I was just like you…

Dear Administrators,

I feel like I need to share some really good news with you. And I am not alone. See, I was just like you!

source: en.wikipedia.org

During these past few months I have opened myself up completely to the 21st century. I went full board, having never created a blog, wiki, uploaded a video, nor participated in ANY social media prior to this year. I have never been a techie, or desired to acquire the newest gadgets (Honestly, I held out for a long time from buying compact discs).

I will admit it… I was scared. I had nothing good to say about facebook, twitter, google, blogging, and I too felt that I had learned all I needed to know about the computer (Hey, I was a wiz at the Microsoft office suite). As long as I could get on the internet, I was fine. I knew how to search for things. I could find articles, and resources, or so I thought. As an educator, my mind was made up: we are not allowed to participate in this new found social media stuff anyway. It was all “trouble” and the “devil’s playground.”

I was good. All good. I knew a lot more then my predecessors. I have worked with administrators in the past who didn’t know how to turn on a computer. They couldn’t text, or had no idea what a url was. They were just fine, and some almost reveled in their learned helplessness. Let’s face it, I thought, there were hundreds of thousands of effective principals since the beginning of time who never even wrote an email.

source: kerrywills.wordpress.com

Then a strange thing happened on my way to being comfortable. I found out that as a 38 year old first-year principal, who was a self-described progressive in education, that I was already a dinosaur (insert dinosaur sound). I have called educators dinosaurs before. Gulp. We all know how that story ended: Extinction! Well, I didn’t want to be extinct.  And I don’t want you to be either! I had ask myself some tough questions: Am I modeling 21st century skills for my teachers and students? Am I really progressive? Do I really know where education was going? The answers were clearly, NO. So I DID something about it. I TOOK a LEAP. I got off of the comfortable road!

So, this is your homework assignment for the summer.  You need to start something. Depending on where you want to grow, there are plenty of resources. And I am willing to help, and so are all the connected educators near you, and thousands more are just a click away. Actually, we are all just a click away from you!

We are not trying to keep anything from you. We want EVERYBODY to be connected. This is not a competition. Rather, it is a privilege that you are in the position you are in. With the gift of being an administrator, there is a responsibility to your teachers, parents, students, and most of all, to yourself. Now, what are you going to do with this precious gift?

Ask yourself these questions….Here are some resources for you.

I want to know how to access the cutting edge information on education. Where do I start?

Twitter.com – It is free, and you will have access to Professional Development at your fingertips 24/7. I recommend to start with the following educators:

@NMHS_Principal, Eric Sheninger, High School Principal

@stumpteacher, Josh Stumpenhorst, Teacher

@PrincipalJ, Jessica Johnson, Elementary Principal

@web20classroom, Steven Anderson, Technology Supervisor

@gcouros, George Couros, Principal and founder of Connected Principals

I want to know how tell my classroom, district or school’s story? Start a school blog or a personal blog using (Blogger, edublogs, or Word Press).

Justin Tarte, Life of an Educator

Dave Gentile, The Road To Excellence is Always Under Construction

Pamm Moore, Learning to Lead

Spike Cook’s RM Bacon School Site, RM Bacon Weekly

Curt Rees, I know this much is true

How will I be able to do all this? You have to make time. Just like the teachers you are frustrated with, you can’t punch in and out. You have to be willing to put in the time, and be committed.  The more you are connected, the more you will become inspired by what folks are doing.

How can I learn all of this? Like the famous book by Anne Lamott Bird by Bird you have to start small and take it one bird at a time.

I guarantee that you have a teacher in your building or an administrator in another building that can help you out with your transition to being connected. You just have to open yourself up to the possibilities.

For those of you who are reading this because you are connected, my challenge to you is to print, email, forward, or even read this to another administrator that you feel could benefit.

Remember, I was just like you!


My Prezi on Social Media in Administration:


Great Article on the Power of the Principal:


Twitter accounts for Technology:





Memorial Day: Taking a day for remembering

My Father Joel Howell

Every year my wife and I try to attend a Memorial Day service and talk with our children about the importance of the day. We have attended parades, services, and even visited local parks.



My Brother Billy Howell

Although we never served, my wife and I have a lot of family members who did. My father (deceased)served in the Army during  WW2, my brother was a career Navy Seal, and his son currently serves in the Navy.




Theresa's Grandfather Anthony Caratozzolo

My wife’s family also had many who served. Her father was in the National Guard, her grandfathers (both deceased)were in the Navy during WW2, one Uncle was a Green Beret in Vietnam, and another Uncle is a Commander in the Coast Guard. This is just the immediate family.



Henry in his camo room

We teach our children to “thank a vet for his/her service” whenever we see them around town, in a store, or at a restaurant. My son, through the power of Call of Duty, has his whole room camouflaged, and he has already told us that he would like to be a soldier. Who said video games had no positive impact on children?


Theresa's Father Anthony Caratozzolo

So, thank you for a taking a few minutes to read this post. For me it was the least that I could do to remember those who have served both in my family and my wife’s family. In some small way, we are all making a difference for the future as we remember the past.



Theresa's Grandfather John Fredella







Conversation with a Futurist? Part 3

During the ASCD12 conference in Philadelphia I attended a session with Futurist, Watts Wacker. He began the discussion by saying that he did not come to answer questions, but rather to ask them. He immediately had my attention. Then he began to speak, and I tried my hardest to keep up. Here is the stream of conscious notes I took. In order to develop deeper understanding I took the notes, and separated them into 5 parts. I also worked with a mind-mapping genius to bring the text, and concepts to another level. I hope it hurts your brain like it did mine.

Part 3 of 5

Einstein theories are now laws. We all grew up hearing about the theories of Einstein because at that time that is what they were… theories. Each of those theories, through the scientific process, has been proven.

There is a dichotomy with the Establishment vs. the Movement. For instance, the current President ran on the platform of hope and change as the movement. Once elected, he became the establishment. Listen carefully in the fall as the new election cycle unfolds. The other side will be talking about… change. The lesson is each side needs to respect the other side. Why? Because sooner or later, the position (establishment or movement) will change.


Game play has changed. Think about what games were like when you were growing up? What is the object of monopoly? Chess? Checkers? Scrabble? To beat your opponent. Have you watched any of the new games in town? Ever watch someone play Call of Duty? The object is to beat the game not each other. Now major gaming is collaborative. Not just collaborative in the sense of the kids in the neighborhood playing together at someone’s house. It is a worldwide collaboration through technology that pairs up anyone who has a system. X-Box will even provide statistics showing who is playing around the world.

So the kids are playing differently, so shouldn’t we provide them with something different in the classroom? There really should be no more lectures in the classroom, it will be (should be) all collaborative. Learners, with an understanding of their role, can work together to solve a problem. Sound familiar?


Missed parts?

Part 1

Part 2  


ASCD 12 Virtual Resources: http://ascd.social27.com/ASCD/ASCD_Home

Watts Wacker’s web site:  www.firstmatter.com

Triz-Journal: http://www.triz-journal.com/

Joseph Kony: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Kony

Kony 2012: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kony_2012

Two all beef patties, special sauce….

Henry and "Big Daddy"

Last night I took my 7 year old son to his first NBA game featuring the Philadelphia 76ers vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. As we settled in our seats, Henry asked, “What is the Sixers theme song, Daddy?” Every song that came on while the players were warming up was followed with Henry asking, “Is that the theme song, Dad?” Honestly, I haven’t been to a Sixers game in some time, and I wasn’t altogether sure what song they were using this year.

Finally, with a few moments before tip off, the lights dimmed, and the introductions began. I finally figured out that their theme song was 1 2 3 4 5 Sixers. We had a lot of fun throughout the game, and the Sixers dominated the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers. So much so, that with about 4 minutes left, fans were heading for the exits. “Henry,” I said, “Let’s go down as close as we can to see the end of the game.” He agreed, and we literally were 20 feet from the court. We heard the college kids behind us yelling, “Big Mac!” Of course Henry asked, “Why are they yelling Big Mac, Dad?” “Not sure, bud,” I replied. As soon as the Sixers scored their 100th point, it became clear why they were cheering. The announcer came on and said, “Congratulations to all fans tonight! Since the Sixers scored 100 points you will receive a free Big Mac tomorrow at Mc Donald’s.” So, that is why they were cheering.

Henry and Daddy

Unfortunately, around 2:00 am Henry woke up and went to the bathroom to get sick. Mommy and Daddy helped him with that ever so unpleasant experience. In the morning, as we were getting his sister ready for school, he asked about the Big Mac. We told him he couldn’t eat a Big Mac today because he was sick last night. So then he asked, “What is in a Big Mac?” Mommy shouted from the other room, “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!” Then she looked at me and said, “You should blog about the importance of mnemonic devices as a learning tool. It is very important!”

Then it hit me, what Henry was looking for the whole time was the mnemonic device that would help him remember the experience. He was determined to make a connection with the Sixer’s theme song to provide a context for his first NBA game. In schools, we try to use mnemonic devices to aid with short, and hopefully, long term memory in applying skills and knowledge that they can link to their everyday lives. Acronyms, acrostic poems, rhymes, and keyword strategies are at our finger tips. They are designed to help our students learn.

I will never forget that night, and I am sure Henry will never forget it either. We both have our mnemonic devices!

Here are some resources:



What does it mean to be a Servant Leader? How can I help?

Martin Luther King, Jr. a true Servant Leader

I love when someone asks, “How can I help you?” I think people who pose this question have an understanding of the power of service. For me, leadership has been about service to others. Robert Greenleaf identified the “servant as leader” in 1970’s as a way to explain the leadership paradigm that has been used for thousands of years. The book Servant Leadership, (Greenleaf, 2002) provided a framework for ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary goals through serving others.


Since then, various authors and researchers have used the tenets of servant leadership to assist leaders in answering the call. Servant leaders create a vision, and once the vision is clear, the leader becomes a servant in order to implement the vision (Blanchard, 2007). Servant leaders want to make a difference in the lives of those they lead and create a motivating environment (Greenleaf, 2002).


Helping others completes the puzzle

Servant leadership has been the building block for my leadership platform. I operate as a servant leader because I feel a responsibility to those I lead. Servant leaders assist those they lead by ultimately making them leaders. This can be accomplished by building trusting relationships, providing an opportunity for personal and professional growth, and a promoting a collaborative environment in which everyone becomes a stakeholder (Greenleaf, 2002).


Another way that I integrate my servant leadership as a principal is to “roll up my sleeves” and help out to get things accomplished. Throughout my brief tenure as a principal I have made sure to help clean up the cafeteria, vacuum the steps in the gym, pail water out of a flooded area, and assist people with carrying things up and down the stairs. Kouses and Posner (2006) would refer to this as ‘modeling the way’. When you want others to follow your lead, you need to be the model. If I want everyone to pitch in and help, then I need to lead by that example. And guess what? I just received an email from a colleague who said, “Many of your students also reflect your service leadership in their daily actions by holding the door for the little ones or teachers bogged down with bags. Every day I am in your building, at least one student will ask if there is anything they can help me with.”

So, how can I help you?

More information on Servant Leadership and Modeling the Way?



Blanchard, K. (2007). The heart of a leader: Insights on the art of influence. Colorado Springs, CO. David C Cook

Greenleaf, R. (2002). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. (25th anniversary ed.). New York: Paulist Press.

Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2006). A leader’s legacy. San Franscico: Jossey Bass.

An excellent resource for leadership

Another great resource for leadership

Reflective Practice: Looking into the mirror

Every Principal needs to look into the Reflective Mirror

The concept of Reflective Practice (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004) has helped me balance my leadership as a new principal. The use of reflective practice provides me with the basis of how to become an effective principal by constantly asking questions and spending time reflecting. My natural tendency is to jump from one project to another without much thought. I used to ask myself, “What is the next thing for me to get involved with?” Now I ask myself, “What am I doing now?” and more importantly, “Why?”

One aspect of the reflective practice process has been the ability to value the input of others in decision making. I used to ask myself why I always need to seek input from others. Perhaps there have been decisions that could have been made on my own, but if I truly wanted to create a reflective environment for my school, I must have the trust that, even if I reveal myself as vulnerable, my staff would provide feedback. If someone betrays my trust, I have to believe it reflects more about them, not me.

One of the most influential books in my library

As a principal I have a vision of what my school should be. Whether I am at PTA function, Back to School Night, Faculty Meeting, or just casual conversation I see the school as the top performing elementary school in the county within five years. As a new principal, I have been forced to remain steadfast in this vision. Every day I am faced with a thousand reasons why we will not be the top performing school. Along the way, however, I have had to ask myself tough, reflective questions such as how does this problem reveal an opportunity? Knowing I cannot do this myself, who can I enlist to help? It is through these questions that I reflect and gain perspective.

I take a reflective approach when analyzing my leadership practices and it has made such a difference in my work products. In fact this blog serves as my reflective diary about my insights into learning. By taking the time to write about my experiences, I am implementing the reflective process technique. I know how I want to be viewed as a principal, but I also need to be able to articulate this to students, teachers, parents and other key stakeholders. Using reflective practice and asking myself tough questions forces me to confront my leadership as a mirror that reflects who I am and who I want to be. That is why the theme “Your Image is Our Image” is so fitting.

Want more information on Reflective Practice? Check out these links:




Osterman, K., & Kottkamp, R. (2004). Reflective practice for educators: Professional development to improve student learning (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

What is it like being a principal? Are you in meetings all day?

RM Bacon a long, long time ago

One of my best friends, Dan, recently asked me those questions via text. I have known Dan since high school. I have always admired him because he is a risk taker. When most of our friends went off to colleges and universities, Dan went to Africa to plant trees. Then he moved to Montana and got into a bagel business which required him to go to work very, very early. After his stint in Montana, he moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana to work on a boat in the gambling world which required him to work nights. When he was finished with that, he and I went on a cross country camping excursion and were able to see much of this beautiful country.


What do I really do at work?

I think it was on that trip that Dan decided he was going to devote himself to becoming a chef and one day opening his own business. He moved back to Philly and enrolled in restaurant school and started his journey into the business. About 12 or 13 years ago he moved up to NYC. He has remained there working in all different capacities, and types of places. He often tells me how tough the business is, and he works when everyone else is off and vice versa.

So when I texted him back this is what I wrote: “It depends on the day. My main goal is to be out in the classrooms with the teachers and students. There is also a lot of management stuff I have to take care of. I do have a lot of meetings, and I try to have fun.” I let him know I had this blog, and he checked it out and said he was going to follow it.

I thought more about his questions and reflected on my position as a 21st century elementary principal. Well, if he is reading this, I would like to add a few things to my text.

Dear Dan, here is what I do:

Meetings help us solve problems


  • Meet with other administrators
  • My mentor
  • Literacy coach (who is my new life coach)
  • Consultants
  • Parents
  • Guidance counselors
  • Teachers
  • Custodians
  • Cafeteria workers
  • Bus drivers
  • Secretaries
  • Security guards
  • Students
  • Parent Teacher Association
  • DYFS workers
  • Community organizations
  • New initiatives

Management stuff:

  • Monitor hallways
  • Manage budget
  • Make sure lunches are running smooth
  • Supervise Arrival
  • Read, write and respond to about 50 emails a day
  • Supervise dismissal
  • Complete cleanliness evaluations on rooms, offices, etc.
  • Ride school buses
  • Drive the streets after dismissal making sure kids are behaving
  • Visit houses
  • Visit other schools
  • Phone calls/conferences
  • Write

    Always watching Classroom Instruction at Work!

  • Read articles
  • Collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Organize paper work
  • Sign for various trips, professional development days, approvals, etc.

Leadership stuff:

  • Present information at faculty meetings
  • Train staff on best practices
  • Make suggestions on improving classroom instruction
  • Listen to suggestions on improving the school
  • Follow through on requests
  • Analyze problems, seek solutions, implement programs
  • Hopefully inspire staff
  • Speak at events, assemblies

There are other things as well that I will call “Other category”:

  • Announcements, ‘Goooooood Morning Bacon Elementary School”
  • Play kickball
  • Get lots of cupcakes for birthdays
  • Play floor hockey
  • Clean up syrup at breakfast
  • Play basketball
  • Run
  • Jump rope

    Lots of cupcakes

  • Attempt to get in on Double Dutch
  • Read with kids
  • Solve math problems that kids give me
  • Mentor
  • Counsel
  • Mediate
  • Make my secretaries laugh (that is starting to wear off, just like it has with everyone who knows me long enough)
  • Dance with the most awesome Postal Worker, Jenna
  • Rap with Jenna, the most awesome Postal Worker
  • Show people Karate moves
  • Sit down at breakfast/lunch with kids
  • Ask teachers for help
  • Eat at Moe’s (Please don’t share that with my wife)
  • Get tons of hugs from great kids
  • Give out lots of high fives
  • Listen to kids who cry or are upset
  • Make kids cry and be upset (well, usually that is because of their behavior)
  • Call the superintendent, assistant superintendent, other principals,supervisors, and friends in other districts and ask “How do I…”
  • Philosophize over educational problems, solutions
  • Listen to music
  • Check twitter
  • Jam a minute everyday at 2:30 PM
  • Blog
  • Take pictures
  • Capture cool things on video
  • Entertain visitors
  • Read the local newspaper
  • Cut out articles from the paper and post

OK, Dan, I think I got it all. As you can see, a lot has changed since the last time you were in school.  I encourage you to check back on the comments. Some people may either make additions, or tell you I flat out don’t do what was listed above. I think you know me well enough.

My first grade teachers dressed up as Dr. + Spike + Cook

Here are some posts from my previous blog (Jan 2012)

Following that twitter bird

January 17 – 20

We had a four day week because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday. I love MLK day because this holiday always requires me to reflect on the type of human being I am. My son had his buddy over that day, and I feel that MLK would have been proud of both of them because they are from different cultures and have different tones of skin color, but ultimately they are just 7 year old boys.

 The highlight for me this week was joining Mrs. Sutton’s class on Thursday afternoon. I was called to the class because of typical 5th grade drama, but we all walked away ready for a change. The students took time to deeply reflect on how they treated each other, their teacher, and their families. On Friday, they all said that for the first time, they really understood the no bullying pledge. I rewarded them with a friendly floor hockey game on Friday afternoon. We may have lost that game, but we won in so many other ways. Then, Now, Always Family!

January 9 -13

Twitter has opened up my professional world! I am hoping to get teachers, other administrators and parents involved in this vital piece of social media. Get started at twitter.com – its free!

I spent almost 2 full days away from the school this week (and another pretty much in my office with meetings) so today was my day for walkthroughs and reconnecting with everybody. I saw some awesome things today, but I have to say I got “stuck” in 3rd grade. Mrs. Woodman had a legendary lesson for martin Luther King Jr. Day. She taught the students sign language (she herself learned it the day before on her ipad) and they read the book One Love by Cedella Marley (Bob’s daughter). As they read the story they learned sign language. At the conclusion of the lesson, she played Bob’s One Love and they danced and signed to the song. Then I went next door and Mrs. DiGiogio’s class organized and performed an anti-bullying play. I was so impressed with the team effort (not to mention acting abilities of these 3rd graders). Mrs. DiGiorgio plans to help them expand the play and maybe share with a larger audience. Way to go 3rd grade! We ARE World Class!

January 3 – 6

The students seemed very relaxed this week. Not sure if it was because they had so many days off from us or they are just ready to start the New Year! We had our first snow of the year. As I was talking to someone in the office, a safety came in to tell me that there were kids throwing snowballs at each other on the playground. I knew we only got a dusting, so I doubted that actual snowballs. I went out and yelled for them to line up. Within 20 seconds I had a straight line with kids waiting for me to speak. I told them that I was young once and I also loved to play in the snow, but we do not throw snow or run around on the playground because someone could get hurt. The snow melted by the end of the day.

 I had the opportunity to work with Mrs. Gandy’s class on multiplication. As they were working on the slate boards, I asked them what they were learning. Working in pairs, the students were giving each other two and three digit problems to solve. Eventually, I sat down and the students were giving me problems to solve. My hardest was when one student wrote 5555 X 5. I showed them a trick to solving the problem. They got the calculator out and sure enough I was correct: 27, 775!

The Polar Express and other holiday goodies

December 23, 2011 – Last post of 2011

Now ya got hot chocolate

Today was one of the busiest days of this year. I was up early getting prepared for the staff meeting (holiday celebration). My gift to the staff was a relaxed meeting with a hearty breakfast. We also exchanged gifts and had a lot of laughs!

 The school day began with a definite buzz. The kids and teachers had their pajamas on ready for the Polar Express Themed Day. After morning announcements, we began to call each grade down to the gym. Every student had their ticket punched by one of the 1st grade teachers. 5th grade student leaders handed out popcorn. Once we were all assembled in the gym, we set our objective of the day and made sure everyone knew our expectations.

 Mrs. Simpson organized the Chorus for an amazing encore performance from the Winter Concert. Then Coach put in a DVD for us to sing along. Somehow I was left with the microphone for the sing along. I made sure that I wasn’t the only one with the microphone. Thankfully, Mrs. Gandy, Mrs. Summers, random kindergarteners and the 8 students selected for all city chorus assisted. After the sing along we started the movie, The Polar Express. Mrs. Sutton, Mrs. Muhlbaier, Mrs. Taylor, Miss Spiels and Mrs. Ayars made hot chocolate and filled 300 cups with lids donated by the WaWa on 49. Our head custodian Mr. Wayne was very happy that WaWa donated the cups with lids. We only had 2 spills and they were caused by teachers. The students were so well behaved during the movie.

 When the movie was over, we had everyone return to their classroom. And to their surprise, each student had a bell and a candy cane on their desk. I announced to the students that the bell was given to them so that they can believe – believe in themselves, their family, and their school! Each classroom had a party and before we all knew it we were dismissing the students. Even though I was so exhausted from the day, I was truly impressed with the students as they left for the winter break. Everyone was smiling and giving well wishes. I even joked with the parents that we sugared them up! I am so thankful to be a Bacon Bear! Happy New Year! Love – Dr. Cook


Spicing up the schedule, writing, back-to-school night

September 26- 30


On Monday, October 3, 2011 our schedule for RM Bacon Elementary will be changing. For the most part, your child will only be impacted in regards to their specials. Teachers will be discussing this change with the students so they know where to report. The reason we changed the schedule was to focus more on providing interventions to our learners.

On another note, I am concerned about the amount of students reporting to school prior to 8:55 AM. Unfortunately, we do not have supervision until 8:55 AM. If you need to drop off your child early, then I would recommend signing up for the Latch Key Program (Val Raines 327-7584). Please do not drop off or let your students report to school prior to 8:55 AM.

New week is our Week of Respect. We have many activities scheduled. Our culminating activity is next Friday at 9:30 AM. We are hosting Sensei Jon from Champions Karate for an assembly!

4th graders enjoyed their trip on Wednesday to Drumthwacket (http://www.drumthwacket.org/) which is the official residence of our Governor. They represented RM Bacon in a very positive manner.

September 19- 23

This was a busy week at RM Bacon. Students and teachers were busy with many activities. Students are eager to start the Flag Football season. Gym classes began preparing for their Presidential testing.

September 12- 16

5th grade students and teachers hosted Mike Devano, author of Writing with SPICE. He entertained and inspired the students and teachers to take the writing process here at RM Bacon to the next level! We had our fire drills and evacuation drills this week. 4th and 5th graders were treated to a Regional Music Demonstration. Students were exposed to the various options for exploration in Music.

 On September 15, we had our annual Back To School Night. We had approximatley100 students represented by parents and guardians. If you were not able to make it, I will post the PowerPoint.