Benefits of Halloween (303:365)

photo by Stephanie Muhlbaier

photo by Stephanie Muhlbaier

I am amazed every year how the interest in Halloween grows (and I am not just talking kids). The lead up to Halloween is filled with excitement, costume planning, scary movies, and lots of activities. Kids and adults spend time in corn mazes, haunted hayrides, and carving pumpkins. In schools, we generally have activities that coincide with the lead up to Halloween.


In our school, planning for the Fall Frolic and Halloween Parade begins in the summer. We select dates, chairs for each of the committees, and people volunteer to begin making decorations. It is serious community engagement. We average between 400 – 450 people each Frolic, and about 100 parents at our parade. In fact, I would say that the Halloween activities at our school are the top opportunities for parent and community engagement.


Each year we continue to top ourselves. We try new things, and work to make it a better experience for the kids. As parents and students leave the Halloween events they are so thankful, appreciative, and report such positive comments about the events. They love seeing the hard work from the staff. They love our energy, and how serious we take it.



Have you ever heard a xylophone like this? (302:365)



I stumbled across this video (as did about 12 million other people). I am not a musician, but I appreciate music. In fact, my son is currently studying the drums and often plays the xylophone.

When you first watch this video, I am sure you will wonder why I posted it (or better yet, why did they spend so much time setting this thing up just to play a song), but the meaning is much deeper.




What do you think?

What is the definition of organizational insanity? (301:365)



The definition of organizational insanity is doing the same things over and over while expecting different results. As leaders, we have to challenge ourselves all the time to ensure that we are not on the revolving door of organizational insanity. For instance, leaders tend to put systems in place to ensure that all of the various requirements are completed (usually these are completed by others). We then do a “systems” check on the processes to determine if they are effective. When these systems become ineffective or breakdown, we seek ways to solve the problem. We then implement a new system (or a new feature) in order to address the problem. At the end, we repeat.


The problem that many leaders run into is that they struggle with metrics that are consistent to monitor their systems. All too often with so many “irons in the fire” it becomes difficult to monitor everything. This is the time that organizational insanity creeps in. Some leaders feel it is easier to just let things continue because, well, “that’s how we have always done things.” We all know things won’t just improve, and it takes a lot of reflection to battle organizational strategies.
How do you monitor organizational insanity?

If you could do something 300 times (300:365)



I will be honest. The fact that my blogging streak has hit 300 completely and utterly amazes me. Knowing that I only have 65 more posts before the year ends excites me. So as I consider the streak, I know that it pales in comparison to other streaks. I know I will never blog everyday for 4 years like Kelly Tenkley or even Cal Ripken who played 2,632 baseball games in a row.


I have learned a lot about myself, leadership and the writing process through this experience. It continues to require me to seek inspiration and reflect on my learning! Celebrating this milestone and looking forward to another 65 posts…. and then….. who knows!

Are you Isolated and Connected? (299:365)



Doesn’t that sound like a misnomer? How could you be “connected” and at the same time “isolated”? Well, that is why we are working on a project to shed light on this phenomenon.

As we explore this topic, we need your help. Can you take a few minutes to answer a few questions that will be used in our book? Be sure to leave an email address if you would like to be considered to have your story highlighted.

We will also be addressing this topic in several upcoming podcasts, and we hope you join us. Check out the PrincipalPLN blog for more information!


We really appreciate your assistance with this 🙂

Hanging on the Vine (298:365)



In just 6 seconds, that’s right 6 seconds Vines are growing everywhere! Everybody young and old are watching Vines. They are very addictive. My son can’t get enough of them! What is the interest? Well 40 million people can’t be wrong, can they?


The appeal of the Vine is in it’s simplicity. Like it’s owner, Twitter, brevity is everything. Can you do something in 6 seconds to catch someone’s interest? So what is the educational use? Schools are using Vines similar to all of the Social Media apps… to draw interest, tell their story, and allow students to create, and publish as Digital Citizens.


Some schools are having 5 to minute film festivals using Vines. Check out this Edutopia blog post about how schools use Vines.


Here is Edutopia’s 6 Second Science Fair


What are you going to use Vine for?



If you are not learning, there is no excuse (297:365)



Since social media allows for 24 hours a day 7 days a week access, the times for learning are infinite. Let’s face it, everyone now has devices that allow access with the click of a mouse. These devices such as iPads, iPhones, Droids, Chromebooks etc. are portable and accessible to the internet.

Most people are using their devices to access information while waiting for an appointment, at their child’s sporting event, or at home when they have downtime. A few moments here and a few moments there will allow for an entire world to be brought alive.


If you are not learning, there is no excuse. Want more information about being connected? Check out Corwin’s Connected Educator Series



Excitement for reading (296:365)



Today I was in a second grade class. The kids were in between activities and the teachers was giving them time to read. For the first time in a long time, I had a student call me over because he wanted to read to me. As I knelt down next to him, he started reading his book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, with such ease. He was pointing out aspects of the story that he thought might interest me. Since the book has some cartoons embedded, he read them with the inflection that the author intended. 2nd grade! He was so excited to share his learning with me. It was really cool.


After I left the class I Googled the book to see the level (I think my son started reading the series in 3rd grade). Turns out it has a grade equivalency of 5.3, a Lexile measure of 970L, and a guided reading level T. I know there is always a range with students, but I have to say I was more impressed after realizing level of the book. I think what impressed me even more is that over the last two years I have seen that student grow and mature.


My point with all of this is that learning is a process. In schools, we have to build the climate and culture to support growth. We can’t always get so tied up in the minutia of the standardized movement. Excitement for reading is exactly what we need!

Do we need to be more like coaches? (295:365)



In the world of sports, coaches play an integral role in their teams efforts. I do realize that education and sports have some similarities and many differences. Based on that, if we look at the similarities we may be able to learn from the coaches.

What are the similarities? (Coaches and Principals)

  • Constantly learning – The effective coach sees the evolution of the game, they know it is not stagnant
  • High Expectations – Everyone wants the best from their players
  • Everyone has a role – Teams, no matter what, need everyone to play a role
  • Take chances – It takes a lot of courage to get out on the field, and there are times when you have to go for the big one


Why are some coaches more effective then others? (this can also be applied to principals)

  • They understand their players, and know what motivates them
  • They are reflective – Implement, reflective, repeat
  • They have a system and everyone buys in
  • The team is everything


So the next time you are watching a sporting event, and you look over to the sidelines, take notice of the coaches. Think about their role (not just on game day) but also in the preparation and reflection.

An interesting dilemma (294:365)



I attended a conference recently and I noticed an interesting dilemma…. With all of the preparation for the PARCC, districts have been increasing their devices (mostly Chrome books). So, now, armed with these devices, the questions are piling up. What do we do with the devices in the classroom?


Fortunately, besides the test prep, administrators and teachers are seeking ways to help students use these devices. They want to know how to tell their story (classroom, school and district), they want to know why to blog, and what applications can assist students with 21st century skills. This is exciting!


What to do? Where to start?

I would recommend that folks begin with a few of the resources listed below:

How to get connected? Corwin Connected Educators Series is designed to help the un-connected become connected. Each of the books are designed for a specific area including teachers, administrators, families, etc.


How to get started with Twitter? Check out this quick and informative video by Erin Klein, on using Twitter to connect with the world!