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.