Thursday, December 31, 2015


The year has come to a close. Much accomplished, yet some tasks did not come to complete fruition. Being accepting of what was done, and what was not, is significant to our growth. It is important to celebrate the end of one year and think ahead and be ready for the one to come.

In looking back, ideas were plenty in 2015. I was challenged by colleagues in a way that motivated me to be better. I was inspired by students to dive deeper into the relationships that drive the teaching and learning. And, I was surrounded by professionals that continued to raise the bar both personally and professionally in all that I do for those that I serve in education.

For every up, there is often a down. There were failures. I did not always do as I said I would. There was disappointment. Ideas were left to flutter in the wind. Conversations did not turn into action. When I should have listened, I spoke. Pressing pause to reflect should have been required not simply encouraged. Failure occurred. Defeat was felt.

However now it is time to look ahead. A New Year brings a new set of opportunities and new growth in all that I do. 2016 is here for the taking. With all that I have learned about life and about myself, I know there is OneWord that will drive me this coming year. That word is:

 -  FINISH  -

In thinking to what I have accomplished, and what I have not, it excites me to think about what lies ahead. Already in the works for this coming year:

  • My staff will dive into intentional work as it relates to culture not only in our building but in the classroom and in the hearts and minds of all stakeholders in our community. 
  • As a middle level building who serves the most impressionable of minds, we will look into our own beliefs and lay out our expectations of ourselves and each other as we serve the students in the middle. 
  • With best practices we will continue look at how we measure a students growth and assess their knowledge and strive to prepare kids for tomorrow and focus on the now. 
  • And finally, I am excited to work along side colleagues globally to offer rich, authentic learning in a forum that supports our passions to being the servant leaders we each are. 

With that in mind, the only way this becomes a success, however, is if I FINISH what I start. We would all agree that ideas are plenty in each of us. Actions are spoken with confidence. The beliefs we have are indicative of the communities we serve. We can talk the talk. We are each well versed in the power of conversation. The desire is there.

The reality for me is that I must FINISH. Come in early, stay late, push boundaries, support the uncomfortable, encourage the quiet, process the negative, lean on others, learn from all, listen to and do not ignore the obvious. Feel the pulse. Know my surroundings, support others in the process and remember that it is the teaching and learning that we do that is at the core of what motivates me to not only show up each day but most significantly, act each day.

2016 is here. I am ready to FINISH what I start. I will embrace today, I am ready for what lies ahead.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

5 Tips for Avoiding Winters Grip

For many, we have entered into the most difficult time of year. Winters grip is upon us.

The days of summer are long gone and spring is nowhere in sight. The days seem to be getting shorter, not longer. And the wet, cold, dreary weather that is upon us doesn't seem to be heading out anytime soon. Even those that enjoy the winter weather have their skis tucked away in their garages. For many, it's miserable.

With that being the case, this time of year can pull us toward the dark side of what we do both at home and at work. Often we find ourselves complaining about the weather, frustrated at travel conditions and for those of us in education, our work can become brutally mundane with routine and case load. The days are in fact, getting longer.

For me, however, this is the time of year where we as educators get to make the greatest impact on teaching and learning. As educators, we have very little to "compete" with. Students and teachers are going to come to school each day and undoubtedly it will be school itself that will become the focus and the highlight of the days, weeks and months ahead. Therefore, and with that in mind, be intentional this winter. Seize the opportunity.

So, take a few moments and consider the following tips to a successful (educational) winter. And, of course, have an intense season of teaching and learning in the world in which you live and work.

Re-State Your Goals, Define Your One Word - Remember back in August when you laid out your plan for the year ahead? You created a few goals, maybe a personal one along with the mandated achievement goal? Well, time to dust those off and get back to taking stock of where you are. The years not over, mine as well ensure you are back on track. And, for those that are familiar with One Word, this is a simple way to gain clarity this calendar year. Have a plan.

Identify a Weakness - Let's face it. We all stink at something. Yes, even the best of us have an area the requires us to reflect upon and improve on. Find that gap in your teaching and learning and tackle it head on. This is different than a goal, goals are universal and all encompassing. In this case, you are purposefully stating that you must improve upon this weakness to be a positive, impactful educator. So, identify it, come up with a plan and forge ahead. Build yourself.

Focus On Relationships - If there is ever a time to emphasize the importance of relationships, this is the time of year when they are tested more than any other. We can easily get agitated of each other just as much as much as we get frustrated with the slush on the roadways. Keeping that in mind, whether a teacher of students or a leader of teachers, invest in your colleagues. Talk about the big stuff, and the little stuff. And, not just the educational side of things. Be invested with whom you work. Take pride in knowing each other. Be there.

Build Culture - Recently I read a book that talked specifically about culture. It went into great depth about the concept of team, the attitude of the stake-holders and the power of responses. My takeaway (and there were many) was this; if you don't have a culture that speaks to the direction of the organization, the odds of your organization going places (being successful) decrease significantly (if at all). Seems obvious, I know. So this winter, be purposeful with how you build the culture of your team. Pull your leadership team together and make it a concerted effort. Be intentional.

Be the Powerful Force - If you haven't seen The Force Awakens by now, I would encourage you to see this mesmerizing tale and the messaging within the movie. Connecting this back to the months ahead, I am in awe of how in the face of darkness and doom, the Rebellion Force and its team of characters continue to rely on the simpleness of staying focused, working collaboratively and being vigilant in their pursuit of good and how they overcome the grip of the dark side. It is these actions as a team that always remained at the core of their efforts. As the leaders within our buildings, it is our charge to take on this same role. We are the leaders and the visionaries to our success. Therefore, be the powerful force.

Bonus Tip - Stay Active. Even though the days are shortened, find a way to get your body going. Whether in your classroom, in the hallways or around the building, get yourself moving. Put exercise into your winter routine. Spring will arrive, and you will want to be ready. So, get moving.

With the calendar turning from one month to the next, and the days becoming filled with opportunities to learn, continue to do your part to be the highlight of each day. Whether offering lessons for students or teachers, know that it is your pulse that will dictate the heartbeat of the entire classroom, building and organization. In the end, ensure that your actions will keep you from falling into the grip of winter.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

You've Got This Coach

I enjoy writing. To me it is a tool used to improve my craft. It is reflective and transformational. Knowing that others read, share and grow through what I write has its reward as well. So many of those that I connect with globally use it for the same purposes and in turn yield the same results. Whether sharing with the Compelled Tribe, colleagues within my school or members of my Professional Learning Community, writing results in growth in leadership, in teaching and in learning.

What we write about often ebbs and flows with where we are in our days work. Typically it is something we have observed or been blessed to experience or even at times, accidentally stumble upon.

Recently, I was incredibly blessed to be a part of an amazingly powerful organized moment with those that I work closest with. The students and staff at Weaver Middle School, in Hilliard, OH have been supporting and encouraging a teacher and colleague that was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in August of 2015.

"Coach Jones" as many refer to her by, has spent this fall undergoing chemotherapy treatments each Thursday morning. As soon as the nurses complete the required poking, injecting and prodding, she heads straight into school with an undeniable amount of energy. She is at school every single day of every single week. She doesn't miss a beat, she is there for her students and her colleagues. She is resilient.

In January she courageously enters the next phase of battling this vicious disease. Surgery and ongoing treatments will consume her Winter and face her head on into the Spring. Her energy, her will and her desire to conquer this disease will be her motivator throughout. She is determined.

This past Friday, the day leading into our Winter Break, Jeannette Muzzalupo, the Weaver Middle School Choir Director, along with the support of her colleagues, pulled off a moving performance in Coach Jones honor. This was yet another gesture of compassion to compliment our #JonesStrong bracelets, our Thursday "Pink Outs" and our daily fist-pumps of encouragement. She is passionate.

Listen to the words, hear the voices and embrace the moment.

Throughout the year we try to teach students concepts like selfless giving, generosity and kindness through fundraisers, charitable drives and behavior systems and incentives. However in this case, their lesson came through an opportunity to learn some lyrics, take a few moments away from day-to-day instruction and follow the lead of teacher who was simply doing what any of us would dream of doing. This was a lesson that none of us will forget and one that we are all blessed to be a part. Be strong Coach, you've got this!

As always, please consider donating this holiday season to a cancer society of your choosing. Families for a Cure, an organization that is located in Hilliard, OH, would graciously accept your donation to support children and families in our community and beyond.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Twas The Week Before (Christmas) Break"

To be read as "Twas the Night Before Christmas"...

Twas’ the week before break and all through the school
My colleagues were
teaching and learning and keeping it cool.
They had gathered their students and had lessons in place,
Wanting them to learn and to share at a blistering pace.

The students and teachers all knew break was around the bend, 
Maximizing the minutes and the moments, that was the trend.
Now we know that it’s time to wrap up the grades,
But the teachers were not ready to pull down the shades.

We've talked devices, personalizing and of course blending-learning, 
Soon to continue in January and our minds will be yearning.
Blending makes sense, we add tech to the paper,
We now need a stylus alongside of the stapler.

Personalizing, now that's the latest talk of the town,
The students, the teachers, all smiles, no frowns.
It makes simple sense that we work well together,
To make this experience the best thing forever.

Devices, one-to-one, great stuff from the teachers,
Students quickly jumped in and became the tech preachers.
Plenty to look forward to when it comes to this group,
The year past, present and future, they are quite the troop!

Now Math, Now Science, now Social Studies and Art!
On PE, On Music, On Robotics and Language Arts!
Enjoy your two weeks, this time is for you, 
Happy Holidays to all on behalf of Weaver Middle School!

Monday, December 7, 2015

That's a Wrap

Each year I find myself taking inventory of the lessons I have learned both personally and professionally. Let's face it, we are always learning.

This year is no different. And, as we close in on the end of this calendar year, I already have my sights set on some new and innovative goals for 2016. So with that in mind - 2015 - that's a wrap.

Here is a look back at the powerful professional takeaways from this past year. There is absolutely no significance to the order in which I share.

Relationships First - As educators, we know the value and the significance of strong interactions with our community of learners. This past year I became more purposeful and intentional with my interactions with those that I am surrounded by both in the "real-world" and those that I connect with online through Twitter, Blogging, Voxer and other social media platforms. All of my relationships have been at the core of my success. Going forward, my goal is to continue to strengthen my relationships with colleagues both face-to-face and online and focus on those that need the most attention first.

Pressing Pause - My past is filled with moments of impulse. It's human. We react to our environment. And, I am not alone. I would like to think that as I have become older, I have also become wiser. Now I find myself (and sometimes it is my colleagues who help me) pressing pause in various moments throughout my day. Doing so has positively impacted my leadership. This simple action has made me a better leader, a better listener and a better friend.

Response Matters - Recently I read the book, Above the Line by Urban Meyer. Within his success, and this book, there is an equation which is referred to countless times. In fact, I have written about it before. "E+R=O" has been at the core of my work in the fall of 2015. The key component of this equation is in the "R". It is our responses to various situations that will define us and will make us effective, or not. To learn more about the "R Factor", check out the work of Tim Kight and Focus3Culture.

Raising the Bar - Being a building principal, I am constantly amazed by the professional drive of the staff that I work with. Being in a large district, we are blessed to have the resources we do. Whether embracing the newest student management systems, embedding over 3600 1:1 devices in a blended learning model or supporting teachers through ongoing professional development, I firmly believe that if we have the crucial conversations, the tough moments and keep the bar set high, the return on our time and energy will out-way all other efforts combined.

There are many additional moments during 2015 that could be a part of this post. Friends made, relationships cultivated, recognition received and opportunities provided just to list a few. Even though I look forward to yet another year of amazing opportunities and learning experiences, I am saddened to close this chapter of my personal and professional life. As an avid reader myself, I look forward to the upcoming chapters and putting the ink to the pages and creating this next part of my story.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Are You a 21st Century Educator?

Constantly striving to embed best practices, teachers are embracing the notion of the 21st Century academic experience more now than ever before. And, as leaders in our field either in the classroom or within our building or district, it is the modeling that we do, the efforts that we make, and the implementation of these concepts that sets us aside from our peers.

Teachers and administrators today are defining themselves by the experiences they offer. The art of education is taking on a form of its own. The traditional side of education is evaporating from our experiences. The strides being made in this generation of learners has evolved beyond all the previous generations combined. There is a growing separation.

With that, we have heard time and time again about shifting from the scope of being “good” at what we offer as educators to taking what we do to the level of “great”. Today, however, we are hearing and believing that being “great” isn’t good enough. The charge given to those that truly seek to be innovative and be a leader amongst leaders and a visionary amongst their colleagues is to take the craft of teaching and learning and strive to be “exceptional”. It is educators taking their passion of teaching and learning to a level achieved only by a handful. Many of us work to aim toward this level of instruction, not all can reach this peak.

Being exceptional requires many attributes, most notably, the belief in being a 21st Century teacher and leader. Do you have the attributes of being a 21st Century educator? Read below to see how you measure up to your colleagues near and far. Becoming exceptional is a goal well worth achieving.

Are you a 21st century teacher?

Do you share what your students are doing with the world?
Do you bring in experts to talk with your students via Skype or Google Hangout?
Do you seek out and participate in professional learning via twitter and other online communities?
Do you take your students on virtual field trips?
Do you focus on having your students to create instead of them only consuming?
Do you connect your classroom with other classrooms across the globe?
Do you use backchannels in your classroom to give even the quietest students a voice?
Do you give assignments where students collaborate via online platforms, such as Google Docs?
Do you teach your students about digital citizenship and anti-cyberbullying?
Do you share your lesson plans and collaborate with teachers across the globe?
Do you leave a video tutorial or podcast for your substitute to play when you are not at school so that students don’t miss a day of learning and/or doing?
Do you allow your students to guide their instruction and do they own their learning?
Does the culture of your room speak to the values and beliefs of the learning?

Are you a 21st century school leader?

Do you flip your faculty meetings?
Do you seek out and participate in professional learning via twitter and other online communities?
Do you share what your teachers and students are doing with the world?
Do you model risk-taking?
Do you provide professional development experiences that allow for teacher choice in delivery format, skill level, and flexible time of delivery?
Do you lead technology training sessions?
Do you use Remind to notify your staff of important events and news?
Do you collaborate with other school leaders across the globe via social media and other online communities?
Do you have a school hashtag?

Whether you are a teacher within a classroom of students or a leader within a building full of learners, your charge is to ensure that each person within your community is receiving a 21st Century academic experience. This list of questions is a great starting place for you to recognize what is, or is not, happening in your workplace. Take inventory in your teaching and leading and strive to becoming an exceptional educator in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finding Purpose, Giving Thanks

With the calendar turning and the holidays approaching we will spend moments of our days and weeks ahead showing and offering our gratitude to others. We will have an opportunity to define our purpose and to give thanks. This week is full of thanksgivings.

And just like that the names and faces of those that I am grateful for rushes to the forefront of my mind. This list continues to grow with each passing moment of each passing day of each passing year. As educators we are blessed by the people we are surrounded by.

It is one piece of my work that brings me back to center each and every day of every week of every month of every year. You, like me, realize that it is our relationships with others that provide us the moments that drive us to be grateful for others.

These powerful, everlasting relationships with students, teachers, parents and our school community becomes the driving force behind our successes and speaks to the culture of our organization. It is these very relationships that we never take for granted and we constantly remind ourselves of our purpose and our place.

As you plan for the remainder of your week and the bountiful feasts that await you, take a moment to reflect on the relationships you have nurtured, embraced and cultivated. Whether a student that says good morning to you as they enter the building, a teacher that takes an extra moment to email you their appreciation for something you have supported them with or a parent that drops by to leave a tray of treats for the office, each of these gestures affirm the thankfulness they posses for the efforts you have made to be present for them. It is the relationship that matters.

This Thanksgiving reflect on your purpose and take the time to give thanks to those around you. The relationships are at the heart of what we do year round.

And with that, I share this list of questions. It is not mine, it is from a post from Seth Godin in which he shares The Thanksgiving Reader. Take a moment to read, reflect, and respond. And above all else, have a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends near and far.

What’s the value of gratitude? 
Why does it even matter? 
Why aren't people, especially Americans, more grateful? 
What can we do to feel grateful the other 364 days of the year? 
Are older people more grateful than younger people? Or is it the reverse? 
We all know the value of connections, but where did the barriers come from and what can we do to topple them? 
Who’s the most grateful person you know? 
Who’s your gratitude role model? 
What is something—a conversation, advice you received, etc.—you became grateful for only well after it occurred? Why did it take you so long? 
Have you lived a life that deserves gratitude from others?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Finding Balance

As educators, we work long days and we give tirelessly of ourselves. We are relentless when asked to support the teaching and learning of our colleagues and our students. As a leader of educators and a teacher of students it is in our DNA to be present in all that we do. We give.

As educators, there is no calm, there is no rest. Our days are filled with welcomed chaos. The job never remains the same. The challenges and opportunities are in abundance. We don't say "no" when asked to take on a task. We do.

With this in mind, I encourage you to pause and to reflect and to consider the importance of balance.

As educators, finding balance in our lives can be the difference between our happiness and our demise. Finding balance can be the source of our greatness or our failure. When our lives are not balanced, we are not at our best. Lack of balance between work and home can ruin relationships, increase our stress and drive us away from what we are working to achieve. Lack of balance is a formula for disaster. In order to find balance, we must make it a priority. We act.

So, when push comes to shove, what gives? How can you devote the time and energy to each aspect of your life yet still have balance? If you truly want balance in your life, you might want to start here:

Prioritize the tasks at hand. You know what needs to be done and when and you know what can wait. Stay true to that, the rest will fall into place. Be committed to your schedule and to what matters most.
Practice what you preach. If you encourage others to take time for themselves, there is no need to wait yourself. Whether at work or at home, allow yourself to walk away from the tasks. Tomorrow is only a few hours away.
Unplug and step away from your device, the computer and most importantly, the emails. If being connected is part of your balance, enjoy that time but be cognizant of the time . Avoid sending working emails to your colleagues. If you send them, they read them. Give them a break too. 
Promote and permit those around you to explore all aspects of their work. Building these relationships and supporting others is significant in creating culture and working to find balance in leadership. Finding leaders within allows the tasks to be shared amongst many.
And finally, get active. If you truly want balance in your life, make sure you are on the move throughout your day both at work and away from the office. Whether it be a scripted routine, heading to the gym or moving about your classroom and your building. Get up and get on your feet.

Finding balance is half the battle. Maintaining that balance is the true test of your commitment to your work and to your health. There are aspects of your day that you have no control over, balance is not one of them. Therefore, find it. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Press Pause - The "R" Factor

(Artwork courtesy of Nicole Roholt, Art Teacher, Weaver Middle School)

Days are hectic, decisions need to be made, time is precious and as we know, difficult to come by. Teachers are working harder, smarter and more creatively than ever before. They continue to grind through each day and deliver quality lessons. Students are constantly evolving in their styles of learning and they crave to have their academic, social and emotional needs met at every turn. The high stakes of school is reaching new levels and our communities want the best from our educational institutions. The bar remains set high.

With all of that in mind and now more than ever, we need to press pause and we need to be exceptional.

Under the direction of Tim and Brian Kight, the two passionate founders of Focus3, our team of administrators and teachers in the Hilliard City Schools are learning the components of culture through an equation they refer to as The R Factor. And most specifically, how our actions, reactions and our behaviors get us the results we strive to achieve in the classroom and in our school community.

In our conversations, we are reminded that EVENTS are a given. Events are those daily interactions, decisions and directions of an individual and an organization. They are going to take place. For each of those events, there will be an OUTCOME. What that outcome will be is completely and entirely determined by one simple act, our RESPONSE to that event. That response will dictate the success and/or failure of our system of teaching and learning and of leading. And our response will define not only us as individuals but also speak to our culture.

E(vents) + R(esponse) = O(utcome)

With all that is on the line, it is imperative that we take a moment and press pause. My challenge to you is to think through a response that has happened recently that has generated an outcome that you either intended (or unintended) to occur and ask yourself, "Had I pressed pause and given greater attention to my response, would my outcome be more aligned to the feelings, beliefs, norms and expectations of my work, my employees and my customers?" That answer alone with determine your next move. This is The R Factor.

Primarily in the business world, their model of building an exceptional culture can be applied into districts and classrooms by having purposeful and spirited conversations and taking intentional steps to get the results your community seeks. I look forward to sharing more about the Kight's work and especially the work they are beginning to share with schools around the nation. Look for more, including your "20 square feet" and of course, always being Above the Line.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Day of PD - Putting the Shoe On The Other Foot

Rise and shine! Today, (if not at Hilliard University insert your day of professional development here ________) is a day you have been provided to grow as a learner. The shoe is officially on the other foot. Typically you are the teacher; today you change your role. Now that you are here (where ever that my be) what are you going to do with your time? My two cents - grab some coffee, connect to wifi and check out some pretty amazing teaching and learning. Here is some straightforward advice below to plan out your time. And, above all else, enjoy your day of PD!

Birds of a Feather Flock Together – As tempting as it is to travel from session to session with those you know, push yourself to break off and set your own path. Take notes, ask questions, meet new educators and make the learning interactive. Grow your Professional Learning Network.

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket – When we head off to conferences many times we go with a specific goal in mind. All be it goals are extremely important to have. In fact, they are essential to measure growth.  Make sure you get to sessions that have you thinking about who you are as a leader and learner. Goals take form based on your experiences. Branch out.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover – Often times we select sessions to attend based on title alone. As we have heard countless times, make sure to peel back the cover and read into the description and the presenter. Some of the best learning moments can come from the most unlikely of places. Explore your options.

Actions Speak Louder than Words – When all is said and done, the real test is taking the knowledge you have gained from your day of professional development and apply it to your everyday world. Take the time to reflect, formulate a plan to implement and set your actions steps. Be courageous.

I would encourage you, and challenge you, to push yourselves the entire day. You have a unique opportunity to grow yourselves leaps and bounds. By participating in these professional experiences, you are that much more in tune with the world of education and are showing your passion for teaching and learning. You are modeling for your students. Stay committed and know that your work is essential to not only your development but also for your student's experience.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

We All Start Somewhere.

This is a guest post by Abbey Obrist, an eighth grader at Weaver Middle School in Hilliard, OH.  

Abby has an insightful take on practice and how we can each learn from our experiences. In fact, she is embracing our work at WMS as we talk Growth Mindset to our teachers, to our students and to our community. 

Our motto this year as a community of learners is when we are faced with a task we feel we can't accomplish, we simply add, "Yet". Abby is a great example of living by this motto and displays her talents through her writing and sharing of ideas.

We All Start Somewhere

My fanart for a webcomic called Homestuck by Andrew Hussie
 Lyrics are from The Bird and the Worm by Owl City
Just like the title says, we all start somewhere.  Art is like learning to ride a bike or starting to learn to play an instrument.  You're not going to be the best at first.  You have to practice and practice and practice.  Sure, it may seem hard but if you keep working at it you'll be able to make a semi-quality sketch in about a minute.  I had always loved art but didn't really start drawing until two years ago.  I look back on my old art and cringe but at the time I thought it was good then.  That's what kept me drawing.  The encouragement from myself and others helped me keep practicing and wanting to get better.  You are not going to start out magically being able to draw.  If you keep working you can get better.  I often think about how much I've improved in just two years.  But like I said, I only improved because I tried and practiced.

Enough about me.  Let's focus on you.  You're wanting to start drawing.  "How do I get good?" you ask me and other artists.  Practice.  If you're starting out, here's a list of things that are okay to do.
  1. Use references.  It is okay to use references. Use them as much as you want.  Now this doesn't mean just go ahead and copy the work. Use it as a reference though. Use it to help draw the pose, feet, hand, whatever you need it for.  
  2. Find artists you like. Is there an artist you like? Love, love, love their style? Try it out. Find a couple artists you like and try it out. Mix and match different things and bam you got your art style. Do not just go and completely steal another artists style.  It's okay to draw alike or similar to them but do not just go and steal their style. It'll take a bit to finally find it though. In fact, I use what feels like 500 different styles all throughout my sketchbook. 
  3. P r a c t i c e.  Practice is key. Art will not just come easily to you. Especially if you're not very familiar with it. Like learning violin. You're not just going to become Lindsey Stirling or David Wong. You have to start as a beginner like everybody else and practice.  
  4. Nothing is set in stone. Your style is not permanent and there is always room to improve. Change your style up and try different or new ones every once in a while. You can always revert back to your original style if need be. Like I said, I feel like I have so many different art styles and that's okay. That will come in handy too. Something may look better in one style than it does the other style.  
There you have it. I could probably go on and on about tips and tricks but I don't have that kind of time. I feel like I've said practice and style way too many times but they're important words when it comes to art. Congratulations if you made it to the end of my rambling about starting to draw. I'm sure there'll be more in the future so stay tuned.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The #AMLE2015 Experience – The Middle Level Learner

Day one of the AMLE Conference is nearing an end in downtown Columbus, OH. Educators from across the country and beyond have spent the day focused on middle level best practices. Whether it was the impressive keynotes this morning that delivered a passionate and resonating message of teaching and learning or the countless breakout sessions embedded throughout the day, the collective passion for young adolescents is alive and well at the convention center.

With day two only a few hours a way, there is an abundant amount of information to be shared by both presenters and participants. The sharing of knowledge that will occur on this second day will mirror day one and be as mind-boggling and professionally rewarding.

So, what is your plan for day two? Get some sleep and set your alarm for #AMLE2015 and Friday’s line-up. Here is some advice as you head off to enjoy your evening:

Birds of a Feather Flock Together – As tempting as it is to travel from session to session with those you know, push yourself to break off and set your own path. Take notes, ask questions, meet new educators and make the learning interactive. Grow your Professional Learning Network.

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket – When we head off to conferences many times we go with a specific goal in mind. All be it goals are extremely important to have. In fact, they are essential to measure growth.  Make sure you get to sessions that have you thinking about who you are as a leader and learner. Goals take form based on your experiences. Branch out.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover – Often times we select sessions to attend based on title alone. As we have heard countless times, make sure to peel back the cover and read into the description and the presenter. Some of the best learning moments can come from the most unlikely of places. Explore your options.

Actions Speak Louder than Words – When all is said and done, the real test is taking the knowledge you have gained from the AMLE Conference and apply it to your everyday world. Take the time to reflect, formulate a plan to implement and set your actions steps. Be courageous.

I would encourage you, and challenge you, as attendees to push yourselves the entire conference. You have a unique opportunity to grow yourselves leaps and bounds. By participating in these professional experiences, you are that much more in tune with the world of education and the passion and patience for the middle level learner. Stay committed to your students and each other and know that our work is essential to their development.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Right Before My Eyes, Room 202

As an avid writer and blogger having a desire to grow professionally through sharing of my ideas, observations and experiences, what I saw this morning right before my eyes in Room 202 was all encompassing of years of dedication and passion for teaching and learning.

Room 202 was alive in every sense of the word. When we talk the education lingo and toss around all of the buzz words of our profession, what I saw in this classroom was each and every one of those terms, concepts, best practices and components of education being applied. Flawlessly. And, it did not happen as an independent event. It took effort and focus. Hours and hours to say the least.

There was trial and error, there were mistakes and disappointment by the students and the teacher, there was growth from their efforts and there was frustration from the rigor. There was grit, there was collaboration, there was noise. The room was alive with learning.

Right before my eyes I was witness to everything I strive for with the students and the teachers I work alongside with. Room 202 (and most significantly the teacher within these walls that is dedicated to being the best vehicle of sharing of knowledge and their passion for instruction) has reaffirmed that the hours of planning and preparing, collaborating and connecting, being given the freedom and trust and respect to try new things (and to fail and try again) is worth every moment of every day. The investment in our teachers is being returned in countless ways. The evidence is in Room 202.

On this Friday I am grateful to be surrounded by passionate educators that have a mindset that is built around growing themselves as learners. And, equally as important, they instill this mindset with their students. Room 202 is alive.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Culture Matters

It is at the core of what we do. It is what makes us tick. It drives us.

When you believe in what you do, you are relentless in your actions. When you are inspired by something you see, you share with everyone you come into contact with. As stories of success come across your screen, you re-tell them many times over.

Education is constantly changing, constantly evolving. It is a pulse that is always beating, feverishly. Always an opportunity to learn. To grow. To discover and to explore. Nothing about our world stays the same. Lessons unfold, students reach, teachers take risks, parents invest. The community is one.

Culture is created. It takes time.

Rising in the morning we are eager to see what lies ahead of us within the day about to unfold. We thrive off of what we learn and from whom we are learning. Students and teachers are our source of professional energy. They are our heartbeat.

It does not happen overnight. It takes time to create a culture worth knowing. Worth being a part of. Nurture it.

Culture matters.

Monday, September 7, 2015


Heading into a new school year can bring excitement and anticipation. Eagerness to meet new friends, colleagues and classmates and, of course, the beginning of the journey of learning. Teachers are ready to implement best practice and their administrators are ready to support them each step of the way. Everyone will work in concert to provide the best experience and the best lessons possible. It will be inspiring.

However, a new year also brings challenges, obstacles and the unknown. Students are entering environments in which they are having to make new friends, learn the styles of new teachers and learn new expectations and routines. Teachers too are taking on unchartered roles as they continue to be lifelong learners themselves. Implementing one2one, incorporating a personalized learning experience and of course, always doing what is best for kids and being innovative each step of the way. It can be overwhelming.

As we came back together as a staff prior to the school year we talked about our mindset. Growth vs Fixed. And how we as teachers and learners ourselves could shape the climate of the year awaiting. With all of this excitement and anticipation and conversation there is a word that we as a community of learners adopted for the year ahead with the hopes that it will propel us to great things each step of the way. As we were talking about these unknowns, these fears and these opportunities for new learning, we know that students and teachers alike will be faced with doubt, worry and a desire to retreat to something more comfortable. Therefore, as this community of teachers, leaders and learners ourselves, we will add this simple word to our students and our teachers (and our own) vocabulary. When met with resistance, a seemingly insurmountable challenge, the brain that is telling us to stop or worse case, not even try to begin with, this will become our response. This word will be a part of our growth mindset.


This year, as we recognize students becoming worried, fearful or anxious about material, relationships and responsibilities we will support them in their learning and work with them to be successful and accomplish what lies in front of them by adding the word "yet" when they say they can't, won't or have doubt. Ourselves as educators, teachers and administrators when we are handed moments of challenges and adversities in our day we too will implement this mindset into our decisions and our direction and be reminded of "yet". We will model what we expect of others. We will be relentless in our pursuit of success. And of course, failure may be a part of this growth but growth will occur none-the-less.

With that, can you add "yet" to your work? What will you do when faced with challenges? Will you fold to pressures and the weight of our profession or will you regroup, regain your focus and forge ahead? Will you add "yet"?

I encourage you to purposefully add this simple word to your classroom or school building/district and to your mindset this year and watch what unfolds. Already I have grown in my leadership and modeled how I expect others to do the same. As someone who thought they were always a person to persevere, this intentionality of "yet" has added that much more value to what I do.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Content Can Wait

Today is the fifth day of school and for most of my staff they are just beginning to introduce their content to their classes. And for that, I am ecstatic.

Relationships first. That was the message that was sent loud and clear to my colleagues prior to the first days of school. We agreed that we would have to create the foundation to ensure that students are in an environment in which they believe in. The teaching staff worked collaboratively to embrace a space in which trust would be paramount. It was a agreed upon that the content can wait.

Whether you are in your first days of school or this is already the second week or beyond, I urge you to take a self-assessment of your first few days together as teacher and students and really determine the depth in which you got to know each other. And, if you dove right into content, step back, and give yourself permission to have a "re-do" and revisit some essentials. You will be glad that you did.

Building strong relationships through engaging and collaborative conversations and interactions during the first weeks of school with your students will do the following:
  • Create a sense of identity and belonging.
  • Foster compassion and provide a feeling of hope for a successful year.
  • Build trust and create a supportive space of trial and error.
  • Encourage risk-taking and a safe environment for teaching and learning.
  • Allows for the mindset of growth to take shape. Always a sense of willing and wanting to learn.
  • And, interactions are genuine and meaningful and allows for open communication to be ongoing.
Whether in your classroom or within your school, whether with your students or with your staff, why would you avoid the obvious? Trust, risk-taking, compassion and support are just the tip of what can be accomplished when building relationships becomes the priority and that essential foundation for your work.

There will be plenty of time to cover the content. But content will be the furthest thing from your day if you don't have a space in which everyone comes ready and excited to learn.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

5 Reason to Blog

Recently I was sitting having coffee with Jacki Prati and having a great conversation about our upcoming EdCamp on August 7th. The excitement is building for this amazing day of professional learning as we will be joined by over 200 educators from all over the state of Ohio and beyond. We will come together to talk about all that is great in education. If you are in the area please drop in. (Information can be found at:

As our conversation about camp was wrapping up, the conversation shifted to blogging. Or, as in Jacki's case, the lack there of. Not to worry, those are her words, not mine. She shared the personal and professional disappointment that she had not sat down at they keyboard for almost a year. Jacki went on to say that it was not about the lack of desire. Nor was it the fact that she was "too busy" with work, kids, etc. This was more than that. She had lost her purpose.

As the conversation continued, I began to think about my journey with blogging. This became a perfectly timed reminder for reflecting on MY purpose for why I write. And even more importantly, why I share. Let's be honest, if we simply wanted to write for ourselves, we would keep a journal or a diary. But instead, we blog. Therefore, we share.

With that, I began a list. This would be a condensed list of the reasons I write, and share. When I post to my page, tweet to my colleagues and connect with the #compelledtribe, I believe that I do so with purpose. I share this list with you, and especially Jacki, so that when you write you may discover the reasons for your journey. Here are mine:

1. Parallels in our experiences. My job is unlike any other. The same can be said about yours. However, after we take away the titles we soon realize that there are more things in common than we first realize. We lead and we learn through each others experiences. Sharing those experiences makes us recognize the role of each person in the process. Learning of these parallels makes us better.

2. Recognizing our successes and our failures. There are always going to be moments to celebrate in education. However, there will also be moments of frustration and disappointment. Writing about these highs and lows allows us to connect and relate to the daily global happenings around us. This piece also keeps us grounded and humble.

3. Becoming the student, and the teacher. As educators, this is our goal. Switching up our role as the leader and learner is essential. The writing process is just one avenue to get there. Taking the time to reflect through writing has provided lessons that are irreplaceable. Often times the greatest accomplishments are read and not written.

4. Compassion and understanding. Reading about another educators journey can be inspiring and heartbreaking all in the same breath. Knowing what we each go through can be motivational and empowering. There are events and circumstances out of our control. Being aware of the greater picture keeps us grounded and focused.

5. Pride and joy. Each day we greet our students and teachers with smiles and laughter. We became educators to make a difference. Seeing the "light bulb" each day is where we get our greatest satisfaction in what we do. Discovery of emotions such as pride and joy keep us motivated to teach and lead day in and day out. Writing is an avenue to get there and assist others along the way.

In the end, find your purpose for blogging. If you are like Jacki and have lost your way, create a list and set some goals for yourself. Additionally, for tips on getting back to writing and suggestions on how to share your thoughts and ideas, check out Gretchen Rubin's article "Having Troubles Getting Yourself To Write? 9 Tips." Thanks to Jennifer Hogan for sharing this article with me. And, for being my inspiration and motivation in so much of what I do when it comes to blogging, leading and learning.