Showing posts from 2014

Why | How | What

The title and content within this post comes from Thomas Hoerr, as I was inspired by his article entitled "Why?" in the November 2014 edition of Educational Leadership.  In this article, Hoerr challenges the reader to think about the "why" before the "how" and "what."  For example, when launching a change or initiative within your organization or defining your work, direct your attention to why, rather than what or how.  Let me explain.  When everyone in the learning community understands why there needs to be a change (supported by data of course), they are much more likely to buy in and support the initiative or new way of conducting business. It's not that we don't explain the why when we are bringing forth changes; however, it is not common that we start here. Traditionally we start by explaining what it is and how we will do this within our system.  Simon Sinek has written a book on this concept entitled, Start with Why and also del…

I used to think, and now I know...

At the end of the school year in May, I asked our teaching staff to answer the question in the title of this post.  There were a number of eyebrows raised and foreheads crinkled; however, they completed the highly reflective task with great effort on the last day of school.  It is several months later, but it is only fair that I answer the question that I posed to them.

This is my twelfth year in education and fourth as a building administrator.  Many of my views have changed as I have experienced new thoughts, fallen flat on my face, and grown with each passing day.

I used to think it was all about results, and I now I have discovered that the process is much more important.

We live in a data driven society, particularly in the educational field within the last 15 years especially.  Results are extremely important, and we are all aiming for increased levels of student achievement by developing strategic plans, SMART goals, and learning targets.  The real work is in the process.  The …

3 Changes That Make a Difference

Change is such a hot topic in the educational realm and gets a great deal of attention in the national media. We have all heard, "We must change by increasing the rigor within instruction to meet the Common Core State Standards." "We need to change our assessment systems to ensure that students are learning the skills that will allow them to be productive citizens in the future."  The rhetoric within the national media at this time is more centered around testing, more accountability, increased levels of rigor, and punishment to schools not meeting the targets.  I will not disagree that change needs to occur within our business; however, the changes must be focused on the right things that can lead to significant improvement throughout the entire system. Within this post, I will highlight three areas where we must change as educators.  Video credit to Dr. Justin Tarte

Give up control and trust kids.  The vast majority of my K-12 experience was spent in the late 1980…

Looking Through a Different Lens

What's the best thing that's ever happened to you as an educator?  Is it when your first class walked across the stage on graduation day?  When a student came back to your class ten years later and said thank you for making a difference in his/her life.  Or watching one of your students accomplish an incredible task such as competing in the state wrestling finals or earning an academic scholarship to a prestigious university?  I have had the opportunity to witness all of these things and many more throughout my career as a teacher, principal, and coach.  All of these events hold a special place in my heart, and continue to drive me to do what I do each day; however, none are the best thing that has happened to me as an educator...not even close.  The best thing that happened to me as an educator is the day I became a dad.

Something amazing happened after my first son was born in 2009.  I started thinking like a father within my teaching/coaching and my interactions with studen…

Connectivity: It Makes a Difference

I had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Elementary School Principal's (#naesp14) Annual Conference in Nashville last week.  This was the most rewarding professional development opportunity that I have ever been a part of for a number of reasons.  I was honored to deliver a presentation about communication and public relations for 21st century principals, assisted in the Social Media Lounge, and made connections with members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) that I will remember forever.  I attended a number of sessions that enhanced my knowledge of branding, productivity, instructional and digital leadership.  The sessions were great; however, they are not what I will remember the most.  The face to face connections that I was able to make with members of my PLN made the difference in this conference, particularly my work with Melinda Miller, Jenny Nauman, Joe Mazza, Vicki Day, Sandra Trach, Tony Sinanis, Kathy Melton, Erin Simpson, and Eric Bernstein in th…

This is the Business We've Chosen

A couple of months ago I spent about eight hours on the road traveling to #edcampiowa in Bettendorf before heading to Des Moines for the state girls basketball finals on my way back home all in one day.  As I was traveling, I had the opportunity to listen to quite a few episodes of The Rockstar Principals' Podcast, and was very intrigued by one of their segments where Jon and Nick compared the leadership styles of mob bosses to school leaders.  I have always been fascinated with the mafia, organized crime, and have read several books about John Gotti, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, and the Gambino Family.  I have seen all of the classic mob movies like Goodfellas, The Godfather series, A Bronx Tale, and many more.  Naturally, when Jon and Nick started talking about this segment, my ears perked up.

The Rockstar Principals referenced the Godfather II and a scene where Hyman Roth has a conversation with Michael Corleone about the death of Roth's friend, Moe Greene.  Roth…

The Best...

Over the past couple of weeks I've been talking with a number of teachers, administrators, parents, and other members of the school community about what the best educators do differently than everyone else.  I know that there have been a number of books written on this topic including What Great Teachers do Differently by @ToddWhitaker.  This book has informed many of the thoughts within this post however; I will explain the six things that I feel the best educators do better than everyone else.

The best educators invest more time into their work.  

The best educators are not clock or contract watchers; they realize that their responsibility of educating students never stops, regardless of the time commitment.  The best educators are passionate about their students, the subject they teach, and most importantly in the connections that they make with their kids. The best have high expectations for students but even higher expectations for themselves. The best educators will not stop u…

Learning on the East Coast

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut with four other administrators from my school district.  There is a lot of pride in this town and school community.  I don't know if I have ever felt more welcomed anywhere in my life.  Dr. Mark Benigni and his staff pulled out all the stops on this trip by providing us with welcoming gifts, fantastic, unbelievable meals, comprehensive plans for every minute of each day, excellent resources to take home, and even provided us with world famous "steamed cheeseburgers."  This trip was full of learning opportunities as we were able to see a successful school district that is intentional with every move.  The key learnings from my trip have been captured below.

Expanded Learning Time
Two of Meriden's elementary schools (Casimir Pulaski) and (John Barry) have implemented 100 minutes of additional learning time each day equaling over 40 additional school days per year.  This time is used for activ…

When Are We Ever Ready?

I have been in education for eleven years, and have experienced a wide variety of changes.  Some have been enormous and had an impact on the entire system while others have been minuscule in the grand scheme of things.  Something that I have come to realize in my seven years as a classroom teacher and four as an administrator is that the one constant in education and life, for that matter, is change.  Whether it is a new curriculum, assessment system, alternative model of instruction, a new teaching opportunity, or move up the career ladder, change is happening all around us all of the time.  As I have worked through changes in my personal and professional life and reflected heavily on this topic, I continually come back to the question, "When are we ever ready for significant change?"

As the principal of two elementary schools, I have the opportunity to work with thirty-five teachers and an additional forty staff members between Epworth @EpworthElem and Farley Elementary Sch…

Nike, Amazon, and Two Incredible Elementary Schools

I'm an avid Nike shopper, and have literally invested thousands of dollars in shoes, clothing, and accessories over the years.  Nike has created a brand that I feel is top quality, visually attractive, and trend-setting.  When I see the swoosh on apparel, billboards, and TV commercials, I know what to expect.  Amazon is another company that gets it done consistently; I am impressed each time that I order from them.  Amazon has developed a name for themselves by focusing on unbelievable, user-friendly tools and customer service that is second to none.  What's stopping schools from creating similar brands?    

Over the past six months I have spent a great deal of time listening to experts, reading blogs, participating in Twitter chats, and having face to face conversations about creating a brand for our schools.  After listening to @NMHS_Principal, @Joe_Mazza, @TonySinanis, @Joesanfelippofc and @casas_jimmy, I came to realize what an incredible opportunity we have as educators to…

PLN Blogging Challenge

This challenge was passed on to me by Matt Degner @mwdegner, a Junior High Principal whom I converse with on #IAedchat and have had the opportunity to meet face-to-face on a couple of occasions in the past year.  It was also passed along by Barry Saide @barrykid1 who is an elementary teacher in New Jersey and ASCD Edge blogger.  I have answered the questions of both of these men below.  Enjoy.

Here are the Rules:
Acknowledge the nomination blogger.Share 11 random facts about yourself.Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition.Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated (you cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you).11 Random Facts About Me: Eight years ago, I won a series of Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments and was given an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas to compete in a national tournament with the chance to win …