4 Takeaways from “Hilliard U”

Spoiler Alert: Kids today are different than we were.

Bonus Spoiler: We were different than our parents, too.
Three years ago, Alton Darby and Darby Creek started on a journey to see if the elementary learning experience could be different.  Many times we concluded “yes”, but there was and still is this struggle among us to accept that 1) Kids are different than we were and therefore learn differently than we did; and 2) The world is rapidly changing and therefore we need to retool and revise the learning experiences we create for kids.
We found ourselves wanting to change, but we battle ourselves over our own fears and against “but that’s the way we’ve always done it”.
We know that our fears and how we feel about the challenges that are before us won’t change kids and the way they learn and won’t cause the world to stop from rapidly changing.
We are left with one choice, which is to embrace the challenges before us and remember that what is consistent about our profession is our deep-seeded calling to help and serve children.
Last Tuesday at “Hilliard U”, many educators in our district shared the ways they are retooling and revising the learning experiences they create for kids.  Teachers shared stories about overcoming their own fears of new ideas and approaches and the positive results they experiences with their students.  Below are four of my takeaways from Hilliard U that stuck with me and continue to make me reflect on my role as an educator.

1. Our kids’ brains are wired differently.

We could debate whether this is good or not, but the fact remains that our kids’ brains, how they experience the world, and the stimulus they receive from the world have created different neural pathways.  If we want to increase engagement and decrease negative behaviors, we need to consider how much instant feedback and social engagement plays a role with our students’.

2. Learning to read has changed.

One of the sessions I attended focused on the different approaches to reading we all need to consider when reading digital content.  Scrolling, ads, linear format without pages are aspects of digital reading that we may be overlooking as teachers.  In the picture above, we rated our preference of reading format with traditional on the left and digital on the right.  It would be interesting and worthwhile to see how our students rated the two formats.  As you can see, most of the adults liked a balance of paper and digital.  I would argue that preference is one thing, but reality is another.  Stop and think about how much digital reading we do in one day.  Think about how differently we have to approach digital texts in order to understand them.  That experience should inform us of our instructional approaches in reading and the behaviors we need to teach, model and demonstrate for our growing readers.

3.  “My biggest roadblock was my own mindset…”

It’s amazing the people who are creating amazing learning experiences for kids who will also say “I don’t consider myself tech-savvy”.  This is what the presenting teachers of the keynote on blended learning said of themselves as they amazed the audience with how they provided excellent instructional experiences for the students they work with each day.  We need to give ourselves more credit for what we are capable of doing.


4. “We are our own best resource.”

I ended the day listening to a panel of teachers from two of our elementary schools who have piloted the One2One experience this year with students.  Their honesty about failing and persevering was comforting and inspiring.  What they revealed is that we need to give our students and ourselves more credit for what we are all capable of doing.  And when we get stuck, we have each other as resource to utilize.
As we move forward into next school year, and take on the changes we have in store for our students, I challenge us all to remember that we’ve got this.  We are on the cusp of something great and it was the talents, skills, and mindset of everyone in this school community that got us to where we are right now.
Finally, I’ll leave you with an ADE student’s letter to Ms. Bednar after attending a showcase of learning projects.  I hope it captures for you what our kids are wanting from learning:
The kids are ready to go! Let’s do this!
Have a GREAT week!
– Herb

Worth Reading

A Principal’s Reflections: Our Work is Our Message http://esheninger.blogspot.com/2017/05/our-work-is-our-message.html?spref=tw
Projects, Passion, Peers and Play: Seymour Papert’s Vision For Learning https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/05/01/projects-passion-peers-and-play-seymour-paperts-vision-for-learning/

Upcoming Dates

8 – Kona Ice Truck here; PTO Meeting, 7:00; Spirit Week

9 – BIT meeting, 8:00; Retirement Party, 3:45

10 – 8am Staff Meeting; 9:30-11:15am Grades 1-4 meet in Media Center data team meeting (see email from last week); 5th grade field trip to Art Museum; last day for Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30

11 – Staff Book Talk, 8:00 am; Tornado Drill, 1:30 p.m.

12 – 4th grade field trip to Art Museum; SLSP Field Day at Darby H.S., 9:15 – 1:30; 5th grade Growth & Development, 1:30 – 2:30

14 – Mother’s Day

15 – Field Day, 9:30 – 11:30 am and 12:30 – 2:30 pm

16 – Focus fieldtrip to Falling Waters, 5:30 am – 9:15 pm; SLSP field trip to Tim Horton’s and Petsmart, 9:15 – 11:00; Fire Drill, 10:00 a.m.

18 – Principal’s Meeting (Herb AM); Staff Book Talk, 8:00 am; See Kids Dream 5th grade field trip to Riffe Center

19 – Last day at preschool; 4th grade field trip to Zoo; SLSP fieldtrip to Get Air, 9:15 – 11:00

22 – PTO Spirit Night at Dave & Buster’s, 4:30 – 7:30 pm

23 – 3rd grade field trip to Art Museum; PTO Family Luau, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

24 – 1st grade field trip to Art Museum

26 – Last Day of School!


Permit and Promote

“If you permit it, you promote it.” – Todd Whitaker, What Great Principals Do Differently

This quote was referenced by Todd Whitaker in the context of building culture and establishing expectations.  He explains that the culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.

As we recognize and commit to the need to journey into uncharted pedagogical territory in education, this quote actually may be the key to moving forward. That is, if we flip the focus of the quote from negative outcomes to positive outcomes.

What if we permitted more in our classrooms in order to promote more of the kind of learning experiences our kids need?

What would happen if we permitted more projects, more collaboration, more reflection, and more student control?

If we permitted more of the kind of learning that will allow more inquiry, authentic application of skills, and opportunities for kids to reflect on their learning journey more often, we will promote a dramatic shift the learning culture in our classrooms.

As we move into Act III of the school year, think about what you might intentionally permit in order to authentically promote.

Have a GREAT week!

– Herb

Worth Checking Out —

Love this video by Apple —  As we move to providing students with a One2One iPad experience next year I challenge you to think less about the tool and more about what’s possible with it:

What Makes a Master Teacher http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/267


Upcoming Dates —



27 – Spring Flower Sale Kickoff


1 – School Community Meeting – Step Up/Build Skill, 10:45; Spec Ed Team meeting, noon

2 – Admin mtg (AM)

4 – ADE Family Fun Day, 10am-3pm

7 – BIT Meeting, 8am; 3rd Safety Drill, 10:45 am

8 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8am — Check in on Students’ writing performance since last month (Counts as monthly Data Team check-in for literacy)

10 – Principals’ One2One meeting, 10am

13 – Spring Flower Sale Orders due

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

16 – 5th Grade Musical Performances: 10:50, 1:20, & 7pm

20-24 – Spring Break

2016-17 Testing Calendar

The Kind of Community We Build


Most early childhood and elementary school teachers speak passionately about building community in the beginning of the year, but what kind of community we build is the bigger question.

-Mraz & Hertz, A Mindset For Learning (2015)

I continue to find A Mindset for Learning a thought-provoking and informative read.  The authors connect research-based information and ask their readers to think deeply by what it truly means to build a classroom community of resilient, joyful learners.

It’s no secret that the teacher is the number one driving force in the development of the classroom community.  Teachers set the tone through what they celebrate, what they ignore, their body language, and the words they choose when working with their learners.

So how are things going in your classroom community?  Before you answer, take a look at another quote from A Mindset for Learning and ask yourself if the statement a) reflects your belief about building a classroom community and b) reflects what is currently happening in your classroom community.

[A] child’s self-control, tenacity, and persistence are influenced first by their environment and the reliability and consistency of their caregivers. If we want to build a community of persistence, joy resilience, flexibility, and empathy, we must first be all of those things, and be reliable in those things.

As you reflect, also consider the fact that kids are extremely intuitive and tuned-in to their teachers.  They pick up on when we are energized and when we are flat.

In a 1993 study, researchers showed students, who did not know the teachers, 30-second silent video clips of 13 graduate teaching fellows while they were teaching and had the students rate the teachers on 13 variables like “accepting”, “active”, and “confident”.  The researchers then compared the ratings by the same students with the end of the semester course evaluations from the same students and found a 0.76 correlation (0.60 is considered “very strong”).  Amazing — Students can “slice” their perception of us in 30 seconds and just off of our body language.

This study underscores the importance of modeling the thinking, the behaviors, and the values we must reliably model if we are to instill the same within our students.

We are reaching the midway point of the first six weeks of school.  Take time now to reflect on the progress you have made with your students.  Reflect on how much of the community reflects your students interests and values vs. your own.  Where is the balance tipping? Towards you or towards your students?

Take into account the profound value and impact a sense of hope, belongingness, and engagement have our each of our students.

Have a GREAT week!


Tweets Worth Reading




Upcoming Dates


12 – PTO Meeting, 7PM

14 – RTI Team Meeting, 3:40PM

21 – Safety Drill (Lockdown), 10:45; Spec Ed Team Meeting, 12:00

22 — School Picture Day!

24 – EdCamp Columbus at Gahanna-Lincoln HS

26 – MakerSpace Grand Opening!

29 – Pasteries with Parents, 8:15AM

30 – BAC meeting, 8AM


1 – Community Cardboard Challenge

7 – Building Tour by Board of Education

17-20 — Fall Conference Week; Late Night is Weds, Oct 19.

21 – COI Day

24 – State of Schools (Darby), 6-9PM

25 – State of Schools (Davidson, 6-9PM

26 – State of Schools (Bradley), 6-9PM

School Culture Reflects What We Celebrate, Ignore, and Anticipate

Update for Mar 2-6

This weekend, Alton Darby Elementary hosted our annual Family Fun Day.  This was another new experience for me in my first year with this community.  My understanding is that this has been a tradition for at least 10 years.  In fact, one family has volunteered to help organize the event each of the last 10 years.

The event was a lot of fun and it was a great opportunity for the community to come together.  It also made me reflect on some of the thoughts and ideas I’ve been reading about in a book called School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It by Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker.

The combination of my experience with Family Fun Day this weekend and one line from the book really made me reflect on our school’s culture:

“Culture conveys to its members what they ought to celebrate, ignore, and anticipate.” (Gruenert & Whitaker, 2015)
Celebrate — What are the traditions, the moments, and the events we look forward to each year?  Why are they important to the community?  Family Fun Day reminds me that we need to look forward to fun throughout the year.  What we did for International Dot Day was an amazing way to celebrate a budding collaboration with our closest neighbor, Darby Creek Elementary.  What’s important to the culture of our community is what we celebrate.

Ignore — This is a turbulent time for public education.  There are many positive changes taking place as well as a lot distractions that potentially take our focus off of the important work we do for kids.  It’s a challenge to ignore what doesn’t matter to the work we do. But our culture reflects what we choose to put our focus on.  So shouldn’t we focus on what matters and ignore the rest?

Anticipate — What excites kids so that they can’t wait to come to school?  What increases engagement among teachers, parents and students?  Our Kids’ EdCamps, while a ton of work, have been the moments this year that parents bring up the most when I ask about how they think the school year has gone so far.  How can we continue to connect teachers’ passions to students’ interests?

A school’s culture is so important to its success. Therefore, it’s important that we celebrate what we feel represents what we stand for, ignore what distracts us from the work we do for kids, and anticipate what’s possible for our learning community.

Articles Worth Reading

“Emergent Workplaces: Learning in the Networked Worker” http://idreflections.blogspot.com/2015/02/emergent-workplaces-learning-in.html?spref=tw

“Learning LittleBits” http://wp.me/pKlio-1RG via @jackiegerstein

Upcoming Dates

Mar 2
Beef O’Brady’s Spirit Night, 5-9pm

Mar 3
PARCC Math –  3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade
Building Improvement Team meeting, 8am
Last day to enter data into Progress Reports (midnight)

Mar 4
PARCC Math – 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade
Spring Flower Sale Begins
Special Ed Team meeting, 12:30

Mar 5
Admin meeting (Herb), 8am

Mar 6
BAC meeting, 8am

Mar 9
PTO Meeting, 7pm

Mar 10
4th Grade Social Studies State Assessment
5th Grade Science State Assessment

Mar 11
ADE/DCR Staff Meeting, 3:35pm

Mar 14

Mar 16
Last Day for Spring Flower Sale Orders

Mar 17
Admin Meeting (Herb), 9:30
Teacher Steering Committee Meeting, 3:40

Mar 19
Class/Group/Staff Pictures
Admin Meeting (Herb), 8am
Mar 20
Spring Flower Sale Money due

Mar 22-27
Spring Break

Share it.

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

This is a quote from Maya Angelou and even though she may have intended it for something completely different, it made me think about how important it is for educators to share their skills and ideas with others.

Much of the work we are doing in schools in Ohio this year is to satisfy new mandates and new initiatives. Many of us are finding it hard to stay innovative and to be willing to take on new ideas because we are busy with the minutiae or we are tired from being busy with the minutiae.

However, I don’t think any of that is going away anytime soon. So, instead of continuing to complain about it, we need to move on and find more sources of inspiration and innovation. That’s where sharing becomes so important.

We need to be sharing our ideas, lessons, books we read, thoughts we have – anything that is important to us because it spurs further thinking and ideas in others. There are so many ways for educators to easily share their ideas – Twitter, Google+, blogging…it’s all there, we just need to access it.

And don’t let your own ideas stop you. When I first got connected through Twitter and started blogging, I was reluctant to share because I thought, “Who is going to think this is a good idea?”. I realized that I needed to change my mindset to, “I hope this helps someone get an idea that will help kids.” That shift in thinking helped me realize that it was important for me to add my voice to the collective conversation.

I love this quote from George Couros about realizing we are the experts. I think it speaks to the importance of sharing our knowledge with others:

When we look at change, we have to realize everything we need is often already within our own organization.  We just have to figure out how to unleash this talent. Isn’t this the culture we want in our classrooms?  It has to be modeled from the top and the way that we view every individual part of our organization.

So, make it a point to start sharing more of your ideas with others. If you haven’t connected on a social media platform yet, get connected. If you have accounts, start using them.

I need your ideas to help me continue to grow as a teacher.