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Posted by on in Education Leadership

"So there looks like there might be an opportunity for you."

At the time when I heard this, I was literally in the middle of having my best teaching year. My sixth grade blended learning classroom was going better than I could ever have imagined. I was "teaching like a PIRATE," engaging and empowering my students, making learning relevant and meaningful to them, learning along side of my students every day, watching them get that love for learning back, and getting to know my students better than ever. And yet, a career opportunity came up that made me leave all of that. 

Why I Thought Left

When I was told, "So there looks like there might be an opportunity for you," I knew it was to step in as acting elementary principal for another principal in my district who needed to take a leave of absence. I did not know how long it would be, but I knew I had to take it. Opportunities like these do not come along often, and if I wanted to take the next step in my career, it began with this opportunity. While it was an easy decision to make, it was, at the same time, the most difficult career decision I ever had to make. I was leaving behind just an absolute incredible group of students, who were doing incredible things day after day. They wanted to come into my class every day. I wanted to come to school every day. There were no discipline issues. They pushed themselves to learn more than they did the day before. They pushed me to make the next day better for them than the day before. And yet, I left them for an opportunity.   

Why I Really Left

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Posted by on in School Culture

When you get a group of talented, enthusiastic, and passionate educators together to talk about school-wide positive behavior support in the summer, great and exciting things are bound to happen. And that is exactly what occurred the other day, a few weeks before the start of the 2018-2019 school year. 

I am fortunate enough to work along side these talented, enthusiastic, and passionate educators as principal, and when we sat down to discuss our goals for the year and how we would accomplish those goals, #bekindbeincredible was born.

Family Feud to Double Dare

As our school-wide positive behavior support (SWPBS) team began to plan our theme and what our kickoff assembly would be, we focused on the five pillars we have always focused on (being safe, here, accountable, responsible, and prepared), plus being kind. We discussed some ideas but wanted to ensure that we kept our ideas relevant for our learners. So we first came up with The Incredibles against another "family" in a Family Feud kickoff assembly. However as we thought about keeping our ideas relevant for our learners, we discussed the idea of Double Dare, since it made it a comeback this summer; long overdue I might add. This immediately clicked and we were quickly able to brainstorm the kickoff assembly. Now we had, The Incredibles, Double Dare, slime, and me, the principal, getting slimmed at the end. But we also had something far bigger. 

Be Kind 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

How do you normally feel after attending an all day conference or summit? Exhausted both mentally and physically? Sluggish? Overwhelmed? Funny thing happened to myself and two of my colleagues after attending a recent all day summit at Google in Pittsburgh called "Be Internet Awesome." We weren't exhausted mentally or physically. We weren't sluggish. And we weren't overwhelmed. In fact, it was the quite the opposite. We felt refreshed, energized, and full of thought and discussion. 

So how did Google do this? How did they create an all day summit that was just right and left the attendees leaving refreshed, energized, full of thought and discussion? I have been wondering this since the summit and how to take Google's format back to future faculty meetings, in-services, and other conferences/summits. 

Here are my thoughts about how the Google Summit on Digital Safety & Citizenship left those in attendance feeling anything but exhausted:

Comfort

Right from the start, our hosts were concerned with our comfort. This sent a clear message right away that they cared about us. Our Google hosts also invited us to get up and move around any time we needed to. We were told we could sit in back on couches or on floor against wall if we wanted. The choice was ours. Food was in the back we were welcome to any time we wanted, as well. In addition to food, they had music playing in the background that provided an upbeat feel. Finally, everyone, including our Google hosts were dressed comfortably. 

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Posted by on in Education Technology

instant pot

The Instant Pot I received for Christmas this past year sat for a few months before I even thought about using it. My wife would remind me frequently we had it and that I should try it (I do all the cooking in the house. She does all the laundry. Fair trade-off). When she would encourage me to use our new cooking gadget, I looked at her and our Instant Pot with a little disdain. I felt my cooking was pretty good, and besides I already had my go to Pioneer Woman dinners that couldn't be beat. So I was always a bit insulted when the Instant Pot was referenced in my house, as I felt not only was my cooking being insulted but so was the Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond.

Then one night in late January it all started to change. I came home late from work to find my wife using the Instant Pot! I have to admit, the meal she cooked was pretty good, but secretively I was a little upset. I was not about to let her one-up me with the use of the Instant Pot, so I began searching for and trying out some recipes for it. I tried some baby back ribs, some roasts, some chicken and all were a complete disaster. I ruined the dinners and meat altogether and was disgusted with the Instant Pot, my dinners, and more than anything, myself. So I went back to my Pioneer Woman dinners.

Yet there was still that part of me that would not let me be one-upped by my wife and the Instant Pot itself. So I started reading the instruction manual more carefully and watching a few YouTube videos to find out where I was going wrong. It turned out that I was not letting the Instant Pot preheat enough for its timer to begin properly. I was using my own, separate timer. I didn't understand the preheating process enough or at all really, which lead to instant failures for my dinners. But once I figured out why I was failing, I started making some pretty terrific Instant Pot meals. My favorite so far has been the gumbo. Not too spicy, not too dull. And in the words of Mr. Food, "It's umm so good."

I look at my learning experiences/failures with the Instant Pot in a very similar way of being faced with something new in the classroom. At first, I might feel a little insulted, then when others begin and start to have some success, I feel some pressure not to be one-upped. So I try the new tool or technique out and it's pretty rough. Lessons don't go so well. So I go back to what has worked all along. But when I am honest with myself, I know those I'm "serving" want something new, even though they like my old stuff, they also want a little taste of something new. So because of them and my own desire to master that new tool or technique, I start to learn more about it and try it again until I have success.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Since January 23, 2017 up until now, I have been busier than I ever have before. New job beginning on January 23, 2017 (interim elementary principal), my wife and I celebrating the birth of our third child on January 24, 2017, back to my old job on March 13, 2017 (6th grade teacher), back to my old-new job on June 2, 2017 (being an interim elementary principal), becoming a Google for Education Certified Trainer in July 2017, starting my new-new job on January 22, 2018 (instructional technology coach), and becoming an Instant Pot believer after many failed attempts in February 2018. 

Along the way I did try to keep up on my blogging, as I had several different drafts going, but I never made time to finish a lot of them. So below are my unfinished drafts, starting with the oldest to the most recent, that I feel I just need to "post" so I can start fresh and keep moving forward. At the end of each, I have added what I was trying to get across in the post. 

"You're not the teacher you were before."

"You are not the same teacher you were before." How would you feel if you were told that? Would you feel upset, or would feel proud? Would you consider it disrepctful or a compliment?

A few weeks ago, my principal told me that statement, and that statement has been ringing in my head ever since. The more I have thought about that statement, the more and more a consider it one of the highest compliments a teacher can receive. Why? Because that means one is a teacher that is actively seeking out change to improve one's practice and learning experience for one's students. It means one is not opening up last year's lesson planner, erasing, and changing the dates. If a teacher is not willing to change to from year to year, then how can a teacher expect their students to be engaged in their learning if there is little thought to lesson design with the students' personalities in mind?

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