essential elements for our "screenagers" as it has provided them the foundation, experiences, and intangibles needed to dive into our digital world. Our true success though has been coupling these forms of learning with our dedication to providing a 1:1 laptop environment for our students. Having this level of technology available has moved the Internet, Web 2.0 tools and a variety of learning software into the heart of the classroom. Project Headware, as we have called it, has sent a clear message to students that we want you interacting with the possibilities of our global society as often as possible. This has meant having student learn by using digital tools like Voicethread, IMovie, Garageband, and Animoto. It has also meant teaching a high level of information literacy including how to search for information, use our suite of Google educational tools, deal with the pressure of cyberbullying, and demonstrate the etiquette of using social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube.

The greatest outcome from this mix of opportunities has been the passion for learning shown by students. Students are excited about the possibilities included in their middle school experience. The students know that they are going to have an opportunity to experience new places and ideas during their time in our building, and they know that there will be no opportunity gap in the area of technology.

The students of today are truly locked into the realm of computer, television, and smart phones, but this doesn't mean that the experiences of learning about how to sustain our land, our rights, and our form of government coupled with our work of gleaning wisdom from our follow thinkers aren't essential. On the contrary, the essential nature of these areas are growing because to truly hit the target and nail the point of our duty as educators, we must insert these bigger ideas into today's technology rich environment.