Can we do this better?

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If I had to say what it was that sums up what I am laser focused on as an elementary principal, my answer would be “Can we do this better?”.

I’ve written many posts over the past three years about my drive to re-imagine the elementary learning experience. We have dreamed together, involved parents, students, and teachers in steering us onto a path where this kind of transformation can take place if we are brave enough to try.

We’ve identified many things that we think get us stuck like schedules, state expectations — mostly things I like to call “whataboutisms”. But the thing I think will get us permanently stuck is finding something in our pedagogy that works today, or that has worked in the past, and then keeping our pedagogy the same because it worked really well for that one lesson, that one unit, or for that one class the entire year.

However, we need to remember that the variables in our field are the children we serve. No group of kids I have experienced or supported has been the same as any other group of kids.

Ever.

Think back 10 years ago to the way you delivered the learning experience for students.

How much has that has dramatically changed since then?

Now ask yourself if that dramatic change was more out of choice due to a desire to get better or if it were more out of pressure from an initiative.

I ask that question because the best of the best that I have learned from and have seen teach are relentless in their pursuit to get better. It seems that they didn’t wait around to be told to change; it seems instead that they told themselves, “I need to get better at this.”

So the challenge I pose to each and everyone of us, myself included, is to ask ourselves, “Can we do this better?”

And then I challenge us to be brave enough to honestly answer that question.

Check out this great article on the power and importance of being self-reflection (and honest with yourself): “The Necessity Of Self-Criticism In Education” https://www.teachthought.com/technology/desperate-need-self-criticism-education/

 

Be brave!

– Herb

Here’s the Staff Update for this week.

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What could be can be

“Every great leader and organization sees the world not as it is, but as it could be.”

My wife shared these words from “The Carpenter” by Jon Gordon with me over dinner recently and they have stayed with me.

We often get caught in the trap of trying to fix the multitude of problems we spend most of our time identifying – Things and events we feel that are stopping us from accomplishing our goals or keeping us from being happy or satisfied.

When we shift our focus away from principles and enduring beliefs to the negative complaints about situations, we box ourselves in a place where change for the better is not likely to happen. Gordon is reminding us to stay focused on what grounds us. What grounds me is moving education in a direction that better prepares our children for an ever-changing world. What grounds me is working to make our school culture a strong one that focuses on growing as a learner and taking responsibility for your response to events.

Sure, there are times when I get caught up in a small moment, but I do my best not to linger in that moment. Small moments aren’t everlasting, but the setbacks to the progress of our goals end up being everlasting if any of us shift away from what grounds us could be everlasting.

Let’s commit to staying focused on seeing what could be for our kids!

Have a great week!

Herb

Here’s the Staff Update for this week!

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Mid-October in schools is stressful. Conferences, kids are challenging our norms because they are feeling comfortable with school, staff fatigue — All are these are ingredients for a tough day or week. It’s also the time of year when we start to lose focus because we are too busy worrying about everything that is going on around us.

These are the times, however, where gratitude and focusing on what is working can help us get out of a “slump”. So what’s working? I know we could come up with hundreds of items, events, learning successes, professional successes, and small moments we could celebrate.  So, that’s what I want you to do: Celebrate everything that has gone well.

And gratitude? Gratitude is important because, as I have learned from Sharon Esswein, you can’t be grateful and unhappy at the same time. What are you thankful for? What is it that at the end of the day you can think about and truly be grateful for having in your life.

So, you have homework this weekend:

  • Keep the main thing the main thing. 
  • Celebrate what is working.
  • Seek out a personal sources of gratitude. 

 

Have a GREAT week next week!

Here’s the Staff Update for Oct 23-27.

Reflective Learners: Better Teachers?

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Late last week, I had the opportunity to guest teach in a 3rd grade classroom for a math lesson. The students’ task was to work on a situation-based problem where the students needed to be flexible with their thinking to solve a problem that did not involve simply finding the sum or difference between two numbers.

The kids paired up and began working through the problem. I asked them to check in with me if they got stuck or when they had the answer. Now, my goal in all of this was to ask the right question to support the students’ work. I knew that during this activity, there would be kids who:

  • Got the answer fast, but wouldn’t have anything that documented their thinking;
  • Worked hard on the problem but would need reassurance they were on the right track;
  • Would need to be extended because they were able to quickly solve the problem;
  • Were clueless as to what to do.

Anticipating how to support kids took me a long time to fine tune as a classroom teacher and, if I were still in the classroom, it would be something I would like to keep fine-tuning. One thing that helps me to continue to work on this is taking the time to reflect about how I take on new challenges and how I react to new learning situations. My hope is that this makes me a more empathetic teacher when it comes to supporting students.

I believe educators need to put themselves in situations where they are having to learn something new or where they need to apply a skill to a new situation. Having a self-awareness about what the learning experience feels like can help us support students. I also believe that being learners ourselves helps us anticipate how our students will tackle a learning situation. When this happens, we ask better questions that lead students to new understandings.

Hope you get to learn something new this week!

Herb

Worth Checking Out

‪10 Tips for Creating a Fertile Environment for Kids’ Creativity and Growth https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/10/03/10-tips-for-creating-a-fertile-environment-for-kids-creativity-and-growth/‬

How To Work Smarter – Not Harder – As A Teacher  https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/work-smarter-not-harder-teacher/

 

Upcoming Dates

October

9 – PTO Meeting, 7pm
10 – School Improvement Team Meeting, 8:15am
11 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8:30am
12 – ADE Fall Tailgate, 6:30-7:30pm
17 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out
18 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out
20 – COI Day, No School
23 – Yearbook Cover Contest (through November 3)
26 – State of the Schools, 6pm Makoy Center
31 – Halloween

November

2 – Admin mtg, Herb out AM
6 – School Community Meeting, 10:45am; Student Picture Makeup Date
7 – PD Waiver Day, No School for Students
8 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out all day
10 – Veterans Day observed; End of 1st Trimester

 

I’m going for it…

How my week felt in a nutshell…or in the back of a pickup.

20+ scheduled meetings in one week seems like a lot of meetings. After living through a week of 20+ meetings, I can confirm with you that it is.

This week felt like I was doing a lot of things all at once. I saw the truck packed with furniture in the picture above on my way back to school from, you guessed it, a meeting. I laughed because of how incredibly unsafe it looked. I guess it’s not actually funny, I just couldn’t believe what I saw. You know someone at some point said that they shouldn’t move furniture like this. The driver obviously had enough bungee cords to prove otherwise.

Strangely enough, after a full week, I felt great on Friday evening. I still had enough energy to spend time with the family and stay up late after everyone went to bed.

There’s a reason I still felt great at the end of the week that I’ll get to in a minute.

Fast forward to Sunday to me waking up at 4:45am to get myself ready for a 10 mile race later that morning. On Friday, we race participants had received an email from the race organizers warning of the dangers of running in heat that was in the forecast for the race. They reminded us that “no records are going to be made” in this kind of heat, so take it easy and be safe.

While I was driving to the race that morning, I had already started telling myself not to run hard and to play it safe. Despite the forecast and the warnings, the morning still felt pretty cool while I was standing at the starting line. We would be running on a trail that was fairly wooded too, which would keep the air cool.

3 miles into the race, I was feeling pretty good. I didn’t feel as hot as I thought I was going to feel. I was passing some of the other runners I had started the race with and I told myself, “just go for it”. I ended up having a pretty good run and it became a confidence booster for me as I head into the last few weeks before the half marathon I get to run.

I bring up the packed week and my race this weekend because everything that happened this week reminded me how important my self-talk is.

I felt great on Friday not because the week was over with, but because those 20+ meetings led to better things for the kids we serve. I said yes to all of those meetings after all because I said to myself that I can do it. I also reminded myself to have gratitude for a great team of teacher to work with and I celebrated the work that was accomplished.

I felt like I ran a good race because I decided to stay tuned into how was feeling during the run. I’ve run enough to know when I’m dragging and when I feel like I could run all day. I pushed out the pessimism of the race organizers and went for it.

I know that every week won’t go this way for me. But when you feel like you can take on a challenge, what are you giving up by not going for it?

Have a GREAT week!

– Herb

Upcoming Dates —

September

25 – Pastries with Parents, 8am
27 – Herb at mtg off campus, AM; ADE Staff Meeting, 3:45pm; Mumkin Delivery, 1pm; Mumkin pickup 4-7pm
29 – ADDC Culture Celebration, 1-3pm

October

2-6 Conference Week
5- School Community Meeting, 9:25am; Fall Conference Late Night 4-8pm
7 – Cardboard Challenge
9 – PTO Meeting, 7pm
10 – School Improvement Team Meeting, 8:15am
11 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8:30am
17 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out
18 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out
19 – ADE Fall Tailgate, 6:30-8:00pm
20 – COI Day, No School
23 – Yearbook Cover Contest (through November 3)
26 – State of the Schools, 6pm Makoy Center
31 – Halloween

 

Is it about the tech or the learning?

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Thanks to Angie, one of our 2nd grade teachers for sharing this article from The Guardian called “Tablets out, imagination in: the schools that shun technology.” I love thinking and discussing the role technology plays in learning and this article caused me to refine my thinking and philosophy of tech in the classroom.

The question of the use of technology in schools seems as though it’s been asked for years. I can remember when we got our Apple IIe installed in my 1st Grade classroom and my teacher explaining to us that we were going to have to take turns using it but we weren’t going to spend all of our time playing games on it.

I guess playing Number Munchers and Oregon Trail wasn’t playing games in my teacher’s eyes, but that was the extent of our use of technology in my classroom 30 years ago (it hurt to type that).

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Fast forward to today when we have ubiquitous access to technology and one can see the reason why we continue to ask the question of how much is too much.

Just like with most things in life, Mother knows best: Moderation is the key. Balancing the use of technology so that its use is most effective for students. At the center of this balance is the classroom teacher. Just as we facilitate a discussion through a line of questioning that deepens understanding, we also need to consider how we facilitate the use of technology by our students. How are we presenting the use of iPads can be the key to unlocking the potential of creativity and ownership of learning that our students can leverage to demonstrate their understanding of complex concepts and new skills. George Couros, author of The Innovator’s Mindset, argues that students should be learning with technology instead of simply learning technology.

Some powerful learning moments come when teachers present a new app to students, allow for some exploration of the app, and then ask students “What are some ways we might use this app to show our learning”. Furthermore, this kind of ongoing discussion around the theme of “how might this help you learn” emphasizes the key idea that technology is a tool for learning just as is a pencil, calculator, or textbook. If we make technology the end-all-be-all for learning, then it will be.

If we reinforce the idea that technology is a tool for learning, then it will be. Take a look at these guiding questions, also from Couros:

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From https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3702

What really excites me about tech in the classroom is the unforeseen outcomes that will come from the imaginiations and creativity of our students.

Thanks to Angie for sharing this article!

Have a GREAT week!

Herb

Worth Checking Out

T.G.I.F.: Feedback Fridays — http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/sept17/vol59/num09/T.G.I.-£Feedback£-Friday.aspx

Impossible, unlikely or difficult? —  tinyurl.com/yd8o7n4x

How the Google Suite Can Enhance Open-Ended Math Exploration — https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/09/04/how-the-google-suite-can-enhance-open-ended-math-exploration/‬

Upcoming Events

September

21 – Student Picture Day
25 – Pastries with Parents, 8am
27 – Herb at mtg off campus, AM; ADE Staff Meeting, 3:45pm; Mumkin Delivery, 1pm
29 – ADDC Culture Celebration, 1-3pm

October

2-6 Conference Week
2 – School Community Meeting, 10:45am
5 – Fall Conference Late Night 4-8pm
7 – Cardboard Challenge
9 – PTO Meeting, 7pm
10 – School Improvement Team Meeting, 8:15am
11 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8:30am
17 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out
18 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out
19 – ADE Fall Tailgate, 6:30-8:00pm
20 – COI Day, No School
23 – Yearbook Cover Contest (through November 3)
26 – State of the Schools, 6pm Makoy Center
31 – Halloween

Let’s Get More Googleyness in Schools!

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I read an interesting blog post on Google’s blog this weekend about interns who were sharing about their internship experience at Google this summer.

Each of the three interns who were interviewed worked on different projects for Google, and one question that was asked of all three interns was the most interesting one to me:

“After spending a summer at Google, what does “Googleyness” mean to you?”

First, I had never heard of “Googleyness” before, so I, ahem, Googled it.

Googleyness is a word that describes a desired characteristic or traits within people that Google considers desirable in their employees. Here’s a rundown of traits from someone else who has interned for Google:

“To me, Googleyness encompasses a couple of key things:

Working well with others

Caring about a cause bigger than yourself [1]

Curiosity (and “comfort with ambiguity”)

Approaching problems from different, interesting angles and thinking “outside” of the box

Having that signature, unique quirky thing that sets you apart (because everyone’s different!)

Passion. Period.

Desire to improve and learn from mistakes

And, above all, don’t be evil.”

I don’t believe there is a company in America who wouldn’t want their employees to have most if not all of these traits. What I think sets Google apart from other companies in hiring is the priority they place on hiring talent with Googleyness and how Googleyness is a way to describe the culture of Google that their employees experience.

When I take another look at that list of traits and the way the interns describe what Googleyness means to them, I see words like collaboration, curiosity, problem-solving, and passion.

These are all traits and skills I hope we can instill in our kids through the work we do with them. Helping our students build a future for themselves starts with us in elementary. I believe these are foundational traits and skills that will help them have more control over their future and I hope you will join me in working to build more Googleyness into ADE!

Have a GREAT week!

Herb

 

Worth Checking Out

“Resilience isn’t just being tough; it’s a skill you can develop. Here’s how I did it.” http://wapo.st/2go7pee?tid=ss_tw-bottom&utm_term=.88af9b641252

Be More Like Mattress Mack!

Upcoming Dates

September

 

5 – Mumkin Orders due

6 – Curriculum Night, 5:30-6:30pm

7 – Herb at Admin mtg, AM

11 – PTO Meeting, 6-7pm (Exec mtg); 7pm (General mtg)

12 – School Improvement Team meeting, 8:15am

13 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8:15am

15 – Building Advisory Committee meeting, 8:30am

16 – AD/DC Warrior Dash, 1-6pm

21 – Student Picture Day

25 – Pastries with Parents, 8am

27 – Herb at mtg off campus, AM; ADE Staff Meeting, 3:45pm; Mumkin Delivery, 1pm

29 – ADDC Culture Celebration, 1-3pm

 

October

2-6 Conference Week

2 – School Community Meeting, 10:45am

5 – Fall Conference Late Night 4-8pm

7 – Cardboard Challenge