The Life of an Educator: My Skype with Justin Tarte

 This is the second in my summer series on educators who are making a difference.

Mr. and Mrs. Tarte

I Skyped with Justin Tarte on Thursday, July 5 fresh off of the Fourth of July holiday. We started at 9AM my time, which for Justin was a little earlier. Justin, who was recently named Director of Curriculum & Support Services in the Union R-XI School District in Union, Missouri, and I sat down in his living room(and I was in an office) for a discussion on all things education. 

Justin’s rise in administration has been quick. Prior to becoming the Director of Curriculum and Support Services, he was an assistant principal at Poplar Bluff Junior High School in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He taught German at Seckman High School in the Fox C-6 School District in Arnold, Missouri. He loved being a teacher, and he put a lot of time into building connections for his students, and expanding their horizons for a global perspective. He began his pursuit of graduate studies to grow both personally, and professionally. It was through the connections he made in graduate school that he learned about this new-fangled thing, social media.

The Tarte’s dog

Upon learning the power of social media, Justin began to integrate it into his German classroom. He created a facebook page, twitter account, and a blog. He felt that being a German teacher easily lent itself to using social media as a tool to help his student gain a global prospective. They did, and so did Justin. Through social media, he began to see a whole new perspective on learning, professional development, and global connections. As Justin transitioned into administration, he continued developing his digital footprint, and those around him.

When I asked Justin about the age old question (how do you have the time?) he said, “Right now, this saves time. I am actually more available, resourceful and knowledgeable as a result of using social media. It actually makes my job easier.” Justin is passionate about the power of social media. He continued by adding, “I have evolved as an educational leader through the use of social media. I am learning as much, or at times more, then when I was in my doctoral program.” That is powerful!

Justin believes we are on the cusp of a new age in education, but we have a long way to go. He feels we have to celebrate our accomplishments, tell our school’s story, and not be overly critical  of our mistakes. He sees the future of education as a transition that will combine new, and old ideas alike. Justin feels that the way education will transition best is through the human resources departments. “The human resource departments in schools need to be held to higher importance. We need to attract top tier candidates, and also go out and recruit.”

In his new position, Justin is spending a lot of time getting familiar with the trends in curriculum, instruction along with best practices in professional development. He sees the future of instruction and the integration of technology as one in the same. Ideas such as on- to-one, and BYOD are “no brainers.” He would like to see teachers painting their walls with white board paint to spurn creativity. When asked if technology will put educators out of business, Justin responded, “If it puts us out of business, then that’s our fault.”

We are all cheering on Justin because he plays an important role in cheering on members of the PLN. The Union R-XI School District is fortunate to have Justin as their new Curriculum Director, so they get a BOOM! (This is a common response Justin provides on tweets, and blogs that he supports) In addition, we will all benefit from his new position because we will continue to learn from his blog posts and tweets.

Check back for the following educators who will be featured in the series: The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr, Todd Whitaker, and Erin Klein. In addition, later in the summer you will read about Patrick Larkin, Lisa Dabbs, Jessica Johnson, Curt Rees, and many more!

Resources:

Justin Tarte: Life of and Educator

What do you stand for?

 

IDEA Paint

It’s not about TIME, it’s about PRIORITY: My Skype with George Couros

I challenged myself this summer. I decided that I was going to seek out instructional leaders making a difference in education. I wanted the selections to be people I have never met in person. So I scratched off Steven Anderson, Tom Whitby, Lyn Hilt, Joe Mazza, Ned Kirsch, Katrina Stevens, and Eric Sheninger (All folks I met in person at ASCD 12). They are making a difference in education. I wanted a real challenge for myself since I am somewhat new to all of this. I wanted to connect online, Skype, write, reflect, learn, and post. Here is the first in the series.

@gcouros

I went through my twitter account, and the first person I looked up was George Couros. By now, we all know George. In fact, he was the first “education” person I followed on twitter back in January. George is the driving force behind Connected Principals, #cpchat, Blog 184, #learn365, and a host of other initiatives. Currently, George is the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada. With a super-supportive administrative team, this position was recently created to allow George to do what he does best: innovate, and motivate students, teachers, parents, and other administrators!
Our discussion covered a plethora of topics, and lasted close to an hour. George was fresh off of an exciting trip to ISTE12 in San Diego, and after he completed his day, he and his brother Alec were preparing for a trip to Australia for a few weeks to speak, consult, train, and spend time with educators “down under.”

Source: @gcouros

George gave me a brief history lesson on his social media journey. Similar to most, George was very hesitant to join in on social media. It was through constant prompting from his brother, Alec that George decided to give it a try. He dove in with everything he had. Back then, he said, there were a lot of teachers online. He continued to hear a constant theme; I wish my administrators understood the power of social media and connectivity. The rest, they say, is history.
We spent a great deal of time discussing blogging. George is very passionate about blogging, and he has a unique approach. He views it as an online portfolio, a space where he can write what he wants and about what intrigues him. He eschews editors and rarely cues blogs for future posting. Rather, he gets inspired, writes, posts, and walks away. His inspiration comes while he is running, spinning, or just whenever. He wants his blog to be personal. He doesn’t over think it. He wants the readers to see the struggles, the mistakes, and the occasional error.

Source: @gcouros

On June 9, in Fall Apart; Fall Together, George set Twitterverse into overdrive. He shared a very personal struggle that he had been dealing with during the past few months. He was not himself, a bit off, maybe disillusioned or burnt-out. What helped him the most was helping others. He spent some time with animals in the Edmonton Humane Society. After this experience, he used his influence through Twitter to encourage people to help out animals who needed a home. He learned a lot about people through this experience. He also put it out there for everyone to see (and read). He told me that he received such an outpouring of responses to that blog post. Yet, people were not necessarily responding on his blog or on Twitter. It was through email, and direct messages that he began to see something emerging. He discovered there were many people out there with the same state of mind, and searching for something or someone to help them. These people were school administrators, teachers, parents, businesspeople, etc. These people were hurting. George’s blog posted helped them.

George and his dogs. Source: @gcouros

So as we go through the summer, know that George will be in Australia (and I am sure blogging and posting), and we can continue to follow his journey. What I think we can all learn from George is for us to be real, and even vulnerable in our blogs, leadership positions, classrooms, and even at home. You never know who you may help out.

Look for upcoming discussions with educators who are making a difference: Justin Tarte, Todd Whitaker, The Nerdy Teacher, Jessica Johnson, Curt Rees, Erin Klien, Chris Wejr, Dwight Carter, and more!

Resources:

The Principal of Change, George Couros

Interview with George Couros by Howard Rheingold:

Framework for Success: My Conversation with Ceri Dean

Creating the Environment for Learning (Framework for Instructional Planning fig. A.1 p. XVI)

Spike Cook and Ceri Dean

Setting the Objectives The purpose of this blog post is to share my experience with Ceri Dean, lead author of Classroom Instruction That Works, (CITWs) second edition. She visited my school in May of 2012 as part of the ASCD and McREL film series on the new CITWS which will be launched later this summer. Ceri has been with the Mid- continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) for 20 years. She is currently the Vice President of Field Services. In addition to holding a variety of positions with McREL, her career in education has included being a high school math teacher and an editor. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

My desired outcome of this post is for the reader to understand more about Ceri and to apply the tenets of the new CITWs through our shared conversations and observations during her visit to our school. My overarching goal, through my learning and application, will be to provide the rationale for your learning.

Providing Feedback

Celese Nolan going through sound check

Ceri is such a cool individual. As I observed her during the filming at my school, I was amazed with her ability to help us with our pre-filming jitters. “She was a calming force for us,” remarked Jaime Sutton. Celese Nolan, who was involved in two classroom filming sessions, immediately felt a connection to Ceri. “She is an extremely knowledgeable educator,” Celese noted.

Providing Recognition

Ceri was very busy during the first day of filming. This was her opportunity to show the world what Millville has been learning and to celebrate the stories of the students and teachers who were participating. She made sure to watch both filming sessions, talk with the teachers and the students.

Reinforcing Effort

Ryan Hudson after filming

After Ryan Hudson’s filming session, he walked right by me to get to Ceri. He later said, “No disrespect Spike, but I wanted to hear what Ceri thought!” Ceri took time to talk with Ryan about his lesson. She listened to him as he explained what he was attempting and what he felt he accomplished. Ceri gave him specific feedback that reinforced his objective!

Helping Students Develop Understanding (Framework for Instructional Planning fig. A.1 p. XVI)

Cues and Questions

I asked Ceri to discuss the important aspects of the new book. Here are some of the concepts I wrote down as we talked:

Emphasis of the new book:

  • Clarify the concept around strategies
  • Cooperative learning
  • Positive interdependence
  • Not always focused on social skills
  • Keagan strategies
  • Is this cooperative learning?

What is McREL?

  • McREL is a learning organization
  • Our mission statement is really important to us. “Making a difference in the quality of education and learning for all through excellence in applied research, product development, and service.”
  • We are focused on changing the odds

How can schools improve?

  • If schools are focused on the use of strategies with intentionality and quality and fidelity
  • Using CITW makes you think more deeply about instruction
  • Framework is there for continued improvement  (Success In Sight)
  • School leaders and teachers need to ask and answer questions together
  • Question your data
  • Teachers should be seen as action researchers and learners
  • Everyone must work collaboratively (students, teachers, parents, administration, community)
  • One person can’t do it all
  • Own your projects!

Non-linguistic representation

I showed Ceri my blog to provide her with the context in which I would be writing. We talked about how the image of the school can impact on the learning environment.

Summarizing and Note Taking

Jaime Sutton and Ceri Dean discussing CITWS

As Ceri talked, I was feverishly taking notes. Here was someone with a wealth of knowledge that I wanted to learn from. I asked her about something I have been pondering for some time: the evolution of school administration. As a new principal I see how much the job has changed. She was involved with the National Awards Program for model Professional Development in late 1990s. In order to win this award, schools were required to go through a detailed evaluation process. There were site visits, and teams of evaluators determine how Professional Development really made a difference in the school. What the process revealed was the importance of Principals in action. The administrators were breaking the mold of what was expected at the time. They were the first who were transitioning away from management towards leadership. They were also the ones who developed the patterns in which most administrators are required to accomplish.

Assigning Homework and Providing Practice

Lights, Camera, Action!

Where is the research in schools? Ceri talked about the 10 regional educational labs throughout the country that are sponsored by the Department of Education and provide research opportunities to school districts. They conduct randomized controlled research studies. These labs have produced a substantial amount of research that has assisted the educational community. Recruitment can be difficult because who wants to be in the control group? Not to mention that there are a lot competing priorities in schools and districts such as parent support, time, State Assessments, and resources.

McREL, creating a place where every person needs to be a learner. Ceri spoke very highly of the tool that McREL uses to understand and build their own learning community through using Gallup’s strengthsfinder® survey. Each member takes the survey and there are 34 strengths. Everyone displays a card with their top 5 strengths on their desks. It assists the teams as they work together. Strengthsfinder® helps individuals and teams maximize strengths. Often times, they ask each other, “What is working well? How can we build on what we are already doing?”

Now discover your strengths. Purchase the book and the code will be at the back of the book. http://www.strengthsfinder.com/home.aspx?gclid=CNSF9J-qnrACFak7OgodjBQkWA)

 

Helping Students Extend And Apply Knowledge (Framework for Instructional Planning fig. A.1 p. XVI)

Identifying Similarities and Differences

I am sure I am not alone in wondering how McREL was going to fill the void left by Robert Marzano. Often referred to as “Marzano’s strategies” or simply “Marzano” the first edition of Classroom Instruction That Works (2001) became an effective tool for educators to improve instruction.

Our discussion compared the 2nd addition with the 2001 edition.

2001 Edition

  • Lead authors Marzano, Pickering, and Pollack
  • Best-selling Book
  • Meta-Analysis up to 1998
  • Book was grouped based on 9 strategies

Same

  • Can be used with Power-walkthroughs
  • 9 strategies
  • Focus on best practices
  • Framework for success

2012

  • Lead authors Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone
  • Update on the research since 1998
  • Chose the conservative results
  • Strategies are grouped within the framework for instructional planning (3 parts)
  • Sought to understand what the updated research looked like
  • Used narrative reviews, qualitative, and theoretical literature
  • Some strategies hadn’t been researched at all since 1998, so they kept the original data
  • The small number of studies for some strategies are a result of more restrictive definitions
  • Technical report on CITWs was not included in the book for easier reading, but can be found on web(http://www.mcrel.org/PDF/Instruction/0121RR_CITW_report.pdf#search=%22technical%20report%20on%20CITW%22)

Generating and Testing Hypothesizes

ASCD Crew and RM Bacon Crew

McREL’s theory is that the school improvement is within everyone’s reach. They have developed a Success in Sight program to help schools turnaround. Through the Success in Sight, McREL assists schools in understanding the change process. Are they dealing with 1st order or second order change? The solution is simple. Schools need to use research based strategies. They must (1) use data to set and monitor goals, (2) use research-based practices to make improvements and increase student achievement, (3) foster and engage in shared leadership for improvement, (4) create and maintain a purposeful community, and (5) apply a comprehensive and systematic continuous improvement process. Understanding how to manage the change process is part of what teams learn through the Success in Sight process.

Conclusion

Spending time with such an incredible educator as Ceri Dean was one of the highlights of this school year. Ceri, as stated prior, is a really cool person. She is funny, intelligent, and insightful. It is clear from my time with her that McREL and the Classroom Instruction That Works series is in good hands.

Resources:

Classroom Instruction That Works (2nd Edition)

Ceri Dean

Success in Sight

 

The Importance of Being Earnest: Do You Walk Your Talk?

A trivial blog, for serious school leaders

Source: classic-literature.findthedata.org

I am sure, at one time or another, you have come across The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Recently, I was reflecting on the play, and wondering how it connected to leadership. An important aspect to the play was Wilde’s attempt to expose the Victorian Aristocracy for all of it’s contradictions.  In essence, I had to ask myself, as a leader, do I really walk my talk?

Argyris and Schon (1974) wrote the seminal piece, Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness. Since then, many researchers and educational leaders have discussed the concept of espoused theories (what I say I would do) and theories-in-use (what I actually do). I return to this time after time because I believe it makes me a better leader. The difficult part is that my theories-in-use (what I actually do) are understood by those who observe me. We all know that everyone has a different perspective. How do I know how I am doing?

When I talk with other leaders, or read their blogs I always wonder how their theories-in-use are observed by those they lead. I am sure they do the same with me! How would we ever really know? Does it really matter?

As leaders we are never going to please everyone. Our decisions impact the lives of students, parents, and teachers, and therefore are delivered with a lot of responsibility. With the ability to make those decisions, we must understand that there will be those who criticize our every move. This is certainly something that they try to teach us in graduate school, but it is only completely understood when you embark on your leadership journey.

Source: austin-williams.com

This year there were times when I struggled with decision making. I am not sure why. Maybe it was because I wanted to please everybody. Fortunately, I had (and have) supportive school leaders who I could turn to for advice. Eventually though, I would hang up the phone or the conversation would end, and I would have to make the decision on my own. I can only hope that my espoused theories and theories-in-use were in sync. Did I make the right decisions? Did I walk my talk? Only time will tell.

As luck would have it, I was recently reading Shifting the Monkey by Todd Whitaker. He has a chapter titled, “Make Decisions Based on Your Best People.” In that chapter, Whitaker (2012) sums up the decision making process with these guiding principles: “1) Treat everyone well. 2) Make decisions based on your best people. 3) Protect your good people first.”

There really is a lot of importance in being earnest!

Resources:

The Importance of Being Earnest:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Importance_of_Being_Earnest

 Espoused theories and Theories in use:

http://www.infed.org/thinkers/argyris.htm

Shifting the Monkey, by Todd Whitaker

http://www.amazon.com/Shifting-Monkey-Protecting-People-Slackers/dp/0982702973

Tell Me Your ZIP Code and I Will Tell You Your Score

This is less a blog post, but rather an open letter looking for help. I am not blaming anyone. I just need an example (s). Please, someone, show me the way. There has to be someone who defied the odds of their ZIP code.

I am the Principal of a recently designated “Focus” School by the State of New Jersey. According to the State’s Department of Education, a Focus School is, “a school that has room for improvement in areas that are specific to the school. As part of the process, focus schools will receive targeted and tailored solutions to meet the school’s unique needs. There are 183 focus schools.

The designation for my particular school is, “Lowest Subgroup Performance: Schools whose two lowest performing sub groups rank among the lowest combined proficiency levels in the state. Schools in this category have an overall proficiency rate for these lowest performing sub groups of 29.2% or lower.”

Ironically, when I found out that we were designated as a Focus School, we were not given specifics. So, I really don’t know (other than lowest performing sub group) why we are designated. In the past, this type of Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) was determined by the students who were enrolled in the school prior to the start of the school year. I have heard, but cannot confirm, that the new designations were based on whoever took the test in the school, no matter how long they have attended. (For instance, my sister school RD Wood, a Priority School,  has had over 200 transfer in/outs this year alone.)

As I looked at the breakdown of the state data, something began to really stick out. It seemed to be correlated with ZIP codes and performance. According to the NJDOE website, District Factor Group (DFG) designations were, “First developed in 1975 for the purpose of comparing students’ performance on statewide assessments across demographically similar school districts. The categories are updated every ten years when the Census Bureau releases the latest Decennial Census data.” The NJDOE explains that there are six variables that further assist in determining a DFG:  “1) Percent of adults with no high school diploma 2) Percent of adults with some college education 3) Occupational status 4) Unemployment rate 5) Percent of individuals in poverty 6) Median family income.”

So, “A” is the lowest designation and B, C, D, E etc. are progressively more affluent districts. You get the point. As I looked over the report, I found some really interesting details.

Of the 75 Priority Schools, 81% were categorized as DFG A, and 100% were designated as Title 1 Schools.

Of the 183 Focus Schools, 54% were categorized as DFG A, and 70% were designated as Title 1 Schools.

Of the 112 Reward Schools, 4% (5 schools) were DFG A, and 32% were designated as Title 1 Schools.

(Please note that the vast majority of schools in NJ will not be found in any of these categories, and at the time of this blog, do not have a designation.)

Still, I’m not blaming anyone, but why so few DFG-A’s that were designated as Reward Schools? Why are so many Priority and Focus Schools?

I am looking for examples of schools who, despite their socio-economic status, achieve high test scores on a regular basis. I have some criteria, though, because I do not want to play the shell game. These schools must fit this criteria:

–          Is not a magnet school

–          Has not recently been “redistricted”

–          Is not a school for the “gifted”

–          Maintains the same type of demographics (sub groups included) from the onset of being identified as low performing (failing to make AYP for multiple years) to achieving a status reflecting success (Reward or not on the Focus or Priority list).

See, I am cautious when presented with examples of schools who overcame insurmountable odds to achieve high levels of success on high stakes testing in their state because there are usually a few asterisks. Under NCLB, schools who were not meeting Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) were designated as such. Some districts, with the best intentions, decided to spread the wealth (or in this case, non-wealth) and re-district. I cannot blame them. Some districts changed the nature of the school and once again, I cannot blame them.  They probably discovered Chicago’s Nettlehorst School, a “national example of a turnaround,” and decided to follow suit. Did you know that the poverty rate at Nettlehorst School went from 83% in 1999 to 34% in 2010? (Read more about this here)

 

What about the teachers? There is a drum beat pertaining to teacher effectiveness sounding in our media, dinner table conversations, and administrative meetings. I am sure that effectiveness can be improved, but I wonder about the vast throngs of teachers who do teach in DFG- A schools. Is it statistically possible that in the number of priority and focus schools in New Jersey that they have the least effective teachers? I can speak for my teachers and tell you that they integrate technology, best practices, and research-based methods, attended the same Universities as their counterparts in wealthier districts, and do all this day after day and year after year because, well, they think they can make a difference. Not to mention, they were “guided” by the State of New Jersey through the now defunct Collaborative Assessment and Planning for Achievement (CAPA).

 

So I ask you, I beg you, and I plead for your assistance. Can somebody please send me examples of schools that have defied the odds and have achieved sustained success on their state’s high stakes assessment? *Please remember, no shell games.

Resources:

Overview of Current Designation: http://education.state.nj.us/broadcasts/2012/APR/11/6423/Memo%20re%20accountability%20and%20Regional%20Achievement%20Centers.pdf

List of Priority, Focus and Reward Schools in NJ:

http://www.nj.gov/education/reform/PFRschools/Priority-Focus-RewardSchools.pdf

Nettlehorst Article:

http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-2011/Nettelhorst-Elementary-Schools-Remarkable-Turnaround

Changing demographics at Nettlehorst:

http://iirc.niu.edu/School.aspx?source=About_Students&source2=Educational_Environment&schoolID=150162990252370&level=S

The Cat’s in the Cradle

And the cat’s in the cradle with the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man on the moon

Father’s Day had always been a difficult day for me until I had my own children. I grew up without a father. He passed away in an unfortunate accident while my mother was pregnant with me. Gone, just like that. Throughout my life I have had a strong desire to be a father. I am sure it is because I never had one. It was my life mission to be a father. The World’s Best Father!

The past 8 years I at least looked forward to Father’s Day. I hadn’t always cherished the day, though. I didn’t understand how important it was to me. I used to want to go play golf or have time to myself, because that’s what dad’s do. It’s ironic, on Mother’s Day moms across the globe look forward to spending time with their children. Dads are different.  All that changed when I heard a song that I had heard hundreds of times.

Ever listen to the song “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin? (Ironically it was released in the year I was born) About 3 years ago I was listening to the song in the car, and I started to cry. I couldn’t stop. It really got me. I thought about all of the times I was the Father, and I how I was too busy to spend time with my children. Was I becoming the dad in the song? Would I regret the decisions I made someday? I put so much emphasis on being a great father that I forgot about the most important aspect: spending time with my children.

Talk to any grandfather, and they will tell you that their children went through a similar progression that Chapin noted. They will tell you that it is hard to compete with friends, technology, or sports/activities. Then their kids go to college, they go to work, and find someone to start their family with. All of those fathers will tell you the same thing: it goes so fast!

So, for me Father’s Day will be spent with the most cherished people in my world… my wife and children. How will you spend your Father’s Day?

Take a few moments and listen to this song. Think about your dad. Think about your children, or even think about your life. Are you present? Are you engaged? Let me know, and we’ll get together then, I know we’ll have a good time then….

More information on the song:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat’s_in_the_Cradle

 

Cymbolic Symbolism

Just minutes before the Spring 2012 Concert

As an Elementary principal I have had the opportunity to play floor hockey, football, kickball, challenge students in math, substitute teach, write essays, and even tried Double Dutch  with the students, and teachers. Up until the other night, one thing I had never done was perform with a School Band.

Growing up I had an appreciation for music, but never had any interest, or patience in playing instruments on my own. A lot of my friends played the guitar, drums, and even the Tuba, but not me. So in order to grow as a professional, I came out of my comfort zone and played the cymbals in our Spring Concert!

I have to admit that during the practices, I felt just like a kid, and I was treated like one! My fellow band members had little patience for me at first. They would say, “Dr. Cook, you are supposed to play on 23 and 29. See its right here!” I had to inform them that I didn’t read music. They laughed at me! Before long I wore them down, and they all chipped in to make sure I met my marks.

As for the actual playing of the cymbals, I needed a lot of practice. All I was required to do was a cymbal roll. I was told to start in the middle and “roll” towards the outside of the cymbal. It was not easy. I played too quiet, I played too loud, and I messed up a lot. One of the kids in the percussion section told me, upon seeing my frustration, that I needed to play with more confidence.

I got a lot better through one word…practice! I attended as many practices as I could leading up to the performance. I thought about my part, I talked about it to other musicians. I felt like I was a part of something.

My main goal for participating in the concert was to show kids that they could achieve something if they set their minds to it, and used their resources. I tried to show them how difficult it was for me, and that I too have challenges in my life.

Mr. Mazza leading the chorus

I also learned a little more about the correlation between playing in a band and leadership. Although the conductor is in charge, everyone has their parts, and with that everyone needs to be on the same page. Each instrument has its purpose, and there are times for solos, playing along with everybody and letting others take the lead. Every0ne has to work together for the music to sound beautiful. You have to trust that everyone else has practiced, and that they are following the script. Mistakes are bound to happen, and sometimes those mistakes are only heard within the band.

Thankfully, it all came together on the night of the concert. I welcomed the parents to the Spring Concert and admitted that I was nervous (but I didn’t tell them why). Once the concert started, I got into the zone. I remained focused on my objective…cymbal roll. I felt such a rush after we finished our first song. Although I probably missed a few of the notes, I was on cloud 9!

RM Bacon kids working to the crescendo

Thanks to everyone who supported me in my first concert, self-titled, “Cymbolic Symbolism.”

A year of firsts!

With only a few days left in the 2011-2012, I would like to reflect on this school year. This was the year of firsts.

Here is a list of my firsts:

– First full year as a principal

– First year on Social Media: facebook, twitter, pintrest, google+, edmodo

– First ASCD conference!

– First school blog!

– First personal blog!

(And I am sure I forgetting some things!)

It is been such a rewarding year being principal here at RM Bacon Elementary. I could not have accomplished this without the symphony of musicians playing the beautiful music that is our learning.

Here are some things we have accomplished as a team:

– Successfully implemented the “Your Image is Our Image” theme

– Started an Edmodo group with a school in Wisconsin

– Redesigned our Basic Skills Instruction to mirror the RTI process

– Raised thousands of dollars for charities

– Implemented a new math series

– Increased teacher and student use of technology

– Hosted ASCD film crew for Classroom Instruction That Works 2nd edition

– Began an “un” professional development model on Fridays focusing on technology integration and application

– Updated our PBIS model

– Received approval for 21st Century Learning Program for next year

(And I am sure I forgetting some things!)

In addition to all of this, I had an amazing year working with parents, teachers and students on the ambitious goal of being the highest performing Elementary School in Millville within 3 years and  in the County within 5 years. We have established a process-centered approach to being world class.

I am already looking forward to next year…when “Impossible is Nothing!”

 

I was just like you…

Dear Administrators,

I feel like I need to share some really good news with you. And I am not alone. See, I was just like you!

source: en.wikipedia.org

During these past few months I have opened myself up completely to the 21st century. I went full board, having never created a blog, wiki, uploaded a video, nor participated in ANY social media prior to this year. I have never been a techie, or desired to acquire the newest gadgets (Honestly, I held out for a long time from buying compact discs).

I will admit it… I was scared. I had nothing good to say about facebook, twitter, google, blogging, and I too felt that I had learned all I needed to know about the computer (Hey, I was a wiz at the Microsoft office suite). As long as I could get on the internet, I was fine. I knew how to search for things. I could find articles, and resources, or so I thought. As an educator, my mind was made up: we are not allowed to participate in this new found social media stuff anyway. It was all “trouble” and the “devil’s playground.”

I was good. All good. I knew a lot more then my predecessors. I have worked with administrators in the past who didn’t know how to turn on a computer. They couldn’t text, or had no idea what a url was. They were just fine, and some almost reveled in their learned helplessness. Let’s face it, I thought, there were hundreds of thousands of effective principals since the beginning of time who never even wrote an email.

source: kerrywills.wordpress.com

Then a strange thing happened on my way to being comfortable. I found out that as a 38 year old first-year principal, who was a self-described progressive in education, that I was already a dinosaur (insert dinosaur sound). I have called educators dinosaurs before. Gulp. We all know how that story ended: Extinction! Well, I didn’t want to be extinct.  And I don’t want you to be either! I had ask myself some tough questions: Am I modeling 21st century skills for my teachers and students? Am I really progressive? Do I really know where education was going? The answers were clearly, NO. So I DID something about it. I TOOK a LEAP. I got off of the comfortable road!

So, this is your homework assignment for the summer.  You need to start something. Depending on where you want to grow, there are plenty of resources. And I am willing to help, and so are all the connected educators near you, and thousands more are just a click away. Actually, we are all just a click away from you!

We are not trying to keep anything from you. We want EVERYBODY to be connected. This is not a competition. Rather, it is a privilege that you are in the position you are in. With the gift of being an administrator, there is a responsibility to your teachers, parents, students, and most of all, to yourself. Now, what are you going to do with this precious gift?

Ask yourself these questions….Here are some resources for you.

I want to know how to access the cutting edge information on education. Where do I start?

Twitter.com – It is free, and you will have access to Professional Development at your fingertips 24/7. I recommend to start with the following educators:

@NMHS_Principal, Eric Sheninger, High School Principal

@stumpteacher, Josh Stumpenhorst, Teacher

@PrincipalJ, Jessica Johnson, Elementary Principal

@web20classroom, Steven Anderson, Technology Supervisor

@gcouros, George Couros, Principal and founder of Connected Principals

I want to know how tell my classroom, district or school’s story? Start a school blog or a personal blog using (Blogger, edublogs, or Word Press).

Justin Tarte, Life of an Educator

Dave Gentile, The Road To Excellence is Always Under Construction

Pamm Moore, Learning to Lead

Spike Cook’s RM Bacon School Site, RM Bacon Weekly

Curt Rees, I know this much is true

How will I be able to do all this? You have to make time. Just like the teachers you are frustrated with, you can’t punch in and out. You have to be willing to put in the time, and be committed.  The more you are connected, the more you will become inspired by what folks are doing.

How can I learn all of this? Like the famous book by Anne Lamott Bird by Bird you have to start small and take it one bird at a time.

I guarantee that you have a teacher in your building or an administrator in another building that can help you out with your transition to being connected. You just have to open yourself up to the possibilities.

For those of you who are reading this because you are connected, my challenge to you is to print, email, forward, or even read this to another administrator that you feel could benefit.

Remember, I was just like you!

Resources:

My Prezi on Social Media in Administration:

http://prezi.com/thmleuo19vp2/copy-of-copy-of-social-media-for-administration/

Great Article on the Power of the Principal:

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/05/the_power_of_the_principal.html

Twitter accounts for Technology:

http://paper.li/DrSpikeCook/1333674940?edition_id=300ef930-a924-11e1-a2b7-00259071bfec

 

 

 

Memorial Day: Taking a day for remembering

My Father Joel Howell

Every year my wife and I try to attend a Memorial Day service and talk with our children about the importance of the day. We have attended parades, services, and even visited local parks.

 

 

My Brother Billy Howell

Although we never served, my wife and I have a lot of family members who did. My father (deceased)served in the Army during  WW2, my brother was a career Navy Seal, and his son currently serves in the Navy.

 

 

 

Theresa's Grandfather Anthony Caratozzolo

My wife’s family also had many who served. Her father was in the National Guard, her grandfathers (both deceased)were in the Navy during WW2, one Uncle was a Green Beret in Vietnam, and another Uncle is a Commander in the Coast Guard. This is just the immediate family.

 

 

Henry in his camo room

We teach our children to “thank a vet for his/her service” whenever we see them around town, in a store, or at a restaurant. My son, through the power of Call of Duty, has his whole room camouflaged, and he has already told us that he would like to be a soldier. Who said video games had no positive impact on children?

 

Theresa's Father Anthony Caratozzolo

So, thank you for a taking a few minutes to read this post. For me it was the least that I could do to remember those who have served both in my family and my wife’s family. In some small way, we are all making a difference for the future as we remember the past.

 

 

Theresa's Grandfather John Fredella

 

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day

http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/memorial-day/