Understanding the Unannounced (21:365)

Woman looking into spy hole closeup

source: blog.timesunion.com –

On Saturday, I was reading a post by a fellow NJED principal Bruce Arcurio titled Unannounced Observations. As I read the post, I thought about my experiences with the new observational tool. Bruce and I had a twitter discussion after reading and it inspired me to write this post.


In his post, he joked about how his teachers have become accustomed to this new process because they see him walking around with his device.  I am sure my teachers notice the same thing, and through devices or phones, the word spreads. With all joking aside, Bruce discussed how many cool activities he has observed. This is beauty of this new process. This is the first time in our teachers’ careers that they have been formally observed without warning. Fortunately, and to the credit of these professionals, they have produced such great outcomes. It has also kept the administrators on their toes. We are learning more about deadlines, organization, and  most importantly flexibility.


source: bpseducatoreval.weebly.com

source: bpseducatoreval.weebly.com

I sympathize with the supervisors in this process. Most supervisors are not stationed in the schools in which they observe. They need to drive over to the school, go to the classroom, and (fingers crossed) observe a lesson. Many times this is far from a smooth process. Supervisors have been faced with teachers who had emergencies, lock-downs, fire drills, field trips, assemblies, Model Assessments, Universal Sweeps, switched lunch schedule, or even an impromptu recess because the temperature is finally above freezing.


In my opinion, learning has no schedule, and can be difficult to quantify in a 20, or 40 minute increment. Learning is the ongoing process and accumulation of stimuli that transcends time. With that said, it can be difficult (not impossible) to ensure that the new observation tool is implemented with fidelity. We no longer know what we are going to see (or when). This is the beauty and the challenge as we continue on this path.

So that’s Evernote… (20:365)

Last night on the Principalcast Podcast I was a learner! My co-hosts Theresa Stager and Jessica Johnson did a fantastic job of explaining Evernote and the possibilities to make my organization better (and based in the 21st century).


Here is what I learned:

  • Wow – There is so much to the Evernote app or web site
  • It can allow you to scan paper so that it is saved
  • Emails, pictures, tweets, documents can be sent directly to Evernote
  • It sounds like once you get started it is addictive
  • There is a free opportunity or you can pay 50.00 for a yearly subscription

One of the presentations that was shared was Jessica’s slide share

What a great learning opportunity!


Checkmate! (19:365)

Henry concentrating

Henry concentrating

Now that my son has completed his second chess tournament, I am curious about the role chess plays in schools. The private school that hosts the tournament prides itself in the fact that chess is integrated into the curriculum. Students play everyday! At my son’s elementary school, one teacher volunteers 3 days a week so that over 100 students can play. He supports the kids on the  day of the tournament by providing feedback on their wins and losses.


Currently, my elementary school does not have a chess club. I feel compelled to get one started so that the students can learn this historic game that can have positive impact on critical thinking, problem solving, and even raise achievement.


According to chess vibes, there are 10 brain benefits of playing chess:

  1. Can raise your IQ
  2. Helps prevent Alzheimers
  3. Exercises both sides of the brain
  4. Increases creativity
  5. Improves memory  
  6. Increases problem solving
  7. Improves reading skills
  8. Improves concentration
  9. Grows Dendrites (tree-like branches that conduct signals from other neural cells into the neurons)
  10. Teaches planning and insight


I see other benefits as well. My son has become part of the a “team” and enjoys spending time with the other kids in the chess club. He and I play at least once or twice a week, and with a busy schedule, this is great bonding time for us. So, I don’t mind the hour drive to the tournament, or the 5 hour wait, or even the hour drive home… It is all worth it because in the end, I have learned so much and I have to get things started at my school!

Tech support (18:365)

source: www.connectyourhome.com

source: www.connectyourhome.com

How often have you called Tech Support and said, “I can’t figure this out!


A former tech support colleague sent me this video. I really had a laugh. In education, we often complain about tech support, technology and implementation in the classroom. Its hard to see problems from the tech’s perspective. Take a moment to watch this video about what tech support would have been in Medieval Times.


In all honesty, I still call tech support when I need help. I am always appreciative of the help. It goes a long way.


Think about it the next time you call tech support…



They have a dream (17:365)

"I Have a Dream"

“I Have a Dream”

I was in a first grade classroom the other day. Kara Lunemann did an awesome lesson on similarities and differences in regards to Martin Luther King, Jr. Even though the kids were in first grade, she used rigorous questioning and challenged them to think about what the world would be like if Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t challenge the process.


The students analyzed the differences between brown and white eggs and related it to skin color. Each of the students could not understand why people used to judge each other based on this. “That’s just silly,” one student said to me.


After analyzing the eggs, she showed a video which combined some of MLK’s words, with easy to understand information to help the first graders comprehend his impact.  As the students watched the video, the students were swaying to the beat. They were all smiles!


As I walked around the room, I noticed that the students were writing their own stories about MLK, Jr. I had to take a picture of one of the student’s illustrated story (at the beginning of the blog post). Cute and very important. What a great lesson, and now the students know why they off from school on Monday!


MLK had a dream and so do first graders!


Switch your zoo (16:365)

unnamedRecently I was in a second grade art class. The teacher began the lesson by reviewing mythological creatures. She talked with them about the symbolism, and stories of these creatures. After showing the kids examples of some from Greek, Roman and Egyptian history, she brought them to the 21 at century using the site Switch Zoo.


The kids explored the site and created their own creatures. They thought it was the coolest thing. The art teacher said she used to do this lesson by having the students cut out animals from magazines. She said there would be many issues associated with the activity such as getting the magazines, time spent cutting and choosing animals, and connecting to the Greek, Roman and Egyptian history.


Once they completed their newly formed creatures, the students wrote a description of their newly created mythological creatures!

In addition to the site, there is an app for those who have a device… Check it out and bring your art lesson to the 21st century… 

Ignite the fire, feed the desire (15:365)

source: annechovie.blogspot.com

source: annechovie.blogspot.com

The theory of positivity is simple… You need to remain positive, be an example, and understand that it is all about perspective. The most important and influential people are positive. Think about this … do you enjoy learning from someone who is negative? In reality, though, it can be extremely difficult to maintain the theory of positivity.


There are two suggestions for maintaining …. ignite the fire, feed the desire……

1. Ignite the fire – Find your passion. Is it work, home, school, reading, writing, or technology?  Find that which makes you get up in the morning.
2. Feed the desire – The more you are able feed your passion, the more you likely you will be able to continue on the path to positivity.

My advice.. it is easier to stay positive. Life is too short to dwell on the negative. Each day make sure to ignite your fire and feed your desire… Be careful, though, it can be contagious…



Twitter and the information sift (14:365)

tweetI understand that folks are reluctant to engage in social media. I was there, and it is only been two years of being engaged in social media. Recently I was thinking of a new way of sharing the importance of the social media tool twitter. Most people say they don’t have time to get on twitter. Ok, have you pondered this?

Without social networks, navigating the web can be next to impossible. For instance, many people use google as their primary search engine. A recent search of “connected educator” yielded about 11 million results. Is there anyone who has time to sift through 10 results let alone 11 million results? This is where twitter can become a major asset in the information “sift”.

Using the twitter example from above, a search for “connected educator” would direct you to the 5 most popular educators, recent tweets with the term, and resources for blogs, wikis, and educational online materials. To the busy educator, the twitter search results serve as both a life preserver and a catapult. Either way, there is distinct possibility of entering another sphere of learning.

If time is a concern, then maybe you need to try twitter….

Learning About Digital Leadership (13:365)

ericLast night the Principalcast crew interviewed Eric Sheninger about his book Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. What an interview!


Even though Eric admitted to us that he was up way past his bedtime (usually in bed by 8 or 8:30) he was as energetic as ever. We asked Eric a series of questions for the new or soon to be connected educator, and he answered them with such passion. He is committed to helping new educators become more connected. He said that becoming connected will help their class, their school, and their district transition to a 21st century experience.


Throughout the podcast, Eric mentioned how Social Media is more about the people then it is the devices. He feels that free tools such as twitter are essential in connecting to “smart people” and that it becomes easy to learn from them. Eric reminded us a few times throughout the podcast that if it were not for people who came before him, that he wouldn’t be where he is today.


Our live audience asked several interesting questions that allowed Eric to expound upon the pillars of digital leadership. According to Eric, the pillars of digital leadership are the same pillars to any effective leadership. In fact, he said they are really one in the same. We simply have new tools to collaborate.


I will post the podcast once it is up on you tube and itunes, but I had to reflect upon this experience as soon as it was over. Here are my 5 takeaways from our podcast with Eric:

1. You never stop learning

2. The principal needs to provide time for teachers to collaborate

3. Never mandate use of social media or technology – Just provide the incentive

4. Focus your social media efforts to make your school and community better

5. If you don’t know an answer, ask someone from your PLN


Thanks again to my awesome co-hosts Theresa Stager, Jessica Johnson and our wonderful producer Jeff Bradbury!



Importance of sleep (12:365)

source: selfcarelove.wordpress.com

source: selfcarelove.wordpress.com

Balancing a post a day takes a lot of organization. I find that writing a few posts at a time and scheduling the publishing date makes things a lot easier. This morning, I really thought I had one scheduled for the normal 6:00 AM time. Nope. I didn’t and I slept in. When I realized this upon waking, I figured why not just blog about sleeping. I’m really good at it. (Sometimes)


I am true believer in the power of sleep. Our circadian rhythms are important to mental clarity, disease prevention, and cell rebirth. Oftentimes, the busy educator would rather forgo sleeping in order to “get everything done.” When we are in the “sacrifice syndrome” and we are under a lot of pressure our natural tendency is cut out sleep. Bad move. It might work for a day or two, maybe even a week, but eventually it will catch up with us. When we lose out on precious sleep we become cranky, short with others, and end up being a bit irrational.


Next time you are feeling that inclination to cut out on your sleep, think twice. It could have negative effects on your productivity, your perception of situations, or even worse lead to disease. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz