I’m Watching (Part III)

I have previously blogged on two occasions about how I am fascinated with online data and what it tells us as educators. With what we send out or publish, there are just tons of opportunities to see what people are doing and how they are doing it. For most of my educational career, data and school were a poisonous combination. Data was tedious, most times ending up in a quagmire of educational gobbledy-gook.  It also didn’t help that, while the data was always there and accessible, nobody really knew how to read it. Eventually, I did learn one key piece about data itself–you can spin it to make it look fabulous in almost every situation. While not ethical to blatantly make it appear to be something else, using a few keywords often help soften the blow if the data is a hard punch to the gut.  Don’t be fooled, though; data is sometimes needed to be that punch to the gut.

While some of my favorite data goldmines have been the analytics offered through Smore and WordPress (the host of this blog), my most recent data goldmine has been the social media website LinkedIn. If you haven’t heard of or don’t use LinkedIn, think of Facebook, but for business and professional networking. LinkedIn is very business- and employment-oriented. You can post your resume, share updates on your job, and be introduced to new professional opportunities. LinkedIn boasts that it has “over 500 million members where you can manage your professional identity, build and engage with your professional network, and access knowledge, insights, and opportunities.” (LinkedIn, 2017)      Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 09.40.39Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 09.43.07

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 09.43.45

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 09.46.18Back to the data.  Not only can I see what people are looking at, I can also see who is looking at me, their job, and even what company they are from. While one can enact some privacy enablers, it operates on different levels.  I can still see the business or the job title they have, and then I can click and see a list of people (more often the list that populates you know the person than not). Not only can this tell me who is looking at what, it can prepare me for an upcoming sales call or an upcoming opportunity, or even help me pinpoint who is talking to whom so I can address whatever is being talked about.

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 12.07.13Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 12.07.29Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 12.06.41

Recently, I have been using LinkedIn to thank those who are donating or doing business with my district.  While a letter or a tweet is great, saying thank you on a forum that is used for professional purposes is, well, professional.

Why is this important in schools?

If school systems are not cognizant of the brand they are producing or the reputation they are creating among stakeholders, they are at a disadvantage.  We, as educators, have more tools than ever to communicate and solve problems, especially image problems. Even today, there are districts, schools, and individuals who do not embrace the free tools that we have that are used by stakeholders. If we are not meeting where our stakeholders are in today’s times, we are doing a disservice to everyone associated with it. We are no longer paralyzed by the gossip mill of aisle 5 in the supermarket or the soccer field. We can be proactive instead of being reactive. Harness the power of social media and such analytics to tell your story, or others will, and you most likely won’t like their version.

Data today is free and easy to understand.  Why not use it to help you? Having a mind at ease and working smarter, not harder, can help you grow, learn, and move forward.

Onward!

 

 

 

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!

 

Pop the Champagne!

IMG_0707There are many reasons to pop the champagne if you are an educator; you’ve either crossed the finish line or are about to! While I hope every educator will take the time to relax and recharge this summer, some will still have the 2017-18 school year on their mind. Many will be spending time exploring projects, ideas, and technology at their leisure.  If you are feeling overwhelmed already,  below is a great 2-minute-flick on how you can take charge of your own PD this summer and in the future. Now, get off my blog and enjoy the beautiful sun!

https://spark.adobe.com/video/sRN2ryeYhYCti/embed

@EitnerEDU Launches a New Podcast…from the Hot Tub!

Eitner Education debuts in its’ new podcast called “The Tub”! Each episode will feature a trend in schools, a trending book in education, and something to turnkey into your educational lifestyle. This podcast is for all leaders, teachers, and everyone in between.

My first podcast features Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter, co-authors of “Escaping the School Leaders Dunk Tank”, which is available on amazon, Barnes & Noble, and classy bookstores everywhere!

I hope you enjoy this; thanks for coming on the journey with me!

About The Authors

Dr.  Rick Jetter  is an Educational Consultant, Speaker & Trainer, and Multi-Genre Author. He was a solid “D+” student in 7th grade and he has a cool dog, named George Jetter. Dr. J. also types faster (with two index fingers) than he talks. Dr. J. is interested in all types of topics–especially the ones that no one wants to truly take on (even though they say they do while their fingers are crossed behind their backs).

For more information about the book, Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank: How to Prevail When Others Want to See You Drown, visit http://www.leadershipdunktank.com

Dr. J. has also successfully worked with other authors on their ideas and creative concepts by offering book concept and writing strategies through his own unique coaching process.

He is the founder of and lead consultant at RJ Consultants.

Rebecca Coda is the founder of the Digital Native Network. http://www.digitalnativenetwork.net She currently serves as a STEM Coach, weekly contributing columnist for School Leader’s Now, and article contributor on LinkedIn. She has over 18 years’ experience in education as a teacher, ELA curriculum and assessment writer, and technology program leader. Rebecca is a National Board Certified Teacher & Arizona K12 Center Master Teacher. She is a Christian and lives each day by faith, hope, and love.

Interested in hopping into the tub? Join me on my podcasting journey!

 

The Tech Conductor

Below is a post that was written by Jeffrey Bradbury.  I have been very proud to call Jeff a colleague and great friend since we met at the first EdCampNJ in 2012.  Since then, Jeff has helped me navigate the educational seas on a myriad of levels, ranging from creating a new district website to offering in-person professional development to support staff. Read his great post below:

The other day, I had a technology coach from a neighboring school district visit my school and shadow me for the day.  It was a fantastic experience and something that I hope to be able to do with other districts this year and beyond.  The teacher and I had a great day of learning from one another, but I couldn’t help but use the day to reflect on many of our common conversation topics.  One of the deep conversations we had was around the simple question: “What is a Tech Coach?

Rather than use this post as an opportunity to dive into what a Tech Coach is, and what a Technology Integration Specialist is, I would like to propose a question to my readers that might shed some light on how I have approached these titles and my current position for the last two years.  The question is one that might sound strange, but those knowing my background might find quite interesting.  Should I consider myself a Tech Coach … or a Tech Conductor?

Let’s dive into this topic …

Everything I Know … I learned From The Podium

It’s no secret that my background is in Music Education.  I have countless memories of rehearsal sessions, and amazing performances of the worlds greatest pieces of music.  About 10 years ago (or more) I decided that I wanted to get up and instead of sitting in the orchestra, I wanted to start down a path that allowed me to stand in front of the orchestra and work along side them to perform sonata’s, symphonies, and operas.

It was during that time that I started taking formal conducting lessons from several amazing teachers.  From there, I learned how to physically stand and present myself to not only an orchestra, but a paying audience, and of course work along side a board of directors to help promote my vision, the orchestras vision, and most importantly, the composers visions.

Of all the things that I learned in the world of conducting, these lessons stand out:

  • The conductor is the only one on stage that doesn’t make noise, yet his actions are what tie the group together
  • The musicians don’t need a conductor to know what to do. A conductors job is simply to start everyone and guide them through transitions.
  • Treat every musician with respect, but understand that different instruments require different needs.

It has been through these lessons that I approach every day as a Tech Coach.  It is through these lessons that I find myself more becoming a Tech Conductor.  Let me try and explain how these lessons can be applied in a school system.

From Podium To Classroom … and Back Again

When you break down everything that happens on the podium, it starts and stops with the simple concept of Respect.  I can honestly say that I have my good days and I have had my bad days as I learn how to be a Tech Coach to over 400 staff members.  As a conductor, you have your good days and bad days too.  You have your rehearsals where everything goes well, and you have those times where someone puts you on the spot in a rehearsal and you simply don’t know the answer.  This happens in the classroom all the time.

What is important is that you come prepared to every rehearsal, meeting, classroom, as prepared as possible.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, you always make sure you have a resource (your PLN) that can help you find the answer quickly.

From early on in my conductor training, I learned that the word Maestro is one that gets placed upon you from day one, but the concept of Maestro, a word that literally translates into Teacher, (or coach) is one that is earned day after day, rehearsal after rehearsal and is earned only through respect.  This is extremely true for Technology Coaches who not only work with everyone in a district at all levels, but must also be walking talking resource centers of technology and pedagogy that are essentially on call 24/7.

You Are The Only One Who Doesn’t Make Any Sound

In an orchestra setting, the violin players, play the violin, the tuba players play the tuba, and the bass players play the bass.  Each of these musicians or groups of musicians has an instrument that they can pick up anytime and practice.  A Conductor on the other hand has the orchestra.  There is no try way to practice late at night with an imaginary group of 50 people.  The preparation for Conductors is mostly mental and requires you to study scores of music and practice “gestures” in the air, sometimes in front of mirrors to make sure that the one single time you are in front of a group you get it right.

As a Tech Coach, it is very much the same.  Teachers have the opportunity to learn from their students every day.  They learn how their classrooms work, act, and interact with each other.  As a Tech Coach, you have just one moment to walk into a classroom and nail your lesson.  When you are given an opportunity to present in front of a building, you are given an opportunity to showcase your self in front of 150 (or more) strangers who are all there to learn from, and support you. They know you are in front of them to help them become better educators, but there might not be the same friendly connection that a teacher and a group of students has, or a principal and a faculty have.

Walking into a building to give PD is very much like bring asked to come into a new orchestra and guest conduct a rehearsal or performance without ever getting to meet the musicians.

Your Teachers … They Don’t Need You

Let’s face the fact that teachers have been teaching for hundreds of years without the need for a “Technology Integration Specialist.”  They don’t need “Tech Coaching.”  But … do they?

One of the first rules of conducting is … Show Up When Needed, and Get Out Of The Way …

There are times when you can simply tell a musician how to play something, times when you can describe a sound, and times where you have to grab an instrument from the violin section and demonstrate for a group.

This couldn’t be more truer as a Tech Coach.  There are times where I have worked with a teacher and my role was simply to answer a question or two and back away.  Other situations have lead me to helping them create a co-teaching lesson where together, we worked with the students on an innovative lesson.

In the classroom, the role of a Tech Coach is to quickly enter and assess a situation and provide whatever the teacher needs when they need it.  Perhaps it’s by simply answering a question and other times it’s by picking up the instrument to demonstrate how something should look or sound.

If you choose the right method of support, the group/teacher will appreciate your help and together the rehearsal/lesson will move forward.  If you choose the wrong method at the wrong time, you are libel to insult someone and create a situation you never intended to have started. As a Conductor and as a Tech Coach, it’s always important to know the personalities you are working with so you can quickly make the right decisions and choices.

Some Teachers Are Section Players … Some Are Soloists

If you really think about it, a school district is very much like an orchestra. To conceptualize this, lets break down the different parts of each.

The Orchestra

Violin SectionThe Strings

In the front of a symphony orchestra lies a massive section known as the Strings.  All together, their instruments are in the “violin family.” Their instruments look similar, they play with a bow, and there could be as many as 24 of the same instrument in each of the 5 distinct sections.  Together, they can be broken down into string quartets, trios, and often, composers write for them as either a full section, or as soli sections. Each of the subsections (violins, viola, cells, bass) are seated by rank (ability level) and there is a section leader who is for conversation sake, “the boss” of that section.

The Winds

The next group of musicians behind the strings is the Woodwinds. This section is composed of your Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets, and Bassoons.  They are your mid range, mid level instruments who are put in the awkward position of sitting behind the massive string section, yet they sit in front of the might brass and percussion sections so it’s often possible that while playing loud and proud they don’t get heard when the entire group is playing together.

Winds and BrassThe Brass, Percussion, etc …

Composed of the Trumpets, Trombones, and Tubas, Drums, Marimbas, Cymbals and all other instruments these musicians are highly specialized and are only in your group because, like the winds, they passed an audition based on their ability to be leaders and soloists.  When addressing these musicians a conductor should simply be able to describe in as few words as possible the sound or quality they wish to hear and it should happen with as little retakes as possible.  These are HIGHLY skilled and trained musicians who spend hours in a practice room learning what is known as “excerpts” or very tiny solo passages just to have the opportunity to audition for the group.

A School District

Elementary Teachers

Elementary Teachers, should be approached as a group. In any building, for example, you have several 4th grade teachers all teaching their own class, but teaching a common curriculum to the classroom next door.  They meet in departments to plan common activities but they often do their lesson plans on their own.  When you work with one and not the others, it is often not looked highly on. Sometimes it’s best to talk about concepts such as blended learning, or SAMR models, but they are also the first to allow a Tech Coach to pick up their instrument (classroom) and come in to demonstrate something new and amazing in the world of Technology.

Elementary teachers often have degrees in general elementary education rather than a specialized degree in a subject area and for that reason it’s often best to show a wide variety of examples and build lessons together.  Elementary Teachers and Buildings should be approached the same way a string section is approached.  It’s always best when you are able to demonstrate the concept as well as describe.

Middle School

Much like the proud woodwinds, Middle School teachers are caught between elementary and high school teachers. They have the hardest job because without them students don’t have a solid direction when they get into the older grades.  Also much like the Woodwinds, Middle School teachers are soloists who often times are remembered the most when a student looks back at their favorite years in school  Their hardest job is that they often have to work with a group of students who came from multiple elementary schools and haven’t yet jelled together as individuals yet … and oh, did we mention those wonderful puberty years.

High School

Much like a conductor should never (unless specialized themselves in the instrument) tell a brass player how to play the trumpet, a good Tech Coach should never (or hardly ever) approach a high school teacher and tell them how to teach their subject. . . Trust me …

High School Teachers are HIGHLY talented, and HIGHLY Specialized educators who command the respect of teenagers every day and for those reasons I love popping my head into classrooms each day, asking if they need anything and moving on.  Often, I find myself sitting down with high school teachers to plan out lessons the same way I would sit down with a soloist to plan out a solo passage in a symphony.  If you show them respect, they will reciprocate and come back time and time again because their only goal each year is to produce the best students and pass them on to college.

Ride (not swim) the wave!

I’m writing from the glorious D-terminal in Hartsfield-Jackson airport. I was lucky enough to find a plug by my gate, so why not tap a vein for a bit.

Conference season for education professionals is upon us. Almost every week, there is a conference dedicated to educational pedagogy, technology, practice, or all aforementioned. Don’t be fooled, the first year of conferences is fun and exciting; going around the country, trying new foods, seeing new things. But after the second year, it gets old. Quick.

This will be my 5th year of crossing the country for various conferences. Some I look forward to, some I don’t. They are long, long days filled with meetings, workshops, salesman shoving things down your throat, and lots of food and beverages. I can’t even do the food and beverages anymore since my bypass surgery.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m very thankful and fortunate to do what I do, see what I see, and meet who I meet. However, many people don’t see the negatives of this; time away from home. Flying is still a royal pain, your hotel bed is not your bed, and seeing your kids via FaceTime is not the same as hugging your kids.

Moreover, when you hold a public position, many think that a conference is some vacation on the taxpayer dime. As I said earlier, maybe the first conference one goes to. Now, it’s work, with longer hours and not getting to come home.

Some members of the public go further and don’t want conferences to be funded. I can totally understand that; there are some fools who just go for booze and pool time. It stinks because it ruins it for everyone else. What the public needs to understand about conferences is that the ones I choose to go to are on the forefront of what’s happening in education and where education is going. Skeptical Board Members and weary taxpayers need to see the value in ascertaining information at the time so we aren’t allocating more resources to get to the spot that’s being offered. I often use the saying of  “Do you want to ride the education wave or spend thousands of hours and dollars trying to catch up to it?” The school districts that are trying to catch up are the ones that never get anything done, and when they finally get there, it’s too late and it’s off to the next wave.

School districts need leaders that are willing to take the time to ride the wave. Districts and boards who invest in time-punchers will do just that, and you’re left out at sea.

So, as I wait for my flight to take off, I’ll be riding the wave once again. As much as conference season sucks, it’s the time for the game-changers to show who we are and why we are who we are.

Until next time…safe flights everyone!

On The Mend

It’s been an interesting November & December. While I have been truly blessed with my family, my career, and my traveling, I took a rare step. I did something for myself early in November. I had gastric bypass surgery.

This surgery has been a long time in the making. For most of my life, I’ve been the fat guy.  While I just tolerated it in middle and high school, I took it all off in college. I went from 340 lbs to 208 lbs. How? I was in the gym, every day, for at least 4 hours. In about a year, I took it all off, I was in shape, and even had a social life. It was awesome.

Post college and into the real world, I certainly didn’t have time for four-hour workouts, let alone eating properly and caring about my looks. Slowly but surely, it all came back. I tried every yo-yo diet and fad exercise in between with no results. The past five years have been the worst. I wouldn’t just eat; I would graze, all day. Fast food stops when I was bored or just because. Really bad. I eventually got to 350 lbs again, and now older, other medical conditions came with it. Acid reflux. Diabetes. Fatty liver. All of that bad stuff.

I decided on the traditional ‘roux en y’ procedure versus the sleeve and other methods. My stomach is now the size of a duck egg. While that may sound heinous to some, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I basically can eat about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of food. If I go over that, I’ll get ill. While the recovery has been a bit rocky at times, I am finally able to eat, get out of bed without being in pain, lift, take steps and all of that.

As always, “Jay, what does this have to do with education?”

I feel that the past six weeks have been a time of patience and persistence. I was under the impression that I would be up and running within 48 hours and had to constantly be reminded that this was a major surgery and it will take time to heal. It’s a whole new way of eating as well. I went from eating a 20 piece chicken McNuggets in one session to maybe finishing one.

Change is hard. Often, change is good. Eating in a healthy manner, exercising, and practicing a healthy lifestyle is going to do wonders for me. I couldn’t do it alone before, and I was allowed to get a tool (this surgery) to help me.

Teachers and administrators often go through change, and the change is hard. However, when the Superintendent is following the mission and the vision that was created to circulate around students and growth, and are provided the tools and time to adjust to the mindset, change will be good.

For those on the change roller coaster, hang in there. It will settle when all the pieces come together. Focus on what’s best for your students.  As long as you keep doing that, you’ll be AOK.

 

 

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Muskrat and Kissing Pigs: Superintendent 3.0 is here.

This past Friday evening I had the honor of kissing Penelope, a 120-pound Vietnamese potbelly pig, not because it was the trendy thing to do, but because the Home and School Association (HSA) held a special dual event where students played candy-bar bingo and also voted on various teachers and administrators to kiss the pig.  This was the first time I’d seen such an event, and the crowd was beyond energetic.  Nothing beats seeing a packed room of parents, teachers, and students all embracing a sea of smiles.

Based on a few hundred children who kept running to the front of the stage every time Penelope came out to smooch, it was certainly the highlight of the evening.  As for my kissing the pig, I don’t recall having ever done something before where almost every smartphone in the room came out to take pictures and videos.  Surely, this is the stuff that computer wallpapers, screen savers, and memes are made of.

IMG_6555
The WTSD HSA candy-bar bingo/kiss-a-pig fundraiser was a huge success!

That is the point, though; all of this is in good fun.  Superintendents, now more than ever, need to be public, approachable, and up for events like this.  It does not have to be kissing a pig; it could be a dunk tank (I had to hide around the corner), eating something you normally don’t (muskrat was a common local food and “delicacy” in one community where I worked), or something goofy like dying your hair or sleeping overnight on the roof of a school.  This is free, positive publicity for you and your district.

Any school leader turning down such happenings is waiting for a barrage of negativity on top of the daily criticism you already face.  Events like this are win-win.  Whether you love me or loathe me, you thoroughly enjoyed the experience…and… money was raised for a good cause (in the pig’s case, it was for HSA funds).

Thus, to those crazy fundraisers and hilarious events where something silly can happen, keep them coming.  You raise funds and awareness and perhaps even gain some personal points in the process.

As for my eating pork, I’m going to give that up for a while!

 

FullSizeRender 2
Penelope!

 

 

 

 

 

2016: I’m just getting started. OH TESTIFY!!! 

2015 was one of the best years I have had, personally and professionally.  Among other things, I was blessed with two healthy, happy girls, was allowed to switch school districts to be closer to home (and said girls), was fortunate enough to see tons of accomplishments for my students and staff, and was lucky enough to speak to folks around the country and the world about all of the great things our students and staff are doing in schools today. All of this has left me sitting here shaking my head (or as my X would put it… SMH) on how much awesomeness I got to be part of.

Sure, there was some sadness too. I lost my father this past year, and my grandmother weeks later. I also said goodbye to an awesome group of students and some amazing staff members in my old district. Thanks to social media and this thing called the Internet, we are thankfully just a click away.

I also had some difficult decisions to make for my career. Not only did I turn down a powerhouse district to stay closer to home, I had some difficult conversations with folks about futures, careers, and life. I lost some friendships along the way for telling it like it is and sticking to my core belief of students first. Sad, yes.Keeping me up at night? No way. I also saw true colors in both my professional and personal lives (on my level, it’s blended together).  A learning experience for sure. Finally, you can’t do so much and be awesome without collecting some haters along the way. Is it sad to admit that I like them too?  I’ve come to accept you either loving me or loathing me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My haters fuel me; you push me harder and make me better each and every day.

I’m warning you now; 2016 is going to be the year of testifying. When I googled “testify”, two definitions came up:  the one that was related to court and the one that is related to spreading the news.  I’m all about spreading the news.


I love telling folks all of the good in schools.  I love sharing all of the energy that students have and their desire to learn.  I love to expose my teachers to new ideas, thoughts and people that are here and, yes, just a click away.

As I said earlier, I had the privilege of testifying all over the country and world in 2015. Places included:

  • Atlanta
  • Beijing
  • Boston
  • Bangor, ME
  • Changchun, China
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Honolulu
  • Philadelphia
  • Los Angeles
  • Louisville
  • New Jersey (18 out of 21 counties)
  • Orlando
  • Providence
  • San Fransisco
  • Sante Fe

I got to testify about awesomeness and the power of STEAM and what my district was doing at The White House! I still can’t get over that. The White House!!!

I’m more excited by the day to all of the excellence and star power that will be coming to my district this upcoming year, including Tom Murray, Barry Saide, and even Dave Burgess!

2016 is right around the corner… And I’m just getting started. Don’t believe me? Just watch. Watch what testifying can do! Watch me expose!! And please…. Tell me we can’t! Tell me it can’t be done! I think we had a ton of fun proving the naysayers wrong this past year.

Who’s ready to move forward in 2016?! Who’s ready to do what’s best for students in 2016?! Who’s ready to show all of those who say we can’t that we can and we will. Ready…. Set… TESTIFY!!!

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016. Looking forward to getting the party started… Again. I’ll testify to that too!