Let Your “Why” Lead the Way

Image source: flickr

What is your “why”?

What is your response when someone asks you why you got into education?

Serving others and changing the world for the better are the “whys” that drive me.

Serving others sounds reasonable and relatable to others, especially those who are outside of our field.

However, the second “why” – helping change the world for the better – gets a different response: a coy smile, a “yeah, right” look, or some sort of patronizing response.

But it’s true – I want to change the world and make it a better place.  I believe that education is the key to that change.  The values we lift up show our kids the importance of integrity, responsibility and citizenship and what that looks like when we apply what we’ve learned to create something new or solve a problem that exists.

I love this thought from the book Start. Right. Now.: Teach and Lead for Excellence

Good teachers help students learn facts so they can do well on tests and progress in school.

Great teachers empower students to use knowledge to change the world.

Whitaker, T., Zoul, J., & Casas, J. (2017). Start. Right. Now.: teach ande lead for excellence. San Diego: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

The learning experiences we create for kids should go beyond just covering a curriculum or making sure we “hit” standards.  Our work needs to be rooted in the bigger goal of creating students who are empowered to use knowledge to make the world better.

When we talk about “exercising the gap” between good and great, we are talking about pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and escape from “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.  Doing so gets us and our students closer to a more personalized learning experience and to a point where we are developing learner agency.

It’s shocking to me how people dismiss the importance of education to our future.   It’s even more shocking when educators misplace this importance.

Let’s continue to commit ourselves to developing an understanding of the importance of the work we do and how it connects to the success our students will experience in their future.

Each one of us is the key to developing a future we hope to see.

Have a GREAT week!

– Herb


Worth Checking Out

How Schools Can Face The ‘Bad Habits’ That Inhibit Meaningful Changes https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/03/06/how-schools-can-face-the-bad-habits-that-inhibit-meaningful-changes/

Want to Fix Schools? Go to the Principal’s Office https://nyti.ms/2m9RAWx

Upcoming Dates



13 – Spring Flower Sale Orders due

14 – IMPACT PD (K-2 Teachers)

15 – Olive Tree Spirit DAY; Spec Ed Team Meeting, noon; RTI Team meeting, 3:40

16 – Admin meeting (Herb, AM); 5th Grade Musical Performances: 10:50, 1:20, & 7pm

17 – BAC meeting (rescheduled to this date), 8:15am

20-24 – Spring Break

27 – Class Panoramic Pictures

29 – Staff Meeting, 3:45 – One2One Pioneers to present.

30-31 – Herb in DC


April (State Testing dates listed below)

3 – School Community Meeting – “Adjust and Adapt”, 10:45am; Board of Education meeting at ADE, 7pm

4 – BIT meeting, 8am

6 – Admin meeting (Herb, AM)

10 – Preschool IEP meetings (Herb/Brian H), throughout day

12 – Staff Meeting – Progress check on Data Team goal

13 – Mental Health and Wellness Team meeting, 8am; One2One Principal meeting, 10am

14 – Holiday, No School

2016-17 Testing Calendar

Ohio State Assessment Schedule at ADE (Grades 3, 4 & 5):

Tuesday, April 4 — Grade 5 English Language Arts, Part 1

Wednesday, April 5 — Grade 5 English Language Arts,  Part 2

Thursday, April 6 — Grades 3 & 4 English Language Arts, Part 1

Friday, April 7 — Grades 3 & 4 English Language Arts, Part 2

Tuesday, April 18 — Grade 5 Mathematics, Parts 1 & 2

Wednesday, April 19 — Grade 4 Mathematics, Parts 1 & 2

Thursday, April 20 — Grade 3 Mathematics, Parts 1 & 2

Tuesday, April 25 — Grade 5 Science and Grade 4 Social Studies, Parts 1 & 2


“Working The Gap”


Last week, I wrote about “the edge” — The point where you can either give up or push forward; the point where you realize that failure is likely to happen.

This week, I had the opportunity to hear a Brian Kight talk about Building Skill at the last Community R-Factor meeting.

“Growth mindset”, “the power of ‘yet'” —  We’ve heard time and time again that being willing to have an open mind to new situations makes us learners who are eager to want to learn something new and to build new skill.

Brian Kight’s focus for the evening went deeper than this though.  Kight’s message emphasized the mechanics and the emotion it takes to move from being Automatic (Good) to Exceptional (Elite).

Here’s a summary of Kight’s message on the difference between Good and Elite:

Good = Comfortable, automatic, where 80% of people perform.

Elite = Exceptional, learning mindset, where few people choose to perform because they think it’s too much work or too risky.

Think back to the first two years of your teaching career (or to the first teaching experience you had if this is your first year). Think about the excitement you felt each day because everything was new and how that excitement is different now that you have experience. I know that we all still get excited about teaching, but the excitement is for different reasons. As experienced educators, we spend more time excited about a favorite unit or lesson and less time excited about learning something new.

See the difference? With experience, we exchange the excitement of learning something new and trying something that puts us way out of our comfort zone for the comfort of the familiar.

Which of the two descriptions match the energy level and curiosity need to be “Elite”? Which description match what is needed to be “Good”, comfortable and automatic?

This is why most of us, whether it has to do with our job or something that has to do with our personal life, resist change.  Resisting change is a reaction to having to walk away from the experience we have built over the years. That experience took hard work and, over time, has granted us comfort.

Seeking comfort is not necessarily bad. It could be argued that it’s human nature to seek comfort.

However, we also need to recognize that the world is ever-changing and because of that we must adjust.

Go back to the feeling of resistance to change.  Let’s say you agree that this resistance is a natural reaction — You’ve worked hard to build the skill that has given you the experience necessary to be successful.

How do you convince yourself to accept that our world changes whether we like it or not and that we too must change?

When I think about how I would respond to this question, I think about what it was I did to get where I am now. 

What did it take for me to reach my goal of being a building principal?

Hard work.



Facing adversity.

What has been needed of me to perform as a building principal?

Hard work.



Facing adversity.

So, what is it exactly that I would be giving up if I embrace change?


I’ve realized that “change” is just an opportunity to learn something new using skills that I have gained through experience.

This not only provides me with comfort, but it helps me take on new challenges.

This is how I need to approach work that is in the “Gap” — The space between Good and Elite.  I need to have a Beginner’s Mindset and view the world and work I do with fresh eyes and with excitement.

We have very little to lose staying “Good” at what we do; we also have very little else to gain.

Let’s commit to being Exceptional at a skill or habit that directly impacts the work we do for kids.  Let’s get great at change and work hard in the Gap between Good and Elite!

Have a GREAT week!


Articles Worth Reading

Upcoming Dates


24 – Design Team Meeting, 8am at DCR; State of Schools (Darby), 6-9PM

25 – 3rd Grade Data Team day; FIRE DRILL, 2:15pm; State of Schools (Davidson), 6-9PM

26 – 4th Grade Data Team day; ADDC STAFF MEETING, 3:45 at ADEState of Schools (Bradley), 6-9PM

28 – BAC, 8am if needed.  Please send your agenda items to me or Karen O by Wednesday!

31 – Hilliard Trick or Treat night



1 – Building Improvement Team meeting, 8am; Kindergarten Data Team day; RIMP Deadline; SLO Deadline

2 – 1st Grade Data Team day

3 – 2nd Grade Data Team day

5 – Lit Drop, pick-up lit at Heritage MS between 9-11am

7 – 2nd Grade Culture Show, 2pm

9 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8am

10 – Mental Health and Wellness Team meeting, 8am; 5th Grade Data Team day

16 – Spec Ed Team meeting, 12 noon; RTI Team meeting, 3:30pm

22 – 5th Grade Talent Show, 1:20-2:20

23-25 — Thanksgiving holiday


Click here for the Elementary Assessment Calendar for 2016-2017.




Board of Education Meeting – October 24, 7pm at Darby High School

Community Information Meeting – October 27, 7:30pm at Tharp

Community Information Meeting – November 7, 7:30pm at Station

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 http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/11864

We Find What We Look For In Our Students – So What Do We See?  http://chriswejr.com/2015/09/21/we-find-what-we-look-for-in-our-students-so-what-do-we-see/#.VgfkInUkcox.twitter

Change: Choose the crockpot over the microwave… http://www.justintarte.com/2015/09/change-choose-crockpot-over-microwave.html?spref=tw

Digital vs Digitized Learning http://wp.me/p1yBnd-mP

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

Let’s take a walk.

Update for Apr 20-24

I had a lot of fun during the first “Walk with Mr. H” at recess on Friday.  Who knew walking around our path would be such a big draw with kids?  I tweeted a picture another teacher took of me walking and the response on Twitter was just as favorable as it had been with the kids:


I honestly don’t think it was because of me either; it could have been any one of us out there walking and the kids would have had just as much fun.

So what was the big draw?  Ask any kid to walk around a path during their recess and they’ll look at you like you have lobsters crawling out of your ears. But make yourself available to spend time with kids and they’ll be there.

I realized that the kids weren’t drawn to walking the path.  Kids were drawn to walking because it was a time to have a personal connection.
I had a great conversation with a teacher at the end of the week and we started talk about change in education (This is related, I promise…hang in there).  They said something that I completely agree with: Whatever we do for kids that works is really just good teaching.

It’s true: At the end of the day, it’s how we relate and interact with students that will determine the effectiveness of any program or any lesson that we do.  The conversation made me think of the remarks of another one of my favorite educators, Todd Whitaker: “It’s people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school.”

What that means to me is putting all of your stock into building relationships with your students. The “Walk with Mr. H” was successful because this year I’ve tried to make being visible in the building, knowing each student by his or her first name, and talking with them a top priority.  I believe that if I hadn’t spent my time building positive rapport with students, I would have been walking alone.  As George Couros reminds us: To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection to the heart before you make a connection to the mind.”

All of this has helped me to understand one key aspect to the work we are doing this year: No matter what we do in the future to re-imagine what the elementary learning experience might look like, effective change will always depend on the positive relationships we build with each other and with our students.

Articles Worth Reading

Upcoming Dates

Apr 20
4th and 5th Grade ELA EOY State Assessments
Dave & Busters Spirit Night, 5pm-8pm

Apr 21
3rd Grade Spring OAA Reading
Staff Meeting with ADE/DCR staff at 3:45 pm at ADE–Teacher steering committee small group explains the vision/design for next year’s extension opportunity to the staff as a whole

Apr 22
3rd, 4th, 5th, Grade Math Unit 1 EOY Assessments
*** Garden Dedication, Celebration *** 2:00ish — See Becky and/or Meredith for details for how the kids can help this BIG DAY!

Apr 23
3rd, 4th, 5th, Grade Math Unit 2 EOY Assessments
*** ART SHOW *** 6:00-7:30pm

Apr 27
Board of Education Meeting at Alton Darby, 7pm

Apr 28
Tech PD with Kelly Riley, 7:45am

Apr 29
ADE WALKATHON — During each grade’s Related Arts Time — AM/PM KG will combine with a grade-level.  Details to come!

Student Housing Committee Meeting (Herb) 4:30

May 1
Team Connection Meeting with Dr. John/Board Member, 8:00am — Meet and greet, breakfast provided.  Your chance to talk with Dr. John.

Upcoming AD/DC Project Dates

4/21–Staff Meeting with ADE/DCR staff at 3:45 pm at ADE–Teacher steering committee small group explains the vision/design for next year’s extension opportunity to the staff as a whole

5/6–OPTIONAL STAFF MEETING–work time to collaborate/meet/plan with the people who are teaming up for the extension/design opportunity next year for students.

5/8–Teacher steering committee site visits and work session…
6 of the committee members from each building (those who didn’t go to Reynoldsburg) will go to Wickliffe with Herb, CT and Jennifer.  This team will see a Town Hall meeting that is completely run by students from 8:30-9:30 and then meet with, talk with, and tour the school with the principal until 11:00/11:30.  We will then meet back at CO at 12:00 with the ENTIRE Teacher Steering committee (the 4 who went to Reynoldsburg will need to put in for a ½ day PD request for the afternoon) to debrief and have lunch (provided and to be ordered through Aramark).  We will engage in conversation with the group regarding how to shift our practice as we continue moving forward with our design next year towards students defining their learning path through the options/opportunities that teachers can create/provide for them as experiences.  Could these/are these options/opportunities connected to the networks? This would support students defining the voice and choice in their learning and becomes the heart of student ownership within the design.
Additionally one GOAL for the day is to NAME IT…not pedagogically…or programatically….but based on our Guiding Principles.  So the IT that is named represents the way we do things grounded in those principles–the mantra of “Who We’d Like to Be”.  We will be showing the teacher videos one more time and identifying how these ideas align to the principles established in our Guiding Principles and how these ideas can become opportunities for next year.  

5/13–last teacher steering committee meeting for 2014-15​–The purpose is the thank those who were on this committee and touch base/listen to their perspective of the buildings from which they represent, what they think is necessary for next year to move forward.  We will share with them our “list” of what needs to happen and ask them for their “list” in order to bridge the perspectives to move forward with SOME implementation of SOME ideas for the 2015-16 year.

"To sync or swim?" Thoughts on e-learning…

I wanted to share a response to a learning module I just completed for a course I am taking called “Technology in Administration”. This module asked us to think about our experiences of a synchronous e-learning experience (think Skype or Google Hangouts) and asynchronous e-learning experience (think “all online learning”). I am fascinated with this topic because of the potential of online learning spaces and because I believe passionately in the learning experiences that can only be found in a traditional “brick-and-mortar” school. A question I come back to is, “How can we provide both traditional and online learning experiences for students?”

My own synchronous online session experiences have been successful learning experiences for me, overall. There is something to be said about being able to connect with your peers from the comfort of your home. The fact that I can eliminate an hour’s worth of travel from my day is a huge benefit to me and my family. I appreciate that I can get the same out of the content of the course as I could if I were in a classroom. However, the personal connections and social interactions do not seem as real to me as they do when we are able to meet face-to-face.

As I read through the module’s materials, one resource in particular jumped out at me. It was the Rubric for Online Instruction from California State University, Chico. Take a look at the “Instructional Design and Delivery” section of the rubric:

What I noticed was that the characteristics of an exemplary online classroom have the same characteristics of an exemplary brick-and-mortar classroom. This was clear to me after reading the Exemplar characteristic for Interaction and Communication: “Course offers ample opportunities for interaction and communication student-to-student, student-to-instructor and student-to-content.”

The traditional classroom and the online classroom are striving for the same thing when it comes to interactions. However, if I were to have to choose which of the two formats for learning have the edge in providing connections, I would definitely choose the traditional classroom. While there is convenience that comes with online learning formats, it’s hard to replace face-to-face interactions with people in the flesh.

This leads me to believe that e-learning should be an instructional approach – not a way of learning – that is blended with traditional learning experiences. And apparently I am not alone in this belief. Our district recently organized a technology task-force of students, teachers and community members and one of the key findings was that students overwhelmingly said they do not want to sit in front of a screen all day.

We have classrooms in our building as young as 2nd grade utilizing online learning formats. We are using sites such as MobyMax and Khan Academy to supplement instruction (but not supplant it). Teachers have their classroom set up as workshops where students rotate to the online based activity throughout the workshop. I appreciate this approach because it seems like the classroom teachers are seeking out learning experiences for students in a response to student need rather than a top-down directive. It’s an approach that isn’t utilizing technology for technology’s sake and is instead keeping the focus on the learner.

School leaders need to keep the learner at the center of any technology conversations. We need to ensure that we are teaching the learner, not the content or the device.

Simple Ideas Can Lead to Big Changes

Photo from http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-09-02/lifestyle/35494321_1_happiness-positive-emotions-signs

Simple ideas can lead to big changes.

I ran across this blog post by Jason Markey that describes how he is developing a vision for his school around the simple idea of being kind to others. Markey says,

“Be Kind, Find Your Passion, and Commit to Excellence. This is my new personal vision for education. This is the sentence that I will share repeatedly with every one of our students and more importantly I will bring these thoughts to every conversation and decision I’m a part of.”

I really like this video that Markey included. It features the story of Massoud Adibpour who wanted to make a positive impact. Adibpour got some folks together and put simple messages like “Honk if you love someone” and “Smile” on signs and stood alongside busy Washington, D.C. roads. I love this idea of doing something simple to try and make a big impact.


There’s been lots of research done to see what initiatives can make the biggest difference in schools, but it seems the best approach may look more like the vision of Jason Markey and Massoud Adibpour. Maybe the most influential school change initiative we can undertake is to show kindness every single day. Simple things like saying hello to a student or smiling at them can make the biggest difference.

Seeking Balance by Asking Questions #EDAD688


Education seems to be changing at warp speed.

And it seems like everything is on the table when it comes to what needs to change in education: schedules, grades, lesson delivery, professional development – We are taking a “leave no stone unturned” approach to changing schools and looking into replacing it with self-paced online learning instead of classroom learning, passion projects instead of performance tasks, and PLNs instead of professional development.

This is a great development for students. I like how Ayna Kamenetz explained the latest trends in education: It’s never been a better time to be a learner.

However, I find myself asking questions about some of these changes.

  • Is a 1:1 program good for all students? Even Kindergartners?

  • Is “flipped instruction” the right instructional approach for all students?

  • Should all professional development happen through a PLN?

As a parent of a Kindergartner and a 3rd grader, I can tell you that I would not feel comfortable if my daughters learned everything through passion projects. They still need so many foundational skills such as reading, writing and math that will help them get to a point where they can explore an interest and do it successfully.

A hot topic in education in my district is passion projects and how we need to give students the freedom to learn more about their passions. Companies like Google and FedEx do that for their employees through “20% time” programs and it is yielding results.

But don’t forget, Google calls it 20% time because 80% of the time there is still work to be done.

Kids should explore their interests, but they should also need to learn how to be literate problem-solvers who can navigate and understand content.

And let’s be honest: Passion projects are really an instructional approach. The successful teachers I know are the ones who vary their instructional approaches in response to their students rather than use the same approach for everything.

So for now, I’m going to continue to ask questions about some of the changes being proposed. I’m not ready to throw everything out because we are doing great work with kids even if it’s not “flipped” or passion-based. As we strive for change, I believe we also need to strive for a balanced instructional approach.