Saturday, December 19, 2015

Your School Rocks...So Tell People

As we approach the closing of another year, and to think about beginning 2016, I'm still surprised by the number of teachers and schools that do not use social media.  The consistent rhetoric of how poorly schools are preparing our students, many people truly believe nothing great is going on in our schools.  If we do not do anything to change that perception, well that is our fault as educators and educational leaders.  I am aware some districts have forbidden the use of social media, but it seems as if that number is consistently declining. That is a great sign.

Eric Lowe (principal at Beaver Local Middle School) and I have presented at numerous conferences about how our two schools have used social media to build strong relationships with our students, families, and our communities.  The majority of the people who come up to talk to us afterwards are ready to take the leap into the world of social media, but do not really know where to begin.

After reflecting on these conversations, we decided to expand our presentation into a book, Your School Rocks...So Tell People.  We wanted to create a resource that would guide the novice as well as the expert in social media with regards to how to leverage the various platforms as an educator. With the help of Dave and Shelley Burgess and their small educational publishing company Dave Burgess Consulting, I am pleased to announce that this resource will be available to help guide you and your school as you begin to examine how you can use social media to promote the positives that are happening on your campus.  As always, feel free to connect with the two of us on Twitter, and if you purchase the book, we'd love to hear what you think.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

4 Tips for Productive Parent-Teacher Conferences

Here a four tips to make Parent-Teacher Conferences as productive as possible.

1.  We are on the same team. 
As teachers, parents, and students, we all want the  same thing, which is for the student to reach his or her maximum potential.  While it is easy to start pointing fingers at each other, what is that really going to solve?  The sooner we realize and embrace this idea, the more productive our conversations will be.

2.  Don't focus on the grade.
The grade is simply a letter, or a number, and it is supposed to correlate to how well a student is doing in school.  It will not necessarily correlate to how intelligent or how hard of a worker the student is.  If you are a parent, do not ask the teacher "Why does my child have a bad grade?"  Instead ask, "In what area is my child struggling and what can WE do to help?"  If you focus your conversation on grades, you will not be productive and will leave the meeting feeling frustrated.

3.  Time is short
Some teachers see over 100 students in a day.  In order to meet with as many families as possible, you may only have a 10-15 minute window.  As a parent, have a game plan on what you want to talk about.  You may not get through all of the topics you would like to discuss, so prioritize your list.  Have no idea what to ask?  Here are two questions to consider:

  • What does my child struggle with and how can we help?
  • What does my child do well?
As a teacher, you may be tempted to point out 10 issues that the parent needs to be aware of.  Don't do it.  Prioritize your list and focus on those.

4.  Don't be afraid to follow-up
You likely did not get through all of the topics you wanted to discuss during your conference, so don't hesitate to follow-up with the teacher in a week via note, email, or phone call.  I suggest waiting a week, because teachers are human beings, and they likely just worked two straight 13 hour days when you consider the normal work day and evening conferences.  Almost all teachers are going to be more than willing to continue the conversation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When It's OK to Fail...and When It Isn't

I'm sure if you search the internet, listen to a motivational speaker, or talk to most teachers, you may have heard the phrase "It's ok to fail."  With the recent resurgence of Carol Dweck's book Mindset, it has become fashionable to say and promote this philosophy in school.  This post is not to tell you to embrace or abandon this philosophy, rather, if you say it, you better clearly communicate what you mean.

Recently, I have had conversations with multiple people who have an expertise outside of education that have come to me dumbfounded with what their children are being told in schools all around the country.  They say, "Ryan, my child's teacher told them it's ok to fail. It's ok for them to not try their best, because they will have the opportunity to re-take a test or re-do an assignment."

I respond by asking them, "Are you sure that's what the teacher told them or what they meant?"

If you are telling your kids, "It's ok to fail" because you are promoting risk-taking, or you do not want to see them put unnecessary stress on themselves over a class assignment or assessment, or you are promoting the process over the product, then go for it.  

But this is what many of them are hearing: "It's ok if I slack off because I can do it again."  

I am a proponent of standards-based grading practices, and also believe in the process of re-takes because I believe it is far more important THAT they know it than WHEN they know it.  However, as educators, we must be extremely CLEAR when we communicate this philosophy to our students.  While it may be ok to fail, it is NOT ok to give a subpar effort.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

5 Ways Ways to Use Canva in Your Classroom or School

Canva is a free graphic design app for the iPad (they also have a web version) that is pretty simple to use.  As a school, we have used it in a variety of ways to assist us in keeping our community informed and sharing the great things that are happening.  Here are five ways you can use it in your classroom or school.

1.  You can create your own digital posters.

2.  We post positive messages on our school's Instagram account.  The kids actually love it.  Canva allows us to customize these messages for our kids rather than just taking them from the internet.

3.  It is an easy way to create a visual for information you want to share with families.  We have a school Facebook page that many families "like."  By using a picture or graphic, families are far more likely to be engaged than just using simple text.

4.  We actually stopped doing paper/email newsletters because no one was reading them.  We started doing weekly video newsletters two years ago and use Canva to design our background.  As you can see, our "green screen" is a cinder block wall with green paint.  We use an app called Green Screen by DoInk.  Below you can see the "before" and "after."

5.  Canva is a great tool to make presentation slides a little more visually appealing.

You can get as creative as you want, but Canva is a tool worth playing with.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


If you are a parent of a Big Walnut student, you may have heard about our BWLS 2020 vision.  In short, our goal as a district is to transform education by providing each child a personalized education.  We want to get away from the idea of school being a place where teachers are simply providers of information to a model in which they are assisting each student in reaching his or her maximum potential.

One of the questions I have heard is, "Wow, that sounds great, but why are we waiting until 2020 to do this?" That is a great question and here is my answer.  We are not waiting, but that is our deadline.  Many of the things I see happening in our classrooms at BWI have shown me this shift is happening.  We are not there yet, and it will take some time.  Time to get more technology, time to provide our teachers with more resources and training, and time to completely transition to this shift.  This model is not built entirely on technology. Technology in the classroom has been a great tool, but is simply that, a tool.  It will not replace the teacher. Your child will not be sitting in front of a Chromebook for seven hours each day.  That is not my definition of personalization.

This goal fits well with our district's mission of inspiring and guiding each student to his or her maximum potential.  We also feel it aligns with BWI's mantra of making sure kids are learning AND having fun.

The video below was created by Jen Wilson, our Coordinator of Instruction and Innovation.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Ryan McLane

Saturday, September 19, 2015

There's A Disconnect

If you have read my blog before, you know I am a proponent of the proper use of social media by schools and teachers.  I have tweeted recently that according to the PEW Research Center, 75% of parents use social media.  To me, this is a pretty good reason to at least explore the possibility of using social media to connect and communicate with your parents.  As a school leader, when is the last time you have had 75% of your parents in any one place?

Just yesterday, I came across another statistic.  According to a survey conducted by the Harris Poll for the University of Phoenix, 87% of teachers have not incorporated social media into their classrooms.  That is an incredible disconnect, and quite frankly, a missed opportunity.

Our school, Big Walnut Intermediate, located in Sunbury Ohio, has embraced the use of social media with the support of our central office staff and school board.  We have seen amazing results in the past two years because of it.  Great things were happening in our schools, but I am not certain that message was getting home to our families.  Through the use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, that message is now being delivered, and our parents are appreciative.  In has made it down to the classroom level, as we now have teachers doing their own video newsletters, class blogs, and Instagram pages.  These are tools that not only inform our families about what is happening in their child's educations, but also serves as a hook to get the kids excited about coming to school the next day.

Again, the statistics are pretty mind boggling, and at least warrant a conversation about using social media. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Not Getting Rid of the Teachers' Lounge

Ohio's Governor, and Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich was recently quoted as saying the following, "If I were not president, but if I were King of America, I would abolish all teacher's lounges, where they sit together and worry 'woe is us.'" Now his spokesperson quickly dismissed the statement as simply a metaphor, and was shocked educators took it literally.

Now in full disclosure, I was not an English teacher, so I cannot say with 100% certainty that the statement would actually be classified as a metaphor, perhaps grandstanding would be a better description, but I digress. 

I walked into our Teachers' Lounge this afternoon and saw the following posters made by our students.  Our students, 5th and 6th graders at Big Walnut Intermediate, made inspirational posters for our teachers.  Where better to hang them than in the Teachers' Lounge?

Perhaps they heard Governor Kasich's comments and decided to help him to inspire our teachers. Our kids know who he is as our school has been the recipient of the Governor's award for excellence in STEM education in Ohio for three consecutive years.  They certainly must feel a bond (If I had a spokesperson, they would be proclaiming my use of satire right now).

I will not get rid of our Teachers' Lounge literally or metaphorically for the following reasons:

  • Our staff talks about how to help kids in that room. 
  • Our staff gets to know each other as people in that room which leads them to working harder for each other because they CARE about each other. 
  • Our teachers share great ideas in that room. 
  • The next great "thing" may very well come from that room. 

John Kasich may become POTUS, or VP, or maybe just remain Ohio governor.  However here is what he did with his statement. He further motivated a group of positive educators to be even MORE positive. 

I agree that no one likes to hear anyone play the "woe is me card."  However, what is even more annoying is when some politicians play the "teachers are the bad guy" card.  I do not think John Kasich is a bad guy, but I KNOW my teachers are not as well.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Teach Like A PIRATE DAY 3, In The Books

In Teach Like A PIRATE, the author, Dave Burgess, asks what would happen if the kids were not forced to show up to a teacher's class?  On Teach Like A PIRATE Day, we put that question to the test.

This morning, we allowed 514 5th and 6th grade students to go wherever they wanted for an entire day.  That is always a scary thought, and this is the third year I have been a part of such an experiment, and the results have been consistently amazing.
  • Our attendance rate was near perfect (98.3%)
  • Our discipline referrals were almost non-existent (had two today, both were from recess).
  • Our kids ran TO the next class because they were so excited
  • Our kids are excited about learning in the last week of school
  • It is exhausting
Kids will run to your class if you give them a reason to.  They will do this in September, November, March, and even May.  Kids will be so engaged in their learning they will not have time to think about doing things they should not be doing.  If you are struggling with classroom management, consider the activities of your lesson rather than adding more restrictive rules.

When I first put this idea out to my staff three years ago, I really had two purposes.  One, I wanted the teachers to see that kids could be excited about their classes.  Secondly, and more importantly, I wanted the teachers to create these experiences on an ongoing basis.  My hope was, we could make school exciting more often, not just on one designated day.

I have changed districts since that first TLAP Day in Utica, and we have already accomplished these two goals at Big Walnut Intermediate.  I see phenomenal, engaging, Teach Like A PIRATE activities going on all throughout the school year, not just one out of 180.  However, this is not the end of TLAP Day.  It continues to become bigger and better each and every year.  Once again, we had educators from around the state travel to Sunbury, Ohio to witness this educational/social experiment and I am not going to lie, I take great satisfaction in knowing we are influencing schools around the state and even around the country.  School does not have to be a miserable, oppressive place.

Three years ago, we were the only school in the world to try TLAP Day.  Today, we Skyped with a school in Missouri who was doing their very own TLAP Day.  The idea is spreading, which means our kids are benefitting.

Today our kids had a videoconference with employees at Google, created their own art, participated in science experiments, learned about Chinese culture, used critical thinking skills in solving problems, flew to the moon, faced the Shark Tank, built their own roller coaster, went on multiple scavenger hunts, and made their own bouncy balls.  They should sleep well tonight.

This has been such a successful endeavor because our teachers are on board.  They put in their own time and their own money in creating these experiences.  Without their hard work and dedication, this would never happen, and I cannot thank them enough.  We also have a great community who is supportive of some of the crazy things we do.  You have no idea how nice that is.

Check out our hashtag on Twitter for photos of the day.  #tlapday3

156 kids in Mystery Skype

Monday, April 27, 2015

Teach Like A PIRATE Day, 3 Weeks Away

Our Teach Like A PIRATE Day will take place on Monday, May 18, 2015.  This will be the 3rd one I have been a part of.  I have to be honest, this one has the potential to be the best one yet.  The main reason for this is because of the enthusiasm of our students and our staff.

When we did the first TLAP Day back in 2013, no one really knew what it was.  I did not let the kids know about it until a few days before it happened.  Last year we began to hype it well in advance, and now, new students enter our school asking about it.  The secret is out.

Our community has embraced this day and local businesses are beginning to put their money behind it.  While we are far from going corporate, local businesses are offering a helping hand.  Our art teacher spoke to the manager at the local Wendy's fast food restaurant to ask if they would donate salad containers for an art project.  Once our teacher explained TLAP Day and how kids run TO the next class, the manager could not say yes fast enough.  The question to my art teacher was "How many do you need?"

I have worked in schools in which it seemed like the community did not support the schools.  When I reflect back, I ask myself, "Did the schools give the community a real reason to want to support them?"  

I hate to make blanket statements.  I cannot say that if you do this in your school that suddenly the community will have your back.  This community supported the schools long before I came to Big Walnut, but TLAP day gives them one more visible reason why they should.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Teach Like A PIRATE Day 3, A Month Away

Two years ago, we put the essential question in Dave Burgess' Teach Like A PIRATE to the test:  if kids didn't have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room? On May 22, 2013, we gave 270 7th and 8th graders more freedom than they had ever had in their educational lives.  We let them go wherever they wanted for an entire school day.  Teach Like A PIRATE Day was born.

Since then, it has grown and spread.  I have changed districts and brought it with me, other brave educators have tried it and have experienced similar success.  If you create extraordinary experiences for your students you will see extraordinary results.

So for the next month, my blog posts will be dedicated to sharing the process.  I have been contacted by so many educators who wanted to do this in their schools, but just have so many questions.  I have emailed, Skyped, and talked to several people on the phone to help them through the process.  It has been great to connect with so many people and to see this phenomenon spread.

Hopefully these posts will guide you to do this yourself.  At the very least, it may be entertaining reading to see what a crazy school in Ohio is going to do on May 18th.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why We Are Here

I recently read an opinion piece in Education Week about a Teach For America teacher hanging it up after six years.  I'm not taking a shot at TFA, because quite honestly, that piece could have been written by anyone regardless of their training.  That piece could have been written by me at some point in my career.  

Teaching is hard, and we often hear that it is a thankless job, and sometimes it is.  Sometimes in life, regardless of our profession, we will feel unappreciated, undervalued, and begin to question ourselves and our own abilities.  However, sometimes, that is not the case.  Sometimes parents send notes of thanks, provide food for our staff during conferences and Teacher Appreciation Week, give gifts around the holidays, and even make cookies with your school's name on them.

Before I left my building on Friday, there were two teachers still there celebrating, legitimately joyous over the fact that two students had reached levels of success in their classrooms that was unprecedented for them.  For me, as a principal, you do not know how powerful and meaningful that is.  More importantly, these moments are exactly why we are here.  As teachers, you are changing lives every day, for the better or for the worse.  We have no idea what some of these kids are going through in their lives, and if you think, "Oh kids are not experiencing that in our school" you are wrong.  As teachers, we have to remember that is why we got into this profession in the first place.

This week, you will do many things in which no one will thank you.  However there will likely be a time when someone does.  Don't forget to remember those things as well.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Periscope For Education, Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about this new app called Periscope (Periscope For Education?).  I experimented with a few broadcasts today during school trying to determine if it had a place in education.  I believe it has the potential to be a very powerful learning tool, but at the same time, inappropriate comments that show up on the screen made it too big of a risk.  Or so I thought.

I filmed a few minutes of a 6th Grade Math class that uses individual pathways for student learning.  I had some educators interact with me, no inappropriate comments were made and I think a few educators got an idea or two from watching.

Sure this could be leveraged as a PD tool, and that would be a great benefit, but I still thought there could be more.  For example, last night I was watching someone stream live video from the WTC Memorial in New York.  How cool would that be to show your kids in class?  The problem was that someone decided to make a racist comment to which the person videotaping made a verbal comment back.  An unbelievable learning opportunity for our kids, poof, gone.

But as my man Lee Corso from ESPN would say, "Not so fast my friend."  Periscope allows you to hide the comments of a video.  When you click on a video, and as it is loading, swipe up, and there is an option that says "hide comments."  Click on that and poof, all of the comments, inappropriate or not, will disappear.  One problem solved.  However that will not do anything to prevent the person who is broadcasting from verbally responding to the comments on the live stream.  To solve this problem, simply mute the volume.

In my opinion, the power of this app is the video and images it provides.  Sure the commentary by the broadcaster is an added bonus, but not a necessity.  I do not need the broadcaster to explain what is going on, I as the teacher can do that.  And sometimes, there is no commentary needed.

The safest bet would be to use broadcasts that are saved and not live, because you never know what images could appear on a live video stream.  If you have previewed the video, you can use this app to take your kids to places they never thought they could see.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Periscope For Education?

Periscope screenshot of a tour of La Jolla, California
I am writing this post because I need some help.  I know, not the first time those words have come out of my mouth.  I stumbled upon this new app called Periscope and was blown away.  The first thought that entered my mind was "How can I use this as a learning tool?"

If you are unfamiliar with Periscope, it allows you to watch live video of people from all over the world.  This morning, I watched someone give a tour of the Red Sea, a neighborhood stroll in Los Angeles and the Upper East Side, a walk through the rainy streets of Hamburg, Germany, and a lot of refrigerators (it's a Periscope joke that I still do not get).

The interaction a viewer can have with the person broadcasting is what makes this such a powerful and such a scary tool.  I could ask the person a question via a written comment.  The ability to interact increased the learning possibilities.  At the same time, I witnessed many people commenting inappropriately simply because they could.  Comments that would certainly not be appropriate if they were projected on a screen in front of a classroom full of kids.

So what is the workaround?  While my initial thought would be to show a video from someone I know and trust, that would not prevent others from commenting inappropriately.  If I want to make it private, why not just use Skype or Google Hangouts?  Again, I do not have the answer, that's why I'm asking.  This seems too powerful to just toss aside.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Helping Those Who Can Do Nothing For You

Tom Ryan and the Ohio State Buckeyes won the NCAA Wrestling Championship this past weekend, the first team title in the program's history.  I have lived in Ohio for the better part of 20 years, but grew up in Pennsylvania, and because of family ties, have been a devoted Notre Dame fan my entire life.  I am one of the few people in Ohio who is not a die hard Buckeye fan (if you've been to Ohio you know I am not exaggerating). However, I am a fan of the Ohio State Wrestling program because I am a huge fan of their head coach, Tom Ryan.

Several years ago, when I was coaching wrestling, there was a young boy in our youth program who suffered a very serious injury on his farm.  The wrestling community is very tight knit and I immediately began sending emails to various college coaches to see if they could send this young man a t-shirt, poster, or just a note of encouragement.  I cannot think of anyone who did not respond affirming they would send something.

My interaction with Tom Ryan was far different.  Five minutes after I had hit send, I had a response from the head coach of the Buckeyes.  Here was his response, "Ryan, here is my cell phone number, call me." Not "Hey send me an email with more details" or "Give my secretary a call."  Rather, "Call me."

The next day, Tom Ryan, assistant coach Lou Rosselli and defending NCAA champion J. Jaggers all went to Nationwide Children's Hospital to spend some time with this kid, a kid they had never met, a kid whose only tie to them was the sport of wrestling.  If you are not from Ohio or familiar with wrestling, this would be like Bill Belichick bringing Tom Brady.

National Titles do not happen by luck or come easy.  Almost always, the team has a great leader and one of the traits of a great leader is the amazing way they treat people who can never do anything for them in return.  There was nothing I could do at that time that was going to be of any benefit to Tom Ryan or the Ohio State wrestling program.  Yet he and two others from his program spent some time with a kid because it was the right thing to do.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

You'll Never Know Your Impact

Tonight was the state finals of the Ohio State Wrestling Tournament, an event I look forward to each year. On this weekend, several of my former wrestlers come up for the day for a mini reunion.  Tonight was extra special because it marked the 10th anniversary of coaching my first state champion, and even more, that school had a kid win a state title.  The first in 10 years.

I don't just look forward to this weekend to watch great wrestling, but rather to have great conversations  with my former wrestlers and students who are now successful adults.  It is great to hear how they are doing in the real world.

Today, one of my former wrestlers told me how much he appreciated me pulling him aside to talk to him at great length about a problem he was having in his personal life when he was in high school.  Here's the thing.  I had no recollection of that conversation.  I'm not doubting it happened, I just do not remember.  He did.  I guess that only reinforces the importance of what we do as educators, both good and bad.  You never know when a simple interaction, good or bad, may have a significant impact on your students.  It may be the biggest thing in their life but one of 100 things you are dealing with as an educator.  However the way you handle it will be the most important thing for that particular kid.  So a simple conversation may have a significant impact on a kid.

So in an age where people love to bash educators, paint them as horrible people, just remember, you have no idea of how much of an impact you are making on these kids.  Make sure that impact is a positive one.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Do You Have 13 Minutes For Your Families?

We do a weekly video newsletter at my school.  No one was reading my paper newsletter, and they were not reading it went I sent it by email either.  How do I know this?  Parents actually told me this.  I spent at least an hour typing and editing and formatting and all of those other things you do to make a newsletter look great.  I was doing it because that is what has always been done.  That was what was expected.

I could not get over the fact that I was essentially wasting an hour producing something that no one was consuming.  Well the garbage cans were consuming them and so were the bottoms of lockers.  About two years ago I decided to change the medium of my newsletter.  It was time for the Video Newsletter.

Each week, several students and I shoot a video newsletter.  It is usually between 2-3 minutes in length.  As I am walking around the building, I take some photos, and use iMovie to put it all together.

I am frequently asked the following question:  That must take a great deal of time, how long do you spend making it?  Until this morning, I never timed the process.  My response was usually "Not very long at all."  Well this morning I have my answer.  Thirteen minutes.  That includes using the green screen app, moving it to iMovie, and pressing the button to upload it to YouTube and our Facebook page.  Thirteen minutes to engage our families.  Thirteen minutes to make sure our message and story is being consumed by people, not just the bottom of lockers.  Thirteen minutes.  Do you have 13 minutes for your families?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Came For The Ron Clark, Stayed For The Jack Berckemeyer

A week ago, I attended my first Ohio Middle Level Association State Conference.  To be perfectly honest, I knew I was going to attend this conference six months ago, and it had nothing to do with the conference.  It had everything to do with Ron Clark being the keynote speaker.

Ron Clark is known for his numbered lists, but to me he is about two things:  high expectations for all students and making school fun.  I have been a huge fan of Ron Clark for about five years now and have always wanted to see him in person, and OMLA 2015 was my opportunity to do just that.

Ron Clark was a dynamic speaker, loved his message, and he was about as inspirational as I had imagined.  I just wish he would have handled how he addressed those who were videotaping him a little differently.  I am sure he had his reasons, and I am not in his shoes, but that was kind of a letdown.  But again, great speaker and great message.

The keynote speaker for day two was a man named Jack Berckemeyer.  I will admit, I never heard of him before, but noticed he had quite the crowd in his breakout sessions after the opening keynote.  His keynote on day two of the conference was unbelievable.  He was passionate, funny, engaging, funny, easy to relate to, and, well, you know, funny.  I became a fan very quickly.  If you do not know the value of teaming at the middle school level, his book is a must read.

The rest of the conference was great.  I learned many things, one of which was, I had been missing out by not attending this conference over the past few years.  I would have been a better middle level educator.  I also learned a valuable life lesson, and at 38 I am still learning new life lessons.  Here was my lesson:  give everyone a chance.  Jack Berckemeyer had me hooked within the first 30 seconds.  Had I left after Ron Clark, I would have missed a great deal.

If you are a middle level educator, I would highly encourage you to attend your state or national middle level conference (AMLE national conference is in Columbus, Ohio October 15-17, 2015).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Would Your Kids Do This?

We had a Snow Day today.  Actually it was a cold day (-20F with the wind chill).  Now my southern readers see that and cringe while my northern readers laugh.  Anyways, as I was sitting in my office this morning (yes principals still work on snow days) I decided to push this out to my kids via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

Within a few hours I received a few entries from our students and they were pretty good.  I hope to receive a few more tonight.  So if you were to post a similar contest, what would happen?  What does that say about the culture of your school?  Are kids running into your building or out of it?  Just something to think about.

Big Walnut Intermediate School
Sunbury, Ohio
Grades 5-6
530 Students

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What's Your School Saying About PARCC?

Some schools are putting an unbelievable amount of pressure on their students to perform well on the new PARCC exams.  Others are not.  Here is a quick video I shared with our families today to let them know where we were coming from in terms of PARCC testing.  Some of our kids are dealing with enough in their young lives, the last thing they need is added pressure from their school.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Teach Like A PIRATE Day Presentation, OMLA 2015

Here is the Teach Like A PIRATE Day presentation I did at the Ohio Middle Level Association State Conference on 2/13/15.  This would be a great resource for any school or team thinking about doing their own TLAP Day.

For those who are unfamiliar with Teach Like A PIRATE, check out the 2nd video below for a quick explanation.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Let Them Pick Their Passion

The vision of our school is for students to Learn AND have fun.  Anyone who knows me knows it is an "and" not an "or."  As a staff we discussed this, and it is important to point out that this is our vision, not just my vision.  How the "and" looks varies by classroom, and this is something I have really embraced over the past month.

We have some teachers who have embraced Dave Burgess' Teach Like A PIRATE style and are creating engaging experiences in their classrooms.  I would want to be in these classes.  Others have been passionate about Project Based Learning, and I would want to be in these classes as well.  Others are embracing the work of Alan November and his idea of Who Owns The Learning? These students are creating their own instructional videos for the world to see. We have flipped classes, blended learning, station rotation models, you name it, someone is implementing it.  I want to be in those classes.

You may ask, is this good for kids and good for your school? Seem like a lot of different things going on. I say yes, and here is why.  Our kids are learning AND having fun.  Just as important, our teachers are using the methods in which THEY are passionate about to achieve this vision.  If they are passionate about it, they will work hard to make it better, and in the end, create a better learning environment for our kids.

I love walking around our building and stopping in the classes to see what is happening.  I usually do not want to leave.  Fortunately most of the students feel that way too.

Big Walnut Intermediate is a 5-6 building in Sunbury, Ohio.  The school has 530 students and 31 full-time teachers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ways Your School Can Use Social Media: Instagram

I am excited to be presenting at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference and the Ohio Middle Level State Conference in February about how your school can use social media to connect and communicate with your families.  Many, if not all of these methods would be considered pretty unconventional.  One of those ways is how we are using Instagram.

At Big Walnut Intermediate School, in Sunbury, Ohio, we have set up a school Instagram account and have been using it for about a year.  Now I know that statement right there scares many administrators, but in the year we have been using it, we have had ZERO negative interactions associated with it.

If you are unfamiliar with Instagram, think of it as Twitter with pictures or 15 second videos.  It is more along the philosophy of "A picture is worth a thousand words."  One of the ways we use it is probably what you would expect.  If I see something worth sharing, I snap a quick picture or video with my phone or tablet and put it on Instagram as a way to share the great things happening in our school.  The kids LOVE it.

The second way we use Instagram, and I got this idea from Eric Lowe, an assistant principal at Beaver Local Middle School in Lisbon, Ohio, is to share a positive message each morning (some examples are below).  The majority of the the people who follow our school's Instagram account are students.  The feedback I receive on Instagram is based on how many "likes" a photo or video receives.  The daily positive message receives MORE likes than any other photo or video I post on Instagram.  Even if these positive messages are only getting one or two kids off on the right foot in the morning, it is worth doing.  I believe it is impacting more than that.

Our kids and our staff work very hard, and that is no different than any other school in this world.  That work should be shared with as many people as possible.  Using social media allows us to do just that.  

Eric and I will be presenting on the various ways we use social media to tell our school's story.  Feel free to connect with us.