Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Breakers Unite!

Where'd you go on your spring break?

As we return from spring break this week you hear that question a lot.  Where did I go?  I spent the week working on observation hours for my doctorate.  Honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anyone else's.

Where did I go?
I spent the week at three schools shadowing various adminsitrators.  I learned alot about the job, the different schools and the different communities.  The peple I met were outstanding and the learning experiences were even better.  The getting up every morning left something to be desired for sure :-).

My first school - Neuwoehner High School

Spent the day with John T. Miller, Assistant Principal (and friend).

What is Neuwoehner High School?
Located in Town & Country, Missouri, Neuwoehner educates students 14 to 21 years with a range of disabilities. Students attending Neuwoehner live in several nearby school districts: Clayton, Ladue, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Normandy, Ritenour, Pattonville, Kirkwood, University City and portions of Parkway. The school also serves students with autism from throughout Central and South St. Louis County. (http://www.ssdmo.org/ssd_services/schools.html)

My experience:
OUTSTANDING!  This school thrives on meeting the unique needs of a very marginalized population of students.  Every one of the students in that building required some form of an IEP.  The school had students ranging in ability levels and differentiates based on readiness, ability, IEP, and every thing else imaginable.  The set up is very similar to an elementary setting where one teacher must cover a variety of subjects during their school day.  The teacher's job is even harder because not only are they the teachers in the classroom but also their IEP case manager.

Being able to watch Mr. Miller interact with teachers and students made this opportunity unique.  The school runs like every other school with bells at the beginning of the day and the end but everything that happens at the school is special, necessary and really uplifting.

This school is a diamond in the rough, if I hadn't been friends with Mr. Miller, I would have never know it existed.  The cost to run a school serving students from all over the St. Louis area with intense IEPs cannot be easy or cheap, but the impact this school and it's amazing teachers have on this population of students is immeasurable.

My second school - Washington Middle School

Spent the day with Adam Smith, Principal

What is Washington Middle School?
The mission of Washington Middle School is to maximize every student's academic potential and develop responsible, productive citizens.

Building and Facilities

Washington was built in 1970 with additions constructed in 1990,1991 and 2003. The school features six full science labs, a computer lab, a gymnasium with a stage, a full-sized track, and a football and soccer field. The two-story building is handicapped-accessible by elevator and ramps.


Technology is important at Washington Middle School. The school has two computer labs with 25 IBM computers in each lab. The library has an additional 25 computers to allow all students the opportunity to complete research through the World Wide Web. Each teacher has a computer within their classroom to enhance the presentation of, research for and preparation of curricular materials. All of the computers within the school are networked allowing instant communication throughout the school and district. The school also has two traveling smart boards, and all classrooms have cable television. http://washington.mehlvilleschooldistrict.com/wc/default.asp?Info=519272320_1-SchoolInformation--0)

My experience:

Adam Smith and I go back to teaching together and watching him excel as an assistant principal now to a principal position has been awesome to see.  As I continue to learn how to lead, it is great to have guys like Mr. Smith ahead of me blazing the trail and allowing me to come along for the ride.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Keenoy (his Assistant principal) allowed me to tag along for the day.  I toured the building and got a chance to see the building run for a majority of the day.  Mr. Smith handled some discipline issues during the day (about three), we discussed the building budget and the budget process, and began to look at rearranging a supervisory period to make more use of the RTI process.

The building was small, the population and number of teachers were relatively small which made for a great feel of the building.  The hallways weren't too crowded and the teachers, I felt, really knew one another.  The small student and teacher population made for a connected feeling within the building.

The one thing I noticed and as you can read above there was a distinct lack of technology.  Having 75 computers for a student population of  533 students makes for a unique experience.  I can tell the school and Mr. Smith are trying to add more technology with every meeting, lesson, and agenda in mind but there is a limited budget to make that change.  Having one of the labs dedicated to edison progress monitoring also limited the number of times a student can "touch" a computer and become a digital citizen.

My third school - Oakville Senior High School

Spent the day(s) with Jan Kellerman, Jim Kern, Janet Anthony, Brian Brennan and William Scheffler.

What is Oakville Senior High School?

Mission Statement

The mission of Oakville High School is to guide each student toward his/her full potential to become a responsible, contributing member of a global society.

Vision Statement

Oakville High School is committed to students achieving academic excellence through:
• An educational partnership of school, home, and community
• A rigorous curriculum
• Innovative instruction
• Active participation in co-curricular activities
• A culture of respect, tolerance, responsibility, integrity, and leadership

My experience:
There are two reflections here 1.  This is the school that hired me out of college so coming back here was like coming home.  2.  I got a chance to see a number of things, thanks to the great leadership team, that I would have never had the chance to see and be a part of.

What is it like coming home?  Well, it is great to see people you haven't worked with in 7 years.  You see that some things haven't changed with the interactions of various people within the school and district and you see how much the building and opportunities for kids have grown since you left.  Coming back and seeing people happy to see me and welcoming me back, usually with a story of "you remember when you..." always makes me smile and embarasses me a little.  I started teaching when I was 21 and left the school when I was 24, needless to say I had some growning up and maturing to do :-).

What did I get a chance to see/discuss/learn
  • We surpervised lunches (all three every day) as an adminsintrator this takes up nearly 2 hours of your day.
  • Dealt with a student who's keys were taken from him and we had to hint them down.
  • Discussed motivation for a student on the edge of failing a semester of classes.
  • Discussed a reassignment to the alternative school for a sophomore student who's attendance and grades are putting her on the path to nowhere, quick.
  • 8:30 time.  Really cool idea from Mr. Scheffler: At 8:30 any student that was absent the day before reports to the commons.  There they account for their absence (reduces skipping and increases attendance) with a parent phone call.  This time is also used for students who have discipline issues when the two overlap.  At 8:30 every day every teacher and every student know that if they are on the posted list, they come to the commons.  Great idea with minimal disruption to classes.
  • Worked with administrative team to build schedule for band, PE, science, business, and english.  Utilizing conflict matrix, course enrollment and available courses.  That was a great experience.
  • Supervise tardy sweeps at the passing periods and before school.
  • Supervised dismissal.
  • Met with a team designing the new PBTE process to be piloted next year.

All in all my spring break, although without beaches, warm weather, and relaxation, yielded great results.  I'm excited to take the opportunities to learn and apply them to my next leadership opportunity.  Special thanks to the administrators that allowed me to shadow them and the learning experiences they let me be a part of.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Top 10 List for week of 3/25/11

Here are the TOP 10 topics, thoughts, links and blog posts I found this past week (during spring break) ENJOY!

10. I posted this list for my students, some really great free resources here: Free resources for the 2.0 student
9.  Need a web 2.0 tool but can't sem to find the one you want, here's a great resource for choosing: Web 2.0 for the classroom teacher
8. Livebinders are cool, here's some tips and tricks for organizing yours: Livebinders tips and tricks

7. Box of tricks, easy explanations of web 2.0 tools.
6.  I gave a quiz, I graded it, gave t back to the student....Now what? The importance of Formative assessments
5.  21st century learners need 21st century teachers.  I accept the challenge

4.  Have you ever wondered how you could use Evernote in your classroom.  Now here’s a great resource to tell you how.  Perfect!

3.  Merit pay, assessment improvement here's a white paper on Teacher incentives and student achievement evidence from New York city public schools...huh, makes you think.

2.  Get to the point: Teaching to the TEXT message
1.  Most RTs this week: 5 reasons to integrate technology into your classroom.  Typical argument and even better reasons for it...

Top Videos of the Week

Sir Ken Robinson on Learning without frontiers.

“I am” a new exciting documentary that is going to cause the SHIFT to hit the fan

Integrating Online resources into your teaching

Education is changing to world of work

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top 10 list for the week of 3/18/11

The Top 10 list for this week:

10.  Why Formative assessments matter

9.  Tying incentives to student performance for teachers.  What’s the evidence say?
(also watch the movie Freakanomics)

8.  Lyn (@L_Hilt) is an AMAZING principal, I’ve mentioned her here a number of times.  I love her thoughts on where we are in education and the homework section really gives me thoughts to chew on

7.  Don’t have a Twitter account, but want to "SPY" in on what’s being said.  Check this out...
go here http://www.tvviboard.com/ Type in #edchat or #edtech
watch it load and enjoy the resources...

6.  Free assistive reading tools.  This is pretty cool and a great set of resources for writing, reading, and more

5.  This looks like an awesome resource from the most gifted tech person down to the person who needs help using word/pages.  Check it out

4.  Wallwisher.com, corkboard.me, spaaze.com, Lino it (http://en.linoit.com/) which one is the best...dunno, I like them all!

3.  Can you flip your classroom.  It’s all the rage now for 21st Cenetury learners

2.  THIS IS SOOOOOO COOL!!! Making an interactive lesson using YOUTUBE

1.  Yep! Google WILL do that.  Great presentation on the google tools

Videos of the week

3 who lead, learn and think – 3 great videos…

Pay attention – our students are changing to digital learners…

Monday, March 14, 2011

Top 100, WOW!


Special thanks to online degrees for considering and listing my blog for the Top 100.  I am truly grateful and honored to be listed.

Some of who I consider to be the best of the best are on this list.  I am humbled to be in their company.

Please take time to check out the list, add some of them to your reader, you will not be disappointed.

Please pay special attention to @justintarte (Herr tarte), @thenerdyteacher (The Nerdy Teacher), @JPPrez (Bits and Bytes), and @stumpteacher (Stump the Teacher) the coolest Jedi I know.  You will not be disappointed!


Due to recent discussion and blog posts my links and recognition to this list has been removed.  Although the list is comprehensive, the people who put in the time and effort to create and publish the list are just doing their job, I, and many others feel that the motives are less than pure.

I am happy and grateful to be considered.  I am happy to be on the list, the list has brought new people to my blog and a new platform to share with great educators out there.  Thank you to all who support me in the endeavor of collaborating.  I hope that we can find a way to recognize great educators for doing great work and keep the motivation pure.

Until the next time we colaborate....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How many F's are on your report card?

I recently attended the Systems Thinking in Schools conference sponsored by the Ritenour School District, the Water's foundation and Washington University in St. Louis' school of social work.  

The conference was awesome and if you can schedule some time to visit this conference it is worth your time, effort and energy.  The coolest thing about this conference is meeting people doin the work of systems thinking from all over the world.  I met people from Canada, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, it was truely a global conference.

The "F's"
Friday night's keynote session was from Dr. Andy Hargreaves.  It was EPIC.  Dr. Hargreaves was motivational, challenging and a fantastic speaker and presenter.  His new book is called "The Fourth Way" will cause readers to reimagine how people consider social and educational reform.

Andy Hargreaves presented on 15 F's that are the  "F"oundation of moving your organization (or school) to achieving "Beyond Expectations."  These F's are all characteristics of organizations that have been proven through research to be successful through many variables.  How many "F's" are on your leader or organization's report card?

15 factors that make your organization perform beyond expectations

The Fantastic Dream - MLK didn’t say I have a strategic plan...
    • If you want to be number 1, you won’t stay number one for long. You have to know what you want to be and why you want to be it.
    • Most leaders think it’s all about being faster, better, greater, but they do not know why they want that?!
    • Finland decided that they want “ALL our people to be inventive,” does the american education system have a "why?"
The Fear
    • Successful leaders and successful business march to the beat of a different drummer. As leaders we have to be okay with being different. The fear of being different and the accepting of that fact can become the motivation that creates greatness. When you reach that moment of fear, as a leader do you fight or flight?
    • Leaders fight for what they believe in. Great companies don't stand for good, they fight for great. Fighting is not for something or against someone, it's that internal perseverance to overcome adversity.
    • You will not achive your dream without opposition.
    • A great question is how far are we willing to let something fall while we fight for what we beleive in. For example in education: How much are we prepared to let our scores fall as we engage in this innovation!?
Fundamental Futures - Connect where you are going to where you have been!
    • Your vision and your future is connected to the past. Do you or your leaders recognize that? There is this trend in business and education looking for the silver bullet but there is no simple silver bullet for solving complex problems or creating successful organization.
    • There are three types of leaders in this world:
      1. People who have been there for ages and KNOW the culture of the community, the business and the customers.
      2. People who have been there as an assistant and move into the number 1 spot
      3. Parodical leader - use to work in the organization, left, but is still loyal and came back to lead.
Firm Foundations
    • Charismatic leaders that can't let go of their leadership. Successful organizations and schools have leaders that welcome the strength of those around them.
    • Before every charismatic leader is always an unsung, unheralded leaders that set the systems in place for success.
    • Creating firm foundations means connecting your beliefs about leadership to what you do in your organization. If that connection cant be made success may not be because of your leadership.
    • Don’t give up, get work done!
    • As leaders how do you treat the lowest status people in the community and at your organization?
    • Successful leaders and organizations have little trouble going into the darkest places to show that success can be achieved.
Counter"f"low - It' an F...sort of.
    • Be the fish swimming upstream. As a leader you must be willing to be different and go against the grain. Great organizations do the ordinary extraordinarily well.
    • Leaders don't shy away from resitance or that person that doesn't like you very much. Great organizations meet resistance head on. Successful leaders have fun solvin problems.
    • Love this quote from Dr. Hargreaves: "Great leaders like to perform uphill and against the wind."
    • Great leaders think outside of the box, while performing well inside the box.

Fast and Fair tracking

    • Short term targets with long term goals. The short term goals make the fast progress happen.
    • Fair means providing what students, coworkers need and leaders must exhibit flexible creative behavior to meet the needs of the organization or the classroom.
    • Great leaders set targets with their employees.
    • Does what we measure (test scores, productivity bottom line) reflect what we value instead of valuing what we measure?
Feasible growth
    • Great leaders set attainable goals. They remain focused on achieving objectives. Create measurable and sustainable change. THey are focused on meaningful growth and control it using systems to ensure quality is not lost in quantity.
High Fidelity
    • Great leaders fight for a cause that is bigger than themselves and their organization and all decisions and changes they make are done with that cause in mind.
    • When the going gets tough, when the bumps start to happen does your school or organization pull together, or splinter off? Great leaders create a team that stays strong.
Flair, flow, and flexibility
    • Great organizations have employees that never say "No - that’s not my job."
    • Great leaders create employees that are passionate about what they do.
    • Great leaders create employees that go with the flow.
    • Great leaders create employees that can do what is asked of them.
    • Great leaders don’t get too big for their boots.
    • Great leaders embrace failure! (not catastrophe of course)
    • Great organizations realize that if everything they are doing is all safe the organization is not innovating.
Friendly rivalry
    • Great organizations support "coopertition."
    • Great organizations invest heavily in their competition.
    • Great organizations and leaders recognize the need of the community is greater than the need of the one school or shop.
    • In England you have to spend 20% of your time HELPING other schools.
    • Great leaders have a strong belief and a MORAL responsibility to help the weak.
Fusion Leadership
    • Leadership is not a bunch of competencies or knowledge you can collect.
    • The Fusion must be through systems thinking
      1. Inner fusion of character styles and competencies
      2. With colleagues, ecologially diverse, surrounding yourself with people who are different than you.
      3. Fusion must happen over time.


Friday, March 11, 2011

5 for Friday (DOUBLE EDITION) 3/11/11

This week was a slow week for me, I really didn't get a chance to interact much online but managed to read a few things that would be helpful to some. Check out the list for this week

Top 5 (times 2!)

The networked educational leader – This is a great presentation from an AWESOME principal in Canada.  Great guy always willing to help, follow him on twitter at @gcouros

100 great TECH talks for educators.  Love, love, love this...

Cool website to get all the cool characters on your documents just by copying and pasting

Do you teach Bloom’s taxonomy?  Do you want to?  If so this is a great resource to get kids to understand question types and with it, answer types…

Top 100 tools for twittering teachers (if you don't tweet, why not!)

25 tech tips for not techies - This might not be for you but might be a great resource for someone you know!

Thank you Google!  Did you know under Google’s advanced search you can now select reading levels of search results.  SWEET!

Online plagiarism checker - BUSTED!

Ooh, challenging – 10 things you might need to change.

If I could change my classroom into any classroom it would be this one…

Videos of the week:

Anti-creativity checklist – Be careful when you start saying some of this…

My Anti-Creativity Checklist from Youngme Moon on Vimeo.

Awesome educators teaching you about Wordle, Prezi, Voicethread and more (great videos to see before our PD day in April)

Friday, March 4, 2011

5 for Friday (DOUBLE EDITION) 3/4/11

So I seem to be running at double speed lately.  I have too many great things that I find and the top 5 is becoming harder and harder.  In the interest of not limiting you to only 5 great resources a week, I'm going to do a couple DOUBLE-UPS when necessary.  Today being the first double up I will share with you 10 of the coolest things I've found this week and 2 of the coolest videos that have crossed my path.  As an aside the video list is getting a little ridiculous, I may need to do a top 5 one week of just videos.

Here they are, the top 10 resources I found this week in no particular order:

Free magazine for the “creative educator”  I like Free it's my favorite number.

As we seek to learn more remember you don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be willing!  The will to check this out is the first step.

Free site for finding educational videos.  Thousands of videos categorized by every subject imaginable

A little overwhelming, but a little amazing too.  The best of the web organized and categorized for you, yum!

I need to share a large file, how can I do that?  There are a number of ways, here’s three….

pleasenotify.me is a simple, free service to let you send tasks to people, and be notified when they're done.  I like this as we embrace 21st century skills and students "turn in" things digitally this service will allow you to know when things have been updated, etc.

I like this post when considering doing something different.  As I start a new unit 4th quarter that I haven't taught in 8 years, I begin the unit with trepidation….change isn’t easy..

You can never have enough Icebreakers!

Differentiation is the word of the year.  But what does it look like?

And my top two favorite videos of the week:

Inside Finland:  The world’s most successful school system

Jon Stewart solves the nation’s education crisis….fun and informative

BONUS material:

Oh my the way, the iPad 2 was announced this week, kinda a big deal.  Read more about it here:  http://www.apple.com/ipad/?cid=CDM-US-DM-P0010191-EDU

Interested in attending a FREE webinar from Dr. Marzano on "the highly engaged classroom"  sign up here http://www.marzanoresearch.com/Professional_Development/events.aspx?event=59&sf1087988=1