It’s all about the Journey AND the Destination

Scholastic cover: @NMHS_Principal

Our superintendent was able to secure a visit to New Milford, NJ to visit with Eric Sheninger, principal, blogger, presenter, leader, father, husband, traveler, and more. In Millville Public Schools, we use a systems approach to everything. One of the most important principles in systems thinking is to look to the “best in class”. Eric is considered to be the “best in class” when it comes to social media, leadership, and technology. Who can argue with his close to 20,000 followers, books, presentations, keynote addresses, Scholastic Administrator of the year, and other accolades?  Rightfully so!

We were scheduled to be in New Milford High School (NMHS) by 8AM.  Our crew (Dr. David Gentile, Superintendent; Dr. Pamm Moore, Assistant Superintendent; Mrs. Kathy Procopio, Principal, Millville Senior High School; and Dr. Spike Cook, Principal, Rebecca Mulford Bacon Elementary) assembled at our meeting place at 5:30AM in order to beat the traffic and allow ourselves time to get there safely.  We knew the journey would be part of the experience, so we all set our alarm clocks – EARLY. Armed with my contribution of coffee, we were set to take off.

The ride up was both comical and inspiring. We dealt with a lot of technical issues, including a new GPS system and our lack of experience in commuting in North Jersey.  We talked about how our lives were going. We learned about each other’s families and our recent experiences at school. Somehow, we even managed to make it there on time!

Once we arrived at NMHS, Eric’s secretary greeted us with a warm smile. The office was quiet, and all the students and teachers seemed to be in their places. Eric brought us into his conference room and spent the first 30 minutes discussing the day’s planned events, as well as what to expect in this school building. We had prepared questions to guide the discussion, but after a while that was not necessary. Conversation and ideas just flowed. We were curious about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, technology in the classroom, cell phones, culture and climate of NMHS, and of course, Eric. He took great care in crafting his answers making sure to let us know that he was no “prophet” but rather a man on a mission to bring 21st century learning to the forefront of the educational experiences for his students. Eric feels that the way NMHS embraces technology speaks to what students already understand – that phones are now devices, and making them taboo only adds to the problems, as opposed to being part of the solution.

NMHS's new 21st Century learning environment

As we walked through NMHS, it was clear that Mr. Sheninger was in his element. Students approached him with ease, said hello and some continued their conversation with him from earlier. One student, in noticing the visitors remarked, “The suits are here. This must be something important.” We laughed. Eric had us visit a few classrooms to experience what he can only describe to his Twitter followers or presentation attendees. His classrooms are, in some regards, traditional-looking from the hallway, but once inside, I felt something much different. As the students texted answers to their teachers, or looked up resources on their cell phones, there was something oddly normal. As a young lady in a Geometry class articulated, “Using our cell phones in class is really no big deal. When we are finished with it, we just put it away and move on with something different.”

Solve and text

In another math class, the teacher used the responses from the cell phones to understand the learning process of his students. In one question, 100% of the students answered correctly, and he moved on. Following a second question, 55% of the students missed the answer. Using that information, he promptly revisited the skill to address the needs of his class. To me, this was evidence of data driven and learner-centered education at its best!

After our classroom visits, we went back to the conference room for more discussion. Eric showed us his new “interactive white board in a bag.” No, Eric is no magician, he showed us a newer device that connected his iPad, Apple TV, and HDMI display tool to create an interactive display wall. Of course, he mentioned, this can be purchased for a fraction of the cost that an interactive white board costs.  Ideas were swirling around in our heads.

Eric was excited to show us the cafeteria. We descended upon one of the first lunches to watch how the students used technology at lunch. Sure enough as we walked through the cafeteria, students were on their devices watching videos, playing Angry Birds, or reading. Dr. Moore and I chatted with two sophomore girls. Similar to the other student in math class, they both said that having their cell phones out at lunch, and when the teacher lets them in class, is nothing big. I asked if they felt that students used these devices to bully, harass, or cause problems at the school, to which one of them said, “Maybe at other schools, but not here.”

MPS and Eric Sheninger

We concluded the visits by getting our pictures taken with Principal Twitter, as his secretary jokingly mentioned, “I knew him before all of this, you know.” Eric signed a copy of the Scholastic Magazine featuring his story. He encouraged us to keep Tweeting, blogging and modeling the way for our teachers and students. 

On our car ride home, we reflected on the day. It was obvious to us that Eric had developed a culture and climate that valued technology and treated students with dignity and respect. It was also clear that the stakeholders of NMHS mutually agreed that learning was priority number one. We each shared our “takeaways” from the day (in between navigating Teaneck, New Milford, and the NJ Turnpike – think Clark Griswold from European Vacation, “Hey Kids, Big Ben, the Parliament”). Mrs. Procopio, who took 4 pages of notes, felt the experience helped her see how technology can be an integral part of the high school experience. She reflected on the many positive teachers at NMHS, and how she couldn’t wait to explore options for her school. Dr. Gentile felt that the whole experience, both the journey and the destination, was worthwhile and inspiring. Dr. Moore saw the important benefits of technology and curriculum integration which was neither forced nor contrived at NMHS.

Spike Cook and Eric Sheninger

As for me, I am looking forward to our district’s journey through technology exploration and our future destination of becoming a world class district.

 

 

 

 

Are you going to ASCD12?

Check out Dr. David Gentile, Dr. Pamm Moore, Mrs. Joanne Colacurcio, and Mrs. Arlene Jenkins, as they present on Saturday 3/24/12 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm #1335 — Transforming Schools Through Powerful and Systematic Walkthroughs

http://myeventmarket.com/ascd12/pre-conference-and-conference-session/44734/1335-transforming-schools-through-powerful-and-systematic-walkthroughs

Turtle On The Fence …Post By Dr. Pamm Moore

Source: beeryblog.wordpress.com

“If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know someone helped him get there.”  I’ve been reflecting on that saying lately as I settle into my assistant superintendent position. Many people have offered encouragement, guidance, and much needed support throughout my journey. I realize that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the people who were placed in my life.   So my question for you is who have you helped along the way?

Each of us has an obligation to reach back and bring someone along with us as we journey through life. I’m often saddened when I hear comments such as “He/she will just have to learn through their own mistakes,” or my favorite, “If I help them, they may do a better job than I can.”  You may say that these comments are not the norm but I beg to differ. These sentiments, whether vocalized or merely demonstrated through actions, are present in each of our work environments.  

So I offer a challenge to you today.  Call one person in your organization and do one the following:

  • Offer your support
  • Help them avoid a potential landmine with one of the written or unwritten policies
  • Have lunch with them to help them brainstorm ideas for one of their current challenges
  • Call to see how they are progressing with their new position
  • Send them a note of encouragement
  • Listen

This list is finite but the possibilities are infinite. This is just the beginning of what you can do.  Each one of us is in a different job situation but everyone of us can do something.  I encourage you to do something today to help someone else.  My name is Dr. Pamela Moore (@DrPammMoore) and I am proud to say that I am a turtle sitting on a fence.  I would like to offer my deepest appreciation to all of those who helped me get there!

Understanding the Law of the Few: What’s your Tipping Point?

http://darmano.typepad.com/.shared/image.html

As an educational leader, it is important to know about yourself, as well as those you lead. The Tipping Point by Gladwell (2002) was a book that was able to bring abstract concepts of change into real world application. At the time I first read the book, I was busy preparing for my dissertation. I recently decided to revisit the book and see how it applies to my organization. I feel reading the book a second time afforded me the opportunity of going through a double-loop learning process which assisted me in making the deeper connections to the text.

The Law of the Few – Mavens, Connectors and Salespeople

The Maven

http://www.flickr.com/photos/austinevan/1225274637/sizes/m/in/photostream/

According to Gladwell, the word Maven refers to people who accumulate knowledge. Mavens, once they acquire their information, are able to provide specific detail on various aspects to life. I am married to a Maven and I work with many other Mavens.

When I first met my wife, Theresa, we played Jeopardy every night after dinner. I enjoyed the competition, but I rarely won. I can remember being struck by the depth of her knowledge on various sorts of seemingly useless facts. Every morning, Theresa watches the weather with a passion. She is also an avid grocery shopper. I have rarely seen someone study the local circulars for the weekly sales like she does. She likes to make lists. She likes to get the “best” of something or the “sale” item. Gladwell says this about Mavens, “They like to be helpers in the marketplace. They distribute coupons. They take you shopping. They go shopping for you,” (62). Does this sound like you? If so, you might be a Maven.

The Mavens in education are very similar to the Mavens of the shopping world. Mavens in education tend to want to “know” every detail about something before they do it. So when a new curriculum comes out, they will tell you that they don’t feel ready for it, or they need more time to find out all the information. Very rarely, if not provided enough information, will a Maven “just go with it.” Mavens are planners, and you will never receive lesson plans from them late. Mavens love social media because it opens them up to more….you guessed it – INFORMATION!

The Connector

nowdenver.blogspot.com

As I read the section on Connectors in Gladwell I “connected” on several levels. First, I realized that a Connector is someone who knows a lot of people. Second, I felt like Gladwell was talking to me when he described Connectors. I know I am a Connector. It happens all the time. Now it is happening online. One of the reasons why I love Twitter, Linkd-in, and blogging is because of the connections. I am amazed when I look at my ClustrMaps to see where people have visited from. I immediately think to myself, “There is another connection!” In my conversations, I generally refer to other people. For instance, when I was at a recent birthday party I met someone who was an architect. When I hear the word architect, I think of my brother-in-law, Mark. Through Mark, I have met at least five different types of architects because Mark usually hangs out with architects.

In conversations at school, I usually refer people who ask me things to other people (usually Mavens but sometimes Salespeople). I find myself saying, “I know someone who could help you.” As for new things, Connectors can usually “just go with it” but they would rather talk to someone first. So if you are introducing a new curriculum, the connector would want to find other people who are using it, not read a brochure.

zazzle.com

The Salespeople

According to Gladwell, Salespeople are effective at persuading people to purchase things. They are adept at engaging and persuading. Salespeople tend to build relationships with people and utilize subtle, often non-verbal cues to get their information across. Salespeople, if they are effective, can convince people that the item they are talking about is something that can be used. As a principal, I have salespeople contact me all the time. Someone always wants to sell me agendas, curriculum programs, T-shirts, signs, furniture and playground equipment.

My friend Keith has been a salesperson since the day I met him. He has a unique ability to build relationships with people. So it doesn’t come off as selling. One day while visiting him in Florida, he took me on the road while he worked. As we went from store to store, Keith amazed me at the relationships he had with the owners. They never shied away went he entered their store; rather they welcomed him with big hugs. Depending on the person, he talked with them about their families, the news, or the stock market. He made personal connections. He was there to sell his product, but he never mentioned the product first.

In education, the salespeople are trying to sell you on something. I often listen to teachers, parents, administrators, and even students trying to “sell” me on an idea or a concept. The salespeople always think that buying something or implementing something new will make things better. Having trouble with something, we should buy this. Or if there is a need for __________ (fill in the blank) they will sell you the idea that you need to “get it.”

Working with Mavens, Connectors and Salespeople can be difficult. A word of caution, though, one type of person is not better then the next. In fact, we need all of them to be successful. The difference is, just like our students, each personality needs something different. We need information, people, and products in education, right? In order for it to benefit your school, you have to remember the Law of the Few, and make sure you know who you are talking with. This could make all the difference.

References

Gladwell, M. (2002). The tipping point. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

 

Interview with Malcolm Gladwell

http://failuremag.com/index.php/feature/article/malcolm_gladwell_the_tipping_point/

 

TED Talks With Malcolm Gladwell: What can we learn from spaghetti sauce:

Where does the road of excess lead? Emotional Intelligence? Resonant Leadership?

"The Long, and Winding Road" source:istock

I truly live by William Blake’s famous quote, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” The problem is that road goes in two directions, with many turns, stops and hills. The road of excess can make you tired, stressed and dissonant. On the other hand, it can make you energized, healthy, and focused. As for the middle path, I don’t know much about that path. I do know that learning about Emotional Intelligence and Resonant Leadership has helped me tremendously.

 

 

 

 

We all have personal energy source:personal-energy jpeg

Emotional intelligence has been defined as the ability to recognize how leaders understand themselves and others (Goleman, et al., 2002). Leaders, including myself, are prime candidates for stress, weight issues, and health issues (Boyatzis & McKee, 2006). Using the concept of emotional intelligence, Boyatzis and McKee (2006) proposed that leaders utilize a process of renewal to deal with the sacrifices that have been inherent in today’s work world. When leaders do not renew themselves, they run the risk of becoming dissonant, and therefore, ineffective or burnt out.

 

 

Are you running on empty? source:energy_crisis jpeg

Ironically, being a principal causes a lot of stress and anxiety.  It also has an energizing effect, but these two forces do not always balance each other. Through much reflection, I have found that I am a potential candidate for Sacrifice Syndrome (Boyatzis & McKee, 2006). I tend to volunteer for activities even when my plate is full. I have a tough time declining opportunities because I feel that everything I do has the potential to benefit my professional growth and school community. In my world, there is always another mountain to climb. In the process, there are occasions when I become stressed out and continue to take on those potentially advantageous opportunities that end up becoming more detrimental to my well-being and supersede the intended beneficial outcomes.

 

 

 

source:life-balance-e1276962324836

When I am feeling well, I tend to be more charismatic and full of energy. I realize this because others point it out to me. “Hey Spike, you seem full of energy!” or “Wow, I wish I had your energy!” On the other hand, when I am stressed out, I have people tell me, “You look tired,” or “Is everything OK?” I am the kind of person who wears my emotions on my sleeve. In the fall, sometime after Thanksgiving, I knew I was deep in the cycle of sacrifice. I was tired all of the time. Although it took me a few weeks to get out, I was able to recognize, reflect and make the necessary changes to break that cycle. As a leader, I know that I must be awake, aware, and attentive. In order to achieve this, I need to adhere to a Cycle of Renewal (Boyatzis & McKee, 2006).

Henry and Daddy went for a snow run today. His idea!

Maintaining a Cycle of Renewal has become more difficult as I grow older and add more responsibilities to my plate. I used to run marathons, triathlons, and hike mountains. Since that time, I have fathered two children and earned both a masters and doctoral degree.  Plus, I became a principal. It has only been in the last year that I have truly committed myself to a new cycle of renewal. It has helped that the kids are more independent and out of diapers. I go to karate three days a week, eat as healthy as possible, meditate, and spend time with my family. I try to laugh, a lot. I like watching funny things on TV. I dance with my wife and children. We have competitions of all sorts. I listen to music and enjoy reading.

 

So now, I maintain two blogs, participate on twitter, and am a building principal (January 30, 2012 posts:  What is it like being a principal? Are you in meetings all day?). I know my colleagues wonder, “How does he do it?” As I stated earlier, I travel on the road of excess. On that road, I balance the cycle of sacrifice and the cycle of renewal. Want to learn more about the cycle of sacrifice, renewal or Emotional Intelligence? Here are some resources: