The Best Information Available (25:365)



When we think of change, there are some who ask the question, “Why do we have to change?” I’m sure educators can count all the various initiatives over the last 50 years, and complain. Nothing can ever stay the same.


Recently, I was listening to a podcast where one of the guests talked about how his father would always complain about science. His father would say that he didn’t know what to believe anymore because there was always a new “finding.” So the son said to his father, “I think that they are making their findings based on the best information that they had at the time. When they find new information that either contradicts or adds to the previous “findings” things change.”


I thought that was a powerful story on many levels. In education, we really try to make decisions based on the information presented by research. We do not, nor will we ever, know everything. Knowledge is constantly changing, evolving, and in some cases, maturing. With that said, we will make mistakes, and contradictions. To hold onto the past does little to help us progress. We have to continue to make our decisions based on the best information available at the time.

Service with a Smile (24:365)

Picture this… it is the day after having off from school because a huge snow storm dumped about 12 inches of snow in our area. You can imagine the scene: snow is everywhere, it is freezing cold, and by the way (you think) where are people going to drop off their kids? So I thought quickly and asked for help from staff in the building. We had a brief meeting and then set a plan into action.


We decided that we had to have one area for drop off (buses and cars). We knew it might take some time (and getting used to) but we needed to control the area where kids were being dropped off. We stationed staff in certain areas to direct traffic to the one (most safest) point. Then, my inner valet kicked in. I found myself opening doors so parents wouldn’t need to get out in the cold. I helped kids unbuckle their seat-belts, and even carried a few out of the car. It was really interesting to see the expressions on the parents’ faces. They were so appreciative! One parent went to the local coffee shop (WaWa) and bought us coffee.


Now, I know that some schools provide this type of treatment every day. They may have safety patrol or even teachers helping out with arrival. We may get to that point. For today, however, the parents and students were greeted in the bitter cold by a bunch of welcoming, smiling faces. It made all the difference!

Snow-tacular day (23:365)



Just another day in January? Well, if you live in the northeast of the United States, not really. Snow days are a treasure for young and old, teacher and student, parent and child. Although the definition of the treasure may vary, everyone learns a lesson from a good snow day.

In schools, we get as excited as the kids when we hear about a snow day. Why? In my opinion, it says a lot about what we value….I would venture to say that we value being nestled in at home with family or friends.We get to lounge around the house. We have the choice to sleep in or take naps. Since the roads are harder to traverse, we are forced to forgo the trips to the stores, the mall or other errands. The more snow, the more time we get with our loved ones.

I think this is why we value the snow-tacular day.

Fully grasped? (22:365)



How can we prove that students (or ourselves for that matter) have fully grasped a concept? Is it always the performance on an assessment? Could it be a demonstration? A reflection on the process?  Is it different for different subjects?


The questions I listed above are things that I ponder all the time. I operate under the notion that learning is constant and time is the variable. There are many educators who believe the same thing, and there are a growing number who feel otherwise. Are we always learning? I know… I ask too many questions…


I am always willing to think outside the box… and perhaps we need to spend more time debating the simple concept of “fully grasped.” Until then, I will keep believing that I have much more to learn, and I haven’t “fully grasped” enough.

Understanding the Unannounced (21:365)

Woman looking into spy hole closeup

source: –

On Saturday, I was reading a post by a fellow NJED principal Bruce Arcurio titled Unannounced Observations. As I read the post, I thought about my experiences with the new observational tool. Bruce and I had a twitter discussion after reading and it inspired me to write this post.


In his post, he joked about how his teachers have become accustomed to this new process because they see him walking around with his device.  I am sure my teachers notice the same thing, and through devices or phones, the word spreads. With all joking aside, Bruce discussed how many cool activities he has observed. This is beauty of this new process. This is the first time in our teachers’ careers that they have been formally observed without warning. Fortunately, and to the credit of these professionals, they have produced such great outcomes. It has also kept the administrators on their toes. We are learning more about deadlines, organization, and  most importantly flexibility.




I sympathize with the supervisors in this process. Most supervisors are not stationed in the schools in which they observe. They need to drive over to the school, go to the classroom, and (fingers crossed) observe a lesson. Many times this is far from a smooth process. Supervisors have been faced with teachers who had emergencies, lock-downs, fire drills, field trips, assemblies, Model Assessments, Universal Sweeps, switched lunch schedule, or even an impromptu recess because the temperature is finally above freezing.


In my opinion, learning has no schedule, and can be difficult to quantify in a 20, or 40 minute increment. Learning is the ongoing process and accumulation of stimuli that transcends time. With that said, it can be difficult (not impossible) to ensure that the new observation tool is implemented with fidelity. We no longer know what we are going to see (or when). This is the beauty and the challenge as we continue on this path.

So that’s Evernote… (20:365)

Last night on the Principalcast Podcast I was a learner! My co-hosts Theresa Stager and Jessica Johnson did a fantastic job of explaining Evernote and the possibilities to make my organization better (and based in the 21st century).


Here is what I learned:

  • Wow – There is so much to the Evernote app or web site
  • It can allow you to scan paper so that it is saved
  • Emails, pictures, tweets, documents can be sent directly to Evernote
  • It sounds like once you get started it is addictive
  • There is a free opportunity or you can pay 50.00 for a yearly subscription

One of the presentations that was shared was Jessica’s slide share

What a great learning opportunity!


Checkmate! (19:365)

Henry concentrating

Henry concentrating

Now that my son has completed his second chess tournament, I am curious about the role chess plays in schools. The private school that hosts the tournament prides itself in the fact that chess is integrated into the curriculum. Students play everyday! At my son’s elementary school, one teacher volunteers 3 days a week so that over 100 students can play. He supports the kids on the  day of the tournament by providing feedback on their wins and losses.


Currently, my elementary school does not have a chess club. I feel compelled to get one started so that the students can learn this historic game that can have positive impact on critical thinking, problem solving, and even raise achievement.


According to chess vibes, there are 10 brain benefits of playing chess:

  1. Can raise your IQ
  2. Helps prevent Alzheimers
  3. Exercises both sides of the brain
  4. Increases creativity
  5. Improves memory  
  6. Increases problem solving
  7. Improves reading skills
  8. Improves concentration
  9. Grows Dendrites (tree-like branches that conduct signals from other neural cells into the neurons)
  10. Teaches planning and insight


I see other benefits as well. My son has become part of the a “team” and enjoys spending time with the other kids in the chess club. He and I play at least once or twice a week, and with a busy schedule, this is great bonding time for us. So, I don’t mind the hour drive to the tournament, or the 5 hour wait, or even the hour drive home… It is all worth it because in the end, I have learned so much and I have to get things started at my school!

Tech support (18:365)



How often have you called Tech Support and said, “I can’t figure this out!


A former tech support colleague sent me this video. I really had a laugh. In education, we often complain about tech support, technology and implementation in the classroom. Its hard to see problems from the tech’s perspective. Take a moment to watch this video about what tech support would have been in Medieval Times.


In all honesty, I still call tech support when I need help. I am always appreciative of the help. It goes a long way.


Think about it the next time you call tech support…



They have a dream (17:365)

"I Have a Dream"

“I Have a Dream”

I was in a first grade classroom the other day. Kara Lunemann did an awesome lesson on similarities and differences in regards to Martin Luther King, Jr. Even though the kids were in first grade, she used rigorous questioning and challenged them to think about what the world would be like if Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t challenge the process.


The students analyzed the differences between brown and white eggs and related it to skin color. Each of the students could not understand why people used to judge each other based on this. “That’s just silly,” one student said to me.


After analyzing the eggs, she showed a video which combined some of MLK’s words, with easy to understand information to help the first graders comprehend his impact.  As the students watched the video, the students were swaying to the beat. They were all smiles!


As I walked around the room, I noticed that the students were writing their own stories about MLK, Jr. I had to take a picture of one of the student’s illustrated story (at the beginning of the blog post). Cute and very important. What a great lesson, and now the students know why they off from school on Monday!


MLK had a dream and so do first graders!


Switch your zoo (16:365)

unnamedRecently I was in a second grade art class. The teacher began the lesson by reviewing mythological creatures. She talked with them about the symbolism, and stories of these creatures. After showing the kids examples of some from Greek, Roman and Egyptian history, she brought them to the 21 at century using the site Switch Zoo.


The kids explored the site and created their own creatures. They thought it was the coolest thing. The art teacher said she used to do this lesson by having the students cut out animals from magazines. She said there would be many issues associated with the activity such as getting the magazines, time spent cutting and choosing animals, and connecting to the Greek, Roman and Egyptian history.


Once they completed their newly formed creatures, the students wrote a description of their newly created mythological creatures!

In addition to the site, there is an app for those who have a device… Check it out and bring your art lesson to the 21st century…