“It’s harder to hate up close”

Drumthwacket

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.

Chris Christie said he is excited for the future. He is going to work on being less “hot” but he is not going to stop advocating for kids. He said he is open to ideas, and to criticism. If you have questions, make sure to contact his office, or Commissioner Chris Cerf’s office. Or your could tweet Chris Christie.

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.

It is really harder to hate close up.

What would you ask the Governor?

Source: (AP Photo/Mel Evans) blogs.edweek.org

I received a call on Sunday from a good friend and respected colleague, Steven Engravalle. He asked me what I was doing on Thursday, and I said, “Probably working, but nothing special.” Steve said, “Good, because now you are. How would you like to sit down in a small forum and talk with Governor Chris Christie?” As you can imagine, I agreed. We talked for a few more minutes. I had to ask, “Steve, how did I get picked?” Steve told me the Governor is looking to discuss education with a small group of committed educators representing various positions, school districts, etc. He went on to say that Governor Chris Christie wants honest dialogue, “And that, my friend, is why you were chosen!”

Anyone that knows me, knows that I will be honest in whatever setting I’m in. Anyone that knows Governor Chris Christie, knows that he will be honest in whatever setting he is in! We have some things in common besides our honesty. Governor Christie has made education a top priority in his administration. Some of his laws, policies, and theories on education have required people to question the status quo. Although I haven’t agreed with everything, I admire his courageousness. I also admire him for taking the time to speak with people like me, who have access to people like YOU!

After calling my loved ones and friends to share the good news I did what any connected educator would do… I Tweeted, posted on Facebook, and began writing this blog. Why? Because I am not just representing me when I meet with the Governor, I am representing everyone within my PLN (Personal Learning Network).

I ask you this… If given this same opportunity, what would you ask?

One time, at Pad Camp

I had the opportunity of attending Pad Camp on August 16, 2012. This “un-conference” was held at Galloway Township Middle School, in Galloway, NJ. I want to start out by thanking Kevin Jarrett for his work in organizing the event!

The first session I attended was hosted by Jeff Bradbury. He had educators engaged, and involved throughout his session on imovie. After a brief introduction, he got us working right away in small groups on a film project. Within 45 minutes, educators who hadn’t necessarily worked with each other before, or with imovie, were able to produce projects.He connected this session to how you can have students, and or teachers develop back to school videos for the upcoming school year.

During the second session, I caught up with my tweeps Danielle Hartman, and Dana Sirotiak. Normally, we are only able to collaborate through twitter, so this gave us a chance to share best practices for student engagement. I think I learned about 20 new apps for my ipad!

At lunch I was able to catch up with Jeff Bradbury, and learn about how teachercast.net has grown. He shared with me his recent experiences at ISTE12, and his pod cast project. I highly recommend to follow him on twitter, and to stay tuned to his podcasts!

After lunch, the #njed tweeps attended a session on nearpod presented by Hannah Walden. She did an excellent job of walking us (there must have been 50+ people in the session!) through the nearpod app, and how it can assist students and teachers in the classroom. Great job, Hannah!

@Teachercast hosting a podcast for #njed tweeps

For the last session, we requested that Jeff discuss pod casting, and to record an actual podcast. We grilled him with questions for about 15 minutes on how our classrooms, schools, and districts can utilize pod casting (For more information on this, I recommend to check out his 1st and 2nd pod casts). Once you get the equipment (basically an ipod, ipad or iphone will do, a microphone, and an itunes account, you will be set) pod casting can be an excellent way to have students interview/report/present on various school activities such as parents, teachers, administrators, guests, field trips, commercials, events, announcements, etc. I know that RM Bacon Elementary will be producing pod casts as a result of this session!

Today was a very inspiring day. I really enjoyed hanging with my #njed tweeps, learning, laughing, and continuing to become a 21st century leader.

Let me know about your experiences with un-conferences…..

Just what the doctor ordered

“It was not the vacation I wanted, it was the vacation I needed

Ouch!

A few weeks ago while I was running, I felt an odd twinge in my right foot. I kept running through it, and probably ran 4 or 5 more times, plus did Muay Thai kickboxing. One morning I woke up and my foot was black and blue. I posted the picture on facebook, and sure enough, my friends thought I had a stress fracture. Fortunately, modern day science, and a fantastic orthopedic were able to determine that it was not a fracture, but rather a slight tendon sprain. All I worried about was my upcoming vacation. I like to run, play golf, and go in the ocean/sand on my vacations. Plus, there are miles to walk on the boardwalk!

The boot

I started vacation as conservative as I could. Kept my boot on, and relaxed. Since I was on a self imposed social media blackout, and I didn’t want to read anything too “educational” or “leadership oriented” I picked up the Hunger Games. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I was reading something that didn’t directly impact my job.

Hunger Games

As the vacation progressed, I found that my foot became stronger. I kicked off the boot, and did my best to help the kids in the ocean. For the first few days, my wife was doing most of the ocean supervising. My son, although much more brave than last year, wanted to venture further out into the waves, and my daughter tends to be a human barnacle when she gets near water.

Enjoying Manco and Manco Pizza

Reflecting back on the social media black out, and the “take it easy” approach to my physical exercising, I ended up having one of the best vacations in recent memory. In fact, many times I would finish a vacation, I would feel the need to have a “vacation from my vacation.” I can now say I am hooked on the Hunger Games, and I almost finished Catching Fire. I am thankful that I had the vacation I needed!

The kids were ready for the picture, and I did a photobomb

It’s not a tough decision

Here I am with vacation staring me in the face, and I am blogging. Yet, I have made a decision for next week – I am powering down. Basically since January 1, 2012 I have been steady on the social media scene. Well, that ends the week of August 4 – 12. Nada, nothing, zilch. This will be hard for me, but not a touch decision. I need to spend time with my family, sand, and sun!

I value my PLN, and you should too. So if you come across something, just save it for me. I will be back. That you can count on.

Thanks to Dana Sirotiak for sending me this video on the PLN. Grow your PLN.

 

Skypeing with my social media mentor @PrincipalJ

This is the tenth in the series about educators making a difference.

Jessica Johnson

When I first turned to social media to create my PLN, it was Jessica Johnson who was my guide. Without even knowing it, I spent the first month on twitter learning from her, and Curt Rees. I studied their blogs, read their tweets, and anything else I could get my mouse on. I can remember sitting in my office at work, talking with a teacher who was helping me understand all of this technology stuff, and he said, “I checked out PrincipalJ’s website, and if you want to do what she is doing, it is going to take a lot of time and commitment.” He was so correct.Jessica began her journey in social media in 2007. She tuned into the Principal Podcast that was being broadcast by Melinda Miller, and Scott Elias. She was following them, similar to how I was following her in 2012. She listened to the podcasts, read their blogs, and got her hands on anything they recommended. She wanted to learn. They kept talking about twitter, and how powerful the medium was in education. It took her about a year, and finally in 2008, Jessica Johnson became @PrincipalJ.

Jessica strives for “zero” inbox

As a brand new principal, Jessica was determined to be the best that she could be. Here she was in rural Wisconsin, with the new ability to completely open her world up to all that twitter, and social media had to offer. Yet, at first, she told no one, not even her teachers. When I asked her about this, she said, “It was my thing. I didn’t seek to have a lot of followers, or make a huge impact. I just wanted to learn, and connect.” Slowly but surely, Jessica found that she had to pay it forward. She finally decided to take off the “private” setting on twitter so she could at least re-tweet these wonderful ideas she was gathering. She ripped the Band-Aid off.

Jessica tries to get technology into the hands of her kids (this is her husband’s office)

Since she began to pay it forward, Jessica has grown her blog and twitter network, and has become one of the most respected administrators in social media. When I asked Jessica about her blogging process she said, “I would have to say I am more like George Couros. I like to write it down, post, and walk away. I think getting the right images sometimes takes me longer than the actual post.” She went on to say that she mainly blogs as a reflective tool for herself, and her teachers. Blogging forces her to be reflective.

Currently, Jessica is working on a book project with @shiraleibowitz and @KathyPerret as a result of her participation in the #educoach on twitter. Together they moderate the #educoach chat which happens on selected Wednesdays at 9:00 PM CST. Jessica, along with @shiraleibowitz and @KathyPerret said that the book is being collectively written from the coaching perspective of a principal. She feels connected with the coaching realm because that is the type of leader she is at her school. Jessica feels that her role is to make her teachers better by encouraging, and motivating them to get to the next level.

Reflections from an Elementary School Principal

Jessica’s passion, as exemplified in her tweets, blogs, and facebook likes, is reading. Her background on her blog is, you guessed it, books. In viewing her last 10 posts on her blog, she referenced her reading/student reading, or the importance of reading 80% of the time. Her most discussed concept of late is the Daily 5. She had completely integrated the Daily 5 into her school, but as you would guessed it, she did not mandate it at first, she allowed the teachers, and students to see the importance in their own way. As they moved forward, and she saw the positive impact, the Daily 5 is now the new normal.  She says that the Daily 5 has encouraged more reading at her school by teachers, parents, and students.

Jessica Johnson has been very influential in mentoring me (and countless others) in navigating the power of the PLN. She is always available to assist with technology, twitter, pintrest, and providing feedback on blogs.

The summer is winding down, and I will soon be on vacation. Look for the final posts in the series on other educators making a difference through my conversations with Curt Rees, Shelly Terrell, Lisa Dabbs, and Cool Cat Teacher.

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference:  George Couros, Justin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr, Todd Whitaker, Erin Klein, Patrick Larkin, Kelly Tenkely

Resources:

#educoach

All things Jessica Johnson

Daily 5

 

Building a Strong Alliance: My Skype with Kelly Tenkely

This is the ninth in the series about educators making a difference in education.

Let me introduce you to someone. I will throw a few words out there, and you can see who you think they describe: Determined, Passionate, Progressive, Futuristic, Spiritual, Committed, Survivor, and Motivational. For those who have been on twitter the past few years, you know that I am describing Kelly Tenkley. For those of you who may not know who Kelly is, then it’s time for you to become part of the alliance.

I’ll be honest, had it not been for The Nerdy Teacher and Erin Klein, I am not sure I would have “known” who Kelly was. Everything happens for a reason.  Both Erin and Nick said that I HAD to contact Kelly, and interview her for this project.

What does your digital footprint reveal?

My initial search of Kelly revealed her rather large digital footprint: Blogs: iLearn Technology; Dreams of Education; Stories of Learning; iPad Curriculum; Confident Teacher Websites: Tenkely.org; Typing; iVerb; Internet Safety; 2010 Olympics; Bookcasting; LinkedIn: Kelly Tenkely Twitter: ktenkely; YouTube: ktenkely; Freelance articles: Top 10 Technology Tips for New Teachers; 10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports; 15 Tools to Help You Go Paperless; 5 Best Virtual Field Trips; A Day in the Life of an Elementary Computer Teacher/Technology Integration Specialist; Use the Technology Available to You; It’s Not All About the Technology; Lessons Learned from Master Teachers Videos/Podcasts/Recognition: Edublog award winner 2009; ISTE 10 21st Century Classroom (Part 1 and 2) EDTECH: Focus on K-12; Cool Teacher Podcast Interview 2009; Game Classroom Top Educator; Scholastic Plug into Generation IM interview; Education.com Article: How Should Schools be Using Tech to Teach?; Tech Chick Tips Episode 45; Leading and Learning: Blogger’s Beat Initiatives/Conferences: Edublogger Alliance Network; Project PLN; Reform Symposium Virtual Conference (organizer 2010); ACSI Conference Speaker (2008); Starrmatica 50 States Contest Judge (2010); Colorado Podcast Summit (2008) Corporate Mentions of iLearn Technology: Secret Builders; Shidonni; Eyeplorer; Smithsonian: Picturing the 30′s. To put things in perspective, Kelly blogged at least 5 days a week from July 2007 – January 2012 (She started because her husband suggested it). I know what you are thinking. You had to slow down in 2012 Kelly, didn’t you?

Anastasis Academy Studio 14

One of the most important aspects to Kelly’s learning is her PLN. She began her PLN through twitter and blogging. Along with Steven Anderson, Shelly Terrell,  and The Nerdy Teacher, Kelly sought to build an alliance of education bloggers known as the Blogger Alliance. For her part, she read every single post, and commented as often as she could. Yes, every single post. The alliance eventually grew to well over 100 people.  That is when she realized that she couldn’t read and post on every single alliance blog. She created a strong bond with her PLN that has remained consistent. Along with her alliance, and #edchat tweeps she wanted to take things to another level. So, she helped organized the Reform Symposium, an #edchat conference that was 3 days of free professional development that served over 7,000 people.

The Anastasis Academy

Besides Kelly’s enormous digital footprint, did I mention that she started her own school? Yes, her pride and joy, Anastasis Academy, opened in the fall of 2011. The idea came to her as she was listening to Pandora. She thought to herself – why can’t learning be more like Pandora? Why can’t a curriculum get tagged, and allow the learner to create a “playlist” for themselves? This lead to the creation of the Learning Genome Project, which later transformed into the basis for her school. The school is designed as a challenging, learning-centered school within a close nit, collaborative culture. All the learning is personalized, and the class sizes are designed to maximize personalization. There are no “boxed” curriculum materials, only learning tools designed to piece together based on student needs. There is no “one size fits all” at the school. If that isn’t enough, Kelly is currently looking to expand the Anastasis Academy to Rawanda and Costa Rica. In case you were wondering, Anastasis has a Jeep inside the school. Yes, a Jeep!

Everything is a learning opportunity

Kelly’s number 1 supporter/famous chef/husband, Jonathan

How does Kelly have time for all of this you may wonder? When I asked her this she immediately said, “When it feels like a burden, I don’t do it. I make time for the important things in life. I am not one to sit around and just watch TV. I am a multi-tasker!” She went on to tell me that she has an extremely supportive husband, Jonathan, who has played a huge role in encouraging Kelly to achieve her goals. Her and Jonathan enjoy playing with their dogs, and are often enjoying the great outdoors in Colorado.

Kelly Tenkley has worked hard to build an alliance of educators committed to helping students achieve success in the 21st century. In cataloging her learning through her blogs, she has impacted the lives of countless teachers, and administrators to improve learning for students. She has what some call “superhuman” strength, but she gives credit to her faith in God. For Kelly, life hasn’t always been easy. She battles rheumatoid arthritis that caused her to give up her computer teaching job a few years ago, and take a year off from working full time. Everything happens for a reason. Unfortunately, working with students lowers her immunity, and inflames her condition. She often has to take breaks, and work from home in order to stay healthy. Yet, Kelly continues to push forward, with the help of her alliance! Are you ready to join?

Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Lisa Dabbs, and Cool Cat Teacher.

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference:  George Couros, Justin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr, Todd Whitaker, Erin Klein, Patrick Larkin

Resources:

All things Kelly Tenkely

 

My Skype with Patrick M. Larkin, the Administrator formerly known as BHS_Principal

The Administrator formerly known as BHS_Principal

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

About  4 years ago the inner writer within Patrick Larkin found a way to streamline communication with the school community. He started a blog that would eventually retire the tried and true “School Newsletter.” Not soon after, while at a Blue Ribbon Conference, Patrick heard Will Richardson discuss social media. This was the first time he heard about #edchat and the power of twitter. Something clicked with Patrick, but not immediately. Patrick took time to “lurk and learn.”
 

Sometime after he met Will Richardson, Patrick was contacted by George Couros, who at the time was one of the few principals on twitter. George discussed his idea about connecting principals through social media. Patrick was very interested. He had grown tired of the “email list serves” that had run their course. This new social media, thought Patrick, would allow everyone a faster, more streamlined way of communicating throughout the world.
 

Patrick’s superintendent (Eric Conti or @ericconti)  was supportive of his new interest in social media. He was able to see how Patrick would be assisting his teachers, and students as he learned new information from the other educators. Patrick continued to improve his blog, signed his school up for a facebook page, and shared the great news with anyone who would listen. Teachers and parents began to sign up for twitter, and follow the school on facebook. Then something happened that would change Burlington High School forever. It happened in Iowa of all places.

 

Source: Patrick Larkin

Patrick learned about a conference in Iowa (Iowa 1:1 Institute) focusing on 1 to 1 computing, something that was not common in Massachusetts. Patrick’s superintendent and school board approved a trip to attend the conference with a group of schools in Iowa.  This is where Patrick first met Scott McLeod (co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens) as well as Shannon Miller, Darren Durflinger, and John Carver from Van Meter, Iowa. It was during this conference that Patrick was able to see the impact of all students having their own web-enabled device (1 to 1).
 
 

Once he returned to Burlington, Patrick began to work with his colleagues to build the foundation needed for a 1 to 1 initiative at BHS. All told, it was a year and a half of meetings, research, consensus building that eventually paved the way to have the 1 to 1 begin in September of 2010. No stone was left unturned – they looked at the network, educational benefits, devices, and professional development. The team ended up choosing iPads as the device for the 1 to 1. They were one of the first schools in the nation to embark on such an aggressive 21st century journey!

 

Source: hereandnow.wbur.org

While Patrick was working on the 1 to 1 initiative, he quickly became one of the most recognized names in the twitterverse. Everyday Patrick learned a little more, posted a little more, and connected with scores of educators throughout the world. He and George started the #cpchat, and the connected principals’ blog to allow administrators and teachers the platform to discuss various topics. Patrick attended, and presented at local, state, and national conferences on the importance of being connected.
 

I asked Patrick about his famous office in Burlington High School. For those of you who don’t know, Patrick gave up his office a few years ago. His high school became his office! To Patrick it all made sense, he told me, “I had everything I needed. People could call me on my cell phone (he makes it public), we had wifi so I could use my Ipad or laptop wherever, and I found no need for file cabinets.” So, armed with his mac book, Patrick spent his past few years in the main lobby, hallway, and most importantly classrooms. If he had a confidential conversation that needed to take place, he was always able to find a space. Patrick modeled his connectivity, and was available for all to see.
 

Earlier this summer, Patrick made a decision to apply for a vacated Assistant Superintendent position in his school district. Fortunately for his district, Patrick was selected. His former associate principal ended up succeeding him as the new BHS principal, and Patrick decided to “give it all away – he gave his successor the BHS_Principal name for twitter, the blog, the office.  Everything.
 

Now we will be able to follow Patrick M. Larkin as he embarks on his new journey as Assistant Superintendent. Check out his first post.

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

Resources:

All things Patrick M. Larkin