Preparing your school for Hurricane Sandy

The northeast may very well experience another repeat of last year; have a freak storm around Halloween. While throwing kids into non-trick-or-treating mode is not favored (almost a crisis in of itself) , the community needs to prepare for the safety of its’ residents. Often, schools are staging areas, meal centers or even shelters.

A school leader needs to think ahead and prepare for your building to possibly make a safe, efficient transition so that it will be beneficial to those who need it. Before you begin, I advise you to bookmark the following websites on your phone and follow the following on Twitter: — emergency prepardness

hurricane Sandy updates – national hurricane center

Emergency Prepardness guide from FEMA/ NJ State Police

NJ OEM — real time updates from NJSP and OEM

Follow on Twitter: @RedCross , @twc_hurricane , @fema , @njoem2010 , @njsp (search and see if your town / county has a twitter, as well)

Next, gather your crisis team, brief the team on the potential emergency (in this case, Hurricane Sandy), and how this will effect your community and your building. Remind members of the team to review building plans, review their emergency books, and ensure that each room is prepared with flashlights and their jump-kits / emergency supplies.

If your cafeteria manager isn’t on your crisis team, seek her/him out and ensure that your emergency water and food are accessible.

You should also reach out to the police officer who is your school liaison so you can see what may become of your school in this emergency. For example, your police / OEM liaison may know that the gym will have cots or food staged in it; in that case you may want your gym teachers to take down nets or put away materials.

School staff should be unplugging everything in their classrooms and locking up any items that are of value; no disrespect to your community members, but things have a tendency to walk when lots of outsiders come into a building.

Lastly, before leaving school, put all of the materials you or the emergency personnel may need in the main office or another central location. Your police department will have a key to access it.

Hopefully, none of this will go into play, but if it does, you’re ready to go.

Shift That Monkey!!


Oh boy – where do I begin?  How about with something safe… like everyone knows someone who can be tough to work with from time to time, or all of the time.  It could be a negative teacher, lazy custodian, or even a know-it-all-secretary.  I can think of at least one for each category, but that’s irrelevant   What is relevant: people who are negative can have a severe impact on the workplace.  

There are scads and scads of websites, books, and media that tries to address the issue.  Before you divulge in all of that, I recommend you first read Shifting the Monkey by Todd Whitaker. Whitaker has written several books in the education field, but this is more tailored to difficult people in the workplace.  In his book, Whitaker identifies the various kinds of  ‘monkeys’ in a workplace and offers numerous solutions on how to address them. 

I don’t want to break copyright  – so get the book, or head over to the library and check it out.

If you read or heard Whitaker before – – this is different.  I’ll be the first to admit that when I saw him many years ago as a teacher I wasn’t buying a word he said.  As an Administrator, I had the chance to attend his workshops at the NASSP conference in Tampa.  What a game-changer.  Honestly, because I now have a new role my thinking has changed quite a bit.  I was in a “us vs. them’ mentality as a teacher much of the time – now I’m in a collaborative mindset and all of this makes a whole lot of sense. 

You can buy the book here:

You can follow Todd Whitaker on Twitter: @ToddWhitaker

and yes… he will tweet you back!

Why current and aspiring Administrators need #SATCHAT


Each and every Saturday morning, a unique, energenic, and productive forum trends on Twitter under the hashtag (“#) #satchat.  SatChat is a grouping of educational leaders ranging from NJ to Australia that tweet about educational leadership topics.  Geared for the US, the east coast version starts at 7:30 AM and another session starts at 7:30 PST (I’ll admit – I normally hop on the west coast chat since I enjoy my beauty sleep).  SatChat is the brainchild of Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco) & Brad Currie (@bcurrie5) – two administrators in New Jersey.

SatChat is like going to a conference or workshop every Saturday.  I get to meet people from all over the world, exchange ideas, get links, bounce thoughts around, and gather a wealth of resources that I can use as an Administrator.  The responses, links, and thoughts fly quick – but that’s OK – the beauty of Twitter is that you can go at your own pace.  Every SatChat that I partake in, I leave with a new fresh breath in me, wanting to go to school and make a change for the better.


For those that are weary of jumping into social media and education together, I encourage you to go on twitter, create an account, and just look up #satchat. I’ll be willing to be your ideas on social media and schools may change a bit.  


While you’re at it, follow Scott Rocco, Brad Currie, and PrincipalEit 😉

Digital Literacy – 8 lessons that are needed for students & teachers

Digital Literacy has exploded over the past year, especially with the recent Common Core integration. Students (and some Staff) need to learn how to become proactive digital citizens. From understanding safe behavior online, to learning how to find reliable sources, to even seeing how online activity leaves a lasting identity trail–these topics below should be taught by all teachers and shared by all administrators:

1. Understanding a Digital Foot Print – students need to know about their activities and actions online. Wherever you click, wherever you comment, whatever you do – – it’s leaving a digital foot print for all to see. Google yourself right now and see what comes up; chances are, you’ll find a thing or two (and perhaps someone else that has the same name – – and to Jay Eitner out in Utah, I’m sorry! ) about yourself. Teachers need to stress the importance of their student’s actions online; from Facebook to Formspring, it’s there forever. A great lesson to use with students would be Common Sense’s “Trillion Dollar Footprint”:

2. Online Privacy – We’re all guilty of clicking on the ‘terms of use’ (privacy policy) check-box before exploring a website or opening up a new app. Students need to be aware of what those terms are, what data they are collecting, and what they are using that data for. Vocabulary terms that should be reviewed include ‘cookies’, ‘third-party’ company, and ‘privacy policies’. Cyber Smart Curriculum offers a great lesson plan on this:

3. Understanding “Fair Use” – with a plethora of media websites where you can upload videos, music, poetry, and everything else, the opportunity to acquire others’ work is simple. Such acquiring happens so much that most students think that people can take whatever they want online and just use that material whenever they wish. The concept of ‘Fair Use’ needs to be explored by students and shown that one can’t just take whatever, whenever, change it up a bit, and now call it their own. A great website with tons of lesson plans and handouts (and yes, they are OK to use):

4. Chatting Online – Most students have grown up with a computer in their home, and often chatting with people online. While students are pretty keen with not giving away personal information, students can have difficulties in determining what is Inappropriate, risky, what an online predator is, and what to do if someone is asking that they should keep their communication online a secret – AKA ‘online grooming’. A classic lesson that works well is the Internet Traffic Light. You can find the lesson plan here:

5. Online Behavior & Online Personalities – students often try to act much older online, and when they do, they often go onto websites or chat-rooms that are geared for adults. Students need to know the consequences of lying or trying to be someone else online. Lying or pretending to be someone else online can lead to engaging in inappropriate conversations, cyber-bullying or even worse. A great lesson plan starter with handouts:

6. Cyber-bullying: Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying has sadly taken national spotlight. Bullying awareness is a cornerstone is every classroom today. Gone are the days of just getting bullied for milk money at the flagpole; the internet has opened up an entire floodgate of new ways to bully. Students need to be aware of the different types of cyber-bullying, and if they are being / know someone who is being bullied, what they can do / where they can go for assistance. With so many resources on this out there today, I suggest this lesson plan:

7. Determining websites that are credible – Billions of websites are online, and new one appears every time you blink.  Students (and often times adults) are faced with the challenge of what website is factual and what is for entertainment.  A website needs to be evaluated, trustworthy, and unbiased.  ALL internet users need to learn how to navigate to safe, trustworthy, factual websites.  A great lesson plan for helping students (and adults) with this:

8. Improving research skills by utilizing effective keywords: students can effectively research topics by using appropriate vocabulary. Using search engines with limited, yet specific wording will enhance your time to find appropriate information.  A great website to help you get started with a lesson plan:


A good start for those looking to get in the game…

Reading By Example

Before You Start Blogging…

  • Read other administrators’ posts. Go to for a comprehensive list of recommended blogs. Emulate their style and structure when developing your own voice.
  • Determine your purpose for blogging. Do you want to communicate with families? Reflect on your own practices? Connect with colleagues? All of the above?
  • Think about what you want to say and/or jot down your ideas on paper first. Doing this prior to writing a post helps organize your thinking.
  • Connect with educators on Twitter to build your professional learning network. You will want feedback on your posts. This social media tool is a great way to share your writing with others.
  • Write, type, then blog. At least initially, write your post on a word processor and copy/paste your writing into your blog.
  • Choose your tool. Determine which blog service you want to use. I prefer WordPress. Google Blogger is also popular.

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This is awesome!!

Kyle B. Pace

As my district makes the push forward with Google Apps for Education this school year, the instructional technology support that our team offers to teachers is critical to its success. We start with professional development and continual support for district level leadership, then building level leadership, then to teachers, which we hope all trickles down to increased use with and by students. Gmail and Google Docs are our students two primary tools for communication, collaboration, and productivity; so increasing comfort level among all staff is crucial. Since our elementary students are 100% Google Docs for productivity, we knew it was imperative to reach all 19 of our elementary schools first. This began with professional development for our elementary principals and assistant principals back in the summer before teachers reported back to work.  We started with the basics of Google Docs. After principals had a strong understanding and new comfort level…

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Meaningful , Choice-driven PD – there’s no excuse for it in 2012

ImageWe are seeing the traditional day off for Columbus Day off from schools more and more being turned into Staff / Professional Development days throughout the country. Some districts even close additional days so they can offer a consortium-like environment where teachers can maximize their learning time and take away something they can really use. Gone are (hopefully) the days of just sitting around to work on odds-n-ends (though downtime or maintenance is necessary, it’s not worth a whole day), or forced PD by means of a speaker or the latest cool-aid.

Professional Development should be meaningful and driven by choice.

I have witnessed Districts where they put forth this beautiful Staff Development catalog, full of courses and opportunities, only to be told that it was for show and that you were really told on where you’re going and what you’re doing. Ridiculous!

And, naturally, I have been subjected to PD to was a complete waste of time. Whether it was lack of roll-out or presentation, something that was completely unrelated to my field, or something I was aware of way before the powers-that-be decided to offer to everyone. Teachers should be angry about that express their concerns to their administrator on what they want to do. If anything, it’s a waste of a day and taxpayer dollars.

I recently collaborated with administrators and helped developed a full, REAL choice system for PD. Through the use of the google forms app, along with other websites like, we created two days worth of workshops that were brought in as a result of choice and teacher feedback. On top of that, we extended the offer to teachers to teach some workshops, ranging form SMARTboard tricks to Yoga and classroom meditation. In all, over 45 classes / workshops were offered in two days.

The nicest part? Teachers had the opportunity to choose what they wanted to go to, and each were responsible for following their own schedule (which included “down time” where they could go back to their building and work on things and real lunch hour 🙂 No administrators were playing ‘gotcha’ with teachers trying to account for them (many administrators offered to teach classes themselves). The result of this new-found freedom? Teachers wanting to go to PD, and productive work getting accomplished. Yes, there were some mandatory training pieces for some of the support staff (i.e. OSHA, blood-borne pathogens, EPI-pen training, software updates, etc), but it was brief and taken care of quickly.

I’d be happy to share with anyone specifics on how the days went; if you want them, simply email me.

I’ll type it again — in 2012, with the abundance of technology, and level of collaboration that is now required in schools, there is simply no excuse for Districts to have meaningful, choice-driven PD. I encourage administrators and teachers to step up if you’re not getting subjected to this and make it happen; your District’s Staff will be happy that you did.

5 tips for a successful Parent-Teacher Conference


Parent-Teacher conferences are just around the corner. That being said, it’s never too early to help begin to prepare for what is most likely your first parental encounter of the school year (besides Back-To-School night). Every school is different in terms of the conference format, but every parent is the same in that parents talk about their child and their child’s nature, which is excellent for you to hear. Some tips from my view (as a teacher and an administrator):

1. Clear the air. You’ve hopefully had sufficient time with your students at this point and know if there are any academic or behavioral problems that need to be addressed. However, starting with an “emotional charge” will certainly lead you to a defensive parent, which will lead to a defensive-driven, unproductive conference. Bring the issues at hand after an introduction and some simple questions that would transcend into the issue (if there even is one).

2. Set an intention that it will be a positive experience. There is no need to dread conferences. They should be simple conversations that address needs. Dwelling on them will certainly come out in a conference, making it an experience to forget, which nobody wants. What’s that phrase… “don’t worry, be happy”? 🙂

3. Write your goals of the conference and interactions down so you can refer to it during the year. I found it extremely helpful to have a log / journal / notebook of parent conferences and to reflect on what was discussed so you can reflect on it during the year.

4. Be clear, concise, and to the point. Face it – you have a lot of conferences, and a lot of work to do. Many parents also have a lot to do. Don’t drag out a conference just to say you had one. Say what you need to say, and move on.

5.Don’t talk down to a parent. This is possibly the worst thing a teacher can do in a conference. I’ve seen teachers belittle parents in conferences; it’s embarrassing to the school, and to yourself. Remember – you’re the professional, and acting like one isn’t a recommendation, it’s a requirement. There is always a way to get your point across in a positive way.