I’m learning more each day (8:365)

It’s real early in this blogging challenge. I am only 2% into this yearly challenge, but I am learning a lot. Things keep getting sent my way! Today, I feel that I need to reflect on how important the reflective journal (or blogging) is to my leadership. Blogging is an opportunity to accomplish two very crucial tools – learning, and reflecting. I believe they go hand in hand… It’s why I read blogs and why I write them.


For instance, each aspect of leadership is filled with the theoretical stuff I learn in books and the practical, everyday actions. If I say I going to be an “open, collaborative leader” how do I react to new ideas by others? Or, if I am going to be a “life-long learner” am comfortable spending time learning a new tool or technique? If I say I am a “detailed leader” do I follow up on my commitments?


I was inspired to write this quote:

The beauty of learning more each day is rooted in the dedication to remaining open


source: www.123rf.com

source: www.123rf.com

Digital Leadership with Eric Sheninger (7:365)

ericEric Sheninger is releasing a new book Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times on January 14, 2014. The Principalcast Podcast will be interviewing Eric on Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 9:30 EST on teachercast.tv.


The reason we chose to interview Eric is because he has been the champion for the connected educator, specifically, the connected administrator. Administrators throughout the world have benefited from Eric’s tireless efforts to ensure we are prepared for the changing paradigms of education.


Our interview will focus on the practical aspects of the book, and how it can help improve students, parents, teachers and administrators.  If you would like to ask questions, feel free to tweet Principalcast. We will also be giving away a signed copy of the book for one lucky listener on Sunday night.


According to Todd Whitaker, Professor of Educational Leadership at Indiana State University:

“This book is THE book on digital leadership.  There is no one I can recommend more highly than the most connected educational leader today – Eric Sheninger – to help us navigate all of the changes taking place in classrooms, schools and districts.  The book is perfect to help everyone initiate transformational change in a digital world.  Whether you are a cutting edge techie or a nervous newbie this book is for you.”

Once again, be sure to join the Principalcast crew as we spend time chatting with Eric Sheninger on Sunday, January 12, 2014 @ 9:30PM EST on teachercast.tv


Raised by #wiamigos (6:365)

@principalj and her twitter son @drspikecook

@principalj and her twitter son @drspikecook

I often joke with Jessica Johnson and Curt Rees about their “parenthood” in my social media growth. Although it sounds funny, Curt and Jessica are great twitter parents. Recently on a facebook post, Amber Teamann actually thought I was from Wisconsin. I had to tell her I was a New Jersey guy, but Curt reminded me that I was raised by the #wiamigos. He was right!

When I first started out 2 short years ago, it was Jessica and Curt who really showed me the path of the elementary principal in the 21st century. I’ve written about this before, but wanted to revisit the concept from a different perspective.


I think about those who are starting out. Maybe they are making a New Year’s resolution to become more “connected” or they want to take their classroom or school global. If they are anything like me, I needed to see an example. This is main premise to this post….

You never know who you are going to “raise.”


Twitter bio – the first impression

The twitter bio could be the first step for someone to start following you. I’ve said before that Curt Rees had me at “recess kickball legend.” If you read my previous post about Mental Models, you can imagine my perception of what an educational leader could be…. a recess kickball legend? Right on!


The blog – window to the core of leadership

The next step in potential social media parenthood is the blog. I can remember spending a great deal of time during January of 2012 reading through Jessica and Curt’s blog posts. I learned about what they valued, what they challenged, and more importantly, what they highlighted. Both trail blazed a path of positive, student-centered and professional growth that solidified why I wanted to be an education blogger.

Curt’s #worldbooktalk review on Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson


wi amigos

Christian, Jessica, Leah, Tom and Joe

The connections – paying it forward and back

Since both Curt and Jessica played such a profound role in my development, I would include them on my tweets, blog posts, and questions. From there a professional connection grew. Eventually, the relationship grew to the point where our sharing was mutual and all three of us learned from each other. At some point I moved out of my “parents” house, and they have been there every step of the way. I can only hope that I will one day mentor someone so that they can grow their own digital footprint.


I am proud to be raised by the #wiamigos! In addition to Curt and Jessica, the other #wiamigos I have actively learned from are: Pernille Ripp, Tom Whitford, Christian Pleister, Joe Sanfelippo, Matt Renwick, Jay Posick, and Leah Whitford!


Who were you “raised” by? Share your story with our PLN…

Mental Models of the Principal (5:365)

source: lynhilt.com

source: lynhilt.com

We have mental models of what type or who we think should be leaders. A mental model is your thought process of  how something should be or is in the real world.


Peter Senge wrote extensively about mental models in The Fifth Discipline. These deeply ingrained assumptions and images frame they way we perceive the world. In turn, our mental models impact organizations in more ways than you can imagine.


Recently, during the holidays, I had an interesting conversation with my 9 year old niece. I was being silly and dancing around with my daughter and my other nieces. So my 9 year old niece said, “I can’t believe your a principal.” I should have replied, “Honestly, neither can I.” Rather, I asked her to share her perception of a principal.


Her idea of a principal is pretty similar to what I thought a principal was supposed to be when I was her age…. She said principals are always well dressed, serious, you never want to go to their office, only the bad kids go there, they have a walkie-talkie, and they never act silly…. Thankfully, I am none of these!


What are your mental models of the principal? Do you realize the impact mental models have on the future of educators and administrators? Let’s not limit the future…. from what we know about the present…


Lights out… Light Up Your Reading! (4:356)

You never know what can happen when you think outside the box

You never know what can happen when you think outside the box

Sometimes, all it takes is to think outside the box (even a little). The other day was in a 5th grade class. The teacher turned the lights out for reading time. Here is the catch… he gave them finger lights he purchased from the Dollar Store. He partnered the students, and by the look on their face, they loved it!


He got the idea by looking through the centers offering of Reading Street, the reading program we are piloting this year. The basis of the center was for the students to “GLOW AND GROW” their reading.


I know that we often think about change in education in terms of what new educational technologies are developed. Honestly, something as simple as turning out the lights and allowing kids to use finger lights is something that could have been done even when I was in 5th grade. It didn’t take a lot of money, it didn’t need to be approved by Informational Technology… It just took some good old out of the box thinking!


PLN Blogging Challenge (3:365)

I get a message from my twitter mom (Jessica Johnson) the other day… Spike, I want you to participate in the PLN Blogging Challenge. I always listen to my mom 🙂

This is what Jessica Johnson wrote, “If you’re on Twitter then I’m sure you’ve seen people tweeting out the PLN Blogging Challenge, Sunshine Award, Homework Meme, or whatever other names they are giving it.  It’s basically like a chain letter for blogging, which I have enjoyed reading others’ posts, but have been avoided joining in myself.”

This PLN blogging challenges gives us bloggers a chance to get to know each other better through this post (and reading each others’).

Here are the rules of the challenge:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

Here are my 11 random facts

1. I have little to no interest in tools

2. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2001

3. My real name is Spike

4. My first concert was Ziggy Marley

5. I love Dalmatians

6. I hate when people do not return carts to the proper place in parking lots

7. I can’t wait to retire

8. I love Indian food

9. My favorite band right now is Fleet Foxes

10. People say I have “sausage fingers”

11. I hitchhiked up the Pacific Coast Highway in 1996 with my good friend Dan


Now to answer the other 11 questions from the challenge (I just used Jessica’s)

1. What is your favorite tv show? Key and Peele; Game of Thrones; True Blood.

2. What is one app or resource you’ve learned about on Twitter that has been a game changer for you at work? Voxer.

3. What is your typical bedtime? Between 10:00pm and 11:00pm

4. Best book you’ve read in 2013? Linchpin, The War of Art. 

5. Favorite Twitter Chat: #njed

6. Best place you’ve vacationed? London, England

7. How has your PLN impacted you? My PLN has helped me to become a better leader.

8. What motivates you each day to be an educator?  Making a difference…. everyday!

9. What was the most amazing lesson you ever facilitated or observed? I recently observed a Rocket Launch.

10. If you had a whole day to do just what you wanted, what would it be? Play basketball, soccer, and tennis in the morning with friends. I would drink coffee and play chess in the afternoon. Eat a big Indian meal for dinner, and go to bed early!

11. Favorite tv show when you were growing up? Saved By The Bell and YO! MTV Raps.


Here is who I would like to see complete this…

1. Justin Tarte

2. Pamm Moore

3. Jeff Bradbury

4. David Gentile

5. Scott Mcleod 

6. Michael Smith 

7. Erin Klein 

8. David Culberhouse

9. Chris Wejr 

10. Dwight Carter

11. Sean Wheeler 

New Year, New Challenge 1:365

source: geeksdreamgirl.com

source: geeksdreamgirl.com

As I begin my 3rd year on Social Media, I decided to challenge myself. I have seen others do it, and have learned so much… I am going to blog everyday this year! Yes, and I wrote it down too, so that makes it that much more important.


You may wonder why? Why would I take on such a challenge? Isn’t blogging supposed to be about quality, not quantity? I hope to be able to combine the quality/quantity and ensure that these posts are as thoughtful as in my previous two years.


Here is what I am thinking about the project. I know that I want to limit my posts to about 10 to 15 minutes a day. I can carve out 15 minutes a day! I know I can’t do it myself, so I am sure I will have cross posts, guest posts, and maybe even a series of posts. When am I going to do this? My plan is write and post every morning after exercising and before I start my day. As for the topics, I will continue to seek inspiration from my PLN, other blog posts, and of course my person and professional experiences. I am also not going to limit myself and therefore, I may post a picture or a video (or even a podcast)…. Who knows where this will lead…


I hope you enjoy the posts, and better yet, I hope you are able to learn something or interact with me (Or my PLN).


Happy 2014…

Letting go of 2013

2013-Year-in-ReviewI love reading posts about the year- in-review. Almost everyone does it. Whether it is technology, leadership, sports, finance or even weather. It seems every late December news story is filled with the top stories, updates and the most viral videos. Integrated with these stories are the plans and prognostications for 2014.


Through these stories you can learn about the ups and downs, successes and failures, and everything in-between. In addition, these posts reveal how, at the strike of midnight on December 31, it all gets wiped away. This reminds me of the message/lesson of the Buddhist Sand Mandalas.


sand artSand Mandalas have been in the Buddhist culture for thousands of years. The Sand Mandalas are carefully planned and designed. All of the Sand Mandalas start at the center, and then work their way outward. After the planning, it takes weeks or even months of collaboration to “complete.” Then the Sand Mandalas are ritually swept up. All the hard work, concentration and determination gets returned to nature. Each mandala is unique, and even though they seem perfect, all have imperfections that are most observable to the creators of these majestic works of art. Temporary! Sound like your 2013?


mandalaap2505_468x322In planning for 2014, what do you want to learn? Explore? Change? Enhance? Your answers might lie in your 2013. Similar to the Sand Mandalas, you can learn from this past year, or  wipe it all away…. and start again! This is beauty of what is ahead. In fact, if you are brave enough, you write your 2014 year in review right now. Yet, you can’t get too attached to your 2014 because, well, there is always 2015!


Happy New Year! I look forward to collaborating in 2014!


Want to learn more about the Sand Mandala? Check this out:



Are we there yet? When change takes time

source: www.wauwatosa.k12.wi.us

source: www.wauwatosa.k12.wi.us

This year we have transitioned from traditional faculty meetings to Professional Learning Communities (PLC). The reason for this shift is twofold. First, our new evaluation tool requires (if you want to get higher rankings) participation and leadership in a PLC. The second, and more important reason, is that we are ready! But this change did not come over night, it took time!


I want to thank not only my PLN, but also those advisers and mentors who encourage me to push the envelope and try new things. In preparation for this change, I was provided so many tools and resources. I was told to “trust the process” and “empower the staff.” I am so thankful to have a network of stakeholders willing to provide guidance!


source: www.hr-survey.com

source: www.hr-survey.com

Based on our needs, we established PLCs for Math, Language Arts, Technology(these take place during the first faculty meeting of the month) and PBIS, Healthy Schools and Family/Community Engagement (which takes place during the second faculty meeting of the month).

Each of the PLCs has a chair and co-chair that was selected this summer. Yet,anyone can choose to present or take on a leadership role based on their interests. The PLCs have an agenda and are required to record their minutes.

At the end of every meeting, the PLC must do  “plus/delta” to conclude their meeting. All minutes are then emailed to me and I send to the entire staff (eventually we will use a tool such as edmodo to chronicle our PLCs but we are not there yet). We are in the infancy of this model but it is clear that we are going in the right direction.

 I had leadership goosebumps

source: blog.speek.com

source: blog.speek.com

During our most recent PLCs, I found myself in a really great place. Honestly, I had leadership goose bumps. The conversation was thoughtful, and focused on continuous improvement. Teachers laughed, encouraged each other, discussed data, and made connections. I was impressed by the chairs who provided the framework for action research through their thoughtful integration of best practices, peer reviewed research, and technological resources that could be immediately implemented in the classroom. For instance, the Family/Community Engagement PLC used a tool I was not familiar with… Padlet! They used it to take notes and share their learning. I learned something new!  hashtag wow!


source: www.newcenturyeducation.org

source: www.newcenturyeducation.org

Honestly, we could have never engaged like this last year or the year before…. For one, I wasn’t ready! This transition is purposeful and takes a long time to build the capacity needed. As a principal, coordinating meetings in a de-centralized manner requires you to give up the traditional “control.” For some principals out there, it might difficult to up give that control… yet I see it more about giving control to those who matter most… your teachers!


Eventually, I would like to make these (and all PD sessions for that matter) voluntary. I feel that by giving teachers a choice on how they would like to develop professionally is the key to unlock the potential of true professionals! I can see in the future our staff getting beyond PLCs and creating something new based on their person and professional needs. We are not there yet…. yet!