It’s time to spike the koolaid

Saturday was amazing.

The annual EdScape conference held at New Milford High School in New Jersey, was nothing short of perfection. Eric amassed an amazing group of people together with one goal in mind — to address a need of more meaningful, productive professional development while also focusing on technology integration.

Saturday’s conference was the A-list of connected educators and lead learners.  To see all of these educators together in one place, sharing, dissecting, identifying pros and pitfalls, and modeling how, when, and where, allowed hundreds of educators to turnkey and move forward.

But there’s a problem.  And the problem can be bigger in some districts than others. It’s  the educational koolaid that’s being drank in some schools.

Some school districts and local unions believe that any PD offered outside of school is evil.  Whether it is compensation, not under ‘proper guidelines (whatever that means), or the higher-ups not giving them the thumbs-up to partake.

The essential question: How do we alleviate this roadblock?  This was the question being tossed around all day, and this is not the first time this question came up in conferences like this.

My answer — buy-in needs to start with the top. Having your building Administrators / District Administration on board is paramount for success.

If you are a teacher or an administrator that has witnessed the power of EdScape, EdCampNJ, or any of the other ‘un-conferences’ out there; if you are that passionate teacher who is constantly out of the box with your lessons, that educator / administrator who is obsessed with classroom technology and sees the value of a classroom infused with it; SPEAK UP AND BE PERSISTENT.  I know your pain… I’ve walked in your shoes.  I was the tech-savvy educator who was a pain in the butt with administrators… but… they always helped me out, as they knew it was always about the kids.

Make a prezi, a slideshare, or a jing.  Show your materials. And nag them to death with it.  INVITE THEM TO THE NEXT UN-CONFERENCE SO THEY CAN SEE THE MAGIC IN PERSON. Leave it out; share with colleagues; post on social media. Eventually, someone will take a look, and will see such a value.

Sure, there could be policies and what not in place preventing some of what we’re doing.  BUT… if the powers that be in your district see the magic that is occurring here, I’ll be that some of those policies will go away.

The days of the regular PD koolaid and groupthink need to come to end.  Spike that koolaid; you, and eventually your students, will be glad you did.

Addiction: It’s real. Do something about it.

Last night, I was one of the millions who watched the TV show GLEE; it was the ‘farewell episode’ to one of its’ own cast members who goes by Finn.  There was something terribly sad and eerie about it though.  Not only did Finn die in the show, Cory Monteith (who plays Finn) died at the age of 32 over the summer.  This wasn’t acting on the show last night, it was real. All real.  And I will be the first to admit I was in tears from start to finish. Image Cory was found dead of a heroin and alcohol overdose. Followers of the show knew that Cory had suffered though addiction for most of his 32 year life. Knowing that someone suffering and struggling with addiction makes it even worse.   They never mentioned why he died in the show, but it didn’t matter at all.  What mattered was a classy, thoughtful presentation on honoring a life, and acknowledging an illness. Now why am I writing about this on an education website?  Today, I sat with my staff and started to re-write ALL of our curricula.  EVERYTHING.  Yes, a daunting, tedious task, but something we as a school need to do.  I couldn’t help after watching last night to focus on our Health & Science curricula and see how much on the topic of drug & alcohol addiction is not covered. Addiction is serious business. Chances are you know someone who is an addict and they are right in front of you.  Some are masters of deception; others crumble in front of you.  They are young, old, fat, skinny, guys, girls, janitors, and principals.  Some will be able to rise reborn like the phoenix; others end up in the grave.  

Students need to be aware of this, and students need to see how something that people use to have some fun or cope can turn into ruining or ending your life. Unfortunately, Cory’s rehab didn’t help him.  That’s not the case for all. Rehab can help (never cure) the problem; it takes hard work and dedication to stick to it. I know all about it; I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  I don’t wish any student to experience it, but for students to learn about it, and know different avenues of getting people help… this can help others who succumb to the dark cloud of addiction. Education is power. Having one more student be aware of addiction and knowing its’ consequences makes our world that much better.  I strongly encourage other Superintendents and Administrators to view their current curriculum and ensure that addiction is covered. Thanks again, Cory.  We celebrated your life and your contributions last night, and we hoped you are looking down smiling at those here that still have some work left to do.

I got 99 problems, but learning ain’t 1

Credit: Mr. Carter, of course 🙂

Being the smart, educated man Jay-Z is, I don’t think he’ll mind me utilizing an instrumental version of one of my favorite songs from his repertoire, ’99 Problems’.  If you do, hit me up.

I was reflecting this week on how fortunate I am to see such great progress in a school district that was basically technology-less curriculum-less, and sort of stopped in time for a bit.  Sure, that could be argued as nostalgic, old-school charm.  But in an age where how we learn, when we learn, and what we learn, things need to change.

Teachers hate change.  Administrators hate change. Board of Education Members hate change. And yes, the pubic often hates change.

But who loves change?

Students.

And why are we all here?

Students.

I’ve had an incredible experience so far with my transition to my Superintendency.  I’ve inherited a lot.  Yes, I knew that coming in.  Any person as the outsider has that additional hoop of transition to knowing the culture and politics of that new school.

At point, one person said to be, “Jay, you got 99 problems!  Start singing that beer song, cuz you’ll need it.”  I laughed;  I looked at everything on my pile, and thought about the big picture – what if there is no learning is taking place either?

September came, and I knew on the very first day of school, my concern was put to rest.  Learning was happening everywhere, all day.  I couldn’t have smiled any bigger.  All of the ‘other problems’ went by the wayside.

Sure a Superintendent embraces all kinds of problems, on all different levels, ranging from teeny to tremendous.  But at the end of the day, I don’t count my problems.  I don’t look back at everything I didn’t achieve in one day.  I reflect on what I did for our students. I reflect on how I helped my Staff.  And I ALWAYS blast my music riding home, often the song above, thinking how I may have 99 problems, but everyone learning a new thing or two a day isn’t one of them.

Onward.