Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Student Voice and Choice in Writing?

Last week, my wonderful wife Piper, told me she noticed how happy I am when I write. As I reflected on that and agreed, it also dawned on me that yes, I love to write. Not only that, but I get to CHOOSE what I write!
Many times, as adults we get to choose what we do. From the food we eat, to the cars we drive, the jobs we have, the clothing we wear and especially what we READ and WRITE! This is something I believe we take for granted. Imagine how many times per day, WE get to choose, but students do NOT. It’s crazy. While our amazing teachers are doing so many wonderful things throughout the day: planning, instructing, counseling, listening, managing, nurturing, and much more, shouldn’t they change, grow and evolve too? Education is a two-way street and I believe it is time that students are given a a ticket on the toll road to travel.
Why don’t we include, invite and allow students more of this same opportunity in school? After all, it is their education last time I checked. It really is time to drop down the compliance walls of regimented and factory schooling. Not tomorrow, or after the Standardized tests next week, but the time is now.
I’m always amazed to see student writing in classrooms, as it varies so much. Not only by grade level, but; style, pedagogy, mood, depth of knowledge on teaching writing and other variables come in to play as well.
Some teachers like to completely control the entire process. 100% direct teaching, but with minimal modeling. Others, do some nice modeling, invite a bit of student voice, but don’t go through the process. Then there is the group that just wings it: no clue, just open a Teachers Edition and go for it.
             Hold on cowboy, it’s not all doom and gloom! Lately, there has been a small revolution of epic writing across the campus I call home. Some teachers are deeply interested in Student Voice, and Student Choice. Two of my EduHeroes, Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter (Co-authors of Let Them Speak) would be so proud. First, teachers may select the genre that follows their grade level or District curriculum, then, nice, clear step by step instruction, modeling, and scaffolding where needed. Now comes the fun part; Student Choice on WHAT to write and Student VOICE on rubric development. This is when the magic happens. When students have a say in what they are going to put time, effort and grit in, we will always get a better return on the process and end product.
Regardless if you are using an adopted curriculum or EduProtocols, Lucy Calkings, Six Traits, Writing by Design, Write Now or others, students must have voice in rubric building and topics. Why? Because they deserve it. They need it. They yearn for it. We ask them to conform for six to eight hours per day, five days a week. Students thrive on variety, movement, choice, voice and experiences, so it is up to us to give them what they deserve.
Keep in mind, we are asking students across the world to change, grow, conform, and “do” our way. It is time Now that we put a little WD-40 on that rusty, compliance combo lock and open it up. Show you trust them. Give them the opportunity to flub up. Be the teacher that has built such stellar relationships with your whole class that they will do ANYTHING for you. In return, give them a little voice AND choice.
Follow these great Leaders in writing, reading and literature! Pernille Ripp, Jennifer Wolfe, Annick Rauch, CameronCarter, Travis Crowder, Kristen Nan, Sarah Johnson, Tamara Letter, Jeff Zoul and MaryHoward to name a few.
Who do you model your writing after? Which EduWriters should we watch for to learn from? 

Voice and Choice. We get it every day. Why don’t our students get this luxury?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ike Ant

     I'm sure you hear this all day from students. Sometimes from parents, staff members and it even dribbles out of your mouth too! The words? Ike Ant, or I Can't.
     There is so much data on Growth Mindset, Fixed Mindset, Positivity and Failing Forward, but are we really getting the reach we need? Are we actually changing our next generation, but focusing on #Yet, #Can, #Will and the fact that it is alright to #Fail, but not give up?
     Like millions (literally) of us that have read Carol Dweck's amazing work Mindset, it has opened us up to Growth and Fixed Mindsets, or ways we are influenced by our talents and/or abilities. Is this enough?
     Similar to a plethora of educators, I work to instill a Growth Mindset in all the students, teachers, parents, and friends that I run into. Am I perfect at it? No, not YET. But everyday I continue the struggle to show 800 students, 50 staff members and countless parents, that YET is possible. Why is this so difficult? What am I doing wrong? Is it how the brain is wired?
     One line in Dweck's book really stands out to me, "With the right mindset, you can motivate those you lead, teach, and love—to transform their lives and your own." What really resonates with me is the word MOTIVATE. As educators, we are many things, and one of them without a doubt is a MOTIVATOR. How many times have you tried to coerce, encourage, bribe, trick, inspire and "fire up" a student? Many, I'm sure. With our passion as educators and servants, comes a responsibility to MOTIVATE and remove the I CAN'T, and transform it into I WILL TRY, or OK! We all have the magic my friends, and at times, we may need to fall upon a colleague to reignite our own mindset!
     This is especially true when it comes to mathematics. In my mind, there is no one more qualified to give us concrete, easy to understand data on the power of mindsets for math than Jo Boaler. This amazing Stanford researcher, professor, and expert on math gives us the science behind the "WHY" so many students hate and fail in mathematics. The old "I'm not a math person" is really just an excuse or fable! We can continue to learn, and change our brains with the correct mindset through a very advanced age. Why not start early with students? 
     From her book, Boaler finds that "Scores of students hate and fear math, so they end up leaving school without an understanding of basic mathematical concepts". Why? well, timed tests and pushing speed over mastery is one reason. Math anxiety is real, but so many educators fail to understand, or to follow the research and shove the timed math facts, or math minutes down our children's throats! Check out her YOUCUBED resources for a plethora of amazing studies and REAL data about it!
     I'm not blaming anyone on this, as intentional or instilled with malice, but come on folks, we know what is right and wrong. The data and evidence is clear, some now are just refusing to acknowledge it with " Oh, I still believe timed tests work", or "I really see the value in timed math facts". Really? Do you see the struggle at home and the pure, anguish and anxiety? Believe me, I've lived it.
     So, now what? Well, talk to a Growth Mindset adopter. Follow Jo Boaler, Carol Dweck, Alice Keeler, and so many others that have actually data, research and proof about what works, not just 20 years of "My experience in the classroom shows me".
#AllKids matter. Not some. Not most, but ALL.  Don't we ask hundreds, of thousands of students to change, grow and fail or try, every single day? With that being said, maybe it's time for the adults to do the same thing!

Go. Get it my friends. Get rid of the Ike Ant (I Can't) and MOTIVATE our youth with I can, I will, Not Yet, and Heck to the Yes!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Hey Teacher, I'm right here"

Hey Teacher, I'm right here.

I'm new in your classroom, so please be patient while I learn your routines and procedures. Can you help me connect with some friends? I'm kind of shy too, so please ask me questions and get to know me first!

Hey Teacher, I'm right here.

Please don't yell. Maybe you don't intend to, but your loud voice and tone really scares me. I'm sure some of the other students don't like it either. Remember, we are only 6, 7, 8 and 9 years old.

Hey Principal, I'm right here.

Will you listen to me first? I'd like to share why I was so dysfunctional in the classroom today. You see, life at home sucks, and I really need some help. No one ever wants to hear why I am so frustrated. Please help me.

Hey Yard Duty, Noon Duty, Character Coach, I'm right here.

Why do you always watch the same students and side with your own kid? I understand that you are a mom, but aren't you here for #AllKids? Please don't yell at us. Can you listen to all of us before making a decision? Help us be safe and have fun, be here for us, maybe even play a game!

Hey Teacher, I'm right here.

Do you know when you ask us to raise our hands, most of us are petrified to answer? Can we just check in with another student, or write on our white boards first? I hate being called on, because even if I know the answer, I get messed up when I am singled out.

Hey Lunch Lady, I'm right here.

I bet you didn't know that school is the only place I ever eat. You could have asked me why I took some extra fruit and crackers instead of yelling at me and sending me to the office. Did you know my dad is in Jail?

Hey Office Manager, I'm right here.

Could you use a calm voice when I come into the office all upset and crying? I've had two adults already yell at me, I don't need another. Maybe a hug would help. Or, could you listen to me too?

Hey Counselor, I'm right here.

Do you promise not to tell what we talk about? My parents yell at me a lot and sometimes hit me. Other times, they drink and fight really bad. They say if I tell, they'll send me away. I only feel safe at school. Can you help me please?

Hey Parents, I'm right here.

I know I'm not perfect like your kid and I'm "That Other Kid", but really, when you take the time to know me, I'm kind of ok. I do have manners, and can be polite too. Your child isn't always nice when you aren't around you know. I don't have all the cool clothes and shoes, but I am kind.

Hey Teacher, I'm right here.

Maybe you could rethink assigning us homework each night. I love to read, but I hate the math sheets and questions I can easily Google. Can I just go to sports practice, music, explore and play as long as I read instead?
Also, those timed math tests stink! They only increase my anxiety.

Hey Schools, I'm right here.

Please listen and notice #AllKids. We have stories. We have problems. We have big hearts and WANT to be kind. Will you please show me how? Can you be a little more patient and not favor the kids that always do it right the first time? I bet if given a chance, I'll be pretty cool and smart when I grow up too!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Let's put the "We" before "Me"

     So, the Stock Market is rocking, job growth is high, so why then are so many
people Stressed; physically, emotionally, and financially right now? Well, about 2.5 years
ago (3/11/16), one of my eduhero buddies Todd Schmidt and I began blogging about
Something we called #WordsDOmatter. In the posts, we shared all sorts of amazing
examples of how students, teachers, parents and community members were using
powerful, positive words to make our lives better.
     Zip forward to today, Midterm Election Eve, 2018. It seems that the “Me” mindset
has taken over the “We” mindset. But, wait, Jeff, there is SO much good going on
in the world today! Yes, there are A LOT of amazing things taking place, with
positivity, kindness, empathy and love. But so often, across our country and
world, the “We’s” are winning. Take for example a few; our President, Hate Groups
(more than 950 now in the US alone!), Politicians and their edgy “Midterm” ads,
and the all to familiar “ I can’t help or talk now, I’m too busy”.
     Thank goodness for schools! So many of these safe, learning havens, have truly
fantastic leaders, teachers, parents, and community members that are consistently
pushing Love, Empathy, Kindness, ALL, WE, TEAM and other positivity nuggets. Is it
that hard? Can we not just marinate on our words and actions for a few seconds before
we tear someone to shreds? I get it, at times, we have become  too sensitive, and our
“Lawnmower” (Look it up if you haven't heard) and “Helicopter” parents that won’t let
kidsfail, or argue, or stumble without helping has gotten crazy, but, COME.ON.PEOPLE.
    However, there is one area that we do need to be "Me" first, and that is “Self Care”.
This is one area of “Me” that we are falling short. We are a stressed out and overworked
group of humans. Many of us feel we can’t take a day off, or take the time to put in that
run, swim, yoga session, or massage.  While our unemployment rate is low, health
insurance is at an all time high, and if we don’t better care for ourselves, we won’t be
here to care for our children, students, and the next group of leaders. Please, take a day
off. Schedule that massage. Sleep an extra ten minutes. But please, take it from my
friends; Jessica Cabeen, SarahJohnson, and Jessica Johnson, the phenomenal authors
of Balance Like a Pirate, “When you give to others endlessly without concern for your
own well-being, you run the very real risk of temporary or permanent breakdown in your
physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual health.”
     If we could just be more like Mr. Rodgers, Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, Gandhi,
Jon Gordon, Toby Mack, Brene Brown, and (insert your favorite here). There truly is
so much good in our world, and if, as a group, there is more push to put us as a “We”
first, and a “Me” second, I really think the tides will begin to change. Yes, sticks and
stones may break your bones, but yes, words can hurt us. The old adage, “Don’t say
anything unless you have something nice to say”? Well, the way I see it, is, just say
something nice, it really isn’t that difficult.I’m not saying the world should be filled with
Kindness Ambassadors (well...maybe), but let’s look out for the other guy/gal first once
in a while, not defame, use racist remarks, or words we know will hurt others, or groups.
One by one, with exponential power, let’s change the tide, move the dominoes, and get
back to “We” before “Me”, because yes, #WordsDOmatter.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Hurry Up and...Fall Behind?

The last time I checked, it was 2018. If I hear “21st Century Teaching” or something similar again, I’ll probably choke. We’ve been in the Y2K game for nearly 20 years and while Google, Tesla, Apple, Amazon, Uber, Apps, CyberSecurity are zooming at Exabyte speed; Education for most of the US, is stuck in a Draconian factory model. You hear so much chatter and talk about New Zealand, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, Finland and Norway as being the leaders in educational models and the frontrunners in preparing students for ANYTHING. Why then, do we still have so much outdated curriculum, rows of prison built desks, Teachers Unions holding on for dear life to save the educators that can’t teach, or teachers waiting 5 minutes for students to stand still in line and have gobs of homework in K-6 schools? What are we really doing here my friends? I read as many books as I can to learn from amazing educators such as; Sir Kenneth Robinson, Sal Khan, Clara Hemphill, Anant Agarwal, Anthony Cody, Linda Darling-Hammond...the list goes on and on. Yes! they are making a difference everyday, but is it enough? Can we catch up? Why do we still have students in some schools without internet access, or 5th Graders unable to read, or our at risk youth group growing ever so quickly? The lightspeed of change in which we live doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. The books on education are growing exponentially. The “We must do this” talk is hot and frequent. But, we are still drowning in our Horace Mann factory replicas! It must stop! In pockets of the US, where we have people like Hamish Brewer, Jimmy Casas, Tom Murray, Jon Corippo, Dave Burgess, Alice Keeler, Angela Maiers, Adam Welcome, Eric Sheninger, and George Couros (Canada/US) and an endless list of others that bring it every day. The many students, teachers, administrators and parents that are inspired daily and weekly by these phenomenal men and women who are bursting with ideas, thoughts, must do’s and energy filled ways to improve - are just not enough. It takes more. I reflect on my own impact as a Principal; 800 students in a TK-5 school. 35 Teachers. Where is my mark made really? We have district adopted curriculum - gotta use it.  We have a strong teachers union - gotta follow a contract. We have gone from Helicopter to Lawn Mower parents - my kid can’t fail or struggle. So, if my path, or ideas, or leadership style does not match those that I work with, then am I just a Compliance Manager? Get to school on time; don’t yell at the students; let students get up and move; be kind, no homework, behavior charts?, red dojo points...the list goes on and on. My rockstar teachers get it. Their students don’t want to go to recess, or home, and run back the next day. They are loved, treated with kindness, lead in the learning, move, play, are challenged and treated like individuals. So, I ask you this. What do we do with those educators, publishers, and leaders that aren’t malleable? It begins with our own Secretary of Education in my book. What are they doing in Washington D.C? We have too much disparity, too many withouts, not enough young passionate educators that make it through year 3 without burning out. Are our voices and actions enough?
I’m 53, I have a 4th Grade boy and an 8th Grade girl. When they graduate from HS, autonomous cars will be standard, AI, White collar automation - who knows?We need more Henry Fords, Steve Jobs, Marie Curie’s, Wright Brothers, Stephanie Kwolek’s in our educational space. How will we do this? What will it take? Keep pushing my friends. Every day. Every Child. Every Instant. Make a difference to more than 1 per day, and ask others to do the same. Maybe, then maybe, we can see a worldwide spark in every child at once.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Why I Tribe

Why I Tribe

Tribe: Noun - a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest.

While there are many definitions for the word Tribe, I prefer the one written above. To me, a Tribe is an imperative part of my DNA and world. Personally, Professionally, Socially, Chemically and all the other “ally’s” as well. After my #CompelledTribe leaders @Jennifer_Hogan, @Vroom6 (Craig Vroom), and @jon_wennstrom blogged about “Why I Tribe” recently, it got me thinking about my “why”.
To be honest, I don’t think I could live without “Tribing”. It is everything that keeps me ticking, in line, accountable, stoked, motivated and challenged. Sure, I #InstaGram, #FaceBook and some others, but my main source of "Tribing" is on #Twitter.

Common Character

If you follow me on @Twitter, you know that I am dedicated and committed to a few groups. #CelebratED, #JoyfulLeaders, #LeadLap, #Principalsinaction, #dadsaprincipals, #edchat, #BalanceLAP, #BeKindEDU and #Tlap to name a few. These are my peeps. My friends with common interests and character. The ones who I learn from, get challenged from, struggle with, look for support from, grow with and much more.


As a former elite athlete, swim coach and current educator, this is pretty much the group of people I am “Tribing” with. I strive to continue a healthy lifestyle and fitness way of life - just follow my peeps @richroll, @jennifer_burdis, and @mradamwelcome to name a few. This occupation keeps me in check, focused on my mind, body, spirit and soul. Swimming, and all things water have been in my genetic code since day 1 and my tribe is hundreds of water nuts too; swimmers, surfers, divers, you name it - my team. As an educator, I focus on following, not followers. If I can’t learn something from someone, why follow? We all value our time, focus on the growth and push to be better, not see bigger numbers that follow you. There are too many amazing people that mean so much to me. Who make me better. Smarter. More kind. More aware of others. These people are my Tribe. And this my friends, is just a sampling of Why I Tribe.

Peace yo!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

You Win! - I mean it, you really do.

You Win!

I mean it, you really do! If you are an educator, and you are reading this post, You. Are. The. Winner! You GET the chance to amaze kids for another year! It is YOUR opportunity to help them shine. There is NO obligation, Have to’s, Got to’s, or drats, need to’s. It is an honor for you to walk this mission of preparing kids for the mighty unknown. We don’t know where we’ll be in 5 years, but YOU have the amazing invitation to the party of the future! It is YOUR time to shine for them! Let every child know that THEY are the #1 most important being during your day. Smile, Laugh, Cry, Connect, Hug and bust your tail feathers to empower the heck out of them. Go to College? Yeah, maybe for some. Trades? Ok path for others. Small Biz owner? Cool, why not. Crusader of Peace? Sweetness. Whatever it is that they are preparing for, make it count! Show them it is ok to push hard, lose, fail, be frustrated, but remember; Do Not Give Up! If we give up, then they will give up. Build their #Resilience #Grit #Empowerment #Toughness #Empathy #Compassion #Kindness and #Love of learning. One of my Heroes is Shawn Achor, of The Happiness Advantage. While Shawn has so many amazing and motivational quotes, there are several that JUST. STICK. “Without action, knowledge is often meaningless.” Think about it. If we are not giving our best to every child, every day, and are being passive information robots, then what good is knowledge? We must combine the motivation with the excitement and passion to want more information, to eat more ways of innovation, and to have the hunger for the unknown! 
“When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.” – Shawn Achor
     Remember this; You GET to be an educator. You HAVE options. Start blasting positive messages about returning to school. Bleed your passion. Wear your Happiness and love on your sleeve. If you have one doubt, hesitation, or negative thought about the end of summer and the return to school - you are taking the chance of creating a permanent scar in the path to excellence in a child. Just one, is all it takes. Be the overly ripe tomato of education. Drip your happiness juice to all those around you! YOU. WIN, My friends. You Win! Let our students know that you are proud and honored to be a part of their day. You Win! We get one go round in this adventure called life. Make it a lottery moment, not an endless list of Cinderella’s chores.

Image result for shawn achor quotes
“When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter,