Being Present In Order to Know What’s Next

Update for Sept 28-Oct 2

I love what this picture captures.  The woman circled in the picture inspires me think about being present more often.  Actually, being more present in the moment has helped me to better understand the change process. 

Change often happens as a response to recognizing when the conditions are right to take the next steps.  The Alton Darby Creek Collaborative project is a reflection of this kind of moment.  We are in the middle of this grand collaboration and we sense the urgency to capture the moment and work hard to re-imagine learning experiences for kids.  During the change process, we need to know when to slow down and when to speed up.

To accomplish this, we need to pause and reflect often.  We need to celebrate what we’ve accomplished, but we also need to be completely honest with ourselves about how we are making progress.  We need to keep looking for answers.

Sometimes it’s through a conversation with a colleague that affirms our thinking.

Or it could be a blog post that pushes you to clearly define the idea you have.

One thing that motivates me to keep looking for answers is my own personal vision for learning that many of you share as well — Flexible learning driven by student-inquiry, multi-aged groupings, and kids learning through solving real-world problems.  It’s what I see in my mind’s eye, but I know we still have a ways to go.  

Our project makes me think of running a relay race — Racing to the next person with the baton in hand, clearly seeing your goal. Pacing yourself so that you can be responsive to the race. 

Our goal is achieving our vision for learning, but I know that if we are too focused on our vision of what we want for learning, it might cloud our present reality and cause missteps. 

A distracted runner drops the baton.  

To get to where we want to go, we have to be in the moment and responsive to the present with a gaze towards to future.
Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

Keep being observant learners, collaborators and thinkers! Through this we will create new learning experiences for kids!

Have a GREAT week!


Articles Pushing My Thinking

Staying the Same is Ultimately Falling Behind

We Find What We Look For In Our Students – So What Do We See?

Change: Choose the crockpot over the microwave…

Digital vs Digitized Learning

Upcoming Events

Sept 28 — School Community Meeting — Community Cardboard Challenge, 10:45

Sept 30 — Mumkin Pickup 4-7pm

Oct 2 — BAC meeting, 8:30

Oct 5-9 — Fall Conference Week, Conference Night is Oct 7.

Oct 5 — PTO General Meeting, 7pm

Oct 6 — Building Improvement Team meeting

Oct 9 — Interims due if no P/T Conference

Oct 10 — Community Cardboard Challenge, Heritage Middle School, 9-12pm

Oct 14 — IAT Team meeting, 3:30

Oct 16 — COI Day, No School for Students

Oct 23 — Staff Meeting w/ Dr. John

Oct 26 — Yearbook Cover Contest begins / State of the Schools @ Bradley H.S.

Oct 28 — IAT Team meeting, 3:30

What are we missing here?

Update for Sept 21-25

Helping nature along (Labeled for reuse)


A couple of posts I read this weekend really pushed me to reflect about the work we are doing.  

The first is by Peter DeWitt and Russell Quaglia called “10 Reasons Students Should Go On Strike” and takes many of the complaints some educators have about education — testing, sit-and-get professional development — and asks the read to consider the same complaints from the perspective of the students.

DeWitt and Quaglia’s post pushed me to reflect on what school looks like for kids.  Is the balance of “learner-driven” instruction and “must-teach” instruction in harmony? Should it be? Or should “learner-driven” instruction be tipping the scale? The post also makes me think about this great graphic representation of George Couros’ School vs. Learning thoughts:

I return to this graphic often because my vision for what elementary education can look like is centered around the “learning” bullets.

The second post is by Will Richardson, who wrote Why School?.  In his post “How Schools Are Stuck”, he asks educators to reflect on whether they themselves are the learner they hope their students will be?  Are we modeling what learners should be?  Is our learning organization a good example of a learning organization?

Richardson ends the post by challenging educators to consider two questions:

  1. Have we clearly defined and articulated how kids learn best and then aligned our practice to this?
  2. Do we have a commitment to rooting out institutional inconsistencies with our definition for how kids learn best?

Again, I was pushed to reflect and think about how we might answer Richardson’s two questions.

So I did some investigation into some work that was done in the past at Alton Darby to see if we did have a clear belief about how student learn.  

Take a look at some belief statements that were clearly defined and appear on our school website and think about what you notice:

The work and play of Alton Darby is guided by our commitment to seven core virtues:
  1. Honesty
  2. Respect
  3. Responsibility
  4. Compassion
  5. Giving
  6. Self-discipline
  7. Perseverance
We believe that adults work with children using the following guiding values:
* Adults recognize that all students are uniquely different and have value.
* Adults are enthusiastic and joyful about their work with students.
* Adults use professional observations and reflections to guide their instruction and work with children.
* Adults are compassionate, patient, and respectful of students.
* Adults are positive models and mentors for students.
* Adults have fun with students, reflect with students, and teach the whole child.
* Adults celebrate knowledge in an atmosphere of inquiry, bringing themselves into the learning experience, encouraging engagement.

We believe that effective relationships are developed through the following practices:
* productive communication,
* open-mindedness,
* teamwork and shared decisions,
* listening and encouragement,
* compromise and cooperation, and
* a willingness to grow.

How Children Work With Children
(written by our STUDENTS)
At Alton Darby, we believe that children should:
* be honest,
* be respectful of other people and their property,
* take responsibility for their actions,
* always try, work hard, and do their best,
* care for others the way they would like to be cared for.

How Children Work With Adults
(written by our STUDENTS)
We believe that when working with adults, children should:
* always be honest, especially in difficult situations,
* always be respectful,
* show caring for and about others,
* work hard and give best effort.

These are great statements and I agree and believe in everything that has been written.  

But it’s all centered around behavior.  

The words “learn” or “learning” don’t even appear in our belief statements!  

I think we have an opportunity here!

So, what do we believe when it comes to learning?

How do kids learn best?

Articles Worth Reading — 

See the links to Richardson and DeWitt/Quaglia’s posts embedded in the post above! They are worthy reads for sure!

Video Worth Seeing —

Amazing! It’s only a matter of time before this kind of work lands in schools! Are we getting our students ready to think creatively?

Upcoming Dates — 

9/21 — No School for Students — Staff Report to ADE at 8:00am.
9/24 — Picture Day!
9/24 — Fall Tailgate, 6-7:30pm at ADE

OCT 5-9 — Fall Conference Week
10/10–9:00-12:00 p.m.–Community Cardboard Challenge at Heritage Middle School
10/26–6:00 p.m. STATE OF THE SCHOOLS ADDRESS at Bradley HS

11/2–7:00 p.m. PTO meeting–5th grade to attend
11/3–Election Day–teachers report ONLY–NO SCHOOL

"We had fun at school today!" #CultureMatters

Update for Sept 14-18

“We had fun at school today!”

This is a statement I know as a parent I hope my kids come home and say after school.  Last Friday, I think my staff – the adults in the building – were the ones who went home and said this to their family.

We did our first Friday Staff Olympics last Friday and it was a blast!  After being challenged by Brent Wise and Scott Morrison to do some sort of team building activity for my staff, I designed a simple but fun obstacle course using a few cones, a seat scooter, a trash can, cups, a giant inflatable ball, and a reception bell.

“If you build it, they will come.”

I created a video overview and sent it out to the staff the day before to build up the anticipation.  We could compete before school, during lunch and after school.  We could compete individually or as a team as long as it was relay-style.  We needed to time how long it took us to complete the course.

I was amazed at how different the day felt because we were doing something fun for ourselves.

  • Teachers chose to work in teams instead of doing the course individually. What’s that say about our attitude towards teamwork!
  • Most people hung around on Friday after school (Yes, on Friday, after school!) to compete; but they hung around to cheer on each other as well.
  • We worked together to figure out who would do which part of the relay, recognizing strengths and trusted each other to get the job done.

Most important was that we fed positive energy into the culture of the school.  The culture of any organization is important to its success.  As Todd Whitaker and Steve Gruenert write in School Culture Rewired (2015), 

Culture conveys to its members what they ought to celebrate, ignore, or anticipate. (Gruenert & Whitaker, 2015)

Culture is part tradition, part mindset, and part celebration. I feel like a large part of my role is to work to support these three components because, as Whitaker and Gruenert also point out, Leadership is everything.

Everything that happens in an organization reflects the leadership. (Gruenert & Whitaker, 2015)

This school year we will no doubt face challenges because, well, every school year brings new challenges. It’s just nature of the important work we get to do each day.  I am determined to continue to create opportunities to celebrate the successes that will help propel us forward and that feed our culture with positive energy.

Have a great week!


Articles worth reading

“Four Strikes and You’re Out” — Fun math game by Marilyn Burns you can play with kids.

“Change The Conversation–It’s Not About The Thinking” — Good article on the change process.

“Turn Traditional Units of Study into Deeper Learning Experiences” — Article that reflects the kind of work we moving towards doing with kids.

“The Power of Letting Students Figure it Out” — Who is doing most of the work in the classroom?  If it’s you, why?

Videos worth watching

This is a good interview with Austin Kleon about how dreams come true when you focus on a process of creating something.  It’s a long one, so watch it when you have a moment.  Kleon’s book “Steal Like an Artist” is a great short read.  I have a copy if you’d like to borrow it.

This one is just because it’s funny…

Upcoming Dates

Sept 14 – PTO General Meeting — Staff: Don’t forget to sign-up to host a snack and join us for the PTO Meeting!  See Jillian for more information.

Sept 15 — Teacher Steering Committee meeting, 3:45-4:30pm, ADE Media Center

Sept 16 — Parent EdCamp/Curriculum Night! 5:30-7:00pm;  see Heather or Herb for more details.

Sept 17 — Admin Meeting (Herb)

Sept 21 — Staff Development Day – No Students; Agenda to come…

Sept 23 — ADCC Staff Meeting, 3:45 ADE Media Center

Sept 24 — Picture Day

Sept 30 — Staff Meeting, 8:00am; Mumkin Pickup 4-7pm

Oct 5-9 — Fall Conference Week, Conference Night is Oct 7.

Oct 5 — PTO General Meeting, 7pm

Oct 6 — Building Improvement Team meeting

Oct 10 — Community Cardboard Challenge, ILC/Scioto Darby Campus, 9-12pm

Partners In Personalization

Update for Sept 8-11

Photo Credit: Kelly Ramm/Hilliard City Schools

The graphic above that was shared with everyone during our first staff meeting of the year helped to generate great conversation about what it means to personalize education.  We discussed some of the approaches that we are doing that support personalizing education and ones that we need to strengthen.  

One point we shared during this time was that we are all at different points on this journey towards personalizing education, but that it is important that we are all on this journey together.  We also agreed that we will never “arrive” – Education constantly changes.  Taking steps towards personalizing are important because as we discussed, the world is becoming personalized place.  

Some are worried about the challenge of personalizing education for 25-30 students and I agree this is a challenge. However, something we need to remember is that we don’t have to do personalize education alone. We have partners out there that will help us personalize education for kids and these partners are parents. 

Parents want to be able to help their child have access to an excellent learning experience. In order for us to do that we have to be able to meet parents where they are and to do that we need to find out what they need. I am proud that our community has responded to this need and recognized an opportunity to connect with parents through a re-imagining of a traditional school event.

On September 16th, we will be hosting our 1st Parent EdCamp/Curriculum Night, a night where parents get to choose a learning experience that fits their needs as a family to better support their child. For us educators, this night is a prime opportunity to build partnerships with families that, if sustained throughout the school year, can help us get closer to achieving a personalized learning experience for each of our students. We have the chance to go beyond bullet points and Powerpoint presentations and truly provide parents with what they need to know more about to better help their child.

I am excited about this opportunity to take our partnerships with parents and our efforts to personalize education to a new level!

Have a great week!


Articles worth reading

“From Possibilities to Priorities: Inspiring a Vision for Learning”

“3 Hacks that Solve Big School Problems” via @cultofpedagogy

“For Back to School, Reimagine Classroom Design”

Videos worth viewing

Upcoming Events

Sept 14 – PTO General Meeting — Staff: Don’t forget to sign-up to host a snack and join us for the PTO Meeting!  See Jillian for more information.

Sept 16 — Parent EdCamp/Curriculum Night! 5:30-7:00pm;  see Heather or Herb for more details.

Sept 17 — Admin Meeting (Herb)

Sept 21 — Staff Development Day – No Students; Agenda to come…

Sept 23 — ADCC Staff Meeting, 3:45 ADE Media Center

Sept 24 — Picture Day

Sept 30 — Staff Meeting, 8:00am; Mumkin Pickup 4-7pm

Oct 5-9 — Fall Conference Week, Conference Night is Oct 7.

Oct 5 — PTO General Meeting, 7pm

Oct 6 — Building Improvement Team meeting

Oct 10 — Community Cardboard Challenge, ILC/Scioto Darby Campus, 9-12pm