I have a new tool that I am using for professional development and it is the app, Voxer.  This nifty app is like a walkie-talkie, so a bunch of us are using it for a book chat using the book, Digital Leadership by my friend Eric Sheninger.  (I blogged about it here.) As we are going through the chapters, we are talking about change, change leadership and then one of us brings up TTWWADI in chapter 2.

You are probably wondering, “What is TTWWADI?”  It’s that saying, “But, that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  I cringe when I hear that from educators.  Really?  TTWWADI doesn’t work.  It is a closed or fixed mindset.  It means that folks are not willing to grow, be open to change, and look to make it better for kids!

This past year, we have had lots of change.  We have looked at how we are teaching and still are reflecting to meet the needs of our students.  We are changing times to help improve transportation for our kiddos.  Some think, “Why change?”  Let’s look at what is happening with our students sitting there for 30 minutes on a bus.  Is it really good for kids when some of our babies can’t hold it anymore and spoil themselves?  How about how we are servicing our special education students?  Can we do better and have teachers work together within the classroom to help our students access the curriculum?  Wouldn’t that be easier for two teacher to co-teach and deliver and differentiate instruction rather than one teacher pulling her hair out trying to service the diverse population?    We had change forced down on us  and changed our standards to embrace the CCSS.  We are moving ahead and working together to make it better for ALL students and aligning curriculum.  Just because it is a change in the curriculum doesn’t mean it does not have to be creative and innovative.  We need to look outside the box and make the modules MORE engaging for our students.  APPR has been a change and we had to adjust to that, with me beating my drum and being the biggest cheerleader because I know you all are more than a score.  We will have change in the master schedule, having our grade levels scheduled to allow for maximum time for teaching and placed on the master schedule into SchoolTool so we can accommodate the times.  No more creating your own schedule, it’s done for you!  Hip, Hip Hooray!  We are looking to a rubric based report card K-5, because grades really aren’t working! How about homework?  Can that change, or are some folks going to continue to be punitive if kids don’t get it completed?  My question to that is, is it really working or will you continue TTWWADI?

I guess what I am getting at is this:  How can we be more effective and give the best to our students who are now 14 years into the 21st century, have them efficiently and effectively access the curriculum, and continue to have engaging, creative and innovative lessons as well as keeping the social and emotional curriculum?  Not easy!  Are we still going to stand for the same-ole standardization and clogging of creativity and innovation or are we going to break the mold and embrace the change ahead, use the tools available to us to create engaging lessons and differentiate instructions for all learners?  Are we going to have that mentality or belief that, “Oh, Johnny is so low, he can’t do the work, let’s quickly slap an IEP on him” or are we going to differentiate our practice and work smarter?  What models can we use to help all of our students and work together to make it easier for us, or are we going to worry about that APPR score and not what is best for kids?  Are we going to be quick to get rid of a student because he is being so distracting in the classroom and send him to the office where he probably wants to be because it is so hot, and the office is air conditioned, (something to think about)  or are we going to work together and find ways to help our students and work to see what the triggers are and work on social and emotional behaviors?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not pointing fingers at anyone and I think what we have done this year is amazing and you all want what is best for kids.  But, are we reflecting and making the right decisions and trying to make it even better?  Or are we going to say, nope, not my problem or can we take it further and make it better for kids and stop worrying about that damn APPR score?  I get a score too, but it is not the end all be all.  It can’t hinder what we can do and what is best for kids.  We have to revamp curriculum.  So what! We did that before and will continue to do it and yes, we have a State test, but good teaching is good teaching!  We cannot afford to be stifled and continue to be in a 19th or 20th century model! When you get down to it, it’s about what is best for kids.  Isn’t that why we went into education?  I sure did and I am ready to forge ahead.

Change is not easy.  Change is not going to stop, not as long as I am at East Side.  Check out what Eric writes about jobs and why schools need to change: ” Jobs available today have changed radically due to the rise of globalization, the continuous surge of outsourcing by many businesses and industries, increasing immigration, and a flattened world.  (Friedman, 2005).  Schools need to change in the face of this challenge if they are to create the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, and engineers who work in a technology-rich and technology-driven world.  With this modern workforce as the goal, what do we want our schools to look like?  Why do we need to change?  Are we doing what’s best to meet the needs of ALL of our learners who have grown up in the digital age with ubiquitous access to information?  If we are to change, we must be willing to shed some strongly embedded ideals, opinions, and behaviors that have shaped our schools for over a century  The consensus has to be that every student can and should learn, and that educators must learn how to push them to become ever better.”  

Let’s not get into the TTWWADI trap. (Not that we are, I just don’t want to go there!)  It doesn’t work.  We are educators – we are born to do this.  Let’s work together, grow together, and be the best of the best for our kids, because that is the #1 factor.  You are the best!  We can do this because we are a great team.  Embrace change and let’s make it better for our kids!  Be a risk taker.  Don’t be afraid of failure, because you know what, that is how we learn and we have each other for support!  Enjoy the week!


Other News

  • This is the last Monday Focus for the school year,  My intent for this is to have things available for you to peruse that is of interest and to share with you my thoughts and visions for our building.  I will continue to personally blog throughout the summer as adventures come through during the summer and share these with you throughout the months.
  • We do have a staff meeting on Monday, June 2 at 2:45p.m. in room 31.  It will not be long.
  • Please make sure that you continue to check the announcement page.  It changes often.
  • Bus Duty for  May 27 – June 11  Team 8: Erin Gates, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor – June 12- June 25 Team 9:  Kathy Palmer, Jenn Nichols, Mackenzie Ritz.
  • This coming week is SUPER busy for me and the office as we continue to interview for candidates, the track meet, you name it.
  • Congratulations to Steph Plaisted for receiving the Golden Apple Award in Education from Patty Ritchie.
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

Other Items of Interest

  • These data clearly show the very direct correlation between high school grades and lifetime earnings.
  • A new version of will be introduced in June. Nothing is going away – just new navigation and additional features.
  • The Board of Regents had their first review of some proposed changes to Part 154 of the regulations. There will probably be a comment period for these changes. Some of this will impact all districts and not those who traditionally have ELLs
  • What? No more Think, Pair, Share? This column explains how to improve this strategy with a little more specificity.
  • Changing school schedules to provide more time for collaboration, peer coaching, and professional learning yields student achievement gains.
  • Without formative assessment (including the subsequent instructional responses) teaching is just coverage. This column explains this well and serves as a good description of data-driven instruction.
  • Response to Intervention (RtI) is not supposed to be about a system for sorting and labeling students. It’s supposed to be a systemic approach of a relentlessness and “whatever it takes” approach to teaching and learning. This series of blogs explains this thoroughly and convincingly. On October 24th we will get back to the core: Turn Your RtI Upside-Down.
  • Check out these middle-level projects at thisHangout.
  • Get your PBL news here.
  • This thorough review of the literature about cooperating teachers has categorized the things that cooperating teachers do into eleven buckets: providers of feedback, modelers of practice, supporters of reflection, gleaners of knowledge, purveyors of context, conveners of relation, agents of socialization, advocates of the practical, abiders of change, and teachers of children.

Some great graphics coming through the Twitter feed this weekend!

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A Change in Blogging Programs

Yes, I am changing formats.  Change is okay.  It took a while for me to understand this blogging program, but I have to say, WordPress gives you much more opportunities and design options.  They sure do have the market on blogging.  The reason I chose to switch is for the mere fact that I have two other blogs connect to this one, the Rethinking Education blog that I use to write and the Edcamp Upstate NY blog to which I am a part of this group of highly engaging educators designing a fun filled day of learning, all for free, at Queensbury HS on Octber 25, 2014.  (Check out the blog/website in production!)

But this isn’t going to be about changing blogging programs.  This is more of a share from my friend Dr. Joe Mazza.  Joe was the first tweep that I followed two years ago and he also recruited me as on of the Social Media Ambassadors along with Tony Sinanis for the Baltimore NAESP conference.   I consider Joe as one of the pioneers in using social media to engage parents as partners in the school.  He hosts the national #ptchat every Wednesday at 7:00p.m. on Twitter and engages his students and parents about the use of technology to help enhance learning.  But it isn’t always about technology that is the most important thing when dealing with parents.  Below, he writes about how important those face-to-face conversations with parents are – it is something that we all have to keep in check to help build the partnerships with our parents.  Check it out:

As educators, we’re in the age of apps, social media, email, text alerts, Skype, email, online polls and other valuable tech tools we’re utilizing each day to make our schools better – most of these I find on Connected Educator blogs and my Twitter PLN. However, the more we rely on these tools, the greater the risk we as leaders take in swaying our communications away from the face to face interactions with eye contact, tone, empathy and body language that supports relationship-building amongst students, staff and families.

I am a technology geek. I love testing out the latest tools to see how it might positively impact my learning community at Knapp Elementary, but I must continue to maintain my “home button,” meaning the face to face interactions each day. By taking the time and investing in face to face conversations by default instead of sending an email or including it in a newsletter, strong leadership and relational trust can be built on a solid foundation.

Remember, what we do and how we do it is always being soaked up by our students, teachers and families. It’s our job to role model the very best ways to communicate effectively in mentoring young citizens. Make an investment this year. get back to basics. Be explicit on how you intend to do it.

I cannot say it any better.  Have a great week!


(BTW, please be patient while I work to tweak this blog, it’s appearance, and some of the what WordPress can do other than just a blogging platform.  Look for developments!)

Other News
  • Bus Duty for Feb 3-Feb 14 Team 1: Steph Plaisted, Brooke Crump, Kim Johnson Upcoming bus duty:  Feb. 24- Mar. 7 Team 2:  Mindy Backus, Pam Mahay, Denise Croasdiale.
  • We have a staff meeting on Monday,  Feb. 3rd.  Let’s see if we can get to do this and not get cancelled out.  Kim Hayes will join us.  Please remember to register on MLP before midnight.
  • Look for Edcamp to come to Gouverneur very soon!  (Keep you guessing!)
  • Just a quick shout out of thank to you all for working with me to get these walk through mini-observations completed. Thanks for being the best of the best!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

App of the Week:  Edublogs

You all know I enjoy blogging on a personal level.  I share my voice and thoughts about education in my blog Rethinking Education linked to this blog.  (Some day I will probably get in trouble, lol).  What I am doing is trying to weigh in on areas that are effecting and affecting education not only with us as a school, but through New York State and the nation.  I think we as educators have a voice and you all should share your voice about education, good practice, and even frustrations.
With that being said, why not look at Edublogs for your students?  This is a great platform to use for your class, even if you just start blogging as a classroom.  You can show students how doing this and create a blog for your class instead of websites.  It’s easy as well as FREE.
Edublogs runs on the WordPress platform.  It can be set-up for privacy as well as publicly.  You can also have students set-up accounts and have them start blogging.  These can be closed accounts as well.  Edublogs is free and it also has a web-based platform here:  Let’s check this out!   How powerful would it be for our kids to start blogging that is linked to your class blog.  Wow!!
Other Items of Interest
     Here’s the Story of StandardsStandards in New York State, presented without the drama.Video
This recording of an interview with Vice-Chancellor Bottar (who is also one of our Regents in our BOCES) from Channel 9 is worth a watch. It begins with some NYS education history and the genesis of the Regents Reform Agenda. The second part of the program addresses the implementation of the Common Core, assessments, APPR, and more.image This video explains the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) and its impact on public education in New York. It does a great job to explain it for all audiences.The February ASCD Collection Top Ten (remember, these resources have been purchased for all educators in the BOCES):

  • Learning Targets Explains learning targets as a theory of action to raise student achievement and create a culture of evidence-based, results-oriented practice.
  • Rethinking Homework Explores the homework debate and explains whether homework is an essential effective or harmful. Topics include how to avoid the “homework trap” and “seven steps to building better relationships with parents about homework”.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making Shows how to implement data-driven decision making and make it the key to assessing all school activities, from classroom instruction to budgeting.
  • Strengthening and Enriching Your Professional Learning Community Explains how to strengthen the effectiveness of Professional Learning communities in schools.
  • Assignments Matter Explains the critical differences among “assignments,” “activities,” and “assessments” and thoroughly describes the key elements of an assignment: prompts, rubrics, products, and instructional plans.

How “authentic” are the assessments we use in school? Grant Wiggins explainsauthentic assessment. Good project based learning will meet these criteria.
This recorded hang out addresses district and school leadershipleadership for project based learning and 21C readiness. As you plan to move your school or district forward, this makes the connections between the classroom and the larger system explicit. The 4Cs are the “what” and PBL is the “how.”
PBLNYMake plans to be a part of PBLNY. August 5th -7th. The center of the PBL world comes to Syracuse. Bergman. Boss. Chaltain. Zhao. Save the date.
We’ve seen the Six Shifts for ELA, math, and Data Driven Instruction. Here are some of the shifts for the 21st Century. There are more than six – but they’re all true.
This one-pager describes the impact of povertypoverty on learning and offers some resources.Description:
Try SkillsWin! for free for the rest of the year. It includes lessons, videos, and reflection tools to help students learn 4Cs & more.

image The NYS Department of Health has prepared an activity packet for elementary students about emergency preparedness. Disclaimer: it includes a wordsearch.
Another free offering is the AugmentEd MOOC. By the end of the 13-week course, learners will have used a variety of free Web 2.0 tools to create eight different digital projects, and will be eligible for a course “Master Learner” badge for their accomplishments.

3 Videos on Lesson Planning

Grades 9-10 | ELA | Planning | CCSS (Downloads)
In this video, watch as Mr. Hanify considers integration of standards as he plans his lesson.
Grades 6-8 | Math | Reasoning | CCSS (Downloads)
Sometimes we use the lesson planning process to think deeply about the complexities that must become accessible to our learners. Ms. McPhillips does just that in this video.
All Grades | Math | Preparation
We often determine next steps by examining the ones we’ve just taken. Ms. Spies uses student responses to help plan her next lesson in this video.

A Touch of Humor

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