It’s easy to “hate” someone when you see them on TV in snippets and sound bites. It’s easy to hate someone when you are told to hate them because they are a certain way, or come from a party with a different symbol. What I learned today from Governor Christie was: It’s harder to hate close up. (he told a story using that line)
Hate is such a strong word. I never hated Chris Christie. Honestly, I’m not sure if I have ever hated a politician. Maybe I didn’t understand him? Or maybe I just never took the time to see things from his perspective? Maybe I made him a scapegoat for things when I didn’t get my way?
I had the fortunate opportunity to meet with about 30 other educators from around the state this morning for breakfast at Drumthwacket. It was great meeting my #NJED tweeps Brad Currie, William Diaz, and Kevin Carroll. After breakfast, Chris Christie appeared in our room. His first comment was, “Can I get everyone who is sitting in the Harry Potter room to join us?” We all laughed because there were several tables in the adjacent room that looked like, well, something out of a Harry Potter film. For the next 45 minutes, in a relaxed discussion, Chris Christie talked to us, made us laugh, and most importantly, made us think.
Chris is extremely proud of the legislation that was just passed last week regarding tenure reform in NJ. He is most proud because he finally felt like he was able to accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task with the help of the state’s biggest teacher union, the NJEA. For the last two years, there has been a public battle played out in the media between Christie and the NJEA. He now hopes things will be different with the NJEA moving forward. Christie admits that there are things he has said in the past that he regrets, but he makes no apologies for trying to reform a system that had basically been untouched for over 100 years.
Governor Christie is well aware of the performance of NJ education (which has easily been touted as one of the best in the country), yet he challenged us all to realize that the highly performing schools in this state are basically serving suburban families. For urban students, their experience in NJ public schools is nowhere near high performing. He is afraid that the students in underperforming, urban school districts are not getting the same opportunities as their counterparts in the suburbs. He knows that that money is not going to solve the problems (just look at the amount of money that was infused into urban districts since the landmark Abbott v. Burke case). He even said, and this resonated with me, that he realizes the parents in the urban areas are not voting for him, so his passion for them goes beyond politics, and votes.
When he took questions my hand shot up immediately. He called on me and I explained how I am a principal of a recently designated focus school, which is in an urban setting. I thanked him for the Regional Achievement Centers (RAC), and asked him why we don’t have a shining example in this state that has sustained success on assessments. He told me and everyone in the room, that he is as frustrated as I am that there are no examples to share. He questioned the assessments, and if they are doing what we are asking them to do. He feels that these students need more time (extended into the summer, extended days, anything) to help them achieve even if their parents could care less. Wow, not the answer I thought he was going to give! He told me to continue to care and not give up. I told him to give me some time, and that my school will be the example!
There were a few questions from my colleagues that received quick, and well thought out responses. One superintendent asked about the caps on salaries. To everyone’s surprise he said that they are doing research to amend it, but they need data. Someone else asked about the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) process, and he said he was done with it, and we would be too (everyone applauded). He wants to pay teachers more money, but he wants to ensure that they are all working hard, and producing results! He wants principals to hold teachers accountable, and not just accept mediocrity. Based on the new legislation mentioned above, school districts will not need to waste millions of dollars and valuable time to hold a bad teacher accountable. No excuses anymore!
Another colleague mentioned charter schools, and why they are being opened in areas that have high performing public schools. Christie said that shouldn’t be happening, and that the charters are designed to help parents have a choice (without tuition) in underperforming schools.
Chris Christie said he is excited for the future. He is going to work on being less “hot” but he is not going to stop advocating for kids. He said he is open to ideas, and to criticism. If you have questions, make sure to contact his office, or Commissioner Chris Cerf’s office. Or your could tweet Chris Christie.
As I walked away from the discussion, I was left with more questions than answers. I thought about the comments and questions from my previous post. Many people think he hates teachers, and shouldn’t be making educational decisions. To those who feel that way, I encourage you to do your own research, and familiarize yourself with Christie’s policies. Don’t just rely on the media hype, and the discussions in the teachers’ lounge because you may end up seeing him in a new light.
It is really harder to hate close up.
I received a call on Sunday from a good friend and respected colleague, Steven Engravalle. He asked me what I was doing on Thursday, and I said, “Probably working, but nothing special.” Steve said, “Good, because now you are. How would you like to sit down in a small forum and talk with Governor Chris Christie?” As you can imagine, I agreed. We talked for a few more minutes. I had to ask, “Steve, how did I get picked?” Steve told me the Governor is looking to discuss education with a small group of committed educators representing various positions, school districts, etc. He went on to say that Governor Chris Christie wants honest dialogue, “And that, my friend, is why you were chosen!”
Anyone that knows me, knows that I will be honest in whatever setting I’m in. Anyone that knows Governor Chris Christie, knows that he will be honest in whatever setting he is in! We have some things in common besides our honesty. Governor Christie has made education a top priority in his administration. Some of his laws, policies, and theories on education have required people to question the status quo. Although I haven’t agreed with everything, I admire his courageousness. I also admire him for taking the time to speak with people like me, who have access to people like YOU!
After calling my loved ones and friends to share the good news I did what any connected educator would do… I Tweeted, posted on Facebook, and began writing this blog. Why? Because I am not just representing me when I meet with the Governor, I am representing everyone within my PLN (Personal Learning Network).
I ask you this… If given this same opportunity, what would you ask?
I had the opportunity of attending Pad Camp on August 16, 2012. This “un-conference” was held at Galloway Township Middle School, in Galloway, NJ. I want to start out by thanking Kevin Jarrett for his work in organizing the event!
The first session I attended was hosted by Jeff Bradbury. He had educators engaged, and involved throughout his session on imovie. After a brief introduction, he got us working right away in small groups on a film project. Within 45 minutes, educators who hadn’t necessarily worked with each other before, or with imovie, were able to produce projects.He connected this session to how you can have students, and or teachers develop back to school videos for the upcoming school year.
Here is the video we made:
During the second session, I caught up with my tweeps Danielle Hartman, Dana Sirotiak, and Celese Nolan. Normally, we are only able to collaborate through twitter, so this gave us a chance to share best practices for student engagement. I think I learned about 20 new apps for my ipad!
At lunch I was able to catch up with Jeff Bradbury, and learn about how teachercast.net has grown. He shared with me his recent experiences at ISTE12, and his pod cast project. I highly recommend to follow him on twitter, and to stay tuned to his podcasts!
After lunch, the #njed tweeps attended a session on nearpod presented by Hannah Walden. She did an excellent job of walking us (there must have been 50+ people in the session!) through the nearpod app, and how it can assist students and teachers in the classroom. Great job, Hannah!
For the last session, we requested that Jeff discuss pod casting, and to record an actual podcast. We grilled him with questions for about 15 minutes on how our classrooms, schools, and districts can utilize pod casting (For more information on this, I recommend to check out his 1st and 2nd pod casts). Once you get the equipment (basically an ipod, ipad or iphone will do, a microphone, and an itunes account, you will be set) pod casting can be an excellent way to have students interview/report/present on various school activities such as parents, teachers, administrators, guests, field trips, commercials, events, announcements, etc. I know that RM Bacon Elementary will be producing pod casts as a result of this session!
Today was a very inspiring day. I really enjoyed hanging with my #njed tweeps, learning, laughing, and continuing to become a 21st century leader.
Let me know about your experiences with un-conferences…..
“It was not the vacation I wanted, it was the vacation I needed”
A few weeks ago while I was running, I felt an odd twinge in my right foot. I kept running through it, and probably ran 4 or 5 more times, plus did Muay Thai kickboxing. One morning I woke up and my foot was black and blue. I posted the picture on facebook, and sure enough, my friends thought I had a stress fracture. Fortunately, modern day science, and a fantastic orthopedic were able to determine that it was not a fracture, but rather a slight tendon sprain. All I worried about was my upcoming vacation. I like to run, play golf, and go in the ocean/sand on my vacations. Plus, there are miles to walk on the boardwalk!
I started vacation as conservative as I could. Kept my boot on, and relaxed. Since I was on a self imposed social media blackout, and I didn’t want to read anything too “educational” or “leadership oriented” I picked up the Hunger Games. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I was reading something that didn’t directly impact my job.
As the vacation progressed, I found that my foot became stronger. I kicked off the boot, and did my best to help the kids in the ocean. For the first few days, my wife was doing most of the ocean supervising. My son, although much more brave than last year, wanted to venture further out into the waves, and my daughter tends to be a human barnacle when she gets near water.
Reflecting back on the social media black out, and the “take it easy” approach to my physical exercising, I ended up having one of the best vacations in recent memory. In fact, many times I would finish a vacation, I would feel the need to have a “vacation from my vacation.” I can now say I am hooked on the Hunger Games, and I almost finished Catching Fire. I am thankful that I had the vacation I needed!
Here I am with vacation staring me in the face, and I am blogging. Yet, I have made a decision for next week – I am powering down. Basically since January 1, 2012 I have been steady on the social media scene. Well, that ends the week of August 4 – 12. Nada, nothing, zilch. This will be hard for me, but not a touch decision. I need to spend time with my family, sand, and sun!
I value my PLN, and you should too. So if you come across something, just save it for me. I will be back. That you can count on.
Thanks to Dana Sirotiak for sending me this video on the PLN. Grow your PLN.