Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Don't Make Resolutions, Make Promises.

Everyone makes resolutions. And, almost everyone breaks them within months, if not weeks.

Promises on the other hand, can not be broken. You have said "promise" many times over to family, friends and colleagues and each time you have followed through on what it is you have stated you would do. Promises happen.

As you reflect on the year closing out and are thinking about the New Year approaching, consider what lies ahead and what it is you want to accomplish personally and professionally.

Once you have that initial list, dwindle it down. Not that you can't achieve all that's there but let's keep it practical. And, even though we are over-achievers by nature let's model what we share with our students. 

Now that you have that list, put a time frame to it. This ensures that you can't let a date on the calendar come and go without reacting to what it is you have promised to accomplish.

For me, reflecting through blogging will stay at the top of my "promise list" as will remaining committed to the #Compelledtribe. From there, I will promise to grow professionally through my interactions with others both in the building, the district and the online PLN that I have so passionately found to rely on for my daily dose of energy. Yes, I will continue to tweet, and "chat". 

I also promise to learn new ways to connect, reflect and be better at what I do. Voxer needs to happen. Therefore, it will.

And finally, I promise to keep balance in my life with my family and my work. I am only as good as the relationship that exists between both. 

Best wishes on your list of promises. Keep them simple yet purposeful and make them so that they can be supportive of the growth you are hoping to achieve. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thanks to You, I Learned.

I learned a lot this year. In fact, it was a year like no other. I grew as a leader and a learner. My colleagues became my inspiration. My work was my passion. I found balance.

Hopefully you can say the same.

Looking back, there are three things that summed up my year. Simply, without these, I am not sure I would be where I am today.

I led with no regrets. 

When taking risks, I focused on falling forward.

And, with great significance, I listened.

As I close the books on 2014 and gear up for the year ahead, I know that there are many people to thank. To my colleagues I work with day in and day out, you are so much of my motivation. To my Professional Learning Network beyond my school and my district, I am forever grateful for your desire to share your knowledge, your perspective and your passions.

With that, I end the year as I started, with reflection. The connections, the collaboration and the interactions are irreplaceable. I am better thanks to you.

Happy Holidays!

2014 Fueling Education favorite reads:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Taking Inventory

Find the time, make the effort. We are writers. We blog, so therefore we reflect. It is our nature.

The time has come, where I reside, winter break is near. With that, I begin the process of taking inventory.

Time to check the pulse and see how deep I have dove this year. Time to measure what has been accomplished, or not. I recognize that in order to move forward I have to know where I have been. I believe that my future is only as good as the path that I have walked in my past. It is soon time to set the course, again.

Being an educator, a middle level Principal, I am grateful for the people I have been surrounded by, the lessons I have been taught and the encounters that have influenced me. My environment is part of who I am.

With that, I am taking inventory. So far this year I have:

Explored new paths to solve old problems.
Embraced change.
Inspired others.
Failed, and persevered.
Empowered colleagues. Fostered leaders.
Became the student.
Made, owned and learned from mistakes.
Built relationships.
Laughed. And cried.

And, there will be another list in a few short weeks reminding me of the work yet to be done. As educators we are never done. We continue to extend our learning beyond the confines of our walls, the hours of the day or the positions that we hold. I am committed to being the servant leader I am supposed to be.

Take inventory of your year thus far. As we start a new year, either pick up where you left off or be ready to lead like never before.

Friday, December 12, 2014

And Then it Happened

We have all had "that" teacher.

You know, the one that made the difference in our lives to direct us to be educators ourselves. The very teacher that when asked twenty years later, "Why did you get into the field of education?" We answer without hesitation, "because of: insert name here". It is the teacher that we each remember without a moments pause who made a difference in our lives as learners.

This is a story of a teacher that had spent more hours staying fixed to his traditional methods of teaching than most of us spend time investing in what we should plan next. He fought change. He stayed true to his pedagogy. He was convinced that "this too shall pass".

And then it happened. I was witness to something awesome. "That teacher" was discovered.

He had been listening. He had been doing his homework. He was quietly engaging in conversation with his colleagues, reading the emails and books that had been passed his way and had opened his mind to the possibility that he could be both the teacher he was most comfortable with AND also be "that teacher".

It didn't happen overnight. It took hours of discovery and patience. There were gentle nudges from those around him and modeling of what could occur.

As you lead, remember that the results you may be seeking may not be instantaneous. As teachers of students or a leader of teachers, we can become better at what we do by following the same simple steps as this teacher did.

Dive into conversations with each other, stay current in the world of instruction and observe what others are doing around us. We will get better at our craft. Like a flower needs the sun, the soil and water to grow, we too need that same nurturing and care.

In the end, students will continue to request to be in his course. However, now more than ever his lessons will be directly tied to best practice, student engagement, offer personalized learning opportunities and infuse choice and voice into the daily interactions and instruction. Teaching and learning will be more authentic and that much more rich with meaning. Students will learn in an environment that is best for their academic path. He has become that teacher.

Friday, December 5, 2014

If You Inspire Others, Who Inspires You?

(courtesy of

You are an inspiration to many in the field of education. Others look up to you. Your colleagues are always learning from the knowledge you bring to the table. Students and parents are listening to the message of your class or school and anticipate the next opportunity to grow.

Simply stated, you inspire others.

So, who inspires you?

For me, there is a simple answer. I turn to those that are reading this blog, or my twitter feed, or attending our professional conversations at school or those that sit down in the chair across from me and take the time to talk, and listen. Many times those conversations, in person or online, is just what I need to be better at what I do. For many of you it is these same platforms that motivate you each day.

Human instinct, and being humble, will keep most of us from recognizing that we are in fact, inspirational. As I think through what each of you offer me in my growth as a leader, here are the commonalities:

  • You challenge me. It works because I am open to the conversation. Don't challenge someone or something just because of your personal and/or professional beliefs but look at the situation holistically and through the eyes of a child and the lens of the organization. 
  • You are a problem solver. If you bring me a problem, bring me some possible solutions. From there, we can process and determine the best course of action. I appreciate those that want to make the system better.
  • You are critical. Share your constructive criticism, commonly known as "feedback". This is much different than complaining. Feedback offers direction, complaining just weighs down the progress. Ask questions, accepting answers is a part of the process.
  • You have an open mind. You are only as strong as those we are surrounded by. Turning to teachers, parents and the students is critical to our success. Many times it is the youngest minds that give me the most inspiration to be better.
  • You are a leader. Regardless of your title we each have the capacity to lead. Look at your role and find a way to offer your insight and your passion. You don't need a "title" to be a leader you just need to have the desire to make a difference.

I appreciate those that I work with, and those that I connect with, that offer me the inspiration I need each day to lead. I am better for my students and my teachers and my community because of what you have taught me.

With that, continue to inspire others. You are amazing at it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stay the Course

The idiom "Stay the Course" means to persevere, endure to completion. Educators live this. Educators work diligently, and passionately, to accomplish all of their tasks in a day. Those that do so give the rest of us something to strive toward.

The reality, however, is that many days we fall short of completing our lists. Not due to lack of desire or passion but often to the reality of our work. Our days are not even close to consistent. That comes with the territory and we knew that when we took the charge to be teachers and administrators.

Furthermore, to "stay the course" we also know that one has to be self-disciplined, organized, focused and have a thorough understanding of what their end result is going to be. Character traits that we each posses at any given time without a doubt. However to apply these each day with each task, challenging at best.

For me, there is a "compass" that points me in the direction to ensure that I do not deviate from the intended course. And it takes each of these points, not always as simple as they may seem, to increase the likely-hood of reaching my intended outcome. They are:

Write it down. Once you have determined what your goal to accomplish is, make sure to write it down on a piece of paper, journal it or place it on an index card and post it in your office. When the tasks are big, make the post-it note even bigger. Make sure you can read what it is that you are hoping to accomplish so you have a constant reminder of where you are heading.

Find smart people, inspiring people, and surround yourself with them. I often share with others that without the support of those around me growing up, I would hardly be where I am today. Without hesitation I can give credit to certain people that were somehow placed along my path that helped guide me to where I am now. Whether a high school or college classmate, my first teaching colleagues or members of my administrative team, each person played a significant role in my success. And in todays digital world, we are connecting with those inspiration people each and every day. I make sure to find brilliant, inspirational people and surround myself with them.

Breathe in, and out. Too many times we get so focused on where we want to get to that we forget to catch our breath, take
inventory of where we are in the process and regroup to finish off the work that needs to get done. I am not suggesting we take long lunch breaks or drop it for a long period of time, just breathe, appreciate what has been done, and then get back to work. The more rushed you are the less productive you will be.

Fail and move on. We have all heard the stories of the Abe Lincoln and his lack of success with voters prior to his Presidency. The story of Michael Jordan being passed over for his basketball team. And of course, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and the stories of how their success came via a less then "traditional" academic path. The reality is that we are each going to fail from time to time. And, the harder we work and the more the more failures we will endure. Accept that it is a part of the process. The challenge therefore is simply to learn from those failures and move on. As we tell our own children as they stumble in life, "pick yourself up and brush yourself off". Failure is part of the process.

Remain focused. Now that you have your goal written out, have your support system in place and your permissions to fail, you are off and running on your endeavor. Keep in mind these familiar quotes:
If want something bad enough, go out and fight for it. 

Or, as Theodore Roosevelt shared; Nothing in life is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty...". 

So as you progress through your tasks each day or each week, remember to keep focused on what it is you truly want to get accomplished. Many great ideas have fallen short of coming to fruition because the mind behind the idea lost its way. If you believe in what it is you have set out to do, then finish what you have started.

It is those that stay the course that bring the greatest success to their own lives and those around them. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Taking My Turn As The Student

It only took a few moments for the office door to swing open and for one of my Language Arts teachers to come barreling into my office.

"Craig", she said, "We have to fix this!"

Little did I know that for the next 10 minutes I would be getting one of the greatest reminders of my professional career.

The reminder: We are always students.

The given: Anyone at anytime can be the teacher.

For me I have always known and humbly accepted that I have a ton to learn when it comes to the work I do. My teachers would clearly state that I am far from being the most brilliant person in the room. They will tell you (to no surprise) that it is my ability to surround myself with the minds of brilliant people like them that makes us tic. We are a collective group that feeds off of each other.

Our relationships allow for moments such as this.

So here it was. A crisp afternoon and my 8th Grade Language Arts team had decided enough was enough. "He has to learn to use an apostrophe the way they are meant to be used," they said. And, even though only one appeared in my office doorway (the one closest to retirement drew the "short straw") I knew all three were there in spirit and I knew that they simply wanted what was best for me.

We are fortunate. We are working in a climate that allows for risk-taking, failures and celebrations of successes. And, we don't take that for granted. We have worked hard for it to be this way.

Regardless of your place on the academic ladder, continue to find opportunities to be the student and the teacher. Hopefully you work in an environment of listeners who are willing to be better. If you are not, see what you can do to change that. Take your turn in both roles. It's worth it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Little Picasso

The concentration. The intense look of effort shining through his eyes. The determination to create a work of art like no other. He gave all of his energy to this one task. In this moment in time nothing else mattered. There would be no distractions and no interruption that would take away from where his passion was taking him. The final product would be his most magnificent work ever. This would be his Mona Lisa.

To look into the eyes of an almost 5-year old you can see the innocence in which he worked through this masterpiece. For him, there is no greater joy on this day. The pride he took in this task, as simple as you and I may consider it, is unimaginable. If there were a way to gauge his sense of accomplishment it would be off the charts. He holds the paper with pride. He is Picasso, Michelangelo and da Vinci in this moment. And, if he is fortunate enough, this moment will be repeated hundreds of times over in the coming years. It will be his teachers that will assist me in guiding his passions.

As children transform from these early ages of discovery into the classroom of our schools, it is a teacher that is charged with and encouraged to sustain this same level of intensity with the learning they provide. For those that work in the elementary setting you have some of the most authentic experiences one could imagine. However, I would argue as a middle level educator, we get to reap the same reward as our primary counterparts. The path in which we take may be different but the results can be the same. Those that work in the high school setting might argue that the days of coloring are far behind while others may get the crayons out each day. Each of us can answer the question to ourselves of whether or not the crayons remain the cabinet. I would challenge you to get them out and to use them and look for those same moments regardless of the age you teach.

Therefore, as you go throughout your day, make sure that you discover the Picasso in each of the students you serve. There are dreamers, creators and inventors in each of them. Take the time to get the crayons out and color that frog like no frog has been colored before. The pride our students have within is a pride that we should foster and encourage each and every day. I can only hope that this five year old gets to draw frogs like this every step of the way.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Getting the Most of PT Conferences

It is that time of year. Teachers contact parents and the annual Parent-Teacher Conferences commence. This could be the best, or worst, 15 minutes of your life.

For us parents, at some point in our lives, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to have a child. For some, we thought to ourselves, it would be even more fantastic to have a second. For those that went beyond that, like myself, it had very little to do with the thought process at all.

None-the-less, we have them. And, now that we do have them, we get to love them unconditionally. Because let's face it, they are ours regardless of the ups and downs of their development. The joys of parenting!

As you think about the upcoming PT Conferences and prepare to sit down with your child's teachers, keep in mind that it the relationship with all involved that makes this educational experience what it is. We rely on each other, for good or bad, to ensure the needs of the learner are met.

As you gear up for conference week there is much to consider as both the parent and the teacher.  Therefore, as a colleague of mine, Keith Howell, recently shared in a column on his blog, consider the following as parents: 

·      Be on time for your conference and understand that if you are 5-10 minutes late, then that will affect the entire conference schedule for the rest of the day. 
·      Focus on the 5 things teachers want from parents.
o   Research tells us that there are 5 things teachers want from parents: 
1.       Establish child’s behavior
2.       Initiate warm conversation
3.       Get involved, monitor homework/school work/notes sent home/etc.
4.       Respond to teacher communication
5.       Good health
·      Don’t wait until conferences to provide teachers with a list of your concerns. Waiting months to articulate your concerns will only lead to speculation and negative feelings. Many times a quick conversation or e-mail will answer your questions and put your mind at ease. 
·      Understand educators: the teaching profession is their calling and a life-long journey of learning.  Teachers act out of love for their students and their passion for educating children, helping them become their best.

If you are on the other side of the table and are the teacher welcoming in the parent, his suggestions are: 

·      Say something positive: Show parents that you have a positive relationship with the child.  Show parents that you care about their child as if they were your own.
·      Focus on the 5 things parents want from teachers (see above).
·      Act, instead of react.  Watch body language of parents and adjust if necessary, focusing on positive collaboration.
·      Have some suggestions ready, setting goals for behavior or academic needs.  Know your students and their academic and behavioral characteristics.  
·      Keep to your conference schedule, and if you need more time then reschedule an additional conference. 
·      Let your principal or colleague know if you need support with any of your conferences.  It is always beneficial to work as a team, collaborating to meet the needs of all students.  Parents will appreciate the extra support and ideas to increase learning and/or improve behaviors.  
·      Understand parents: there is nothing more important to them than their children, parents act out of love for their children.  

Even though these interactions are brief they can be powerful. Each party can gain quite a bit of insight on the other person’s lens. The reality is that our children spend an incredible amount of time at school. And teachers often see more of the students during the day than many parents.

If it success we are aiming for then let’s work to get there together.  As parents we can’t give them back and as teachers we can’t turn them away. Make Parent-Teacher Conferences meaningful for all. It is more than worth it!

For more great suggestions, ideas and posts about Parent-Teacher Conferences, check out the blog roll from the #Compelledtribe.

Also read:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The AMLE Conference - It's the People


Professional Conferences. It’s the people that make the experience memorable.

Even in today’s day of being connected, the takeaway from the AMLE Conference in Nashville goes back to the human element. It is all about the people. And, it’s all about the relationships.

When we have the opportunity to sit and discuss best practice, experiences and our passions it is inevitable that it will be the contact we have with each other that is what resonates in the weeks to follow. That is what we will talk about more than anything else.

After spending three days with educators passionate about kids in the middle, I share my reflections of my experience and a list of suggestions the next time you head out the door to a professional smorgasbord.

-       Passionate Minds. Get a few thousand people in the same city, under the same roof, remove all distractions and task them to grow as learners. On top of that, they are all focused on the same thing. In this case, middle level educators who care about the adolescent and their development through some of the most challenging years of their lives.  Dive-in.

-       Keynotes are Key. There is a reason they start the day and there is a reason certain people are tasked to kick-off conferences. Dru Tomlin and his cast of characters had this on their minds throughout the schedule. We need those hooks to inspire us and motivate us for the day of learning that lies ahead.

-       Take Notes. Our brains are amazing in all they can do at any given time. However, there is so much going on throughout the day that we better jot some of this stuff down. Whether electronically or old-fashioned paper and pen, you are going to want to refresh your memory once you get back home.

-       Introduce Yourself. For those that get in front of the group and present I give you credit where credit is due. Some people are meant to be in the audience while others can command a room. If you sit through a session and are inspired by what you have learned, take the time to thank the person that delivered it. Both parties will appreciate the simple gesture.

-       Get, and Stay, Connected. Many of us are tweeting, blogging and surfing the web often for ideas, direction and suggestions for our own work. Sitting in a room on a Friday night conducting #mschat with 25 others is jaw dropping. Connect names to avatars and ideas to faces. You’ll be amazed on how the connections raise the energy in the room. I am connected therefore I am one step ahead.

-       Ask Questions. When we signed up we assumed we knew what we were getting in to. We saw the keynotes, got excited about the pending experience and set a course for the trip. Many would say that sometimes the best sessions are the ones we know the least about. As you walk around the conference ask others sitting across the table about their experiences. Two fold – you’ll gather some more great ideas and you will “get connected” along the way.

As I make my way back home this morning I am eternally grateful for the experiences over the past few days. Even more so, I am grateful for the friends that I made. It is these new relationships and the conversations we had that will motivate me to continue the work for middle-level students, their teachers and the community.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Personalized PD - More Than Worth It

Yesterday I wrote about a risk. One that was calculated but yet still considered one.  You can check that post out here: Not Your Typical Professional Development Day.

Today, the results. 

I would start by stating the day began with eager nervousness. There were new rules, new presenters, new expectations. Once the first session was under way it smoothly transitioned into confident professionalism. As lunch arrived there was collegial laughter and smiles. The day ended with professional banter, exchanging of best practices and an entirely new appreciation for the capacity each posses in their ability to share what works best.  

We shared our stories, our passions and our motivations. We became the teachers. And, we became the learners.

Take a few moments and view some of the hundreds of tweets from today. And, if you are so moved, take this idea to your district leadership and see if this is something you can pull off where you work. Whether small scale, or large, don't create obstacles and don't find excuses. As you will see, you will be glad you did.

Be the change. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Not Your Typical Professional Development Day


Today the entire staff of the Hilliard City School District will spend the day personalizing their own learning in what the organizers are calling Hilliard University. Through what is called a "waiver day" in which the district applied for from the Ohio Department of Education, the teachers have crafted their own breakout sessions, over 140 choices, and will move about school campuses to take in learning that means the most to them.

The courses being taught are by them and it is for them.

After hours of planning, the organization for the day is simple. There is a catalog in which all of the courses are listed by location, time and audience. There will be "check-in" sheets at each session, some online at that. And, important to note, there will be nearly 2000 educators (certificated, classified and administrative) that are being given professional courtesy to get where they want to go and to learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it.

The agenda is their catalog. The "lunch break" is up to them. And, there are no reminders to get to the next session or "break times" when the bladder calls or the legs are cramped. Could your district pull this off?

And, simply stated, "Will it work?"

For the official answer, check back in 24 hours. In the meantime, consider the following:

  • We are personalizing education to our students and to their learning styles.
  • As educators we are introducing opportunities never used before.  Choice and Voice, PBL, Genius Hour and other innovative methods of instruction are a part of the planning process.
  • Blended Learning is a part of our vernacular. Connecting the learning environments and the technology is common practice. 
  • Innovative spaces are emerging at every turn. There is no traditional model of delivery. We are inventing new instruction spaces daily.
  • Technology and social media as a whole are consuming the work that we do with our community of learners. We are, like never before, connected.
  • And, we are teaching and learning with passion. 
Today is the ultimate test to see if we are as far in the process of teaching and learning as we think we are. We have been embracing these ideas, concepts and educational trends. We believe all of the work the time and the effort will be worth it.  We are risk takers.

And above all else we know it is what is best for kids.

For those that work here, we know that the HCSD is an innovative place. Now let's see if we can practice what we preach. Enjoy your not so typical day of professional development.

To see what is happening today during this Professional Development, check out @THEHilliardU on Twitter!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Relationships Matter

Relationships with others – It is what defines a great leader from a good leader. It is what separates teachers that sell tickets for their lessons and lessons that just have students in attendance. We have read the books, had the conversations, participated in the chats and we have done our homework. If you want to be the best of the best then you need to find what matters most. And that is simply -  relationships with those around you.

The great teachers and great leaders are those that recognize that nothing of significance can be accomplished without having a connection with those that you are nearest to.  Students will believe in their learning (and more importantly themselves) and will sit at the edge of their seats awaiting the next moment in their instruction if you have take the time to know who they are.

If as adults we thrive on our relationships with each other than we owe that to our students.

Furthermore, if we do not take the time on the front end (and continue that over the course of time) to get to know our learners, the reality is that the knowledge we share will fall on deaf ears.

We believe in those that believe in us.

Angela Maiers says it best when she wrote about the 12 Most Important Ways to Let People Know They Matter and spoke to this: 

"When I think of people who made the biggest impact in my life, it was not their expertise or accomplishments that provided me with the direction, guidance and reassurance I needed to accomplish my goals. It was their sincere belief in me. They let me know through their words and actions that I mattered."

As you think about your interactions with others, reflect on the relationships you have formed with them. Consider the following: 

Do you listen more than you share out?
Do you know the interests and the passions of those you work with or teach with?
Do you know what makes your colleagues “tick”?
Do you know who your students are away from the classroom?
How will you be remembered as an educator?

Dave Burgess who knows that relationships in instruction are essential to student learning shares in Teach Like a Pirate, “provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.” Building those relationships and creating those uncommon experiences will guarantee a take-away like no other.

Great leaders and great teachers build relationships first, teach second. Continue to strive to make that a focus of what you do each day. You too will be rewarded. Everyone matters.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tales of an 8th Grade Adventure - The Trip of a Lifetime

Last week I was able to be part of an amazing class trip. 280 of our 8th grade students from Hilliard Weaver Middle School (located in Central Ohio) journeyed to our nations capital. Heading to Washington D.C. would be like no other school experience I have been a part of in education. This was about to be, unbeknownst to them, the trip of a lifetime.

Early Monday morning we boarded charter coaches, waived farewell to our parents and headed out east toward our nations capital. What was in store for them was a walk through our nation's history. The landmarks we visited were unforgettable. The reactions the students had to the memorials were genuine. Their time spent at the Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery was emotionally taxing. And, through their interactions with Veterans from the Vietnam Wall to the Korean War Garden to the World War II Memorial, students engaged in conversations with Veterans that were heartfelt and full of of emotion. It was mesmerizing to witness these talks between youth and their elders. It was more than we as adults could have hoped. Our soldiers were grateful and impressed with our students' kind and heartfelt words. Students were genuine. Veterans appreciative.   

Each stop reinforced the notion that life-experiences are as important as we have always preached. Seeing history come alive through the eyes of teens is inspiring.

The time spent as we walked through the Smithsonians were hours of lessons wrapped up into one afternoon. We always encourage our teachers to offer authentic real-life experiences. These hours spent at the American History Museum and the Air and Space Museum were just that.  Real. Life. Experiences.

And finally, after three full days in the capital itself, we headed home with a stop at Gettysburg. The sights, sounds and smells of this historic land were moving. To hear the stories of the lives changed forever on the battlefields of this soil in rural Pennsylvania is a testament to our nation's legacy. Our students understood it. They knew this was more than just a field and a town. They heard the stories of our ancestors come to life. 

Regardless of personal interests, or the fact that they are middle school teenagers with a variety of priorities, there is compelling evidence that this trip, their 8th grade trip to Washington D.C., will be known as the trip of a lifetime.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Characteristics of Connected Educators

:  joined or linked together
:  having the parts or elements logically linked together<presented a thoroughly connected view of the problem>
:  related by blood or marriage
:  having social, professional, or commercial relationships <a well-connected lawyer>
of a set :  having the property that any two of its points can be joined by a line completely contained in the set; also :  incapable of being separated into two or more closed disjoint subsets
— con·nect·ed·ly adverb
— con·nect·ed·ness noun

There are always opportunities to learn and to grow. It is my choice as to the depth I go in understanding the tools at my disposal.  In the most simplest of forms, I am learning. We, are learning.

In a relatively short period of time I have come to understand what it means to be connected and value its importance. My success is dependent on it. The future of my work relies on it. My existence as a leader is held to it. Connecting with others is essential.

I am a Connected Educator, therefore I am: 

a problem solver

a dreamer

a believer

a risk-taker

a collaborator

Being connected is at the root of who I am. I must learn, share and reflect. With that I will grow as a leader and a learner. I will model what it means and how it impacts others. My passion for being connected will be my drive.  

Are you connected?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Far from Routine

(courtesy of
Each day I find myself following a rather familiar routine. Picture your day. My guess it is, well, predictable. Their are the "givens". Rise and shine, make your way into the office, clear some emails and away you go. We know that each day there will be tasks that need to be completed. Again, it has to be done.

What I enjoy most about my days though are the moments between the moments. The parts of the day that are not a part of the routine. This is when the real “work” happens. These are the moments that we find ourselves passionate about interacting with students, supporting our teachers and finding ways to connect with our school community.  These moments are the ones that got us into the business of education and these are the moments that keep each day from being redundant. This is far from routine.

As you head off to your school, your office and your classroom tomorrow focus on the moments between the routine. Look for that opportunity to get away from the predictability of it all. Take the opportunity to find the moments that will be the first one of the day or the week. Be anything but routine.


Our lives are anything predictable.  Each day has an opportunity to be something greater than the day before. Make the most of it. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What's your story? Everyone has one.

This is a guest post from Michelle Vroom, a communication specialist who is passionate about cultivating long-lasting relationships. Michelle develops and implements strategic communication plans for various clients including at eSchoolView and provides on-going counsel to ensure efficacy .

Michelle holds a master's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a bachelor of arts from Miami University. Active in the professional PR community, Michelle served as the president of the Ohio chapter of the National School Public Relations Association for two years and on the executive board for several more.

To contact Michelle and learn more about her work, email her at

I was an accidental journalist. I wasnt supposed to end up with that degree or become a reporter but, something shifted my sophomore year in college and I made a connection. I was only taking J121 because I needed a few English credits for my pre-med zoology major and I heard the teacher was good.

Twenty years later, the rest is history. Now, here I am: a #SchoolPR pro and a guest blogger on Fueling Education.

In a nutshell, I worked in print news while I was in grad school (yes, journalism) and for a handful of years after I got my masters degree. My disdain for the “adversity of the daily churn and my affinity for my regular education beat landed me a job in the communication department of a school district I once covered. 

I have worked in some of the smallest and largest districts in Ohio (some of the best performing and some with steep challenges to meet). And, I have loved every minute. Helping schools and districts tell their stories is the best job I have ever had. 

We all have a story It just depends on how well we tell them. My job is to help you find them, then coach you on ways to share.

As educational leaders, the conversations about responsibility and student achievement come easily. There is also a deep understanding of the role strong relationships with students, staff and families play.

But there is more. At a broader level we should all actively work to build the brand of our school and district together precisely because of that whole public accountability piece. As a team, we are the best ambassadors of our work; we are the ones who can make it real and relevant for our community members.

Yet, thats often forgotten at the classroom or building level. It becomes something Central Office does or the chore of an obligatory newsletter thats just one more thing we have to do. The news therein is often a regurgitation of the calendar and not much more.

So, lets flip that. There are so many more opportunities to truly connect with parents and community members with tidbits that are relevant to them.

         1. You do know lists are the new black, right? Use your Facebook page to put lists to work for you. Take a pic, post it along with 5 fast facts. Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?  Can you pass 3 questions on your states assessment?
         2. Connect the Dots! Leverage your social media feeds and embed them in your building websites and classroom pages (its free and easy Google it or send me a note). Help parents feel as if they can live in the moment then capture the action for those who may not be connected through your chosen communication tool. Its also good for posterity sake and accountability. Yeah, we did that Check out our website!! 
         3. Its all in the action. Use the news feed on your buildings website or classroom page to post a video  Write a quick paragraph with 3 or 4 sentences that describe what your students are doing. No dissertations, please. Just quick-hitters. We like to say photos are worth a 1,000 words; videos can be priceless. 
         4. Blog. Encourage your teachers to share classroom blogs with posts written by their children. What better way to help share their voices? Subscribe to blogs for educational professionals and stay on the forefront of innovation.
         5. Pick up the phone. Give parents and community members a call. Take a few minutes to jot down a script and tell them where they can get more information. 

Whatever you do, make it personal, make it fun, make it memorable. Find your story and shout it from the rooftops. We all have something great to share. What are you waiting for?