One month down… (31:365)

Can you believe that January 2014 is over today? We are 1/12 through 2014. How are the New Year’s Resolutions? New gym memberships? Diet? Now is not the time to quit. There is many more miles to go.


Let’s here from some inspirational people. Maybe you can take one of these quotes and share it with someone who needs it. Or, it could help you achieve your goals for 2014.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
Thomas A. Edison


Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.
Ella Fitzgerald


You never know where your influences are going to come from, or where you’re going to find your inspiration.
Page McConnell

Keep up the great work and remember, “To the world you might be one person, but to one person you may be the world,” Bill Wilson.



The Great Kindness Challenge (30:365)

This week our school participated in the Great Kindness Challenge. Our guidance counselor, Amy Spanbauer, and our PBIS aide, Kim Berry, organized the week.

The Great Kindness Challenge is a proactive and positively powerful anti-bullying tool. It is one week devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible in school, at home and in the community. All kids deserve to learn in a safe, supportive and dynamic environment. The Great Kindness Challenge provides a powerful tool that actively engages students, teachers, administration, families and community in creating a school culture of acceptance, tolerance, unity and respect.

During 3rd, 4th and 5th grade lunches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we had a Kindness Station set up in the cafeteria. This station was set up with various art supplies so the students could use part of their lunch period to make a card expressing their thanks to someone special to them.

During the assembly on Monday, the students were treated to a movie starring some teachers and administrators who were inspired by the challenge.


The entire week was exceptional and I hope that everyone continues to spread kindness.

The twitter inspired post… (29:365)

Every once in awhile I am going to turn to a random tweet and respond on the blog. For this one, I closed my eyes, scrolled down through my personal feed and pointed.


And the winner is…..  Derek McCoy who tweeted “How do parents think educational screen time effects learning? The link was to an article in Mind/Shift by Tina Barseghian.


There was a survey of 1,577 parents of kids ages 2 – 10. According to the results, there were some interesting findings.

Parents surveyed said they considered nearly half (44 percent) of their kids’ screen media use as educational. That amounts to 56 minutes out of a total 2:07 screen media per day. And more than half (57 percent) say their kids are actually learning from the educational media they consume, and take action after consuming it. For example, about a third of kids engage in imaginative play, and more than a quarter ask questions about what they watched or played, though only 18 percent asked their parents to plan a project or an activity inspired by that media. But as kids get older, their habits start to change — away from consuming more educational media.


I found it interesting that TV is still considered king. In my house, the kids (ages 6 and 9) are mostly watching their content on their personal learning devices (ipod and ipad). The content is usually created by other kids who are not in the “industry.” The article also discusses the similarities and differences of those surveyed by race and economic status. In the conclusion, there are some interesting graphs from the Cooney Center.


Thanks again to Derek for tweeting the article and winning the first “twitter inspired post.”

Top 5 Reasons to Start Blogging (28:365)

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


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

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

2. To inspire others

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

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

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


Turn the obstacles into opportunities!


Yabba Dabba Doo (27:365)

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


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


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


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


So where do we draw the line?


Where do you stand?



The True Costs of Meetings (26:365)



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

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

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


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


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

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

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

The Best Information Available (25:365)



When we think of change, there are some who ask the question, “Why do we have to change?” I’m sure educators can count all the various initiatives over the last 50 years, and complain. Nothing can ever stay the same.


Recently, I was listening to a podcast where one of the guests talked about how his father would always complain about science. His father would say that he didn’t know what to believe anymore because there was always a new “finding.” So the son said to his father, “I think that they are making their findings based on the best information that they had at the time. When they find new information that either contradicts or adds to the previous “findings” things change.”


I thought that was a powerful story on many levels. In education, we really try to make decisions based on the information presented by research. We do not, nor will we ever, know everything. Knowledge is constantly changing, evolving, and in some cases, maturing. With that said, we will make mistakes, and contradictions. To hold onto the past does little to help us progress. We have to continue to make our decisions based on the best information available at the time.

Service with a Smile (24:365)

Picture this… it is the day after having off from school because a huge snow storm dumped about 12 inches of snow in our area. You can imagine the scene: snow is everywhere, it is freezing cold, and by the way (you think) where are people going to drop off their kids? So I thought quickly and asked for help from staff in the building. We had a brief meeting and then set a plan into action.


We decided that we had to have one area for drop off (buses and cars). We knew it might take some time (and getting used to) but we needed to control the area where kids were being dropped off. We stationed staff in certain areas to direct traffic to the one (most safest) point. Then, my inner valet kicked in. I found myself opening doors so parents wouldn’t need to get out in the cold. I helped kids unbuckle their seat-belts, and even carried a few out of the car. It was really interesting to see the expressions on the parents’ faces. They were so appreciative! One parent went to the local coffee shop (WaWa) and bought us coffee.


Now, I know that some schools provide this type of treatment every day. They may have safety patrol or even teachers helping out with arrival. We may get to that point. For today, however, the parents and students were greeted in the bitter cold by a bunch of welcoming, smiling faces. It made all the difference!

Snow-tacular day (23:365)



Just another day in January? Well, if you live in the northeast of the United States, not really. Snow days are a treasure for young and old, teacher and student, parent and child. Although the definition of the treasure may vary, everyone learns a lesson from a good snow day.

In schools, we get as excited as the kids when we hear about a snow day. Why? In my opinion, it says a lot about what we value….I would venture to say that we value being nestled in at home with family or friends.We get to lounge around the house. We have the choice to sleep in or take naps. Since the roads are harder to traverse, we are forced to forgo the trips to the stores, the mall or other errands. The more snow, the more time we get with our loved ones.

I think this is why we value the snow-tacular day.

Fully grasped? (22:365)



How can we prove that students (or ourselves for that matter) have fully grasped a concept? Is it always the performance on an assessment? Could it be a demonstration? A reflection on the process?  Is it different for different subjects?


The questions I listed above are things that I ponder all the time. I operate under the notion that learning is constant and time is the variable. There are many educators who believe the same thing, and there are a growing number who feel otherwise. Are we always learning? I know… I ask too many questions…


I am always willing to think outside the box… and perhaps we need to spend more time debating the simple concept of “fully grasped.” Until then, I will keep believing that I have much more to learn, and I haven’t “fully grasped” enough.