Friday, May 23, 2014

Measuring A Successful Year, So Far.

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Wouldn't you know it, another year is in the books! Seems like just yesterday we were handing out locker combinations, having back-to-school orientations and welcoming in a new crew of students ready to learn.

And then, BAM! The year is coming to a close. Final exams, locker clean-out, collecting textbooks (fewer and fewer each year) and of course traditional end-of-the-year celebrations.

With that, time to reflect. There are many ways to measure the year.  How you chose to measure yours is up to you, here is what I learned this year:

1. We are DIGITAL. More than ever teachers and students understand what Digital Citizenship is and what it means. We defined it, embraced it and recognize the value of our "footprints". We are blending our instruction. We are taking the technology and enhancing, not replacing, our instruction through being digital.

2. How we are ASSESSING student learning is evolving. By looking at our grading practices we continue to shift toward a Standards-Based Grading model. We are investing time in what matters most, what students are learning and how they show mastery.

3. Being INNOVATIVE is a mindset. Teachers are making connections with kids and looking at their method of instruction. We are embedding Genius Hour, Choice Boards and Back Channeling more then ever before and their implementation across the classrooms is contagious. Teaching looks different, it feels different.

4. We encourage learning through RISK-TAKING. Failure is a path to success. We want teachers to feel supported to try new ideas and experiment in their classrooms. Allowing teachers and administrators to explore is the norm.

5. More then ever we are about PERSONALIZING a child's academic journey. Educators are taking their lessons and tailoring it to the individual needs of each child. We are meeting kids where they are at and growing them from there. We've been doing that, we are just getting  better at it. 

6. We are MODELING best practice as teachers and as administrators. Teachers are letting students drive instruction and own both sides of the teaching and the learning. Administrators are sharing their knowledge and insights through classroom walkthroughs and constructive feedback. The actual classroom is just a part of the learning experience. Quality, purposeful dialogue is essential to powerful instruction.

7. We are CONNECTED. Social media is so much more than a bridge for people to share their happenings. As educators we are tweeting, blogging and sharing more then ever. It connects content, people, creates partnerships with countless resources and information is reaching others at a speed never seen before. The world is at our fingertips.  

8. We are AGENTS OF CHANGE and with that comes the need to be in the forefront of the academic path. Understanding the world of education is vital to our success. As agents, accept change, it can be powerful. We must know what is happening around us so it does not happen to us.

9. We are LISTENING. As educators we understand the value of hearing what others are saying. Those voices come from parents, colleagues, professionals and most significantly, our students. If we continue to listen, we will grow.

10. We are ONE. Having given of ourselves for the better part of 180 days, we recognized the need to work collectively and in the best interest of all. Trying to accomplish greatness alone is an unimaginable task. Accept that as educators, we work best together.

Measuring success is a form of reflection, so is measuring failures. One is more comfortable then the other. This list does not capture everything, however it is a start. How you measure a year is up to you, this is where I am at, so far.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Music Is My Soundtrack


This post was submitted by Madison Smiley, 8th Grade student at Weaver Middle School located in Hilliard, Ohio. An avid reader and writer, Madison prides herself on her studies and is appreciative of her family's support and the support of her teachers. When asked to be a guest blogger, she was ecstatic. Here are her words:

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s music. We all listen to it, we all enjoy it, and some of us can even play it and/or write it. My name is Madison Smiley,and I am an eighth grader. I've loved music ever since I was little. And just like most kids, the instant middle school came along it almost literally became my life. All teenagers have bands or groups they obsess over. If I'm sitting at home, I've got my earphones in more often than not. If I'm going to bed, I turn it on before I go to sleep. If there isn't any music available, I'm singing or humming to myself. Most kids don't really think about music outside of choir or other music classes they might take, so they don't really pay attention to the way it affects their daily lives.

One thing I've learned growing up is that everyone is special in their own way- everyone is different, and there's nothing wrong with that. But there are a few things we all have in common, beyond the obvious things. For one, everyone listens to music at one point or another. We all listen to the radio in the car or go to concerts. Many of us play instruments and learn to make our own music. There are eight million different kinds of people, and just as many kinds of music to match. It doesn't matter whether you're into classical or modern pop, there's always someone to talk about it with. Music has changed a lot over time, And as it's changed, it's become a bigger part of our society.

This point leads me to a major part of my own life: music is like my internal playlist. This idea came from my favorite Youtube vlogger Carrie Fletcher (itswaypastmybedtime.) Carrie once said in reference to her own personal life that she is "living in a movie". Taking this into account, she also stated that if she is listening to music, whatever tunes she's listening to become her "soundtrack". This statement could not be any closer to the truth in my life. While I may not exactly be living in a movie, music definitely livens up my day.

Everyone has their own personal soundtrack in one form or another. Most of the time, which playlist we "play" depends on how we feel. For example, if I'm feeling like I need a pick-me-up, it's songs that I'm not afraid to dance and sing to, and I end up looking like a complete idiot in the process (not that that’s always a bad thing). If I'm feeling a bit gloomier, it's quiet, slower songs for the day that help calm me down. Other times it's just something random that popped up on shuffle.

Personally, I like to think of myself as a very creative person. I get inspired by almost anything, and music helps keep the creative juices going. I almost always have music playing when I draw or write, and always bring my earphones to art class just for this purpose. In general, I just feel better when there's nice, organized sound going on in my brain. I have met several people in the last few years through instrumental lessons or personal music tastes, and as such my soundtrack has grown. Everyone I meet gets their own theme song if I feel close enough to them, and when I think of them or hang out with them that song gets added to the day's playlist.

Music can change people. Have you ever been to a concert, or maybe heard a song that just spoke to you on an emotional level? Ever cried while listening to a song? I know I have. It's a pretty cool feeling. If you make music, specifically if you make it with others, you should get what I mean when I say there's a feeling you get when the whole group is playing together, and for a minute everything is just perfect. You end feeling great, and the same goes for everyone in the group. Music can bring people together in ways few other things can. So what kind of music do you listen to? And where do you think it can take you?

Friday, May 16, 2014

No Regrets - Lessons Learned

In a matter of days, possibly a few weeks, a group of students that you will have spent over 180 days with will walk out of your classroom and on to the next chapter in their lives. For each of those days that your worked with them, there are hours in which you made an impression that can never be undone.  And, within those hours, there are minutes that you shared your passion for teaching with the hopes that your students would take away those lessons and apply them to their future life experiences.

No Regrets. Lessons Learned.

Whether you have taught the basics of learning words and spelling ones name or worked with those preparing to move their tassel from the right to the left, the mark that you have left will carry on for years to come. What you have accomplished this year is simple in nature but magnificently impressive in another. You have spent an entire school year giving to your students the knowledge that they will need for the rest of their lives.

No Regrets. Lessons Learned

The colleagues that you have spent countless hours preparing, planning, delivering, and reflecting on your lessons with will soon become silent by the summer months. The laughs you have shared in the lunchroom or the tears you have shared after school will soon be replaced by the barren halls and packed up offices.You have formed relationships with adults that no other profession can imagine to come close to understanding. You are their for each other.

No Regrets. Lessons Learned.

Continue your journey of teaching and learning. Set yourself a course for growth in the coming days. Determine what your passion will be as you already envision the next class of students awaiting that very knowledge that you hold tight to your chest. Reflect on who you have been and discover who you will become. 

Enjoy the final weeks of what you have given of yourself. It is impressive to say the least.

And above all else, No Regrets, Lessons Learned.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

For You Mom, on Mother's Day...

(Image courtesy of

When we have fallen, they have picked us up. When we are unsure, they are there to listen. They help us learn. They encourage us. At our darkest moments they are the brightest light. When we are at a tipping point they can often help us get to one side, the right side.

In my journey throughout life I have been fortunate to have a constant support system in my world. I feel for those that do not have that good fortune or when that constant is not present. And that, I wish I could control. I can try and provide that for someone else.

The other day Kevin Durant of the NBA gave one of the most heartfelt speeches as he was awarded the Most Valuable Player Award for the league. Not a huge NBA fan I typically would not have been drawn in by a game, let alone this moment in their season. However it was what he shared as he stood at that podium that was so moving.

After the obvious team thank you's he moved on to thanking the constant in his life. It was genuine, it was raw, it was from the heart. He said, among other things, "We weren't supposed to be here, you made us believe."  Through his words and the emotions within those words he expressed his appreciation for many things. He knows, and therefore he articulated, that it was this constant in his life that drove him to the success he was being recognized for on that day and in that moment.

So here I am today. I am fortunate. I am blessed. For it is that constant, my own mother, that has catapulted me to where I am now. The constant in my life deserves the credit. That constant is appreciated and never taken for granted.

Being supportive, being encouraging and challenging me to be the best person I could be (and therefore become) is how I remember my years under the care of my constant. 

My speech would be filled with emotion as well. From standing behind my podium I would praise and appreciate you. I am the person, the father, the educator and the son that I am from you being the constant in my life.

Happy Mother's Day mom, my constant, my MVP. And to all the moms that continue to expect the most of their children, the same to you. Be constant in your child's life regardless of the roof they are under, how old they are or where they are in their journey. We need you. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

To My Teachers: With Gratitude.

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You are appreciated.

Every morning of every school day you rise to the occasion. You warmly welcome the students that enter your classroom. You know each day will be different then the day before. There is no normal. Students spend half of their day, half of their year, half of their lives with you, their teachers.

Spending hours to prepare each lesson you take pride in. Conferencing with students to share their progress is a practice of each week. Assessing students and tailoring instruction is evident. The collaboration with your colleagues speaks to your commitment to your own growth. Time is not measured. You do what needs to get done.

You make a difference.

Mandates, initiatives and policy often become obstacles in your day. Yet you persevere and embrace this knowing that it is a part of the process. You know what is best. You filter. The authentic lessons, the experiences you provide and the connections you make are the moments remembered each day. They may not remember all the content in years to come, however they will not forget you and how you taught them and treated them.

You do what is best for kids.

Guiding parents, holding conferences and having ongoing conversations to assist your school community to be a part of the teaching and learning is something you value and emphasize. You know it takes a collective effort. You can't teach in isolation, you know that the home is essential to growth. You spend hours to ensure all are involved.

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You are celebrated.

My teachers amaze me. They support each other in the preparing and delivering of their work. They lean on each other in their lives away from the school day. They laugh, they cry. They know they are collectively responsible for the students within the school walls. My teachers are the inspiration of the day. They embrace their role. They overcome, achieve and guide. They give.

For all that you do, the lessons I have been taught, you have my gratitude.