Tuesday, December 2, 2014

We Met The Pirate, Again.

Due to the generosity of a few Ohio educators, I was able to see Dave Burgess speak twice in the past year.  Last December, Brian Seymour (@seymoureducate) from the Pickerington Local School District in central Ohio invited me to their PD day in which Dave was the Keynote speaker.  Today, Kent Polen (@KentPolen), superintendent at Beaver Local School District  invited me to eastern Ohio to participate in their PD day in which Dave was working with their staff all day long.  Kent told me to fit as many teachers as I could in my car for the road trip.

As if I needed any more examples to highlight the value on connecting via Twitter.  I cannot thank these educators enough for their thoughtfulness.

Four of my teachers and I woke-up at 4 AM and made the three hour drive across the state to see the legend.  For me, Dave did not disappoint.  For my teachers, he was unbelievable to see in person.  His book is fantastic but you do not understand his passion until you see him live.  Those were my thoughts a year ago in Pickerington.  

Watching Dave present to a gym full of educators was unreal to see.  When I was a teacher, I will admit, we were not always the most receptive group ever to assemble.  However, once again, he had the audience engaged.  When you watch him, you do not get the sense that he his lecturing you or telling you how to do your job.  Rather, he is pumping you up so that you want to do a better job.

Our three hour car trip back home was just as productive.  We talked about some of the things he said and how we could apply them to make our school a place kids look forward to attending.  If you ever get the chance to see him speak, jump at the opportunity.   

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our School Has Embraced Social Media

I will admit, reading Eric Sheninger's post, A Wake Up Call For School Leaders, caused me to write this post.  In essence, he was stating that too many educational leaders are talking a good game when it comes to technology integration into their school, however there lacks substance once you actually look at what they are doing, and this needs to change if we truly want to see improvements in education.

By no means do I feel as though Eric was calling me out, nor is this post a chance for me to prove my school is actually walking the walk.  This is about seeing it in practice.  In education, we talk about making changes in instruction, and some people get it and go, while others struggle because they need to "see" what that shift actually looks like.  I am sure the same is true with educational leaders.  

Perhaps we are doing something different at BWI that will be an eye opener.  Maybe we are not.  If nothing else, you will be able to see the things we are doing in a 5th and 6th grade building, and maybe that will be enough to give you that nudge to take the first step for your school.

We use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and a school blog to inform our families and communities about what is going on in our school.  Facebook has actually been great for two way communication.  We allow comments, which can be a scary thought.  However I would rather see those comments than have them happen behind my back.  

This is the second year we have produced a weekly video newsletter and it has been by far, the most impactful, positive thing we have done to tell our story.  Examples and links are below.

School Facebook
Big Walnut Intermediate Facebook Page

School Twitter
Big Walnut Intermediate Twitter Page

Video Newsletter
BWI Video Newsletter

School Blog
BWI 180 Days Of Awesome

We allow our 5th and 6th graders to bring their own devices, use our WiFi, and many of them even use my office in times of an emergency need to recharge.  Do the kids make mistakes and misuse the devices?  Occasionally.  We use those opportunities as learning experiences.

I used to be the principal that locked everything down.  I did not want to see the devices in our building, Social Media was taboo in schools, and I was on patrol.  Then the lightbulb clicked for me, and honestly, Eric Sheninger had a big influence on that.  Am I where I need to be as an educational leader in terms of technology?  Who knows.  What I do know is, we are telling our story, we are using multiple pathways to tell that story, and our school is better off for it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Connected Educator Month Is Over...Now What?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present at our district's professional development day.  It was set up sort of like a trade show at a conference.  Teachers could stop by any "booth" and stay for as little or as long as they liked.  My booth was "Twitter, It's Not Just For Justin Bieber Anymore."  Those who know me know I am a huge proponent of using Twitter for educational purposes.  I originally thought Twitter was stupid because I did not understand it.  Many teachers feel this way.  My goal on this day was to convert a few of them by explaining the benefits.

One teacher stopped by my booth and said "I have a Twitter account, I tried to use it with my class, it was hugely unsuccessful.  Twitter is dumb, and nothing you are going to say to me will change my mind."  Game on.

I asked her how she was using Twitter and she explained that she was tweeting questions hoping her students would respond and they were not responding.  I told her I thought that was a pretty creative idea, but asked her if she ever thought about using Twitter as a research tool.  She had not.  I began showing her how she could connect with other educators in her content area and how she could learn lesson ideas they were sharing on Twitter.  I showed her that Twitter could be a tool for research and connecting.  

Four minutes had elapsed since she made her initial statement to me.  She was now hooked.

I used to be the anti-technology anti-social media principal.  The main reason was, I just did not understand it.  Once I did, it was like a new world had been opened to me.  I will never go back.  Our school has benefitted greatly from the connections my staff and I have made.  It was certainly a group effort.  Some examples are:

  • School Twitter account
  • School Instagram account
  • School Facebook Page
  • Teach Like A PIRATE Day
  • Mystery Skype
  • The Video Newsletter
  • Genius Hour Club
  • School blog
We learned about many of these from other educators and tweaked them to make them our own.  There is no sense in reinventing the wheel if someone already has and they are willing to share.  We simply modify it to make it the best wheel for our kids.  Our communication with families has never been better and I believe our kids have never loved coming to school more than they do now.

So to all of the new educators who joined Twitter in October, keep connecting, keep reaching out, and keep bringing great ideas to your school.  Your kids will be glad you did.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Postcards to the Principal

Before I begin, I cannot tell you how much I love the idea of this program.  I also love the fact that I did not think of it, one of my staff members brought it to me.

Our school's Reading Tutor wanted to implement a summer reading program to encourage our students to continue to read in June, July, and August.  The idea she brought to me was "Postcards to the Principal." In short, students would read, pick-up a blank postcard from our community library, and tell me about what they read.  They could place the postcard in a box at the library which would then come to me.

My plan is to post all of the postcards in the hallway outside our school office.  I am interested to see what they have read and what they wrote about.  Who knows, maybe Postcards to the Principal will continue all year long, and there is a pretty good chance that I will write back.

Monday, June 23, 2014

15 Years Later, Here's What They Remember

I was fortunate enough to attend the wedding of two of my former students.  The groom was a young man who I have known for 15 years.  I began coaching him in wrestling when he was in the 7th grade and through his senior year in which I was in his corner as he won a state title.  Any time you get invited to a student's wedding, I guess it reaffirms the impact you had on them.

What struck me the most were the interactions I had with some of the other party guests, former students, some of which I had not seen in 15 years.  Those conversations were not so much revealing as they were reaffirming what I have come to know.  They remembered the experiences and how they were treated.  I wish I paid more attention to this early in my career.

Not one person told me they remembered the notes or the lectures or the packets.  They remembered the experiences and they remembered how they were treated.  We reminisced about stories from the classroom, some things that I did not even remember, but they did.  One student told me he still had respect for me because I yelled at him one time, but did so privately as not to embarrass him in front of his peers.  Unfortunately I immediately thought about the students who received similar treatment from me, but in a more public display.  I do not remember the specifics, but I am certain they do.

Now I am not going to claim I was the world's best teacher, or that I treated every student I ever encountered with kindness and respect.  This was also reaffirmed by the lack of conversation with a couple of the party guests.  I do believe I created experiences often.  They remembered that.  More importantly, they still remembered what they learned.  I also remember drilling them with facts and notes.  They remembered it happening, but not what was supposed to be learned.

I recently saw an interview with soon to be Gahanna principal Bobby Dodd, and something he said connected with me and the conversations with the former students this weekend.  He said, "I can't tell you what I learned because I was too busy memorizing things." I can relate to that, and so can our students, and I'd imagine, you can too.

So before you make copies of that next packet, ask yourself if there is a more creative, engaging way to get the student to learn the desired concept?  15 years from now, it may be something they still remember.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Let's Focus More On Our Strengths

In education, we like to talk about weaknesses.  If you have been part of a team discussing a particular student, how much of that focus is spent talking about the weakness?  How much time is spent talking about that student's strengths?  I have been a part of many of those types of meetings over the past 15 years and I would say a majority of that time spent is spent talking about and developing a plan to "fix" the student's weakness.  Have those talks ever involved developing a plan to further enhance their strengths?

We love to focus on weakness in education.  Whether it is test scores, teacher evaluations, or curriculum, educational reformers take great joy in the analysis and dissection of data to point out our weaknesses.  In Ohio, educators have been ridiculed due to the low scores students have received on the Ohio Graduation Test, yet as student performance across the state has improved, state legislators are now replacing the test because it is "too easy."  Not sure why it was not viewed as too easy eight years ago.

I am not suggesting we ignore our weaknesses.  To ignore them would be careless.  I am simply saying that we should not be so enamored with them that they become the focal point of every decision or plan we implement.  I am also not suggesting we sit back and pat ourselves on the back as we look at the great things we do.  Instead, let's work on improving those great things.

Imagine if Derek Jeter focused on his weaknesses as a high school basketball player, rather than further improve his talents as a baseball player.  Would we even know who Derek Jeter is?  What if Bill Gates spent less time working on computer programming in high school so that he could improve upon his weakness as a musician?  Imagine if we put a focus on further improving the strengths of a teacher rather than always targeting their shortcomings.  Acceleration Plans could be more powerful than Improvement Plans.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Voxer...Another Great Collaboration Tool

Have you ever connected with some great minds on Twitter and wish you could pick their brain for more than just 140 characters?  Voxer is a great tool to make that happen.  I just found out about Voxer last week.  Like Twitter, I wish I had known about it sooner, but better late than never I guess.  So what is it?  It is a little bit of everything.

You can download the Voxer app for your iPhone (also believe it is available for Android) and sign-up.  From there, you can add contacts that you know (or encourage them to sign-up).  I know what you are thinking, "How is this different than Twitter?"

Voxer allows me to send the equivalent of a text message to any contact I add.  Those people can then respond without the entire world seeing.  I can also send or receive a photo.  But perhaps the greatest feature is the "walkie-talkie/voice message feature.  If the person is available, he or she can listen as I am talking.  If they are not available, they can listen and respond when they have time.  You can also see if the text was read or the message was listened to.

How can I use it?

It is a great tool to communicate and collaborate with an individual or a group of people.  As you can see on the left, Eric, a principal in another part of the state, left me a 13 second voice message, I responded with a 21 second message of my own and then a text.  It keeps it all in one timeline similar to your text messages on your phone.  I like that it is not all just voice or all just text.  If you need to talk- great.

Voxer is also a great way to collaborate with multiple people in a group.  A few educators take turns hosting #ohedchat on Monday nights.  This is Ohio's weekly Twitter chat.  Rather than rely on one person to be responsible for coming up with all of the questions and then hosting it at 9 PM, we decided to use Voxer to collaborate ahead of time.  I was able to add the participants to the group and they could collaborate via text or voice by using the app.  I feel that we had a better experience because there was input from multiple people.

One of the great things I love about Twitter chats is the ability to learn from other educators.  The downside is the fact that they are usually during set periods of time.  With Voxer, you could create your own group of experts to discuss topics on an ongoing basis with the ability to add members to the group.

A final use for educators would be to record a message on Voxer and have the ability to upload the audio to your school's website, Twitter, or Facebook account.  If there was a message in which you wanted parents to hear your voice rather than just read your words, this would be a tool you could use.

I am sure there are other uses, and if you have some new ideas, I would love to hear about them.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sometimes Green Doesn't Mean Go

I just dropped my daughters off at daycare this morning and was sitting at the light waiting to make a left-hand turn. Most of you reading this probably did the same thing.  The light turned green and 99.9% of the time I would have hit the gas to continue on my way to school.  Fortunately this morning I did not do that.  Had I hit the gas, I would be dead.

For some reason out of the corner of my eye I saw a car coming from my left,  towards the intersection, showing no signs of slowing down.  This was not a case of someone trying to get through a yellow light, as my light had already been green for about 2 seconds.  This was someone who was clearly not paying attention, had no idea her light was red, and never hit her breaks to slow down.

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink this weekend  (not that I am crediting him for saving my life this morning, but who knows?).  If you have not read this book, it basically is about how your mind can tell if something is right, or not right, in the blink of an eye.  Fortunately I saw the car out of the corner of my eye, and my brain said “That does not look right.”  So I waited, and honked my horn as loud and intimidating as a Honda Civic’s horn can be.  Really, I just used common sense.

In our jobs as educators, this is something that we do, and maybe need to do more often - use common sense.  This is why discipline is never black and white.  There is always a gray area. Sometimes a gun is a weapon and other times it is a Pop-Tart.  Do we really discipline them both the same way or do we use common sense?

Most of us are in education for noble reasons. We are there for kids, but sometimes our actions seem to contradict that notion. Sometimes, we just need to use common sense before making decisions. Sometimes, green doesn't mean go.

Any time my four-year old is in the car with me, she says, “Daddy, green means go.”  Not always.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This Year I Decided To Principal Like A PIRATE

If you are familiar with Dave Burgess' book Teach Like a PIRATE, this post will make sense to you.  If you are not familiar with the book, buy it now, download it on your Kindle App, it is worth every penny.

I taught high school business and social studies for 12 years.  As a teacher I tried to do many of the things that Dave talks about in his book.  I remember establishing a rapport with my students and trying to create experiences and activities that would make learning fun.  I never bought into the philosophy of "Don't smile until Christmas Break."

I jumped right from the classroom to the position of principal three years ago.  I skipped that whole assistant principal thing.  The ironic thing about my first two years as a principal is that I did not emphasize building relationships and creating a fun atmosphere right away.  I did this with my staff, but not my students.  I focused on discipline and making sure things were running smoothly.  I led in a way that was pretty much the complete opposite style that I used as a teacher.  We had a great deal of success as a school academically, and did many fun things, but looking back I feel like I did things backwards.

I started a new job in a new district this school year.  As I began my third year as a building principal, I made a decision to try a new way of "principaling" this year.  I was going to build relationships with the kids first.  I was going to put an emphasis on fun from day one.  Sure there would be times when I would have to work with a student's discipline situation, but I was not going to put on the image of the "strict guy" right off the bat.

I have to tell you, I have no regrets about this decision.  Did we have discipline situations this year?  Yes we did.  However the number of repeat offenders were very few.  There were many instances in which I could rely on that relationship I had worked to establish in August and September to help the student learn from a poor decision in March.  Kids are kids, and they are going to make mistakes, and it is part of my job to work with these kids to help them make better decisions in the future.  To be honest, many of my colleagues would laugh at the "big" discipline situations I have dealt with this year.

We decided on a new way to communicate with our parents and the community.  Rather than send home paper newsletter, or send them via e-mail, we began producing a 2-3 minute weekly Video Newsletter.  Our 31st episode is set to be released today.  Students were excited to be a part of it and parents told me they definitely preferred watching a 3 minute video than to read one of my newsletters, no offense.  None taken.  I have people in the community come up to me all the time to tell me they love seeing what is going on in our school.  I have been stopped in elementary schools, at the grocery store, and just last week on the town square.  They look forward to it being release on Youtube every Friday.  I can honestly say, I have never had a parent tell me that about one of my paper newsletters.

I took many of the things Dave Burgess talked about in his book, which were many of the same things I did as a teacher, and implemented them in how I worked as a principal.  As I reflect on this school year, I cannot say I have any regrets.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Teach Like A PIRATE Day 2...The Aftermath

On May 22, 2013 I was fortunate enough to be part of a brave staff that pulled off the very first Teach Like A PIRATE Day at Utica Junior High.  Exactly one year later, I was part of the Big Walnut Intermediate staff that pulled off the second.

I'll be very honest, I was more nervous about the second one than I was the first.  Part of the reason was I saw how awesome the first one was and I was uncertain if the second one would live up to the hype.  I mean face it, very rarely is a sequel better than the original.  No one will argue that The Karate Kid 2 was better than The Karate Kid.

There was no letdown.  Last year, kids ran through the halls to get to the next experience.  This year kids were on a dead sprint.  If there is any one thing that we need to find a solution to before we hold TLAP Day 3 (and we WILL be holding TLAP Day 3) it is to figure out how to slow this down.  It is difficult to be upset with 5th and 6th graders who are so excited to get to their next class that they are sprinting.  However, it is a safety issue, and one we will work to find a solution.

This year was also different in that we had guests from other districts who came to witness the event.  It was nice to show what we were doing and continue our conversations, because they may have some ideas on how to improve the day.  It is also nice to see these educators thinking about bringing a similar experience back to their schools.

The funniest part of the day was when a few parents came to pick their children up early for various reasons.  The children came down to the office and politely told their parents that there was NO WAY they were leaving school because they were having too much fun and were learning.  As a parent, how do you argue with that?

The kids were excited.  The parents were excited.  Our teachers were teaching like they do all the time but we decided to make an event of it.  It was good for our teachers to see the answer to Dave Burgess' key question:

If the kids didn't have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?

May 22, 2014 came and went and there is one thing for certain, the sequel was no let down, and there were no empty rooms.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Teach Like A PIRATE Day 2 Experiences

Teach Like A PIRATE Day 2
May 22, 2014
Big Walnut Intermediate
2014 Experiences

Bodker (Periods 1, 2, 4, 6): Jump on board pirates,  dig deep for “treasure.”
Students will pair up, use their math knowledge to find the answers to mystery questions.  The correct answers will earn  students “Pirate Booty.”  The first student pair to return to the finish with the most booty wins the treasure.  Students will need a partner, electronic device with a calculator, and stopwatch.  Be prepared to be moving quickly inside and out. Come and discover The Treasure of Learning.

Brown (Periods 2, 4, 5, 6): QR Code Scavenger Hunt- Students will need a smartphone, ipod, or tablet with a QR code reader app. QR codes will be spread out throughout the school and there will be math questions encoded on each one. Each code will give students a hint where to find the next code.

Byanski (Periods 1, 2, 4, 6):  Students will be part of a Murder Mystery. They will solve a crime based on clues and evidence. Students will create a sequence of events to outline the crime's timeline, summarize reading and key information, and create a prediction based on inference.

Corven (Periods 1, 2, 4, 5): The Marshmallow Challenge- Are you creative? Be part of a group problem solving activity involving spaghetti, tape, string and one marshmallow. The challenge is to design and construct the tallest free-standing structure.

Crawford (2, 4, 5, 6):  Glarch Madness - Students will be creating glarch out of liquid starch and glue. Then, we will have a single elimination tournament using straws to see which student can blow the largest bubbles with the glarch.

Denton (Periods 4, 5, 6):  Outdoor games that you can play all summer long.  Games will include corn hole, blongo, kan jam, disc golf, and more.  We will meet in the Gym.

Evener (Periods 1, 2, 5, 6):  Dude, Mr. Musclemilk just won the Mr. Universe body-building contest.  He's having a party to celebrate winning his awesome trophy.  But one of his body-building friends is, like, not happy about it and steals the award.  Your job is to interrogate all the bodybuilders to see which one is the trophy thief.  But to understand the bodybuilders, you are going to have to become one!!!

Firchau (Periods 1, 2, 4, 5): For Serious (and not-so-serious) Writers: Explore a boatload of ways to intensify your awareness of your surroundings as well as your appreciation of your talents as a writer! Bring a journal and a writing tool and be prepared to go outside (rain or shine).

Fitch (2, 4, 5, 6):  Ever wonder what life was like for kids before the invention of video games, IPads, and cell phones?  Come join us in playing the ancient games of Senet, Pok-a-tok, Snakes and Ladders, the Royal Game of Ur, and many more.  Weather permitting, some games will be played outside. Class will be combined with Mrs. George’s class.

George (2, 4, 5, 6):  Ever wonder what life was like for kids before the invention of video games, IPads, and cell phones?  Come join us in playing the ancient games of Senet, Pok-a-tok, Snakes and Ladders, the Royal Game of Ur, and many more.  Weather permitting, some games will be played outside. Class will be combined with Mrs. Fitch’s class.

Germann (Periods 1, 2, 4, 5): Long before land vertebrates and many plant species colonized the continents, SHARKS ruled the waters of earth.  Today they rule in Sunbury, Ohio, some 8 hours from the nearest coastal city.  Join Mr. Germann's class as we dissect the ocean’s most feared marine organism, the SHARK.  You will be given gloves and protective gear to explore these unique and fascinating creatures.  The sharks we will be dissecting are female dogfish sharks.  Who knows what we will find in the stomachs of these amazing organisms, not to mention the babies forming at various stages of development.  In order to maximize your learning experience, please bring an open and curious mind, and of course your camera.  You will want to capture this moment of time and share it with your parents!

Goettemoeller (Periods 1, 2, 4, 5, 6): Build your own roller coaster. Have you ever wondered about how important energy is in building a quality roller coaster? Do you enjoy designing things? You will be going to a website to build your own roller coaster to compete for the highest score. The more screams you get from your riders the higher the score.

Haer (Periods 1, 2, 4, 5, 6) :  Motion Art Painting -- Artist Jackson Pollock created layered paintings by dripping, drizzling and dancing the paint across a canvas.  Inspired by this technique we are going to explore the concept of dribbling, rolling, dropping and bouncing various sizes and styles of sports balls covered in paint across a surface.  Each artist will create their own artwork to take home and collaborate to create a large piece for the school.  WEAR OLD CLOTHES – YOU WILL GET MESSY!

Songer (Periods 1, 2):  Music Game Day.  Come join us in music class as we learn music concepts and play fun games! Activities will include:  Name That Disney Tune; Instrument Family Bingo; Note Name Twister; Disney Sing Along and Karaoke.

Hefner (Periods 1,2):  Pirates of P.E.:   Come in and discover the power of teamwork with this cooperative game.  Take control of the enemies ship by developing and implementing a superior strategy.

Hoge (Periods 1, 2, 4, 5)    Teams of BWI pirates will search for clues that describe endangered animals and then guess the identify the endangered animal.  Come to class prepared to find the treasure and get the gold, mateys!  No treasure, no gold! So come to Pirate Hoge's class ready to search for “hidden” treasure!  (Limited to 24 students per class)

Likens: (Periods 1, 2, 4, 6): Why couldn’t the pirate play cards?  Because he was standing on the deck!  Join your “shipmates” in learning several card games that you can play this summer, whether you find yourself sailing the high seas or stranded on a deserted island. Will your team be found bringing home the loot or left “swabbing the deck?” Join us in Room 109 to find out!

McCoy/Blakley/Pentello (1, 4, 5, 6):  Welcome to “Shark Tank”! 6th grade students will have the opportunity to present their own business to a panel of guest judges who are being kept absolutely top secret! After hearing the presentation, these judges will decide whether or not they want to “invest” in the business.  After each round, the student/group receiving the most money will be rewarded for their accomplishment. Come prepared to impress!

McLane (Period 1, 4, 5, 6):  Where In The World Is This Class We Are Talking To?  We will Skype with another classroom somewhere in the world.  By asking yes and no questions, we will have to determine their location and they will have to determine our location.  This is you chance to see a class in another state or even another country.  In the Library.

Read (Periods 4, 5, 6):  Rabbit and the Posseum, singing game.  TUBZ - plastic percussion tubes, playing rhythm games with tubes and chairs.  MUSIC RELAY RACES - students are given a symbol and they must tag someone as they both race to the board to write the correct symbol.

Sieradzki (Periods 1, 2, 5, 6):  SPEND SOME TIME IN YOUR RIGHT MIND!!
Play some cool games that will blow your mind and teach you how the brain works. Try to walk a straight line while wearing impairment glasses, play some tricks on your brain by looking at optical illusions, make a “brain hat” that shows what section of the brain controls what and follow along with a neuroscientist as he takes a trip through a human brain.

Stone (Periods 1, 2, 5, 6):  Dude, Mr. Musclemilk just won the Mr. Universe body-building contest.  He's having a party to celebrate winning his awesome trophy.  But one of his body-building friends is, like, not happy about it and steals the award.  Your job is to interrogate all the bodybuilders to see which one is the trophy thief.  But to understand the bodybuilders, you are going to have to become one!!!

VonAlmen (Periods 1, 4, 5, 6):SKUNK-A dice game that is part chance, part strategy, and all probability. Student will be broken into groups of 2 or 3 during this game.

Wion (1, 4, 5, 6): Glarch Madness - Students will be creating glarch out of liquid starch and glue. Then, we will have a single elimination tournament using straws to see which student can blow the largest bubbles with the glarch.

Wright (Periods 1, 2, 4, 6): Bridge Design Challenge- No toothpicks and messy glue for this bridge building project.  All that your team gets is a single piece of paper and a few paper clips to make a bridge that can hold the weight of at least 100 pennies! If you figure that out, maybe you can build a bridge out of a single piece of cardboard that will hold the weight of your teacher!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Teach Like A PIRATE Day 2, Days Away

Well, we are a few days away from attempting to pull off the sequel.  The experiences are in and we will print and distribute the guidebooks to the students tomorrow, two days before the big day.  This will allow students to start to figure out which experiences they want to, well, experience.

Last year, I was a part of pulling of the first TLAP Day at Utica Junior High, and I feel like these two events will have a different feel.  Many of my teachers last year really stepped out of their comfort zones and created some unbelievable activities for the kids.  It was a memorable day.  We were all pretty brave.  No one knew what would happen when we decided to allow 250 7th and 8th grade students to go wherever they wanted for an entire school day.  We actually saw kids were running TO class.

This year, I am in a new school and a new district.  We have 500 5th and 6th grade students.  To be perfectly honest with you, many of my teachers already create unique experiences for our kids on a regular basis.  Doing a day like this may not be much different than any other day at BWI.  Or maybe, just maybe, this will be a day unlike any other.  If nothing else, I know it will be a day in which kids will remember for the rest of their lives.

Often times in education, we take the importance of that for granted.  Kids will not remember the tests, the quizzes, the notes, or the lectures we present.  They will however remember the experiences, and there is something to be said for that.

Follow our day on 5/22 #tlapDay2

Saturday, April 12, 2014

WE Were Nominated For A Bammy

I received an email last night that I was nominated for a Bammy! Award.  The Academy of Education Arts and Sciences International awards educators each year in a variety of categories.  I'll be honest, I really could not believe I was nominated for Middle School Principal of the Year.

Now normally, I would not say much.  I love to hype our school, our staff, and our kids on Social Media.  I have never been one to self-promote myself.  So I was very inclined to just say "Thanks, I'm humbled, and I don't know what else to say."

Then I began to think about why I was nominated, and to be honest, I look at this as "We" have been nominated.  I have been really fortunate to have worked in two districts in which the school boards and my bosses have allowed me to do some "out of the box" things.  Many could argue that Teach Like A PIRATE Day was so far outside of the box, that the box was no longer visible.

I have been fortunate to have worked with two amazing staffs, the previous two years at Utica Jr. High and now at Big Walnut Intermediate.  They bought into many of these ideas, and it was the staff and kids that brought them to life.  Again, we, not me.

I have had parents at both of these schools that have embraced and encourage our new ways of communication.  Three years ago, I never would have imagined embracing YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Now it is common place. I have made many connection with educators around the country thru Twitter in which I got many of these ideas and then tweaked them to fit our school.

Finally, I have to thank my family.  My wife and two daughters "share" me a great deal with my school family.

I am not going to ask anyone to vote for me, because that's just not my style, and to be honest, just having mentioned all of the above people in my life and career, I have already won.  However I do want people to know about this nomination, because it is recognizing much more than just me.  It is really recognizing, two staffs and two communities.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Teach Like A PIRATE Day..The Sequel

Well, today I just dropped the bomb on my staff.  Teach Like A PIRATE Day is happening at Big Walnut Intermediate.  For those of you who followed the journey last year, you know what I am talking about.  For those of you who did not, here's a link that will get you caught up.


Coincidentally, the date will be May 22, 2014.  The original #tlapexperiment took place at Utica Jr. High on May 22, 2013.

This adventure will be a little different, but hopefully just as exciting.  For starters, I know it is possible to pull off, because I lived it a year ago.  Last year, I had no clue what would happen when we set 250 kids loose in the school.  My new school contains twice as many students and staff members.  The kids are a little younger as well.  Our school contains 500 5th and 6th grade students.  I am predicting there will need to be a little more "guiding" in the halls.

I gave my staff a little more time to prepare (9 weeks) than I did at Utica (I think they had three weeks).  I also gave the staff the guidebook students received last year to help facilitate the creative process in designing their "experiences."

The goals of the day remain the same.

1.  If kids did not have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?

2.  Teachers will step up their game and create experiences in which students learn AND have fun doing it.

3.  Kids will get excited about coming to school in May.

I will post updates on this blog as we approach the big day, and I am sure I will need some help from my connections on the internet.  You all helped me last year.  You can follow along on Twitter as well. The hashtag will be #tlapDay2.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Principal For the Day

Today we did something that enhanced the positive culture of our school.  Kids continued to learn and it was another opportunity for some of them to have some fun as well.

About a month ago, a parent from our PTO came in to see me about creating an incentive for our students to bring in Box Tops For Education.  If you are affiliated with an elementary or middle school, you are all too familiar with this program and doing crazy things to promote it. Two years ago I took a pie in the face.  This past fall, I took four.  We were all looking for something different this time around.  So this parent asked, what about making a student Principal for the Day?  Done.  Contest on.

Today was the day that one of our 5th graders was the honorary principal.  She did the morning announcements, decided the temperature was right for outdoor recess, ate lunch at my desk, sat in my chair in all of her classes, did afternoon announcements, and took my place in our weekly Video Newsletter.

There were so many positives that came from this day.  One, I am sure she will remember it forever.  Secondly, it was another positive, fun thing we were doing in our school.  Finally, it cost us nothing.  The highlight for me was when I asked her, "What is one thing you would change about our school?" Her response:  nothing.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sometimes You Have To Quit

I just got home from the Ohio High School State Wrestling Championships, and realized that a decision I made four years ago paid off for a young man.

I used to be a wrestling coach. I did it for 13 years and those kids are still to this day an important part of my life. As a matter of fact, I attended tonight's event with a former wrestler.

As a coach, it was pretty much a year round commitment.  Wrestling season begins in November and ends in the first week of March, but that is just the season.  The off-season consisted of workouts, training, and traveling all over the eastern U.S. to wrestle the best competition.  I loved doing it, I believe most of my kids did as well, and they benefitted from that commitment.  In 2005 I had the opportunity to coach my first state champion, and it was a feeling like no other.  All of the time and hard work that kid put in paid off.  It was almost as if I was just along for the ride.  I thought this would be the first of many that I would be a part of in my career.

A month later our first daughter was born, and four years after that, our second daughter.  I have a very understanding wife, and when it was just the two of us, she understood and supported the amount of time I put in with my wresters.  Add two children to the mix, and I would not say she was less understanding, but I began regretting the amount of time I was away from them.

I had some very talented wrestlers coming up through our youth program, some that I was very confident in their potential to stand atop the podium at the state tournament.  However I had come to a realization.  I was not going to be able to be as committed to these wrestlers as I was to my previous wrestlers.

So I made a decision, and it was both selfish and selfless.  I quit.  Selfishly I wanted to spend more time with my family.  Selflessly, the kids I coached deserved to have a coach who would be committed to them the way I no longer would.  My biggest fear, was not being committed and actually becoming a detriment to their dreams of glory.

Tonight I watched one of those kids win a state title.  The coach that replaced me reminded me a great deal of myself in my early years.  He was going to be able to provide those kids with the opportunities that I no longer was willing to provide.  Four years later, I realized quitting probably enabled that kid to win a state championship because I feared I was only going to get in his way.

I had so many people ask me tonight if I regretted quitting because I passed up an opportunity to coach another state champ?  Deep down in my heart, I believe that quitting helped his path in getting there, and I could not have been more proud of that kid tonight.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thinking of Doing a Teach Like A PIRATE Day?

I frequently get asked about the Teach Like A PIRATE Day we had at Utica Jr. High in May of 2013. Some people are just curious about what it was, while others want to do it at their schools and want more info.  I am more than happy to share and help in any way that I can, because as I have said multiple times before, it was probably the most rewarding experience of my educational career.

Rather than tweet helpful links to my blog and hope that it leads the reader to discover the other posts, I decided to put them all in one blog post.  A home base if you will to give you all that I have about our experience.  Many of these links are to previous blog posts of mine.  Some are posts made by Teach Like A PIRATE author Dave Burgess.

If you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.  The staff and students at Utica were a special group of people, but they are not much different than any other school you would find anywhere in this world. My point being, if we could pull it off, your school can pull it off too. You just have to be slightly crazy enough to try.

Teach Like A PIRATE Day.   The post that started it all.

Under 2 Weeks Away

Under A Week Away And Need Some Help  Help is a tweet away.

Teach Like A PIRATE Day Experiences  A Description of the experiences students had to choose from.

Teach Like A PIRATE Day Eve

Teach Like A PIRATE DAy...Huge Success

Teach Like A PIRATE Day...More Reflections

Teach Like A PIRATE Day...The Aftermath

Teach Like A PIRATE Day Presentation OMLA15

Posts By Dave Burgess

Breaking New Ground: Teach Like A PIRATE Day

Teach Like A PIRATE Day Leads to Treasure!

Monday, February 17, 2014

What Do Trick Shots Have To Do With Education?

Our school produces a video newsletter each week to inform our parents and community about what is going on in our school.  They usually last no more than about three minutes and are a quick, engaging way to let them know "What's going on" at Big Walnut Intermediate School.  You can read more about it here.

At the end of each "episode" I end it with a trick shot.  There are three reasons why I do it.

Reason 1:  It gives the kids and parents another reason to watch.  Sure I hope they are watching to find out what is happening in their child's school, but if they watch it just to see the trick shot at the end, that works too.  As long as they are watching it.

Reason 2:  It gives the kids something to get excited about.  All 500 of our kids have an instant conversation starter with me when they see me in the hallway.  "Mr. McLane, nice shot" or "Mr. McLane, what are you going to do next?" or "Mr. McLane, I know you are using trick photography to make those videos."  Regardless, even the most shy student has a built in conversation starter with the principal (and all of the shots are legit!).

Most of the shots have been recorded in about a minute.  I have not spent more than 4 minutes on any one shot (it was the long snap from the opposite foul line).

What do trick shots have to do with education?  Nothing really.  However when the trick shots lead to community engagement, building relationships with students, and doing a little something to make school FUN, well those all have a great deal to do with education.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Day With a Chromebook

One day last week I decided to do a little experiment. What would my day be like if I only used a Chromebook? In full disclosure, I am an iPad/iPhone guy.

The Positives
The Chromebook was nice because it is pretty much like a small laptop computer.  I loved the ability to type much better than what I am used to on the iPad, even with a keypad connected to the iPad.  I could get to pretty much everything I needed to on the internet as well.

Our school is a Google Apps For Education school, so I was able to use Google Docs and Presentation to do any word processing that I needed to do.  Had I still been reliant on Microsoft Office, I would have been in a world of hurt, but since I have already made this leap, it was no issue at all. I even tested out Google Hangouts and the video and audio quality were perfectly fine.

The Negatives
When I encountered something I wanted to take a picture or video, I was out of luck.  I'm sure there is a way to do this, but it is not as easy or convenient as shooting with the iPad.  I feel one of the positives of the iPad is the creativity possibilities.  In my opinion, the Chromebook is not on the same level there.

Finally, and depending on where you need to use it, without WiFi, the Chromebook is pretty much a paperweight.  I did have an issue where I lost internet connection for a few minutes, and there was not much I could do with the device.  I could see a student using their iPad on the school bus, but could not see that happening with the Chromebook.

This may shock you, but I loved the Chromebook because its positives were in areas I would normally say are negatives with the iPad.  What I really discovered from my one day experiment is that technology is a tool, and a craftsman needs different tools.  Sometimes you need a hammer and sometimes you need a drill.  That does not make one any better or worse.  I could could see where making Chromebooks available to our students would be a huge benefit.  However I would also want some iPads (or other technology) at their disposal so that they can use the appropriate tool for the appropriate task.

UPDATE:  Part of the reason I posted and shared this was to get some feedback, specifically telling me I was wrong about the WiFi/paperweight comment.  Many people have told me ways that this is not true.  I look forward to exploring those possibilities.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Another Reason Schools Should Use Social Media

It is cold in Ohio. Coldest it has been in 20 years. Our district, and many others closed school today (Monday) and we have already made the decision to close tomorrow (Tuesday).  I wanted our kids to see how cold it was, so I posted this 16 second video on Youtube, and our school Facebook and Twitter pages.

Within minutes, I was receiving messages from parents telling me that their kids were outside trying it themselves (hopefully very quickly).  Even though our kids are not in school, they are learning, and I am sure it will lead to some great opening questions in science class once we do return to school.  It could not have happened without our district embracing Social Media.