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

Prepare to be Kleinspired: My Skype with Erin Klein

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

Erin Klein with other education rock stars!

A long time ago, in a social media galaxy that was far, far away Erin Klein was exposed to one of the most important tools in her teaching tool box. She was at a district conference in Michigan, and heard about this thing called twitter. She didn’t understand a few things about twitter, most importantly the why? Later on that year, she attended a state conference, and heard a guy named Nick, AKA The Nerdy Teacher, present about twitter. He was able to explain the why? “Nick allowed me to see the importance of the PLN, idea gathering, and giving. From that point on I was hooked,” said Klein.

With the help of social media, Erin worked feverishly to establish herself as a 21st century teacher. She took over a classroom that had one piece of technology, an overhead projector. She had a background in Interior Design, and wanted to ensure that the room was a welcoming, comfortable, and brain friendly. She used her new found knowledge to sign up for adopt-a-classroom. In a short time, she was able to raise $1,000.00 dollars to purchase technology for her classroom. Her superintendent was so impressed that he purchased a SMART board for her classroom. Over the course of the next 3 years they added 30 SMART boards throughout the school!

Brain friendly learning

Erin considers teaching a lifestyle. When I asked her about time, she told me that she is a multi-tasker, and is always doing something. She is not the kind of teacher that spends time in the teachers’ lounge. Rather, she eats her lunch, interacts on social media, blogs, reads, and connects. During her preparation periods she is busy helping other teachers, grading papers, and planning. She values time. So when she is home she attempts to be a mommy, and a wife. Yet, her daughter continues to be Kleinspired, and has a blog of her own. Her husband is super supportive. He gets it. He was the one who came up with Kleinspiration, the name of her blog! For the Klein’s blogging and social media has become a family activity!

She spends time on her blog on the weekend. Have you seen it lately? It is possibly the most aesthetically pleasing, resource-filled blog out there. During the 2011-12 school year she blogged 300 times. In November 2011, for instance, she posted 57 times! 57 times!  She spends time blogging as a way to categorize her own learning, and assist teachers with their learning. She credits Kelly Tenkley, Lisa Dabbs, Richard Byrne, Steven Anderson, and The Nerdy Teacher as social media mentors, who also serve as her PLN, critical friends, and potential material for all things Kleinspired.

A classroom or a living room?

In the blogging world, Kleinspiration has become one of the most important sites for parents, teachers, and administrators. She walks her talk. Anything that she blogs about is directly related to student engagement, achievement, and 21st century learning. She does take time to reflect. For instance, in her most recent post, I am not an expert, I simply love what I do, Erin discussed her visit to family in Chicago. In addition to spending time with her family, she “worked.” Understand this: Erin doesn’t consider all the blogging, reading, and other social media as work. For Erin, its fun!

I suggest that if you haven’t already, plant yourself a learning seed, and get on the Kleinspiration journey with Erin. You will be glad you did!

Erin Klein’s application for SMART Exemplary Educator:

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

Resources

All things Erin Klein

Shifting the Monkey with Todd Whitaker

This is the sixth in the series about educators who are making a difference

Where is the monkey?

When worlds collide! My twitter mentors Jessica Johnson and Curt Rees with Todd Whitaker (photo courtesy of C. Rees)

Picture this. You are on a run, and all the sudden you get an idea. You are thinking about how people do not take responsibility for their actions. Monkeys on your back. Average. Great. You get back to your house, and put it all together. I am sure that scenario has happened to a lot of us, right? Difference is, Todd Whitaker ended up writing one of the hottest books on the market –  Shifting The Monkey.

OK, with a show of hands, how many of you have read Shifting the Monkey? What Great Principals Do Differently? Maybe one of his other books? OK, how many have heard Todd speak? Been lucky enough to have him present to your school? Watched his videos? Took one of his classes? If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, then you know about Todd Whittaker. For educational administrators Todd is a “must read.” He has written 25 books, presented at numerous national, state, and local conferences, and is a sought after speaker/consultant…. all this on top of being a university professor, father, and devoted husband.

I tried shifting the monkey with Todd on Tuesday, July 10 a few days after I finished reading the book. I must admit, though, prior to reading Shifting I had never read Todd’s books, never heard him speak, never saw his videos. All I knew about Todd was what I had learned through twitter. He was a university professor who had written a lot of books, and created a lot of chatter. That is why I bought Shifting the Monkey. Once I read the book I was hooked. For my summer professional development to be complete, I thought to myself, I have to speak to Todd Whitaker. So I messaged him through twitter, and he agreed to speak with me. I was so excited to be speaking with Todd, I posted on facebook, twitter, and google +.

I tried to shift the monkey with Todd as we spoke on the phone. It didn’t work. He was in the middle of helping his daughter move into an apartment. I was sitting in my office, poised to learn from one of the greats, and I wanted so badly to shift the monkey. Why, might you ask? Because, guess what? That is what we do ALL the time. We shift, they shift, he shifts, she shifts, everyone shifts! Well, not Todd. Not anymore. Next time you have the chance, I dare you…try to shift the monkey with Todd Whitaker!

Where should it be?

For about 30 minutes, Todd and I talked about school leadership, business, politics, teachers, administrators, and life in general. I asked Todd about his writing process. He said that he usually gets inspired by things that are wrong. So, he will be reading something, anything, and he will see through the veil of the writer. Call it a gift, call it a curse. Either way Todd will let you know what you are doing wrong. Todd has wealth of experiences, and street credibility because he has been in our shoes. He was a student, parent, math teacher, coach, curriculum director, and a principal before becoming a university professor.

He gave me so many kernels of useful information throughout the conversation. He allowed me to provide him with a scenario, and he would then use my scenario to discuss Shifting the Monkey. I learned that I shift a lot of monkeys. Thankfully, I won’t be the same kind of principal as a result of our conversation. As he said, “Spike, if you want to change your school, you have to make decisions based on the best teachers. You will not turn that school around with crummy teachers.”

How do I shift the monkey to its proper place?

Here are my Todd Whitaker take-a-ways from our conversation:

  • Your best people work the hardest, the average ones don’t
  • When people come to you with excuses as to why something can’t work, they are merely shifting the monkey. They have done it their whole life. They are experts in shifting the monkey
  • Average people work hard to be average. They love to hear that things such as “We can’t do that here,” or “The parents are (fill in the blank),” or maybe, “The curriculum is (fill in the blank).”  All of these are shifting techniques
  • Change does not take a long time! People love to say that it takes a long time because they don’t want to work hard. For example, have you ever had an out of control class with a marginal teacher (could be a substitute, maternity leave replacement, or even a tenured teacher)? You take another, stronger teacher and put them in that class, and next thing you know it’s a different class? Change doesn’t take a long time, unless you are average
  • Great people do not see the “before.” Continuing that example from above. The great teacher that comes in, and turns things around does not need to know what happened before. They take ownership of the class, and move forward
  • Average principals love to read, and quote literature such as, “Change takes at least 5 to 7 years.” Why do they love it? They have a built in excuse to their goal statement, and can back it up with an author
  • In order to change a school, a principal must be willing to hold all teachers accountable, no excuses
  • The principal must treat everyone (great and average alike) with the same respect, and in a positive manner
  • The job of the principal is not to teach or instruct the students. Rather, the job of the principal is to teach and instruct the teachers so that they can teach and instruct the students
  • In staff meetings, don’t generalize or use a “blanket” monkey. I recently did this and Todd called me on it. Ouch!
  • A chain is only strong as its weakest link” – Guess what? That’s not accurate, and people who quote it are shifting the monkey
  • Great teachers don’t want to be the principal’s pet, but the average teachers want to make it seem like the great teachers ARE the principal’s pet. This tactic helps average teachers shift their monkey, and attempts to bring down great teachers
  • Principals, answer this question – Who is responsible for the culture, and climate in your building? The average principal would respond by saying, “The teachers, PTA, students, BOE, etc.” The great principal would respond, “I am!”

After I hung up with Todd, I immediately ordered What Great Principals Do Differently. I started reading it later on that day. Every time I am on a run, or driving in my car I am thinking about how to be a great principal, where the monkeys are, where they should be, and how to get them there.

I do not want to be average. For the sake of my school, the children, and our status as viewed by the State of New Jersey, I have to be great. I don’t have time to be average. Neither do my teachers. What about you?

Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as Erin Klein, Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkley, Patrick Larkin, and many more….

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference: George Couros, Justin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter, Chris Wejr

Resources:

Everything Todd Whitaker

The Wejr Board: My Skype with Chris Wejr

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

Chris Wejr presenting

Chris Wejr (pronounced Weej-er) is currently the principal of Kent Elementary School in Agazzi, BC. Because Chris’s last name is pronounced similarly to the famous Ouija (pronounced wee gee) and he loves talking about the future of education, he decided to name his blog The Wejr Board. The question is… where will this blog post take you? Keep your fingers placed gently on the mouse and find out.

Chris began his social media journey in 2009 as a result of helping a local dance studio who was embarking on a social media journey of their own. He was on facebook since it started, and even signed up his school in order to connect with parents. Yet, it took about a year for him to finally make that first post on his own blog.

He credits George Couros and Patrick Larkin (founders of #cpchat) for helping him see the power of twitter, blogging, and social media in general. Chris feels that twitter has been one of the most important aspects in connecting educators throughout the world. “Because twitter is limited to 140 characters, it is difficult to build relationships and connections,” noted Chris, “But it allows us to begin our connections which lead to reading blog posts, direct messaging, and skypeing.”

What a view! Kent Elementary Garden

Chris has received so many ideas from twitter that he has been able to share with his teachers, parents, and even students. His goal is always clear, how can this make my school better? If there is an area that he needs to know more about or research, he turns to twitter, and rarely is disappointed by what he finds.

Even though Chris was reluctant at first to blog, he now engages in the practice regularly. He feels the most important part of blogging is making it personal. For instance, his facebook account was recently hacked, and the person began sending out inappropriate messages on his behalf. After he dealt with the situation, he made sure to blog about it so that others can learn (Power of A Positive Digital Footprint – A Personal Story). When he writes his blogs, he likes to use material that allows him to spread ideas, which hopefully leads to bigger ideas for others. As for his process, he usually writes, edits, waits, read again, and then posts. 

When I asked Chris about his series of posts on awards ceremonies, his passion for the subject was evident. He wants to be able to recognize all students, but not in the way Robert Dinero’s character did in Meet the Parents (I didn’t know that they made trophies for 8th place). Chris has learned a great deal about award ceremonies from the First Nation People Sto:Lo. “The Sto:Lo people have awards embedded in their culture, and the focus is to acknowledge everyone because everyone matters.” So when Kent Elementary has awards ceremonies, they honor the learning, the intrinsic motivations of each learner. This is not to say that everyone gets an award, but the teachers are encouraged to discuss the students in terms of their passion, and future goals. According to Chris, it has to be authentic.

Dad and daughter.. first bike!

Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Chris to dust off his Wejr-board and tell me about the future of education. He sees technology as what we do, and in the future he sees educators making the learning more relevant, and personal. He sees educators transitioning from judges to coaches that focus on the process, not just the product. He sees an educational community that creates the conditions for everyone to be successful. He said, “We all know that kids are never standard, so why do we always try to make learning, and assessments standard?”

I brought up the issue of time with Chris, and he said, “I agree with George Couros when he told you it is about priority. I tweet at about 3 times a day (morning, lunch and evening). I have 18 month twins, a wife, and other interests as well. I just balance my priorities. I am able to get it all done.”

Chris Wejr is a learning leader, and based on our conversation he continues to work on building the capacity for his students, teachers, and parents to learn as well. He is always open for dialogue, and I am sure would be willing to break out the Wejr-board to help you with a problem or a question.

 Look for upcoming posts on other educators making a difference such as  Erin Klein, Todd Whitaker, Curt Rees, Jessica Johnson, Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkley, Patrick Larkin, and many more….

Previous posts dedicated to educators making a difference: George CourosJustin Tarte, The Nerdy Teacher, Dwight Carter

Resources:

Everything Chris Wejr

Sto:lo Nation  

Re- Thinking Awards Ceremonies