#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:

Prepare to be Kleinspired: My Skype with Erin Klein

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

Erin Klein with other education rock stars!

A long time ago, in a social media galaxy that was far, far away Erin Klein was exposed to one of the most important tools in her teaching tool box. She was at a district conference in Michigan, and heard about this thing called twitter. She didn’t understand a few things about twitter, most importantly the why? Later on that year, she attended a state conference, and heard a guy named Nick, AKA The Nerdy Teacher, present about twitter. He was able to explain the why? “Nick allowed me to see the importance of the PLN, idea gathering, and giving. From that point on I was hooked,” said Klein.

With the help of social media, Erin worked feverishly to establish herself as a 21st century teacher. She took over a classroom that had one piece of technology, an overhead projector. She had a background in Interior Design, and wanted to ensure that the room was a welcoming, comfortable, and brain friendly. She used her new found knowledge to sign up for adopt-a-classroom. In a short time, she was able to raise $1,000.00 dollars to purchase technology for her classroom. Her superintendent was so impressed that he purchased a SMART board for her classroom. Over the course of the next 3 years they added 30 SMART boards throughout the school!

Brain friendly learning

Erin considers teaching a lifestyle. When I asked her about time, she told me that she is a multi-tasker, and is always doing something. She is not the kind of teacher that spends time in the teachers’ lounge. Rather, she eats her lunch, interacts on social media, blogs, reads, and connects. During her preparation periods she is busy helping other teachers, grading papers, and planning. She values time. So when she is home she attempts to be a mommy, and a wife. Yet, her daughter continues to be Kleinspired, and has a blog of her own. Her husband is super supportive. He gets it. He was the one who came up with Kleinspiration, the name of her blog! For the Klein’s blogging and social media has become a family activity!

She spends time on her blog on the weekend. Have you seen it lately? It is possibly the most aesthetically pleasing, resource-filled blog out there. During the 2011-12 school year she blogged 300 times. In November 2011, for instance, she posted 57 times! 57 times!  She spends time blogging as a way to categorize her own learning, and assist teachers with their learning. She credits Kelly Tenkley, Lisa Dabbs, Richard Byrne, Steven Anderson, and The Nerdy Teacher as social media mentors, who also serve as her PLN, critical friends, and potential material for all things Kleinspired.

A classroom or a living room?

In the blogging world, Kleinspiration has become one of the most important sites for parents, teachers, and administrators. She walks her talk. Anything that she blogs about is directly related to student engagement, achievement, and 21st century learning. She does take time to reflect. For instance, in her most recent post, I am not an expert, I simply love what I do, Erin discussed her visit to family in Chicago. In addition to spending time with her family, she “worked.” Understand this: Erin doesn’t consider all the blogging, reading, and other social media as work. For Erin, its fun!

I suggest that if you haven’t already, plant yourself a learning seed, and get on the Kleinspiration journey with Erin. You will be glad you did!

Erin Klein’s application for SMART Exemplary Educator:

Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkley, Patrick Larkin, 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

Resources

All things Erin Klein

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

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

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!”

 

Oh the places we went…. and are going

Finger knitted thneed bookmarks

“It’s not about what it is, it is about what it will become.” Dr. Seuss, the Lorax.

A few weeks ago a teacher asked me if I would approve the students seeing the new Lorax movie. She made a compelling presentation. She said, “It is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Read Across America, and the new Lorax movie all in one day. It will be epic! We will tie in activities, themes, and even a Seussville themed hallway decoration. Also, I contacted the Movie theater and we will be the first ones to see it!” I replied, “I will see what I can do, there is not much time. I doubt it will get approved, but I will try. Make sure to collect resources.”
From that point on, just as the seed in The Lorax, it grew and

3rd grade math and Seuss

spread. I found out we could get buses and afford them. I talked to the PTA who graciously approved donating $4.00 per ticket to reduce the parent/student responsibility in half. I talked with my Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and she supported the curricular connection. I talked with our amazing educational technician, Alicia Discepola, and she agreed to pool all things Seuss into one site for kids, parents, and teachers. We were, to a certain extent, on a roll. We had to wait a day for the final approval, and then we got the call around 10:00 AM “You are approved!”It was Thursday, and I was going to be out on Friday.
We contacted the movie theater and began the process of making final arrangements. They wanted the money by Tuesday. Time was of the essence. We decided to have an “emergency” assembly at the end of the day to tell the kids about this epic Read Across America event. We showed the original Lorax movie and then stopped it with a few minutes remaining. I asked the students if they would like to see the end and they all yelled, “YES!” I then replied, “Well, how about you see the new Lorax, which is the “ending” to the Lorax?” The kids went nuts.

 

Oh the places we will go someday

Throughout last week the entire school turned into Seussville. Each classroom decorated their door with a different theme. Teachers took pictures of students with the Cat in the Hat, Lorax mustaches, 1st grade did Thing 1,2,3 until they did the whole grade.

Seuss + Math = Learning

Teachers integrated the themes of Seuss into math, reading, writing, science, social studies as well as art, Spanish, physical education, and music. I watched 5th graders construct their own math problems for others to solve on Truffula trees, while 3rd graders compared and contrasted themes from the Lorax. I received, via twitter, excellent trivia questions along with facts about Dr. Seuss from @PrincipalJ in Wisconsin. We took time throughout each of the days to make sure the whole school stopped and listened. Sometimes the winner had to run to the front office, other times we would take the 9th caller. Each winner received a prize for their hard work. It was a truly amazing week to be an educator.

 

4th grade used the book Wocket in My Pocket and had the students each pick an object in their classroom to write their own page for a rewrite of the story.  They illustrated their pages and we made a poster book which is in the hallway.  They used Kerpoof.com to make a “tech” version as well. They highlighted the difference between computer illustrations and personal illustration and they did a Venn diagram to compare.

 4th graders also watched the original Lorax to decide focal points to be debated between the Lorax and the Onceler.  This turned into more of a summarizing and exploratory lesson for the kids to gain insight into what could be expected from the new Movie we saw on Friday.  They will follow up with a comparison essay between the two letting the kids pick their own way to organize the details from the movie.

Dr. Moore at Read Across America Assembly

On Read Across America Day students and teachers dressed as their favorite characters from the Seuss books. Our Kindergarten through 2nd grade had a wonderful assembly with guest readers. After the assembly they watched Green Eggs and Ham while eating green eggs prepared by our teachers. Grades 3-5 watched the new Lorax movie and were the first kids to see it on the east coast. Which ended up being the number 1 movie over the weekend. During the movie, the students were so well behaved I had to keep reminding myself that we actually pulled it off. On the way out of the movie theater, as students walked by me they said, “Thank you”, and others hugged me. One girl told me that she cried because it was such a good movie. One 3rd grade teacher told me that we should plant a tree during the Earth Day activities and have the students put stones around it like they did in the Lorax.
At dismissal, students asked when we were going to “clean up the outside of the school” because they do not want any litter, leaves or branches on the property.

Truffula trees growing

 

Truffula seed from new Lorax movie. Source: truffula-seed-from-movie-rxzo3v.jpg

I still can’t believe we pulled it off. But luckily we are not finished. K-2 will be going to see the movie in a few weeks. Teachers and students are already (as you can see from above) looking for that next thing. Believe me, there are many things I did not include in this post about just how busy I was during this week (discipline issues, parent conferences, Professional Development plan due, redesigning our upcoming basic skill interventions, observations and APRs due, not to mention the walkthroughs, faculty meeting, and bullying paperwork just to name a few). But as I sit here and type this out that stuff seems so insignificant when I reflect on the impact this week had on our students, teachers, and me.

3rd graders answer higher level questions

I watched the video by @Mrs. _Devita and I told her I was going to cry. After the 5th grade students did their announcements for the upcoming week, she went around and filmed each door, hallway, and classroom that had a connection to Dr. Seuss. As the images passed by on the screen I could hear the recording of a 3rd grade class and the music teacher singing, “I will not eat green eggs and ham.”


Here is a list of the places we went, and will continue to go:

One teachers slide share on Lessons from the Lorax:

Lessons from Dr. Seuss by Mr. Selfdevelopment:

http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/8-must-read-success-lessons-from-dr-seuss/

@aliciadiscepola’s most excellent Read Across America website:

http://www.wix.com/missdiscepola/raa

30 Dr. Seuss quotes that can change your life:

http://principalspage.posterous.com/30-dr-seuss-quotes-that-can-change-your-life