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


This Incredible Opportunity

My goal as an educator has always been to help change the world and help make it a better place for all.

We who teach have been given this incredible opportunity to help lead a community of learners.  Our work empowers students with the skills and knowledge they will need to be the leaders we will need in the future.

When I feel down or stressed, I need to remember to be grateful for this incredible opportunity I have to make a difference – to keep the main thing the main thing – and then act with as much positivity, optimism, and joy as I can every single time I walk through the doors of this great community of learners.

Have a GREAT week!

– Herb

Articles Worth Checking Out

Can Personalized Learning Flourish Within A Traditional System?

Lazy but talented

Using Math Menus: Some Nuts & Bolts | Marilyn Burns Math Blog

Upcoming Dates


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; Class Panoramic Pictures; Spec Ed Team Meeting, noon; RTI Team meeting, 3:40

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

20-24 – Spring Break

29 – Staff Meeting, 3:45

30-31 – Herb in DC

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

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

Fueling the Wonder of Kids

Update for Nov 23-24

Last Wednesday, Adrianna Kruse captured the moment above, recognizing the “pure joy” of her kindergarten students playing in the leaves on a windy day.

Later on that afternoon, I was heading out to my recess duty a little early and noticed a group of kids playing in the same leaves.  The kids ranged from 1st grade to 5th grade, but each was captivated by the “leaf tornado”.  One of the kids noticed I had stopped to watch them having fun and said, “We were wondering if leaves turned into soil or compost when they die?”.

“What does everyone think?” I asked.

“Well, I think they turn into compost and he thinks they turn into soil,” the student replied.

With a smile, I asked, “What’s the difference between compost and soil?”

“I don’t know.”

Ah, the perfect response for starting a learning opportunity!

“I have an idea. Let’s ask Wonderopolis if they know the answer,” I suggested.

I told the kids that there is a website called Wonderopolis that has hundreds of posts questions, or wonders, that kids have asked.  They post information including videos and resources that help answer the “wonder”.

I took a picture of the kids standing in the leaves and tweeted Wonderopolis:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Wonderopolis is great about interacting with others!  Here’s what they said later on that day —


While this is a great example of recognizing when we can take learning further, it actually made me reflect on the way kids learn and make sense of their world.

Kids are naturally curious.

They ask lots of questions, they create their own hypotheses, and work out meaning through play.

As adults and educators, we need to remind ourselves that kids are naturally curious and build off of that.

How much would our unit or lesson plans change if we started with the fact that kids are naturally curious?

How much more would the learning experiences we create for kids reflect inquiry and build on a sense of wonder?

We should commit ourselves to letting the curiosity and wonder of children inspire us to create learning experiences that fuel their learning.

Here’s to fueling the wonder and curiosity of kids!

Have a GREAT week!


Articles Worth Reading —

When Students Drive Improvement


Service Learning: Growing Action from the Roots of Passion

Real-World Problem Solving: Project-Based Solutions

Video Worth Watching —


Upcoming Dates —

Nov 23 – Board Meeting at ADE (Preschool is hosting in Cafeteria)

Nov 25-27 Thanksgiving Holiday

Dec 1 – BIT Meeting — Please have your wish list items submitted by Dec 1 to be considered by PTO.

Dec 2 – Yearbook Picture Day; ADE Staff Meeting, 8:00 AM – Media Center

Dec 3 – Admin Meeting (Herb)

Dec 7 – PTO Meeting, 7PM

Dec 8 – 3rd Grade ELA State Assessment; Steering Committee Meeting, 3:45 – ADE Media Center

Dec 9 – Spec Ed Team Meeting, 12:30; IAT Meeting, 3:45

Dec 10 – PD Series by Donna – “Dealing with Challenging Children”, 3:45 ADE Media Center

Dec 11 – KG Toys for Tots Fire Station Visit

Dec 16 – ADCC Staff Meeting, 3:40 – ADE Media Center


Let’s Talk about Minivans, Being Principal for a Year, and Truth

Update for May 26-29

It’s time for us to look into a new vehicle for the family.  The 2005 Pilot we’ve had has been good to us, but it’s time to think about what will be worth more over time: a fixer-upper, or a gently used newish car.

The fun part about this is the research that’s involved, if you’re into learning more about cars that is.  I love using websites such as Edmunds, AutoTrader, and Cars.com to research the pros and cons of the different cars that are out there.

I’m looking to replace a car that has done it all: transport kids to and from practice, road trips to Florida, and hauling 30 bags of mulch.  What’s funny is that I think a minivan is going to be the way to go.  It’s safe, it’s comfortable, and it hauls lots of stuff.  

I know.  

A part of me died just a second ago after writing that.  But a minivan may just be the answer.  There are cars out there like SUVs and other crossovers that have the same seating as a minivan and can do the same things.  In fact, many of the newer crossover models kind of look a lot like minivans.

2016 Honda Pilot — Just sayin’…

But honestly, when was the last time I went “off-road” for anything?  


When was the last time I needed that all-wheel drive to kick in?  Once or twice when I drove in the snow before the road was plowed, and I still swerved and swayed down the road so it didn’t really help that much.  Besides, what do we end up doing when we know a snow storm is coming?  

We buy bread and milk since they are such versatile foods and we stay home like most folks.

It finally sunk in when we were driving home from another out-of-town soccer tournament. It had been a long day in the sun.  We were cruising down I-70 and the inside of the car was eerily quiet.  I looked up in the rear view mirror and saw both of my kids in the “I’m going to sleep now, but it won’t look pretty” sleeping positions:

While sleeping in the semi-control-over-my-neck-while-balancing-my-head position in a car is sort of a right of passage for kids, I’m thinking there’s a better way to travel.  I’m also thinking about our family’s future and I’m betting it’s going to be a lot more of this:

And not this:

And I am happy with that because it’s the truth.

When I started the year as a first year principal, I was worried that I wouldn’t live up to everyone’s expectations.  I thought I had to be someone different than who I am and act a certain way.  But someone at the beginning of the year once told me, “They just want you for you.”

I’ve tried to stay true to myself this year.  What you saw this year is who I am: a 36 year-old married father of two and an elementary principal who likes to have fun, who will only do what is best for kids, and who feels very blessed to do what he does.

And I think I’ll end up driving a minivan.


Thanks for an amazing year! Let’s do it again!


Articles Worth Reading

To All the Great Coaches…

Update for May 18-22

Congrats HFC U10 Girls Royal team on a great tourney!

A post shared by Herb Higginbotham (@herbhigginbotham) on

Playing sports can be one of the most important part of someone’s life.  The learning journey that takes place from participating in a sport carries over and often times becomes the experience that makes the biggest impact in someone’s life.

While many of the sports stories that captivate us deal mostly with players or with teams, I’ve been more captivated recently by the effect coaches have on those they serve.

I chose the word “serve” intentionally because I believe that the great coaches, the ones that make life-long, lasting impacts, coach because it’s their way of serving others and working towards a greater good.  The great coaches aren’t interested in winning only; they see their role as an opportunity to change lives through sports.  They see the sport they coach as a vehicle that carries the players they serve to something greater.

My daughter’s soccer coach is one of these people.

This weekend was a tournament weekend, a chance for kids like my daughter to play the sport they love for an extended amount of time.  During the second game my daughter’s team played, there was an irate parent whose daughter played for the other team.  At first, the father yelled at the referees for calls they made; nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to irate soccer parents.  However, this father took it a little too far.

My daughter’s team won the game that came down to a goal that was made within the last minute.  After the game, that same irate father charged across the field to continue to make his feelings heard.  During his tirade, he turned his focus of verbal attacks on my daughter’s coach.

Now, just for context here, picture a 6′ 3″ forty-something father yelling at a 22-year-old female coach. Not exactly a shining moment for this father.

In these moments, it’s how we respond to challenges that make us who we are.

My daughter’s coach politely said that the words he was using in front of the kids was inappropriate, turned herself away from the father and helped the girls move to another place on the field.

My daughter’s coach did what she could to put my daughter and her teammates safety and well-being before anything else and helped them get away from a negative experience. She could have chose to respond many different ways and with good reason, but she put kids first and walked away. All I could ever want as a parent is to have the adults in my daughter’s life be positive role models, and Coach Heather exceeds that expectation in the way she coaches.

Miguel Rodriguez is another story of how a coach’s compassion for others outshines the sports aspect of his life.  His story was featured on SportCenter this weekend.

Mr. Rodriguez is an immigrant from Venezuela.  He started a wrestling club a few years ago and works as a instructional aide for students with special needs.  One of those students is Isaiah Bird.

Isaiah was born with physical disabilities that makes him a unique wrestler.  He has no legs, yet is one of the most competitive wrestlers in his area.  As Coach Rodriquez puts it, “He’s the one to beat.”

At first, I was captivated about how this 7-year-old overcomes his physical challenges to become an outstanding wrestler.  However, by the end of the story, I am more taken with the deep compassion Mr. Rodriquez has for Isaiah.  He feels Isaiah’s life is only going to get rougher and Coach Rodriguez sees his role as someone who will get Isaiah ready to take on these challenges.

Take a look at the short trailer for the story and, if you have a moment, take a look at the full story.  It’s worth every second.

See the full compelling story here. It is worth every second. (Have the tissues on standby.) -> http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:12893699

The great coaches make it about something bigger than the sport they coach.  They see themselves as a servant leader who believes that sports are just a vehicle to get others to something greater.

On behalf of all players, I’d like to say thanks to all the great coaches.

Have a GREAT week!


Articles Worth Reading

“A Title Doesn’t Make You a Leader”

Upcoming Dates