Monday, November 7, 2011

Reflections


I am entering the 12th week of my new job as an associate principal. My world has changed drastically in the last 12 weeks. For one, I have not written anything besides email after email in that period. I have been absent as a contributor to the blogosphere. From time to time I have read the works of George Couros and Chris Wejr to help me stay grounded as I experience something new every minute of my day. My days as a teacher used to be more prescribed with flashes of the unexpected. Now my days are continual flashes of the unexpected. I move from meeting to meeting, classroom to classroom, and student to student while continually working to ensure success for everyone in my building. I spoke with the other principal in my building for over an hour on Friday reflecting upon the first quarter of our school year, and where we go from here. During my 35-minute commute, I turned the radio off and thought about my journey and what I have learned over the past 11 weeks. 

1. Stay calm
It is easy to get excited, antsy, upset, and frustrated, but in a position of leadership, stay calm. You will make better decisions nine times out of ten when you let the dust settle and gather the facts instead of reacting to the situation at hand. 

2. Kids are the driving force of a school
I knew this as a teacher, and I see it even more clearly as a principal. We all work in schools because we love kids, but to see the entire student body and not just your classroom is something special. To see the energy that kids exude daily as they learn and grow is powerful. 

3. Relationships
I have used the term countless times, and heard it used over and over again when people talk about schools. Everyone is right; RELATIONSHIPS are the foundation upon which schools are built. If you do not have trusted, positive, and respectful relationships with your staff, students, and parents, your school will exhibit a negative climate instead of a positive climate. Relationships are not about hoping or making sure everyone likes you. They are about making decisions based on what is right, not popular. They are about crucial conversations that will help your school grow. 

4. SMILE
A smile goes a long way. Whether it is with a kid, a coworker, or a parent, we all need to smile more often. Helping each other and being supportive of individual needs creates an environment of caring. When people care for each other, they smile. Smiles breed positivity.

Have I been perfect in my first 11 weeks? Will I ever be perfect? The answer to those two questions is obviously NO. I can only continue to push my thinking and learn from my fellow administrators, teachers, students, and PLN to make sure I grow to help support the growth of my school. I need to continually remind myself of that the four themes I outlined here will help me be a better principal everyday. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How Social Media Has Changed My Life-Good & Bad

Yesterday I tweeted, "I'm done with Facebook." What I meant is I'm done posting information, commenting on status, and liking different organizations or friends. Why? Because, it is tiresome and silly the amount of time I spend on Facebook. I have neglected my twitter account, where I learn minute by minute from the people that are part of my network. Facebook will served as a glorifies Flckr account for pictures, and self promotion of my blog and family/friend pictures.

I have submerged myself in social media for the past three years. I have been actively tweeting for three years, publishing a blog for over six months, Facebooking for nine months, and following and commenting on many blogs in my RSS feed for over a year. All of these endeavors have helped me personally and professionally grow, reflect, and improve. I am very grateful to social media for the opportunities it has allowed me.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I have somewhat given up Facebook. It became more of a chore, than a learning experience. It seemed like drill and kill worksheets. I felt obligated to comment on status of friends and family without truly reading and internalizing what they were saying or sharing.

When does social media become overwhelming? I had a conversation with my principal today about filtering and how one can filter social media so that they do not become overwhelmed by it. I wish I had an answer. I told Jay that I think the best answer I can give him is to not think you have to do everything. You cannot live by the method of every article must be read, every tweet replied to, or you will be turned off immediately. Like everything in life, education, religion, politics, you name it, there must be balance.

Social media has helped me better understand those that I don't agree with, as well as help reinforce the relationships I have created over time. The question I posed to myself last night was, where do I go from here? FORWARD.

I am always looking for new and improved ways to build upon my knowledge base and keep myself motivated to be better. I might have outgrown Facebook, but new possibilities are always available. Google+ looks like it is the latest and greatest. I will give it its due justice, just like Facebook. Only time will tell how I figure out how it fits my needs as a constant learner.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rest

So I haven't been very active in the blogosphere as an author over the past month. I have had bloggers block. I started about 10 different posts, but never published any of them. I didn't like them, I didn't think they had the substance they needed to be worthy to be read by my readers and friends. I took sometime off to rest.

We all need rest. Many of the sports teams and athletes I follow take time off after their season has ended to reenergize, refocus, and set new goals to be better the next season. You can say in away I have done the same as a teacher and person. I still followed my twitter friends, and Facebook friends, read through my RSS feed everyday, but I was not active. I did not have voice.

Now that the rest time is over for me, it is time to get back in the game. It is time to be a player, not a watcher. As I prepare to teach a new grade, work for a new Superintendent, and be a part of a new grade level team, silence is not going to work. Sitting back and being a fly on the wall will not help me or my students. Consider my rest time over.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Goodbye Friend

Day 24 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.  ~Garrison Keillor

My boss, colleague, mentor, and most importantly, friend is retiring. Tomorrow is Mark Flynn's last day as Superintendant of the Merton Community School District. I am saddened by his retirement, but at the same time happy for him that he is moving onto the next chapter in his life.

Mark has been an inspiration to me throughout my eight years in education. When I was a student teacher at Merton, I never thought he would touch my life like he has. He has a knack of making everyone feel welcome, while still challenging them to be better every day. From day one as a student teacher, I understood that Mark is a big picture guy who moves people into the right place to solve problems. As a leader, he understands each individual’s talents, and sets them up for success.

I applied for a job with Merton soon after I finished my student teaching. I came in second to a more experienced teacher for the position. Merton and Mark could have given up on me. Mark called me at home and told me he had just put a good word in for me at a neighboring district and thought I would be a good fit. Fortunately for me, Merton had another opening pop up a week later and I was hired. It is not often a Superintendant calls a college kid at home to tell him about a job.

Over the past eight years, Mark has challenged, pushed, and put me in leadership positions as a teacher. He has instilled confidence in me and put his faith into my teaching practices and efforts to make Merton a relevant school in the 21st Century.

A couple of years ago when I was going through a rough spot in my personal life, Mark was supportive and told me he would help me. He did. I will  be forever grateful for his willingness to just listen to me vent, speak, or give the advice I needed.

Mark Flynn, thank you. That is all I can say. Your imprint on my life will be everlasting!

Friday, June 3, 2011

But My Son Will Have To Take The ACT!

Day 23 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

This week I had a conversation with a parent who made the statement, "But my son will have to take the ACT someday."

Yes, she is right, her son will. However, should his entire educational career be based on the ACT? I asked this question in return, and the mother of my student was speechless. I then asked her if she wanted me to stop the innovation and creativity that her son has been infused with, and focus on a two hour Saturday morning test. She smiled and laughed. I did the same and asked, "Why are you hung up on two hours of your sons life?" No answer.

I get it. Parents want their children to be the next best thing. They want their child to be better than they were or are. They want their child to have what they didn't. They want heir child to be the best. Why do they focus on a test? Shouldn't they focus on the entire process?

The student I'm talking about is the brightest in my class. I have referenced him in previous blog posts. I have no doubt he will ace the ACT. He needs creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication in order for him to not become bored with school, and build upon the world he lives in.

How do we as educators help parents get past standardization and embrace the world their children live in? I struggle with this. The conversations I have with parents always fall back to their experiences in school. They have a hard time understanding the now. I ask them if their was Facebook, Skype, twitter, etc when they were children? NO! Then I respond, why do you want to take that away? Imagine your day to day without email or the Internet. Is it possible to function? Silence.

I continue to educate the parents of my students about the world we live in. They need it more than my students do.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Celebration Day

Day 23 of 30 Day Blog Challenge

Tomorrow is Merton's Celebration Day. What is Celebration Day? For the past three years we have held an afternoon of games and fun to celebrate all the great things that have happened in the past year at Merton. No one really names specific things we are celebrating, but we still celebrate our successes.

I thought for a moment about this post today, and I reflected on what I want to celebrate tomorrow. Below are my four reasons to celebrate.

1. Overcoming adversity-This past year my district has taken on some pretty heavy barriers as we strive to become a relevant school in the 21st Century. Article 1. Article 2. My colleagues and I who were passionate about change and creating a learning experience for our students did not back down. We fought through adversity and criticism to have one of the most successful years in my eight years of teaching at Merton.

2. PLN-This year Lisa Morowski and I successfully implemented monthly PLN meetings face to face with teachers and administrators from our district. We helped fellow teachers learn and create through social media for themselves and their students.

3. Van Meter/Merton Connection-This year was a great year for Merton and Van Meter. We built a relationship between our two districts via Skype, blogs, twitter, and face to face visits. Shannon Miller came to visit Merton in mid March, and I had the chance to visit Van Meter at the end of April. Both visits solidified a long lasting relationship.

4. Kids-This year my students went beyond what I could have ever hoped for. They soared to new heights socially and academically. Last night I had my last student led conference with a student that just moved into our district this year. After a 45 minute conference led by himself, he concluded with this, "Mom, Dad, I am so happy we moved to Merton. I had opportunities this year that I never would have had at my old school. I felt challenged everyday. Thank you."
JACKPOT!

As the school year winds down for many of us, think to yourself what you want to celebrate. It is often easy to look at what went wrong and dwell on it. Instead of doing that, take the time to look at what your triumphs were over this past year. What do you want to celebrate?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Apology

Day 22 of 30 Day Blog Challenge

Yesterday I was emailed an apology for a comment that a parent made in my local newspaper about our school district. I responded with a thank you and a challenge to right the wrong with another letter to the editor to make a public apology. I am hopeful that this parent will follow through with my request.

As internalized the email I was sent and my response to the email, I thought about what an apology is and what it truly should be. Apologies are a dime a dozen. Often people apologize without even understanding what they are sorry for. To me, an apology consists of three parts:

1. The action of apologizing and admitting you were wrong
2. Making a promise that you will try to refrain from committing the action again
3. Asking the party you are apologizing to how you can make it up to them

We teach kids to be responsible for their actions. The same should be true of adults. Whether you are a teacher, principal, or parent, we must follow through with our promises to each other and be accountable for our actions, no matter the consequence. Preaching beliefs and living beliefs are two different concepts.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Portfolio

Day 21 of 30 Day Blog Challenge

So for the past 12 days I have neglected my blog and my blog challenge. I can make excuses, or I can fix the problem. I will fix the problem. I have been a slacker, and it is time to move forward.

Tonight I had a student share her 5/6 portfolio with her parents, sister, and myself. Click here to see Gabby's portfolio. After her 45 minute presentation about her growth over the past two years as a student, her father said, "Wow, I wish I had people that I am hiring doing things like this."

YES! Gabby's father continued to share with me how he is in the process of hiring a new banker at his bank, but all he has to go off is a paper resume and some references. I told him that he and his partners better change their hiring practices or they will become irrelevant. He agreed. He asked why kids aren't keeping portfolios like Gabby's from early on, and beyond college?

I explained to Gabby's father that we need to help kids create the first steps of their digital foot print, and what a great way to kick it off! Watching my students compose and create their websites over the past three weeks has been amazing for me as a teacher. I have seen all four C's along the process. Please check out some of my other students work over the past two years.

http://dvonsportfolio.weebly.com/

http://sarah5th6thgradeportfolio.weebly.com/index.html

http://bens5th6thgradeportfolio.weebly.com/

http://noahsportfolio5th6th.weebly.com/

http://suzys5th6thgradeportfolio.weebly.com/index.html

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Conversation

Day 20 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

How often do you truly have conversation with your students or kids? We might talk about school, or we talk about curriculum topics. This morning I spent the first 15 minutes of math discussing family vacations. I asked my kids what they were doing this summer. I wanted to know where and what they were doing. Many could not wait to share the trips their families have planned. After talking about our summer plans, I asked this question, "What did you get for number one?" Silence.

Too often we get wrapped up in the curriculum, three R's, standardized tests, etc in education and we forget the part I think is the most important, social growth. Here is a question for all of you to ponder; have you ever met a person who is brilliant, but can't hold a two minute conversation with a living being? I have. I often start the day by asking my students what they had for dinner last night. We have an open dialogue about non school topics. I see how these conversations overlap into our school related conversations. The students find their voice and are more confident to talk about school related topics after they have spoken with the class about topics they are experts on.

Take the time to talk to kids about what they want to talk about. Too often adults steer the conversations. Let the children be the leaders. You will probably learn something in the process. I do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Confrontation

Day 19 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

When is it right or a must to call out the elephant in the room? Meetings are a place to make things happen and celebrate success. Too often I sit in meetings and no one, (including myself) is willing to say what is on their mind for fear that they will upset the apple cart. I sit in unproductive meetings more and more. We decide not to talk about the major issues that may cause distress and argument, and instead talk about such minuet topics in order to keep everyone happy. Sunday I read this blog (click here).

The takeaway point for me was: "Start with the bad stuff, give room for creative tension, and make something happen." I truly feel that as educators we side step the confrontational topics, points, and instances so that we do not hurt each other's feelings. Confrontation is not always bad. At times, confrontation can get to the root of the problem. It allows for all parties to represent their true voice and make changes for the better.

So how do we change this status quo approach? I believe there are two ways. First, speak your voice and do not fear the repercussions. Stay true to your beliefs and try and be strong with your words, but most importantly with your actions. The second would be to listen to your peers. Actively listen to their message. Internalize their words and apply it to your practice. After you have experienced what a coworker is talking about, then you can cast your opinions or beliefs upon them. Too often people say or preach that someone is wrong in their practice or action, and they have not even experienced or witnessed what they are talking about. You need to live your opinions before you can form them.

Confrontation can be an opportunity for growth, it is just how you go about it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reaching Out

Day 18 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

When was the last time you reached out to someone? A friend, a family member, a parent, a student, when was the last time? I will be reaching out more than I ever have over the next year as a teacher. I will be teaching fourth grade next year. I have taught fifth and sixth grade for all eight years of my career. Next year will be a different scene for me. I will have four new team members. I reached out to them today. I sent them an email to explain to them how excited I am to be a member of their team and I am looking forward to a new journey with them. Over the course of the next school year, I will need their help with my transition to a new grade level. I only hope that they reach out to me to help them in areas of need.

Reaching out to people is essential for growth as a leader. Do people always grab that hand and accept your help? No. Is that a reason not to reach out? No. There have been many people I have reached out to professionally over the past eight years. Not everyone accepts my offers, and I have learned over time not to take it personal. People are not always going to respond to my offers. That is ok. By continually thinking of other professionals when an idea or new concept comes to me, I am showing the intended person that I do care about them and their growth as a professional. Next time you think a colleague won't respond to your ideas or initiatives, reach out to them anyway.

You can't over extend help and caring for another person's well being. Reach out and help people see their potential, that is the sign of a true leader.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coffee On The Paper


Day 17 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:
I woke up this morning, had a cup of Jet Fuel Coffee, walked out to the mailbox, grabbed my copy of the New York Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Today's Journal Sentinel held my beliefs true. I read the following article, "Walk-throughs give school administrators firsthand view of staff in action." I almost spit my coffee out. What a joke! Please read this article before you read the rest of this blog. 
Ten minutes out of an entire school year reflects that you are in tune with district initiates as a teacher? Gross. I sat with friends from the private sector Friday night in my basement. They argued that the current system of education fell upon the teachers in this state not working to their potential. I understood their argument, but at the same time brought up three factors that they had never thought of. The first being parents. Where are our parents today in the current education landscape? How do they affect their child's future? Where are the administrators? Shouldn't these highly paid leaders be present and holding staff accountable on a daily basis? If 10 minutes of your time is all that is allowed for observation of a classroom, I see the fundamental flaw in public education. We expect administrators to make changes, yet according to this article, they only need 10 minutes a year to understand what is going on in a district, without giving feedback about what was observed.  As a teacher, do I need only 10 minutes to understand what is going on with my students? This is an outrage to me. As an aspiring administrator, I am appalled that someone would subject themselves to an article like this. Look at it in reality, this is not how the world functions. this is like saying the WKCE tests are a true indicator of student success. The third point being, where are the elected officials? Where is the school board? Why are they not holding the administrators, teachers, and parents accountable?
I have been observed as a educator once in eight years. The choice to be observed was by my own admission. This is what is wrong with schools. The teachers are not the root of all evil. School boards and administrators allow incompetence to happen just as much as teachers. I have seen many disservices to kids over the past eight years. I have voiced concern with the issues, yet it goes no where. As I argued with my friend who works in the private sector as a finanical planner, the problem is not only the teachers or union, the problem is elected school board members and administrators who decide to do nothing about the problem. 
The point of this blog is not to cast blame, but to open the eyes of those who think that teachers are worthless and the reason our state and schools are struggling. Lets look beyond the classroom and look at those who truly make the policy and decision as to how schools run. When we stop casting blame, and decide to work together, maybe we will progress. Untill then, we will continue to blame.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Creativity, Do We Allow It In Schools?

Day 16 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

I watch the Disney television show Phineas and Ferb now and again. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you watch an episode or two. This children's television show screams creativity. It promotes pursuing your passions in a creative manner. This animated series involves two brothers, Phineas and Ferb, and their daily adventures during summer vacation. I find it quite ironic that the two boys explore their passions in the summer, and not during the school year. Actually, it does not surprise me.

Why do we make kids color within the lines? I am as guilty as any teacher or parent when it comes to this rule we have established. Creativity is finding your voice artistically. Who am I to say that because you color outside of the lines, you should be downgraded? Really? We set the precedence at an early age with kids that they must conform to specific guidelines when it comes to expressing creativity. By taking away a child's self expression and interpretation of themselves, are we creating robots?

The most annoying thing my students say I do is respond to their questions with a standard response, "I don't know?" I respond to them this way because they know the answer. They just haven't found it yet. Kids ask me all the time how they should present a project, or how a project should look. This bothers me. They are not expressing themselves if I am the one who is curbing their creativity. I can create or show an example of how I want something to look for my students. Guess what? All 26 projects submitted to me look, feel, and sound the same. When guidelines are lifted, the end results are magnificent. The learning is then extended. Kids start asking each other questions like: Wow, how did you do that? Can you show me how to do that? Instances like these allow for creativity in school.

This school year my students have embraced blogging. I truly believe it is because I allow them to write about whatever they want. I do assign topics for blogs from time to time based on class discussion, but the format allows for each individual to creatively express their thoughts and beliefs. The writing that has taken place this past year is by far the most creative and in-depth I have seen over the past eight years. The grammar and structure of the writing is the best I have seen. I asked my class last week why their writing is so much better this year than it was last year. Their overwhelming response, "You let us write about what we want to write about."

Creativity in school should not be limited to art projects. It should be allowed to flourish in all subjects. Creativity is essential for student engagement, and success in the 21st Century. So in the words of Phineas and Ferb, "I know what we are going to do today!"

So do your students, let them be creative.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Decision Making

Day 15 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:
Making a decision is either a difficult task or easy task for a person, depending upon their personality, and confidence level. For me, I need to think about something for awhile, before I go ahead and make up my mind on how to proceed. Friends and family of mine are the opposite. They make snap decisions without thinking through the ramifications of that decision. Are either methods right? I'm not sure.
When school leaders and policy makers have to make decisions, I often wonder where they are coming from. Is a school board member’s decision on a tax levy increase in the interest of the students of that particular district, or is in the interest of the taxpayer and their tax burden? That is a hard decision, and one that should be looked at from both sides. When an administrator decides to move a teacher from one grade level team to another, are they making the decision based on adult need or student need? When a teacher decides to allow a student to progress to the next grade level when it is clear they should not, but allow them to because it might make the teacher look bad, or upset the parent, is this right?
Decisions are made throughout the day in everyone’s lives. I feel that a good decision maker in a school setting is someone who:
  1. Looks at all sides of a story, policy, scenario
  2. Gets input from stake holders
  3. Ultimately makes the decision based on what is best for kids
By making decisions in education based on these three components, decision makers will make decisions that are difficult, and unpopular, but the end result will lead to a better learning experience for children. Is that not the ultimate goal of education?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Invitations

Day 15 of 30 Day Blog Post:

Ok PLN, what do you do when you extend an invitation and no one responds? Today I took part in a building level presentation. I shared my journey as an innovative educator for the last year, and I invited the staff to join me. No responses as of yet. I might be writing this blog premature, and people will come out of the woodwork eventually. I am being optimistic.

When does the role of a teacher trying to help a district move forward become the role of the administrator to make it happen? I am an aspiring administrator. I have applied for over 12 positions this Spring. I have interviewed, and I get the common response, " Not enough experience." What does that mean? Experience not moving people forward, and continuing the status quo?

I am tired of trying to help people see their potential, and being vilified because I am a cohort, and not their superior making it happen. When will the world of education from top down make a difference? Teachers hold their students accountable daily, why don't school boards hold administrators accountable, and administrators hold their teachers accountable? In my opinion, this is why education does not move forward.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Standardization or Innovation?

Day 14 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

"Standardization is the antithesis of innovation." This was a quote I came across Monday as I was following the #140confdm on twitter. This quote stood out to me Monday afternoon. Little did I know that it would be the basis for the school board meeting I attended that evening?

From my post yesterday, I talked about a presentation my Vertical Project Based Learning Team did for our school board. The highlights of the presentation touched upon student and teacher communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The team is the opposite of standardization. The artifacts of student work and exploration from over the past 10 months screamed different, innovative, real life, true learning! I had a feeling of true accomplishment and success for both my students and team.

After some discussion, our curriculum director gave a presentation on the districts performance on the WKCE test administered each fall in public school districts around the state. My following reflections and thoughts are not aimed toward our curriculum director in any way. It is his job to report the districts progress and outcomes as far as testing takes place. What I am going to share reflects my own opinions and beliefs about standardized testing and standardized basic curriculum.

My district does well, really well on standardized testing. We are one of the top districts in the state. What does that mean? To teachers and students it doesn’t mean much. Teachers know and understand that it is a snapshot of one day in a child's life. I have a hard time sitting through a presentation that highlights how well our district does on this test, after a presentation was just completed on innovation and creativity. Why does the general public put so much emphasis and credence into standardized test? Why do they work to push away innovation?

I don't care if you are conservative or liberal; the most successful people in this country’s history have been innovators. They didn't continue to do the same thing over and over again with the belief that the end result would change. From Henry Ford to Steve Jobs, they continually reinvented themselves and their product so that it was relevant to the era they lived in. Why in education do we continually fall back on the "basics"? Where has it gotten us as a country in the world of education? With continued support by elected officials from both parties, we are being told as school districts to teach to the test even more. We have high scores, but we have kids who are becoming google machines. They are full of dates, times, and other facts that can be found within the matter of minutes on a basic google search. Wouldn't you rather have a child be a problem solver and connected to the world they live in that can be the next Steve Jobs? Don't you want a child that can communicate with all types of people and creatively produce a product for their world? Teaching to the test, and delivering curriculum as the all knowing giver of knowledge is not the path to helping today's generation build for their future.

I am fortunate to have the support of my fellow teachers, administration, and a number of school board members when it comes to these beliefs. Most importantly, I have the support of my students. They care about school and they are always pushing my thoughts and actions. They are the true innovators.

Voice

Day 13 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

Voice-personality, flare, style, who you are. All people have a voice. Some people have stronger voices than others. Some struggle to have their voice heard, others speak too much, and their voice is distorted with misinformation, grey facts, or personal gain. A person's voice is a good indicator of who they really are. Sharing your voice in an educational setting is essential to maintaining transparency and growth.

Tonight a group of teachers that I have worked closely with for the past 10 months presented to our school board about 21st Century Learning and Project Based Learning. We shared our voice as a team and our students voices about the journey we have been a part of this past school year. Our voices portrayed who we really are as educators, our flare for innovation, style, and personalities. I was very proud of my team tonight. I can honestly say, we share a voice, a voice of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. 

I spoke on three other topics at our school board meeting tonight. It got me to thinking, can you have too much voice? Why am I speaking this much at a school board meeting? I am only a teacher in the district, should I step back and assess this situation? Can you be involved too much? 

I find myself signing up, campaigning, and volunteering for committees, workgroups, presentations, etc in my district. I see the potential that is available for growth and prosperity, and I cannot let it pass me by. I want to be apart of it, and I believe I have a lot to offer to the process. Does my voice mean less the more I am involved, or does it create a stronger voice? 

Sometimes I feel like I need to step back from the roles I play in my district. Is my voice being heard, or have I become one of those people I mentioned earlier in this post?

 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thanks Mom

Day 12 of 30 Day Blog Challenge

Thanks Mom. Today and everyday for the past 31 years you have guided me to push beyond my limits. I have not agreed with you 100% of the time, but that is why I have become the person I am today. You are the ultimate teacher. You have instilled in me a sense of determination and relentless pursuit of the ultimate goal.

As I look at myself as a teacher, I think of the lessons you have taught me throughout my life. Without these lessons, where and who would I be? A college degree and masters cannot replace the who you have made me. Thanks mom, you are a true teacher.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Change

Day 11 of 30 Day Blog Challenge: A Short One

As I get close to wrapping up another fabulous school year, I have recently been internalizing change. Change is a hard concept for everyone to encompass. Change can range from new shoes to  a new life. How do we help people understand change? As I finish a school year with my kids I have had for two years, I get emotional. Yes, I do! After forging a relationship with them for two years, I worry about their movement to a new grade level and life. They will be successful, and I need to let my students leave the nest. Hopefully, I have instilled a voice and passion in them to be leaders, and stand up to the status quo.

Change to me is a fundamental principal in life. In order to grow as a person you need to embrace change. People I know that do not embrace change have become stagnant, irrelevant, and part of the problem. My challenge to all of you is, stop the excuses and embrace change by being a positive factor in the process.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Get Out Of The Way Mr. Reuter

Day 10 of 30 Day Blog Challenge

Today Sarah Kasprowicz, a fellow 6th grade teacher and I introduced weebly to our kids. We are attempting to have our kids create their own websites to show their growth over the past two years of looping with the two of us. We each did a mini lesson on what a portfolio encompasses, and how to set up a weebly webpage. Guess what? We got in the kid's way!

Sarah helped the students brainstorm ideas and concepts that could fall under their five tabs on their website: Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Media, and Information Fluency. I helped the students with the mechanics of creating a webpage and digital etiquette of sustaining a webpage. About five minutes into the lesson, I realized I was irrelevant. I had two girls who knew much more than I do about creating a webpage, and they took over the class. I let them guide the lesson, and I became their assistant. Jessica and Taylor created a learning environment that flourished via a student led forum.

After about a half hour, and feeling like the outsider, I sat back and smiled. Wow, my job is great. I got to learn with and from my students. My classroom today was a true 21st Century Classroom. Thank you Taylor and Jessica for taking the bull by the horns and pushing me out of the way. You were the experts today!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Excuses

Day 9 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:

My high school football coach use to say to my team, "Excuse are like (insert 8 letter word), everyone has one!" He was and is right. Why do we spend so much time coming up with reasons we CAN'T do something, instead of coming up with reason WHY we can do something? 

In my opinion we spend too much energy on ways we can get out of a task or requirement. We exert so much effort to derail or avoid situations that might be scary or unstable. If that energy was used to find solutions to problems, or create an environment of positive thinking and actions, could you imagine the never ending success each of us would have?

In an earlier blog post, I talked about new socks and how you need to replace the old with the new. Excuses play a similar role in education. Educators look to cover their fears with excuses in order to buy time and hope people pressuring them will go away. Excuses are stall tactics and need to be eliminated in order to grow as a professional, school, and community. 

My friend and colleague, Lisa Morowski, has created a google doc that is entitled, Instead Of. In this doc she has created opportunities for educators to suppress their excuses with viable solutions for success and student engagement. You have to give a person like Lisa credit. She created a "I'm not taking no for an answer" guide book. We need more educators like her. People who are willing to stand up to excuses and face them head on to help people change their tune from reasons they CAN'T to reasons they CAN. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Communication=Relationships

Day 8 of 30 Day Blog Challenge:
What form of communication do you prefer? Face to face, phone, text, tweet, wiki, blog, email, Facebook, Blackberry Messenger, other? Seriously, there are so many forms of communication available to people today, yet communication seems to be a never ending battle to find the perfect solution for all parties. 
I have been trying this past school year to be a better communicator to my students, parents, coworkers, and the general public. I find all of these avenues of communication exhausting. I could use all of the aforementioned means of communication, and they might not be enough to reach all parties. What is the key to communication? Is it the form you use, or is it to be consistent in your methods and build a relationship with the party you are communicating with?
I have seen people I work with try every form of communication and continually fail at it. There is something always missing with these people when they try to communicate, they haven’t created a positive relationship with the other party. Is part of effective communication the building of a relationship first? 
Do we purposely tune out the other party if we do not trust, like, or respect them? I see this daily. People who do not respect each other tune out important information, and then say they never knew about what is going on. We have all experienced this with friends and loved ones. When we fight or argue, the line of communication is broken, and the parties have no idea what they are in disagreement about. 
To me, positive communication starts with positive relationships. Respect and trust play hand in hand with creating an environment of two way communication that is beneficial to all. If you want people to listen to your message, beliefs, or information, gain their trust and confidence, and they will reciprocate. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teachable Moment via Bin Laden

Day 7 of 30 Day Blog Challenge
I started back at school Monday after a refreshing Spring Break. What a great day to start back. After President Obama’s speech Sunday night about the death of Osama Bin Laden, I knew I had to scrap everything I was doing in class Monday, and discuss and reflect on this teachable moment. I gathered resources via my twitter feeds and put together a few ideas. Many of my students filled the classroom with chatter about what they had heard from their parents or what they had seen that morning on the local news. A group of kids asked me if I had seen any of President Obama’s speech, or the video footage of Bin Laden’s compound. We discussed the various findings all of us had encountered within the last 12 hours and further investigated via the internet. We found video clips from different media outlets, interactive timelines of Bin Laden’s life, and numerous articles.
Here is what my students gathered from the information they collected.
1.       They were glad he was killed and that some justice has been brought to all of his victims.
2.       A few of them right away questioned the legitimacy of his death and asked why his body was buried at sea. Conspiricay?
3.       What will happen next? Will there be a terrorist attack on the U.S. because of this?
These are pretty interesting reflections for kids who were only two years old when the horrific events of September 11th occurred. I am happy that I spent time on this historical day, and let my students share their thoughts, insights, and beliefs. As a culmination to our discussion, the kids’ blogged about Bin Laden and what they thought of his death.
Sometimes lesson plans need to be scrapped for matters that are more important, and relevant to the lives of students. The path of learning is not a straight line of dates, numbers, and grammar rules. Learning is the variable of which the world offers you. I can honestly say my students learned more today from the events that took place Sunday night, than if we would have discussed compound predicates and the medieval social class.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Max, This One Is For You

Day 5 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge:

My buddy Max has been both a support system and a forum for argument over the last six months. Max is the Vice President of Ogden Development, in Neenah, WI. He has a conservative approach to life, and I appreciate it. Over the course of the past six months we have debated intensively about the economy, politics, and public education. There have been times when I completely disagree with him on certain topics (public education being one), but I respect his stance as a person working in the private sector. His family business is very prosperous and he has had a hand in that success. Max is always one of the first people to read my blog, and either call or text me about it. He gives me honest and fair feedback that I can internalize as I strive to be better.

Surrounding yourself as a professional with a variety of mindsets is important for growth. I have friends and coworkers that are like minded and we often have conversations that build upon our success. Seeing and hearing perspectives that are different than mine help keep me in the loop as to what the world outside of education is like and how I can build relationships with parents and community to create the common goal of success. Thank you Max for always pushing the envelope with me and being the prod in my side to make me reflect, so that I make the right decisions for my students. We don't always see eye to eye, but that is what keeps our friendship strong.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

28.5

Day 4 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge:

There are twenty eight and a half days of school left for my district as of tomorrow. Where did the school year go? It has been a very interesting year to say the least. It has been a year of turbulence at my school, but through the ups and downs, I have stayed true to my vision of what education should be for my students. This year has been a year of self directed, real word application, investigation, creativity, and voice for my students. It has been a year of finding my voice with administration, teachers, students, and community to ensure that we are moving forward, and not reverting to the safety of what we have always done.

Growth includes frustrations as well as celebrations. This year I have had my fair share of frustrations. I have experienced outlash from the community over new teaching practices and theory. I have felt push back from students who are regurgitating dinner table conversation. Frustrations have occurred from lack of urgency and follow through with coworkers who hope school stays the way it always has because it is safe that way. I have been frustrated financially as the state of Wisconsin has turned their back on the public sector and vilified teachers as the cause of financial strife in the state. These are frustrations, but they cannot hold me back from my vision and continued push to make education what it should be, relevant.

There have been many celebrations this year as well. I have a group of 26 kids for a second year. I have witnessed their growth both academically and socially since fifth grade. They no longer ask questions like, "How do I .....?" instead they come to me and say, "Mr. Reuter, I was thinking, we should investigate...." I can celebrate the fact that I have made so many connections globally. I have expanded my professional learning network two fold since this time last year. Daily, I have communications with some of the brightest minds in education, and I am grateful to all of these relationships I have forged.

So, 28.5 days left, so many days to still make a difference in my students, colleagues, and friends lives. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Digital Books, Way Better Than Print

Day 3 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge:
In this blog, I want to share something I stumbled upon. I thought it was cool, so I’m passing it along. 
Thursday I downloaded a new book to my iPad. No big deal. I have read a few books by Seth Godin and enjoyed them immensely. I decided to download Linchpin. After downloading the book in a matter of 30 seconds to my Kindle app, I thought to myself, “when will I ever buy a paper copy of a book again?” 
Of the last six books I’ve read, five have been digital. The one book I read that was a paper version did not come in the digital form. This will be the first book I read from my iPad. The previous five have been from my iPhone.
After reading the first chapter of Linchpin on my iPad, I tapped over to my TEDtalk app. The newest talk was about digital books. Interesting. The talk was titled, “A Next-Generation Digital Book” by Mike Matas. He shared the new book from Al Gore, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. This book has the newest technology available for an iPad to manipulate the book and its contents. Watch the demo to see for yourself: click here.
This got me thinking, if technology continues on this path with e-readers, which it will, do we see the end of print work altogether? I often debate with coworkers who think I am crazy because I read books from my iPhone or iPad versus a good old fashion book. They cannot understand how I can curl up on the couch and read from an electronic device. I understand their point, but I often respond with, how can you not? Whether I am reading fiction or non fiction, the kindle app allows me to highlight information within the book and add comments or thoughts, which I can access at my convenience through my Amazon account. I no longer have to take notes with a pen and paper, or write all over the page. I can instantly access the search menu on my iPad within the Kindle app and look up any confusing vocabulary or further explore a topic of interest within the story via the internet. The Go To option allows me to instantly move to the Table of Contents, an exact location in the book, Book Extras, or the coolest feature, Popular Highlights. Popular Highlights allows me to see what other Kindle users have highlighted and noted that they think is noteworthy. I forgot to mention, digital books are half the price. 
Try a digital book, it is worth your time. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Van Meter Visit

Day 2 of the 30 day Blog Challenge

Today I had the chance to spend time at Van Meter Schools. I started the day with Julie Gilbert walking through the front doors of Van Meter Secondary School. A few kids greeted us with smiles and hellos. We walked into the office and met 6-12 principal, Deron Durflinger. He greeted us and welcomed us to Van Meter. We made our way up tp the secondary library and met our friend, Shannon Miller.

Shannon was working with two sixth grade girls on a video contest. The winners of the contest receive an iPad2. The two sixth grade girls explained that they would be unable to each get an iPad, so they thought if they won, they should donate the iPad to the library, that way everyone could use it. This was the first of many examples we saw throughout they day of students respect and caring for their school environment.

We kicked off the morning with with a skype session between 5K and and Elaine Roberts. She did a read aloud via skype. The kids were so engaged. As soon as they walked into the library for class, they asked, "Are we skyping today?"

I got a chance to meet John Carver face to face. I have spoken with John in the past via twitter and skype over the past year. He was busy at work, and I thanked him for the opportunity to visit his school. He has created a school district that is one of respect and accountability. I told him how impressed I was with the students, teachers, and their friendliness to new people.

After spending time with 8th graders and high school kids in the library, we headed to a second grade classroom to watch Shannon teach a lesson about Tikatoc. The second graders were so excited to be using their iMacs to create stories about what they are passionate about.

We headed upstairs to hangout with 7th graders, and talk with Lorie Prouty and Stacey Peterson. They had their language arts kids creating newsletters about topics of their choice. Some kids were creating a google doc to collaborate with each other to create a newsletter as a group. They were not told to do this, they just decided this would be their best avenue for working together. Awesome collaboration!

We ended the day with a skype session between 7th grade kids and Hannah Brencher. Hannah was talking to a large group of girls about her organization, She's the First. It is a non profit organization to help girls in under privileged countries. The stories and message Hannah shared were powerful and moving.

My trip to Van Meter was both inspiring and reassuring. It inspired me to continue to push the envelope with my fellow educators, and help them see both their potential as well as their students' potential. It reminded me that I still have a lot of work to do, as well as my fellow colleagues. The visit reassured me that I am on the right path in making learning relevant for my kids. Connecting individuals and groups is the key to learning for both children and adults. No matter the discourse or storms that occur, continue to push forward and make a difference. Thank you Van Meter for allowing me the opportunity to see excellence.

I leave you with a quote painted on the wall of Shannon Miller's library:

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain."
Thank you for dancing Van Meter, you truly are an example of what is right in public education.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rejection No, Motivation Yes

Last week Wednesday, I had my first interview for a principalship. I got a call yesterday about the results of the interview. I'm not moving onto the second round. I was in the top eight, the top six moved onto the second round. My first reaction was anger. I was angry that I was not selected, I was angry that I would have to start the process all over in attaining my professional goal as a principal. After 15 minutes I got over it. I had to. The rejection of not being selected as a finalist for the job I have wanted for the past year hurt, but it has motivated me to continue on this journey and keep working towards my goals and dreams.

After letting the people in my life that I consider My Board of Directors know the news, I checked my RSS feed and got back to work.
I asked myself, "What can you do Chris? What do you need to do to get better, and be more prepared?"
I went to one of my favorite blogs for advice and inspiration, Connected Principals.

I read about how relationships need to come first in education, how handing over control to kids will build a learning path they can embrace and succeed beyond our beliefs. Both articles were inspiring and motivating to me to continue this journey as an educator. Did I feel rejected by the school district that didn't want me? Yes. Did they motivate me to be better and continue to grow as a person? Yes!

This is DAY 1 of a 30 Day blog challenge I am embarking upon. Thank you Julie Colque for challenging me to reflect and share with my PLN.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What We Can Learn From Aaron Rodgers

Ok, so I am still on cloud nine. My beloved Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV on Sunday. I still can't believe it. I sat for four hours on Sunday with a feeling that my insides were going to explode. Since I can remember, I have watched every Sunday during the Fall and Winter months watching, cheering, and rooting for the green and gold. For the second time in my lifetime, I have watched them capture the ultimate prize, the Vince Lombardi Trophy. This moment will be a special moment for me as a Packer fan and as a fan of teamwork and dedication to excellence. You see, this year the Packers endured injury after injury, and they persevered to be the best.

The leader of the Packers is Aaron Rodgers. He is their third year starter at quarterback, fifth year in the league. Aaron replaced a legend in Brett Favre at the quarterback position. Not once during his three years as a starter did Rodgers ever complain about his team, management, or the fans. He did his job, and he did it well. He guided the Packers to six consecutive victories to finish the season as NFL champs. He faced adversity in the biggest game of his career. Receivers literally dropped the ball when he delivered it right on the spot to them. Rick Reilly wrote on Monday that Rodgers showed, "Unforgettable Forgiveness" as he stuck with those receivers that let him down in the Super Bowl and went right back to them and they produced for him and the team.

As a teacher, tech leader, and an agent for change in my school district, I have to remember the toughness that Rodgers has showed over the past 5 years as a Packer. Not everything has always gone Rodgers way, but he did not give up (See the last 5 years). He lead a group of men to the promised land. He had adversity along the way, but he did not let that deter from the ultimate prize. I need to posses the "Unforgettable Forgiveness" that Rodgers has. When people let me down, I must give them another chance and help them see that they can be better than the status quo. They can be like the Packers receivers and make those timely catches that will help propel our school to the next level, greatness.

As educators we need to put aside the petty adult issues and remember why we are educators. We are educators to obtain the ultimate prize....success for children. We are there day to day to help children see the importance they play in the world. We are educators to make that difference in a child's life so that they can persevere through tough times. Aaron Rodgers gets it as a leader. He doesn't talk about himself, he doesn't change the subject when interviewed to a different topic to avoid conflict, he doesn't duck and run away when times are tough, he leads!

Lead by example, voice, or action. Lead your students, staff, or colleagues. Make a difference.

P.s. Go Pack Go!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Back Channel

Last week I tried something new with my sixth graders, actually it wasn't new for me, or for them. I created a lesson about ancient Rome where my class viewed a 20 minute video on the Roman Republic and simultaneously live chatted about what they were viewing. This is called back channeling. When I described what we were going to do in social studies, the response was, "Cool!" The kids grasped the concept immediately and within those 20 minutes, we had the most relevant conversation of the school year. We used our student/teacher Moodle accounts as the platform for the chat. I moderated while the video was showing. I often found myself just reading the comments my students were leaving each other as well as the higher level questions they were asking and responding to each other with. It was amazing the engagement and level of conversation taking place with all 26 people involved in the chat. At no time did anyone get way off topic. The kids would police themselves whenever anyone strayed too far from the topic.

I have participated in back channel chats in the past. Whenever I have participated in Elluminate sessions, whether it be through the PLP cohort I was a part of last year, or other sessions I have been a part of through twitter feeds, the experience is always rewarding and I learn so much from both the presenter and my peers. Learning not only from the keynote or speaker, but also the people in attendance really makes for a true learning experience.

At first I was not sure how my students would grasp the concept of a back channel chat. Once I described what we were going to do, one of the kids in my class said, "It is kind of like when we are texting our friends’ during a TV show to see what they think about what is going on, right?" YES! I instantly realized that kids do this all of the time. Whether it be through text messaging or instant chat, kids are utilizing this form of multi tasking communication on a daily basis about a topic on television, movie, or social event. I truly believe this is why my students took off with the idea and embraced it. They are doing what is common place to them.

Where do I go from here? Well, I would like to not be the moderator of these chats. I am trying to incorporate at least one back channel a week. My next chat will include me as a traditional lecturer talking about topic X with a visual to represent what I am saying. I will have the kids self moderate and a few teachers and administrators in my district have shown interest in being part of the next chat.

Two weeks ago I decided to try something new, and look at the result.....my kids have been doing this for years. Sometimes it takes the courage to let go of what you have always done and embrace the world your students live in. We did a follow up chat durring a CNN Student News podcast and one of my kids said, "I was fearful when I heard about the Rep.Gifford shooting. My grandparents live in Tuscon, and I was scared that they may have been in attendance." This is an example of kids taking real world events and making them part of their lives. Making education real, what a great idea!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Let's Make it Real

I just finished reading Will Richardson's blog about getting 10,000 or more parents together to discuss educational change. Can we? I hope so. I hope, I have faith that parents in the real world want a better educational system than what they had. I think back to my schooling. I was bored. I wanted someone, whether it be my parents or my teachers, who I saw more than my parents to push me beyond Jeopardy facts and memorization. School needs to be a place of exploration. I cringe when I walk down the halls of my school and see packets of vocabulary and recall exercises. How is this allowed? We preach change, we want reform. What are you doing? How are you changing education daily within your power?

I am a part of a parent/teacher group that will be looking at big picture issues within my district. My goal is to get the parents of my district to understand what Will Richardson is talking about in his latest post. It will take time, but we must make school REAL!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Board of Directors


After reading Brian J. Nichols' post Who's In Your Starting Five? I thought back to a paper I wrote in graduate school for a leadership class I took for my administrators license. I named the paper, My Board of Directors. In the paper I discussed the people I try to surround myself with and who I would have sit on my board for my company, my life. That was in 2007. Since then many things have changed in my life. My board has changed for the good, and for the bad during this time, yet there have been a few constant members

As Brian points out in his blog, there are two groups you can surround yourself with. There are the face time people, the people in your life you see day to day at work, home, on the weekends, or for holidays. The second group is the people you surround yourself with in your PLN. I'm a twitter junkie. I can't wait to see what my PLN is going to share, teach, or challenge me with next. I've been a tweep for two years now, and I have learned to follow people that have a bottom line of, What Is Best For Kids! Early on in my twitter career as soon as someone new was following me, I followed them. I wanted to follow in return to make people happy and try to get more followers. I learned that just like in real life it is important to surround yourself with people who will challenge, support, and demand the best from you.

So who do you surround yourself with? Do you surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself? Do you surround yourself with people who will tell you that you are wrong, when you are wrong? Do you surround yourself with people that might ask you to step outside of yourself and see things from a different lens?

Take a piece of paper and write down the names of the people in your life or your PLN that you would consider your board of directors and ask yourself these questions. I know who my people are in my day to day life, as well as in the virtual world. It makes me feel good that they are there for me and pushing me to be better everyday.

PLN

Tomorrow Lisa Morowski and myself will be holding our monthly PLN meeting for our district. This has sprouted from a few people interested in how twitter works, to a rather large group of K-8 teachers who have started to create their own Personal Learning Network. Tomorrow we will be discussing blogs. Not just blogging for personal use, but how to broaden your horizons on the educational landscape through reading, responding, and making connections via blogs. Lisa has created a Prezi to share with the staff. We are going to share personal experiences as bloggers, and a list of blogs we read. I am excited to discuss this with the Merton staff.

As I said before, the Merton PLN has blossomed, and the effects of it are showing up in classrooms and discussions that both administration and teachers are having. Lisa and I want to steer the group to be self lead at some point. We are going to ask for teacher leaders that would like to spotlight what they are doing in their classroom as far as 21st century competencies. A true PLN is about everyones voice being heard, and everyone taking an active role for the betterment of the group.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Changing the Landscape or Playing the Game?

This morning over coffee I read a great blog post by Matt Switzer. In his post he discussed true innovation in the classroom compared to gimmicky educational practices. This got me thinking. How often do you see a teacher do something they have always done, but just use a piece of technology with it and think they are innovative? For education to move forward, we have to embrace new technologies and methodologies to achieve innovative practices. If I merely assign a project I have always done and have my students use Glogster instead of PowerPoint, am I changing the landscape of education, or am I just playing in the game? I believe this is the hardest shift for teachers and administrators to grapple. How do we as educators change the landscape?

Making Connections

This week has been a week of connections for me. On Tuesday I participated in #edchat via twitter. I made new connections with new teachers as far away as Canada. After I finished up on #edchat, my students and I went over to the local high school to work with AP history students on a family genealogy project. It was pretty cool to see 26 sixth graders working one on one with sophomores and juniors. On Wednesday I had a skype chat with Shannon Miller, of Van Meter School in Iowa. We discussed how her 5th and 6th grade classrooms could collaborate with the 5th and 6th grade classrooms at Merton.
In education today, connections are essential. The way my students thrive in situations when they get to work with others, not only in the classroom, but outside of it is amazing. When we went to Arrowhead High School on Tuesday, a former student greeted us at the front office. She asked why we are working on a project together, and I said, "Because I want my kids to be able to work with others." She replied, "I wish we would have done that when I was in your class, I stink at working with others and I know I am going to have to do that for the rest of my life." That statement reassured me that these connections we are making are worth it.
This afternoon my students will go over to our primary building to share their Greek Myths they have created with their 5K buddies. When I mentioned to them that they would be doing this, one kid actually fist pumped in the air. Excitement leads to learning.
As a teacher it is my job to continue to provide avenues to connect for my students and myself. We will all get better as a result of learning with others.

New Socks

Every year my father gives me socks for Christmas. For the past 31 years I have eyed the puffy package under the tree and I smile. As I got older it became a joke that no matter what, I would receive a pair of socks for Christmas. Needless to say, there was no surprise this year, I got new socks, six pairs to be exact. After the holidays were over I was putting away Christmas gifts and cleaning up from the festivities. Lying on the bed were those six pairs of socks. Before I shoved them into my sock drawer, I went through the socks I already had and threw out the old ones. I live by the theory that if I am going to add something new to my life, there is something I need to reassess or get rid of. So, as I added new socks to my drawer, I got rid of some old ones. Where am I going with this?
I often hear from teachers that there are so many new technologies, theories, ideas, etc out there, where do I begin? My advice, pick something, and do it. After you have picked something new, drop something old. The word overwhelming pops up often. As teachers we create an overwhelming experience. If we are going to embark on a new idea or project in our classrooms or schools, we need to assess the situation and push forward with that idea and not feel obligated to continue to do it the old way and the new way. The old way will always be there, and the new way will never live up to the potential until we fully embrace it.
I've been away from this blog for a long time because I have not fully embraced it and dedicated myself to it. I have decided to look through my sock drawer and throw out some of the old socks to better focus myself on this blog and the self reflection I need to be a better teacher to my students, and leader to my coworkers. My good friend Lisa said it best to me in a tweet this morning......"We don't need to add, we need to replace." Here's to new socks for all!
A funny side story to the Christmas socks: My significant other saw the old socks in the garbage and thought it must be a mistake, so she put them back on the bed. I came upstairs from working out and saw the socks on the bed. I thought to myself, "Am I losing it?" I again threw them away. Guess what? They reappeared again about an hour later. We discussed how that anecdote is a metaphor for what we see in education. People are so scared to let go of what they have always done and need constant reassurance that trying something new is going to to be ok.

Summer of Reinvention

It has been awhile since I have updated my blog. This summer I have put it off every week as I have been stuck on what I want to reflect upon. Finally, yesterday driving home from Canada, I said to myself....just write. Here are my main thoughts from my experiences this summer in education:
1. Everyone MUST have a PLN. If you don't know what a PLN is, google it.
2. Being transparent is the only way you will grow as an educator.
3. All of the tools in the world will not make you a better educator. iPads, Netbooks, Smartboards, you name it, are useless until you become a collaborative teacher and put your students needs in front of your own needs.
4. Don't rely on your administration to make things happen. If you feel the best interest of your students is important. PUSH. Find avenues to make things happen. Don't just talk about what is wrong, spend that energy making it right.
After attending ISTE in Denver this year, I came away with the belief that any problem can be solved. Hearing and following the words of my cohorts helped me understand that everyone has an equal part in making school relevant for kids. Parents, teachers, admin., community members, and the kids are all responsible. I challenge each of you to do your part and remember the importance of school....to make it relevant to the lives of the the kids.
As the start of the school year fast approaches, walk the walk this year. Enjoy your school year.