Thursday, November 29, 2007


I was at a meeting recently when one of the members, Audrey Kleinsasser of the Wyoming School University Partnership, mentioned the work that the Partnership is doing in the area of Pre-school through college collaboration. Educators are working on helping students in the transition from high school to post-secondary institutions by looking at student work and having discussions about that work as it relates to success after high school.

One of the things that Dr. Kleinsasser mentioned about the work was something along the lines of the transparency that exists among the expectations of both groups due to the meetings. For some reason, that phrase struck me as an important part of developing the vision of Guernsey-Sunrise schools. The communication among all stakeholders in the educational process - students, parents, teachers, administrators, the board, and the community - needs to be transparent and open in order for the vision to move forward.

The district continues to try to create a system of open communication by posting questions and thoughts on the website as well as in this blog. There is a "wiki" where staff members are working on a student-centered vision and an ongoing discussion of holding a community meeting to gather input. As we continue to develop a vision, a definition of what that vision looks like in action, and the indicators that will help us measure our progress toward that vision, I hope everyone will provide some input that will move us closer to a vision of excellence.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

21st century learning

Here's a link to an LA Times article about some of the free education podcasts that are available through iTunes U. Several universities are putting lectures on iTunes, allowing anyone in the world to access the information for free.

And, another sign that the 21st century is rapidly changing the world from the November 29, 2007 Early to Rise e-newsletter: "Ten years ago, there were no cellphones in India. This year, there are 80 million. According to an International Data Corp. survey, that number is set to hit 500 million by 2010."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Becoming great

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being. - Goethe

Once again, a bit of synchronicity pops up as I've seen this quote appear twice since I copied it from an email that a colleague sent during American Education Week. And a good quote it is. It certaily leads to a discussion of having high expectations for our students. Often, I believe we tend to stereotype people based on past actions or an experience we had with a member of a particular group. (I'll be writing on helping our students escape some of that in a later post.) When we do that, we may not be giving the other person a chance to show their true capabilities.

We also tend to see things through distorted lenses when we label or view a person or a group of persons in a generalized manner. What tends to happen is that those things that support our view get noticed and our perception is strengthened. We don't see the positive things that this person or group is doing and continue to see the negative.

By having high expectations and helping our students understand those expectations and that fact we are there to help them reach their full potential, we do help each person "become what they are capable of being." Let's all have positive expectations and see if we can't find the good that exists and build on that.


As I was cleaning out some email, I came across an article on grading. I thought it was interesting, particularly the statement in the third paragraph about not using zeroes as punishment but rather trying to determine mastery for each student.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving today. I thought I would write a quick list of things I am thankful and suggest everyone do the same. If you recall a few posts ago, the thought of setting a goal, writing it down, and reviewing it daily. The same can be done for things for which we are grateful.

I am thankful for:
1. Being given a life that allows me to search for meaning;
2. My family;
3. Healthy choices;
4. All the people who have touched my life;
5. The many opportunities to grow;
6. The Packers;
7. Snow;
8. Laughter;
9. The Internet;
10. Bicycles and running shoes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

21st Century website

Check out this website on 21st Century skills. I haven't had a chance to dig deeply into it, but it was mentioned in Education Week and looked interesting with information, resources, and tools.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


I read an article in Education Week about the effect of perceived stereotyping has on student achievement. It was very interesting and also mentioned some studies that show what educators and parents can do to overcome such perceptions.

Basically, the studies gave different groups of students different messages before taking an assessment. What researchers found was that those students who received positive messages about the adaptability of intelligence did better than those that received a generic message (an anti-drug message, for instance.)

A quote from the article: "When students perceive their learning environment to convey a fixed view of intelligence, their achievement goes down." This tells me that teachers and parents can help students achieve at higher rates by stressing to students that learning can be improved and is not fixed at a certain point.

One thing I've heard from parents in the past is that, "I wasn't very good at math either," to underscore a child's achievement level. This is generally done from an understanding point of view, but does little to enhance the learning of the child. By focusing on working hard and acknowledging that learning takes time, we help our students remain engaged and don't allow stereotyping to limit growth.


As technology becomes more prevalent in our everyday lives, I am intrigued by the tools available to educators. This blog is an example of something that really didn't exist a few years ago, at least not in the mainstream. Today, teachers and students work with weblogs to publish their work and to have not only fellow students review and critique their work, but writers from around the world as well.

The latest technology tool I've come across is the Wiki. Many of you may have heard of wikis like Wikapedia. A wiki is a collaborative website that allows editing by a group of people. In this case the wiki I've created is going to be used for a collaborative effort at determining what a vision of excellence looks like at Guernsey-Sunrise schools. I'm still figuring out all the nuances of the tool, so there will probably be changes made, but the general idea is to have a page that people can add to and edit at their leisure.

Check it out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Speak Up

I've included a link to a website for Speak Up, a survey to determine attitudes toward education from around the country. The "secret word" is viking. this will allow anyone who wants to take the survey to do so. A short description of the project follows:

The Speak Up project collects and reports out annually on authentic, unfiltered feedback from K-12 students, teachers, parents and school leaders from every state on 21st century education and technology issues. Speak Up is conducted 100% via online surveys and every school and district in the United States and Canada is eligible to participate. The online surveys are open for participation until Dec 21st, 2007.

Here are just a few topics that will be addressed in Speak Up 2007:
  • Creating schools of the future.

  • Why students like gaming and the benefits to using them for school work.

  • Engaging students in science.

  • Helping students feel connected and valued at school.

I know that surveys can be a pain to take, but I thought I would make this available for those who might be interested.


I had an interesting conversation this past week with a colleague about the passage of time. Have you ever heard someone say they were too old to do something or a project would take too long to complete? Remember that the time we think is too long is going to pass anyway, whether we decide to take up the task or not. The question then is, was the project or goal something we would truly like to achieve? If so, why not do it? Five years from now, we'll be five years older, whether we decided to attempt the long-term goal or not. Why not make an attempt? It comes down to setting our expectations high and shooting for the stars. One never knows where that will take him or her. As I've posted before, set your goal, write it down, review it daily and begin today to achieving that goal.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I have been at the Wyoming School Boards Association annual workshop the past couple of days and was listening to the keynote speaker yesterday, Mossi White when she said something about high expectations and student success. Miss White said, "the biggest predictor of increases in student achievement is the belief of adults that a difference can be made." I did a little research to try to find the study and one in Michigan echoed, somewhat, that sentiment.

The Michigan study showed that parental expectations of learning was a large predictor of achievement success. I would be interested to find others that mention something similar, but what Mossi said made sense. If we - both teachers and parents and all adults for that matter - have high expectations for our students, those students are more likely to find education valuable. Although we may disagree on certain aspects of schooling as it exists today, I think we can all agree that education is valuable and we must continue to hold high expectations for student achievement. What do you believe?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Needs Hunter

I was listening to a talk-radio show a while back and heard a phrase that struck me as something to focus on during this holiday season. The show was talking about tithing and a caller questioned the host about how to know for whom to do that. The host said that each person should become a "Needs Hunter." It is an interesting concept and one that each one of us could pursue, particularly when it comes to our students. By asking, "what needs exist that I have the ability to meet?" we can begin to better see those we can use our talents to help fulfill.

It is my belief that many of us do not either appreciate the great talents that we have to offer or are not sure what or how to offer those talents to help others. The concept of a "Needs Hunter" can help us focus the question on finding a need and filling it. Often in education, we look for others to solve the complex issues that exist in schools. If we all determined that we will hunt for those needs that we can fill and then go about doing so, our community, as well as the world, would be a better place.

Being present

"Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen." --Margaret J. Wheatley, writer and management consultant.

The above quote came from SmartBrief, a daily e-newsletter from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD.) What struck me was not only the thought about "just listening," but the requirement to be present. Wheatley is totally correct in that being present takes practice - at least for most people - and can be downright difficult for many. Being present means we must look at the situation as it is and not through some preconceived perception that clouds what is currently happening.

I liken it to one of the stories I've heard about staying in the present moment. A car cuts you off on the interstate and immediately you become angry at the person. We are then asked if we would have the same reaction if we knew a loved one was being rushed to the hospital in an emergency. If we do not, we should realize that our perception and assumption about the other person's motives helped form our reaction.

I think the same holds true in education. Students believe they cannot do math, therefore the topic for the day becomes difficult, if not impossible. Adults see children who are disrespectful or not doing their work and form a perception that students, individually or collectively, are the problem. People have a certain belief about schools and they are prone to see those things that uphold that belief.

By staying in the present moment we do not cloud our perception of that moment by recalling past transgressions or problems. We are free to see the moment as it truly is and make decisions and grow from there.

Music and learning

Two interesting studies that show that music can help students learn better. I haven't had an opportunity to review either, but saw them in a recent newsletter. A Georgetown University study showed that music and language use the same type of memory, leading one to believe that music can help students learn language better. I know teachers do this in the primary grades, but it may show that music throughout one's lifetime of learning can be beneficial.

The other study, from the New York Academy of Sciences says that there is more increase in grey matter in those who play music often. The study also show that music can boost your immune system and improve memory, both of which aid in learning. Improved immune systems keep people from getting sick as often, which for children would keep them in school more. Of course, improved memory helps children learn their facts more easily and gives them a head start on learning more complex material.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

American Education Week-Tue.

In honor of American Education Week, the Board of Trustees held a breakfast for all staff, both current and retired. It reminded me to take time to thank all the people who have been instrumental in my life in education; from those that took the time to teach me, in elementary and high school, through college and beyond, to those I've worked with over the years who have dedicated themselves to helping students achieve success.

Monday, November 12, 2007

American Education Week

This week is American Education Week, a week to honor our educators for their efforts. From the National Education Association's website:

NEA's 86th annual American Education Week (AEW) spotlights the importance of providing every child in America with a quality public education, and the need for everyone to do his or her part in making public schools great.

Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility reflects the Association's calling upon America to provide students with quality public schools so that they can grow, prosper, and achieve in the 21st century.

I was reminded of a wonderful way to recognize our staff members when Daphne Malcolm emailed the staff to ask that they write a "drop" for at least one other staff person this week. (This comes from the book How Full is Your Bucket? - an excellent book on positive relationships.) If you get a chance, write a note or drop them an email. I'm sure they would appreciate hearing from you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NCLB and growth

I read this on a blog that Dr. Mark Stock, currently a professor at the University of Wyoming wrote when he was a superintendent in Indiana. The post provides a great analogy for implementing a "growth" model for the No Child Left Behind law. It goes to the heart of educating our students to their potential.

I would at least like to see NCLB based on a growth model instead of the current proficiency model.

Here is an example using the track event of high jumping.

If you count the percentage of students who can high jump over 5 feet in your school you have used a proficiency model. In a proficiency model the bean counters don't care how many athletes already jump well over 6 feet or how many students are handicapped, injured or can't jump at all. We hold you accountable for the standard - which is 5 feet. (I would add that most states' department of education have only one "attempt" in which to try to qualify. So if a student had a bad day and slipped and fell and couldn't make 5 feet, they would be labeled as "basic or below basic," when at other times, they were jumping over 5 feet during the year.)

In a growth model you are looking at how many improved their jumping ability and how much. In this model accountability is based on individual improvement of each student as opposed to only a pre-set standard. If a student is jumping 3 feet and they improve to 4 feet they have made more normative progress than a 6 foot high jumper who is only jumping 5 foot now.

There are other side effects of NCLB but at least this would help make the model more "fair" in the minds of some.

I thought the analogy was a good one as we continue to look for ways to move all of our students toward their potential. I was in a discussion just yesterday about some of the obstacles schools face from state departments and legislatures not allowing the flexibility necessary to move beyond a proficiency model. However, the change we need is not impossible, and we must continue to work in that direction and find ways to work with the department of education to provide that flexibility.

Friday, November 09, 2007


The last couple of days, I’ve been tracking the traffic on this blog and saw nothing but zeroes. I was a bit concerned since I had emailed the staff toward the end of last week to let them know that the blog had changed and to give me some thoughts on the new format as well as possible name changes.

Had they decided not to look at it? Was I not writing anything worthwhile? I thought after mentioning it that at least a couple of people would look at it. But Nothing! Zero! Zilch! Nada!

Then I had my wife and our secretary tell me that they went on to look and I finally figured it out – in the format change, the tracking code hadn’t changed over. Apparently I had overlooked the details. In this case, it was the details of the event that had changed my perception of reality. I was thinking that no one was reading, when in reality there were probably several. Finding the details in the complex or the mundane causes us to look more closely at all parts of a situation and determine appropriate action.

Yesterday I wrote about deciding on what you want, writing it down and reading it every day – more than once preferably. This relates to details in that the more specific a goal or thought is, the better chance of accomplishing that goal. For instance, a school or district may decide that it wants to improve reading scores. A great idea, right? Not so much, only because it is not specific enough. There is not a clear picture for people to visualize success. Now if the same school were to say that students were going to improve by 10 points on a reading assessment, then people know exactly what the goal is and can generate feedback on their progress.

This holds true for individuals as well. Students may determine that they want to get an A in a class or have a 4.0 GPA. Teachers may decide they want everyone in their class to score above an 85 on the end of year exam. Individuals may decide to start an exercise or diet program and say they want to lose 20 pounds by a certain date. All these provide a concrete goal toward which to strive, provide a benchmark on which to gather data, and allow feedback on progress. So remember, success lies in the details. Have you written down what you want yet?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Restricted Access

I do realize that by the time most of you read this, it will be well after it is posted, so the purpose is to show that information can be sent out in real time and I hope that you will begin to check this often when you have questions about situations when they occur.

The current status (10:30 am on Thursday, Nov. 8) is that Guernsey-Sunrise schools are restricting access to the building. All persons must enter through either the high school office doors or central office doors.

As issues in today's world demand, schools are increasingly taking steps to make sure that administrators and school personnel know for certain who is coming and going in their buildings. G-S will be implementing a new system of electronic access this winter that may change some practices in the building.

What do you want?

In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill had a quote that I thought was applicable to finding success in any endeavor on which you embark. He wrote, "Decide what you want, write it on a card, carry the card with you , read it as often as possible every day, at least every morning when you get up and before you go to bed at night."

What does that have to do with education? I think it is the essence of both individual and organizational success in learning. First, decide what you want. That is sometimes easier said that done. It implies that we must first make a choice and commit to it. There are times when we try to focus on too many things and don't really "decide" on a plan of action.

Writing it down and reading it every day is important as well. A study, that I don't have at my fingertips at this moment, once showed that those that wrote down their goals were more successful than those that didn't. Continually reading those goals gets a person (or an organization for that matter) focusing on the desired outcome and therefore more likely to take actions that will achieve the results.

So, back to education and learning. By writing down what it is they want and reviewing it daily, students, parents, teachers, classes, schools, and districts begin the process toward achieving success.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Moving Forward

I read an article this morning in THE Journal, an on-line magazine, in which the author claims that education is nowhere close to where it needs to be in helping students achieve success and learn 21st century skills.

The author says there are two major barriers to technology providing a "catalyst for improvements in teaching and learning:" using technology in a narrow manner, and the belief that what we are currently doing technologically is wide and comprehensive. To address these obstacles, I believe we must continue to expand our use of technology, not only to learn new technology skills, but to improve the performance of our students.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Math gestures lead to success

You know how some people like to use their hands a lot when they talk? Check out this study that says that gesturing when solving or explaining math problems can actually lead to increased math performance. I guess as long as the gesture is appropriate, right?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Updates and teams

As you may have noticed, the look of the blog has changed. If you check it regularly, it may have changed several times in the last few days. I'm working with updating the site to make it more user-friendly and provide some more information, so it is technically a "work in progress."

On another note, the comment from the Ideation post was right on. That is one part of the strengths message - focusing around strengths and managing non-strengths. Thus, a team would be made up of a mix of talents, including some strong in Ideation, others with a Strategic strength to see the alternatives and efficiencies, possibly some Activators to make sure the team is taking action, and some Responsibility persons to hold the team to deadlines and action plans. By mixing strengths among the members, a team can be very strong and active.

Speaking of teams, congrats to the Viking football team for the 28-14 win over Cokeville Saturday. See Championship action this Saturday vs. Southeast at Torrington.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


"I have an idea."

Have you heard someone say that often? It could be that they have Ideation as one of their signature themes or strengths.

A person strong in Ideation is fascinated by ideas. Lots of ideas. All kinds of ideas. A thought to explain something complex or a connection between seemingly disparate concepts. Those with Ideation enjoy finding new perspectives on things and twisting and turning the familiar into new and exciting possibilities. For the Ideation person, ideas are energizing, and this person thrives on them.

One of the keys to working with a person with Ideation is to honor the ideas and provide opportunities to express them. Many times this person will think out loud, throwing out ideas right and left, seeing if one sticks. Understanding that ideas will flow from this person can help others see that the process of creating ideas is what gives this person energy. From the large number of ideas can come a truly remarkable thought that can take organizations in a whole new direction.