Top 5 Reasons to Start Blogging (28:365)

Do you think everything as already been said? Fear you have no time? Don’t know where to start? We have all been there, but in the 21st century we need to create digital content. How are you going to expect others (teachers, supervisors, students, parents) to do it but you don’t?

 

Let’s start with the why (I will share the how in another post)

1. The ability to share your learning with your Professional Learning Network (PLN)

2. To inspire others

3. To highlight the great things happening in your district, school, classroom or club/sport

4. To model the tenets of a 21st century learner

5. Because it can be fun and cathartic at the same time!

 

Turn the obstacles into opportunities!

 

Yabba Dabba Doo (27:365)

When I was a child, I loved watching The Flintstones. I never forgot the scene when the work day was over. If you never saw it, or need to see it again, check this out:

 

So, how many of us view the end of the workday like the Flintstones? Come on, let’s be honest?

 

There are two schools of thought on this topic. Some people believe wholeheartedly in working bell to bell especially in education. The reality is, you don’t get paid any extra for staying, you have other things to do, or maybe even you do work at home. In addition, people in this school of thought believe that you have to have a work/life balance.

 

There is another school of thought that if you really want to be on top of your game, the best there is, then you need to put in extra time. Malcolm Gladwell referred to this as the 10,000 hour rule. Want to move up in the organization? Are you showing it? Are you willing to go above and beyond? People watch, and when it is time for the promotion…. your actions will speak louder than words.

 

So where do we draw the line?

 

Where do you stand?

 

 

The True Costs of Meetings (26:365)

source: www.nateimhoff.com

source: www.nateimhoff.com

If you have not read the book Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hannson then you could be wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars at your company, school or place of work.

When you think about it, the true cost of meetings is staggering ~Rework 

The authors of Rework challenge the notion of meetings. To start with, they are expensive. For instance, if you have a one hour meeting with 25 people, you are really having a 25 hour meeting (and maybe more because of preparation time and follow up). To calculate how much money that costs the organization, you would then need to calculate the hourly rate for each employee and multiple it by 25.

 

Let’s take the Rework example and apply it to school administration. Picture your in a large school district with 25 school administrators who average about 100,000 in yearly salary. You bring these folks together for a two hour meeting once a month for 11 months. Each meeting “costs” at least 3,500 dollars, or about 40,000 per year. In addition, you also have to factor in the productivity lost during that time, coverage that might be needed, or time taken to make up the missed work. Rework makes you think about meetings in a different way. It challenges our preconceived notion of how we spend our time.

 

So, do we just abandon meetings all together? Reduce the time? Maximize the time (ie ensure that everyone is on task and engaged)? The authors of Rework suggest that if you absolutely must have a meeting, then follow these simple guidelines:

  • Set a timer. When it rings, the meeting is over. Period
  • Invite as few people as possible
  • Always have a clear agenda
  • Begin with a specific problem
  • Meet at the site of the problem instead of conference room. Point to real things and suggest real changes
  • End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it

Wow, think of these implications! School administrators having a meeting in your classroom, with a follow-up in the hallway focused on real change?

The Best Information Available (25:365)

source: www.digitalinformationworld.com

source: www.digitalinformationworld.com

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)

Source: www.city-data.com

Source: www.city-data.com

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)

source: www.schoolofunlearning.com

source: www.schoolofunlearning.com

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: blog.timesunion.com –

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.

 

source: bpseducatoreval.weebly.com

source: bpseducatoreval.weebly.com

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!