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?