PLCs 2.0 (316:365)

IMG_2735Last we implemented PLCs to address the areas in our school that needed improvement. Based on the feedback from the teachers, who for the most part enjoyed the PLCs, we made a few changes. In the process, teachers drove the conversation to get us to the next level(I am calling PLC 2.0).  Some of the feedback I received was that the PLCs last year were too broad (we used the vertical alignment approach through subject matter) and that they were not meaningful (how does this relate to me?). All of this “data” helped me use my resources to improve the process. I had to LISTEN…. So, then what did I do?


First, I sought out experts in my PLN. I talked with numerous educators in various states about how they organize PLCs. We talked about the similarities and differences regarding the schedule, data, and mission/visions/values of our schools. Then I did some reading and researching on sites such as All Things PLCASCD, and YouTube. I found some local experts and attended a workshop at the EIRC. Along the way, I would check in with our teachers to share what I had learned. It all started coming together.


This year we didn’t kick off PLCs in September (hard to schedule with the gazillion opening activities and  precious little time) and I wanted the teachers to have time to know their kids and collect data.  What made PLCs 2.0 in our school different? Using the Reflective Practice approach (Plan, implement, reflect, change and repeat) we addressed the concerns from last year, and began down the path again…. together.


Here is what we did:

  • Re-focused on what an effective PLC should look like
  • Re-established norms
  • Ensured that everyone had a role
  • Improved the reporting mechanism
  • Set new goals for teams
  • Made the PLCs  grade level focused
  • Organized our Year at a Glance to provide sequence to the assessment process
  • Improved our data collection, reporting and analyzing by creating a much needed Data Dashboard
  • Re-allocated more time

One of the most important things I learned along the way about effective PLCs is the role of the principal. As a principal, I need to be the support mechanism that allows teachers to accomplish their tasks. I need to continue to ask, “How can I help?”


How are you doing with your PLCs?

Are your teachers feeling deflated? (315:365)



Unless you are living in a bubble (no pun intended) your teachers are probably feeling deflated? Why? Well, you need to talk to them because I am sure they will tell you that teaching has changed. For instance, as the accountability measures have increased, so has the workload, and the demands. Yet, the issues that are out of their control have increased immensely. What to do as a school leader?


As I reflect on this subject, I think it is important to talk about. I have blogged a great deal about the challenges that teachers are facing. School leaders play a big role in this. I think it is our duty to ensure that teachers are still having fun, being creative, and taking risks. We must keep our doors and ears open. We must listen. We must help them determine when enough is enough. We must support them if they need help with discipline, curriculum, or whatever they need. Sometimes, we need to just get out of the way.


So, what are you doing to help your teachers who are feeling deflated?

Run, everyone, Run! (314:365)

Our students made their own running bibs this year!

Our students made their own running bibs this year!

We participated in our third consecutive World Run Day! For those of you who are not familiar, World Run Day began as a way to celebrate running and to show the benefits of this activity. For more information on World Run Day, check out this site.  This year we combined World Run Day with Veterans Day. Our students ran for a Veteran!


Our participation in World Run Day was started by our Healthy Schools PLC as a way to increase awareness for cardiovascular health, wellness, and healthy eating. Not all students can run, but they are encouraged to at least walk. During the run, we had teachers giving out Popsicle sticks to help the students remember how many laps they completed in the given time. The activity took about an hour. We have our students warm up, stretch and then run/walk. During the activity we play music and had giveaways.


Even though World Run Day already occurred, you can create your own. Pick a day, plan it out, and have fun with it. There is no better way to create a healthy school then by modeling what you want your students to do…. So get out there and run!

Want a T-Shirt? Follow the #rmbacon (313:365)


Staff used #rmbacon for shirts

Who doesn’t love a new T-Shirt? I know I do, and I want to make sure the school community does too. What is so important about T-Shirt anyway? Well, it isn’t just the shirt, it is the connection.


Following hashtags are extremely important on Twitter. It takes the fire hydrant of learning possibilities and makes it at least drinkable. If we want to tell our story, connect with others or even learn something new, it is all just a click away.  Our new T-Shirts, which are designed to be giveaways, will be available to teachers, students and community members. Simple as that. Follow the hashtag, get T-Shirts.


Want in? It is as easy as 1, 2, 3….






1. Follow the hashtag #rmbacon for updates and giveaways

2. Students who are being safe, responsible and respectful can earn Bear Bucks that can be redeemed for shirts

3. Attend events at #rmbacon and connect with the school community and you could win


Other ways to earn a shirt? Write a response as to why our school should “tell their story” and I will have one waiting for you!

With arms wide open @GustafsonBrad (312:365)



I had no idea one of my twitter buddies did a TEDx. I knew he was there, and I knew it was in his back yard… But, Brad, you never told me you did a TEDx talk… Let alone a completely amazing, inspiring, awesome TEDx talk!


In this TEDx Talk, Brad talks about a few things that are essential to creating a learning environment that is centered on consistent improvement. He talk s about failure, cultivating skills for the digital age, transparency, global awareness, Genius Hour, and augmented reality. He did an amazing job! And to think, I was able to introduce him to the Philly Cheese-steak.

Great job, Brad!


You have to check this out….

How do you check your email? (311:365)

#PrincipalPLN Episode 47: Conquering Email with Curt Rees

In this episode we are joined by Curt Rees, Elementary Principal and Recess Kickball legend in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Curt’s school is recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as a model school for their implementation of Response to Intervention.  Curt is also a current doctoral student at UKSTL. You can find Curt online at @CurtRees and Curt is also mentioned in chapter 4 of Spike’s book, Connected Leadership.

Some of Curt’s Email Wisdom:

Don’t sit down and browse email. Sit down and “crank” through them when you’re ready to work on them. Don’t touch an email more than once. Decide on your action for it once you read it. If it takes more than 2 minutes to respond, he sends it to his to-do app (OmniFocus) to schedule when to work on it. Don’t let a read email sit in your inbox, schedule it and get it out of your inbox!
Curt recommends not having work email on your phone and was so convincing that Jessica “ripped the bandaid” off and took work email off of her phone while listening to Curt explain why.  Can you do it?
Curt’s Top 5 Tips:
  1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (or anything by David Allen)
  1. Have a system: this is beyond just email, to keep track of what you’re going to do and when
  1. Don’t let email dictate how you’re going to spend your time. Our jobs are busy enough!  Make yourself available in other ways.
  2. Don’t let your email inbox be your to-do list!
  3. Don’t clutter up anyone else’s email inbox. Recognize when you need to go and talk instead of sending an email.
Other resources/thoughts on email…
Jessica’s blog post: The Email Monster

What do you have to do? (310:365)


In this episode, Jessica and Spike explore the ever present “to do list.”

The show starts out with the realization that the modern day Principal probably needs ADD or ADHD to survive (or it is just induced by the many interruptions to our day!). Jessica then shares her tools she uses for organizing the “to do list.”

Jessica’s Tools:
Remember the Milk
Google Calendar

Spike shared how he is very traditional in dealing with his “to do list.” He uses note pads, post it notes, and Microsoft Office to create his school calendar and monitor his email.

Both Jessica and Spike felt the 20 minutes went just too fast. They agreed to do a follow-up show dedicated to email. Until tonight, Spike didn’t think a show on email could work. Now he is not only convinced, but ready to tackle the subject.

Jessica also shared about her experience at the National Distinguished Principals Program and joining in the press conference for the release of the Early Learning Competencies for principals.

Check out the video

5 DANGEROUS things you should let your children do! (309:365)



I watched this TEDx video and I absolutely loved it. What a great message, and I look forward to buying the book. It is so interesting that the speaker begins his presentation with the reality of his book being banned in Australia. Wow, did they even read it?

It reminds me of the article that was published a few years ago titled, “Bubble wrap Generation.” In the article, the author discusses how we have created a group of kids who are put in a “bubble wrap” like existence where they don’t walk anywhere, climb things or take risks that were common place just a few decades ago.


I hope you will enjoy this video as much as I did. Now it’s time to go let my kids lick a 9 volt battery and climb a tree. Perfect timing because my wife is running errands!

The data we are avoiding (308:365)

source: Badass Teachers

source: Badass Teachers

As I was scrolling through my feed, I saw a picture that really caught my eye. In schools, we are becoming very data-centered. Take a peek into any PLC meeting or Teacher’s Conference room and you will be sure to see a “data wall.” For the most part, especially if the information is being used for best intent, analyzing data can improve student learning. Who can argue with teachers working collaboratively to understand student learning?


It gets complicated when we continue to avoid one of the most telling aspects to student performance….. poverty. No one is talking about it (well, there are a lot of people talking about it, and you should support them) and in some cases, teachers are being told to NOT look at it. Why? The impact of poverty seeps into all aspects of education from reading levels, mental health, discipline, and nutrition to name a few. When we look at “under-performing schools and districts” we have to look no further than the zip code.


Here is the irony. Now that we have been trained to analyze data, when are we going to start taking in all forms of data into the discussion? When are we going to work with politicians, municipal governments, and civic groups to solve the problem? When it is all boiled down, poverty is not just an education problem, it is a societal problem.


What do you think?

The 4 words all principals want to hear… (307:365)



What are the 4 words that all principals want to hear? “I love my class.” It is also very special to hear that at this point of the year. To me, it shows that routines, trust, and collaboration have been established.

How do you end up loving your class? As I stated early it shows that you have established a few important things. Chances are you know what your students are passion about, you can motivate them and they motivate you. When it is time to learn something new, both the class and the teacher charge in together.


So what if you don’t love your class anymore? It is still early enough to get them back. I would suggest that you start over. Take some time to re-establish norms, expectations, and trust. Be sure to reintroduce yourself to them, and learn more about what makes them tick. Let them show you what they know. Don’t give up. They are depending on you…