18 July 2015

Moving Day

I want to thank everyone who has been reading this blog. It is time to get a more professional look to the site so this blog will be moving to

The site is still evolving as I figure out what objective I want it to serve. My blog posts will be posted there and I hope you will continue the journey with me.

30 June 2015

Speak up more

I was in a session at the ISTE Conference 2015 where George Couros was speaking about having an innovator's mindset. If you have never seen or heard George speak, you need to ASAP! He is the Tony Robbins of education. He is lively, entertaining, funny, and extremely on point as to what we need to change in education. During his presentation, he posted this on the screen:

This picture looked a lot better on my phone than on this blog. It says: What if every teacher tweeted one thing a day that they did in their classroom to a school hashtag, and they took five minutes out of their day to read each other's tweets?

What impact would that have on learning and school culture?

He goes on to say that we would never see a worksheet because no teacher would post 'hey, look at this amazing worksheet my students worked on at their desk!'

But would that eliminate worksheets from the school? You would see amazing things happening around your school every day. You could look at that hashtag and say 'hey, that looks awesome! I could totally use that in my classroom.' But, more importantly, your will look at those worksheets and think 'I could totally do better than this.'

Now think about how the school will change over the course of the year with this shift in mindset. We would be pushing our colleagues and our students to raise the bar because we will have a 'I can do better' mentality on everything we do.

We need to speak up more as educators. We need to blog, we need to tweet, we need to take pictures of our classrooms and the great things that are happening in them. We need to inundate the digital world with all the positives that are happening every day.

15 June 2015

Pretty Good

I want to share the following poem published by Charles Osgood in 1991.

There once was a pretty good student,
who sat in a pretty good class,
and was taught by a pretty good teacher,
who always let pretty good pass.

He wasn’t terrific at reading,
he wasn’t a whiz-bang at math,
but for him education was leading,
straight down a pretty good path.

He didn’t find school too exciting,
but he wanted to do pretty well,
and he did have some trouble with writing,
and nobody had taught him to spell.

When doing arithmetic problems,
pretty good was regarded as fine.
Five and five needn’t always add up to be ten,
a pretty good answer was nine.

The pretty good class that he sat in,
was part of a pretty good school,
and the student was not an exception–
on the contrary, he was the rule.

The pretty good school that he went to
was part of a pretty good town,
and nobody there seemed to notice
he could not tell a verb from a noun.

The pretty good student, in fact,
was part of a pretty good mob
and the first time he knew what he lacked was 

when he looked for a pretty good job.

It was then when he sought a position
he discovered that life could be tough
and he soon had a sneaky suspicion
that pretty good might not be – good enough.

The pretty good town in our story
was part of a pretty good state,
which had pretty good aspirations,
and prayed for a pretty good fate.

There once was a pretty good nation,
pretty proud of the greatness it had,
which learned, much too late,
if you want to be great,
pretty good, is, in fact, pretty bad.

The Osgood File, Charles Osgood, CBS, as quoted in Ann Landers column, New Jersey Herald and News, October 5, 1991.

I actually read this poem as part of my graduation speech in high school. I feel it is probably more significant today than it was in 1991. Are we settling too often in education? Are too many teachers choosing the route of 'flying under the radar' rather than draw administrators into their classrooms? Are too many students hiding their talents because it is easier to go unnoticed than to deal with praise?

We are standing at a precipice in education. We can choose to turn back and take the safe route or we can leap. Me? I have no interest in being 'Pretty Good'.

I want to be great!

05 June 2015

What does it mean to be social?

I was running a professional development session on the Flipped classroom and I asked the question "what 20th century skills are still important in today's classroom?" One of the participants raised his hand and said, "kids today are not social. They need to learn how to look someone in the eye and have a conversation." Being the pot stirrer that I am I immediately responded with "can a person today have a good job and be a productive member of society without being able to do that?" Some members of the group immediately exclaimed no. Others gave a 'well, sort of.' And some were just not sure because you sort of can in today's world. You can literally never leave your house and still be a productive member of society.

Without leaving your home, you can:
  • order groceries online
  • work from home
  • talk with friends and family all over the world both by phone and video
  • date
  • have meals delivered
  • play games
  • buy clothing
  • have your dry clean only clothes cleaned
  • pay your bills
  • vote
  • learn a new language
More and more people are working from home and never have in-person meetings with members of their company. Or, like my sister, some start their own company in their living room and have employees that are in different states.

Typically, when we say 'being social' we mean to interact with other human beings that are physically near us. We fault people who are staring intently at the screen on their smartphone and are missing the world around them.

But what if they are staring at a part of the world that isn't around them? What if they are watching a video from the ISS? Or watching their niece who lives in a different country take her first steps? Or watching their mother blow out her birthday candles when they couldn't be there because of work commitments?

What if the world around them isn't meaningful to them and they are trying to immerse themselves in something that is?

Another question I asked the group was this: how many of you growing up had friends that were more than 50 miles away? Zero hands. None of the 30 people in the session had friends that were more than 50 miles away from them. If I asked that of my students I guarantee that a few hands would be raised. Why? Skype, Face Time, Google Hangouts. Teenagers today are able to stay connected to their friends and family no matter where they are in the world. More and more of my students are staying together with their high school boyfriends/girlfriends after they go to college than ever before because of the ability to stay in close contact no matter where they are.

We are very quick to attack today's youth because they don't meet our societal norms. Maybe it's time for society to redefine what it means to be social.

04 June 2015

Teaching outside the curriculum

Last week, I attended our spring NHS induction. At this event, each senior member of the club has the opportunity to honor a staff member who they felt was a mentor to them over their 4 years of HS. It was an honor to be selected by one of my former students and even more so to hear the amazing things she said about me in her speech.

Some of the stories were very moving. Two students talked about their art teacher who they referred to as Mom; one student talked about how the teacher created a safe place for her to visit; four students spoke about their coach and how he taught them to be better men; one talked about a substitute teacher and the impact he had on her. But I think the most emotional speech was given by the young man who spoke about how hard high school was for him, how he probably wouldn't have made it through the four years without his history teacher. This teacher taught him lessons about life, taught him that no matter how tough life seems his spirit is tougher. I got the distinct impression that this student might have just dropped out of school altogether if he hadn't had this particular teacher during his sophomore year.

Through every speech, the same thought ran through my head: where are these life lessons in the curriculum?

We measure a teacher's effectiveness based on his/her ability to complete a curriculum. But where in the evaluation process is mentoring young people? Is there a way to quantify that? If a teacher was a mediocre instructor, but found a unique way to connect with his students and help them find meaning in school, shouldn't that be used in measuring his effectiveness?

Maybe we need to take a closer look on what the term "effective" really means.