still doin’ that

With the school year going into full swing, so are many of the weekend September festivities:  festivals, football, and fall TV.  For educators, it is also a time for weekend conferences, workshops, and EdCamps.

Ever since becoming a superintendent, I have been faced with the same questions at least once a week.  Below is a simple Q & A for you.

“Why do you still participate in EdCamps, conferences, and  weekend workshops?” 

The simple answer is because I enjoy them.  I enjoy learning at these workshops. I enjoy learning from others and with others.  I enjoy networking.  Mostly, I enjoy seeing how other students are learning and how I can harness their triumphs for my own students and teachers.

Yes, some conferences are the same ol‘ same ol.”   I don’t go to those.

Yes, I often run into many of the same people.  So?  Chances are those people are a part of my PLN (personal learning network), and I learn more from them than from anyone else.

Are those folks that do all of these conferences or tweets in some cult or clique? Eh, some of them.  Just because we are on Twitter or the 18,000,000 other avenues of social media does not mean we all get along  – or should for that matter. Difference is good.  Everyone doing the same thing…. bad.  The movers and the shakers always find each other, not for popularity, but so they can grow together. Anyone who is too cool to say, “Hi,” to you or spends their time spewing slander? Drop ’em like French class.  (Remember that movie?)

Do you feel bad is you miss one?  LOL – no.  There have been many conferences/EdcCamps I have experienced.  Some were great; some were not.  In some cases, I served on the organizing committee.  You do your time, and you move on.  If it truly speaks to you, you stick around.  It is not mandated by any means. There are scads of conferences and EdCamps that I’ve partaken in and don’t partake in now.  It’s not a game changer if I don’t go or help out, and it never should be.  If any EdCamp or conference is built around one person, there’s a big problem.

How do you get the time?  That’s the tricky issue these days.  I have an amazing family at home, and my 18-month-old twins require much time and talent.  Not only that, but  I want to spend as much time with them as possible.  Family first, always.

What if you go alone?  ho cares?  You are going for you.  I work the same way.  I’m here to learn something.  If I don’t learn, it’s a waste of my time.

Seriously, you really enjoy this stuff THAT much?  Hell, yeah!  Education is my passion; it’s what drives me.  I am a fearless workhorse who wants nothing more than to have every available option for my students and staff, so that they can learn as well.  I want our students to be productive members of society.  Those students will be taking care of me down the road.  Why would I not want the best for them?

Until the next conference, EdCamp, or whatever the next big thing will be…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mic Dropping (again)

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Never did I ever think there would be a “part deux” to  blogging about speaking in the White House, until it happened again. Most people don’t get invited to the White House even once, let alone twice.  It’s humbling; it’s surreal.  It’s one of those experiences that you get to share with your kids and their kids.

About a month ago, I received an invitation from the Office of Science & Technology to attend both the #CSforAll forum and a PD session on what other districts from around the US and its territories are doing.  These meetings are the results of numerous initiatives from the President with the goal of getting computer science classes, programs, clubs, activities, or all of these into all schools.  If it sounds like a very broad and ambitious goal, it is.  To give every student the skills needed in order to succeed in today’s society has always been prized as a local initiative.  However, when the President of the United States sets an initiative, you want to follow through on it and use every resource you can.

The morning workshop was fantastic!  It contained leaders, teachers, government officials, and students from around the country, US territories, and Native American tribes.  I was able to hear about how uber wealthy, dirt poor, gigantic, and minuscule districts all had students writing code from grades K to 12.  I heard how a southern California high school rolled out a series of CS classes and how a school district in Florida started an hour of code and turned it into a massive community outpouring.  I was floored with how a tribe in Oklahoma has kindergarten students coding on the reservation. Meeting students where they are is an understatement.

The afternoon was a summit with national partners that highlighted how students, companies, colleges, public & private schools, and the government have come together to promote computer science for all.   From the Girl Scouts to Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, it was a fascinating afternoon.

The event was live on whitehouse.gov; you can watch the summit here:

//www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/hiZLuHfvvYI

We finished the day with a student exhibit in the Old Executive Office Building.  Besides seeing our future working on computer science projects that would take me days to figure out, we were also treated to some White House cupcakes.  Hey, cupcakes are cupcakes, but they are much cooler when the seal of the President is on them.

Three takeaways from another fantastic day in the world of education…

1. Computer Science is real, and it is easy for all ages.  Like all things new, it takes a bit of time to adjust.  CS classes are no longer “dehumanizing” (as one teacher from the forum put it) and can be injected into kindergarten classes.

2. Socioeconomic factors are finally starting to “not count” when it comes to trends in education.  The fact that Native American tribal schools are achieving success with kids from 5-15 should be a giant wake-up call to all blue-collar & white-collar school districts that say, “They can’t do that,” or “We don’t have the resources.”  Newsflash: They can, and the last time I checked, free resources don’t cost anything.

3. Regardless of who becomes President next, this project will continue to move forward.  It was adamantly clear that regardless of what happens in November, the star power and drive of so many Americans is obvious.  Computer science is a skill set for all learners and will only become more important as we move on in the future. 

 

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With Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States

A teacher doing what she does best… educating others.

There are bloggers, and there are those who speak from the heart.  Kelly Grotrian (pronounced Grow-tree-an, not Grow-train) is one of those advocates.  I had the privilege to work with Kelly for a few years teaching 8th-grade history; she’s passionate, she pushes her kids to work, and she is fearless.  Read about her struggles below, but more importantly, read about what she’s doing about it.

I’ve gone back and forth about whether I wanted to write this post and I decided that I will share what I’m comfortable sharing and hope that my story may help someone else “out there.” I am living with a variety of mental disorders for which I seek treatment and I wanted to tell “everyone” […]

via A Post Not About Teaching… But About a Teacher — Kelly Grotrian

Which guy?

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image credit: newgrounds.com
So… here we are again…another summer that flies by, another school year ready to kick off, and another few weeks of thoughts swirling in my head about what exactly to say to the hundreds of staff members who wait for my every last breathYou know the last sentence was sarcasm, right?  I used to despise listening to administrators giving speeches to begin the school year.  As a teacher, I already had so much to do, a classroom to set up, curriculum and IEP’s to look over, etc. The last thing I wanted to do was be herded in like cattle to sit and listen to some know-it-all administrator tell me how I’m going to do my job and how wonderful I am, even though he had never met me.

 

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image credit: shamelessmag.com

And now I am “that guy.”   I don’t like being “that guy.”  You know… “That guy” who cuts in front of you in the lunch line, “’that guy” who just has to have the last word, “that guy”’ who has been the gift to education since he stepped into a classroom and knows absolutely everything.

I don’t like the labels “good guy” or “bad guy” either.  My job isn’t a movie plot or a professional wrestling storyline.  However, some will correlate good guy and bad guy, because that’s what was always done.

Some people will call me a good guy, some a bad guy, or, even worse, “that guy.”  While I don’t think I fit any of these personas, I’ll tell you what I think I am. I am the guy.

  • I’m the guy who was appointed by the Board of Education to lead a school district down numerous avenues, sometimes even trailblazing.
  • I’m the guy who is charged with leading principals, supervisors, managers, teachers, and all employees in any and all school interactions, as I have oversight of, either directly or indirectly, every district employee, all school programs, and all facilities.
  • I’m the guy who signs the checks, approves the bills, and makes sure we are getting the best that money can buy.
  • I’m the guy who serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Board of Education and am responsible for the administration and supervision of the school district in accordance with Board policies and New Jersey Statutes.
  • I’m the guy who will inspire, lead, guide and direct every member of the administrative, instructional, and support services team in setting and achieving the highest standards of excellence, so that each individual student enrolled in our district may be provided with a completely valuable, meaningful and personally rewarding education.
  • I’m the guy who is an ex-officio member of the Board of Education and serves on every committee, like it or not.
  • I’m the guy who advises the Board on the need for new or revised policy and prepares drafts for Policy Committee review.
  • I’m the guy who supervises the effective implementation of all constitutional or statutory laws, state regulations, and Board policies. Some love that, and some loathe it.
  •  I’m the guy who recommends for promotion, appointment, or employment all employees of the Board and assigns, transfers and recommends for dismissal any and all employees of the Board.
  • I’m the guy who assumes ultimate administrative responsibility for the health, safety, welfare, discipline, assignment, promotion and retention of all students.
  • I’m the guy who will report to the Board of Education on the conditions and needs of the school system and effectiveness of the policies and regulations under which the system is operating.
  • I’m the guy who supervises the physical operation of the school plant and its facilities and makes appropriate recommendations.
  • I’m the guy who is responsible for the general supervision of the instructional programs as well as the one who supervises research essential to the efficient operation of the school system and the improvement of instruction.
  • I’m the guy who makes recommendations to the Board of Education for its adoption of all courses for students as well as the purchase of textbooks, instructional supplies, and equipment.
  • I’m the guy who schedules meetings and professional development for school staff as necessary for the improvement and welfare of the school district.
  • I’m the guy who makes the call for the opening or closing of school during emergency situations.
  • I’m the guy who has to enforce Board policies and implement Board goals whether I like them or not.

I could go on and on for another 8 gazillion bullets, but, hopefully, you get the point.  Bottom line: If it has to deal with school, from a broken pipe to a broken link on the website, I have something to do with it at some point.

You can love me, you can loathe me, or anything in between and outside of the scope of that, but know that this guy is here for your kids.  Kids first! Always!

I think I just finished by back-to-school address.  Here goes nothing.  If it hits home to one person, awesome.  If not, I have Dave Burgess to fall back on this year! 😉

Here’s to all having a great back-to-school year!