Your Unfair Advantage

Over break, I read Embracing a Culture of Joy: How Educators Can Bring Joy to Their Classrooms Each Day, by Dean Shareski and was struck by the phrase “unfair advantage” that Shareski uses: 

Finding your unfair advantage is not about competition but rather an internal sense of confidence and purpose. It speaks to Pink’s (2009) and Schwartz’s (2015) notion of mastery and autonomy. While teacher satisfaction research can vary, many studies indicate that the lack of autonomy is growing in education (Sparks & Malkus, 2015). If teachers were told to embrace what makes them unique, to find and foster their unfair advantages, I can’t help but surmise that it would make a significant difference to job satisfaction. The unfair advantage of schools is the diversity of students and teachers.

Shareski explains that, if given that all things are equal – resources, time, etc., we all have something unique that we bring to our work and that gives us an unfair advantage over others.  Shareski goes on to say that this isn’t about being competitive.  It’s about recognizing a talent or passion you have that others in the building do not have and how that leads to a culture of joy in your classroom and throughout the building.

The problem, as Shareski points out, is that we often can’t see our own unfair advantage because we spend most of our time in our own classroom, our own building or our own district.  However, that shouldn’t stop any of us from knowing or finding out what our own unfair advantage is.  We should continue to look for opportunities to gain an outside perspective that will allow us to discover what it might be.  Discovering our own unfair advantage allows us to embrace what makes us unique and leverage these strengths in our work.  Recognize your strengths. Be proud of what you bring to the classroom and to our kids!

Finally, how powerful would it be for our kids if we help them think about their strengths and how they can grow them and use them as they continue to develop as learners?

EnJOY the GREAT week back!

– Herb

Worth Checking Out —



Upcoming Dates –

27 – Class Panoramic Pictures

28 – Legend Group (403b) here during lunches

29 – Staff Meeting, 3:45 – One2One Pioneers to present; Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30

30 – Mental Health & Wellness meeting, 8:00

30-31 – Herb in DC

31 – Fruit & Veggies (pineapple & carrots); Staff school supply orders due; PTO Parents Painting Night, 6:30 – 8:30 pm



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

4 – BIT meeting, 8am; 5th grade ELA, Part 1

5 – IMPACT PD (K-2 Teachers); 6th grade transition meeting, 2:00 – 4:00; 5th grade ELA, Part 2

6 – Admin meeting (Herb, AM); Blue Jackets Choir performance (before game); 3rd & 4th grade ELA, Part 1

7 – 3rd & 4th grade ELA, Part 2

10 – Preschool IEP meetings (Herb/Brian H), throughout day; PTO Meeting, 7:00

12 – Staff Meeting – Progress check on Data Team goal; KG ELL testing; Urban Zen, 3:45 – 4:45; Lambright’s Parent Ed Camp

13 – Mental Health and Wellness Team meeting, 8am; One2One Principal meeting, 10am; KG fieldtrip to Franklin Park Conservatory; 2nd grade Wax Museum; Last day to submit requisitions; Staff Lunch

14 – Holiday, No School

17 – 4th grade fieldtrip to Supreme Court & Statehouse

18 – 5th grade Math test

19 – SLSP fieldtrip to Steak N Shake; 4th grade Math Test

20 – Principal’s meeting (Herb, AM); 3rd grade Math Test

21 – 2nd grade fieldtrip to Art Museum

24-28 – Book Fair, open til 5:00 on 25th; open during Art Show on 27th; open 8:00-10:00 am on 28th

24 – Gifted model parent meeting, 6:00; Vidic’s Medicine Safety Presentation (5th=1:30 – 2:15, 4th=2:15-3:00)

25 – 5th grade Science Test; 4th grade Social Studies Test; Vidic’s Medicine Safety Presentation (2nd=1:00-1:35; 3rd=1:40-2:15; 1st=2:20-2:55)

26 – Staff meeting, 3:40; Walk-A-Thon

27 – Elementary Transfer meeting, 8:30; Art Show, times TBD

28 – BAC meeting, 8:00; fruit & veggies (grapes & snow peas); clean office lounge


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


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

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.

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”

“Learning LittleBits” 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

"What’s your word, Mr. H?"

Update for Dec 8-12

This weekend, I ran across the journal pictured above and I had to buy it.  I like that it’s a great reminder for me to stay focused on what really matters in my life and at school. Words are so powerful and can be used to lift ourselves and help us remember to stay focus on what’s important.

This week, we held our second School Community Meeting to share out the words we felt best completed the statement “At Alton Darby Elementary, We Are __________!”

While all of the words used were different, they all reflected that students feel that our learning community is a welcoming and positive place to be.  This is to the credit of the staff and families who have helped to create and nurture a positive culture.

On Tuesday, I was out and about in classrooms and during a conversation with a student, she asked “What’s your word, Mr. H?”

This was something I struggled with during this little project.  It’s hard for me to choose just one word to represent what I feel reflects our school.  But it was a struggle for others so why shouldn’t I struggle too?

But honestly, I think the best way for me to complete the statement is by using all of the words that were generated.  And that’s exactly how I answered the student:

“I didn’t actually pick a word because it’s important that I represent and support all of the words that were used. I pick everyone’s word because I am the principal for all of you.”

Was that the easy way out? Maybe. But what will be the real challenge for me is making sure the work we do supports and encourages the words our kids and staff used to reflect how they feel about our school. Because at Alton Darby Elementary, We Are…

Community, Diverse, Resolvers, Strong, Together, Family, Team Players, Hard Workers, Love, Democracy, Smart, Teamwork, Believers, Creatives, Yummy, Individualized, Turstworthy, Together, Powerful, Higgenbawesome, Kind, Possibilities, Poised, and Unique!

Videos that inspire

Students’ Voice: Empowering Transformation

Worth a watch/listen — Good conversation about student voice in the school day. Pernille talks about what is possible and what is reality.  I think she will affirm many of our thoughts and beliefs about school.

Also — Pernille wrote a book that I am reading called “Empowered Schools, Empowered Students” that is also apart of the Corwin Connected Educator Series

This series includes books by mostly practicing teachers and principals and they are terrific as far as driving new ideas (And they are about 70 pages each).  I am enjoying them and I thought you might too:

Schools that work for kids — My favorite line from this is “We’ve made school work really well for us [teachers].” Thanks to Cathy Mere for sharing!

Upcoming Dates — 

Tuesday, Dec 9 — 
8:00-8:45 — BAC Meeting
9:00 — Community Outing with Mrs. Shively

Fri Dec 12, 2014 — 
7am – 9am Board of Edu Bldg Tours – HMS, ADE/HPS & DCR

Tues Dec 16, 3:40 — Tchr Steering Committee meeting


  • Course catalog’s are scheduled to go home with kids tomorrow (12/8).
  • Students and parents will pick their session through Signup Genius (No paper registrations! Yay!)
  • Rosters should be ready on Friday (12/12).

Fri Dec 19, 2014 — Holiday Parties

Dec 22, 2014-Jan 4, 2015 — Winter Break

The Importance of Expectations

Update for September 2-5

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress,

and working together is success. —Henry Ford

The first several weeks of school were always my favorite part of the year when I was in the classroom.  It was the time when the students and I focused our efforts into learning about each other, working together and establishing our classroom community.

One aspect to building a classroom community that I didn’t work as hard on during my first years of teaching was setting expectations in a way that were clear for students.  I have learned that this lack of attention to setting expectations was the source of so many of my frustrations when kids made what I thought was a poor decision.  The reality was that they probably didn’t really understand what my expectations really were.  

What I mean by this is that even though I would say things like, “We need to clean up at the end of the day,” my fourth grade students would still leave the classroom a mess.  I thought I had covered my expectations by simply saying “we need to clean up”. But what does that mean? And are we all actually thinking the same thing when we hear “we need to clean up”?

A couple of years later, I read an article that helped me understand that it was me and not my kids who didn’t understand.  I didn’t understand that fourth graders, developmentally speaking, couldn’t just hear a command and then take care of it.  Fourth graders actually benefit from being taught routines with clear and explicit expectations and then practicing them.

As I visit classrooms each day, I can see that we as a staff understand what I did not as a new teacher. We understand that it takes time to develop routines; to explain them, to practice them and to truly understand them. We know that it’s okay to take time to do this because it will benefit kids and our classroom environments in the long-run.  

We are already addressing one of our Areas of Focus, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, and I am excited to continue building off of the work we have done in that area as we continue to build our learning community.

Upcoming Dates

Mon Sep 1, 2014 No School
Tue Sep 2, 2014 8am – 9am Building Improvement Team mtg
Wed Sep 3, 2014 3:35-4:20 ADE/DCR Staff Meeting at ADE*
*Feel free to bring a chair for yourself
Thu Sep 4, 2014 5:30pm – 6pm Market Day
Fri Sep 5, 2014 Newsletter Home
8am – 9am Building Advisory Committee Meeting
Mon Sep 8, 2014 Mumkin Sale Ends
 TEAM Time with Herb (During Planning)
6:30pm – 7pm PTO Executive Mtg
7pm – 8pm PTO General Mtg
Fri Sep 12, 2014 Mumkin Orders due
Fri Sep 19, 2014 Mumkin Order Money due
Wed Sep 24, 2014 3:35-4:20 ADE/DCR Staff Meeting at ADE
Thu Sep 25, 2014 Picture Day (Gym)

Videos that Inspire

Articles Worth Reading

“You have to hit ’em in their ‘passion!’”

“Digital Parent Volunteers” via @gcouros