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.