• Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Archives
    Archives Contains a list of blog posts that were created previously.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Donald Gately

Donald Gately

Donald Gately Ed.D. is the principal at Jericho Middle School on Long Island. J.M.S. is a high performing middle school that has a comprehensive school-wide program to develop social emotional literacy; the school was named a New York State/National School to Watch in 2009, 2012 and 2015. Don was a middle school principal in Plainview-Old Bethpage, the assistant principal at Memorial Junior High School in Valley Stream and a teacher of English Language Arts in the New York City public schools. He is the former p resident of the Nassau County Middle Level Principals Association and active in a number of organizations that leverage support for innovative middle school practice. Don is a middle level leader with a singular passion and commitment to the intellectual and social/emotional development of adolescent learners. He was a BAMMY Award nominee for Middle School Principal of the Year in 2014 and 2015. Along with his wife Danielle (@dmgately) and an incredible PLN of committed Long Island educators Don cofounded EdCamp Long Island (@EdCampLI) in 2014.

Posted by on in Education Leadership


Here’s a confession, I’ve been responsible for some pretty horrible professional development (PD).  When I think about the faculty meetings I ran when I was a new principal, I am embarrassed.  Often, my faculty meetings were the Don Gately Show.  I like to think it's a pretty good show (my wife’s not complaining).   I tried to sprinkle in the occasional joke or amusing anecdote, but my approach was deeply flawed.  Teachers had little choice in participating; they were required, by contract, to be there. If the topic was not meeting their needs, they had to wait until I was done to complain about me in the parking lot.  I surely was never the smartest person in the room; the smartest people in the room didn't get a chance to share their expertise because I didn't create a structure for them to do so.  

And, oh the PowerPoints, I ‘loved me some PowerPoints’.   I relied on this magical Microsoft tool like a crutch. As an assistant principal, I was an early adopter so I remember a time when I could dazzle my faculty with animations and wiggly text. The principal would sometimes ask me, “Don, can you do that PowerPoint thing for the faculty meeting?”  I’d beam with pride! But like the hack magician sawing the lady in half, it took a while for me to let go of that thrilling trick.  There are teachers out there with handouts I foisted upon them at faculty meetings, three slides to a page (so they could take notes?!), 107 slides in all.  If I am ever considered for appointment as education commissioner, some journalist will dig these handouts up and my career will come to a screeching halt.  

Fortunately, due to a combination of factors, I've gotten better at faculty meetings.  Through experience, research, learning from others, better principals and maybe just because I got sick of listening to MYSELF, my faculty meetings have become improved settings for learning, at least I hope so.

I’ve done some bad PD, but so have many of my colleagues, both in the administrative AND the teaching ranks!  It's staff development like this that has created the need for EdCamp.  Above I described a formula for “How NOT to contribute to teachers' learning.” EdCamp upends all of these approaches.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
stencil.twitter post 61

worldsrairWhat is your earliest memory?   I vaguely recollect riding on the monorail with my parents at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow, Queens.  The monorail was one of three attractions at the Fair from the Disney company (the other two were It's a Small World and the Carousel of Progress which are now in the Disney theme parks).   I've since been to Flushing Meadow Park many times because I have brought my own kids to visit the Queens Museum which houses the Panorama of the City of New York which is a scale model of the entire city, also a World’s Fair exhibit.  When I first went there I used a pair of binoculars you could borrow to locate my own house, 1530 Albany Avenue in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Last spring I had the opportunity to attend the world premiere of a film by a young and astounding filmmaker. Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion is a documentary about the history of the 1964 World’s Fair and especially the New York Pavilion.  The filmmaker is a teacher from our school, Matt Silva.  Matt teaches technology and also videography.  His students create professional quality videos that support numerous school initiatives.  Each year they produce a video to accompany our bully prevention kick off that is the centerpiece and a highlight of the day.  The subject of the documentary was the New York Pavilion, a structure originally built for the 1964 World's Fair.  The Pavilion remains in the park today and is slowly deteriorating.

Matt was inspired to create the documentary when he took students in his middle school technology class on a trip to visit the Highline in Manhattan.   The Highline is a unique civil engineering accomplishment.  It's designers repurposed the dilapidated Westside Highway into an elevated urban park that runs from 19th to  33rd Street on the west side of Manhattan. As a child I rode in a car on the Westside Highway with my family on our way to my grandfather's bungalow in Upstate New York.  Such was the state of the highway’s disrepair that my dad joked, “It'll be a miracle if we don't fall through this thing before we get there.”   I was scared!   

Matt planned the trip to the Highline so that his students would understand how urban planning works, how architects and engineers can re-purpose a structure to make it more useful for its present environment and context.    Matt understood how important it was for his students to see firsthand the results of an urban planning initiative.  He also invited Architect Frankie Campione, the principal engineer of CREATE Architecture Planning & Design, to come to school and discuss efforts to preserve the Pavilion.  Field trips and guest speakers are among the most powerful and memorable learning experiences for middle school kids.  They allow students to grasp the relevance of concepts they learn in the classroom and they cement connections between the curriculum and the world in which we live.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Student Engagement

stencil.twitter post 30


As a middle school principal, I make it a point to do informal walkthroughs for at least 40-60 minutes each day (well, that's the plan anyway).  It is the best part of my job to learn alongside teachers and kids throughout the school.  I stopped by one of my teacher’s (@bess_murphy) classrooms this week.  I’m going to call her Bess, (cause that’s her name -- Bess).   

Bess was teaching students about measures of central tendency.  She modeled a problem at the board and demonstrated how to find the mean, median, and mode.  She asked kids to tell what would be the best method to find the measure of central tendency for a new data set that she provided.  They were to pair with the student next to them and work it out together,

Bess then cued up the song “Mean” by Taylor Swift.  It played for about 40 seconds.

Get it?  Mean… the song is called “MEAN”...

Like the arithmetic average… the MEAN !

As the song played, some kids got it and some kids didn’t, but it was so inventive and so much fun.  The students got right down to business.  

I only joined the class for about 10 minutes but from this snapshot I gleaned several takeaways:

Box1. This little instructional moment was quite natural for Bess to pull off… she didn’t make a big deal out of the song… she  just had it queued up and it played in the background as the kids started to work.  Awesome teachers naturally integrate innovative and engaging approaches into their practices organically.  This is especially important for adolescents with their finely attuned sense of “corny”.   Don’t “over-sell” it … let it happen.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Education Resources


b2ap3_thumbnail_CKJWKL-WUAAwDaG.jpgThere are scenes in movies and on television that seem anachronistic.  How startling to see people smoking in a movie theater or a restaurant. My goodness, the size of the mobile phones used in the 1980s. What the heck is that thin blue paper the secretary is putting between the paper in the typewriter? (it’s carbon paper BTW [‘by the way’], and what’s a typewriter anyway.  One of the particular appeals of a TV show like Mad Men is that it is filled with these anachronistic details in which life in the 1960’s is held up to our modern sensibilities for appraisal. The way that men and women interact in the office, again, the smoking everywhere, drinking in the office (and before 11a.m. no less!).

Do you ever wonder what aspects of our current way of life will appear this way to future generations? There was an article in the paper recently about a slate chalkboard that sat behind the blackboard in the classroom in a school in Atlanta. On the chalkboard were interesting approaches to the teaching of mathematics, hand-drawn illustrations of children and aphorisms about how to live a good life as a citizen of our country.  It was at once fascinating and a little bit corny.   What aspects of our present school system will seem outdated, unusual, and even absurd to future generations?

I think it will be the image of students raising their hands to answer questions. Think about it, this is one of the most common images of the schoolhouse for over 100 years and it persists in our classrooms today.  

I can almost picture the conversation I'll have with my grandkids.  We will be watching a movie featuring a scene from school in the 20th century, Stand and Deliver, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or something like that:

Last modified on

Posted by on in Education Leadership

I'm not a good dancer. 

I'm not sure why really, I guess I'm just self-conscious about the way I look when I  dance. I shouldn't be this way because I believe in a growth mindset.  I shouldn't worry about making mistakes or worry about the way I look. That was the subject of a previous blog post.  OK, I promise to work on this. 

But, you know who CAN dance? Every actor and actress ever… 

I have certain peculiar niche interests.  Just ask my wife (@dmgately) who tolerates these unique fascinations but loves me anyway… One of my niche interests --  the fact that all performers are great dancers also. 

I heard an interview with Christopher Walken where he said that when he was young he took dance lessons because to be successful in the acting business, you have to be able to dance.  And you’ve seen Walken dance in many of his films and on TV also. He’s an amazing dancer.

Last modified on