Tag: #leadwild


Leading During Times of Trial

I was given the book The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan by a community member with a note that read, “May this book bring you inspiration during times of trial.” Remember, sometimes doing the right thing is hard!”

The gift and the note were timely. I had just been on the receiving end of some strong criticism.  I was challenged in a public a meeting with statements of, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and finally, “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?”

This reminded me of a popular cartoon in education circles:


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While satirical, the cartoon has become well known among educators because it is often how we feel things are. It was certainly how I felt as those comments were called out.

But, back to the book…

As I read the introduction, I was struck by the opening quote, from Laurens van der Post “We live not only in our lives, but, whether we know it or not, also the life of our time.”

Noonan writes of being a pioneer. Initially, as a part of the “first great wave of women” to enter the field of journalism during the 1970s, then as a female speechwriter for the President during the Reagan years, and finally as one of the first internet columnists for the Wall St. Journal. She writes of a society looking for a “shock to the system” in the last presidential election.

As I read her words, I was struck by the “shock to the system,” the changes in education have brought over the past ten years to what once seemed very standard and therefore safe. There was a perception that grandparents, parents, and children would ultimately have pretty similar school experiences and stories. It may not have been exciting, but it was safe.

The past ten years have brought significant changes to the standards that are taught, to the methods used to teach them, to the technology that is still being experimented with, to keeping children safe and emotionally regulated, to the classroom and furniture design, to the way schools are funded or underfunded. Our children’s classroom and play experiences no longer look like those so fondly remembered by past generations. To some this is exciting; to others this is frightening. When we become afraid or nervous about something it is because we sense danger. What is unfamiliar or unknown can bring forth strong reactions.

It can be scary to not understand a once familiar system. It can be scary to not understand the changes. Statements such as, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?” can come from a genuine place of seeking what one believes is in the best interest. It can bring genuine frustration that while the concerns are heard, they are not changing a course of action.

Changes to our education system, the way students learn inside and outside of classrooms are going to continue. We will either adapt or we will risk becoming irrelevant. It does not feel safe to move forward into the unknown, but it is clear that we must nevertheless move in that direction.

Even with this knowledge, these statements have continued to make me uneasy.

In a  homily, given by Father Kelly Vanderhey at Mission San Luis Obispo, he stated, “Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity.”

“Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity,”

The sermon continued with the reflection that there are seven really difficult years in everyone’s life. Seven years of pain that we all struggle through. Those seven years are from the ages of 13-19. These are the years during which we most struggle for freedom. We struggle for freedom from our parents and from rules. We seek independence. Yet, we are not ready to accept the full responsibility and accountability for those freedoms. We also seek to avoid the consequences for not following the rules.

It seems we may be in the teenage years of transformation in education. We seek independence from a system we know wasn’t working for children. We struggle with the transition. We want the freedom to explore and experiment to truly meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of every child. We have to be strong because it can feel easy to give in to the pressure that is loud.

While laws, rules, policies, and regulations can be boring, it turns out that these are what ultimately do keep us safe during times of change, struggle, and disagreement.

In her book, Noonan also quotes Pope John XXIII:

Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.

Continue to lead during times of trial for it is when we are out of our comfort zones that the magic will happen.


Designing With Not For

use-of-space-and-time-gearFive years ago this week, I posted the TedTalk, Teaching Design for Change by Emily Pilloton, on my Facebook page with the comment that the content of the talk was great advice for rural school districts. At the time of the posting, I was a principal with a great team overseeing the special education programs for a county office of education. Little did I know that five years later, I would be the superintendent of a rural school district that would pass its first bond measure, Creating Class A Schools, under my tenure and that I would be working with another great team of educators as well as a school board that exemplifies what it means to put students first. In addition to this, I would also be knee deep in becoming increasingly versed in what it means to design a Future Ready instructional program.

As our team dives into the design work of redefining learning spaces so that they allow for flexibility and the incorporation of today’s learning tools, combining the advice of Emily Pilloton with the Future Ready gears of Collaborative Leadership, Community Partnerships, Budget and Resources, Curriculum Instruction and Assessment with the Use of Space and Time couldn’t be more opportune. As we dive deeper and deeper into the process of working with the architect and his team, it is clear that the concept of “designing with not for” is more intuitive to some than others.


It is easy to take a look at designs for layout, furniture and infrastructure that have been implemented at other schools. It can even be tempting for professionals to suggest that a school or district use the work that was done elsewhere as their model. Yes, it’s easy, convenient and might even feel like it saves time. However, the perception of time saving and efficiency only applies to the front end. It creates far more work on the back if staff voie, student and community voice aren’t specifically and intentionally incorporated into the process. While schools have many similar characteristics and needs, each school design and culture has its own nuances. The location of a particular room or door can dramatically impact the flow and use of space. Classroom design and furniture layout may  impact student learning differently from year to year based on the characteristics of the students in each and the strengths of the teacher.

Bob Dillon, author of Redesigning Learning Spaces, gave some simple sage advice at CUE’s BOLD Classrooms event in Northern California to help prioritize instructional space design projects that can be applied to undertakings of all sizes. As schools dive into modernizing learning spaces, let us ask “What is neat to have and what is need to have?” as we move forward with construction and design projects. This concept applies both to things that we purchase such as furniture, lighting, flooring, whiteboards, screen technology as well as to how traffic flow and visibility will impact the use of spaces.

The California voter, this past June and November, has been generous to schools in passing both local bonds and a state school facilities bond. This allows for a great opportunity for schools to take a look at how facilities, infrastructure and learning tools engage today’s learners, prepare them for tomorrow’s careers and stay flexible to adapt to the needs of the next generation of student. This is a great opportunity to show leadership in bringing teacher, student and community voice to the table. This is a great opportunity for collaborative partnerships to leverage social media and professional learning networks to share their work to engage in local, statewide and national thought partner conversations to support wise decision making in design, use of time and space as well as budget and resources to influence curriculum and instruction. This is a great opportunity to invest in the future.







Like Being in a Giant Candy Store

What an incredible learning experience!

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Concierge vs Coach

Relevant vs Worksheet

Engaging vs Compliance

Try-athlon vs Comfort Zone

Personlized PD vs One Size Fits All

Future Ready vs That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It

These are just some of the shifts in thinking being embraced by the 7000 educators who attended National CUE in Palm Springs. This amazing event is like a trip into a professional development candy store. That’s right, powerful, intense learning that, to use one of my favorite colloquiums, was “sweet!”

Three days of incredible learning at #CUE16 ended with these thousands of educators leaving with overflowing knowledge on how to be Future Ready, pedagocically innovative, how to improve their personal professional practices and how to share the inspiration they found with others. The goal for many, if not all…to begin or continue implementing an increased number of 21st Century educational practices that exemplify the redefining of once traditional worksheet based or one size fits all instruction into learning experiences that are relevant and engaging. All this while, most importantly, helping students develop the dexterity they’ll need to be successful in a workforce where the jobs and skills required continue to adapt to increasing automization and adapting technologies.

Sessions challenged educators ranging from first year teachers to experienced superintendents to up their professional game, covered topics from incorporating project based STEAM activities and 3D printing to gamifying both student instruction and educator PD, to innovatively applying Hattie and Marzano’s research.

One of the most powerful things that National CUE offers is that while providing opportunities to participate in learning that is deep and to listen to keynotes that inspire, there is also always a lot of fun. It’s hard not to enjoy the flying antics of Sharknado.

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Click here for the video: https://youtu.be/QuFuJUacL3Y

Then there is the always entertaining and inspiration on steroids of Jon Corippo who along with Mike Vollmert hooked CUE affiliate meeting attendees on attending this summer’s LDI (Leadership Development Institute) with this gem:

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Find this video at: https://youtu.be/j-cxvTqxJP0

But, my favorite part of this year was definitely getting to hear from the creator of Kid President, Brad Montague and being reminded that the messages and that the actions that make the biggest difference are usually the simple ones:

You’re Awake, You’re Awesome, Live Like it                                                                                   Be Somebody Who Makes Everybody Else Feel Like Somebody                                                 Love Never Fails                                                                                                                                       Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti                                                                                                                                                                              -Kid President



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.



In My Humble Opinion – The Best EduBlog Post Ever!

Jon Corippo has done it again!




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


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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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?