Friday, July 26, 2013

Are you following my new blog?

I've got a couple of new posts on my new blog. You won't find them here anymore. Please make sure you've followed me over to my new place at

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tips for Formal Observations

I have a new post on Tips for Formal Observations, but you'll have to go to my new blog to read it:

If you haven't already done so, please change your email subscription, feedly account, or RSS reader to my new blog site so I don't "lose" you as a reader.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Moving out (my blog that is)

Image from r2rdesigns
I have maintained this blog for over four years. In that time I have shared 128 blog posts and have received a great deal of valued support from my readers. The time has come for me to move out (from Blogger) and get a "place" of my own. Please follow my new blog at I have copy/pasted all of my posts from here to the site, but I am still working on the layout/design of it. I will likely cross-post my next few posts before being completely done with this blog to make sure I don't lose any readers.  If you are a "subscribe via email" reader, I am still working on figuring out that feature on my new blog site.
If you have a suggestion for my new site, please feel free to let me know by commenting on a post on my new blog.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Don't Bench Coaching

If you don't read ASCD's Edcuational Leadership, then I highly recommend that you start. The current summer edition is filled with great articles, as it always is. There is an article by Christina Steinbacher-Reed and Elizabeth Powers titled Don't Bench Coaching as a result of the numerous budget cuts that often mean cutting coaches (which is a HUGE loss). Their article gives a great plug for the weekly #educoach chat so I just had to share a link in my blog for others to be led to this great article: Don't Bench Coaching.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What does it mean to be the "Lead Learner"?

Image from Thornhill Primary School

  When people hear the word "Principal" I am sure that most picture someone sitting in the principal's office, waiting for students that have been kicked out of class.  As our roles change, the term principal no longer seems to fit.  I have found "Lead Learner" to be an ideal role title that I strive to achieve each day. "Lead Learner" is a term that I have often read from others on Twitter, although I believe this term was first coined by Principal Joe Mazza (who calls himself a Lead Learner, not a principal).

Doug Reeves states that “expertise is not developed based upon the mystical ability of professionals to get it right the first time. Rather, it is based upon the willingness to try techniques, get feedback that is honest, accurate, specific, and timely, and then improve performance" (Elements of Grading, p.69).  As administrators and “lead learners” of our schools, we need to model and nurture this idea for it to become a “way of life” in our buildings.  If teachers see us in their classrooms only with the “evaluator’s hat” coming into their classrooms with a “gotcha” each time, then they will not be as willing to try new techniques, they will just continue to perfect the techniques that they know and have already been using for years (whether they are effective for student learning or not). 
By acting more as a "Lead Learner" we are not only "talking the talk" by telling our teachers to continue their professional learning, but we are also "walking the walk" by continuing our professional learning and being transparent about it.  What does a Lead Learner do?
  • Join teachers to outside conferences they attend to help support their implementation of new things learned. 
  • Start/join teachers in a faculty book study. 
  • Join a Twitter book study...#Educoach will start chatting about Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess on July 10th. 
  • Read professionally and share what you are learning with teachers.  I also like to be the Lead Reader in my building by having my email signature include "I am currently reading:______" and update this with each new book title I read. I also have a sign on the school library door that shows what I am currently reading so that all students see me as a reader. (These ideas were from Donalyn Miller)
  • Share your professional learning/reflections in a blog.  In addition to my personal blog, I also share a weekly post on my staff blog called "Monday Musings." In this weekly post I share reflections on something I am reading, learned or reflections on what is happening in our building. 
  • Connect with other educators outside of your building. Twitter is one of the best tools to build a Professional Learning Network (PLN) to see what others are doing, learning and sharing.  You cannot search on google for something that you don't even know is happening on other schools, but you can often learn about it from what other educators are tweeting. 
  • Be a resource finder. If there's something that a teacher wants/needs to improve on or learn more about, find resources to help support them.  Learn about it with them. 
  • Have "No Office Days" where you are actually teaching in classrooms, not just observing. 
  • Listen/reflect on feedback given to you from teachers and use it to improve. 
What else do you see Lead Learners doing? What else should they do?

Monday, June 24, 2013

My Summer Reading Bucket List

If you follow my blog then you know that I'm an avid reader with a goal to read 55 books this year(you can read it in this post). So far, I have read 31 books since January and have a stack of books that have piled up that I look forward to read this summer. My only problem is that I have so many stacked up, it's hard to make a "what's next" plan.

Here's my professional reading stack:

I am currently reading The Multiplier Effect with our district admin team and we will be moving on to Cultures Built to Last as we attend the PLC Institute in July. I will also be reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (who I was so fortunate to meet at the ASCD conference) for the #educoach chat starting on July 10th.

As I've previously written about (in this post), I'm trying very hard to not be so boring and also make sure that I read fiction, so here is my "reading for pleasure" stack for the summer:

What's on your summer reading bucket list?  Can you read any in either of my stacks to help persuade me to move it to the top?

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Twitter Video

I just discovered a neat new Twitter tool this week thanks to others in my Twitter PLN.  It's just for fun, check it out:
Click HERE to watch it

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sometimes the Answer is SO Obvious...

I have been using Evernote for probably two years now and cannot survive without it. It has literally become my filing system and my brain...for almost everything.  I often share ideas with interested teachers on how it could be used. Just today I was speaking with a colleague about how challenging it can be to keep up with documentation of communication with parents, staff, and outside agencies and how difficult it is to find those notes when you need them. I shared with her my notebook system (which is quite embarrassing, because of how messy it is) and she asked, "Why don't you just use Evernote since you always use it?"

Image from Appsmylife
This colleague does not even use Evernote, she's just heard me talk about it all the time...I felt like a fool when she shared this obvious solution with me!

Even though I had a system of tracking in the margin of my notebook, I realized I could easily use the checkbox feature in Evernote, along with different font to record any follow-up documentation. I started using it right away today, because even though it's summer break, I still had 6 voicemails to return and found it so easy. Again, such an easy solution that was just so obvious I couldn't even see it!

As I move into my summer work (catch-up, planning for next year, office cleaning, etc.) I will be on the lookout for other obvious things I can be using Evernote for to make my life simpler.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to Support My Teachers with our 1:1 Initiative?

Image from post

In my last post I shared that we are going 1:1 with iPads in all of our preschool through 5th grade classrooms in our building. Now, my question is how can I lead/support my teachers to use them in meaningful ways to transform learning? We are fortunate to have an Instructional Media Specialist that is extremely helpful in supporting teachers to try a new tool. We also will be investing in training from Certified Apple Trainers. But what can I do?

This past year I did go into a few different classrooms with the iPad cart to "borrow a class of guinea pigs" to try out new apps that I had learned about from my Twitter PLN. I had read about how the app was used in the classroom and wanted to try it in the classroom, while also exposing the teacher to it. I have always felt it has been important for me to not just be in classrooms observing, but to teach and support teachers as well. My goal in this was to also model for teachers to take risks, try new things and reflect/share with colleagues on what worked/what didn't work.

In my Friday Focus post each week I have also included a section called "Blogs, Pins & Tweets...Oh My!" where I often include ideas on using the iPads.

Over the summer I hope to continue to learn and answer this question: What else can I do to encourage, support and lead teachers with the iPads? Here are some of my current ideas, but I hope some of my PLN (Professional Learning Network) will share ideas with me as well:

  • Start a wikispace this summer to start adding resources/ideas to. I would also give teachers access so they can add to this as well. I just need to figure out how to organize the wiki (i.e. blogs, apps, grade level?)
  • Continue to find app ideas for teachers to use themselves on their iPads. My iPad has become an extension of my arm in terms of how useful it is to me everyday. I'd like to continue to share how it can be a beneficial tool for them.  How can teachers that work with just a few students at a time on specific skills use theirs? For example, our reading interventionists that follows a very prescriptive intervention program will likely not be using the iPads with students, but I'm sure there are productivity apps they would personally benefit from.
  • Always incorporate teacher iPads in our staff meetings somehow. I'd like to plan ahead and create a google doc for each month's staff meeting agenda, post it on my staff blog and have a part of the agenda be for a staff member to share an app or iPad use from their classroom.
Where will I keep finding my ideas to share with teachers?

Please share if you have any ideas to help me!

We're Going 1:1 with iPads!!!

Image from

Can you hear my excitement already? You read that right...we are going 1:1 with iPads in all of our preschool through 5th grade classrooms in our elementary school.

Since I have learned from so many other blogs about integrating technology I plan to share our learning here, but also hope to get input from others on questions that we have.

Here's what led up to this 1:1 decision:
We are a small district with preK-12 all in one building, which allows us to share technology even though we still function as separate schools in our three separated wings. Over the years we have continued to add technology: each building level has a computer lab and every classroom has a SMARTBoard. This past year we added several carts of devices: Lenovo laptops, netbook minis, Macbook Airs and iPads. This allowed classrooms the opportunity to try out different devices and explore with what device was preferred if we should go 1:1.

Our District Tech Team put in a lot of work this year exploring schools that have gone 1:1 to see what works, what didn't, etc. They surveyed all staff and all students K-12, using the results to determine that in our district, the best place to start implementing 1:1 would be in our elementary (we did find other districts that started with the high school). This team developed a 3 year plan that ends with our district being 1:1 in every grade. The tech team presented to the school board a couple of different times to build their understanding of this initiative, which led to a unanimous vote for the purchase of the iPads for the elementary next year. Right after this decision was made, we began sharing information on our website for our parents/community to see, which can be found HERE.

So, now that the decision was made, what's next? Well, our tech people have been working like mad to get this large iPad order ready, along with the admin team planning when to bring in the Apple certified trainers. With any new initiative, the support must be there so we have decided to budget for training from Apple. We also had a logistical meeting with the elementary teachers to discuss how apps will be loaded, how ipads will be stored, etc. Here are some of those logistical details:

  • Each classroom will have an Ergatron charging case.
  • Each iPad will have Otterbox cases
  • iPads will initially be set up with apps by grade level as requested by the grade level team
  • Teachers will have full access to make their teacher iPad their own (this year they had department ipads all with the same apple account so they couldn't individualize them)
  • As additional apps are requested they will be added to what will basically be our school App Store, which will be created using Casper Software.
  • Additional wifi access points are being put into every classroom so that we have enough bandwidth for all of the additional devices.
  • Every classroom will have an Apple TV to be able to project from any iPad to the SMARTBoard.

I think that's it for logistics. My next post will be on how can I support my teachers to transform instruction with these new iPads?

If your school or classroom has gone 1:1 are there any logistical issues that you encountered that we should know about? Please share if you do!

Edited to add:
Someone on Twitter asked me if students will be taking the iPads home with them? We have decided that at least for the beginning of this 3 year initiative students will not be bringing them home. A major reason for this is that our K-12 students all ride the same buses home so we were concerned about middle/high school students knowing that our students had iPads in their backpacks and if this could potentially cause theft issues. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Know you're in the good old days...

Here is cross-post of my final Monday Musings post from my staff blog for the school year...inspired by one of my favorite t.v. shows...

This year was the final season for one of my favorite t.v. shows, The Office. I'm sure you can all relate to having one (or more) shows that you have come to love, have watched every week for years and then feel a great sadness when it comes to a close.  You've grown to know each of the unique characters as if they were actually a part of your life and can even make connections to events in real life.  It sounds silly...I know, it's just a t.v. show.

 If you are not familiar with The Office, the character Andy Bernard in the image above had left the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company to pursue other ambitions and returned for the last episode as the crew said their farewells.  When he came back to all of his colleagues and friends he realized how good he had it before he left and said, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you leave them."

As I watched this final episode, I couldn't help but think of our Dodgeland Family.   Just as any year, we've taken on a lot this year. There were times where we may have felt stressed, overwhelmed, or thought that the grass might be greener somewhere else, but as I've shared before, "the grass is greener where you water it."

 The work that we do at Dodgeland every day makes it a truly amazing place for our students to learn and grow each day. It is a school that I am proud to be a part of and to send my own children to. I want to thank each of you for the hard work you have put in every day to help each of your students achieve their greatest potential this year. Use this last week together to enjoy your students and colleagues or as Andy Bernard says, "Know you're in the good old days before you leave them"

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Building my Writer's Habit with the Magic Spreadsheet

Sounds like a crazy title, right? If you're not interested in writing, you may not be interested in reading this post, but my writing friends may benefit.

I've previously shared that I have a dream of publishing a professional book and that I've even done some fictional writing that I'd like to get published so I've added some writing podcasts to my Morning Professional Development (listening to my iPod while getting ready each morning).  So far, the best podcast I've found is I Should Be Writing, by fictional author Mur Lafferty. In one of her podcasts she talked about how the Magic Spreadsheet gave her the motivation to write for 100 days.  I was intrigued and wondered what could possibly be so magical about a spreadsheet?  When I listened to how she and other writers use it, I knew it would totally be the magic I need.

I am the kind of person that likes to see progress in action. I like to mark a star on the calendar when I work out (ok, that was actually pre-ipod times for me), I liked seeing my weight chart go down in my fitness app when I was losing weight, I use the app Simple Goals to tally many of my daily goals, so the Magic Spreadsheet did look magical to me!

The idea of it is just a basic spreadsheet in which you enter the number of words that you write each day, with the goal of writing 250 words.  I have found that 250 words is really quite easy...just a couple of paragraphs in about 15 minutes.  Each day that you write 250 words or more, you get a point, but also an additional point for each consecutive day of writing.  So, on the fist day you get 1 point, second day-2 points, fourth day-4 points and so on. Stop a day of writing and you break the chain having to start with 1 point the day you write again.  The folks in Mur's writing network have actually gamified this so that they are entering their daily words into a public google spreadsheet and have all kinds of additional bonuses and can "level up" (like increasing their daily 250 word minimum to 400).  I was a little overwhelmed seeing their spreadsheet (and couldn't even figure out how to join in), but could easily figure out how to download the individual spreadsheet and get started.

It has been a week and I have used the magic to write for 7 consecutive days with a total of 2,787 words.  I was worried that it would be too soon for me to post this, but I have never written for 7 consecutive days so I think I'm in the clear. Within these seven days I had 1 day of the flu  and 2 days that I was so dead tired that I didn't think I could write 250 words, but did, because I didn't want to start over with 1 point...and I'm just "competing" with myself!  (Sidenote-This made me wonder if this could be something for students to develop a writers' habit? We may possibly be 1:1 with iPads next year, so Google Drive will need to add the word count feature to the iPads!)

Do you want to find the Magic Spreadsheet?  Go HERE  for the podcast. The link in the description takes you to their google doc, but the first person's comment in the post has a link to download the individual spreadsheet.

If you're a writer in my PLN and know how to turn this Magic Spreadsheet into a public google doc like Mur's writers did, please let me know, because I would love to do so (just couldn't figure it out!)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Changing Behaviors to Change Beliefs...A Personal Reflection

I recently had to give up drinking coffee due to chronic pain issues.  This was very hard for me to do, because I drank three cups of coffee a day (sometimes more).  Coffee was a staple of my life that I relied on for waking up, getting my ideas going, a pick-me up during the day, my energy when the day's work was tiring, a stress reliever and just the comfort of a warm cup in my hand.  When students at school draw pictures of me, they often include a coffee cup in my hand!  If you, too, are a coffee drinker, then I'm sure you can imagine my reluctance to give it up.

It was not easy, but I did what I was told while dragging my feet, not believing this could possibly help my situation.  I looked for decaffeinated teas to try to trick my brain by still having a hot cup in my hand, but it was so disgusting to me it was no substitute.  On mornings after a late night I struggled to get moving, thinking, "maybe just one cup wouldn't be so bad" but then mentally slapped my hand at the thought.  One day my self-control lacked and while on a drive to a meeting, my car was an auto-pilot and swung
through the McDonald's drive through to get my favorite mocha frappe as I always do without even realizing it until afterwards.  I'm not one to waste money, so I drank it knowing it was a dumb idea, and later regretted it (both mentally and physically).

Why am I sharing this? Not to whine, complain or get empathy...I promise I'm done with that aspect of my story! I share this, because it made me think of teaching practices, beliefs, and change.  It is often our beliefs
that drive our teaching practices and our experience leading to changes in our beliefs that changes our practices.  But what about when a change is given to us and we don't want it?  No matter what the change is, change is hard.

As I think about changes we have made in our building over the years, they haven't been easy.  I recently had a conversation with a teacher in which he talked about how much he hates change and didn't want to teach with Daily5/Cafe, but now loves teaching reading and writing.  He didn't want to teach with our new math program, Math Expressions, but now loves it.  Why?  Because he sees the incredible impact that both have had for student learning and enjoys teaching both subjects much more now.

If change can be good, then why do we resist change so much?

Most of us want to continue with what we already know, what we are comfortable with. It is easier that way.    It is what we believe to be "right."  I think some of my mornings could be much more enjoyable if I grabbed a cup of coffee, but then I remind myself of why I had to stop.  As a teacher, it is easy to revert back to old teaching habits or drag your feet on a new initiative, because what you are used to doing is already habit, is easy, and is what you know.  When we stick with the change and then see a positive change in student learning or student behaviors (or changes in whatever the initiative was meant to address), then we are convinced and become believers of the change.  For many of us, we need to change our behaviors to see the results that will impact our beliefs.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Turn Your Great Ideas into a Great ASCD Book

I have never shared this publicly on my blog, but I have a big dream of publishing a book.  If you follow my twitter conversations on the Wednesday night #educoach chat, then you could probably guess what I'd like to write about (and have been working on for quite some time now with Shira Leibowitz and Kathy Perret).
This is why I chose to attend the #ASCD13 session on "How to turn your great ideas into a great ASCD book" led by ASCD editors Genny Ostertag and Stefani Roth and by authors Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey. This was the perfect session for a writer to attend and I especially enjoyed hearing Fisher and Frey's stories on writing (I LOVE learning about authors!)

If you'd like to write, but maybe not a whole book Eric Vandenheuvel attended the ASCD session on publishing an article. HERE are the notes he took in that session (Thank you Eric!)

Here are my notes from this session:

What do you want to write about most?
Do: choose a relevant topic that meets a need in the field that you have expertise/experience to share. ASCD gives priority to topics that include  educating the whole child (their mission) and will look for this in a proposal.

What's your hook?
What really differentiates your content, what makes it special/different. What makes people think "that's a problem I have and I can solve it." Think of a spine supporting everything in it, provides a backbone for all the material. Make sure you have a fresh angle. 

Don't: give a gimmick or try to hard (ex: abc's list or sending with a teddy bear)

Who is your audience? who is your writing for? What outcomes will they be looking for? You must connect with your readers and offer solutions to their problems.  What keeps them up at night? Don't tell them it's for everyone.  If you say everyone will love it, then you likely haven't thought of your audience.

Competition--do you research to know your competition. What has been done already and why was it done? If there's nothing on it, it may be a reason. Don't assume your idea is original. Google your title, google under publishers. 

Starting April 15, ASCD will be accepting proposals in an online portal that will allow you to track your manuscript's progress.   Proposal guidelines are at When you send in your proposal don't skim on sample material. They'd rather see the whole manuscript than just one chapter. They are important for the review team. They need to get to know you on the page. More is better than less.  

What do editors want? Top 5 qualities:
1. Original-What is original about your piece? Give fresh information.  Don't state the obvious (no lit review). 
2.  Research based-evidence based, make sure it is scalable/sustainable. Don't labor over methodology. Good example: new Principal Evaluation book by James Stronge. Not every book has to be that research-based. Could just have one chapter that includes the research and then move on to be practical. Don't just say "We know from research" and not cite anything.  
3. Practical- Provide guidance as specific as you can so people know, but don't be too academic. It needs to be readable. 
4. Specific-Offer helpful ideas, show what they look like in real classrooms/schools, don't over-generalizes so much that readers can't specify to their situations. If you can't figure out to apply to your school while you're reading, you'll stop reading. A great example is How to Create and use Rubrics.
5. Conversational-ensure your text is engaging, succinct, easy to navigate, be accessible, be yourself. An editor can help you add research, but they can't make it super conversational and give you need to do that. Don't include a lot of jargon or over-complicated language. Don't try to impress people with crazy big words. Don't be over-personal "I'm so great, I'm the best..."  Great example: How to Create a Culture of Achievement by Fisher and Frey.

DeClutter--make sure that other people can see themselves using it. Put forth the how-to. 

Do talk to published authors! Dont' stalk them!! (They must not be on authors on twitter don't mind the stalking and have become great resources!)

Frey and Fisher sharing their writing tips
Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey shared their writing experiences and tips:
If you get a contract from a publisher-whatever date you negotiate...HIT IT! When they say your manuscript will come in on 11/15, that means they have lined up editors and the rest of the team for that date.  If you don't hit it, they will not want you for future books.  Add 3 months to what you say you can do and then ask the editor for that date and then hit it. If something comes up, tell them immediately so they can try to change it. They do NOT like it if you miss a deadline.

Fisher said (about their published books), "None of these are our titles! The marketing department gets the title and the cover...none of them were in our minds. Let it go, don't make the exact title/cover your concern. The marketing department knows what they're doing.  I don't even bother anymore...I just give a general "here's what the book is about" for the title."
Processes to write-everyone develops their own. Nancy writes in an office at Doug's house, because  his house is bigger and she won't get distracted by knowing what laundry needs to be washed!  They have 2 desks in one office to talk to each other to parcel out what they will each write about.  Planning process-they cover the back of the office door with sticky notes to sort based on those sticky notes.  Then they  put on individual sticky notes a shorthand about the point/tool and then easily move/sort ideas into chapters.  Gives a good visual for conversations.  

Other publishers-know who they are and who best fits your ideas. 

 Write about what you know. Look closely at your context/experiences, this is what you are expert in. Listen to what people ask of you, pay attention to the patterns that emerge in those questions. That's the idea that you need-if they're seeking you out about something, it means they can't find it out somewhere else and it means you're an expert in. 

Books are all about the same size. Do not write a thick book for ASCD. Aim for 50,000 words. If you're at 45,000 in chapter 3 you're writing too much. If you hit 60,000 it won't be thrown out, but you don't want it to be too long.  People want short chapters to read. They're busy and want to read small chunks in one sitting. If it's too long, they'll stop. 

When you send a proposal, do not send your first chapter--if you wrote it first, it won't be your best chapter. It's likely very general and probably won't show your conversational tone and practical examples.  Write the meat first and THEN write the 1st chapter. Otherwise you end up saying everything you want to say in the first chapter!

Nancy keeps a writer's notebook to jot down good ideas.  You don't want to lose your thoughts in busy lives. Keep track of super funny quotes too!!  Keep those little stories that could possibly be used.  
If you've been in education for a number of years, you have a book inside of you!  It's just that some people take the time to sit down and do it. Your butt in a chair...that's how you write a book!  Part of the writing process is like being a brick layer of words.  There's a level of discipline to keeping yourself from being distracted.  Schedule time to write. Treat it like a meeting. Schedule it just like a conference or something else that's important. Keep it as a promise to yourself. If you can't do that, how can you keep a promise to someone else.  

 Create a goal for each day, ex "today I will write this idea."  "Today I want to finish___" and then stop.  This will help you pace yourself better to finish the book.  You will get fatigued and get frustrated if you try to write for 8 hours a day.  Nancy writes notes about what they talked about so she can look back if they haven't written them yet.  You will paralyze yourself if you keep going back to reread what you've already written. Leave yourself a note to know where to start tomorrow and get going again.  

Doug said that staring at a blank page intimidates him so he opens a chapter from a previous book and writes notes on the top of the page and then copy/pastes it to where he's's all a psychological thing for him!  Nancy-puts down a quote or a scenario to get something on the page. She may not keep it, but it gets the flow going.

Their first book started as a conversation in the car.  Her first chapter took 4 weeks to write---laboriously.  Now she writes fast.  It was hard for her emotionally to see the edits/revisions come back, because it's like your own child.  She's learned to become detached from that.  When you get your first book out, ask the publisher for a copy of the cover to frame on your feels good to look at it. 

And have you ever wondered how ASCD chooses their member books? (The free one you get with your membership?) It must weigh less than 1 pound!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Freeman Hrabowski at #ASCD13

I knew while hearing Freeman Hrabowski speak at #ASCD13 that his speech would be the one I include in my next Monday Musings post for my staff.  He had such a powerful message that I had to share with them. Here is a cross-posting from my staff memo blog:

This weekend I got to attend the national ASCD conference in Chicago. I was fortunate to have the chance to attend it with a Press Pass, which got me in for free, but I just had to tweet/blog a lot about that (definitely something I am good at!)  I already have several posts up with more to come. If you're interested you can find them on my professional blog at 

One of the great speakers I heard at this conference was Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.  Hrabowski's story began as a young boy when he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and he has continued his passion to change the story for children and minorities.  He has led his University to change the story for minorities in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

 Hrabowski spoke about  matching high expectations along with the importance of building community among students, helping faculty retool teaching to start where students are and emphasizing collaboration among students, and building trust so that students are comfortable asking for help.  The one skill he wants every student going to college with is the ability to ask good questions.

Some other "nuggets" of wisdom I quickly typed during his presentation include:

  • We must empower children to speak for themselves.
  • Excellence is never an accident, it is a result of sincere effort.
  • Choice, not chance determines your destiny.
  • Many students that would be the first generation to pursue college need to see others do it first. We need to share our stories with them of our struggles and how we got to where we are. We need to share stories of others so they can believe it is possible.
  • It is not cheating when people work together (talked about cooperative learning).
  • We want our children to be passionate about learning.
  • Even when a child loses parents, if there is a teacher who cares, that child will rise to the occasion.
  • Some of our students go through hell. Give them structure and let them know you care about them.
Hrabowksi ended with the powerful quote from Mahatma Gahndi:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, 
Your thoughts become your words, 
Your words become your actions, 
Your actions become your habits, 
Your habits become your values, 
Your values become your destiny.”

While our school population isn't as diverse as the schools he spoke of, I couldn't help but listen to him, thinking of many of our students' needs and the backgrounds they come from.  Each of you play such an important role in the lives of our students; many of you providing the only structure, kindness, understanding and expectations that they have each day (several of you also providing clothes and snacks). Then you for all that you do for our students each and every day! 

#ASCD13 Storified Twitter Feed

Whether you were following the #ASCD13 twitterfeed from your couch at home, or there in person and following tweets from other sessions you also wanted to attend, there were many great tweets to learn from. Thankfully, Brad Currie "storified" the tweets each day so I decided to put them here in case I want to find them again.  Over the past few years, I have found myself looking back at older blog posts that I wrote and use them for my learning and reflection so I thought this would be a great place to put the storified tweets from #ASCD13.

Here's the #ASCD13 recap for 3/16/13

Here's the #ASCD13 recap for 3/17/13

Connecting with great educators at #ASCD13

This is the first of several posts I'll be writing to share about my awesome learning at the #ASCD13 conference in Chicago.  Of all the conferences I have ever attended, ASCD was definitely the best for 2 reasons:
1. I met almost all of my favorite "Tweeps" from my Twitter PLN in real life, which allowed me to have awesome conversations all day long.
2. There is such a huge variety of learning sessions to attend (over 400) that include top notch educators from around the country (i.e. Will Richardson, Regie Routman, Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, Eric Sheninger, Jay McTighe, Jane Pollock, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, the list go on...).
In fact my only complaint at #ASCD13 is that there are too many awesome sessions to choose from that I had some really difficult decisions to make each hour of the day!!

I have previously written numerous posts on the power of Twitter, like:
ASCD: Building a Professional Learning Network to Save you from Admin Island
Is Social Media Taking Away from Personalization and Relationships?
Using Twitter for 24/7 Professional Development

I felt sorry for some of the educators I saw at #ASCD13 that attended alone and sat by themselves in sessions and break times. I also drove there alone, however, was surrounded by educators that I connect with everyday on Twitter. I feel so connected to them that it was like connecting with old friends at my high school reunion and then continuing to have great conversations all day long no matter which session I attended.  My day started out by having breakfast with Eric Sheninger in the Press room and the day continued to get better!

I was pleased to hear Twitter recommended as a powerful tool by almost every speaker of the day, as a source for great learning. My favorite tweets on this topic:

So now, I just have to share pictures of meeting my PLN in person. Can you guess the Tweep? (for those of you not on Twitter, Tweep is the term for a connected "friend" on Twitter).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

#ASCD13 Post: Turn the Battleship on a Dime: Keys to Initiating Sustainable Change

One of the great sessions I attended at #ASCD13 was on sustainable change led by the great Eric Sheninger, or else known as @NMHS_Principal. Eric was a phenomenal speaker and I took copious notes in his session (that includes many audience responses) as follows:

Why Change? We need to, because the world has changed, it is fundamentally different, we are in a globally connected world. How can we say we are preparing our kids to be successful to do what they want to do if we don't allow them to use the tools that eveyrone else uses to be successful?

Why doesn't change work?
It is done to people, no buy-in, don't support the rpocess, always changing from one thing to the next, we give up before the learning curve is experienced, overwelmed by number of things to change.

Why has it failed in your school?
It goes against tradition, people are not given a chance to fail or take risks

Why is change so hard? People are so comfortable bc they are not challenged to think differently. Status quo, if it isn't broke why fixt it, this too shall pass.

Why is change so hard?
Fear, void of leadership, no vision, lack of knowledge

Why is change so hard?
Instability, too many initiatives at once, resistance, one size fits all initiatives.

It's difficult to transition a school or district if it doesn't make sense.

It's important to identify the obstacles
1. This is too hard
Change is not easy. Requires work, risk-taking, learnign from mistakes, and committemtn, no fear of failure. "The price of change is measured by our will and courage, our persistence, in the face of difficulty." -Peter Block

2. I don't have time for this
-most common excuse
-in a profession focused on making a difference in the life of a child. "I don't find the time to learn and get better. I make the time to learn and get better."

3. Lack of Collaboration
We already know who on our staff don't want to collaborate. How do we get them to intrinsically want to change, becuase they might be better for kids. We can't go to a one-size fits all approach.

4. Directives and Mandates
"You can't force committemnt, what you can do....You nudge a little here, insprie a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create" -Peter Senge

5. Hierarchy in Schools
Result-inflexible, lack of freedom/autonomy to take risks, ideas are squashed

6. No Support
Time, resources, money, pd, etc.

7. Fear of change
How do we as colleagues, administrators help each other overcome fear and get others to want to change?

8. The Resistance (Naysayers and antagonists)

9. Poor professional development

10. Frivolous purchases
It is the beahviors/practices that make the purchases relevant and applicable.

"When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there." Zig Zigler

Change begins with us. "You must be the change you want to see in the world." ~Gandhi

If you are doing something because you got a grant, can it be sustained? If not, then why are you doing it?

Change often fails if there's not shared vision, or communication of the vision.

"Let the teachers decide what they need to get better." @NMHS_Principal

The Sustainable Changes that have been made at Eric's School:
grading (7 criteria to fail kids)
teaching and learning web2.0
independet open courseware study
professional growth period
AP culture
social media

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Getting excited for the ASCD 2013 Conference!!!

Image from ASCD Conference Page

ASCD is one of my go-to sources for ongoing personal PD through the monthly Educational Leadership  and the numerous books published each year.  For years I have wanted to attend the annual ASCD conference and this year I finally get to, because it is going to be in Chicago (just a 2 1/2 hour drive for me).  While this conference has 3 days packed of amazing sessions to be offered, those that cannot attend can follow the twitter hashtag #ASCD13 or even attend virtually.  I will only be able to go on Saturday, but will be following #ASCD13 on the other days.  

If you're planning to attend, make sure to download the app MyASCD2013 for a handy schedule and planning tool. I found it super easy to browse the schedule by time or speaker and simply "star" sessions I was interested in to narrow down my choices (from 400) down to a handful in each time slot. Here's what it looks like so far:
Sorry, but the screenshot doesn't make it legible to read in the image.
The #ASCD13 conversation has already started on Twitter as we narrow down our choices:

To which my response is...

In addition to the great learning at #ASCD13 I am looking forward to meeting some of the folks in my Twitter PLN for the first time or reconnecting again.  These folks include (but are not limited to): @KathyPerret @NMHS_Principal @Joe_Mazza @DrSpikeCook @tomwhitby and my #WIAmigos: @twhitford @leah_whit @ErinKohl @Joesanfelippofc   You'll be able to find me in my #WIAmigos t-shirt

Writer's Block

Here is another cross-post from my staff memo blog that will post tomorrow morning for my "Monday Musings."

Writer's Block

While having a mental block of not feeling like I have anything worthy of sharing with you all in a Monday Musings post (because I've spent my weekend in a book entirely for pleasure, not thinking of anything school-related) it made me think about our students having writers block, not knowing what they should write about. This immediately led my thoughts to modeling writing for our students in an authentic way, which I learned from Regie Routman. (Unfortunately for the students I taught it was after I already moved into the principal role).

When I taught writing, I modeled the writing process for my students; however, I modeled how to write a piece that I had already previously planned out before.  I had completely gone through the writing process on my own, wrote my piece and then recreated the process in front of them so there was no authentic modeling or thinking out loud of writers actually do as they are trying to think of what to write.  How can our students learn to get through a writing struggle if it is never modeled for them?  In the book Writing Essentials, Regie Routman says, "One of the most powerful ways for students to grow as writers is to watch you write--to observe you plan, think, compose, revise, and edit right in front of them, pretty much off the cuff. Very few of us just write down page after flowing page. Students need to see and hear our in-the-head thinking as we change our mind, 'mess up,' make adjustments, do everything 'real writers' do." (page. 45).

So, how can you help model for students that may have writers block? This comes from constantly modeling for them and sharing yourself as a writer with them.  Start with a story...tell students a story that you want to write about.  On page 25, Reige writes to pick a story that:

  • Is easy for students to relate to.

  • Is appropriate to share with students.

  • Is important to me.

  • Lets students know more about me.

  • Allows me to take some risks.

  • Tell students the story you have chosen. Routman writes, "saying the story outloud engages the students, lets me clarify my thinking, and reinforces the importance of conversation before writing."  Then take that story and model writing it in front of your students.  Write the story just as lively as you told it: include the details, descriptive words, or recreate the conversations you told.

    As you model this process for students throughout the year, they will continue to make the connection between reading and writing...writing is a way to tell stories for others to read.  They will learn how to use events from their lives or use what they are reading to inspire them to write.

    Have you written in front of your students before without having planned it? If not...try it. Take the plunge and share your writing struggle with students.

    (Please note-this post took me about 10 minutes...I opened it only having the idea of writing about writers block and helping our students.  I did not take time to thoroughly plan it out, I just wrote as if I was talking about it.  If I were doing in this in the classroom I would then tell students that I will need to go back to revise/edit later, but this was to just get my ideas out). 

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Sharing Authors' Personal Stories with our Students

    Anchor Chart image from Teaching and Tapas

    My 7 yr-old son is a tough audience when it comes to books.  He enjoys having me read novels to him, but he has yet to find the right books that he is completely interested in reading himself.  I thought about what his favorite pastime is and decided to try to write a story with that hobby as the major part of the plot to interest him.  I have never been a creative writer, but he absolutely loved what I wrote and asked me where the rest was!  Before he went to bed on Saturday night, he gave me my homework: "You can NOT go to sleep until you write me 2 more chapters to read in the morning, ok Mom?!"  I tweeted his homework assignment out to my PLN to share my humorous situation and got the following reply:

    I was intrigued and started reading about the author, Rick Riordan, on his website .  As I read through his page on "Advice for Writers," I realized how important it is for our students to learn more about the authors whose books they are reading.  In one of his answers, Rick has a list of tips, including:
    "Secondly, read a lot! Read everything you can get your hands on.  You will learn the craft of writing by immersing yourself in the voices, styles, and structures of writers who have gone before you. Don't be afraid that you'll start sounding like a particular writer you admire.  That just means you need to read MORE, not less.
    Thirdly, write every day! Keep a journal.  Jot down interesting stories you heard. Write descriptions of people you see.  It doesn't really matter what you write, but you must keep up practice. Writing is like a sport -- you only get better if you practice.  If you don't keep at it, the writing muscles atrophy."

    What incredible advice from an author that many of our students (in upper grades) love to read!  As I thought back to my classroom days, I recalled having "author studies," where we read several picture books from the same author, comparing/contrasting among them.  I can't recall ever taking the time to share with students the authors' stories behind why they wrote each book or any other information they shared about what they do to write. 

    Do you take time to share any of this with your students?  I'd love to hear about how it has impacted your students' writing.  Here are some websites I found with resources on authors:
    The Stacks list of authors from Scholastic

    You can also google almost any author to find their homepage where they include far more information. Here's some that I know are popular authors to our students:
    And an author that is new to me, but I'm sure our students will love after he visits our school this week, is... Michael Scotto

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

    I have a secret...

    I am leading a session on use of specific apps on the iPad for teachers in my building tomorrow and I am NOT an expert on any of the apps I'm sharing. That's right. I'm showing how to use them, giving ideas of how they can be used and I don't know everything about each of them and I probably can't answer all the questions that may be asked of me.

    But, I do know that if there are any questions I can't answer I can tweet them out and am 99.9% sure that someone in my Twitter PLN will have the answer for us.  I have used Educreations in 4 classrooms, showing the teacher and the students all at once how to use it.  Each time, a student (or the teacher) discovered something new or came up with a tip to help everyone.  Every time I use it, I learn something new.  Even if I did become an expert on any one of these apps, the developers are constantly listening to feedback from the users and updating the features, so I would have new features to learn about each time they are updated. I also know that as teachers begin using the apps in their classrooms they will come up with great new ways of using them for student learning and share them with others.

    We do not have to be experts at the tools...we have to be experts at learning and show students what it is like in real life to not know the answer or not know how to do something.  To be successful in life you need to know how to find it out.  Or as Will Richardson says we have to be able to "learn, unlearn and relearn."

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    Why School?

    Image from Edtechworkshop

    This weekend I downloaded the book Why School? by Will Richardson after seeing numerous educators on Twitter recommend it.  It was a whopping $2.99, but one of the best reads (and a quick read) to challenge our thinking about school.

    Here is a TEDTalk given by the author, Will Richardson, talking about how the internet resources available to us today are making learning different.  Even if you don't watch the entire video (which is 14 minutes) please watch the first 1:28 minutes of it as he tells the story of his daughter learning to play Journey on the piano.

    I cringed when he told about the piano teacher saying his daughter wasn't ready to play Journey yet.  I then wondered if there are any times that we put similar limits on our students?

    Why School? is a great summary of why schools must be different than they were when we went through school.  Schools are no longer the place to go to receive information and then memorize it to regurgitate it on a worksheet or a test.  That is the type of school that prepared children for factory work.  We are now preparing students for jobs that do not even exist today.  Richardson quotes psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy who predicts that "the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."  I had to think deeply about that quote, but really can connect to how true it is with changing technologies. Think about how many times you have had to change something you do technology-wise because the program has updated (Microsoft word is the perfect example) or had to completely stop using a program and learn a new one (ex: change of gradebook to a new student information system).  At the rate web 2.0 tools are coming out, this learning, unlearning and relearning can happen daily!

    In the video clip above (which was from 2011 so I'm sure the numbers have changed), Richardson says that by using their phones, a student could have access to 2 billion potential, not certified teachers, but people who can teach them how to do something.  Information and knowledge is everywhere, not just in the teacher's heads to impart to students.  I just checked the web history on our home computer and found that we have learned the following in the past month from youtube/google:

    For our students to be successful, they will need to know how to find accurate information, think about and solve real world problems, be able to create and share with others and collaborate with others...not just in the classroom but at a global level.

    Here are some of the "nuggets" I highlighted in Why School?:
    • "Remaking assessment starts with this: Stop asking questions on tests that can be answered by a google search." 
    •  "Performance-based assessments, where students actually have to do something with what they know, tell us volumes more about their readiness for life than bubble sheets or contrived essays."
    • "We can raise the teaching profession by sharing what works, by taking the best of what we do and hanging it on the virtual wall. Many would argue that it is now the duty of teachers to do so."
    • "We have to stop delivering the curriculum to kids. We have to start discovering it with them." 
    • Be a master learner..."in times of great change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will be beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists." (quote from philosopher Eric Hoffer).  
    • "There's no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn't care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know."
    •  Do real work for real audiences.
    •  "Don't teach my child science; instead, teach my child how to learn science -or history or math or music."