Monday, December 30, 2013

Can't Imagine Beating 2013, But 2014 Will

Another year has come and gone, but professionally, 2013 was unlike any year ever.

2013 was the year of Twitter for me.  I connected with so many experts and have learned more about everything this past year than I have in my prior 14 years as an educator.  I have met some of these people in person and it has been great to talk and share ideas.  I have met teachers, superintendents, college professors, and authors.  None of it would have happened without the tweet.

2013 was where Teach Like a PIRATE Day came to Utica Jr. High School.  Thanks to a book written by Dave Burgess and an amazing teaching staff that was brave enough to do it, we did something no school had ever done before.  We allowed 250 7th and 8th grade students to show up to school and go anywhere they wanted for an entire day.  The kids learned and there were zero discipline issues.  Kids commented "I wish school was like this every day." Just as important, the teaching staff stepped up their game and answered Burgess' question, "If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?"  

2013 was where my philosophy on grading began to spread in our school.  It started with one 8th grade social studies teacher and spread from there.  Teachers began basing grades on mastery and not on deadlines.  The myth of "The kids won't do it if it is not for a grade" was quickly dispelled.  People from other schools told me it did not work for them, they tried it in the past.  I cannot dispute that, but that was not what happened at Utica. Kids did the work, no longer copied during study hall, and our State Test scores were the highest in school history.  Not that tests are the end all, but our kids did well because we made sure they mastered the content. It also led to having my first article published in Education Week.  The ironic thing is, it was published on the first day of Summer Break, and I never really told anyone I worked with about it.  

2013 was there year in which my father retired after teaching high school math and science for 42 years.  He always told me not to go into education.  I never listened when I was a kid, not sure why he thought I would listen when I was in college.

2013 was a year in which I left Utica and went to Big Walnut to become the principal of their intermediate school.  At the time, Utica could not get community support to pass a tax renewal, and a failure in November could mean financial collapse.  I loved Utica and the people there, but selfishly I did not want to be around to see that.  Fifth and sixth graders are awesome.  They love coming to school everyday and I do too.  I love being at Big Walnut and I believe everything happens for a reason.  

2013 was the year in which I participated in a school shooting simulation and that experience completely changed my philosophy on school safety procedures during an active shooter event.  I can never support the traditional lockdown after that experience.

2013 was the year in which the community in Utica finally came through for the kids and passed the renewal levy.  Many people joke (or maybe not joke) that I left and the levy passed.  I am happy for the kids and staff.

What will 2014 bring?  Who knows?  I am looking forward to making new connections, Teach Like A PIRATE Day 2 in the spring, and a few other things that I am going to keep to myself for the time being.  I read that if you share your goals, you are actually LESS likely to achieve them.  2013 will be tough to beat, but here is to a memorable 2014.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Ryan! I'm so impressed with everything you and your schools have accomplished this year. I can't wait to keep reading about your new ventures in the future. My parents also both retired from education jobs this year (elementary music and a music professor)!

    Happy New Year!