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

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

Voice & Choice

We have seen research over and over again that, when learners have a choice in identifying what to learn and how they want to learn it, it has produced academic success and allows creativity to flourish.

This is nothing new.  The way many teachers, schools, and districts are finally embracing it is.

About five years ago, I was introduced to the EdCamp professional development model, where educators not only choose what to attend, but they also teach it themselves and all have the ability to leave if they don’t like or understand what is being taught. Later, I blogged about the Northfield Community School and how Principal Glenn Robbins (now a superintendent) offered an elective-style period at the end of the day where middle schoolers (yes, students) were able to pick what class they wanted to attend.

Fast forward to today.  I recently observed arts teachers in one of my schools take part in the same model with students in grades 4 and 5. Students had the chance to choose from six different art-themed classes, in addition to the ones they already had during the week, ranging from musical theater to ballet.

While the school itself is unique in that it has been created to circulate around artistic infusion while students receive their elementary education, it also has embraced current, meaningful educational research that indeed shows that student voice and student choice are factors in obtaining an education that will serve students of today’s times, not the school that you and I went to.

Again, saying that we need to be cognizant of today’s times is nothing new and far from groundbreaking. It’s the fact that teachers and administrators not only understand but follow through and implement, so that our students have a chance to take part in today’s society, not be a product of the 70’s / 80’s / 90’s that just collects & completes piles of worksheets (that are all thrown out at the end of the year) and is known by a state testing identification number.

To all those who are embracing voice & choice in your classrooms, schools, and districts, thank you.

Onward!

 

My Mom’s House

img_0902A few weeks ago, I received the call that no one ever wants nor expects.  My brother called me during a meeting, and I sent it right to voicemail. I have the voicemail translation feature, and I briefly saw that he was the caller and didn’t call back.  Then he called again at 11:30. Again, I let it go to voicemail, but then listened to the first message, and was miffed. Surely the message of “Jason, Mom’s house has burnt to the ground,” couldn’t be. But it was.img_0897

My mom had lit a memorial candle for my late father and fell asleep, waking up in a sea of flames. She was actually rescued by a police officer, as she was so disoriented from the situation and had panicked looking for pets. Sadly, the cats did not survive, but Mom did, unscathed, with only smoke inhalation and a burn the size of a pencil eraser.

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Almost everything in the house was lost, a few knick-knacks and a handful of items on the second floor left at best. Looking at the big picture, though, Mom is okay, and most of the stuff inside was, well, stuff, much of which can be replaced.

What does this have to do with school?

img_0898Every October, schools across the country partake in National Fire Prevention Month. The activities range from checking out the gear on a fire truck to essay & poster contests to the local fire department passing out smoke detectors and issuing reminders. To be honest, I’ve also thought of this to just be a part of the yearly motions of school, along with bullying prevention week, red ribbon week, and every other week you can run off of the top of your head just as, when it comes to being a parent, you really don’t have a connection until it directly affects you. I’m still amazed that my mom is okay, and, from now on, I’ll always think about the effects of candles in the house.

img_0901 Below are some links that you can use for resources for Fire Prevention Month:

Here’s to a safe school year; being prepared is a part of it.

Onward!

The White Elephant

image credit: https://goo.gl/eAPDq5

It’s that time of year again, when we all go back to school. Some districts have started; some are about to.  Here in NJ, we typically start after Labor Day.

For the past five years, I have been privileged to kick things off by gathering everyone together and sharing new goals, fun videos, exciting images and apps, and discussing issues that we conquered the previous year. I have recorded each of them; you can watch them by clicking here.

Last year, I inserted a slide of a white elephant.  The prior year had some challenges, something that comes with change. There were rumors running amok, and I had people asking me questions about some issues up to the moment before we started. It wasn’t one white elephant; it was a parade. I wanted to address the parade with everyone in the room, head on. I don’t avoid controversy, and I certainly don’t hide behind any white elephants. It was and will always be my opinion that we address issues openly, so that we can all move forward.

That being said, I addressed them, and I placed a strong emphasis on what had happened the past year, was just that, the past. It was a new year, and what had happened, had happened. No grudges, no drama, no one cares, and onward we go. People get passionate when change takes place, especially when they don’t want it. They will also do anything, say anything, and organize in a way that will prevent the change. That’s okay, too. In fact, it’s hopefully encouraged where you are. We are born with these inalienable rights that should be practiced because we can. It’s the beautiful part of our democracy. Can you tell that I was a civics teacher?

It should be noted that I think protesting and disagreeing are far different from going on a gotcha campaign, a “fishing expedition,”or what I call “loading the shotgun.” (If one loads a shotgun with buckshot and fires, it sprays. Some of it will stick to a target; some won’t). The latter does nobody good. It’s a waste of time, money, and energy that should be focused on you and your students.

This is a new school year. What happened in the past is the past.  Don’t be the white elephant in your room or school this year. Start fresh, start positive, and start with a smile. Holding a grudge, celebrating a coup, or even relishing in bitterness and spite will do no student, colleague, or, most importantly, you any good.

If you’re starting a new school year, have a great one.  If you just retired, congratulations and enjoy your next chapter; you earned it. If you’re a student, parent, or board member, make it a great year. You deserve it!

Onward!

 

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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!

 

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.

You’re Not Mental

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image credit: https://media3.giphy.com/media/4Ya8UtZz4PEuk/200_s.gif

I hope everyone knows the above quote.  If not, you need to stop reading this and Netflix this movie!

I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and everyone you’ve worked with has done it.  At some point, you’ve taken a day off, but you didn’t use a vacation day, you weren’t sick, and you did things just for yourself with it. Shopped. Went out to eat. Got a massage or had a spa day. Watched a movie. Saw a baseball game. Binge-watched a series. Slept in. You get the idea. The phrase “mental-health day” has circulated in the workplace for years, yet many shy away from saying that’s what they’re taking.

NBC Nightly News recently aired a story about an employee who emailed her boss saying she was taking a mental-health day. Her boss replied, supporting her.

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image credit: http://www.boredpanda.com/woman-email-mental-health-day-ceo-response-madalyn-parker/

So…why is this important, and how does this relate to the field of education?

In our line of work, we need to be at the top of our game every single day. We need to be all-in.  We need to be cognizant that giving any less effort only hurts us. Taking time for ourselves in order to decompress and partake in wellness activities is paramount for us to succeed. We are not confined to a cubicle or in a monotonous job. We are taking care of the future who will eventually be taking care of us.

While the summer is a great time to recharge and relax, we need to be doing this during the school year as well. We need to eat right, exercise, and partake in wellness. We all need mental-health days. Don’t shy away from it; be proud of it.

Drunk Drivers Are Stupid

Today, I had the opportunity to sit in on a final meeting before the annual Project Graduation project that I have helped run for a number of years. If you aren’t familiar with the program, Project Gradutation is a program offered by many high schools in the United States, in which organized, adult-supervised and alcohol-free activities are offered as part of a post-graduation party, as an alternative to student-run events involving alcoholic beverages or other drugs. Most run the program the night of graduation; some choose that weekend. The theme for this year was a simple one: drunk drivers are stupid. 

The program is a great and often is a final way to celebrate the entire graduating class together. There are often lots of carnival-like games, tons of food (often ending with a breakfast buffet around 6 AM) and of course a DJ. The event is typically sponsored by the parent-teacher arm of the school and local businesses. 

I can imagine what you’re thinking at this point; many of the kids are just going to go and drink another night. That very well could be the case, and truthfully, we as a school are not going to stop students from experimenting with drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous decisions that they will come across. We can, however, offer all of the resources that we have as a community to deter students from making terrible decisions that can result in the destruction of life.

In the past, I have found visual deterrents to be very impactful. I previously blogged about what Hopewell Central High School did; a full blown mock fatal car accident, with the student council president dying in the wreck. Everything from the blood and crime scene markers to the funeral home showing up. It was full of lights, sirens, and sadness. It was painful to watch. That’s the point. 

I have also arranged for a car that was involved with a DWI / DUI to be “donated” to a high school and display it prominently by the main entrance or where my seniors parked their cars. Again, the image is gruesome, but it’s suppose to be.

There are also lessons that health / PE teachers complete, but as an administrator, I tried to get as many teachers involved. At HVRSD, supervisors also taught one class to keep us in the loop (I loved it). I had second semester seniors. We did a whole unit on why driving under the influence is stupid. We talked about the process, and how everyone can see this because it’s a public record. My favorite lesson was pulling up three different articles on high school party busts; the first two with descriptions & pictures, but the third one had an article with the names of every student who was arrested. That article was the game changer for many. In a matter of hours, your life can change, and not for the better.

I recently saw one statistic that a drunk driver who gets arrested has driven as much as 430 separate times under the influence. How scary is that? 

It’s facts like that that our future needs to be aware of. Drunk driving, or driving under the influence of anything, it just downright stupid and dangerous. We see Celebrities getting busted daily and glorified in our pop culture, but we also see kids who just graduated go through the same thing. 

 Nothing is more painful that seeing someone who worked so hard only to have their lives ruined or taken away because of stupid decision making. I’ve seen it on all levels in schools, from students to administrators; on no level is it easier to deal with. As leaders, we have an onus the make sure that whomever this happens to gets the help they need. 

Here’s to hoping you or a student from your town does not have to go through this. In today’s times where we as a society seldomly agree on anything, we can all agree that drunk driving is stupid.

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!