Blockbuster, Redbox, Netflix, & __________

The AASA Digital Consortium met in the last week of July in Roseland, Illinois (right outside of Chicago). The group consists of superintendents from around the country who are looking to continue to expand on services provided for our students while seeing true innovation and leadership by example. We were in Chicago last year and had our socks knocked off; this year did the same.IMG_0248We jumped right in and began to review the ISTE standards for administrators from 2009.  While we were all impressed that the standards did apply to today’s times, I had a fascinating conversation with Dr. Nick Polyak, superintendent from nearby Leyden, IL. Nick and I were talking about the above slide and how, while some things change, there will always be folks looking back to the past and wanting to use what was comfortable to them before. Nick used the great analogy of how we had once had thisdownload-1 and then this download-2

and now many do this,download-3 and in the future we’ll be doing something I can’t list because it’s not in existence yet.

Now, Blockbuster isn’t entirely dead.  There are still stores in Alaska (a great story done by CBS Sunday Morning if you haven’t seen it) and there’s a great video from The Onion as well.

But…

The moral of the story is that we in education need to adapt, just as the rest of the world has. Education is one of the few (if not only) professions where the times have changed, but we are still implementing a system that was designed by a group of rich white guys from the 19th century, placed in facilities that are largely from the 20th century, and occupied with students who are in the 21st century.

Besides this brain-exploding moment I had, other highlights of this gathering included

  • Learning about all of the wonderful happenings in CCSD59 and how the focus in on employees, learners (who attend a year-round program in this school), and shifting from the traditional education system to learner-active classrooms (Pics below are from the year-round school’s media center / makerspace).
  • Exploring how Rolling Meadows High School offers its students design challenges The chair below was made with $20.00 worth of supplies and had to hold up to 40 lbs and how their physical education program will change the rest of the country. I firmly believe this.  Not only did they build an indoor track and gym under their main gym, but they are using technology to track everything from student recovery time to how students are using velocity to lift weights!
  • Speaking with recently graduated seniors from Wheeling High School‘s NANOTECHNOLOGY LAB to see how their studies have changed their lives.  Not kidding! This lab has millions of dollars worth of scientific equipment in it.
  • Examining future possibilities from the CoSN’s learning matrix.

In all, this was a superb gathering that showed everyone in attendance how education continues to evolve for the communities and learners we serve. I can’t wait to see what Seattle brings us in October!

Onward!

 

Complacency Kills

I just finished reading one of the best books ever. The Operator by Robert O’Neill is the story of the Navy SEAL who dedicated a good chunk of his life fighting for American freedoms. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, it should; he’s the SEAL who fired three rounds into Osama Bin Laden.

The boy from Butte, Montana, gave his all for all of us for over 16 years. He didn’t stay 20 years (20 years gives a pension and benefits); he left after 16. He left for a myriad of reasons, but the biggest factor was how he was becoming complacent when he was going on missions. He shared about one specific mission where he was so lax that he was smoking cigars a few minutes before a planned ambush of terrorists. After the ambush, he was hanging out with guys who were tossing around damaged RPG heads as if they were nerf balls. O’Neill said flat out that if he kept up his complacent ways, it would literally kill him, which had me thinking.

What about those in education who become complacent? The teacher who is waiting until 25 years? The principal who won’t do anything that would “rock the boat”? The superintendent who is just trying to keep everyone happy? All of these complacent actions are killing the creativity of both staff and students and dashing the hopes of some, keeping them from being the best they can really be.

We’ve all seen these so-called educators in our schools. We’ve either subjected to them as a student, worked with them as coworkers, or even supervised them. If you think that none of them are where you work, you’re being foolish. They are everywhere. Some are placed in positions that have the least student contact, some have positions created for them (or a position is created to keep them occupied and out of everyone’s hair), some become lapdogs for administrators, and some even brainwash an entire community into thinking that they are so important that whatever they do is equally important. What these people project versus what these people do is just flat out sad. Their complacent attitudes end up just wasting space and tax-payer dollars.

I once worked with one who was the master of complacency. The stars aligned–a volunteer on multiple district committees to feel and look important, overseeing a program that was created because the individual was awful on other positions (tenured, of course), and didn’t even have a schedule. The teacher literally did whatever, whenever and was the laughing stock of the district by both teachers and administrators. Don’t be fooled, though.  The person was seen as a savior in the community, because when you have nothing else to do but brainwash, why wouldn’t you? I couldn’t tell you how many times, when something was needed or the name was brought up, it was followed by either laughter or, “That person does nothing! How do I get that job?” All I could ask myself is how could the complacency of a do-nothing person be tolerated by peers and supervisors alike?

To an extent, I don’t blame the person. I really blame the immediate administrator who coddled for so long and the central administrator who continuously looked the other way when this person was championing everything BUT educating students. It was petty and pathetic.

In no way am I trying to compare the valor and bravery of SEAL O’Neill to what we do in schools. However, his point about getting out before becoming ineffective or complacent really hit home.  As school leaders (from superintendents to supervisors to aides), we need to step up when we see others becoming complacent. The complacency is killing creativity and positivity, deterring others from being the best they can be, and promoting a culture of letting kids only partially succeed because it’s not what the complacent person wants to do or isn’t aligned with a fundraiser or field trip.

Twenty Years Ago

I still can't believe that I graduated Union High School 20 years ago this year. 1997 was a fun year–a senior in high school, not a care in the world. Then again, it was a different world.

My superintendent, Dr. Jakubowski (with whom I still speak), made two prominent points at our graduation.

1. Don't get into a stranger's car.

2. Don't use the internet.

Today, I use the internet to get into a stranger's car.

Twenty years ago, I had to call Domino's Pizza and order a large pie and have cash on hand.

Today, I can tweet, use my watch, tell Alexa to order me one, text an emoji, and, yes, still call. Cash is discouraged.

Twenty years ago, I needed a travel agent to get to college and have a paper course guide in hand while being prepared to stand in line for hours to pick classes.

Today, it's all done in a matter of clicks.

Twenty years ago, most of my classes were heralded by teachers going right out of a textbook, with desks in rows and giving out so many worksheets that I probably had a tree's worth.

Today, in many classrooms, that practice still continues. Why hasn't that changed?

Many reasons. Some teachers don't know any better, some administrators refuse to budge on allowing other pedagogues besides the ones that worked for them, and some boards show defiance as well as their lack of knowledge and insight. Often, it's a combination of all three groups interchanging all three characteristics.

This is just downright sad. There are establishments and cultures in place where mediocrity is encouraged and heaven forbid someone goes rogue and tries meeting learners where they are today. There are school districts in place (from the BOE down to the staff) where the same ol' same ol' is practiced, hence producing he same ol' same ol' student. Towns and people who accept this are going to get what they've always had, but we now have students who are ready to change the world in 2017 instead of 1997. Is this fair for the future students who will eventually be taking care of us?

An education union representative once told me that "education has changed more in the past 6 years than the past 60." If everyone is cognizant of it, why fight the inevitable?

We all get it; change sucks. People love to say "change" but don't want to change, especially if it affects them. However, in today's times where today's students have had internet access and have been exposed to social media & apps for their entire scholarly lives, how can those in the educational field continually maintain past practice damn well knowing it's going to hurt our future?

Twenty years ago, I didn't know my career path, let alone knew that the path I chose has a broken system that is still frequently embraced. Today, I'm well aware of it and refuse to stop advocating for those who don't know any better.

I'm here for our future. Are you?

Onward.

Take It All!

This past Saturday, I had a garage sale. And, like every garage sale you’ve seen, I had junk. Lots of it. Add to the mix that I have twins, so two of every toy, clothes, and every baby gadget known to man. After weeks of gathering it all together, I placed it all in the driveway and went in with the mentality of “take it all”. As long as you take it and give me my two garages & shed back, I’ll make any deal that you want. After placing all of the stuff out, I could not believe all of the stuff I acquired over the past couple of years; most of it I did not even remember I even had.

I didn’t price anything. I didn’t set high expectations of making tons of cash either. I had one goal and one goal only: expunge. Whatever wasn’t was going to get donated; the cash I made goes right to our feeding kid fund (I should really just buy a cow at this point; I buy 4 gallons of milk a week!).

After 4 hours, and subpar weather, I was actually impressed with how much I got rid of. What was “junk” to me was treasure to others. Some purchases were for those in need; others were those looking to flip some furniture; some were collectors, and some were for sheer fun. Every person had a different background. All had one common goal: to acquire new items. 

My favorite person of the day was a gentleman who was just poking around and he came across one of my old work briefcases. The bag retailed for about $400.00; I asked 5 bucks for it. He was ecstatic. He said he was looking for something just like this to put his books in for his night class. He also wanted some new ties for some upcoming interviews; he found a boatload of them as well. His infectious smile combined with what his intentions were enough for me.

So, how does this fit into education?

It’s the time of year where we are about to end the school year. Over the year (or years), we have collected stuff; either things we have used or things we think we will use. It’s time to purge. Don’t remember that you had it? Get rid of it. Switching grades? Get rid of it. Don’t know what it is because you “inherited” items from a retired teacher? Toss it. 

Keeping some of this stuff is cumbersome and could even be dangerous. I had a purge in one of my districts a few years back; they tossed 3 TONS of stuff in 4 days; everything from encyclopedias from the 70s to textbooks that were beyond outdated. I remember another time when a science teacher retired and we had to call a hazmat company in to get rid of the jars of formaldehyde and his secret stash of chemicals! 

Are you retiring? Have a garage sale of your own; offer stuff to your colleagues. What ever isn’t taken, throw it out. No, not textbooks or school issued equipment; all of the stuff you collected. Don’t just leave it for the next person to toss. We as educators are all hoarders by trade; let the next person start fresh and acquire their own.

And please, whatever you do, don’t just take free stuff just to take it. If you have 100 rolls of masking tape, you don’t need 101. 

I hope everyone has a great end of their school year. You worked hard; now go relax! And relaxing does not mean hitting up garage sales to buy more stuff for your classroom! 

GO SMALL!

I have shared blog posts from Dave Burgess with you before, but this post is rather important.  Sometimes, changing the littlest thing will bring the biggest result. Read below on how to do it in a school. The original post can be found here: http://daveburgess.com/go-small/ )


Go BIG! Take a leap! Shoot for the moon! Jump in with both feet!

We hear this type of advice all the time, and quite frankly, I’m often somebody who gives it. It can be a motivational and inspirational message for some (hopefully!), and it may be just what they need to hear to make major breakthroughs in their lives and career.

For others, it is perhaps overwhelming.

It’s easy to look at all the amazing and innovative developments in education that have taken place over the last few years and to get a major case of “analysis paralysis.” Where do I start? What do I tackle first? How can I make all of these changes all at once? How can I possibly learn everything I need to know to do this? The year has already started, so how can I change course mid-stream? What if students flounder under all this new freedom and autonomy? Am I qualified to lead my students in this new direction?

The struggle is real! I get it…I really do. We see rockstar teachers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and presenting at conferences who have created UNBELIEVABLY empowering classes for their students, and it is easy to feel as if what we are doing is less than adequate. It’s hard to live up to the Pinterest boards and still keep some sort of balance and sanity. How did they get this awesome?

The answer may surprise you, because they often fail to share the most critical part of the journey. The struggle. These classrooms are the product of what is usually a continuous search for new and better, for a mindset of being willing to make small shifts and adjustments in order to test out and experiment with innovative new practices. You are just looking at the end result and feeling overwhelmed but not seeing that each step along the way, when broken down, is very approachable. All of this stuff is doable!

Makeover shows are wildly popular because they show the before and after…PLUS  the journey to transformation. It is in that journey where the real fun and adventure lie. That’s the part that pulls us in. If only a teacher who has traveled this path of the classroom and pedagogical transformation would share the whole story and break it down and just be fully transparent…

It has happened!

Joy Kirr is an unbelievably amazing 7th-grade teacher from Illinois who has been prolifically sharing her ideas and resources for YEARS! Many people who have wanted to jump into the Genius Hour world, for example, have successfully done so using her curated resources. She has truly empowered her students and has designed a learning environment that is not only highly successful…it is flat-out inspirational to behold.

She is that rock-star teacher we were talking about earlier…except that wasn’t always the case. It was a process of making many very small and gradual shifts, all totally doable, over a period of time. We have convinced Joy to swing open the doors of her classroom…the doors of her career…and openly share these shifts and how they have changed her as an educator and, more importantly, changed the class experience for her kids. We have just released her long-awaited book project, Shift This: How to Implement Gradual Changes for MASSIVE Impact In Your Classroom. This is powerful stuff! Classroom set-up and environment, grading practices, homework, class work, student-directed learning, Genius Hour…it ‘s all here. You will be fascinated by her journey and also inspired to take your own.

You can check out Shift This on Amazon (34% off!) here:
https://goo.gl/B59V3Y

Or Barnes & Noble (34% off!) here:
https://goo.gl/gGmV23

When educators who are connected to Joy on social media found out this project was happening, the response was almost universal. “Yes! I want that! She has helped me many times and deserves more recognition for how long she has selflessly served the community.” I hope you will support this new project.  Follow Joy if you aren’t already and tap into the #ShiftThis hashtag on Twitter to continue the discussion.


 

The Do-Over

Sitting on a plane is typically not my favorite thing to do. However, it’s been a great time for me to catch up on reading. I have no excuses not to; no screaming kids (that are mine), no texts, and I even try to refrain from Netflix. 

I read a book review of Do Over by Jon Acuff a few weeks back and couldn’t help but to laugh.  The review spoke about how people dread Mondays, their current job, and how people feel stuck in their Groundhog-Day-like jobs (if you don’t get the reference, you need to watch this). Being that I’m always talking or tweeting about how people should leave their job if they are not happy, I was intrigued.

The book eventually delved into a myriad of issues that deal with relationships, skills, character, and hustle. These four qualities help you shape your entire career and how you will proceed.

Some great quotes and takeaways from the book include:

Relationships get you your first job; your skills get you your second. There’s so much truth to that.  Think of your first career or non-career job.  What did you know? Nothing until you stepped into that job. You got that job because you sold yourself as being the best person for that job.  You really learned how to do it once you started it.  And yes, this includes EVERY job in the education field.

When it comes to career relationships, invest in those that you want to keep. Sure, you think everyone one you work with is wonderful at the lunch table (kidding). Yes, you have a circle of friends you keep around but are they REALLY your friends?  If they are, take the time to really know them. They will be with you on your entire journey, whether it be in the same place or not.

Foes are everywhere but limit your defintion. Chances are, people are not out to kill you. Yes, some will try to make your life miserable, are jealous of you, and even will lie about you so they can succeed.  You can’t obsess over them, and you can’t compare the ones that are online to the ones in real life.  As the author states, “if the internet foes were in person, you’d ignore them.”

Miserable foes love company, and also recruits it. Don’t get sucked into foolishness; come in, do your job, do a good one, and proceed with your life.

Don’t burn every bridge you can. Acuff admits that his hands are soaked in gasoline and has done his fair amount of bridge burning.  In fact, we all have burned a bridge or two. But just because you can, do you have to? The workplace is getting smaller and smaller thanks to the internet; chances are you’ll see someone from a burning incident down the line.

When you ignore someone face to face with your phone or computer, you’ve put that person on pause and have made them feel like they don’t matter. I’m guilty of this and have been told more than once occasion to focus.  I blame ADD, but it’s really me just trying to get everything done. Not cool.  Your relationships are the most important things in life, not technology.

Overall, this was a great read that all employees should check out.  This book applies to all walks of life, not just those in education. Your job is what you make of it.  Speaking of, it’s time for a glass of lemonade, not sour lemons.

Amazon, iTunes & Fake News

I’m pleased to share with everyone that my first podcast, ThE TuB, was published! We had a great time making it; you can check it out on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Libsyn.

I’m also pleased to announce the first of EitnerEDU’s flash-reads called “Closing The Door.”  Flash-reads are a new concept for me–ten pages or less, offered at either 99 cents or free. You can find them on Amazon, the iBook store, and the Barnes & Noble Nook website.

Last but not least, I have come to terms with “fake news” and how easily it can dominate a conversation, movement, or person. What was once libel, slander, and even character assassination is now merely accepted in talk radio, forums, chat rooms, tweets, and even in print.

With the release of the EitnerEDU flash-reads and podcasts, I am vowing that all content will be factual and practical. There will be no words taken out of context or content fabrication. All information will be presented that has applicable meaning that you can use as you grow, learn, and move forward.