Thursday, July 17, 2014

Goals, Support, Encouragement, & Accountability

     The importance of setting goals- big, audacious goals- is crucial in education.  My personal journey up to this point has shown me that not only is goal setting important, but developing a road map, with a clear plan of action has to accompany those goals.  In education, we have to know what action steps we are going to take to get us to our goals.  We have to align our actions with our philosophies.  My journey has shown that there are going to be times that we will fail- times we will not achieve what we thought we would achieve.  However, what we learn along the way is invaluable to our school systems, our stakeholders, and especially ourselves.  My personal journey has also shown me the importance of focus and determination.  In education, having all stakeholders involved with the vision or mission of your school is paramount!  Not everyone will jump on your bandwagon, and there will be plenty of nay-sayers who will try to derail your efforts.  But the important lesson, is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward.   Those that are with you are watching how you respond to these challenges.  As a leader, they need to see that you will not be deterred.  That the goal/vision/mission is important.

     The most important piece to my journey has been the support & encouragement of others.  Without others' guidance, encouragement, support, & accountability, it would have been easy for me to give up.  In education, we need each other.  We need guidance- even as leaders.  It would be great if we had all the answers, but we don't- at least not by ourselves.  It's the collective wisdom of others that will allow each of us to become better at the work we do.  If you are in a position to mentor or offer guidance to another, do it!!

     Encouragement as educators is needed now more than ever!  This encouragement has to come from all members of our educational systems.  Superintendents, your principals need to be encouraged!  Principals, your teachers & staff need to be encouraged!  Teachers, your students need to be encouraged!  Families, your superintendents need to be encouraged!  If we all just worked a little bit harder at supporting and encouraging one another, schools would be a more positive experience for everyone!

     Support can take many forms in education.  We all need someone we can call upon when the going gets tough or the road gets a little rocky!  I'm eternally grateful that I have been blessed with awesome parents, an amazing son, and terrific friends.  But there are times that they "just don't get it" because they are not in education.  Offer your support to someone in your school or another district or even another state.  We all need it, but most of us are too proud or stubborn to ask for it.  Accessing resources, connecting with other educators, reflecting on practices, and discussing failures with the intent to learn from them are different and often needed types of support we should be engaging in on a daily basis.  In education, we have access to more resources now more than ever and the majority of those are FREE!!  Using social media resources- Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Voxer, and Instagram- allows us to share free content/resources with one another.  These also give us a great platform in which to connect with others in education.  When I first started teaching, connecting to other educators meant talking to someone else in your building and occasionally someone else in my district.  It was RARE to connect with another teacher in a neighboring district.  Now fast forward 18 years (yes, gasp! I've been in education 18 years), and I am so excited to learn from educators AROUND THE WORLD!!!  This still sometimes blows my mind!!!  Having access to conferences where I have had the pleasure this summer to meet some of those educators in person has made a world of difference for me as an educator.

     Finally, there's accountability.  Yes, good ol' accountability.  Accountability has taken a bad wrap because as educators, we often equate this with testing.  Well, accountability doesn't need to be measured in a state or nationally mandated assessment.  Accountability occurs in school districts at ALL levels.  EVERY member of a school system is accountable to one another.  Educators- regardless of your title or role in the school system, you ARE a role model!  Everyone in your community is watching and listening to YOU!  What message are you sending about your school?  Think that your opinions don't impact the community?  Think again.  Is your district struggling to pass levies?  Take a moment to see if you've contributed in some way to this.  But accountability is more than that.  Accountability is about measuring our progress toward our goals.  Engaging in self-reflection and self-assessment is an integral part of the accountability process.  Sharing those reflections and assessments with one another and our community is vital.  Celebrating your milestones is an important part of accountability.  When we fall short of our goals, rather than playing the blame game or pointing fingers, let's look at what we have been afforded the opportunity to learn.  You see, accountability is more than a final score on a district report card or a measure of success that's been arbitrarily assigned to a teacher or school.  Accountability is saying, "Hey, this is where we are.  This is where we are headed.  We are working together to improve.  This is how we are going to do it.  We need your help & support to get us there!"

  I'm still reflecting and will be adding to my list.  What pieces would you add?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Circle of Influence- Part II

Circle of Influence- Part II

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post called "Circle of Influence- Part I."  In this blog post, I began detailing my first ISTE experience, specifically focused on the people I was able to meet in person.  There were simply too many educators who made a significant impact on me during my first ISTE conference to write about in one post.  So, here I am a few days later adding to the list of people who influenced me at ISTE.

I would be negligent, if I didn't mention the excitement I felt meeting Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) in person!  I have followed his blog for over a year now and often will "lurk" on the #iaedchat (And Jimmy, if you're reading this, I promise I will do more than lurk in the future).  Jimmy has been a principal for 20 years and as such, is someone whose experiences and expertise I often turn to as a beginning principal.  Jimmy has challenged many educators to "Be the Change" and has emphasized the importance of relationship building and being positive.  His philosophy is something I embrace whole-heartedly, but I will admit that I often struggle in my role as building principal.  There are times I get so "bogged down" in the issues or problems of others, it is hard for me to take a step back and remember my purpose.  Those are the times, I turn to principals like Jimmy; whose energy, passion, and perspectives inspire me.  I am forever thankful to have had the opportunity to tell Jimmy about his impact on me in person.  I know I will continue to be inspired by Jimmy and I only hope that as I grow as a leader, I will be of inspiration to someone else.

There are some educators that I am close friends with who do not quite "get" Twitter.  I continue to share with them the things I see and try to show them its value.  If ever there was an example of the power of Twitter during ISTE for me, it was in a simple tweet by Matt Miller (@MentorSuper).  Matt is the superintendent of Mentor Public Schools in Ohio and I have followed him for quite some time.  Matt's tweet led me to ask if he, too, was present at ISTE.  I was delighted to find out that he was and we made plans to meet up the following day.  During my first venture into the EXPO, I gravitated toward the bus, where educators were writing what they thought education would be like in 20 years.  As I was reading, I noticed the #onceacard.  This hashtag is the hashtag that Matt uses for his district.  Why is this significant?  Well, as I explained to Matt when I finally had the chance to meet him, by using this hashtag, he has connected current educators within his district, as well as current & former students.  This simple hashtag has instilled a sense of pride for their district, uniting them.  But more than that, the #onceacard is uniting the community!  How incredibly powerful!  Again, it's this sense of belonging/ relationship building between the school and the community that we continue to strive for, discuss, and emphasize as leaders.  Matt and I had the opportunity to talk about a variety of things, including Mentor's initiatives as recipients of the Straight A grant in Ohio and the challenges of transitioning to the superintendency from an elementary perspective.  As I consider this as a future endeavor, being able to speak with someone with a similar background in education is important to me.  So, from a simple tweet, I was able to gain a wealth of knowledge and more importantly make a connection to someone I respect and admire.  Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to meet with me and I look forward to collaborating with you and your elementary schools in the upcoming year!

The final source of inspiration comes from Sean Junkins (@sjunkins) and his team from Horry County.  While I didn't have the opportunity to meet Sean in person (as he was working with another educator at the time), the information I gained from his team will be of great value to the principal of our district's middle school.  Sean and his team did a Poster Session on Innovating with iPads in Middle School.  While my district will not utilize iPads, being able to discuss the pros and cons of devices in a middle school setting was invaluable.  Tips given for how to troubleshoot issues for misuse or loss of a device; discipline policies; recommendations for professional development for teachers and changes to be made for future endeavors were shared.  All of these helpful hints will be shared with my team and because Sean and his team were so willing to share with me/us, we can learn from and with them during our 1:1 initiative in the district.

ISTE was a very positive experience for me.  As a newbie, I am grateful for the warm reception I received from all the participants and presenters.  I learned so much and am excited to share my learning and experiences with others.  However, it was the personal connections I made with educators like Jimmy Casas and Matt Miller that made ISTE a powerful conference.  Thanks to everyone whom I had the pleasure to meet, as I am forever impacted in a positive way by our interactions.  Next time, I will be sharing my personal reflection on a single conversation that had the most impact and allowed me to have such a great experience at ISTE.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Circle of Influence

Circle of influence- Part I

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend my very first ISTE Conference.  I remember following the hashtag last year and all the great resources that were shared and I knew I just had to check it out in person. My passion for learning fuels me not only as an educator but also as a person, so I was so excited to kick off my summer break with a conference!  

Over the past year, I have connected virtually with many educators through Twitter.  I constantly read blog posts, tweets, articles, and professional books.  I have attended conferences I never would have known existed had I not been connected.  I have been afforded the opportunity to meet extraordinary educators as well on this journey.  I have learned so much in just the past year and I am so grateful for this gift I have been given.  On a daily basis, I continue to be inspired and motivated by so many.  So imagine my delight when #ISTE14 finally began!

My first day at the convention center, I took my time getting the "lay of the land," so I could navigate the sessions I had put into my ISTE  app.  I will admit, I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the conference.  During this process, I began playing the Networking Game.  This was a great ice-breaker activity for me, as I can tend to be shy in settings where I do not personally know a single soul!  During this time, I connected with Dennis Grice @dgrice who was kind enough to share with me not only about himself and his school but also about what learning looked like in one of his 3rd grade classrooms.  I was so excited to see in person how students at his school integrated nonfiction reading, research, and report writing into video segments.  This idea and process is something I can't wait to share with teachers in my building!  I immediately began following him on Twitter.  This way, if I have questions or need additional information, I know how to contact him.

I have to say, as an ISTE newbie, I had no idea that you needed to get a space in line for the IGNITE session, so imagine my sheer disappointment to have missed it.  And, add to that all the Tweets I followed during and after the IGNITE session that proclaimed how awesome it was.  Having felt a little deflated, I opted to finally check-in to my hotel room.

Imagine my surprise & delight when I had the opportunity to meet up with the Remind101 Team (@RemindHQ) in my hotel lobby!  I was excited to share how we will be using this tool in the district for the upcoming year as well as to learn about the new features that have been added.  It was great to share the use of the tool from the view of a building principal as well as features that would also benefit all users.  What a dynamic team! Their energy and excitement was palpable for their product.  But most importantly, they asked users questions and sought feedback.  They shared ideas and were open to others' ideas.  Because of this, I was even more impressed with the team and am planning to promote the use of their app to teachers and administrators in my "neck of the woods."  (Plus, I received an awesome new T-shirt to wear & other goodies to share)!

Back at the convention center, I made my way to the Bloggers' Cafe.  Not only did I get to meet more people, but I had the great fortune to connect in person with @RafranzDavis  Rafranz was one of the first people I followed on Twitter and over the past year, she and I have connected virtually on parenting, the TV show Scandal, shopping in Texas, and of course, Tweetchats.  Meeting her in person was a true delight!  We immediately hugged one another and "caught up" in person.  Whether she realizes it or not, our conversation had a huge impact on me.  So much so, I have started a future blog post about it!  However, I wasn't the only one inspired to write.  Check out Rafranz's blog post

As if my day couldn't get any better, I FINALLY got to hear @gcouros in person!  George was also one of the people I followed on Twitter early.  He has helped shaped my perspective on using Twitter to share both professionally and personally.  He has influenced my thoughts on technology in the classroom and inspired me to blog.  And while, I don't yet define myself as a blogger, I know because of his influence, I am finding my voice.  George's session on "Conquering the Myths of Technology" challenged me to re-think my own preconceived notions about technology, specifically "We Shouldn't Talk to Strangers" and "New Technology Will Replace Face-to-Face Interactions."  The points he made under these topics resonated with me, giving me new perspectives.  His session also moved me to tears- more than once.  My copious notes from his session will be shared with my staff as well as my district's new middle school principal, who is rolling out 1:1 in her building this year.  In addition to meeting George, before and after his session, I was able to meet & connect with Ginny Britt (@techladytn) and George Champlin (@GChamplinAP).  I'm excited to learn with these two educators!  As if that wasn't enough, George's fiancee @PaigeBrimacombe was also present.  While I had never "officially" followed her on Twitter, since she is a grade 4 teacher, I would often check out what she was doing & sharing in her classroom as well as her edublog page.  As a former grade 3 & grade 4 teacher, I always feel some sort of innate connection with teachers of these age levels.  I so enjoyed listening to each of their journeys and passions.  These four personal connections made this one of my favorite sessions at #ISTE14 this year!

In my next post, I will share about others I met at the #ISTE14 Conference that had an impact on me as a person and as an educator.  I want to thank Dennis, Brett Kopf and his team, Ginny Britt, George Champlin, George Couros, Paige Brimacombe, and Rafranz Davis for making the connection and for expanding their circle of influence.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Distracted Parenting

     This year, inspired by the One Word philosophy, I discovered that I needed more focus in my life.  Focus, for me, is about being intentional with my time and my attention.  Regardless of what I am doing- spending time with family, reading a book, watching a movie, attending my son’s athletic events, writing a blog post, talking with a friend or colleague, exercising at the gym- I plan to give my full attention. 

    In the past few years, I have been guilty of trying to “multi-task,” even when spending time with my family.  When I “multi-task,” nothing gets my full attention.  With increasing frequency, I observe parents who are distracted; parents who are attempting to multi-task; parents “playing” with their children, yet still attending more to their phone than their children.

   This is not a post about the evils of cell phones.  And, I’m not suggesting that children need 100% of our time and attention 100% of the time.  However, I believe we need to be more present and less distracted when we are spending time with our children.  I believe we need to be more intentional with our attention.

     As a child, my father would spend an hour or more after work throwing the softball or shooting hoops.  We would talk about school and life.  I cherished those moments from my elementary years through my high school years.  Some of my favorite moments with my mom included playing cards, board games, or reading books.  As the youngest, I was able to benefit from having both of my parents' undivided attention for several years after my siblings left and began their adult lives.  But even when we were all in the house, our parents gave us their time and attention.  Family dinner was usually the most important time of the day- a time not to be disturbed or distracted.  Family dinner was one of our parents’ way of giving all of us their time and attention. 

     When my son was younger, I replicated this devotion of time and attention.  However, I recognize that over time, I allowed my work to begin to consume more and more of my time and attention at home.  As educators, we often bring work into our home or extend our children’s time at school to finish our work before we leave.  To do our jobs well and to give our students a quality education, we must dedicate time to our craft.  However, we must also prioritize and maximize our time and attention with our own children.

   Perhaps it is because my son will be graduating high school this year, but I find myself reflecting more and more about the choices I made in my dual role as a parent and an educator.  My son and I have a great relationship filled with lots of moments that we will never forget and lots of happy memories.  However, I know that there are moments I have missed- moments I won’t get back; memories I didn't get to create.  I believe that is why when I observe parents being distracted and not attending to their children, my heart aches.  It is also the reason I try to remind my staff how important it is that they spend time with their families.  And finally, it is the main reason why “focus” became my One Word this year.  By giving my full attention or giving my full focus will make me a better educator and better parent.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Digital Citizenship: Not Just for Kids

The New Year has presented school districts in my area several new challenges.  In Ohio, we are use to delaying or closing due to snow fall and/or icy roads.  But unlike our typical winters, we have experienced first hand the phenomena called the Polar Vortex, which is bringing us unseasonably cold weather, additional snowfall, and extremely dangerous wind chills.  These frigid temperatures and wind chills, prompted some school districts to close or delay.

This has prompted a debate in several communities about how cold is too cold.  Of course, this debate plays out in social media, particularly on Facebook.  Parents and community members post not only questions that are geared toward furthering their understanding of the delaying/closing process, but also "air their grievances" about issues they have with the school district.  

While I believe it is important to engage the community in two way communication and be open to feedback, how should schools respond when the conversation becomes accusatory, inaccurate, and even inappropriate?  I watched the dialogue unfold as one district attempted to respond to the concerns and explain the decision  making process.  The response was viewed as defensive and was openly criticized by parents and community members.  Suddenly, the comment thread appeared to take on a "mob" mentality.  The continuous negative comments and criticisms, left me with a multitude of emotions.  I felt saddened by the "attacks" on the school and simultaneously frustrated that more individuals who were supportive of the district's decision didn't post comments.  

I began to wonder if those in favor of the district's decision intentionally didn't post a comment for fear they would be criticized or "bullied" for their opinions.  (It should be noted that there were positive comments or favorable comments posted as well).  I also realized that I had an opportunity to respond, yet didn't.  I wondered why I remained silent.  And my answer was simple:  fear.  I was afraid any comment I made would be criticized.  I was afraid my comment would put me at risk professionally- what would be the consequences in my own district for commenting on another district's decision even if my comments were favorable or supportive.  Would I hurt or help professional relationships with educators in this district?  Are these the same questions others were asking themselves?  And, were those who remained silent victimized as bystanders to the negativity that unfolded?

How a parent responds to district decisions and district personnel influences how the child views the school.  How many students watched this negative dialogue unfold?  How many students' opinions of the district or district personnel were negatively influenced by the actions of the adults on Facebook that night?  

We teach our students the importance of digital citizenship.  We remind students to THINK before they post.  We preach to them to make sure that what they post is Truthful, Helpful, Important, Necessary, and Kind.  Yet, I logged off Facebook that evening with a sinking feeling that the ones who need digital citizenship are the ones who have the greatest influence on our children:  the parents.

Currently, my district does not utilize a Facebook page, however, we have not been immune from these types of conversations unfolding in social media.  And, as we look toward utilizing one in the future, how will we handle controversial decisions?  How does your school respond?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gratitude, Fearless, and Focus

This year rather than making resolutions, I've decided to take Jon Gordon's approach (see the video here) with the one word.  In determining my one word I had to engage in a lot of self-reflection.  I had to ask myself some tough questions, such as:

  • What is holding me back from achieving what I want to achieve?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • How can I lead in such away that will be inspiring to others?
  • Where do I want to be a year from now?  How about 5 years? 10 years?
I also read a great article from Lolly Daskal, which gave me even more to think about, particularly in my role as a leader.  With these questions rolling around in my brain, I was able to determine there were three words that I felt were my guideposts for the upcoming year.  Then, I read a wonderful post by Jennifer Hogan.  It was this post that helped me narrow my focus even more.  They were gratitude, fearless, and focus.  Why these three words and how did they relate to my tough questions?

First, when I think of gratitude, I believe it is a mindset or attitude that one possess.  In a world where negativity is pervasive, it is difficult to maintain a positive outlook.  I prefer to see the world as a world of possibilities- a glass is half full mentality.  This doesn't mean I am always Rosy Sunshine.  There are times I get frustrated or need to "vent," but am quick to recover.  I think by sharing what I am grateful for will help me achieve what I want to achieve in my role as a building principal.  I want my staff and students to be excited to come to school.  By making my gratitude visible or public, I can influence the culture of my building in a positive way.  By expressing my gratitude, my students and staff will know how important they are to me.  I'm not always good at expressing what I am really thinking or believing.  I've been told I that I am "hard to read."  I am a deep thinker and try to process information on a regular basis.  I hope by sharing my gratitude openly, more people will learn more about me and learn to "read me" more easily.  I am not who I am today or where I am today without a great team of people who have supported, inspired, and helped me.

Secondly, when I think of being fearless, I don't think of bravery or courage.  Rather, I think of risk-taking.  Not the jump off a cliff or out of an airplane kind of risk taking, but the "set a lofty goal and go for it" kind of risk taking.  Many times when I make big decisions, I have done a lot of research, talked out the pros and cons, and selected the best option based on the evidence.  I'm not planning to change that practice per se, but I do believe that I am guilty of making safe choices.  Choices where I can be certain of the outcome- personally and professionally.  When I looked back on 2013, I realized that some of the best results came from being fearless.  When I was uncertain of the outcome, but stayed the course, I was pleasantly surprised by the results.  Being on Twitter and writing a blog are two examples of that.  For some, sharing in those realms comes naturally.  But for others, like me, this is not an easy task.  Additionally, I had the opportunity to do a presentation and be videotaped.  These opportunities would not have happened had I not been fearless.  

Finally, when I think about focus, I think about making the goals I have personally and professionally a reality.  Without focus, those goals won't be realized.  Without focus, I won't continue to grow and achieve.  For those that know me personally, they would tell you that I am focused/ driven.  However, I often make choices that put my personal and professional goals on the sidelines.  With focus, I won't make excuses.  With focus, I will prioritize.  With focus, I will grow.  With focus, I will achieve.

So, if I follow Jon Gordon's approach of one word, the word I would choose is focus.  With focus, I will be fearless.  With focus, I will make my gratitude known to others.  I am excited to make 2014 my year of focus!

I was so inspired by this process, that I shared these resources with my staff.  Last week, we gathered together to share our one word with each other and the reasons we selected them.  We made paper hearts, writing our one word on them, and then posted the hearts outside our doors.  The postings serve as a reminder for ourselves, but also a way to help keep each other accountable for our one word.  I also took pictures of each staff member with their one word, which I will be posting in the waiting area of our office.  The best part of this whole process was to see staff members sharing this with students!  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sunshine Award

On Saturday, I was nominated by @CathyMere for the Sunshine Award.  While this isn't an award per se, it is an opportunity for those in my PLN to learn more about me as a person.  I was certainly flattered by the nomination, though admittedly, I haven't done much blogging.  In fact, my very first blog happened at the end of the summer.  While I have created a blog for my parents and write it monthly rather than a newsletter and a weekly blog for my staff, I haven't maintained my personal blog.  And truly, I'm not certain why.  I read others' blogs all the time.  These are often the sources for my reflections and I regularly share others' blog posts with my staff.  So, I am taking this opportunity to accept this "award" to dust off my blog.

Here's the description of the Award from Matt Renwick:

"The Sunshine award gives others an opportunity to learn more about me as a blogger and then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 other amazing bloggers for you to get to know!"

Here are the rules:

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you
  • List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you).
Here are my Random Facts:
  1. I love "Foo Foo" Coffee.  I have often thought about working at Starbucks in Barnes & Noble so I can be surrounded by my two of my loves:  books and foo foo coffee.
  2. I love to travel!  I took my first plane ride when I was 10 and if I had the money or opportunity, I would travel somewhere at least 2X per month.  
  3. My professional life has changed SIGNIFICANTLY due to Twitter and I am so grateful for being connected to other educators, particularly now that I am in administration.  Being a principal can be a very isolating experience, particularly when you are the only elementary principal in a district.  Twitter gives me the opportunity to learn from more experienced administrators as well as leadership gurus in other professions.  I believe I'm a better leader because I became connected.  So THANK YOU to all of you whom I've had the pleasure to follow!
  4. I am the first in my family to go to college and am grateful to my parents for instilling in me the importance of education.
  5. I use to play competitive sports: basketball & softball.  I played volleyball in middle school, but quit in high school.  
  6. I coached my son's 6th grade basketball team.  (Could be why he hasn't played basketball since). :)
  7. I am a movie junkie!  I love to go to movies or watch movies at home.  Sometimes I forget that I've seen a movie before and don't realize it until I'm halfway through it!  
  8. I love music and enjoy a variety of genres.  Dave Matthews Band is by far my favorite and it is mandatory on road trips.  I have had the pleasure of seeing DMB live several times and I don't know if there is a better live performing band!
  9. Summer is my favorite season- mostly because of the sunshine.
  10. I'm a picky eater and have not eaten eggs since I was 4 years old.  I'm not allergic, I just hate the smell and taste.  :)
  11. My favorite grade to teach was 3rd grade.  
My 11 Questions to Answer from @CathyMere:

1.  When you look out the window or door of your house, what do you see?
I see my backyard where there is currently blowing and drifting snow.  It is my favorite view in the morning because I get to see the sun come up.

2.  Ocean or mountains?
I love the ocean.  It is very calming to hear the ocean waves outside your window and there is nothing like a long walk on the beach any time of day.

3.  What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
I absolutely loved a trip to Hawaii that I took a few years ago.  However, my favorite trip was to Chicago with my niece and my son for 4th of July and the Taste of Chicago. I fell in love with Chicago on that trip and have been back several times!

4.  What is the best book you read in 2013?
Gone Girl was by far the best book I read in 2013.

5.  Who is your favorite book character and why?
I fall in love with characters all the time, but I would say my current favorite character is Jemima J in Jane Green's book by the same title.  

6.  What is the one thing you wish you could have someone else do for you?
Weed whack the yard- I have a hard enough time trying to start the dumb thing let alone trimming the whole yard every week March through October.  

7.  What inspires you?
I receive inspiration from a variety of places and people as well as things that I read- books, articles, blogs, etc.  

8.  What do you make time for?
I make time for my parents.  I call them almost every day and we typically still have Sunday dinner together, except now I do the cooking for them.  I am so blessed by my parents and all that they have done for me in my life.  I always want them to know how much they are loved and appreciated.

9.  If you could spend a month on any continent with your expenses paid, where would you go and why?
I would go to Europe.  I want to see the birthplace of my great-grandparents, castles, pubs in Ireland, and all the architectural landmarks of Italy.

10.  What are your favorite games to play?
I love the older board games we have:  Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Scategories, and Cranium.  I am also the reigning Clue champ in my family!  However, these days when we play games, we usually play Farkle!

11.  If you could make one change in the world, what would you want to change?
One change in the world I would make would be hunger.  

My list of 11 Bloggers (Well, I'm not certain all of the 11 people I am going to list actually blog.  However, if they are not, I hope this will be the inspiration they need to get started as I believe they have lots to add to the conversation)!

Dr. Lou Kramer   Lou is a dynamic leader who is doing great things within his district.  He is connecting with families and students in a way that few superintendents do and his work is inspiring.
Bobby Dodd  I had the opportunity to meet Bobby this summer and he has certainly inspired me to make changes in how I connect to families and share our school's story.  He is an invaluable resource for me!
Danielle Prohaska  Danielle is one who currently doesn't blog, but has been an amazing colleague and leader in my current district.  She has also been recently appointed as my superintendent for next year.  I hope she will take this invitation to begin blogging because she has a depth of knowledge about teaching and learning that is powerful.
Chad Miller  Chad is the reason I started a Twitter account, so I have him to thank for expanding my learning.
Mindy Reid  I have been following Mindy for quite some time and love seeing the things she is doing as a fellow elementary principal.
Jennifer Hogan  I am a new follower of Jennifer's and I love her passion for education.  I have subscribed to her blog and have read previous posts.  I'm actually surprised that it took me this long to connect with her, but am so very thankful that I have!
Matt Miller  Matt inspires me when it comes to "connectedness."  He does a wonderful job of promoting and celebrating his district but also sharing information with the rest of us in his PLN.  
Sean Wheeler  I connected with Sean through #ohedchat.  He has a wealth of experiences that he shares with his PLN.  He's also the lead blogger for @teachinghumans
Dr. Bobby Moore  I have had the pleasure to learn from Bobby over the past two years and have found him to be a positive influence on my role as a beginning principal.
Jane Maki  Jane was one of my early follows when I started my Twitter journey.  Her knowledge of best practices in Reading Workshop/ Daily 5 is amazing and I have enjoyed learning from her.
Jesse Kohls  Jesse is a great elementary principal to follow.  He shares not only about the great things he and his staff are doing within their building, but also connects to his community in amazing ways.  Jesse and I have been able to connect outside of Twitter (though not yet in person) to share ideas in more detail for our buildings.  I have appreciated learning from Jesse and plan to do so in the future! 

Here are my 11 questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. If you weren't in education, what field do you find most appealing and why?
  3. What was your favorite subject in school (lunch & recess do not count)?
  4. Who inspires you?
  5. What hobbies or special interests do you have?
  6. How do you "give back" to your community or to others?
  7. What are your favorite movies or television shows?
  8. As a child, what was your favorite pastime?
  9. What are your "resolutions" for the new year?
  10. What instrument can you play?
  11. Name 2-3 books or educators who have influenced you the most in your current role.


I first began writing this blog post in September.  Unfortunately, blogging took a back seat in my professional life for the past 3 1/2 months.  On Saturday, I received a Sunshine Award from @CathyMere which prompted me to "dust off" my blog.  I am grateful for the nudge from Cathy to work on my blog.  I believe it makes me a better connected educator- by sharing what I'm thinking, learning, and doing with others.  So, while it is not a "resolution" for me, I will be more focused on publishing my thoughts more regularly.  Thank you so much @CathyMere!

So, here is that blog post from September:

I love music.  Music is a soundtrack for my life.  David Bowie's "Changes" playing through my head lately as I think about all the things that I'm doing differently in my own practice to start the 2013-14 school year.  These changes are a response to new learning I've received as well as the rapidly changing education landscape in the great state of OH-I-O.  It has been said that the one constant in life is change.  Well, I believe the same is true for education as well.

Change is what makes this chosen career path both exciting, challenging, and rewarding.  First as a teacher with over 10 years in the classroom, I can say with absolute certainty, that my teaching practices changed every year.  Not only was I gifted with students with different needs each year, I was provided with changes in curriculum, administration, teaching materials, techniques, and schedules.  Not to mention that during my career in my previous school district, I changed physical locations, on average, every two years. When I left the classroom 6 years ago to begin a career in administration, I know that my last group of third graders was taught differently than my first group of fourth graders.  I know that my last teaching position within the district as a reading specialist working with at-risk readers in kindergarten and first grade forever changed how I viewed the teaching of reading.  I know that through my experiences in the classroom and all the changes that came with it, I was a much better teacher.  Without change, we would do a disservice to our students, to our families, and to our communities.

Yet, I still get puzzled when colleagues react so negatively to change.  Perhaps, it is how I view the world.  Whenever there is a new challenge or change, I, like many, have an emotional response or reaction.  After I have had a little while to digest (or as I like to say "incubate") the challenge or change, I seek to find the true purpose for the change.  If the purpose is unclear to me, I will follow up with clarifying conversations.  While I don't always like the response I receive, I look for ways to embrace the change and make the most of it.

Like in many other settings, Ohio finds itself at the crossroads in education.  The alphabet soup of education has many new acronyms:  CCSS, OTES, eTPES, OPES, PARCC, and FIP, just to name a few.  Add to this a new grade card system for school districts and buildings using letter grades (which as an advocate for standards based grading makes me cringe).

While I'm not in favor of ALL the changes taking place in my home state, I believe some have value that we must embrace.  With the transition to CCSS, teachers throughout the state and across the United States have an opportunity to learn from one another, share resources, materials, strategies, ideas, etc.  This will assist in creating more connected educators.  Students who move across the state line (in theory, though some states are not adopting CCSS) will be provided a more cohesive education.  Being an administrator during the transition time, allows me an opportunity to learn the standards with my teachers and have high quality conversations about how to best support our learners.

OTES/OPES/eTPES all center around new teacher and principal evaluations in the state of Ohio.  While a hotly debated topic among most Ohio educators, I believe there is value to this change.  We now have a more uniform way to communicate educator performance.  There is a rubric that provides teachers guidance for how they are performing and how to improve their practice.  While the rubric, itself, is not perfect, it is a great starting place for providing feedback and having great conversations about the teaching and learning process.  Currently, there are changes pending in our state legislature about this process.

As we begin a new calendar year, I am excited by the changes yet to come.