November 14, 2012

Day 10 - #Blogathon Question Day

The amazing thing about a site visit to a school as amazing as Adlai Stevenson High School is that you often come back with more questions than when you left.  If you ever have a chance to go and participate in their site visit program, I would highly recommend it.  It is a day filled with learning opportunities that will help to sharpen your focus on exactly what it means to be a PLC and a high achieving school.  If you ever start to think you are closing in on becoming a solid PLC, take a look at their Vision & Values statement and their Collective Commitments and you will realize that there is still work to do.

So as I sat and pondered some of the questions buzzing about my head today, I started to wonder how to move forward.  I was fortunate enough to have two staff members from my building join me on this trip.  As a matter of fact, if I didn't have two staff members wanting to go, then I probably wouldn't have made the trip.  They came back energized and wanting to take action.  I loved that, but the fact was we needed to get everyone on the same page.  While they were able to see the advantages, and they wanted to implement what they saw, there were many things that we could not copy, things that would have to be adjusted to work in our building and with our resources.  So question number one was:

1.  "How do we take what we saw and learned, and share it with everyone here?"

My thought on this has been fairly clear for a while, as I have gone through this process before, but as in the past, I wanted to make sure that the idea was supported by my building leadership team first.  If they could see the implementation plan as beneficial and they could lead the learning process it was going to be more powerful and create stronger buy-in because it was not just a top down initiative, but something that staff wanted and supported.  I shared the power of the stories in DuFour's first book, "Whatever it Takes."  He shared stories of successful schools that were from all sorts of demographic backgrounds.  My district could never reproduce some of the same initiatives and programs that are produced at Stevenson High School.  But we could do what a rural, economically challenged school in North Carolina has done.  The team agreed that we would do a Leadership Team Book Read and if they thought it was worth it, we would then move on and do it with the whole staff.  

As we sat and discussed the day with our leadership team, we began to discuss changes that we knew we would like to make in our practices already.  We shared philosophies on educational best practice, instructional strategies, procedures and structures and eventually we found ourselves discussing the need to build staff relationships.  This seemed interesting to me, because I would have guessed that this building was very strong with staff relationships.  At least that is how it appeared to an outsider.  It was a concern for me, I was new and I knew that I wanted to develop strong relationships with my staff.  We needed to get to a point where they all trusted me, but what I discovered is that the building and staff had become so large, and now so busy that they had become a little fractured and isolated.  Apparently they have found themselves growing apart.  This brought me to question two:

2.  "How do we begin to build a sense of trust and commitment toward each other?"

On a different evening I will share the many lists of questions we will still need to address as a staff. Philosophical points such as, standards based grading, what is it we want all kids to know, what is our vision statement, what are our norms, how do we describe success????  The list will go on and on, but that is another night.  These questions are all a little tougher than those faced by King Arthur and Lancelot, but they need to taken on and answered.

While I am the leader of the building (not the King) and I do have some ideas on many of these questions, what is important is that we come to these answers together.  What I have also found out over the years is that sometimes what is more important than having the answers, is knowing the right questions to ask can often times lead people to their own right answers that just happen to be aligned to all that you have learned over your years of study and research.  So we will read and learn together.  We will ask questions without fear and we face some brutal facts while we also feel the exhilaration of experimentation without fear of failure.  This should keep us from beating our heads against a wall.....or even against the books we will read together.  It's going to be great!

Who says you can't learn anything from Monty Python?

November 13, 2012

Day 9 - #Blogathon Adlai Stevenson HS Site Visit

Well it is supposed to be Day 13 of posts, but I got a little caught up in moving my family into our new home over the weekend.  Soooo, I did get a little behind.  Looks like my November challenge just extended itself into December.  The good news is that the challenge has really reinvigorated me to get blogging again and I have gleaned so much from keeping up on friends posts that I am truly hoping this will improve my writing and provide me with opportunities to connect with more great thinkers and leaders.

I am also just getting back home from a site visit to Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois.  In case the school name doesn't jog a memory for you, it happens to be the home of Rick DuFour, one of the co-founders of the PLC movement.  This was actually my fourth trip to Stevenson High School for their site visit program.  This was a program there were asked to begin about 8 years ago when they became a Blue Ribbon School of Distinction and government officials thought it would be beneficial for other schools to see how they do things at Stevenson.  This time the government got something right.  For a mere $40 fee you can attend a day of direct contact learning about how Stevenson does PLC's.  WAY WORTH IT!

As I stated earlier this was my 4th trip to their school.  When I first moved to Wisconsin and worked with the incredible Administrative Team in the Dodgeville School District, I was lucky enough to join them as they were just taking on the commitment to becoming a Professional Learning Community district as well.  I had already read DuFour's book "Whatever it Takes" and thanks to a friend who is a teacher (and now a Department Director) was aware of their site visit program.  I convinced my Superintendent to have the admin team and a few staff members from each building attend the program.  We all gleaned an abundance of information that day.  From panel discussions with teachers, to hearing about the various support programs for kids, to discussions with students during our lunch.  The day was filled with learning, but possibly the most incredible piece was the discussion on the way home.  It may have been one of the few times I was thankful to have a 3 hour drive home.  Teachers and administrators could barely contain themselves and many were creating action plans on the drive.  We stopped half way back for gas and a bathroom break and found out the other van full of people were doing the exact same thing.  The energy was exhilarating.

So how did my 4th trip to Stevenson go.......the exact same way.  I was able to hear some new presentations, a little less about some of their student support programs (that they still have) and a little more about formative assessment, data use, standards based grading, etc.  But all of it was still centered around PLC's and how the concept of Teacher Collaboration, that is focused on student learning, and maintaining high standards can make huge differences in student achievement.  My teachers were buzzing before 9:00am.  We had some excellent conversations throughout the day. They were able to recognize practices that were only half efforts at true collaborative and professional learning.  And yes, we spent 3 hours in my suburban making plans all the way home (The trip actually took 3.5 hours but the last half hour everyone began answering e-mails and text messages).  I was so excited to hear that they thought tackling the learning of what PLC's are would be handled best by doing a staff book read.  I let them know my thoughts on what two books I already had in mind and how we would start work the very next day during our Building Leadership team.  I think they were also happy to realize that we made PLC development part of our strategic plan for the next three years, so they can see there is a long term commitment to that goal.  Tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and get ready to start the dirty work of becoming a PLC.

Now it's time for us to do "the work" of becoming a PLC.  We will have to change some practices.  We will have to live up to commitments we make, we will have to get focused on what really matters and cut loose some practices that really just get in our way.  We will have to embrace cognitive dissidence and build a relationship of trust within the building so that we can take some risks and find ways to keep raising the bar for our learning as well as student learning.  It's going to be GREAT!!!

November 8, 2012

Day 8 - #Blogathon - No Office Day

Today was one of my "Best Days" as a principal.  No, not "THE" Best Day, but one of them and I am glad that I have had much more than one.  See, today I took a "No Office Day."  This was an idea that I gleaned from a good friend on Twitter.  I actually heard about it first from Bill Burkheard ( @NormandinBill ) via his post on Twitter back in September.  He referenced a blog post of his first week as the principal of his new school.  Bill is a leader I respected even though I had been a building leader prior to his first assignment.  Why?  Because he completely understood what is needed in a leader.  Like Bill I was a firm believer in leadership being about "People not Programs."  This is a little phrase stolen from Todd Whitaker, but I have never known a truer statement.  

So as I sat in my office last week, dealing with the 3rd student sent to the office, finishing up a data analysis chart, adjusting schedules for the Middle School students new electives, signing purchase orders, time cards, responding to e-mails, approving conference requests, and getting back to parents that left messages, I finally remembered why I went into teaching in the first place......I loved working with kids.  Why did I go into administration?  Because I loved working with teachers, and I knew I wanted to improve education so kids would love learning even more.  I decided right then and there to take the advice of Dwight Carter and Lyn Hilt and decided to get out of my office and into the building.  

Sure, I have been out in the classrooms this year, but I felt like my visits have been 2-3 minutes at the most and that there were squeezed in where I could find time.  So I wanted to commit to a day that I could get into almost all of the classrooms, could watch a little longer chunk of a lesson, take some photos of the kids in action and hopefully talk with them without interrupting teaching.  It was AWESOME!!! I did not make it into all of the classrooms, but I did get into most of them.  Why not all?  Well, to be honest I was having fun watching the lessons and interacting with the kids.  I took some great photos of the many lessons I witnessed and shared many of them on Twitter today.  I had some great talks with the kids, was able to hear some great learning and thinking with our Middle School kids and received tons of hugs from my K-2 students (yeah I still love those).  I will find a way to get out tomorrow and see the other classrooms I missed today and some of the specials classes I didn't get into.  Tomorrow is "Nerd Day" for the Middle School kids, so I told them I would dress like I do every day to play the part, and then I get to go and supervise the Middle School Dance.  Should be a day that ends with quite a few smiles and laughs I think.  

While I know there has been many shifts in education, some great, some scary, there is one thing that remains the same.  Learning has always been about engagement, and engagement becomes so much easier when there is a positive relationship within the parties involved.  That is what I saw going on today.  Teachers committed to positive relationships with their students.  I hope those same teachers understand, that is why I came around today as well.  I want to ensure that I have those same positive relationships with my staff.  How can they grow and learn from me, if they do not know me....if they don't trust me.....and if they don't see me.  It really was a great day, and I will have to find a way to make it happen more often.  

November 7, 2012

Day 7 - Blogathon Challenge - The End of Political Assassination Ads....for now.

While I can't hide that I am a little pleased with the outcome of our recent elections, I still have plenty of concerns for our country and our governments position on how to improve it public education system. But, I will save that rant for another day.  Tonight my concerns are with the political ads that both sides subjected its citizens to over the past year.  Sometimes I think that those bottom dwelling mental midgets forget that children witness their TV ads as well.  Its one thing for a person my age that has figured out that politicians will stoop to anything, to have to bear witness to the name calling, and country bashing, but my children shouldn't have to listen to grown men tear each other down and bash the very    country I try to teach them to love.  I spend hours at school each day trying to teach children to be kind to to each other, to not bully each other, to try to make this world a better place by trying to see another person's point of view.  I use the mantra daily that, "I don't need you to be friends with each other, but I do need you to be friendly."  So when these same kids see the grown-up (debatable) leaders of the most democratic country in the world bickering and bashing each other......well, I start to lose a little hope.

The positive thing on the end of the election season is, we are done being subjected to the bickering.  Well, for the most part.  If you are one of those sad people that feel the need to listen to MSNBC, FOX News, or  are really needing to blame others for all that is wrong, so you listen to Rush Limbaugh, then you can go on listening to the political garbage and finger pointing each and every day.
Then to top things off last night, one of the reporters on NBC shared that there was a total of $6 Billion dollars spent on the political campaigns this year.  $6 BILLION!!!  Do you realize what we could have spent that money on?  Why do we do this?  Aren't we better off raising taxes minutely on sales tax or income tax, and lets face it $6 Billion would hardly be a drop in the bucket of the US budget.  Better yet, if we really reformed election campaigning we could say, you get this much for a budget, you get this time frame for advertising, the networks each get one debate to sponsor for no charge since we allow them to use the airways (Ok, they mostly use cable & satellite now) but supposedly the government owns the airways and they run the FCC that controls them.  So, I say we make them provide debate time for elections.  I also say that no one (including those newly recognized humans called corporations and SuperPacs) can donate money to political campaigns.  All of the funds come from tax payers.  This way, politicians don't need to feel beholden to their benefactors with large pockets.  They also don't need to try to appeal to the eccentrics in their own party and they can start to focus on the center and start working together to compromise and fix some of our problems.

Alright, I will quickly lay out my ideas for ending the TV rants.  The rants that go on in the car, and at the dinner table, well I can't stop those.  My plan for fixing politics, and therefore almost everything else in the US, would be to 1. publicly fund all elections and campaigns with tax dollars, 2. all political offices come with term limits, and 3. Reverse Citizens United.  

I know I must be on to something as even Chuck Woolery agrees that term limits would be a good thing:

Well, this will be my last political rant on here.  Although I guess I should put a qualifier on that.  If in 2 to 4 years things get even crazier than this last 2 years, then maybe I will be on here again saying how I am still dumbfounded as to how things have not changed, but as long as we are forced to go along with this highest bidder, 2 party system we have now, I am not sure we have much chance of changing things.  Its not in a politicians interest to change the system, and we, the voting public, are too easily distracted to stay focused on the changes we need to make for long term change.

By the way, tomorrow I am holding my first "No Office Day" and I am looking forward to it like you wouldn't believe.  I can feel a blog post coming on.

November 6, 2012

Day 6 - #Blogathon: Why I am anti-BYOD

Tonight I went back through some of the Tweets I have recently favorited and checked out a tweet by George Couros ( @gcouros ) that referred to a post by Andrew Campbell.  His post was about "The 5 Most Overhyped Trends in Education."  One of the trends he mentions is BYOD.  Within this post he provides a link to a more focused post on BYOD, so I went on to read that one as well along with a post by Gary Stager on why he believes BYOD to be the worst idea of the century.  All of this reading led me to reconfirm my thoughts on this concept as well.   

So I was struggling to focus in on a topic for tonight's post.  When you need a little motivation where can you go for a post.  Well, there are lots of options really.  Maybe an article you recently read, or possibly a You Tube video.  I have gotten inspiration from experiences at school, home and on occasion from quality TV like Seinfeld, The Walking Dead or my favorite The Big Bang Theory.  But, if you are looking for a real PLN experience that is directly focused on the current trends in education, there is nothing like taking inspiration from another educators blog post.

I don't want you to misunderstand me.  For a while,  I was a supporter of this program.  I was so eager for technology to become a larger part of the education equation that I was willing to settle for this concept.  I am not sure I considered it settling at first, but as I pondered it more and read reflections from members of my PLN, my understanding began to deepen and the drawbacks became clearer.

If we can just make a small analogy leap, let's consider how quickly we would reject the idea of student athlete's having to pay for their own athletic uniforms?  Too much of a reach?  How about if we said, the students that can afford football cleats can bring their own cleats in, and those that don't have cleats can either wear their regular shoes, or wait until the students that brought in their own cleats, were done with a drill, then they could offer to share their cleats with the other students.  Still to simplistic of an analogy?  How about if we asked the students that had their own Football helmets, high quality Riddell 360 helmets that are superior in concussion protection, but for the students that didn't have their own helmet, well they could use the slightly more used Riddell suspension helmets from 1965.  Seem like a good plan now?  While I don't think it is necessary that all students use the exact same device, or that students learn how to use just one type of device, the simple truth is there is a difference of what can be done with the various types of tools available.  The problem for school districts is that if there are multiple types of devices being used, how do we support them?  How do we support the students without their own devices?  How do teachers plan for the different devices?  How do we support the different types of charging needs?  If you are looking for more detail on all the reasons this concept isn't such a great idea, check out the blog posts above.  They do an excellent job of explaining all of the inequities involved, and lets face it public education is supposed to be there to be an equalizer.....or am I thinking of Finland?

November 5, 2012

Day 5 - Blogathon: Sick Day

Ok, I am psyching myself up for a serious's not going to happen today, but I have a couple of thoughts in mind for tomorrow.  Today is going to be a bit of a lame post.  I stayed home sick today.  Not sure what I may have picked up from my kids, but it kicked in last evening as I was finishing my last blog post.  I was hoping that this morning would start with a fresh feeling.  The morning shower didn't help.  Since my son decided to open enroll to my new school building it meant that I needed to give him the 30 minute ride to school (that wasn't fun) and then turn around and head back to bed.  

I am not sure where or when I began to disillusion myself, but when I forgot to set my iPhone to "Do Not Disturb" and the e-mail bells kept going off, I foolishly decided to check my e-mail.  Now, I have been a principal for a while now, and I know that there are some e-mails that can just wait, but I am in a new district and want to be seen as responsive.  So, I checked my first e-mail and while it was not an emergency, I decided I could answer it with minimal time or I did.  Then the next one, and as I was typing my reply, another rolled in that was of a little more urgency.  Next thing I knew I spent 45 minutes checking e-mails.  As I started questioning my actions a new thought jumped into my head.  In the midst of packing and moving our family into a new town this past weekend, I totally forgot to send out my weekly update to the staff.  Most of it was all ready to go, but I wanted to check a few dates, and add a couple of housekeeping notes that came in late on Friday.  So, I went and grabbed my laptop and quickly finished up this project and sent it out to my staff.

So after doing that, I laid back on my bed and thought to myself, no wonder I rarely take a sick day unless it is to stay home look over one of my kids that are sick.  It's the same reason I have mixed feelings about leaving the building for my own professional development.  When you are a principal (and it is pretty much the same for teachers) being out of the building means that everything that keeps you busy during the school day, well it still takes place, and it will all be there waiting for you when you get back.  Except.....when you go back, there's a whole new days worth of stuff that is going to jump into your lap as well.  Why do I say, "jump into your lap?"  Well, it is a lot like something jumping into your lap.  Sometimes it is like your own children, its something that is a fun surprise, something comfortable, a familiar circumstance that isn't really a problem and sometimes even a joy.

However, sometimes it is that high strung nephew that jumps a little to high onto your lap when you weren't ready, and it takes you a few minutes to get your breath back all the while you are thinking, "Who brought this kid over to my house?"

Well, I am feeling recovered enough that I will be back at it tomorrow.  Granted, I do wish more school boards would look into the research that says kids would benefit from school hours being more like 9am - 4pm.  But that won't change by tomorrow morning anyway, so I will battle through another day and prepare my lap for whatever may come my way.  I will shoot for a more serious side tomorrow.

November 4, 2012

Day 4 - #Blogathon My next post?

Today was a rough to day to step up to the #Blogathon Challenge.  Might not be a good sign that on November 4th (the 4th day of the 30 day challenge) I am already struggling with keeping up with my posts.  To be honest, these next 2 weeks will be rough as my family is moving into a new house about an hour away.   One of the conflicts I may face is being a night or two without internet access, but OI could always stay a little longer in my office and crank out a post on those days.  However, by 4:30pm my creative juices tend to wain until I get home, get some food in me again, and hopefully hear some of my kids stories from their day, before my wife and I begin sharing Ed Leadership stories from our day.

I read a few great posts today and I have to say they inspired some thoughts for posts for the next couple of days.  One of my Tweeps, Phil Griffins ( @philgriffins ), had a great post that was both personal and professional.  His post truly hit home as I am also taking on a new building this year and replacing a well liked principal that had been with her staff for a number of years and apparently did things pretty differently from me.  I will be sharing some of my same frustrations and excitement about that same thing.

Then I checked in on another good friends post that again made me think. David Culberhouse is an excellent blogger and writes some of the best stuff I have seen on the web.  I recently checked David's follower numbers on Twitter and I was somewhat shocked to see that they were lower than I thought.  David is apparently one of the best kept secrets on the internet and Twitter for sure.  So if you are reading this post and don't follow @DCulberhouse on Twitter.....well, you should.  David shared a post that talked about the need for a Response to Relationships in our education system right now.  We have RTI for academics, we have RTI for Behaviors (PBIS) but what about one of the most important things that happen in schools every day.....Relationships?  What do we do to support this, one of the most important daily aspects of school that probably has one of the highest impacts on learning?  Thanks for sharing David.  This also gave me great thinking opportunities and I will be posting on this topic soon.  

There are so many things to consider blogging about, ti actually gets to be tough to try to narrow them down.  I am thinking up a post on time.  It seems to always be a sore subject in school.  You know, never enough of it.  I hate to go with a strictly complaining style post.  It goes against my try to be positive vibe.  Also thinking about posting about my kids, and all that I put them through with constantly talking school, making them pack up their lives and have to move, making new friends, only to leave them after a few years, and then they talk to me about wanting to be a teacher some day.  Nah, that post could go on for too long. I definitely have some ideas to consider.  I hope you weren't  tuning in today to get some deep thoughts or some new research to take and share with staff.  Today was a post for me to help plan out a direction for the next few days.  Oh yeah, and I am not sure if you heard about it or not, but there is a big election going on and if you have missed watching TV (or You Tube videos) you may not have noticed a few commercials about the politicians lately. I may have to share a rant night on that subject soon too.  Besides, if you know me at all, sometimes I am just here to entertain.  Enjoy this video clip before checking in tomorrow.

Day 3- Blogathon Challenge - Be a "Coach"

I have been involved on some excellent chats on Twitter and one of them has been the #educoach chats on Wednesday evenings. While I like to fancy myself a instructional "coach", I am not.  I recently left a district that was finally creating a Reading and Math coach position in the district.  I was so excited when they decided to move in this direction, many of the building principals were.  The chance to have someone that is not an administrator (the person who does your evaluation) come in and observe teaching, for the sole purpose of working with the teacher to make instructional strategy improvements, was wonderful.  No more judgments about whether this was going to be on an evaluation, or the teacher immediately going into self-defense mode, or my favorite, the distrustful comment of "you have never been a classroom teacher, what would you know about teaching reading or math!"     It didn't usually get that heated, but it has come up and sometimes you can just read it in their eyes.  Of course after many reading and instructional practice conversations, most of my staff has pretty good faith that I do know what the heck I am talking about, but I am still seen as an administrator.  It is for this reason that I have such high hopes for the instructional coach movement.  It's not new, but in many districts it has been cut and seen as a luxury that can not be afforded.  There has also been a movement to have teachers coach themselves.  My concern with that approach is that this creates a time problem for staff again.  Not that it can't be done this way, but rather viewed as just another thing added to the plate of a teacher.

But, I also have a concern as to why can't we find a way for the principal 
to be viewed as a "coach."  It took me some time in my last district to build up this rapport with staff.  We did quite a few book reads together and many informal philosophical discussions about what my beliefs were about teaching, evaluation, where education was headed, and our need to become a focused and cohesive Professional Learning Community.  I let them know that when we could sit down and have serious critique of our practices, strategies and effectiveness, that none of it needed to be personal.  They had a low trust environment when I first entered their building and they felt like their views, and expertise were ignored prior to my arrival.  Through time, conversation, learning and just experiencing my mode of operation, they came to accept me as a leader they could trust.  A couple of them even commented that "you seem more like a coach than my boss."  That gave me shivers....not the word coach, the word boss.  While I realize I am "the boss" to many people, in that I am the person in the authoritative role, or the person they must report to, I hate to see myself viewed in that manner.  At that point, I knew that I wanted to be viewed as, the "Coach."  A person that is respected, but listened to as well as someone you can go to with questions.  Someone who listens, sees, and guides you on a path.

A video clip I came across on You Tube recently made me again think about the importance of that role and how more administrators should try to assume that identity with their staff.  I have met a great many that due, through my connections on Twitter.  While not all of them participate on the #educoach chats on Wednesday nights, many of the people I follow share their practices and strategies and you can just tell that they "get it" and take the coaching approach with their staff.  Yet, I am still aware of so many that do not utilize this approach and would benefit from it greatly.  They would build more trust with staff and less fear, and there is a lot of fear in education right now.  Many teachers feel like things are being done "to them" instead of for them or with them.  Be the inspiration they need to cross the finish line.

November 2, 2012

Day 2 - Meeting "For Real"

There's something about coming up with a blog post on a Friday evening that......well it gets tough to decide what to focus on.  The list of things to pontificate on after a week of school gets tough to narrow down.  So I will make it easy on myself and share my thoughts on one of the many times that words have dribbled out of my mouth (or in this case off my fingertips) that made me later say, "Ooops....that's not quite what I meant."

Recently I made a twitter comment to a few of the members of my PLN that I couldn't wait to meet them "for real."  Then I had one of my Tweeps send me a tweet back that said, "Thanks Tom. Look forward to meeting you "for real" at #SLATE2012 ."  And I started to wonder, "did I offend any of my friends by making the statement that somehow our online relationship wasn't real?" 


I am hoping not.  These new friends I have made are some of the most important friends of my life. No, we didn't grow up together.  We don't share memories from the playgrounds we ruled as 6 and 7 year old kids.  We didn't go through the painful relationship phase as mixed up hormonal middle schoolers. But some of the friends I have made via Twitter may be responsible for more professional and personal growth than most of my childhood friends could ever claim.  While the years of experiences definitely vary, the bond that I have created with the sharing of learning, experience and common concern, has made a deep impact on me and I and I value them more than many people would even understand.  

So, as I sit here on the couch on a Friday night, watching my twitter feed roll by, taping up boxes for my families move into a new home, and keeping half an ear on one of my favorite movie, "The Book of Eli" while the other ear and a half  stays free for my wife and kids, I think, did your lack of wisely chosen words once again create a rift?  I'm hoping not.  I'm hoping that the close friends of my PLN, are like me.....excited to meet face to face, a new kind of close friend. A friendship that was fostered by the desire to learn from each other. While the majority of our conversations are limited to 140 characters, they are meaningful and important conversations, they are jokes, they are personal, they are filled with hope, excitement, and wishes. And still I look forward to meeting them all face to face, so we can share extended conversations, share even more jokes, and put those incredible minds together in a live, unlimited organic conversation that may go in unknown, unplanned directions.....and then again, maybe it will just be filled with wisecracks, jokes and pokes as we get the chance to relax with friends and unwind from a job that is truly 24/7/365 and under more public scrutiny than politicians.  Yeah, while I have made some really excellent friends, I can't wait to meet them "for real." 

November 1, 2012

Day 1 - Blogathon Challenge: It will all come rushing back.

I was thrown a little this morning as one of the Ed Leaders that I truly respect sent out a tweet that stated "To #follow or #unfollow?  Is that the question?"  Since he listed myself and a few other well respected (well at least by me they are) Ed Leaders I follow on Twitter as well as their blogs, at first I was like, "Whoa, did I say or tweet something on twitter to offend him?"  Being as thick as I usually am, sometimes I miss these things.  He quickly tweeted me back and let me know that he was asking us our thoughts on Tony Baldasaro and Joe Bower's recent posts regarding unfollowing large amounts of their followers.

I took the time tonight to read both posts (it was a crazy day at school so I didn't have time to sneak in any professional reading today).  It was some interesting reading and I have to say, I do understand where they were coming from.....but I also have to say, I disagree with their method.  While I know I do not follow every tweet of all of the people I follow (I hope that doesn't offend them) I also know that I sure don't expect them to follow every tweet of mine.  Unlike Tony and Joe, I have not collected 5,000 or more followers.  Still, if I had that many, I am also not sure I would follow them all.  I do check to see what my followers tweet, check out their profiles to see if they are remotely in the area of education or leadership, and if not, I choose not to follow.  Heck, I have even blocked quite a few, mostly because I could tell they were there to sell me something that I really wasn't interested in or held such deeply different views from me.....well, I just knew that relationship wouldn't blossom or that I really wouldn't glean much from their tweets.

So while my twitter feed isn't maddeningly whizzing by at a clip that human eyes can't keep up with, it can go pretty fast, especially when there is a great chat going.  I should also note that I almost always use Tweetdeck for my tweeting.  It allows me to follow specific hashtag chats in one column, watch for specific tweets that mention me in another, and check tweets I have favorited and want check on at a later time, all while the timeline keeps a pretty constant flow rolling in.  As a matter of fact, when I am left to using twitter on my iPhone or iPad, I go a little crazy trying to keep up, not to mention I type much slower on the iPhone or iPad (does that mean I am becoming a serious TWEEP?).  So now that I have found a tool that let's me manage my followers and the people that I follow in a way that doesn't make me feel like I need glasses or at least some kind of super stimulant to keep up with the tweets, how do I manage to respectfully participate with all of the connections I have made via Twitter?    

Well, to be honest sometimes, I am not the most responsible (or maybe responsive) Tweep.  I try to focus first on the folks that have spoke to me directly.  If I have tweets in my mentions or interactions columns, I try to respond to them first.  But, if I cross a tweet in my timeline that speaks to things I have been thinking about or just really makes me reflective....well then I join in.  I always wonder to myself if I am being rude.  I saw a tweet come through the other day by Beth Still (a Social Studies teacher and a very connected educator) who has around 8,000 followers but only 500 people she follows.  The tweet was directed to someone else but something in it struck a note so I commented back.  I also made an apology for jumping in on someone else's tweet, to which she replied, "Why sorry for jumping in? I want people to talk about this."

I guess what I am getting at is that while I am sure that my list of people I follow is not nearly as long as Tony's or Joe's, I can't imagine unfollowing them all, and then working my way back up.  I am sure there are a few folks I follow that I just don't connect with that frequently now.  Tony is one of them.  He was one of my first follows.  He is well respected and was often listed as one of the highly recommended #FridayFollows.  I also followed his blog posts closely when I first began using Twitter.  It's not that Tony and I don't connect on the same level anymore, I just think at times our East Coast/Midwest time zone disparities keep us from being online at the same time.  Every now and then he sends out some great tweets (usually connected to his awesome blog posts) that I try to favorite and check out when I can.  He is very passionate about the introverted learner and that would be a weak area for me.  As soon as I remotely know someone, I can talk their ear off.  Tony would probably find a quieter spot in an Edcamp conference if I was around.  Still, I know I have tons to learn from him, so I will continue to follow him via Twitter and his blog.  Joe is also excellent.  I caught Joe Bower on twitter via someone else retweeting one of his blog posts.  I checked it out and I knew right away that Joe and I saw eye to eye on quite a few things.  Not everything, but a lot.  So I quickly followed him and favorited his blog.  I have repeated this process over and over.

I follow over 1,500 people now.  Can that keep the timeline moving along fast at times?   Yep!  But I can't imagine that someone I thought worth following in the first place, might not share an idea or new piece of knowledge that I would miss desperately if I didn't keep in some sort of contact.  This is the strength of my PLN.  Not that I have 150 relationships that are deeply involved and whose lives touch mine in deep meaningful ways.  I have phones and cars for things like that, and to be honest my siblings and parents say I don't use those resources enough either.  No, I have 1,500 plus people that I can go to with questions or that will supply me with enough professional development power to make me a more effective leader and educator in the less than 2 years I have been using Twitter.  Some that I have connected with in Powerful ways that I do care deeply about, and many more that I have learned from, shared with and that are just important people that I am glad I have rubbed virtual elbows with via social media.  I wouldn't unfollow them for any reason, especially something like my belief that my lack of direct conversation has made me think our connection as a PLN has weakened.  I know the right topic, comment, post, tweet or just the right joke will cross my view someday and that we will open that connection again, like an old high school friend that you bump into years later, and it all comes rushing back.  

October 30, 2012

30 Day Blogathon Challenge

So I would encourage any of you checking this post out to give the challenge a shot as well.  I have to agree with Matt that the only way for me to improve my writing and blogging is by writing and blogging.  Granted, I do think I have learned some things from the blogs I have been reading and I would recommend that everyone find a few bloggers to follow.  

So my good friend Matt Renwick (aka @Howeprincipal ) shared with me on Twitter last night that he was putting out a challenge to get educators to do 30 blog posts over 30 days starting November 1st.  Matt did an excellent job of planning things out.  He already has his post subjects planned out for all 30 days. Matt is an excellent blogger.  I have been following his blog for a while now and I have learned a great deal from him.  I am very glad I connected with him on Twitter.                  

One of my favorites is David Culberhouse!  He has an excellent blog that focuses on leadership but he is also a big fan of the PLC movement.  David ( aka @DCulberhouse ) has a way of always leaving me inspired.  He doesn't get too caught up in the political piece although I haven't met a more staunch advocate for improving schools.  You can find his blog here and you will enjoy following him.  David is also a great person to follow on twitter as he also quick to share advice, give a pat on the back and has tons of connections.  He actually offered me some advice about blogging last evening within 5 minutes of me accepting Matt's challenge.

As I sat through an intensive training today on Wisconsin's new Educator Effectiveness model for teacher evaluation, I was thinking I had plenty to reflect on.  This new model, while fantastic and a very good model to use, is going to be time intensive....for the teacher and the evaluator. I think this training is going to supply plenty of fodder for blog posts.  Expect your first "earful" tomorrow evening.                                                         

September 5, 2012

Building a PLC.......Again.

This has been such an exciting summer for me.  It started with me beginning my superintendent certification classes, a position that I have determined lies ahead for me, albeit maybe not in the near future.  Then, as I pondered that future I decided it would be good for me to enhance my experiences in education by taking on a larger building and gaining additional experience with Middle School (I haven't tackled the Middle School animal since I taught 6th & 7th grade Health Ed 15 years ago).  I stepped into my new role as the principal of Iowa-Grant Elementary/Middle School (IGEMS) on July 2nd and have been going at break-neck speed to keep up with the learning ever since.

A new position and graduate coursework has been a daunting task, I have to admit, but it has also been a rush of knowledge, experience and networking that I have also greatly enjoyed.  There is just something about new learning that can be such a "rush!"  I know, you get your adrenaline fix from reading and learning? Yeah, its weird, but I really do.  I know most people pick up John Grisham, Stephen King or Nora Roberts for that, but I am just giddy over Kelley Gallagher, Mike Schmoker and Rick DuFour.  Save your pity, I enjoy it and that is what counts.

So when I learned that my new staff did not have much background on PLC's and how they work, I was a little amazed.  I had done all that homework 4 years ago. I had been working on Professional Learning Communities, and building stronger, more effective teaming skills for 4 years and was just preparing myself to move into the "Connected Educator" phase of professional development.  I had learned all of these new, exciting and engaging ways to utilize technology to help expedite, energize and make professional development more efficient.

At first, I was a little let down, but then I started to think about it a little more.  Yes, I was committed to making my building a PLC.  I still believe that the foundation of a quality school, lies in the fact that it embraces Professional Learning Community beliefs.  I know, because I witnessed, how big of a difference that philosophy can make in a school's culture.  I witnessed the student learning gains that were made due to the changed attitudes, practices and by the simple fact that learning now became a goal for teachers as well as for our students.  I saw the difference it made when a team was not afraid to take on criticism of itself and how we operated.  When we could share an idea, and beat it up, to make sure that it was a valid idea, that could take critique and still have data and research along with teacher support, then we were ready to not only say that we were a PLC, but that we were now acting like a PLC.

So I have come full circle.  I am back at the beginning with a new staff, a new building, new students, and a new set of reasons why we need to turn ourselves into a high functioning Professional Learning Community.  There is other good news.  My staff is very positive, and they have a strong sense of community already.  I am sure there are some trust issues that we will have to conquer.  Many teachers in the state of Wisconsin are feeling that now, after having union bargaining rights stripped away last year.  Veteran staff do not have the protections they had before, and I am the new administrator in town.  I am here to "clean house?"  Was he brought in to "change" everything we had been building up to this point?  These are valid questions in some of their heads right now, as we are only getting to know each other and what each of our beliefs are.  I actually look forward to those discussions and debates.  They are what made my last staff and school so strong, and what helped to make our students so successful.  Heck, we even debated how successful our students were while being ranked one of the highest performing schools in our region.

To start us off on the right foot, I think we will move past my original staff read, "Whatever it Takes," by DuFour, DuFour, Eaker and Karhanek.  The DuFour team has come out with a newer and, I believe, better version in the book, "Raising the Bar, and Closing the Gap."  This will be a great introduction to PLC's.  I think you still need to follow that book with "Learning by Doing," which is a great book with practical blackline masters in it that teachers can begin to implement in team meetings.  The next book I will introduce to my staff will be "Annual Growth for All Students, and Accelerated Growth for Those That Are Behind."  This book provided an excellent road map for improving the learning and assessment performance of students.  The Kenniwick School District in Washington state, used data analysis and focused intervention on the one main factor that can make the biggest difference in student learning......Time.  An excellent read, with a proven plan and the data to prove it.  Finally, I think one of the most important books for any school that utilizes teams, was written by Patrick Lencionni.  The Five Dysfunction of a Team, was one of the best books I have ever read, and my staff agreed that it made a huge difference in our effectiveness.  It was so good that I also recommended it to my Administrative Team, and we took a week to go through the entire training.

This is the culture I look forward to building once again.  When teachers embrace the idea that, "if teacher learning improves, then student learning will improve as well," then great things can be accomplished.  I am not looking to be the IGEMS Principal, I am looking forward to being the Lead Learner of an incredible school, that is focused on Continuous Improvement and Continuous Learning.  And who says we can't learn a little about Twitter, Blogging and Flipped Classrooms/Staff Meetings on the journey.

September 2, 2012

How "Connectedness" makes us better......

I started off blogging a few years ago.  At first, it was a way for me to reflect on what I was doing, and to put down on digital paper, what was going through my head at night and keeping me awake for hours.  Yes, sometimes passion and excitement leads to a lack of sleep.  Anyway, my blogging was meant for me, and I wasn't confident enough to share.  As I continued blogging and began to follow other educator's blogs, I started to develop a confidence in my writing and reflection, enough so that I decided I could start to share my thoughts with the public.  Granted, I still don't have many followers, but I've had many people view my blog and have given me mostly positive feedback.  I have even had a few say they have gleaned some good ideas.  That has been the most important connection for me.  While I know I have learned a great deal from my PLN, what may be more important is how they have boosted my confidence and affirmed that most of my ideas and beliefs are worth sharing. A video I found on George Couros's blog summed the idea up well. 

That same connecting with others, which has made me more confident and successful in my role as an instructional leader, can benefit teachers and other administrators as well.  As a matter of fact the term instructional leader is now an outdated term for me.  I recently read a blog post from a member of my PLN, and he used the term "Lead Learner" for his role as the principal of an elementary school.  Joe Mazza has been a cyber mentor for me for a while now, but when I made the connection to that term, it really struck a chord with me.  I find myself in a constant state of learning.  The systemic model of continuous improvement has been personalized thanks to the collaboration now possible with social media networking.  Of course if you are reading this blog, there's a pretty strong chance you are already a "Connected Educator" and are well aware of how it has benefited you as an educator.  The conundrum comes in the goal of expanding the idea of connectedness to other teachers that haven't braved the social media networks available to them yet. How do we break through that fear they have?  How do we help them find the time that connected educators appear to have in abundance?

None of these answers are easy, and maybe more importantly to recognize is that the answer may be unique to each person and situation.  I think the key is that you use patience, persistence, and share the positives that can come from the connections you make.  Most of the great ideas I have shared we never created by my sole insight.  They have come from the collective conscious and experience of various people I have met, physically or digitally over the years.  Curt Rees is a fellow Wisconsin principal that I have followed for some time now, and I have gained many insights from over time.  I have enjoyed reading his blog and found a video he shared that also summed up the idea of learning from the collective conscious of many.  

Twitter for Teachers????

I have been encouraging my staff for almost a year now to start checking out Twitter.  As a matter of fact, I have am now introducing my new staff to the benefits of Twitter, and how it can be used to connect with educators from all around the world.  What's the importance of "connecting" with other educators?  We have all been hearing about the benefits of collaborating with our peers within our own buildings for a while now.  The Professional Learning Communities movement has made it clear how effective it is to utilize collaboration to improve professional practice and expand the knowledge base of a single teacher simply by creating interdependent teams within a school building.  However, if connecting with the peers within a single building can help to improve instruction, doesn't it make sense that connecting with educators from far outside that confined space might lead to even greater learning?  I know first hand, that this is what Twitter has done for me.  I have taken great ideas from educational experts and practitioners all over the country (and yes even from around the world).  While they say they have learned much from me as well, I still feel as though I am the one walking away with greater insights and fantastic new I guess it could work both ways.

This is the idea behind the "Connected Educator" movement.  Expand your knowledge, grow your expertise, and meet some of the greatest thinkers and artists in the field of education.  We can all glean great ideas from each other, all you need to do is find a way to connect with them.  Then begin sharing lessons, ideas, passions, infographics, websites, apps, concerns and questions on how to improve the most important job ever.  Join me in embracing the digital age and becoming a "Connected Educator" this year.  Try it for just 30 days, but make sure to embrace it and give it an honest effort.  If you are fearful, grab a colleagues hand and bring them along on the journey and see what you can learn together.

August 31, 2012

Why become a "Connected Educator?"

I can easily say I did not just wake up one day with the idea that today is the day I become "Connected!"  It was a slow transformation.  I have used technology to make life a little easier for quite a while now.....Okay, I really like the big boy toys too.  Computers, cell phones, remote this, remote that,  you know all the stuff that your spouse looks at with that, "Is this really necessary?" look. So at one point, I joined Twitter.  At first, I was like most newbies to Twitter a few years ago, I followed Ashton Kutcher, Charlie Sheen and Alyssa Milano.  After a few weeks I thought to myself, why am I following people I could care less about (sorry Alyssa, I do care about you). So, in fashion with most people, I dropped the Twitter thing, and didn't really ponder it until about 8 months ago.  I had recently purchased an iPad and happened to be attending a workshop:" iPads for Administrators."  Twitter was only mentioned for about 3 minutes, but I decided to give it a try again and downloaded the app.  Life hasn't been the same since.

While I was fairly slow at building my PLN, I slowly figured out who to connect with and who to avoid (unless I wanted all of that nonsense about who was at what celeb party & then threw up on the "red Carpet").  Somewhere along the line I connected with Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) and Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1).  All of a sudden, a world of digital learning ideas and connections to like-minded thinkers began to scroll down my screen.  I quickly added Eric Sheninger, Alec & George Couros as well as Larry Ferlazzo.  I couldn't believe all of the great ideas and strategies I began to absorb. Videos, blogs and photos flowed into my digital storage device.  My head had filled up in no time (that was no surprise to my wife) and I now needed technology to be able to store all of the knowledge, experiences and ideas that were streaming into me from the twitterverse.   David Culberhouse and Pernille Ripp were great bloggers that shared practical classroom strategies or wonderful visions of how to improve my leadership style.  Then I connected with a few East Coast administrators that truly opened my mind again.

I had read about following hashtags ( # ) and how they could help to organize a topic and make it easier to follow specific conversations.  I found my way to a conversation called #ptchat one evening and I found the chat to be very interesting and along the lines of something I had been trying to push for a while now.  The importance of the parent/school connection, and ideas for improving that relationship.  I found an inspiring young administrator by the name of Joe Mazza.  Joe had been working on his Doctoral degree with a dissertation topic of how social media can help foster the home/school connection.  Through Joe, I connected with Steve Constantino (@SMConstantino), a superintendent from Virginia, as well as Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco), an incredible assistant superintendent from New Jersey.  That connection was fortunate as Scott lead me to the #Satchat conversation.  This made my usual Saturday morning routine change from watching a bass fishing show before my wife and kids woke up, to another learning opportunity with excellent administrators from around the country.  I was connecting with Brad Currie (@bcurrie5), Bill Burkhead (@NormandinBill), Jessica Johnson (@principalJ) and Curt Rees (@WISCPrincipal) and many others and accessing ideas I hadn't considered or at the very least getting viewpoints that confirmed my ideas.  I am not trying to name drop, just letting you know some of the most influential thinkers and idea generators in education today.  These people are my Personal Learning Network.  Who's in yours?  How far does it stretch?  

If you haven't picked up on a theme at this point, I am not sure you can.  The fact that I hadn't left my couch, bed, or dining room table, and yet was able to connect with some of the best administrators, teachers, authors, and researchers in the field of education, was the greatest growth experience I have gained in all my years of training.  I have read a great deal over my years as an educator, and it is still a fantastic way to learn, but the access and speed at which I was now able to access information, and then to sit and discuss it with fellow practitioners, has boosted my knowledge base and confidence like no learning experience has before. Have I committed myself only to Twitter?  At first, yes.  But over time, I have discovered online magazines like!, Pinterest, and other sites that help connect educators to each other and help pass along information focused on education.

So what would I advise any teacher that is wondering what all of this "Connected Educator" stuff is about?  I would say, give it a try.  Be a lurker, the person who just sits back and watches the twitter chats scroll down the screen, occasionally clicking on a link or a cool looking infographic.  Then, as you develop some confidence, try joining in a conversation with someone you agree with, or just tell them you like their post.  Pretty soon, you will find yourself connecting with other educators, sharing ideas and finding that they thing you have some great ideas as well.  The dilemma we have today is that we now have access to information and ideas from all over the world, but so many people fear the unknown, that they have trouble venturing out into it.  Sometimes it is hard to see the box that you have been living in, when you have never really tried to look out of it.  Step out.......take a look, and give a tweet.  You  may like it!

May 30, 2012

A look back on "Trust." They key to change......

It has been almost 2 weeks now since I have accepted my new role as the Principal for the Iowa Grant School District's Elementary/Middle School.  It is a challenge I look forward to with great anticipation.  It will be a much larger building, with new grade levels, new staff, and a host of new initiatives to implement thanks to our state and federal geniuses that assume they know anything about education.  While having a K-8 building will be new and exciting, the thing that I am most excited about is finding a district and a Superintendent that has the same vision I do for Literacy, Best Practice, and building Trust with staff.  A true PLC culture is such an important aspect for building a successful learning environment, that I can hardly overstate its importance. 

I have been able to achieve this culture in my current position, and my staff has responded with such strong evidence of its effectiveness, that it was very difficult for me to make this move.  They have embraced the continuous professional growth model, and were brave enough to walk away from a curriculum that was forced upon them without their input.  They modified and improved their assessment practices, adapted their teaching practices and implemented best practice strategies that have improved our MAP scores dramatically.  Our 5th graders have over 60% of the students scoring in the Advanced range on WKCE on their Math portion, and over 58% are advanced in Reading.  These are the highest percentages in the grades tested in our district, and in actuality, the 2nd highest in our region (CESA 3).  To say the least, I am supremely proud of my staff.  Many of these changes were implemented at each of the grade levels in my building.  Unfortunately for my K-4th grade teachers, they are an island in Ridgeway.  They are each singletons and have no one else at their grade level to collaborate with on a daily basis.  Did that stop them......nope.  They worked together and learned together, and made the changes they could to their curriculum and practices, such as implementing the Daily 5 structure to a Direct Instruction series (not an easy integration).  Still they found a way to give students choice in their reading.

What was the key driver in all of these changes?  Not me.  I will take some credit for encouraging the changes and finding supporting evidence for best practice, but my experience or knowledge of these practices was not the selling point.  Many of these teachers actually knew much of what best practice was all about.  Many of them shared with me their concerns over the lack of differentiation and student choice in literature.  Many of them had also noticed how students were becoming uninterested in reading and even apathetic toward school.  What was the key driver to all of these changes?  Trust.  When I came to my building 4 years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the culture of fear.  People were tip toeing around.  I had multi-year veterans coming to me with questions, or more accurately asking for permission to do typical daily routines and requesting to try something with a student that I had assumed we already did (or at least should be).  What could possibly be making these trained adult professionals come to me with what seemed like "silly" questions?  It was fear of  their leadership.  It took a while to break it down, but after many conversations, and me having to share revelations about myself and my beliefs, it began to come out that the staff had simply not been trusted before and that micromanagement over decision making had put them in a place where they did not even trust themselves.  

This was not quickly overcome.  Luckily, my district was in the process of implementing the DuFour model of Professional Learning Communities across the district.  The whole district was reading "Whatever it Takes" and the timing was perfect.  We established a PLC leadership team in my building (the only building to do so) and we spent hours creating our Vision.  We studies other successful schools, we studied articles and books, and we became well informed of the shifts taking place in education.  Our staff was always ahead of the curve on best practice, new strategies, new technologies and new initiatives from the state and federal government and how they would affect what we do.  The team we had built at Ridgeway Elementary School was exemplary and I was energized by working with and leading this team.  However, I was still concerned with trust and wanted us to be able to criticize ourselves, to ensure that we were in a continuous improvement model.  Would we be able to look at each other and admit we had faults?  Could we discuss or shortcomings?  To build up this level of trust, we needed to understand what dysfunctions we may have already.  What dysfunctions were common to teams, and how could we overcome them.  It was time for another book study.  Patrick Lencioni's The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team seemed like a great way to ease this idea in without it being an all business technical manual, that barely related to the education setting.  We spent 3 months going over the book and discussing what we had gleaned from the story.  Once again, my team displayed their professionalism and we were able to take ideas and beat them up, even when they were mine.  I know it may be tough for many administrators to handle, but I guess I am humble enough to suggest an idea, and if I have over a hundred years of experience giving me very rational ideas as to why it may not work, well.....I think I may have had a poor idea.  Of course, I also encourage them to give me a better suggestion.  After all, it is easy to tear down a house, but you may not want to destroy it if you still have to live in it.  It maybe easier to just remodel it.

So why the change in jobs?  As I said, it wasn't an easy choice.  It certainly had nothing to do with my staff.  My dedication to them has been unwavering along with my pride in all that they have done.  I wasn't actually intending to change positions this year.  I had recently signed up for classes to complete my Superintendent's Licensure, and I had a pretty good mentor in my current district.  She makes solid leadership decisions, is very good with the Budget, and has a good grasp on the legal aspects as well as managing a School Board.  However, my concern was with our Administrative Team.  It was very evident that we suffer a we vs. them philosophy.  There were trust issues on our team as well.  So one day when I returned home from an Admin Team Meeting, feeling frustrated and manipulated (not by my boss) I had decided that it was time to shop around. I had met the Superintendent of the district I at which I was applying at several Professional Development meetings.  We were both ESEA Coordinators and I had the chance to discuss literacy instruction with her several times.  Our philosophies were aligned.  Obstacle one - cleared.  I also knew the current principal (who was retiring) and met with her to do some homework on the building and district, and I discovered that best practice and technology integration was a district priority.  Obstacle two - cleared.  The final trigger was when I went in for my second interview.  I was e-mailed that it would be casual (yes, I took the risk and went in without a tie) and that I would simply sit down with the Administrative Team and the School Board and we would discuss the district's current updates to their strategic plan and see if I would be a "good fit."  Not having to wear a Noose around my neck was enough to tell me yes, but as I sat and discussed their plan for developing PLC's, integrating technology, the plan for implementing the Common Core, the awareness of over-assessing, and many other things, it was as if I finally had met the team I had been looking to be a part of for the past four years.  But what cinched it for me was when the Superintendent and I had the chance to discuss the importance of trust.  How things can get accomplished when there is Trust.  How we need to count on and expect Teacher Professionalism.  No more Shifting the Monkey.  HOME!!!!

This post casts a bit of a disparaging shadow on the team that I had been a part of, and it shouldn't.  I apologize.  My current team is a great group of people that are also incredibly dedicated to student learning and success.  I have gleaned a great deal from them over the past 4 years, and if nothing else, they helped me further identify my philosophy and beliefs in educating students.  We were always on top of the latest trends and initiatives and even if we did not implement them the way I thought we should, we would at least determine a path to take instead of just staring down the road waiting for someone else to point the way.  I think we struggle with finding fault in our practices and so we tend to stay stuck in the ruts we develop.  But I applaud my District Administrator and the School Board for supporting teacher professional development.  It is one of many areas in which this district excels and I wish them nothing but the best and continued success.  Still, it ended up not being the best fit for me, so it was time for me to search for a better fit.  While I am torn about leaving my staff, I am happy with my decision.