It takes a lot of work to blog. You have to be committed (or you might become committed). I would say the most important thing you need to be committed to is the why. Just like organizations, teaching, administration or even golf, if you know why you are doing something (think mission/vision driven) it makes things a lot easier. For me, it is all about my insights into learning. Simple as that!
Sometimes blogging can be lonely. For me, it is a commitment of time that I could be doing something else. I let my family know I am going blogging, put headphones on, and get to work. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, other times it can take an hour. Sometimes I hit post, and other times I just hit delete. Its all part of the process.
Recently, I had two encounters that reaffirmed I am not the only one benefiting from this blog.
It was a Friday afternoon and a parent came in to pick up her daughter. She is a teacher who works in a neighboring school. When I came out of my office, I was immediately greeted by this parent. She said, “You! (she pointed at me, smiling) yeah you. I have been waiting to tell you this since Back To School night. You are such an inspiration. The best principal I have ever seen. Tell me to jump off of a bridge, and I will only ask you which one!” I walked over to her, and asked her for a hug. I told her I was humbled by her statement, and that I appreciated her feedback. Wow, I thought, a bridge?
That same weekend I attended a wedding for my wife’s friend’s son. My wife and her friend worked together for 10 years, and they were a supportive network for each other. We really enjoy spending time with her and her family! As we were leaving the reception, on one of the most important days in her life, she took the time to tell me this, “I love reading your stuff. I get so inspired. Keep going. Don’t stop!” Gulp, someone is actually inspired.
I am thankful to have a supportive network that allows me to grow as a blogger, and as a person. Whether it is my family, staff, central administration team, other bloggers, friends or readers, I appreciate the support.
But I know that at the end of the day, it comes down to the why.
A few weeks ago I watched the you matter TED talk by Angela Maiers. I was amazed. I knew right away that I was ready to sign up to help Angela with this worthwhile cause. I mattered! I wanted to make sure that everyone else around me knew that they mattered. If you haven’t seen the TED talk by Angela, I highly recommend it.
When I was thinking about how to welcome back my staff I went back and watched the video again. I knew that the you matter theme would guide my staff welcome back.
I went shopping at a local store and tried to find symbolic items that I could place in a brown paper bag. Once I bought the supplies, my wife and I set everything out on our table, and began the process of stuffing the bags.
Preparing the bags and the symbolic supplies
All bags filled and ready to go
The message on all of the bags
At our first staff meeting I showed the staff this video (a shortened version of the TED talk).
Then I had the staff fill out 2 you matter cards. (I just made the you matter cards on Microsoft Word, and cut out 4 per sheet. At the top it read: you matter followed by 5 to 6 lines for the person to write. Very simple). They were given the opportunity to share in front of the staff, or wait until later. There were about 5 or 6 staff members who publicly gave the you matter cards to someone who mattered to them. I gave my cards to the Head Custodian, Wayne Parr, and my secretary, Dina Klaudi. After we gave out all of the you matter cards, I handed the you matter bags to each staff member. Reflecting back on this opening, it was just what we all needed! We also put extra cards in the front office for people to use throughout the year.
One of the staff members, Leigh Simpson, came to me with an idea that was inspired by the you matter theme. She asked me, “Why don’t we show the parents and students on the first day of school that they matter? Let’s get a red carpet! It will tie in with the ongoing imovie trailers we are doing, and it will show them how much they matter to us!” We rolled out the red carpet, and made an imovie trailer (in real time) to symbolically show everyone just how much they mattered to us!
You Matter at #RMBACON! Just the beginning
Slowly but surely, I began to get you matter cards in my mailbox, and I in turn sent out you matter cards to other staff members. One teacher, Bobby Drewnowski, integrated this into his classes, and made a bulletin board charting the you matter progress with the students.Just the other day I had a conference with a staff member who was having trouble understanding their role in the school. At one point of the discussion, the person said that they felt like no one cared about them. I was taken aback, and thought about the you matter theme. I apologized to them if they actually felt they came to work, and they didn’t feel that they mattered. I learned a lot about the power of you matter through that conference. We all need to feel that we matter.
And the bulletin board grows ….
Dr. Dave Gentile, Angela Maiers, and Jeff Bradbury at the Bammy Awards
I was fortunate to meet Angela Maiers in person when I was at the Bammy Awards last week. I told her all of the things we were doing with the you matter theme. She was so supportive, and took the time to listen to me. I could tell she honestly thought I mattered. She encouraged me to blog about this experience.So I did. What’s next? I encourage anyone to take these ideas and implement them in their school during a faculty meeting, or even a class lesson. Use this blog, the pictures, the videos for anything you feel could continue to spread the message that you matter, because you do, and so do your students, parents, and staff members!
The Academy of Education Arts and Sciences held its inaugural gala event last night. Known as the Bammys, the purpose of the night was to create an atmosphere similar to other award shows, but the honorees, and award winners were all educators. I applaud the Academy for having the determination to roll out the red carpet for the people who are most dedicated to the future of society – educators!
I was able to attend the event as one of the Twitterati (a combination of a micro and macro-blogger). There were about 50 of us in attendance, and the top 20 were recognized on stage. Honestly, these folks who were recognized on stage were the absolute elite in the twitter and blogging world. It was a real tweet (I mean treat) meeting them in person!
In addition to the twitterari, the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences recognized the outstanding educators in categories as diverse as school nursing to maintenance director to teacher and principal. I was touched at the stories told about the nominees, and by the award winners. The Bammy statue that was distributed to the winners was quite magnificent. I was lucky enough to hold one at the after party, and it was very heavy!
In between awards, the attendees were treated to comedian and former teacher Jimmy Burns, author Taylor Mali and the the Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.
Diane Ravitch being interviewed by @teachercast (Jeff Bradbury): Courtesy of Kevin Jarrett
At the conclusion of the event, Linda Darling-Hammond, John Merrow and Diane Ravitch received special honors for their distinguished lifetime achievements. Each lifetime achievement award winner gave a powerful acceptance speech on behalf of all of the students, teachers, and parents that make a difference in education everyday. John Merrow had one of the best lines of the night when he said, “Ask students how are you intelligent, not how intelligent are you?” They are all such inspiring educators, and I can only hope that one day I could grade the stage with such eloquence.
Eric Sheninger: courtesy of Kevin Jarrett
As a member of twitterati, I have to give special thanks to Eric Sheninger for his tireless commitment to assemble the largest gathering of education bloggers to date.
Mrs. Lunemann has lead the charge to create a 21st century classroom within a welcoming, student-centered learning space
After everyone cleared out from another successful Back to School night, I sat in my office in amazement. Maybe it was part exhaustion, part reflection, but never mind all that. This had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with my family.
See, when I started at RM Bacon Elementary about a year and half ago I was told of this theme: “Then, Now, Always Family.” I like themes, and see their importance played out on a daily basis. But there is something very different happening at my school. It’s not just a theme, its reality.
Everyone does Back To School Night, and so does our school, but we do it very differently. Well, I have to be honest, we do EVERYTHING differently! No matter if our teachers have one parent, or they have standing room only, they embody the principles of solid classroom instruction. Each session I went into last night had technology at the forefront. Smart boards, videos, blogs, interactive math and LAL lesson, sign ups for remind101.com, anything that is used during the day was on display last night! Not to mention the traditional “All About Me” posters, artwork, and messages to parents. Our teachers do it all!
A united front in 3rd grade!
Another thing that struck me, and I will go on record that I had nothing to do with, was the collaboration. Two of the grades decided to scrap the individual presentations, and worked collaboratively on grade level presentations. As a parent, I would have thought… united front! As a principal, I beamed.
Special area teachers, resource, and basic skills interventionists, were not to be outdone. They milled about the school talking with parents, assisting with anything that was needed, and made the parents feel welcome.
I received so many well wishes from excited parents. I can honestly say that they trust us with educating their children. We do not take that responsibility lightly. They asked about the upcoming activities, and many signed up for our Home and School Association.
Using the Imovie trailer app on my ipad has allowed me to create an easy to use medium to document the amazing events happening at RM Bacon. As you may have seen from previous posts, we have had a lot of fun making trailers this summer. The Extravaganza, This just in became internet sensations, and were completed in less time than it takes to watch a theatrical release (and a lot cheaper).
During my first staff meeting, I invited the teachers to make a trailer for Opening Day 2012. The first in this series (many more to be released soon) was from our 5th grade team. Here is their spoof on how they were paired together this summer with only 2 weeks before school was to begin.
During the second day of staff development, we simply ran out of time to do another trailer. So, we challenged ourselves. Our idea was to film the parents and students arriving for Opening Day, and then play it minutes later at the assembly. Since our “Red Carpet Welcome Back Theme” fit so well with the trailers, and we were able to get a real red carpet, we gave it a try. Here is what we were able to show the parents just minutes after “making” the trailer. Truly amazing!
I plan to do a whole separate post about the Opening Day 2012, and to thank everyone who assisted with making it a reality. I would like to specially thank my music teacher, Leigh Simpson, who’s creativity and determination to make the red carpet a reality for our students!
Ipad movie trailers are easy, fun, and allow you the ability to put something of professional quality in a matter of minutes.
This video was recently released by our superintendent in a response to the Extravaganza trailer posted earlier this week. Finally, they are talking! Make sure you watch the Extravaganza prior to watching this video. Enjoy!
Follow 3 administrators as they search for clues, agendas, anything that can explain what the Opening Day Extravaganza is all about. Help us! They are blocking our internet, taking devices away, anything to stop us from knowing.
It’s easy to “hate” someone when you see them on TV in snippets and sound bites. It’s easy to hate someone when you are told to hate them because they are a certain way, or come from a party with a different symbol. What I learned today from Governor Christie was: It’s harder to hate close up. (he told a story using that line)
Hate is such a strong word. I never hated Chris Christie. Honestly, I’m not sure if I have ever hated a politician. Maybe I didn’t understand him? Or maybe I just never took the time to see things from his perspective? Maybe I made him a scapegoat for things when I didn’t get my way?
#NJED tweeps William Diaz, Kevin Carroll, and Brad Currie
I had the fortunate opportunity to meet with about 30 other educators from around the state this morning for breakfast at Drumthwacket. It was great meeting my #NJED tweeps Brad Currie, William Diaz, and Kevin Carroll. After breakfast, Chris Christie appeared in our room. His first comment was, “Can I get everyone who is sitting in the Harry Potter room to join us?” We all laughed because there were several tables in the adjacent room that looked like, well, something out of a Harry Potter film. For the next 45 minutes, in a relaxed discussion, Chris Christie talked to us, made us laugh, and most importantly, made us think.
Chris Christie speaking to NJ educators
Chris is extremely proud of the legislation that was just passed last week regarding tenure reform in NJ. He is most proud because he finally felt like he was able to accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task with the help of the state’s biggest teacher union, the NJEA. For the last two years, there has been a public battle played out in the media between Christie and the NJEA. He now hopes things will be different with the NJEA moving forward. Christie admits that there are things he has said in the past that he regrets, but he makes no apologies for trying to reform a system that had basically been untouched for over 100 years.
Governor Christie is well aware of the performance of NJ education (which has easily been touted as one of the best in the country), yet he challenged us all to realize that the highly performing schools in this state are basically serving suburban families. For urban students, their experience in NJ public schools is nowhere near high performing. He is afraid that the students in underperforming, urban school districts are not getting the same opportunities as their counterparts in the suburbs. He knows that that money is not going to solve the problems (just look at the amount of money that was infused into urban districts since the landmark Abbott v. Burke case). He even said, and this resonated with me, that he realizes the parents in the urban areas are not voting for him, so his passion for them goes beyond politics, and votes.
Of course I had to ask the first question!
When he took questions my hand shot up immediately. He called on me and I explained how I am a principal of a recently designated focus school, which is in an urban setting. I thanked him for the Regional Achievement Centers (RAC), and asked him why we don’t have a shining example in this state that has sustained success on assessments. He told me and everyone in the room, that he is as frustrated as I am that there are no examples to share. He questioned the assessments, and if they are doing what we are asking them to do. He feels that these students need more time (extended into the summer, extended days, anything) to help them achieve even if their parents could care less. Wow, not the answer I thought he was going to give! He told me to continue to care and not give up. I told him to give me some time, and that my school will be the example!
There were a few questions from my colleagues that received quick, and well thought out responses. One superintendent asked about the caps on salaries. To everyone’s surprise he said that they are doing research to amend it, but they need data. Someone else asked about the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) process, and he said he was done with it, and we would be too (everyone applauded). He wants to pay teachers more money, but he wants to ensure that they are all working hard, and producing results! He wants principals to hold teachers accountable, and not just accept mediocrity. Based on the new legislation mentioned above, school districts will not need to waste millions of dollars and valuable time to hold a bad teacher accountable. No excuses anymore!
Another colleague mentioned charter schools, and why they are being opened in areas that have high performing public schools. Christie said that shouldn’t be happening, and that the charters are designed to help parents have a choice (without tuition) in underperforming schools.
As I walked away from the discussion, I was left with more questions than answers. I thought about the comments and questions from my previous post. Many people think he hates teachers, and shouldn’t be making educational decisions. To those who feel that way, I encourage you to do your own research, and familiarize yourself with Christie’s policies. Don’t just rely on the media hype, and the discussions in the teachers’ lounge because you may end up seeing him in a new light.