Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What is Excellence?

I ran across this today on a conversation about perfection and it really hit me.  I have a feeling this will result in a more thorough blog post but I felt it timely to just be read as is:

Excellence is willing to be wrong. Perfection is being right.

Excellence is risk. Perfection is fear.

Excellence is powerful. Perfection is anger and frustration.

Excellence is spontaneous. Perfection is control.

Excellence is accepting. Perfection is judgment.

Excellence is giving. Perfection is taking.

Excellence is confidence. Perfection is doubt.

Excellence is flowing. Perfection is pressure.

Excellence is journey. Perfection is destination.

Is it better to be excellent or perfect?  I feel I am striving for perfection, when I should be focusing on excellence.

I needed this right now...

5 for Winter Break 12/22/10

Okay, first of all there are two links:  Link 1 and Link 2. The links are to a company put together a list of FREE web 2.0 tools. For those of you that were in my session on our half day you probably remember that web 2.0 tools are all tools where students (anyone) both create and share their work. Check it out, there are great resources, most of which I have used so I can answer any questions you may have.

As the winter break approaches this is a great opportunity for me to say THANK YOU to all who subscribe. It means a lot to me to know that I'm helping someone out there and even if you check out one link I provide I'll know that my efforts are worth it. If you see someone who might benefit from this e-mail/blog post forward it on I'd love to grow the distribution.

Your 5 resources:

17 free e-books for teachers and parents - I downloaded them all, great reads over break.

Figment is a community where you can share your writing, connect with other readers, and discover new stories and authors. Whatever you're into, from sonnets to mysteries, from sci-fi stories to cell phone novels, you can find it all here. What's great is kids can read other kids work and comment on it, very cool.

GREAT! Discussion on using technology to complete assessments, what would you do?

Harvard’s must have guide to social media. It's from Harvard, it must be good.

Guess the google – best game on the internet, the kids love it!

Winter Break BONUS LINK!!!!!!:

Top 100 tools for learning 2010 - What I love about this is it shows the list for 2010, 2009, 2008, you can really see how tools have trended over the years. I don't use all of these but a lot of them.

Your Video of the week:

The next generation of Activboards from Promethean, I want one! (fingers crossed the new science building has these)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

5 for Friday 12/17/10

I use to think...

Here are your items from Lyn's blog post…I love these…
I used to think sitting down with a parent was scary. (They’re older than me! They’re parents, for crying out loud! What could I possibly know that they don’t?) 
Now I know talking with parents about their children is enlightening and meaningful. (Parents are tremendous assets to every school.) 

I used to think in-services were an opportunity for me to address my staff about important issues. (If I’m going to wear a suit to work, I may as well stand up in front of you with this PowerPoint presentation!) 
Now I know that I am not comfortable spending 6 hours of the day leading professional development sessions in which teachers have little ownership. (Let them lead the way)

If you are interested in reading the rest of her blog, check it out here:

Your top 5 resources

When you fail I fail - This blog post really made me think as we were completion the final assessments in science.

Useless but fun:  website for play.  It changes the pixels on the screen into digital sand.  I'll be honest, I played it for almost 20 minutes.  I'm a dork
for more information check out their blog:

Free sound effects (for when the Activboard actually works and makes sounds)

10 ways to make comic strips online - What projects can you chain to make them comic strips?  I'm trying to find some now.

10 steps to breaking the ban on cell phones in schools -  Some of you know I'm huge "Bring your own technology" person and having cell phones in the classroom, when used appropriately, can be a great resource to adding tech to the classroom, after all, there's an app for that!

Your Video of the week

Assessment and grading in the differentiated classroom:  WOW, great videos, thoughts, ideas, lesson, study guides, articles.  Just WOW!  You need to register to gain access but the registration is free.

Monday, December 13, 2010

6th Graders and Reading a Website

One of the reading strategies I am asked to discuss is reading a webpage.  We did a lot with this earlier in the school year by using this AMAZING webquest.  So I was wondering what to do next?  I sought out some help through Twitter (@cmcgee200) and a few members of my PLN sent me a few links for great things to try.  Here's what I ended up doing:

The Lesson

The set-up

  • Copied Daybook lesson 45: reading a website
  • Reserved a computer lab
  • Created google presentation, shared to anyone with a link
  • Used google shortener for all the websites and the google presentation

Evidence of Student Learning

What will I do differently next time?

  • I will add the activity of having kids research the “northwest tree octopus” and the website which are both Hoax websites. (thanks @Ideaguy42)
  • Use to find readability of searched websites. Great way to help students determine reading level appropriate to their own personal level.

Friday, December 10, 2010

5 for Friday 12/10/10

12/10/10 Top items recorded from twitter and my google reader:

I use to think, now I know….. a few more from Lyn's great blog post:

I used to think my good ideas should stay in my classroom. (I worked hard developing those lessons!) 
Now I know more students will benefit from the expertise of teachers who share. (Collective genius. Sharing is caring.)

I used to think I never had enough time. (Lesson plans…grading papers…surviving…) 
Now I know it’s important to work smarter, not harder. (Make time for the things that matter most.) 

I used to think a child who scored poorly on an assessment didn’t study hard enough. (They had a study guide one week in advance! What is the deal with that kid?) 
Now I know a student who doesn’t perform well on an assessment does not have the problem. (The teacher does.) 

To read the whole blog post (and steal my thunder) or to comment on Lyn's post (she is awesome!) go to:

Here are your TOP 5 resources of the week!

Teachers network:  The place to find out about grants, lesson plans, pd, etc, seems pretty cool..

12 great free video tutorial sites to brush up your tech skills

Assessment Do’s and Don’ts: I needed to be reminded of a few of these.

Instapaper – This application allows you to bookmark something to read later.  When working between computers and mobile devices this tool is a great assistant.

Inside the Bullied brain - Why we can't overlook bullying in schools.

Video of the week:
Differentiation: Charting a course - This is a great video on differentiation.

Friday, December 3, 2010

5 for Friday 12/3/10

What I found this week on Twitter and through my google reader:

I'm starting out the next couple "5 for Friday's" with a couple interesting statements from Lyn Hilt's blog, if you want to read ahead the complete list is here: I though it'd be nice to pull them out individually and focus on one or two at a time.

Lyn's thoughts: I use to think, Now I know…

I used to think students should sit in rows. (Made it harder for them to chit chat while I was imparting wisdom on them.) Now I know they should sit…stand…hang…together. (Makes it easier for them to talk and learn from one another.)

I used to think I needed to cite standards in my lesson plans. (This handy-dandy cheat sheet will help me quickly identify standard 2.1!) Now I know we should evaluate the standards, using them to guide instruction, yet allow students to pursue their passions. (What does this learning mean for you, children?)

Your 5:

In praise of the right praise: STOP saying “You’re Smart!” (This is STILL really hard for me.)

Top searches of 2010 - Some of these are just sad...

Where do good ideas come from, and How can we create an environment to promote good/bad/innovative ideas? (yes I said promote bad ideas…You have to be able to promote the bad ones to be able to discuss the ramifications/results of poor decisions, hence learning)

3 ways to mix/mash-up and cut You tube videos

This is a great site that is basically a giant FAQ database on everything tech. There are topics on the Internet, Hardware, Files and Sharing, Email, Images, Chat and Classroom Management. When you choose your topic there is a list of common questions that teachers or other tech users might ask.

Video of the week:
The The impotence of Proof reading - By the AMAZING Taylor Mali

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Opportunity of a Lifetime


Tonight I sat in a classroom for my doctoral program and thought that it was going to be just another class.  I was wrong.  With a tremendous thank you to Dr. Craig Larson I had the experience of a lifetime.  I can honestly say I am changed forever from this experience.

I had the opportunity to sit in a room of superintendents, two of I knew, three I did not, and just listen and ask questions.  It was amazing.  The questions and answers were unscripted and unfiltered which made for an experience like no other.  Let me explain something to you, I love learning, but this experience sent me to a whole new level.  It was just amazing.

In the interest of sharing I also tweeted every memorable statement made by the panelists and compiled them below.  The whole experience opened my eyes and really made me so excited about great leadership in education.  It excited me to no end that I have chosen this profession.  This experience confirmed to me that this is what I want my life to be about.

The panel included:

Dr. Craig Larson - Former Superintendent of the Rockwood School District
Dr. Stan Lawrence - Superintendent of school for the Normandy School District
Dr. Kelvin Adams - Superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools
Dr. Cheyrl Compton - Superintendent of the Ritenour School District
Dr. Marsha Chappelow - Superintendent of the Ladue School district

Memorable quotes I posted on twitter (@cmcgee200)

  • As a Supt.  you have to be who you are.  You don't hunt a Supt. job, it finds you.  -S.Compton #edchat
  • As a Supt. you have to realize it's not about you.  It's about what's best for kids. #edchat
  • Learn everything you can learn, touch everything you can touch, in order to learn to prepare you for educational leadership.-K.Adams #edchat
  • I've always believed I should always take the most difficult and challenging job. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • As a Supt.  The job is everything I thought it would be. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • As a Supt. I wanted to work for people who were champions for children of poverty. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • Smooth transitions are caused from asking hard questions but dealing in reality. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • Bringing people together behind good marketing, successful issues and community revitalization will yield success. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • When you take into account all the circumstances poverty brings, we have new challenges to uncover. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • What do you do when your staff population doesn't reflect your student population? #edchat
  • We're going to find the best candidate, we don't believe the best candidate is white.  We actively recruit BEST teachers -S.Compton #edchat
  • Kids need role models of people who look like them. -S.Compton #edchat
  • I feel like people have less ownership of their pub schools because so many affluent dist send kids to private schools. -M.Chappelow #edchat
  • When I have a challenge I like to look at what are my chances for success -M.Chappelow #edchat
  • If we don't get more people going into education, we are in trouble, we are losing all the valuable candidates. -M.Chappelow #edchat
  • When we look to hire we evaluate learning potential and cultural sensitivity -K.Adams #edchat
  • The most important job in a school district is HR, putting the right people in the right places. -S.Compton #edchat
  • As a Supt. surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, my uncle said that wouldn't be hard for me. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • Have a mind to understand, try to touch everything in your dist, work in a small district when starting out to learn more. -K.Adams #edchat
  • Learn to ask the right kind of questions and rely on your experience -K.Adams #edchat
  • Ed. Leadership: Ask more questions than trying to come to your own conclusions. -K.Adams #edchat
  • As a Supt, I'm not the keeper of all the knowledge.  I get good at asking a lot of questions. S.Compton #edchat
  • If you hire thoroughbreds, you need to let them be thoroughbreds.  It takes talent to manage talent. -S.Compton #edchat
  • As a Supt.  You are making decisions that are connected.  You can't make a decision in a silo. M.Chappelow #edchat
  • As a Supt.  we need to connect with the work by helping with teacher evaluation and supporting building principals -S.Compton #edchat
  • As Supt we GET what the priority is when we are in the classroom supporting teachers -S.Compton #edchat
  • As Supt.  I think our role needs to be supporting building principals, we are in a service industry. -K.Adams #edchat
  • School site is the important place, the classroom is the most important place. -K.Adams #edchat
  • Central office should be called the "campus support center" -S. Lawrence #edchat
  • As a Supt. my value to you is to support you and help you get the job done.  -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • Some of the decisions that were made were not popular, that's leadership.  -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • Push-back and criticism are part of leadership -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • Kids deserve the very best. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • We have an obligation as administrators to help struggling teachers.  Troops notice how the generals treat the wounded. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • What "red lights" have you had to run in your tenure in ed leaderhsip? #edchat
    • I really don't think you can lead without running every red light. -K.Adams #edchat
    • Don't see as red lights, every decision "what needs to happen to align our work so they can be who they want to be."-S.Compton #edchat
  • They might need to be a nurse, they might need to be a brain surgeon not every one needs to be a principal or a teacher. -S.Compton #edchat
  • Sometimes good is not good enough, we need great. -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • We need OUTSTANDING leaders, teachers, and staff for the value of our children's lives -S.Lawrence #edchat
  • As a Supt. I over-invest in my school board. -S.Lawrence #edchat #cpchat
  • I have a preference to work with intelligent people. -S.Lawrence #edchat #cpchat
  • Supt.: Never take a job when it's a 4-3 vote.  You need unanimous support.  -K.Adams #edchat #cpchat
  • Supt: board meeting takes an hour, that's too long, I've been communicating about whats going on, they should know -K.Adams #edchat #cpchat
  • I was told elected boards don't work, it must be your job to communicate with your board, then it will.  -K.Adams #edchat #cpchat
  • Were reculturing what we are doing.  Good can be the enemy of great.  -M. Chappelow #edchat #cpchat
  • When you hire good people there is a mass of people asking: "why do we do it that way?"-M.Chappelow #edchat #cpchat
  • We're growing, we are getting less money through AV, there's the crunch in education -M.Chappelow #edchat #cpchat
  • When a district loses trust, you have to gain it back, it's emotional process -M.Chappelow #edchat #cpchat
  • I like to plant seeds, things don't more fast in education. -M.Chappelow #edchat #cpchat
  • Having an attitude of proactively planning for the future is my key to success. -M.Chappelow #edchat #cpchat


Reading back through these statements I try to grasp exactly what happened tonight. I want to say I think the 25 students that to the opportunity to meet, question, and learn form these amazing leaders have changed permanently.  We learned valuable lessons, but I think more than anything, we learned about hope.  Hope for a greater education for the next generation.  We were blessed to have this opportunity to learn from such AMAZING leaders and get a small glimpse of what being a true leader means.

Some of my favorite comments from tonight include:

Learn everything you can learn, touch everything you can touch, in order to learn to prepare you for educational leadership.-K.Adams 

As an aspiring administrator this validated my path and reminded me that there is no bad learning experience, there is always something I can learn and take away.

Sometimes good is not good enough, we need great. -S.Lawrence

I think about this everyday.  That lesson that I did last year is not good enough for my kids this year.  I need to improve what I do everyday.  One of my favorite quotes is "Never let good stand in the way of being great."

When I have a challenge I like to look at what are my chances for success -M.Chappelow

This goes back to my blog post on solving problems in schools.  Every time I'm faced with an obstacle the bottom-line to accomplishing the task at hand is in your perception of the obstacle.  Is it a problem that requires a solution, a constraint that I will have to live with moving forward, or an opportunity to improve the organization.  I will always consider an obstacle as an opportunity to learn, grow, and get better at what I do everyday.

If you hire thoroughbreds, you need to let them be thoroughbreds.  It takes talent to manage talent. -S.Compton

WOW!  Powerful statement.  If we hire great teachers, how can we as educational leaders inspire, motivate and support them to be all that they can be (do I have to pay Army for that statement?)?  I love this quote because it shows the importance of human resources and the role it plays on the development of a great school.

FInally, I leave you with a GREAT song/video, thank you to Dr. Lawrence who mentioned it tonight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

6th graders and

I have been teaching "note taking" as my reading strategy this week and was seeking a way to get kids to collaboratively take notes.  After much debate and consideration I decided to use  We have already used googledocs so much I felt it was time to show students what else is out there....

This lesson was so much fun for the kids and me.  We had a blast, the room was completely silent with intermiten bursts of laughter.  Every kid was engaged and was BY FAR the best lesson.  I often get scared that something won't work or that kids won't like it, it all worked out, kids loved it, they had fun and they practiced a new skill.  We will finish the products on Friday.

Lesson Plan

  1. Teach note taking as a skill by completing lesson 43 in the daybook activity.
  2. Give feedback on lesson 43.
  3. Teach note taking in the content area by giving them a section of a textbook and asking them to write a two column response. (How to)
  4. Give feedback on determining supporting detail to a concept.
  5. Have students read an article and publicly organize their thoughts on what they feel is important.

Set Up

  1. Copies of Lesson 43 in daybook.
  2. Copies of content area textbook (I used two pages from my science textbook from Prentice Hall)
  3. Copies of article to read and take notes on
  4. Reserve the mobil lab
  5. limit number of students per document to increase collaboration (see image below)

Evidence of student work

Go to the following links see what they did, or watch my screencast below: (Directions and scoring guide for the activity located on the document.) 9Ubzoia7YE FcRtEOCOoY Idx0KajBdg TNXdyLVRYr