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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!

 

EduMagic

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Embrace the New Year and the New Teacher

imagesThe Back to School blog posts are appearing. They’re showing up in our in boxes, our Twitter feeds, on Google+ and our Facebook feeds. Where just a week ago, our social media was filled with pictures of smiling couples, groups of friends or parents with their children poolside, by the ocean or on hikes discovering the glory of mother nature, this week’s feeds are filled with teacher memes, pinterest ideas and the Back to School post as we look forward to another year of welcoming new teachers to our profession, watching  colleagues take on new positions or grow into teacher leaders.

It’s an exciting time. The new teacher ignites the experienced educator with renewed passion bringing fresh ideas and energy. Watching the staff in my district prepare for the new school year throughout the summer, makes me proud to be a part of our team. I’m struck however, that while this is the fourth district I will be serving in my 23rd year, the dedication from district to district is the same. The support educators give one another, the belief in the potential of our students and in each other and the understanding that the work we do matters are hallmarks of a profession filled with servant leaders.

While the energy is by far mostly positive and as a group, our profession embraces the work of Carol Dweck’s Mindset, there are pockets of negativity that start to creep in. Every staff seems to have “that teacher” who sometimes finds a commiserating colleague to join in their negative energy. They make appearances, usually brief appearances, but their energy can quickly change a room. These members of our profession really are a very small percentage of who we are, yet, I found myself today, having an important conversation with a new teacher who had questions about a colleague that didn’t share her enthusiasm.

This conversation made me think of the responsibility we have as education leaders, whether at the district level, site level, or perhaps most importantly, the teacher leader level. It is an important part of our jobs to protect our young enthusiastic teachers, to surround them with support and to prepare to celebrate their accomplishments. Let us embrace the excitement of the first year teacher who’s room was ready to go at the beginning of July, who has been scouring ads for those great Back to School deals and stocking up and who, this is my favorite, is ready to jump into supporting 21st Century Learning PD because her high school and college years were filled with the type of innovative instruction that redefines classroom instruction that we continue to encourage more experienced members of our profession to embrace.
As you begin your year, focusing on the needs of your students, lesson planning and finding some time for yourself, please keep an eye on those new to our ranks. Embrace them with positivity, share your resources, guide them and learn from them. Let us challenge ourselves to grow our ranks with joy, passion and support of one another.

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Wow, I’m Really Going to Have to Up My Game!

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 5.16.32 PM“Wow, I’m going to have to up my game with you here. Thanks!,” commented one of my teachers as we ended a conversation. It was my second official day on the job and I was feeling grateful for each “get to know you” conversation I was getting the opportunity to have with teachers and classified staff members throughout the day. As I drove home and thought about my day, this statement really stuck with me, “I’m really going to have to up my game.” What had I said in my less than 48 hours in my new position as the superintendent/principal of our school district?

A Culture Focused on the Positive: As staff and teachers told me stories about individual students who they thought I should be aware of, I asked, “What can you tell about ________’s life?” I was answered with heartbreaking stories that are all too familiar to the seasoned educator.

“His mom lives in Tennessee and I’m not sure if anyone knows who his dad is. He doesn’t seem to get much supervision.” A child looking to be loved?

“She always runs away from adults and her parents have told us that her ten year sister is in charge of her.” A child looking for attention?

We’ll be focused on positive reinforcement and interventions this year and looking specifically at the function of any behaviors that get in the way of learning or a student’s social emotional success. If a child makes a mistake or does not behave to expectation, we’ll use the opportunity to teach them how to make the situation right and know what other choices they can make if a similar situation arises.

Investing in Our Staff: Like many teachers, our staff is wrestling with teaching the Common Core Standards. They reached the 800 API threshold earlier than surrounding school districts and continued to grow each year. Not only are they comfortable with the California State Standards and their curriculum, but they were successful with the criteria they had been given and were recognized as a School of Choice. The organization found itself in an extended transitional period just as the transition to Common Core occurred.

We’ll be in investing in the professional development of certificated and classified staff so that you feel comfortable and confident in your knowledge and skills to teach Common Core Standards. We will engage in exploration of curriculum and instructional strategies that meet these standards, support innovative thinking and provide teacher support. I don’t expect us to master everything right away. We will establish a one year and three professional learning plan for us as a group and individually. Remember FAIL – First Attempt In Learning. We’ll be learning a lot together.

Future Ready: This is movement that I’m 100% behind. It is essential that we are preparing today’s students for their future, a future that we can’t even begin to imagine.

While “technology tools” is a thought that many jump to right away and the Future Ready Pledge focuses on digital learning, our work will embed digital literacy as we focus on how to support students in being skilled communicators, collaborators, creative and critical thinkers as they engage in a digitally supported 21st Century learning model. We’ll incorporate the work of Carol Dweck as presented in Mindset.

Open Door: Staff kept closing my door as they came and went. Knocks on the door were hesitant. Clearly this was an expectation for them somewhere along the way. It made me uncomfortable and a couple of hours into the day, I made the announcement, “My door will always be open unless I’m having a confidential conversation. Please come in any time. I will always have time for you. Whatever is on my desk can wait until we’ve had a chance to talk about what is on your mind.

My office was set up with a desk and a square table. This first thing I asked the custodian was where I could find a round table to replace the square one. “That’s funny,” she commented, “we used to have a superintendent who had a round table, but the last guy wanted a square one. The old round table is in the cafeteria. Why round?” It’s the difference between having the opportunity to sit with you versus across from you. I’m hoping that our conversations and learning will be about us being able to sit together, not across from one another.

Somewhere along the way, one of my teacher leaders with a reputation for being good at his craft felt that he is going to need to “up his game.” I’m always looking to up my game and am feeling blessed that one of the leaders in my new District feels the same way and will be setting this example.

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We Have to Stop Pretending

imagesI was challenged today, challenged by a great teacher who tagged me and four other educators worth keeping an eye on if you’re on Twitter. Third grade teacher, Lisa Nowakowski, also known as @NowaTechie and author of Nowa Techie, directed her challenge towards me, Kevin Ashworth, Andy Losik, Rae Fearing and Travis Phelps. The shout out is part of the #MakeSchoolDifferent Challenge which originated in a post on Scott McCloud’s blog dangerously ! irrelevant. Educators across the nation are tagging one another to acknowledge five things in education we need to stop pretending. That’s the easy part. The hard part is coming up with solutions to trends that educators are acknowledging in their posts.

So here it is. Five things we need to stop pretending…

  1. That school is engaging our students
  2. That our students see the relevancy in what they’re learning
  3. That class size doesn’t have a meaningful impact
  4. That standardized testing is bad
  5. That it isn’t okay to acknowledge that taking care of the teacher is putting students first

 

Here’s the thinking behind each of the bullet points.

  1. Students sit, sit and sit throughout their school day. As Alex Wiggins noted in his blog post after shadowing a student for two days, sitting is exhausting. I sat with our students on the same uncomfortable bench without a backrest for a 45 minute assembly on the use of social media last week. I found the topic very interesting, but we just sat and listened for 45 minutes. I started to become more aware of my need to stand up, stretch, urge to share a comment and started to look around. As I looked around, I saw students distracted in a variety of manners and I understood why. It wasn’t that the content wasn’t interesting, there just wasn’t an opportunity to engage/interact with it. Kids want to learn! They need to be able to interact with the learning and we need to create classroom structures and environments that will make them feel welcome, comfortable and allow them to interact with one another and move around as they learn.
  1. It continues to be a tradition honored by each generation of students that attends school to ask, “Why are we learning this? Why do I need to know this?” As a profession, we continue to struggle with showing our students the relevance of much of their classroom instruction. My anecdotal observations show that teachers who take a project based learning approach to classroom instruction have students who have a greater understanding of the relevancy of their learning.
  1. John Hattie’s research, as published in his book Visible Learning for Teachers, shows that there is a limited correlation between class size and student achievement. One thing we don’t pretend is that a teacher’s job is so much more than a focus on student achievement. As a profession, most of us share an interest in teaching the whole child and having strong school to home relationships. It makes a difference if an elementary teacher has 25, 32 or 38 students assigned to their class. It makes a difference if a secondary teacher has 150 student contacts per day or 200 or 250.
  1. Standardized testing has earned a bad rap. Politicians and the media have taken what can be useful data to evaluate student progress over time and program effectiveness and turned the testing results into a way to judge and punish schools and to create a perception that some schools are better than others based on a snapshot of academic testing. The truth is the data from these types of assessments do give us useful information. It is unfortunate that these tests have been given the power to negatively judge our schools and that the results are so often used to criticize or are misused when making comparisons.

5. Every educator will tell you, “It’s about the kids first.” This phrase is also used to stop a counter argument in it’s tracks.The quickest way to win an argument in education is to imply in any way that the other’s person’s opinions are not putting kids first. Taking care of our teachers and all educational professionals is putting kids first.

imgres I now challenge some of my colleagues who I have great respect for to join this challenge and to share their posts with us on Twitter. Ken Durham, Kaleb Rashad, Dr. Eric Chagala and Sammie Cervantes what do you think?