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.