Monday, October 31, 2011


That's a statement, a call to action, not just an abstract thought.

We need more encouragers, according to Jon Gordon, and I couldn't agree more. How many times have you heard someone say to be more realistic or something along those lines? How many times have you said that? For many of our students, that is all they hear, whether from home, peers, or teachers. Today, make it a goal to encourage someone. If we would all do that, the world would certainly be a better place. Nobody thought the Wright brothers could fly or Edison could make a light bulb. However, they kept trying and eventually discovered they could reach their goal. This is what we need to instill in our students by encouraging them to reach for the stars and keep trying. It might make all the difference in the world for our students and the world.

The world doesn't need more negativity and impossible thinkers.
The world needs more optimists, encouragers, and inspirers.
- Jon Gordon

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's in the Cards

As I watched the end of Game 7 of the 2011 World Series last night, I thought perseverance would be a good theme to post on today. The St. Louis Cardinals overcame some perilous situations - both in the regular seasons and Game 6 of the Series - to pull off the championship. While I can't say I'm a Cards' fan, particularly since they beat the Brewers, I can say I am a fan of those teams that seem to find a way to make things happen.

This same attitude of perseverance can certainly pertain to everything we do, from educating our children to our own personal and professional lives. It is certainly understandable that many of us face circumstances and situations that try us and look to be difficult at best or almost impossible at worst. It is at these times that we remember that perseverance can take us a long way. There will be obstacles on our way to success, but it is those who are able to continue hammering away at the obstacle or diligently finding a way over or around it that seem to find success time and again.

There is an adage that what we focus on, we realize. If we can persevere through the difficulties and focus on staying the course, success will come. It's not always easy to see, but perseverance can see us through to the end.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ben's early maxims

Reading Ben Franklin's biography, I am amazed by the variety of things he did during his lifetime. From a writer/printer to a scientist and diplomat, he was well known for his practical and straightforward principles. In his younger days, he offered four maxims that everyone would do well to follow:
1. Be frugal,
2. Be truthful,
3. Work hard, and
4. Speak ill of no man.

It is interesting, however, that Franklin wrote many articles under various psuedonyms, which allowed him to stretch #4 above somewhat. A lot of good could certainly come from following these principles in everything we do, including business, personal life, and education. Ben's biography is certainly interesting and I look forward to learning other valuable lessons.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ronald Reagan

I wasn't sure how to title this post, but since it had to do a little with Ronald Reagan, I would title it as such. For some reason, I recall a debate in a high school class about the upcoming presidential election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. If I remember correctly, though somewhat hazily, most of the girls supported the incumbent Jimmy Carter and the boys the challenger, Reagan. I remember following that election and Reagan's subsequent terms as president as I grew through high school and college.

This memory came back to me while reading an article in the May 2008 edition of The School Administrator. Joseph Cirasuolo wrote about connecting and introduced his piece with the story of how Reagan managed to get many bills passed even though he faced a divided Congress his first two years and both houses controlled by Democrats the next two years. Cirasuolo's claim is that Reagan's ability to communicate directly to the American people, who then pushed their representatives to support those initiatives, was key to his success.

Cirasuolo goes on to outline the connections that Reagan built and the connections educators need to build to combat the array of critics taking aim at public education. While this is true, I think many of those connections are already built. Each district and school has built connections with the community in which they reside, with the community and business leaders, and the parents. What is truly needed is the direct communication that Reagan used so skillfully. As educators, we must continually communicate the positive things that schools and districts are doing for our students. Without that critical piece, the naysayers and critics will continue to overwhelm the populace with their negativity.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Deciding on Action

I came across a story as I was reading The Noticer (p. 111) and thought I would reprint it and comment.

"Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How many seagulls are left (on the dock)?"

"Well . . . four." (was the reply)

"No. There are still five. Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things."

For some reason, that struck me as funny as well as quite to the point. Intentions are fine and good, but without action, they are of little consequence. One of the reasons for the 19-day challenge was to make a point of taking action, even if there are times when I can't decide on a course of action (or a topic to write on) or don't particularly feel like writing. By getting into the habit of committing to a course of action, the things that inhibit our opportunities due to inaction are lessened.

Volleyball to State

Congratulations to the Guernsey-Sunrise volleyball team making it to state. They go in as a number 2 seed and play Cokeville at 6:00 pm Thursday. Go get 'em Vikes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Student voice

Having come back from the NNER conference, I am more convinced that student voice is a powerful condition for learning. Over the course of the last couple of days, I got to see two groups of students from Bulkeley High School in Hartford give presentations on various aspects of their curriculum and capstone projects. The Teacher Prep program is an excellent avenue for students to gain valuable skills in any college or career they choose. One part of the program consists of mini courses that students can take that enhance their public speaking and presentation skills. The kids that presented were very confident and interacted with adults with ease, not only in their presentations, but in question and answer sessions afterwards. By teaching students how to use their voice, and giving them opportunities to do so and improve their craft, we give students a great head start on their post-high school careers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Excuse Me

Excuse me.

As I think about these two words, different meanings come to mind. "Excuse me," as in I'm sorry, I almost ran into you or I did bump into you accidently. Or is it "Excuse me," I'm about to run you over if you don't get out of my way? Not quite the same and of course it depends on the tone of voice used to say it, either politely or impatiently might give it different meanings to the receiver. There is also "Excuse me?" with the inflections that determine the message here. Maybe I didn't hear you and asked that or maybe I did hear you and disagree with you and am expressing it with that phrase.

However, for some reason, the thought that came to mind (and I've been reading, so beware) was not a way this particular phrase is generally used or is even grammatically correct. I see another use as one of "Excuse me (I'm making one)." Granted, the parenthesis certainly give it a different meaning that may not be quite right, but it's one that made me think about a chapter I just read in the book A Traveler's Guide, by Andy Andrews. In chapter 1, Andrews writes about taking responsibility and the phrase, "The buck stops here." There is no place for excuses when we take responsibility for our situation. We are here now and if things are to improve or change, we have to be responsible for the actions that make that happen.

So, excuse me if this doesn't make sense. On second thought, No Excuse; me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reflection and self-honesty

From A New Day: 365 Meditations for Personal and Spiritual Growth: “Rigorous self-honesty is essential to recovery and spiritual growth” (p. 288). I would say something similar is true for districts attempting to grow. Rigorous self-honesty is essential for growing, whether from fair to good, good to great, or great to excellent. Without such straightforward reflection, we can get caught up in rationalizing actions instead of digging deeper for the true motives for the actions.

This has to be a continuous process (going back to doing the little things consistently) if we are to improve.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19 - barely

I finally made it to my hotel in Manchester, CT at 11:40 ET. While the day was quite long - the 2:00 flight from Philadelphia to Hartford was cancelled, as was the next one and the one after. And when I went to get a car to make the 3.5 hour drive, there were none available. That meant either flying to Boston and driving for a couple hours or waiting until morning with the airport hotel booked solid. Weather can do that to you.

However, it was a good day! No, it was a great day!

I got the chance to get some work done and read a book by Andy Andrews called The Noticer. While there were many insights in the book, the one that came early and made me think about education, was the call to read books about great persons. One of the main characters in the book is an old man named Jones. He states the importance of reading when he says, "Other people's experience is the best teacher. By reading about the lives of great people, you can unlock the secrets to what made them great" (p. 9).

It reminded me of why it is so important we as a society - educators, parents, and community - do all we can to help our children read better. Studies have shown the importance of reading to young children as well as the benefits to having a larger vocabulary and this book reinforced for me why I must continue to read all I can. Particularly on the lives of great men and women. I'm going tomorrow to pick up a book (after I go pick up my luggage :) - who will you read about?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Defining Success

I read somewhere that reading outside of your areas of expertise or knowledge can help you become better at what you do. One of the reasons, if I remember correctly, is that seeing things from a different perspective can help us solve problems more quickly and possibly find better ways to do things in our work.

That being said, I found an article in Entrepreneur magazine that was about answering three questions before writing a business plan. While this activity doesn't seem to pertain to schools and education, I was intrigued by the first question, "What does success look like?" This most definitely pertains to education, as researchers, legislators, and educators argue about the answer to this question.

The author of the article claims this is "by far the most important question that almost nobody asks." I think it is the same in the educational field. Just as most of us would measure success in business by profits and business growth, so too do too many feel success in education is measured by standardized student achievement tests. And, just like business success is different for different entrepreneurs - flexibility in time to attend family activities or time to volunteer for example - school success may be different for each student, school, and community. Without the knowledge of what success is, what it looks like, and how it is determined to be achieved, the actions taken by districts, schools, administrators, and teachers may not be leading toward a common definition of success.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Digital Legacy

Last week in Guernsey, Kevin Honeycutt spoke to the students about having a digital legacy. The importance of remembering that everything we do with technology is destined to become part of our legacy cannot be understated. The anonymity of the internet tends to cover up the fact that once something is published on the web or sent as a text, etc., it can be accessed forever. Hopefully, our students realize this and think before they type/text/respond electronically.

On a related note, I found this short video (4:24) interesting. I guess I hadn’t really thought of the amount of information that is out there about each of us. This site also has information on digital citizenship and "your digital presence."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tech & kids

If you didn't think technology was a powerful tool for kids' learning, spend some time with a child with an iPad in his or her hands. My 7-year old nephew got his hands on my iPad yesterday and today and we spent time talking about constellations, music, and math. Of course, I don't have empirical evidence that he learned any of it, but he was engaged and excited. I know in the hands of a skilled teacher, technology is a great tool.

When graphing calculators first came out, there were those who didn't think students should be using them to graph equations, etc. It certainly saved me time as a math teacher to take a couple of days at the beginning of the year to explain and practice using the calculators, then use them to graph sometimes complex equations that would take much more time by hand. It only made sense to do that and get to the deeper concepts and understanding than to spend time on graphing by hand. It is the same with technology today. Engaging kids and getting them excited about learning through technology can only help improve learning overall. Because, in the end, its about the learning, and however we can get that to happen, we should.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Commit to Consistency

In part 3 of this I don't know how many parts post on consistency, I address a comment I received on yesterday's post. While consistency is a good thing, the fact that we could be doing something consistently wrong would not be taking us in the direction of our goals, unless our goal was to fail or not do the right thing.

It reminds me of my coaching days. We tried to get our players to be consistent in their fundamentals to be successful. Often, players who had grown up shooting a basketball a certain way or throwing with a certain motion would have a difficult time breaking the habits that had become ingrained in their actions. Many times, these players struggled to be consistently good, showing flashes of success, but unable to maintain that throughout a game or season.

We, too may find ourselves heading in the wrong direction, if we're not paying carful attention to what we're doing. The commitment to taking consistent action doesn't help much if we're not willing to always reflect and evaluate on where the action is taking us. It's a little like driving the car, flying a plane, or riding a bike. Rarely is the vehicle going in a perfectly straight line, but continuous micro adjustments get us to the intended destination. It's very similar in our daily lives, professionally and personally. If we are to arrive at our intended goal/destination, we must continually see where an action leads and make adjustments if it is not in the direction we are traveling.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Staying Consistent

Having posted on a consistency challenge yesterday, traveling most of today to spend time with family, and not having the skill or knowledge to post from my phone, I find myself up later than usual producing a post and catching up on work and email. I read a couple of items today that bear repeating and continues the conversation from yesterday. Not only did I challenge myself to be more consistent with yesterday's post, but I also sent an email to teachers about the benefits of consistency. One of the responses that came back to me was that consistency also had to begin with leadership.

I couldn't agree more.

If leaders aren't consistent, how can they expect their constituents to be? We tend to see that in our political leaders quite often - crafting speeches and responses that cater to the group to which they are talking - but it can certainly occur in leaders at all levels. One suggestion for leaders would be to ask the people you work with about your own consistency. Honest self-reflection can also help a person determine the level of consistent action he or she is taking. The following quote from Dave Kekich says it all: "Achievement comes from the sum of consistent small efforts, repeated daily.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

19 days

This is actually a shortened version of the 30-day trial I wrote about several years ago. Of course, one might think the reason to do "only" 19 days is I don't think I can make 30 days, but that is not the case. The reason I picked 19 days is . . . there are 19 days left in the month of October and I plan to start my next 30-day trial on November 1. Call me weird - as many people do - and yes, I realize some months have 31 days, but I've decided that is the best way I can think to make sure I'm focused for that amount of time. So maybe this is actually a one-month challenge, after this one of course.
So my goal for the rest of October is to write something every day. There are several reasons for this. First, I need to get into the practice of committing to doing something every day or my dissertation will never get done. Setting aside a certain amount of time each day to read and write will help me toward that end. And I know the question begs itself, "Why don't you just do the dissertation for the next 19 days? Wouldn't that make more sense?" Of course it would. Maybe that's why. Or maybe I'll do both, but the shorter challenge is something I don't or haven't done much recently. Of course, that is true of the dissertation.
Anyway, another reason for this is the fact that consistency has come up various readings the past week or two and I can't deny the synchronicity any longer. From Scott Ginsberg, who has consistently worn a name badge every day for the past 10 years, or something like that: "Consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness." From Harry Wong, who spoke at the Wyoming School Improvement Conference of consistently applying effective processes and processes (to) lead to the continual improvement that is necessary for growth." And Craig Ballantyne, editor of Early to Rise, wrote "as you gather momentum with simple efforts performed on a consistent basis, it will get easier and more rewarding as you see progress being made."
Let's get started and see where we go.