#RM Bacon is doing the Impossible!

 As I sit here, alone in my school on the eve of the 2012-13 school year I had a thought, a connection, and I was inspired! (If you want to hear the song I was listening to, go to the end of the post)

Bright colors, appealing environment

I took one more walk around the building and something hit me – like a ton of bricks….

A chair, a storage container, a really great idea!

RM Bacon is really doing the impossible! (Our theme this year is Impossible is Nothing!)

Student desks are so last century!

I am not sure where it started, or when, but there has been a transformation in the learning spaces of the school.

Bloom’s Pyramid

Some teachers had to give up their space, some had to update because of changes in enrollment, and all of the teachers maintained a positive outlook!

Resource Room teachers completely redesigned their learning space

 

Teachers, armed with fresh ideas gathered from facebook, pintrest, and twitter have redesigned their learning spaces, and paid attention to the most special detail – our message!

Love how the painted on chalckboard compliments the traditional wooden closet

After my walk, I felt the emergence of 3 major themes: Classroom Instruction that Works Strategies along with Bloom’s Taxonomy, Positive Behavioral Intervention Support (PBIS), and the Daily 5.

Who has focus on CITWS?

Wow, as if they all collaborated with each other?

Self taught Daily 5

This newness spread throughout the school in a collective fashion that is sending the students messages of hope, understanding, and accountability.

We are World Class!

A place where they will do the impossible, in a purposeful, collaborative environment.

Gandy’s pond with critters inside

I was so impressed! I had to blog about how awesome the teachers are here at RM Bacon Elementary.

Who wouldn’t want to go to read with the teacher?

This is truly a world-class school, in a world class district!

 

Are you going to sink or swim?

 

These are just some of the many examples that I found on the eve of 2012-13 school year… Where Impossible is Nothing!

 

You Matter at #RMBACON!

 

 Thank you teachers!

Lots of movement, new second grade class!

This was the song I was listening to when I thought about this post:

“It’s harder to hate up close”

Drumthwacket

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?

#NJED tweeps William Diaz, Kevin Carroll, and Brad Currie

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 Christie speaking to NJ educators

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.

Of course I had to ask the first question!

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.

Skypeing with my social media mentor @PrincipalJ

This is the tenth in the series about educators making a difference.

Jessica Johnson

When I first turned to social media to create my PLN, it was Jessica Johnson who was my guide. Without even knowing it, I spent the first month on twitter learning from her, and Curt Rees. I studied their blogs, read their tweets, and anything else I could get my mouse on. I can remember sitting in my office at work, talking with a teacher who was helping me understand all of this technology stuff, and he said, “I checked out PrincipalJ’s website, and if you want to do what she is doing, it is going to take a lot of time and commitment.” He was so correct.Jessica began her journey in social media in 2007. She tuned into the Principal Podcast that was being broadcast by Melinda Miller, and Scott Elias. She was following them, similar to how I was following her in 2012. She listened to the podcasts, read their blogs, and got her hands on anything they recommended. She wanted to learn. They kept talking about twitter, and how powerful the medium was in education. It took her about a year, and finally in 2008, Jessica Johnson became @PrincipalJ.

Jessica strives for “zero” inbox

As a brand new principal, Jessica was determined to be the best that she could be. Here she was in rural Wisconsin, with the new ability to completely open her world up to all that twitter, and social media had to offer. Yet, at first, she told no one, not even her teachers. When I asked her about this, she said, “It was my thing. I didn’t seek to have a lot of followers, or make a huge impact. I just wanted to learn, and connect.” Slowly but surely, Jessica found that she had to pay it forward. She finally decided to take off the “private” setting on twitter so she could at least re-tweet these wonderful ideas she was gathering. She ripped the Band-Aid off.

Jessica tries to get technology into the hands of her kids (this is her husband’s office)

Since she began to pay it forward, Jessica has grown her blog and twitter network, and has become one of the most respected administrators in social media. When I asked Jessica about her blogging process she said, “I would have to say I am more like George Couros. I like to write it down, post, and walk away. I think getting the right images sometimes takes me longer than the actual post.” She went on to say that she mainly blogs as a reflective tool for herself, and her teachers. Blogging forces her to be reflective.

Currently, Jessica is working on a book project with @shiraleibowitz and @KathyPerret as a result of her participation in the #educoach on twitter. Together they moderate the #educoach chat which happens on selected Wednesdays at 9:00 PM CST. Jessica, along with @shiraleibowitz and @KathyPerret said that the book is being collectively written from the coaching perspective of a principal. She feels connected with the coaching realm because that is the type of leader she is at her school. Jessica feels that her role is to make her teachers better by encouraging, and motivating them to get to the next level.

Reflections from an Elementary School Principal

Jessica’s passion, as exemplified in her tweets, blogs, and facebook likes, is reading. Her background on her blog is, you guessed it, books. In viewing her last 10 posts on her blog, she referenced her reading/student reading, or the importance of reading 80% of the time. Her most discussed concept of late is the Daily 5. She had completely integrated the Daily 5 into her school, but as you would guessed it, she did not mandate it at first, she allowed the teachers, and students to see the importance in their own way. As they moved forward, and she saw the positive impact, the Daily 5 is now the new normal.  She says that the Daily 5 has encouraged more reading at her school by teachers, parents, and students.

Jessica Johnson has been very influential in mentoring me (and countless others) in navigating the power of the PLN. She is always available to assist with technology, twitter, pintrest, and providing feedback on blogs.

The summer is winding down, and I will soon be on vacation. Look for the final posts in the series on other educators making a difference through my conversations with Curt Rees, Shelly Terrell, Lisa Dabbs, and Cool Cat Teacher.

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference:  George Couros, Justin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr, Todd Whitaker, Erin Klein, Patrick Larkin, Kelly Tenkely

Resources:

#educoach

All things Jessica Johnson

Daily 5

 

Building a Strong Alliance: My Skype with Kelly Tenkely

This is the ninth in the series about educators making a difference in education.

Let me introduce you to someone. I will throw a few words out there, and you can see who you think they describe: Determined, Passionate, Progressive, Futuristic, Spiritual, Committed, Survivor, and Motivational. For those who have been on twitter the past few years, you know that I am describing Kelly Tenkley. For those of you who may not know who Kelly is, then it’s time for you to become part of the alliance.

I’ll be honest, had it not been for The Nerdy Teacher and Erin Klein, I am not sure I would have “known” who Kelly was. Everything happens for a reason.  Both Erin and Nick said that I HAD to contact Kelly, and interview her for this project.

What does your digital footprint reveal?

My initial search of Kelly revealed her rather large digital footprint: Blogs: iLearn Technology; Dreams of Education; Stories of Learning; iPad Curriculum; Confident Teacher Websites: Tenkely.org; Typing; iVerb; Internet Safety; 2010 Olympics; Bookcasting; LinkedIn: Kelly Tenkely Twitter: ktenkely; YouTube: ktenkely; Freelance articles: Top 10 Technology Tips for New Teachers; 10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports; 15 Tools to Help You Go Paperless; 5 Best Virtual Field Trips; A Day in the Life of an Elementary Computer Teacher/Technology Integration Specialist; Use the Technology Available to You; It’s Not All About the Technology; Lessons Learned from Master Teachers Videos/Podcasts/Recognition: Edublog award winner 2009; ISTE 10 21st Century Classroom (Part 1 and 2) EDTECH: Focus on K-12; Cool Teacher Podcast Interview 2009; Game Classroom Top Educator; Scholastic Plug into Generation IM interview; Education.com Article: How Should Schools be Using Tech to Teach?; Tech Chick Tips Episode 45; Leading and Learning: Blogger’s Beat Initiatives/Conferences: Edublogger Alliance Network; Project PLN; Reform Symposium Virtual Conference (organizer 2010); ACSI Conference Speaker (2008); Starrmatica 50 States Contest Judge (2010); Colorado Podcast Summit (2008) Corporate Mentions of iLearn Technology: Secret Builders; Shidonni; Eyeplorer; Smithsonian: Picturing the 30′s. To put things in perspective, Kelly blogged at least 5 days a week from July 2007 – January 2012 (She started because her husband suggested it). I know what you are thinking. You had to slow down in 2012 Kelly, didn’t you?

Anastasis Academy Studio 14

One of the most important aspects to Kelly’s learning is her PLN. She began her PLN through twitter and blogging. Along with Steven Anderson, Shelly Terrell,  and The Nerdy Teacher, Kelly sought to build an alliance of education bloggers known as the Blogger Alliance. For her part, she read every single post, and commented as often as she could. Yes, every single post. The alliance eventually grew to well over 100 people.  That is when she realized that she couldn’t read and post on every single alliance blog. She created a strong bond with her PLN that has remained consistent. Along with her alliance, and #edchat tweeps she wanted to take things to another level. So, she helped organized the Reform Symposium, an #edchat conference that was 3 days of free professional development that served over 7,000 people.

The Anastasis Academy

Besides Kelly’s enormous digital footprint, did I mention that she started her own school? Yes, her pride and joy, Anastasis Academy, opened in the fall of 2011. The idea came to her as she was listening to Pandora. She thought to herself – why can’t learning be more like Pandora? Why can’t a curriculum get tagged, and allow the learner to create a “playlist” for themselves? This lead to the creation of the Learning Genome Project, which later transformed into the basis for her school. The school is designed as a challenging, learning-centered school within a close nit, collaborative culture. All the learning is personalized, and the class sizes are designed to maximize personalization. There are no “boxed” curriculum materials, only learning tools designed to piece together based on student needs. There is no “one size fits all” at the school. If that isn’t enough, Kelly is currently looking to expand the Anastasis Academy to Rawanda and Costa Rica. In case you were wondering, Anastasis has a Jeep inside the school. Yes, a Jeep!

Everything is a learning opportunity

Kelly’s number 1 supporter/famous chef/husband, Jonathan

How does Kelly have time for all of this you may wonder? When I asked her this she immediately said, “When it feels like a burden, I don’t do it. I make time for the important things in life. I am not one to sit around and just watch TV. I am a multi-tasker!” She went on to tell me that she has an extremely supportive husband, Jonathan, who has played a huge role in encouraging Kelly to achieve her goals. Her and Jonathan enjoy playing with their dogs, and are often enjoying the great outdoors in Colorado.

Kelly Tenkley has worked hard to build an alliance of educators committed to helping students achieve success in the 21st century. In cataloging her learning through her blogs, she has impacted the lives of countless teachers, and administrators to improve learning for students. She has what some call “superhuman” strength, but she gives credit to her faith in God. For Kelly, life hasn’t always been easy. She battles rheumatoid arthritis that caused her to give up her computer teaching job a few years ago, and take a year off from working full time. Everything happens for a reason. Unfortunately, working with students lowers her immunity, and inflames her condition. She often has to take breaks, and work from home in order to stay healthy. Yet, Kelly continues to push forward, with the help of her alliance! Are you ready to join?

Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Lisa Dabbs, and Cool Cat Teacher.

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference:  George Couros, Justin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr, Todd Whitaker, Erin Klein, Patrick Larkin

Resources:

All things Kelly Tenkely

 

My Skype with Patrick M. Larkin, the Administrator formerly known as BHS_Principal

The Administrator formerly known as BHS_Principal

This is the eighth in the series about educators making a difference

About  4 years ago the inner writer within Patrick Larkin found a way to streamline communication with the school community. He started a blog that would eventually retire the tried and true “School Newsletter.” Not soon after, while at a Blue Ribbon Conference, Patrick heard Will Richardson discuss social media. This was the first time he heard about #edchat and the power of twitter. Something clicked with Patrick, but not immediately. Patrick took time to “lurk and learn.”
 

Sometime after he met Will Richardson, Patrick was contacted by George Couros, who at the time was one of the few principals on twitter. George discussed his idea about connecting principals through social media. Patrick was very interested. He had grown tired of the “email list serves” that had run their course. This new social media, thought Patrick, would allow everyone a faster, more streamlined way of communicating throughout the world.
 

Patrick’s superintendent (Eric Conti or @ericconti)  was supportive of his new interest in social media. He was able to see how Patrick would be assisting his teachers, and students as he learned new information from the other educators. Patrick continued to improve his blog, signed his school up for a facebook page, and shared the great news with anyone who would listen. Teachers and parents began to sign up for twitter, and follow the school on facebook. Then something happened that would change Burlington High School forever. It happened in Iowa of all places.

 

Source: Patrick Larkin

Patrick learned about a conference in Iowa (Iowa 1:1 Institute) focusing on 1 to 1 computing, something that was not common in Massachusetts. Patrick’s superintendent and school board approved a trip to attend the conference with a group of schools in Iowa.  This is where Patrick first met Scott McLeod (co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens) as well as Shannon Miller, Darren Durflinger, and John Carver from Van Meter, Iowa. It was during this conference that Patrick was able to see the impact of all students having their own web-enabled device (1 to 1).
 
 

Once he returned to Burlington, Patrick began to work with his colleagues to build the foundation needed for a 1 to 1 initiative at BHS. All told, it was a year and a half of meetings, research, consensus building that eventually paved the way to have the 1 to 1 begin in September of 2010. No stone was left unturned – they looked at the network, educational benefits, devices, and professional development. The team ended up choosing iPads as the device for the 1 to 1. They were one of the first schools in the nation to embark on such an aggressive 21st century journey!

 

Source: hereandnow.wbur.org

While Patrick was working on the 1 to 1 initiative, he quickly became one of the most recognized names in the twitterverse. Everyday Patrick learned a little more, posted a little more, and connected with scores of educators throughout the world. He and George started the #cpchat, and the connected principals’ blog to allow administrators and teachers the platform to discuss various topics. Patrick attended, and presented at local, state, and national conferences on the importance of being connected.
 

I asked Patrick about his famous office in Burlington High School. For those of you who don’t know, Patrick gave up his office a few years ago. His high school became his office! To Patrick it all made sense, he told me, “I had everything I needed. People could call me on my cell phone (he makes it public), we had wifi so I could use my Ipad or laptop wherever, and I found no need for file cabinets.” So, armed with his mac book, Patrick spent his past few years in the main lobby, hallway, and most importantly classrooms. If he had a confidential conversation that needed to take place, he was always able to find a space. Patrick modeled his connectivity, and was available for all to see.
 

Earlier this summer, Patrick made a decision to apply for a vacated Assistant Superintendent position in his school district. Fortunately for his district, Patrick was selected. His former associate principal ended up succeeding him as the new BHS principal, and Patrick decided to “give it all away – he gave his successor the BHS_Principal name for twitter, the blog, the office.  Everything.
 

Now we will be able to follow Patrick M. Larkin as he embarks on his new journey as Assistant Superintendent. Check out his first post.

Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkley, Cool Cat Teacher and many more….

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference:  George Couros, Justin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr, Todd Whitaker, Erin Klein

Resources:

All things Patrick M. Larkin

Shifting the Monkey with Todd Whitaker

This is the sixth in the series about educators who are making a difference

Where is the monkey?

When worlds collide! My twitter mentors Jessica Johnson and Curt Rees with Todd Whitaker (photo courtesy of C. Rees)

Picture this. You are on a run, and all the sudden you get an idea. You are thinking about how people do not take responsibility for their actions. Monkeys on your back. Average. Great. You get back to your house, and put it all together. I am sure that scenario has happened to a lot of us, right? Difference is, Todd Whitaker ended up writing one of the hottest books on the market –  Shifting The Monkey.

OK, with a show of hands, how many of you have read Shifting the Monkey? What Great Principals Do Differently? Maybe one of his other books? OK, how many have heard Todd speak? Been lucky enough to have him present to your school? Watched his videos? Took one of his classes? If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, then you know about Todd Whittaker. For educational administrators Todd is a “must read.” He has written 25 books, presented at numerous national, state, and local conferences, and is a sought after speaker/consultant…. all this on top of being a university professor, father, and devoted husband.

I tried shifting the monkey with Todd on Tuesday, July 10 a few days after I finished reading the book. I must admit, though, prior to reading Shifting I had never read Todd’s books, never heard him speak, never saw his videos. All I knew about Todd was what I had learned through twitter. He was a university professor who had written a lot of books, and created a lot of chatter. That is why I bought Shifting the Monkey. Once I read the book I was hooked. For my summer professional development to be complete, I thought to myself, I have to speak to Todd Whitaker. So I messaged him through twitter, and he agreed to speak with me. I was so excited to be speaking with Todd, I posted on facebook, twitter, and google +.

I tried to shift the monkey with Todd as we spoke on the phone. It didn’t work. He was in the middle of helping his daughter move into an apartment. I was sitting in my office, poised to learn from one of the greats, and I wanted so badly to shift the monkey. Why, might you ask? Because, guess what? That is what we do ALL the time. We shift, they shift, he shifts, she shifts, everyone shifts! Well, not Todd. Not anymore. Next time you have the chance, I dare you…try to shift the monkey with Todd Whitaker!

Where should it be?

For about 30 minutes, Todd and I talked about school leadership, business, politics, teachers, administrators, and life in general. I asked Todd about his writing process. He said that he usually gets inspired by things that are wrong. So, he will be reading something, anything, and he will see through the veil of the writer. Call it a gift, call it a curse. Either way Todd will let you know what you are doing wrong. Todd has wealth of experiences, and street credibility because he has been in our shoes. He was a student, parent, math teacher, coach, curriculum director, and a principal before becoming a university professor.

He gave me so many kernels of useful information throughout the conversation. He allowed me to provide him with a scenario, and he would then use my scenario to discuss Shifting the Monkey. I learned that I shift a lot of monkeys. Thankfully, I won’t be the same kind of principal as a result of our conversation. As he said, “Spike, if you want to change your school, you have to make decisions based on the best teachers. You will not turn that school around with crummy teachers.”

How do I shift the monkey to its proper place?

Here are my Todd Whitaker take-a-ways from our conversation:

  • Your best people work the hardest, the average ones don’t
  • When people come to you with excuses as to why something can’t work, they are merely shifting the monkey. They have done it their whole life. They are experts in shifting the monkey
  • Average people work hard to be average. They love to hear that things such as “We can’t do that here,” or “The parents are (fill in the blank),” or maybe, “The curriculum is (fill in the blank).”  All of these are shifting techniques
  • Change does not take a long time! People love to say that it takes a long time because they don’t want to work hard. For example, have you ever had an out of control class with a marginal teacher (could be a substitute, maternity leave replacement, or even a tenured teacher)? You take another, stronger teacher and put them in that class, and next thing you know it’s a different class? Change doesn’t take a long time, unless you are average
  • Great people do not see the “before.” Continuing that example from above. The great teacher that comes in, and turns things around does not need to know what happened before. They take ownership of the class, and move forward
  • Average principals love to read, and quote literature such as, “Change takes at least 5 to 7 years.” Why do they love it? They have a built in excuse to their goal statement, and can back it up with an author
  • In order to change a school, a principal must be willing to hold all teachers accountable, no excuses
  • The principal must treat everyone (great and average alike) with the same respect, and in a positive manner
  • The job of the principal is not to teach or instruct the students. Rather, the job of the principal is to teach and instruct the teachers so that they can teach and instruct the students
  • In staff meetings, don’t generalize or use a “blanket” monkey. I recently did this and Todd called me on it. Ouch!
  • A chain is only strong as its weakest link” – Guess what? That’s not accurate, and people who quote it are shifting the monkey
  • Great teachers don’t want to be the principal’s pet, but the average teachers want to make it seem like the great teachers ARE the principal’s pet. This tactic helps average teachers shift their monkey, and attempts to bring down great teachers
  • Principals, answer this question – Who is responsible for the culture, and climate in your building? The average principal would respond by saying, “The teachers, PTA, students, BOE, etc.” The great principal would respond, “I am!”

After I hung up with Todd, I immediately ordered What Great Principals Do Differently. I started reading it later on that day. Every time I am on a run, or driving in my car I am thinking about how to be a great principal, where the monkeys are, where they should be, and how to get them there.

I do not want to be average. For the sake of my school, the children, and our status as viewed by the State of New Jersey, I have to be great. I don’t have time to be average. Neither do my teachers. What about you?

Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as Erin Klein, Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkley, Patrick Larkin, and many more….

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference: George Couros, Justin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr

Resources:

Everything Todd Whitaker

The Wejr Board: My Skype with Chris Wejr

This is the fifth in a series about educators making a difference.

Chris Wejr presenting

Chris Wejr (pronounced Weej-er) is currently the principal of Kent Elementary School in Agazzi, BC. Because Chris’s last name is pronounced similarly to the famous Ouija (pronounced wee gee) and he loves talking about the future of education, he decided to name his blog The Wejr Board. The question is… where will this blog post take you? Keep your fingers placed gently on the mouse and find out.

Chris began his social media journey in 2009 as a result of helping a local dance studio who was embarking on a social media journey of their own. He was on facebook since it started, and even signed up his school in order to connect with parents. Yet, it took about a year for him to finally make that first post on his own blog.

He credits George Couros and Patrick Larkin (founders of #cpchat) for helping him see the power of twitter, blogging, and social media in general. Chris feels that twitter has been one of the most important aspects in connecting educators throughout the world. “Because twitter is limited to 140 characters, it is difficult to build relationships and connections,” noted Chris, “But it allows us to begin our connections which lead to reading blog posts, direct messaging, and skypeing.”

What a view! Kent Elementary Garden

Chris has received so many ideas from twitter that he has been able to share with his teachers, parents, and even students. His goal is always clear, how can this make my school better? If there is an area that he needs to know more about or research, he turns to twitter, and rarely is disappointed by what he finds.

Even though Chris was reluctant at first to blog, he now engages in the practice regularly. He feels the most important part of blogging is making it personal. For instance, his facebook account was recently hacked, and the person began sending out inappropriate messages on his behalf. After he dealt with the situation, he made sure to blog about it so that others can learn (Power of A Positive Digital Footprint – A Personal Story). When he writes his blogs, he likes to use material that allows him to spread ideas, which hopefully leads to bigger ideas for others. As for his process, he usually writes, edits, waits, read again, and then posts. 

When I asked Chris about his series of posts on awards ceremonies, his passion for the subject was evident. He wants to be able to recognize all students, but not in the way Robert Dinero’s character did in Meet the Parents (I didn’t know that they made trophies for 8th place). Chris has learned a great deal about award ceremonies from the First Nation People Sto:Lo. “The Sto:Lo people have awards embedded in their culture, and the focus is to acknowledge everyone because everyone matters.” So when Kent Elementary has awards ceremonies, they honor the learning, the intrinsic motivations of each learner. This is not to say that everyone gets an award, but the teachers are encouraged to discuss the students in terms of their passion, and future goals. According to Chris, it has to be authentic.

Dad and daughter.. first bike!

Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Chris to dust off his Wejr-board and tell me about the future of education. He sees technology as what we do, and in the future he sees educators making the learning more relevant, and personal. He sees educators transitioning from judges to coaches that focus on the process, not just the product. He sees an educational community that creates the conditions for everyone to be successful. He said, “We all know that kids are never standard, so why do we always try to make learning, and assessments standard?”

I brought up the issue of time with Chris, and he said, “I agree with George Couros when he told you it is about priority. I tweet at about 3 times a day (morning, lunch and evening). I have 18 month twins, a wife, and other interests as well. I just balance my priorities. I am able to get it all done.”

Chris Wejr is a learning leader, and based on our conversation he continues to work on building the capacity for his students, teachers, and parents to learn as well. He is always open for dialogue, and I am sure would be willing to break out the Wejr-board to help you with a problem or a question.

 Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as  Erin Klein, Todd Whitaker, Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkley, Patrick Larkin, and many more….

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference: George CourosJustin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter

Resources:

Everything Chris Wejr

Sto:lo Nation  

Re- Thinking Awards Ceremonies

Mr. Carter’s Office: Where learning is the constant. My Skype with Dwight Carter

This is the fourth in a series of educators making a difference in education.

Dwight Carter

When Dwight Carter thinks back to the days when he entered into social media, he can’t help but remember how difficult and skeptical he was. In fact, he wasn’t even thinking of social media; he was focused on building an additional wing onto his high school. All the signs for Clark Hall were pointing to the 21st century in terms of technology, learning spaces, and even scheduling. Before Dwight could fully engage in the planning process, and truly understand 21st century learning spaces, he had to become a 21st century school leader.  So he did what any other person who is seeking a change would do … He went to Boot Camp (now referred to as fastforward camp).

About 3 years ago Dwight Carter, and other administrators from his district, went to fastforward camp. At the fastforward camp, Dwight learned about twitter, and blogging, as well as personalities such as Shelly Terrell, Patrick Larkin, and Eric Sheninger. He read Shelly’s The 30 Goals Challenge. When he reflects on that process, Dwight feels that it was a mindset shift. He admits that the eventual success of Clark Hall would not have been possible without the help of his participation in social media.

Be great!

Blogging was scary at first for Dwight. He understood the 21st century mindset shift that occurred during his days in fastforward camp, but he still had difficulty with putting his words into cyberspace. Eventually, he started blogging because, as he says, “Reflection is at the heart of my leadership, and blogging provides a platform for me to do that.” Dwight quickly became a “rock star” on twitter, and through his blog, began to attract a lot of followers. During this time, the learning space across the street was being built, so was Dwight’s passion for 21st century learning.

Clark Hall opened as a multi-use learning space. From the floor to the ceiling, from the chairs to the tables, the paint, the

Clark Hall

space, everything was designed to foster collaboration, creativity, and technology. When I asked him about a typical day in Clark Hall, he said, “Students check in for the first 15 to 20 minutes. Then they decide how they are going to spend their time for the rest of the day. They continue to check in with their teachers throughout the day. There are no bells, no lockers, no remnants of 19th century learning.” There is even a new type of library at the high school, an “un quiet” library that allows students to talk, connect, and collaborate.

 

Clark Hall – Government Room

Social Media, as I am learning, can be a double-edged sword. After reading, “Disconnect to Reconnect” you really get a chance to understand what was recently going on with Dwight for the past few months. One of the perils of 21st century learning, and participating in social media is the toll it takes on the individual. As we discussed in our conversation, it was evident that Dwight had to take a break. He told me he went through a time where everything was a potential blog, or tweet, and he was losing focus. He sees the role of the principal as the chief communicator for their students, and with that comes a lot of responsibility to be true to yourself. Dwight absolutely loves being a principal, but he had to take a break from Social Media to eventually reconnect!

As for the future of Mr. Carter, he is looking forward to being a principal for as long as the district will have him. He is excited for the beginning of the second full year of Clark Hall. In fact, he will be presenting the Clark Hall story at The Jostens Renaissance National Conference in Orlando, FL.  According to Dwight, “It’s one of the most uplifting and inspirational conferences for educators. They treat all educators that attend like first class citizens! The speaker lineup is powerful including speakers such as Todd Whitaker and Kevin Carroll.” Dwight wrote about the conference in his post Something to Believe In!

As Dwight would say, “Be great!”

Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as  Chris Wejr, Erin Klein, Todd Whitaker, Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkley, and many more….

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference: George CourosJustin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher

Resources:

Clark Hall

Dwight Carter

The Physical Environment Matters 

Social Media, Consumerism, and Gadgetry” Dwight discusses social media

The Nerdy New Year’s Resolution: My Skype with The Nerdy Teacher

This is my third post in the summer series about educators who are making a difference.

The #edubros with Moby

When the Skype conversation started, and being the aspiring comedian, I asked, “So, do I call you Nerdy? Nerdy Teacher? Nick?” He laughed, and I knew that he had a sense of humor!

It was January 2010, and while most people made New Year’s Resolutions that lasted a few minutes, hours, days, or maybe weeks, Nicholas Provenzano began his foray into social media. Fast forward two and half years, and he is still going strong! The Nerdy Teacher began as a goal for Nick to write more. He was in the process of earning an educational technology degree, and heard some chatter about blogging, twitter, etc. His first post, The Nerdy Teacher, had about 4 reads. To date it probably has 20. To those who are just starting out, doesn’t this sound familiar?

The Nerdy Teacher 2.0?

The Nerdy Teacher credits his social media god-parents Kelly Tenkly (@ktenkely) and Shelly Terrell (@shellterrell) for giving him the early encouragement. They began to take an interest in The Nerdy Teacher by re-tweeting, commenting, and showing a general interest in his pursuit of storytelling. Later that year, he attended ISTE10, and he met so many people who were “connected.” His global perspective broadened, and he saw the importance of being connected.

For a long time, The Nerdy Teacher was the only person in his district using social media. He had a supportive principal and department chair who allowed him to explore ways to use social media to teach, instruct, and assist students. Slowly, more teachers got on board, but he admits, there is more work to be done. The students he teaches, he says, totally get it!

The Nerdy Teacher is a writer at heart, and his blog provides the venue to convey his message. He doesn’t follow any traditional rules with his writing. His blog process is informal. He sits down, writes, gives it a once over, and posts. Although, he does have some ideas that are “slow cookers” and he waits to write, then post. He doesn’t like schedules or deadlines because he feels it hampers his creativity. There are times that he may post 4 days in a row, or may take 10 days in between posts. To the Nerdy Teacher, his blog is a reflective place, and he wants it to stay that way.

Nick talked about his series about watching TV shows, and connecting it to education. These posts were popular with readers because, as he says, “A lot of us grew up watching the same things. We had a shared experience that impacts our views on teaching, learning, and even blogging.” He finds making a personal connection to something a form of inspiration for his blog. The Nerdy Teacher also credits his father who had some foresight, and purchased a Macintosh computer when Nick was young. “My Dad was so right,” he said. Yes he was right!

Classic vacation picture

The Nerdy Teacher sees the future of education being a place where learning is individualized, using growth models, and more technology – all of this, he says, won’t be cheap. As for the future of The Nerdy Teacher, according to his Dr. Nerdy? post, he is considering pursuing a Ph.D. or a school administration degree. Tough choices that he allows, you the reader, to help him with. Send him your opinion, as of now he already has 21 comments! Tell him what think!

Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr, Erin Klein, Todd Whitaker, Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkley, and many more….

Resources:

The Nerdy Teacher