Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Play Your Sound #KidsDeserveIt

Do you have a sound for your school? Do you play it for students and teachers? Are you nervous or afraid people will give you 'that' funny look? That look that can stop you in your tracks and make you think twice.  Make you doubt.  

Are you really worried what others will think? You may have that new sound your school community is looking for, play it loud and proud, see what happens!  As educators we can’t let fear drive our decisions.  We have to continually find ways to step outside our comfort zones and share our genius with our students and allow them to share theirs!

You know your school. You know your students. You have your finger on the pulse of what's needed!  Let’s get creative!

This summer at NAESP changed our viewpoint on many levels. We met some amazing people face to face that we’ve known for quite some time through Social Media. We also had Erik Wahl as our keynote speaker! Erik reminded us that we all have creativity within us.  It isn’t something we’re born with.  It’s something we have to continually work at. We all have the ability to reawaken that creative spirit that probably thrived as a child. We all have a sound!

Educators (all of us!) - It's our job to build an #educampfire of creativity for our students, staff and parents. Albert Einstein would sit on a favorite park bench when he was searching for ideas, he'd also go sailing because it allowed his mind to wander and find his creative space. He was looking for his sound because he wanted to play! Take pride in the fact that people may give you that ‘alien’ look, it means you have new and original ideas.

Spread the innovation!
Creative learning opportunities!
Introduce new ideas!
Connect with kids and teachers, you never know what new idea will inspire them.

How will you help your school community to find their creativity so they're awesome for kids? Play your sound. If you need to, go find your sound. Share your sound. Tune your sound throughout the year. Ask others to help you develop or find a sound. Record your sound for everyone to hear. Share your sound with others so you're sound grows!

If you get the alien look, take it as a badge of honor and continue to inspire those around you.

And don’t forget to share your stories. Use the hashtag #KidsDeserveIt to share how you’re connecting, and inspiring others with creative ideas! You can also follow @KidsDeserveIt to continue connecting with us and subscribe to our Remind class with this link! You can also connect with us on Voxer! Our voxer handles are techninjatodd and awelcome

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Power of a Phone Call #KidsDeserveIt

Ron Clark called yesterday. He called both of our cell phones to talk with us. There’s more to the story that we’ll get to in a minute, but there is serious power in a phone call!

From Adam:
Todd and I were on Voxer back and forth talking about different Principal challenges that we have and he was being kind of drama. So, I decided to call the front office of his school and play a little joke. His Office Manager answered and I told her it was Ron Clark calling for Mr. Nesloney. I had just seen Ron Clark on Persicope the other day surprising a school in Tennessee, or in Ron’s words, bum-rushing a school! Hey, I’ll call Todd and act like Ron Clark, see what happens next!

From Todd:
I had just returned from a training and was sitting in my office.  Adam knows how much I look up to and admire Ron Clark.  Adam also knew that I had just had dinner with Kim Bearden (the co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy) two nights before.  I hear my phone ring in my office.  When I answer it, my secretary says it’s Ron Clark.  I sat in shock.  She asked if she could patch him through and of course I said sure.  Next thing I knew, “Ron Clark” was talking with me, asking if I was at my school, and telling me he was about to pull up in his big red bus and surprise my staff! Well, I may have been in a little shock….only to hear the next few words of….”just kidding, it’s me, Adam”.  Yeah Adam punk’d me.  And punk’d me good.

So what did I do?  Well of course I Tweeted about it and made sure to tag the REAL Ron Clark in the Tweet.

Next thing we know Ron Clark was favoriting the tweet and then responding!  First thing he told me was that it was funny that HE also tried calling my school three times and no one answered.  I thought he was joking of course, only to have him respond a second time that he was serious.  Next thing I knew I was running around the corner to the office, hearing the phone ring, and trying to catch it in time.  And yep, it was Ron Clark.  The REAL Ron Clark.

I could have passed out.  My educational hero.  My person I’d looked up to since I was a junior in high school was talking to ME on the phone.  And it was like we were old buddies.  We chatted for a good 10-15 minutes.  Then it ended with Ron asking for Adam’s mobile phone number so he could let him know not to mess with his buddy Todd Nesloney.  Epic.

From Adam:
After I punked Todd, it was time to work and had to meet with some teachers. I was in Evernote writing down some ideas and also watching Twitter on the side. I saw the entire Tweeting exchange with Ron and Todd and was fully laughing on the inside. Then my cell phone rang, and the call was from Georgia.

No way. It was Ron Clark calling my mobile phone and we chatted for fifteen minutes about education, kids and how much we love our work. Such an amazing phone call, filled with inspiration and energy. Thank you Ron Clark!

So why do we write you this post and share this story?  Because there’s power in a single phone call. The power of a phone call is real. It’s profound. It’s important. It changes attitudes. Voice connects people in a way that email does not.

There’s such power in taking a minute just to tell someone you notice them.  To take that time to share a laugh, a “how are you doing”, a great job, anything!  Take a moment to call a parent and let them know the greatness you see in their child.  Or take a moment to call a child at home and just let them know how much you enjoy getting to see their smiling face every day.  Taking time out of your schedule to make a simple phone call can make a world of difference.

We spoke on the phone after our ‘Ron’ call and tried to process our feelings. If we feel like this after someone called us, how does a parent feel after you call them with a positive message about their child! They. Feel. Amazing.

Call home! Call home more often! Call home to celebrate kids!

Ron may never know it, but yesterday he made a difference in both of our lives.  One we won’t soon forget.

And don’t forget to share your stories.  Use the hashtag #KidsDeserveIt to share how you’re connecting, and inspiring others with creative ideas! You can also follow @KidsDeserveIt to continue connecting with us and subscribe to our Remind class with this link!  You can also connect with us on Voxer!  Our voxer handles are techninjatodd and awelcome

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What’s Your One Wish For Education Because #KidsDeserveIt

Every one of us has a dream.  We all have an ultimate wish.  Whether that be in our personal lives or as it ties into our career of education.  As administrators, we dream too.  We have hopes for our school, students, teachers, family, community.  We envision the perfect way of doing things.

Todd’s One Wish:
When Adam and I started talking about what our one wish for education would be, I didn’t hesitate on mine.  Growing up in school, I never really connected with too many of my teachers.  I never really felt like it was a place that I belonged or was needed.  I showed up, did my work, got in trouble a few times, then I headed home.  I knew the school game, and I played it well.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher from a young age.  It wasn’t because I loved teaching, but more so because I loved working with kids.  I wanted to change lives, and I felt like teaching was the perfect way to do that.

As I entered the classroom on my first day of teaching, I could feel the potential that sat before me. But at the same time I noticed disconnect, pain, resentment, some excitement, and a mirade of other emotions from my students.  And I knew from that moment I wanted to be an educator who focused on the emotional just as much as the academic.

As the years have gone by, and as I’ve stepped into administration, that love of mine has only grown. My one wish is that every single child who enters the walls of our school leave knowing that they are worthy, valued, and that they matter.  That they know they have their own unique genius and it deserves to be celebrated.

Our campus, has taken that mantra and run with it.  From the inspiration of Angela Maiers, we make it a point to focus on two words at our campus; You Matter.  For so many of the students we serve, the school is their only source of stability and safety.  I love Nicholas Ferroni’s quote, “Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved.”  That couldn’t be more true.

I pray every night, that the campus I work on is one that if filled with laughter, love, forgiveness, understanding, fresh starts, new beginnings, hard work, compassion, passion, excitement, and so much more.  It’s a wish, but it’s not unattainable.  And I will work every single day that I can for even one child.  Because in the end it only takes one person to change a life.

Adam’s One Wish:
Equity for all students, in all schools has always been a wish of mine. I’m not just talking about one facet of equity, I want it for all, for each and every kid!

Awesome teachers - Engaged Administrators - Relevant Technology - Plenty of Supplies - Healthy Food - Clean and Updated Facilities

When I was a teacher it first started to bother me. I’d take my class outside after lunch to read in the grass, other teachers would put the cassette tape in and have the machine read to their kids. Students would walk by us while my class was lounging in the grass reading their books ever so intently.

“Mr. Welcome, could you ask my teacher to bring us outside to read, please?”

We’d have the Mayor come visit, the Police Chief, our class went to the Specialized headquarters on Bike to Work Day for a special visit.

It felt like the NBA draft at times, kids would ask to be ‘picked’ for my class next year. Were my test scores awesome? I don’t know, but we did have huge KDI factor, and kids wanted to be at school! (Kids Dig It)

As Principal I’ve always wanted it. The best teachers! The most engaged parents on PTA! The best Professional Development for staff. Technology in the hands of kids, 1:1 school wide. But I also want all this for every other child as well! How can we make that happen?

Of course I really can’t, but that’s my wish! Every student has the right to be excited for school, be cared for and encouraged by teachers, have all the technology and professional development that goes along with it - just like the school across town!

It’s up to us. To encourage our colleagues, to advocate for students, to not think just about our school but the entire village that is your district. I want it for kids, because they deserve it. They deserve what every other student has. It’s not their decision where they live, or go to school or the teacher they have.

Please, take it upon yourself to encourage a colleague. Talk with a school board member or local politician. Make it happen for ALL kids, they’re our most precious commodity!

So, after sharing our wish, we ask, “What’s Your One Wish?”  Don’t be afraid to dream wildly, because Margaret Mead says it best, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world, when indeed, it’s the only one that ever has”.  Take a few minutes today to jot down a few of your wishes and share them with us in the comments below or on twitter using the #KidsDeserveIt hashtag.  Let’s dream big and share our ideas with each other. Who knows, maybe your one wish will inspire someone else!

And don’t forget to share your stories. Use the hashtag #KidsDeserveIt to share how you’re connecting, and inspiring others with creative ideas! You can also follow @KidsDeserveIt to continue connecting with us and subscribe to our Remind class with this link! You can also connect with us on Voxer! Our voxer handles are techninjatodd and awelcome

Sunday, August 9, 2015

We Are All In this Together #KidsDeserveIt

Today's guest post is written by Michelle Corbat who is an Elementary Principal in Michigan!

In the rush of school days, it can be easy to get caught up in lots of “housekeeping” conversations with colleagues, which doesn’t often leave time for more thoughtful sharing about teaching and learning.  Teacher labs provide a great space to start and continue those vital conversations.  These are the conversations that can both affirm what is best about our practice and challenge us to grow both individually and as a community.  
Heather Loney, 5th Grade Teacher, Morrish Elementary School

Imagine are sitting in a large room with no windows at a table with 3 or 4 other educators. You came to learn more about best practices to grow as an educator. You don’t know anyone. Someone in the front of the room, the “expert”, is reading each and every Powerpoint slide aloud with very little time built in for engagement within the group.  You begin to drift away mentally and break the norms established at the beginning of the “Professional Development” day by reading your Twitter feed or checking your email or texting a friend about how much you can’t wait to get out of there.  There are 40 or 50 other tables in the room that look exactly the same as yours....disconnected.  

Now imagine that you are in your school district sitting with 6 or 7 colleagues in a meeting room. One of your colleagues is a facilitator for the group. You have all gathered to discuss best practices aligned to your school or district goal. Each person takes time to reflect upon his or her practice, first in writing, then by sharing aloud with the group. Common struggles and challenges arise. The facilitator shares that the colleague they are about to observe has had similar challenges and has learned a few ways to overcome these challenges. The group walks to the this colleague’s classroom and observes for an hour, like flies on the wall.  Everyone takes notes jotting down ideas, questions, and reflections. The hour flies by and the entire group moves back to the meeting space. Each observer shares noticings with the host teacher and asks questions. The host shares her learning journey with the she got to the place where she is today, with this observation. Everyone sets goals and meets again a few months later. A few days pass and you have a question that you forgot to ask during the meeting. You walk down the hall on your planning time to the host teacher’s classroom and wait for an opportunity to ask. She smiles and talks with you for a few minutes, reassuring you. You head back to your classroom, excited and ready to try out what you have learned!

Which learning experience do you want to be a part of - a disconnected, sit and get or a collaborative learning environment with risks and support? Which one will make a difference for children in our classrooms?  

What are educator labs?

“Change occurs as teachers learn to describe, discuss, and adjust their practices according to a collectively held standard of teaching quality.”  
J.W. Little, 2003

Fortunately, I have experienced a job embedded professional learning model in Swartz Creek Community Schools that has made a difference for children.  Two years ago, Lisa Madden shared the components of this teacher lab model with district leaders. A lab classroom includes a host teacher, a facilitator, and observers.  The host is not an expert, but is someone willing to share his/her practice publicly.  The facilitator organizes and communicates the schedule, prepares paperwork and materials, and leads collaborative discussions before and after observations.  I have been both a facilitator and a host.  The focus for the first year of teacher labs in my district was reading instruction. Every elementary classroom teacher spent two half-days in another teacher’s classroom.  

The components of our half day included:
  • Pre-Observation Meeting
    • Establish Norms
    • Establish focus for inquiry
    • Observers share successes, challenges, and goals
  • Observation
    • Observers visit host's classroom as a 'fly on the wall'
    • Take notes for feedback and reflection
  • Debriefing
    • Observer's name and notice
    • Host reflects on noticings and verbalizes intentions
    • Observers ask questions & Host answers
    • All reflect-making intentional plans for our practice
The focus for the second year of teacher labs was math instruction at the elementary level and reading instruction at the middle school level. Additionally, the first administrator lab was held and I was a host. Eleven other administrators observed me leading a staff meeting with Morrish Elementary educators.  This included a pre-observation meeting and debriefing. The feedback I received from my colleagues, other principals, helped me to plan my next staff meeting.
“Collective work in trusting environments provides a basis for inquiry and reflection, allowing teachers to raise issues, take risks, and address dilemmas in their own practice.”  
Ball & Cohen, 1999

What impact do educator labs have on students?

A culture of learning is built on trusting relationships.  Teacher labs and administrator labs provide the opportunity to talk out the ‘why does this matter?” and “what’s next?” in a non-evaluative way.  Don’t our students deserve for us to have these conversations? Observers having an opportunity to share and reflect on what they noticed - not only what the teacher was doing or saying, but what the students were doing or saying too. To me, this is far more valuable! Observers bring up noticings that the host might not even be aware of and the host has an opportunity to verbalize her intentions in her teaching – why did she make those decisions? Don’t our students deserve that we reflect on the ‘why’ of what we do?

During teacher labs or administrator labs, all learners make intentional plans for their own work– What will I do differently?  What will I explore?  What will I try? And everyone is held accountable by sharing plans and reflections with one another. These experiences allow educators to see practice in action and the “behind the scenes” real work of teaching. Teacher and administrator labs promote professional growth, self-efficacy, and reflection.  These labs lead to greater implementation of a systemic change and ultimately to building a true culture of learning. Don’t our students deserve that we do better when we know better?

The video below shows what Swartz Creek educators and students had to say about the teacher lab experience.  I hope that you will watch it and share the idea of educator labs with others in your school. Children deserve authentic learning experiences based on inquiry, observation, conversation, reflection, and time. And so do the adults that teach them.  We are all in this together because #KidsDeserveIt!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Stop Saying N0 - Unleash Creativity #KidsDeserveIt

No.  One simple word can destroy creativity.  Can slow innovation.

But it’s a word we use often. It’s also a word we hear too often. And sometimes, those of us in places of power, use it most.

- We hear something that scares us, and we say no.
- We get asked to step outside our comfort zone, and we say no.
- A student/staff member wants to step out and take a risk, and we say no.
- Or it’s something we don’t understand or haven’t heard about, so we say no.
- Do you say no before even asking a question? Being even getting clarification?
- Are you saying no even though you see passion and innovation in the eyes of the person you're talking with?

Why? Fear, complacency, jealousy, and so much more. Those emotions drive us to sometimes say no just out of spite. If you’re a leader and have that decision making capability, don’t you trust your people? Encouraging other ideas builds leadership within your team! You shouldn’t be the treasure chest for all innovation and creativity in your school or district, there’s so much brilliance out there waiting to be harnessed!

 We believe that there comes a point where we have to stop saying no. How else are we going to push innovation and cultivate creativity? Our team and our students have to know that pushing conventional thinking is ok. That doing something outside the norm can yield great results. If you always so no, your people will start shutting down their creative mojo.

We must take off the training wheels, let your people ride!

If all we say is no, we’re never going to bring about real and lasting change.

Let the leash go, trust your people to make the best decisions for kids and not run off.

Now this isn’t saying we should say yes to everything. By no means. But maybe next time someone wants to try something new….instead of jumping straight to “no”....maybe we can take just a few extra minutes and consider, if instead maybe we should say yes.

Unleash their creativity and see what awesome happens! Please don’t lead in fear! You shouldn’t have full control, farm out the decision making process - Your organization will be stronger if you do!