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The Vince Lombooki Trophy

February is almost over and so the competition for the Vince Lombooki Trophy is nearing the end. The competition is stiff.

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Lead Learners and Literacy Legends from across the United States began by competing in the Super Bowl of Book Talks, which following nationwide voting was narrowed down to the Final Four in the World Book Talk Championship. Brad Gustafason, Jen LeGarde and Oliver Schinkten brought their collective genius and love of literacy together to create an engaging series of #30SecondBookTalks with a fun and competitive element. From the Pacific Ocean on the Central Coast of California to the Midwest, Brad, Jen and Oliver are spreading the love of a good book. Check out Brad’s blog  Adjusting Course or the #30SecondBookTalk and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Giving a Book Talk a Little Game

I was recently asked if I would participate in the Super Bowl of Book Talks. Whoa! What?! The Super Bowl of Book Talks! That’s Big Time! It also sounded like fun.

So I grabbed my favorite children’s book, The Night I Followed My Dog, by Nina Laden and my dog Charlie to create a 30 second book talk. I sent my video to my #LeadWild colleague Brad Gustafason and soon found myself in Round 2 of the Lead Learner bracket of the Super Bowl of Book Talks. I hope you enjoy his blog post and the 30 second rounds of book talks as much as I did.

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What Would You Do If You Could Break the Rules?

imagesI’ve been blessed with an incredible PLN (Professional Learning Network). Through applications such as Voxer, Blab, Google+ and Twitter I enjoy daily doses of inspiration, insights into the behind the scenes thinking of some very successful school administrators, professional development providers, teachers and influencers. Two of the strongest influences on my professional practice are Jon Corippo and my absolutely fabulous LeadWild group. You can find most of us under #LeadWild on Twitter.

Last November, we started a conversation about grants which led to Jon throwing out the idea, “What if we were able to get a grant, not for money, but for one that gave us permission to break the rules?” Ooooooooh, what if? Then I realized, as both the Superintendent and the Principal of our school and district, I can do this. I can give staff permission to break the rules. Well, a lot of the rules.

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First SketchNote by Jeremiah Blackwell – @Teach_MrBwell

The first Monday of every month in our district is an early release Monday which allows for a couple of hours of monthly professional development. For today’s early release time, I chose to take a flipped approach to part of our professional learning and sent out some links to all staff, yes this includes all classified staff as well, about 20 Percent Time and Genius Hour. I asked them to read the articles, talk to each other and come up with ideas on what they would do if they could be given time to work on a project of their own choosing with the idea of doing something that would have a positive impact on the school in some way. Come up with something you feel passionate about that would improve the school for students, for employees, for the community, for yourself. Think about what you would do if you were not limited by your job description, a bell schedule, grade levels or any of the rules you think apply. I have to say it was really fun to watch the faces as I said I would like to give them a grant in which the rules don’t apply and you were given on the clock time to complete the project. Well, again, most of the rules.

Some of the ideas that came forth were building an outdoor sensory gym, creating a peace garden, creating a Minecraft Lab, getting a 3D printer to use with students, redesigning classroom learning spaces and from the custodian – working with the middle school art class to paint a mural in honor of those who serve our Country. As a school that serves military families, this project incorporates community, students, teachers and classified staff.

The staff meeting ended at 3:30. I thought we had a great conversation, came up with some great ideas, had clear parameters for next steps and had wrapped up nicely. Half an hour later, I looked up at the clock and noticed in was 4:00. No one had left! We were all still talking, brainstorming, making plans and encouraging one another. Another half an hour later most of the staff was still on campus in different classrooms continuing their sharing of ideas and plans.

I’m ready to say yes to their ideas, to connect them with resources and to give them the time they need to make their ideas a reality. Here’s to seeing what happens next. It’s hard to start breaking the rules after a lifetime of following the rules. As the culture adapts to the flexibility that allows staff time and resources to make their thoughts and dreams a reality, it will be exciting to see what they come up with.

 

Start the New Year by Making a Difference

Three months ago a young man in one of our neighboring communities was severely injured in a football game. The local community, including several towns in the county, responded with the prayers and financial generosity the American spirit is known for quickly raising over a $100,000 to support his medical care and family expenses.

This past week another local athlete, a freshman soccer player, appeared on GoFundMe. Jose is a young man I got to know while working at Flamson Middle School in Paso Robles, CA. He has been diagnosed with cancer. He also epitomizes the best of what immigrants to the United States can bring to our country. He is a hard working young man, a big brother who keeps a close eye on his younger sibling to make sure he does right. He is an athlete and a scholar with an eye on going to college. He earned his way into the high school AVID program through good grades and teacher recommendations. He is a young man worth investing in.

Yet, the community that responded so quickly and generously to Facebook posts and the GoFundMe account set up for another local high school athlete has not been as quick to respond. What could cause an anglo football player to get such a different response than an hispanic soccer player?

I hope that as you read this blog, you will consider joining me in a making a very big difference in the lives of Jose and his family by donating to the Cancer Medical Fund set up in his name. Please share this opportunity to give with friends and family and let’s see if together, we can begin this New Year by making a difference.

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In My Humble Opinion – The Best EduBlog Post Ever!

Jon Corippo has done it again!

 

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I’ve been blessed to have Jon as a close partner in my professional learning and always appreciate his ability to get us to think outside the box. I appreciate his ability to bring simple analogies to help us see the folly in some of the Edu practices that our profession has held dear for generations. I appreciate his ability and willingness to call it as it is. I particularly appreciate his passion and dedication to not only focusing on what’s going to be best for kids, but what’s best for our profession. What’s best for our profession, is what’s best for our kids. When we take care of and invest in our number one resource, our people, our education staff will make magic happen with our students. Thanks for this great post via Alice Keeler’s blog Jon –  Top 10 #2016eduwish by @jcorippo

 

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http://www.alicekeeler.com/teachertech/2015/12/21/top-10-2016eduwish-by-jcorippo/ via @alicekeeler

Has Your District Taken the Future Ready Pledge?

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The United States Department of Education with the backing of the White House launched the Future Ready Initiative a year ago in which superintendents have been asked to commit their districts to a culture of digital learning. To support districts in making this commitment #FutureReady has put together a robust support system including an interactive planning dashboard, a Future Ready Schools Framework and a multitude of industry partnerships. The resources are designed with intentionality to provide a strong vision for the future of education in the United States and as well as an actionable plan with supporting tools.

The first year of the Initiative brought 120 superintendent’s from across the United States together in the East Room of the White House. Summits were held across the United States bringing leadership teams together to connect and plan for 21st Century instruction in their schools based on the seven gears of the Future Ready Framework.

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The benefits of taking the pledge are many. Take a look at the FAQ to find out what could be in it for your district. Has the the superintendent of your district taken the pledge? If so, be sure to thank them and acknowledge their forward looking leadership. If not, share this opportunity with them and ask them to join this network of education leaders taking action to redefine the way we think about education.

The Difference Between Launching A Rocket and Driving A Car

David Culberhouse, an education colleague and confidant provides me with daily inspiration with his insightfulness and focus on the work we can do to truly reform our education system. Innovation and transformation are not buzzwords when used by David. They are terms he applies to his work, his writings and his reflections with the true definition of what it means to bring these concepts to preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce and their adult communities.

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“Unfortunately, too many startup business plans look more like they are planning to launch a rocket ship than drive a car.”  -Eric Ries ‘The Lean Startup’

It would be a strange occurrence to ever get in my car and not know where I am going.  Whether to work, the store, or a restaurant, I know where I am headed.  The destination has been consciously decided before I ever open the door and get behind the wheel.

While unconsciously, I know that the path to that destination may not be without obstacle or issue.  Traffic, accidents, closures and detours may change the route.  And yet, that never changes the destination, only the path to take me there.

Even knowing this up front does not hinder me from heading out, from starting our journey.  We know that we will face a plethora of unexpected hitches and hurdles on the road each and…

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Be an Edu Rockstar

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 12.58.43 PMInterested in becoming an Edu Rockstar? CUE, Computer Using Educators, has been supporting educators in California in doing just this through Rock Star Camps for several years now and has recently taken the experience and the opportunity to become a Rock Star Teacher or Edu Leader to a whole new level. Under the direction of Jon Corippo, Director of Academic Innovation, CUE has introduced Black Label Rock Star Camps, TOSA Rock Star Camps and my most recent favorite CUE Rock Star Admin Camp.

The first Rock Star Admin. Camp was hosted at the Luke Skywalker Ranch, in the foothills of northern Marin County, home of Edutopia, and took attendees on a transformational three day Hero’s Journey.

The learning embraced a collaborative approach that brought innovative educators and those looking to become more innovative together in great discussions and sharing of resources that are guiding inspired practices happening in school districts throughout the State. Tim Goree, Director of Technology of the Fairfield- Suison School District, showed attendees that, “You can’t break the Google,” as he guided Edu Leaders in learning how to manage their district’s GAFE domain and other IT secrets. Eric Saibel, Assistant Principal at Hall Middle School, with his calm, understated style, brought humor, nature and inspiration to question doing business as usual. Mike Niehoff, with his fabulous, slightly offbeat sense of humor, that attendees will not forget, brought his passion for a student’s right to be provided with high quality and engaging learning to the forefront. Jennifer Kloczko, Principal at Natomas Charter School, took her parallel passion for high quality and inspiring staff meetings and professional development and got everyone dancing while also showing them how to run a meeting that keeps adult energy up and engagement high. Ramsey Mussallam, teacher extraordinaire at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Ted Speaker, wowed everyone with examples of high interest, high rigor, high success instruction. Finally, Jon Corippo, who pulled the event together with his team and all their behind the scenes work. brought his usual high level of energy and no holds barred approach to introducing the administrators on hand to 21st Century tools that engage learners and develop real world technology skills.

Interested in becoming an Edu Rockstar Admin? If you answered yes, you’re already on your way. To become a Rockstar Administrator there really are only two requirements: 1) be willing to learn outside of your comfort zone, 2) be willing to “fail” (first attempt in learning) as you learn and redefine your professional practice with an infusion of innovation. These two qualities embed what Carol Dweck refers to as an Open Mind Set. With an open mind set, there are no limits on your ability to become an innovative and transformational leader, but you will want to connect with other like-minded leaders, not only in education, but in other industries as well. The 21st Century workforce whether it be business, Nascar or the military are using innovative approaches to redefine the way they do business. There is a lot we can learn from other industries to influence our personal leadership practice and expectations as well as our expectations of how schools are educating students and what skills students are graduating with.

As you begin practicing to become a Rockstar Leader be sure that you’re 1) engaging with others through social media, 2) be aware of what your personal brand online looks like, 3) create and maintain a blog, 4) get on Twitter, 5) participate in chats. As you develop your Rockstar skills and presence be sure to add 1) create a Google+ account 2) participate in a Google Hangout, 3) post to instagram 4) develop a Voxer group to collaborate with. Now that you’ve created these resources for yourself, create them for your organization. Connect, connect, connect and be a Rockstar!

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The Power of Yes

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 7.36.30 PMIt’s all about culture. Culture establishes the expectations that are set within an organization for how people will be treated, the amount of trust that employees are given to do the jobs they were hired for and the support they will receive when times get tough. Trusting employees to do their jobs well while also making it safe to take risks and “fail” (first attempt in learning) along the way to learning how to do things better will create a culture that inspires innovation. It will also inspire the professional use of the Four Cs in education – creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.

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A small school district Superintendent recently told a story of her first couple of months in her new position. She knew she was stepping into an environment with low morale and suspected that there would be obstacles to overcome in the process of establishing a professional learning culture that embraces the tenets of a 21st Century education. Nevertheless, she was still surprised to review the previous year’s middle school schedule and the report cards for the different grade levels.

The courses at the end of the day for the middle school student included handwriting as well as arts and crafts. Report cards for each grade level showed a separate grade for homework completely divorced from the varying subject matters. She felt the challenge of culture change loom heavy, but was also ready to dive right in. Getting the classes aligned with current standards and 21st Century skills was a need too great not to embrace immediately. Students in her district would be competing with students from larger districts when they entered high school where these components were already in place. She not only valued ensuring that the children in her district would receive an equal education to those in larger districts, but saw it as moral imperative. All the while she also articulated a long-term goal of creating innovative programs that others would want to model.

The Superintendent began to meet with individual teachers over the summer after having redesigned the middle school program to include an end of the day exploratory wheel. She met with the handwriting and math teacher first and nervous about what the answer might be asked one simple question, “If you could teach anything you wanted at the end of the day, the subject that would most excite and inspire you, what would it be?” After a brief pause, she received an answer that made her smile, “You know I was an art major and I’ve always wanted to design an art course and share that passion with my students.” The Superintendent happily replied, “Design the course and put together a list of the supplies you’ll need for the year. You’re teaching art.”

She met with the social studies teacher next and asked the same question, “If you could teach anything you wanted at the end of the day, the subject that would most excite and inspire you, what would it be?” He knew the question was coming and was ready, “I would love to teach a technology class and incorporate 20 percent time for my students.” The Superintendent couldn’t believe how well this was going. She shared the ISTE standards, Common Sense Media and how to engage with other teachers on Twitter and told the young social studies teacher to design how he would like the course to look and let her know.

With only the science teacher to go and some comments from various staff members that she usually “taught” a homework class, the Superintendent started to think about strategies that could engage the next teacher in some more thoughtful ideas for an exploratory that students would really enjoy. The last teacher came in and when asked, “If you could teach anything you wanted at the end of the day, the subject that would most excite and inspire you, what would it be?” without taking a breath answered, “I’ve always wanted to teach a robotics and engineering class. I designed a course several years ago and even have materials at home already.”

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Trying hard to not let her mouth drop open at this incredible response, the Superintendent realized, that by simply giving her staff the opportunity to share their passions and saying, “Yes,” a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) program had been born. A month into the school year, students were ending their days by building bridges, exploding volcanoes, creating movies and 3D drawings.

Establishing a culture of trust, saying yes and allowing her teachers to experiment designing their courses around their passions quickly increased the quality of the overall middle school program and had a strong impact on the work happening in the lower grades as well. She walked into the kindergarten class with the self proclaimed, “I don’t understand technology “ kinder teacher to find a small group of 5 year olds creating Google slides with CVC words while explaining their words to each other. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade teachers got together over a weekend and with the help of a couple of their husbands redesigned their classroom layouts to support collaborative groupings and easier integration of student computer use, the classroom projector and interactive HUE document cameras.

The change in culture is in its infancy. Yet, by putting trust in her staff, bringing classified staff in to receive the same training the teachers received, establishing a clear understanding that the technology skills embedded in the Common Core standards would be integrated into classroom instruction and making it safe to try new material and approaches, the students in this Superintendent’s small school district are receiving a top notch education and the staff morale has increased as they have been given the trust needed to make great things happen for kids.

Patriot Day Shows School Community Pride in American Citizenship

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 1.58.15 PMIt has been fourteen years since that dreadful September 11th morning that imprinted itself in the minds of Americans and our friends around the world. While we remember and talk about the day, still feeling stunned that this is a part of our American history, there is also a sense that the commemoration of our country coming together to support the fallen, their families and the heros who saved lives and comforted those who suffered great personal loss, is starting to diminish. Not unlike the fading of the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, we are beginning to become removed from the personal horror that was experienced on that fateful day.

As schools across the country begin to embrace the importance of preparing students who are digitally literate global citizens, we must also remember that our American school system was the first embodiment of educating United States citizens; preparing students to be contributing adults in the American workforce, paying taxes and participating in government. With this in mind, it is important to ask ourselves how a sense of patriotism is continuing to be passed down through each generation. What events are our schools and local communities supporting to educate students about our history beyond the textbook and instill in them a sense of pride and understanding of what it means to be born a United States citizen or to be blessed to be able to live in our country?

The founders of our great country intentionally left any reference to education out of the U.S. Constitution, clearly communicating their intent that this be a State’s right. The State of California has recently adopted the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to support the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) further acknowledging the responsibilities of local communities to be involved in establishing the educational priorities in our schools. Let us now use these freedoms to support schools that prepare our children to remember the sacrifices of those of who have gone before us to allow us to live in a country where we have come to see public education as a right rather than a privilege, where we have the freedom of speech to voice our opinions and the funding mechanisms both from a federal and state support system to educate each generation.

Let us remember to recognize our local heroes: our police, firefighters and paramedics, as well as our national heroes serving in the military who preserve for us the ability to enjoy our freedoms.