April 30

Like Crabs in a Barrel

Have you ever heard the story of crabs in a barrel? Basically, it goes something like this. If you have a bunch of crabs in a barrel they will work to pull each other down as they attempt to climb out of the barrel. Furthermore, it is said, that if they were to work together, then they could all get out of the barrel. If you haven’t, please take the time to read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crabs_in_a_barrel.

In education, are we much different than crabs in a barrel? Think about your classroom, hallway, grade level, school, or district for a minute. Ponder on those who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty, those that transcend the status quo. Now think about how they are treated by others, even yourself. Are most people saying positive things about them? Or do they develop conspiracy theories on “how they got to where they are?” Others may say that another’s success can be attributed to the clothes they wear, their age, their race, if they play a particular sport, or maybe are involved in a particular social media endeavor.  You have heard it before. There are so many adages at work to pull us farther down into the barrel such as, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Or so and so always gets the opportunity because s/he is in the right crowd.”

Ironically, we often find ourselves telling our students to not “pull each other down into the barrel,” but are we setting the proper example? Kids often fall prey to the crab mentality. Students who make the honor roll, excel at an instrument, or are advanced proficient on a state assessment are often looked at in a negative light. Think about it, kids aren’t much different than we are, are they?

Here are some things to ponder about being a crab in a barrel:

–          Why do we have trouble celebrating others successes?

–          Why do we make up excuses when someone else has a success, as opposed to attributing it to hard work?

–          What will it take to change the crabs in a barrel paradigm?

–          When was the last time you helped to celebrate someone else’s success?

–          Are you building up, rather than tearing down?

–          Do we think another person’s successes will cause you to have to do more work?

bigstockphoto_Key_To_Success_509650-1xkrlsc.jpg

Here are some things that are said, with maybe the best intentions, but still work to pull down, rather than build up:

–          You are working too hard, you are going to burn out!

–          You know, you won’t get paid any extra for all of this extra stuff

–          You are starting to make us look bad!

–          Why do you ask so many questions?  I want to get out of this meeting!

–          Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

–          I didn’t do ______________(insert project) because, well, what are they going to do?

–          No matter what, we are protected by the union.

–          So, how well do you know the ___________(insert leader position) outside of work?

As we strive for world class education for all students, we do not have time to pull each other down into the barrel.  We need to change the paradigm, and turn that story into a fable, not a documentary.

 

 

April 25

Conversation with a Futurist? It hurts your brain, and so will this post

Watts Wacker and Spike Cook

During the ASCD12 conference in Philadelphia I attended a session with Futurist, Watts Wacker. He began the discussion by saying that he did not come to answer questions, but rather to ask them. He immediately had my attention. Then he began to speak, and I tried my hardest to keep up. Here is the stream of conscious notes I took. In order to develop deeper understanding I took the notes, and separated them into 5 parts. I also worked with a mind-mapping genius to bring the text, and concepts to another level. I hope it hurts your brain like it did mine.

Part 1 of 5

Guess what happened? While we were all sleeping Big Brother happened! Have you read the book 1984 by George Orwell? Who would have thought that it actually came into being? And we bought it? No, it was not imposed, we chose it, and pay for it month after month. Did you know the city of London tapes everything? There are cameras throughout the entire city.  No matter where you go a camera has its lenses focused on ….You!

We are in the 5th age as humans. Some people think that we are still in the age of information but according to Watts that has already come and gone.

First, there was the hunter gatherer age. We traveled great distances on foot looking for our food, water, and survival. Then we had the agricultural age. We learned how to plant our food. This lead us into the industrial age where we attempted to maximize our output and products in a way that would keep costs down. Then we did a quantum leap into the information age. Technology boomed during this era, and humans needed to simply understand how this impacted them, but as the technology developed one thing became certain: uncertainty. Which lead us into this new, current age of uncertainty. In this age there is no box. The only thing that is constant is change.

Also, there are 7 generations on the planet at the same time. This has not happened in the history of the world. Is this a good thing? Stay tuned for part 2.

Mind Map for Part 1 (Click to enlarge)

 

Mind Map Resources

12/21/12 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxQsLLOYC7Q&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Planet Earth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v2L2UGZJAM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Big Brother http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJTLL1UjvfU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Resources:

ASCD 12 Virtual Resources: http://ascd.social27.com/ASCD/ASCD_Home

Watts Wacker’s web site:  www.firstmatter.com

Triz-Journal: http://www.triz-journal.com/

Joseph Kony: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Kony

Kony 2012: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kony_2012

April 17

It’s all just a click away

Welcome guests from the NJASA that may have attended our workshop on Social Media and Administration: It’s Just a Click Away by Steven Engravalle, David Gentile, and myself! Or, maybe you attended my recent presentation through the NJ Leaders to Leaders Program at RM Bacon Elementary. I hope you will find these resources valuable. It’s all just a click away.

“If you don’t tell the story of your school, someone else will.” Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal)

 

Steven Engravalle, Superintendent, Fort Lee Public School District (@iSchoolLeader)

Check out his “scoop it” – http://www.scoop.it/t/ischoolleader

Here is his presentation on Technology in and Beyond the Classroom

@Web20classroom, @drgentile_mps, @tomwhitby

David Gentile, Superintendent, Millville Public Schools (@drgentile_mps)

Check out his blog: http://drgentile.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Pamm Moore, Assistant Superintendent, Millville Public Schools (@drpammoore)

Check out her blog, especially, “I Tweet, therefore I am” : http://leadership123.edublogs.org/

 

 

Resources from our “tweep” @Joe_Mazza:

Twitter 101 for School Administrators

Here are a few of the free websites your students, and teachers could be benefiting from:

http://www.arcademicskillbuilders.com/

http://kidblog.com/

http://storybird.com/

 http://www.edmodo.com/

Learn from the Best! Upcoming Professional Development on Social Media:

Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) is hosting a FREE webinar on Social Media for Educators.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM ED :

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/768258768

 

 

Sign up for an un-conference: http://www.edcampleadership.org/ I am going on May 19, 2012!

Want more information? Especially on New Jersey Education?

 

April 16

It’s Spring Break, and we are in School

“Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon.” Daniel Pink

Photo by Dr. Pamm Moore

Even though we were on Spring Break this week, Dr. Pamm Moore and I ventured to school an hour and half away. Our session was facilitated by Lyn Hilt, Principal of Brecknock Elementary School in Eastern Lancaster County.  We arrived for class excited for a day of sharing and expanding our Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Photo by Lyn Hilt

Brecknock Elementary is tucked neatly in the rolling hills of Eastern Lancaster County.  The roads, which must be shared with the occasional horse and buggy, are narrow, and winding, and they take you up and down, over, and around just like my own experiences as a principal this year. In all honesty, Eastern Lancaster County is beautiful farm country.

lynhilt.com

When we arrived, Lyn welcomed us into her office.  We assembled at a conference table and began chatting. We had no agenda other than to learn from one of Twitter’s most famous elementary school principals. Lyn has close to 7,000 world-wide Twitter followers.  When she Tweets, educators listen. Her main blog, Lyn Hilt: The Principal’s Posts have been viewed by over 33,000 visitors. In recognition for her hard work and determination, she has been nominated for multiple Edublogs Awards the past two years.  Her school blog  has been viewed close to 2,000 times.

Photo by Lyn Hilt

Lyn enthusiastically described the 21st Century teaching and learning strategies that are integrated into her school’s daily practices. We talked about her foray into Social Media and its subsequent impact on the district, school, and most importantly, the students. Lyn’s Social Media crusade is specific and measurable; intending to arm her teachers and students with the most up to date applications to continuously advance their learning to new levels. She makes no apologies for this.

After our discussion, we toured the classrooms of Brecknock where the ideas are put into practice. We were able to visit with Kindergarten students who had recently Skyped with a class in Peru. When asked where Peru was, one student quipped,  “South America, of course!” We all laughed.

Next, we visited a 1st grade classroom where the students were enthusiastically sharing their blogs via kidblog.org. One student in particular, Dakota, and I chatted about Social Media, blogging, reading, and life.  I encouraged her to finish her blog, have her Principal send it to me, and I would have my 1st graders do the same.

Photo by Dr. Pamm Moore

In 4th grade, students were using Storybird to write their own stories. This was the first time I had seen Storybird in action. Lyn highly recommended this, and she described how the company uses images from real artists.  One student read their entire story to us. I found it interesting that right next to him another student was working on a traditional story. You know the ones that are photocopied and the students color in and write their own story. I picked it and up looked at Lyn and said, “Basically, this is what Storybird is for the 21st century.” She replied, “You got that right!”

Photo by Dr. Pamm Moore

As we walked from room to room, we felt the embrace of the positive and stimulating learning climate that permeates throughout Brecknock Elementary School. Each classroom had its own decorations and distinct character. Some were of the traditional elementary variety and some classrooms made us feel as if we were in someone’s living room.

Clearly, Lyn resonates with the students, and teachers. As we entered classrooms, everyone was excited to see her. It was also obvious that she was in high demand. There were many students who wanted to eat lunch with her. I am not talking one or two students; there were at least a dozen who wanted to be put on her “lunch list.”

Photo by Breaknock Student

We ended our tour and reviewed some of the resources that she imparted on us. She agreed to send us some additional information that would aid us in our transition to world class. I told her that I would get in touch with some of my teachers and that we could connect with her students through one of the various online learning applications. We had one of her student’s take our picture!

Resembling the enthusiasm of Lyn’s lesson, we ventured back over the Delaware River to finish Spring Break. We talked about what we could immediately integrate into our district, and what would we need to research further. We were extremely thankful to spend time with Lyn because we too want to be put on “the list”. The state of New Jersey recently unveiled a directory of Reward Schools and like Lyn, our goals are specific and measurable; we want to be on that list!

 

Resources:

Her personal Blog – Lynhilt.com

Brecknock Elementary Blog – http://blog.elanco.org/br

Free Blogging for kids – Kidblog.org

Artful storytelling- storybird.com

Pink, D.(2011). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead Trade. New York.

 

April 2

The Open Refrigerator Stare

source: dinnerwithmaxjenke.blogspot.com

Please tell me you know what I am talking about. Prompted by an unsatisfied feeling in your stomach, you wander into the kitchen, open the refrigerator door, and stare deeply into the depths of the cold, giant box. I have been doing this since I was a kid. Sometimes, I even pull a double where I have both the refrigerator and freezer doors open simultaneously. This drives my wife nuts! She says it wastes money, and can affect the contents in the refrigerator. She is actually right on this one. Shouldn’t I have a plan before I look into the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry?  Then I think to myself, is there a lesson here for education?

Many administrators throughout the world are doing the “Open Refrigerator Stare” in their schools.  Here is how it goes. Once we know the curricular shelves are stocked, we wonder curiously down hallways and begin opening doors, classroom doors.

source: sites.google.com

Some of our purchases are front and center. They look as delicious as they did in the store and gulp, we eat it right up. But as we stare longer, we notice numerous items in the back, sometimes piled on top of each other. We may remember buying them, or not. Some of these things have really nice packaging, but when we open them up they spoil quickly. Still others don’t have a very long shelf life, bruise easily, and we just end up staring at them. Often partially satisfied or even unsatisfied, we close the door.

Invariably, someone goes shopping again and announces, “The new packages are in!” Then, we begin the process all over by packing the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Sometimes we throw out dated items, sometimes we think maybe we will use them later, and other times we store them somewhere else. Either way, it all gets packed in there.

source: stillwaterpubliclibrary.blogspot.com

So, how do we thwart the Open Refrigerator Stare and subsequent wasteful practices that plague Education? The plan is simple-we need to refine our practices and operationalize a methodical and process-centered system that is focused on results. The results can be anything from saving money, improved student achievement, increased professional development. It really depends on what you want in the refrigerator.

Systems thinking

source: modernanalyst.com

According to Senge (1990) systems thinking is the process that helps leaders perceive how aspects of the organization influence each other. For instance, in schools, there is a system of influences on student performance. In addition to teachers,  there are parents, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, secretaries, Board of Education, administration, technology, laws, mandates, nutrition, etc. that impact students. If everyone understands that they are part of the “system” and understand the mission/vision of the system, then the system is dedicated to student achievement. Seems easy, right? Well, it isn’t.

Process Centered not people centered

Hammer (1996) coined the phrase “process-centered” to describe the importance of organizations’ understanding their own processes. For a school, this is a way to view all purchases, interactions, curriculum, etc. in terms of the mission/vision as opposed to someone with a “bright idea” or “money to spend.” In order for process-centered to work, people have to put aside their positions, personal beliefs, and power struggles to do what is in the best interest of the organization. Under a process-centered school district, the central administration (with a balcony view of the district) becomes more of a “quality control” focusing on the inter-working parts of all the schools, curriculum, etc with the mission/vision driving the way.

Focused on Results

source: one-now.com

W.E. Demmings coined the phrase “We inspect what we expect.” He believed that organizations, if focused on quality, needed to follow a simple mathematical equation: “Quality= Results of work/ Total costs.” In education, we have been accustomed to our “feelings.” Often administrators will say, “I feel our students are not behaving lately!” The first question, in response to that, would be, “How do you know?” Then you would ask, “What data do you have to support that? Is it a trend? Was this an outlier of a month? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?” Asking the right questions can lead us to create the necessary system or processes to achieve our goals, and overcome real (and perceived) problems.

See, it’s not that simple anymore to go on feelings. In fact, I believe the “feelings” of educators have us going in a million different directions. No wonder we are constantly being criticized and vilified in the press. What are really focused on? Do we have the capacity to tell our story, with appropriate data to support? Furthermore, if we want teachers to make data-based decisions, then we as administrators need to lead by example, and open the refrigerator door in a systemic, process-centered way that is focused on results.

Resources:

Hammer, M. (1996). Beyond Reengineering: How the Process Centered Organization is Changing Our work and Lives. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. New York.

Senge, P. (1990). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Currency Doubleday. New York.

Transforming Schools Through Powerful, Systemic Walkthroughs http://www.wix.com/missdiscepola/ascd12