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I Didn’t Read Teach Like A Pirate…

…because that’s one I want to read alongside my teachers when I get my own crew. But I know all about the buzz and positive changes that have resulted from Dave Burgess‘ groundbreaking work, Teach Like A Pirate.

When I started seeing teases about Lead Like A Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf, I saw an opportunity to affirm my beliefs and grow in preparation for the Principalship in a building and crew to call my own.

The book arrived last Thursday and I dug right in. My Facebook feed was filled with #BookSnaps posts by Tara M. Martin. So, I started creating my own. Look at this lame one from last week:

But I kept at it because I wanted others to see what the book had to offer and what I was learning. So I kept snapping:

And I became convinced that this book would be crucial in helping me take the next step in my admin journey. Fast forward to last Saturday at #EdcampELM, where I decided to take a big risk. Even though I really didn’t know enough (in my view) about SnapChat and #BookSnaps, I still wanted to share it with others.

Thanks to a great resource from Tara, I figured I could hook them with her video, get SnapChat on their phones, walk through some instructions and straddle a discussion for teachers about close reading for students and educators about their own learning. Only two people left (before the session even started) and I think enough folks walked away willing to give it a try.
I apologized for my lack of creativity and asked folks not to compare my feeble snaps to the works of art created by Tara (go check her Twitter and Facebook feeds). But I felt passionate enough about Lead Like A Pirate to keep reading the book and learn more about SnapChat.

During the last session on Saturday, I combined sessions with Andrea Kornowski. She wanted to talk about culture and I wanted to talk about Lead Like A Pirate. I must confess that I had only read 1/3 of the book, but I still wanted to talk about how I believed it could change culture and help leaders and crew alike. My brother even made fun of me with this meme:

The room at Brookfield Central High School was packed, and I didn’t get to talk a lot about specifics of the book (the conversation didn’t really lean that way), but it was still great. One woman asked if the I thought the book was only for principals, and I said, “No. This is for lead teachers, department chairs, instructional coaches, and yes, building and district leaders.” She nodded and wrote down the title. I hope she buys the book.

I have since gotten better with SnapChat (There will be a future post about that learning curve). And my posts from today do not embarrass me:

I even went crazy about ANCHOR Conversations and stepped out of my box to make a Periscope video:

I hope to finish the book tonight. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll see more #BookSnaps and Periscope videos as I share out some of the strategies in action.

And remember, I tore open the Amazon packaging last Thursday. Trust me…you want to read this book. It won’t take you long, and you, too, may soon find yourself sharing and reflecting. I hope you do.

Update 3/28: I finished the book today and immediately put some of the ANCHOR Conversation pieces into play. Initial feedback from teachers was positive.

Try number 1:

Then I decided I needed better game – more room to write – so…

I will work on an Amazon review for the book in the next few days.

Core Beliefs And Engendering Trust

I must begin this post by communicating that I have struggled in the beginning weeks of #PTCamp as I think of how I can immediately apply what I am learning. If I were still in the classroom, I see so many possible ideas. If I had my first principal position, I obviously have many possible plans to work on with my staff and home communities. Starting as a Technology Integration Coach next year, I will work directly with teachers to help them integrate technology into their classrooms. I’m hoping that at the end of these six weeks, I can see a way to work with my four building principals and varied staffs to look at ways to build parent partnerships.
Core Belief 1
All Parents Have Dreams for Their Children and Want the Best for Them
In my experience, this belief is vital, yet it too often reaches a sticking point at the high school level. Too many schools seem to want to tell parents, “We’ll take it from here.” And, unfortunately, too many parents don’t feel welcome to talk about their hopes and dreams for their children. This is my favorite of the core beliefs. Someone said this in one of our early voxes for this week: Every parent sends us their best kid. That really resonated with me this week. Parents want the best for their children, but sometimes life puts obstacles in the way that make it difficult for them to help as they would like. It doesn’t mean the dreams go away. When working with my building principals, I hope to find ways to help them build and broaden these parent partnerships by using the technology tools I am tasked to help them learn and implement. If I become a principal, I want to engage with parents early and often and focus on their dreams they have for their children and how I might help them.
Core Belief 2
All Parents Have the Capacity to Support Their Children’s Learning
This ties into what I wrote in Core Belief 1. All parents have the capacity to support their children’s learning. Maybe they can’t help their child with homework, but they can certainly help ensure it gets done. And, why are we sending home the hard stuff instead of doing it at school, where the expert teachers are who can offer necessary support? Some of you in our Voxer group have amazing initiatives in place that engage parents and help you to form true partnerships. I will have to fight the urge to try it all at once, especially if I become a principal. As a teacher, I know how these shifts in thinking get viewed as “initiatives” an immediately tossed into the “it’ll go away at some point” pile. I hope to use our shared Google Doc to identify ideas I might work on with my staff.
Core Belief 3
Parents and School Staff Should Be Equal Partners
This again ties back to #1. I hold this belief as dear to me. My high school colleagues want parent help with discipline and homework completion, but I do not sense a desire for an equal partnership. I hope to be able to help my staff (as a Tech Coach or Principal) to believe in the importance of an equal partnership to the overall well-being and vitality of our school community. My principal last year started a true parent advisory committee – one with actual decision-making power. When I presented a Volunteer management app to her, she immediately loved it, but she took time before having me present it to the advisory committee. I viewed the app differently than they did, and they provided crucial guidance about how to best use an app like this (They decided that booster clubs would make the best starting point for the app and that, if successful, we could look to expand to other volunteer uses). My principal let them make that decision, and the parents seemed to value that their decisions mattered.
Core Belief 4
The Responsibility for Building Partnerships Between School and Home Rests Primarily with School Staff, Especially School Leaders
Sea-changes like this don’t happen just because the principal says “Make it so.” We want parents to feel they are partners, but that starts with me and my staff. We need to reach out to parents and make this work. The principal at the school where I have the least FTE assigned has reached out and asked me to attend registration this summer, so I can help parents understand our new SIS. We have arranged to have Chromebooks on hand so that every parent can be “hands-on” instead of watching a presentation or receiving a users manual. I think this is a great step and one that invites parents in and starts the support and partnership before school even begins.

#PTCamp – Week 1 Assignment

This blog post serves as my Week 1 assignment for my work in the #PTCamp professional development opportunity created by Joe Mazza to help build parent/teacher home/school partnerships. The question of including parents and building partnerships has come up in several administrative interviews, so I thought I would write my post as if responding to that question in an interview.

We are charged with helping students reach their full potential, and we cannot help them reach that potential alone. True community partnerships that allow us to meet the needs of our communities begin with strong parent partnerships – partnerships, not “associations.” Research [In this case the text we are studying, Beyond the Bake Sale] points to many reasons for a strong parent/school partnership, but I’d like to highlight two:

  1. Students whose families are involved in their learning earn better grades, enroll in higher-level programs, have higher graduation rates, and are more likely to enroll in postsecondary education.
  2. Children from diverse cultural backgrounds tend to do better when families and school staff join forces to bridge the gap between home and school cultures.

Vibrant parent/school partnerships allow us to move on the path to improve learning for all of our students. Parents know their children better than we do, and they have dreams of what they want for their children. If we partner together, a parent’s dreams and expectations for their child can meld with our school’s vision and expectations and allow us to form a true sense of community.

Reading List for Summer 2014

As the school year draws to a close, I find myself not teaching summer school for the first time in 18 years.

Since I will have free time for the first time in many summers, I have decided to mix professional and leisure reading over that now-vacant stretch of time. With that in mind, here is my Summer reading list:

I’ll be tracking my progress on Goodreads.

Edcamp Milwaukee 2014

This past Saturday, I headed down to South Milwaukee High School for a return to Edcamp Milwaukee after having to miss last year’s event. As one of the orgamizers of Edcamp Oshkosh, I know the power of Edcamps to energize staff, reinvigorate careers, open eyes, and simply…AMAZE.

A serious word has rolled around in my head since Saturday: maturation. Merriam-Webster defines maturation as “the process of developing to a desired level.” I sensed a “maturation” in Edcamp Milwaukee, and I posted several times about the phenomenal session board at this year’s Edcamp.

What made this board “mature” was not simply the diversity of topics but the quality of those topics. Yes, there were the usual topics like “Twitter for Beginners” and “iPad Apps” and “Google Apps For Education” and “Google+” and “Going 1:1.” But this year we started to see the impact of Edcamps past, a shift in teaching and learning, and improved PD in many school districts.

Since many teachers and administrators have started using the tools they learned about in years past, the majority of topics focused on instruction and improving student learning. The following topics reflect this shift:

  • Teachers as Learners
  • Crazy Cool Lessons Kids Would Pay to Experience
  • 20% Project/Genius Hour
  • Staff Development That Works
  • Tech Coach – This Works For Me!
  • Classroom Redesign

And the list, literally, goes on and on. This year I made a point to go outside of my comfort zone, so I attended three sessions not focused on technology. In my new role as a Technology Integration Coach, I will move to the middle school and elementary school levels for the first time in my 20-year career in education. I wanted to push my thinking and learn about topics I would never before have considered. Boy, am I glad I did so because I attended:

I also attended a session on Google+ where I shared some of my experiences with using Google+ Communities with my students and to facilitate professional development.

The Big Shift

We have even moved from merely learning how to use Google Apps to wanting to become certified educators and trainers.

After Edcamp, while waiting on a takeout pizza from Christianos in Green Lake, I received a post about a great opportunity for Fox Valley tech coaches coordinated by Kristi Shaw and Diane Doersch. We have moved from a handful of people even knowing about Google apps to having a need to collaborate and train the growing army of tech coaches being employed by school districts. The times, they are a changin’.

The Takeaway

I made some great new connections, am working on a Patio PD idea with Chris SeeMr. Matera and Jason Bretzmann and am frantically trying to gamify an aspect of my Sports Literature class for the closing weeks of school.

After discussions with several new connections, I even think I’m ready to take the leap and become an “edupreneur.” Apparently, I have some expertise that people want me to share and they even want to pay me for that expertise. My consulting website is nearly complete, and I’m awaiting word on several opportunities.

What a difference a few years makes. I came to South Milwaukee High School in May of 2012 for the first Edcamp Milwaukee, excited but nervous because I didn’t know it would be filled with other folks just like me (yes, Tech Nerds). This year, the majority of people at Edcamp Milwaukee had never attended an EdCamp. Several other Edcamps also ran around the world on Saturday, including Edcamp Chicago, Edcamp Island, Edcamp NEPA, and Edcamp Sault.

Professional Development looks to be changing for the good, especially when teachers have choices in their learning.

I cannot wait to see what we learn at Edcamp Oshkosh in August.

In The Interest Of Full Disclosure


My last post reviewed the 11″ and 14″ HP Chromebooks. I wanted to give a classroom teacher’s perspective about these devices and asked my students for their feedback, as well. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that I have a lot of experience with technology, not only as a user, but as a technician and support specialist. In fact, if I didn’t love teaching so much, I might have become an IT guy.

In my very first grown up job, I worked for the Management Information Office at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. I started as a Residence Hall Information Specialist at UWO, helping students learn to use the residence hall-provided hardware and software. I moved on to technician, learning to take apart, upgrade, and repair a variety of desktop computers and servers. I hand-coded the very first website for the Department of Residence Life, learning to write HTML in the age before WYSIWYG. I have worked on Macs, PCs, and Linux boxes. I have used Apple’s Newton and various Palm devices. I dialed into AOL with everyone else. I had a profitable sideline fixing the “blue screen of death” and multiple malware scares many of my teaching peers experienced on their home PCs.  I have installed 184-pin DIMMs RAM in parallel and lived to tell about it.


Why Does This Matter?

When people ask how I know about technology, I let them know that it has nothing to do with smarts and everything to do with repetition. Change the slave/master settings on enough hard drives while installing additional storage enough times, and computers just aren’t scary. Terminate the CAT5 cable for 60 data drops, and WiFi settings don’t seem so daunting. Install enough betas of iOS, and a little frozen home screen doesn’t make you blink.

I have spent over 22 years hacking and tinkering and learning about computers and technology. So, I get why the Toshiba Chromebook has only 2 GB of DDR3L memory. I get why it has only 720P video output in an era of 1080P. I get why it’s built-in “stereo” speakers don’t sound so great. I don’t agree with all of these choices, but I “get” them.

The problem is that many classroom teachers not only don’t get excited about specs like that – they don’t really care. They just want a device that powers on and lets them do what they need to do whether teaching or in support of teaching. They want to project their screen to their LCD projector. They want to know that a student’s device will work when they have a classroom activity planned.


When I look at a device like a Chromebook or an iPad, I look through all of these lenses. I’m not impressed by slick packaging, but I still get excited about opening a new device fresh out of the box. I’m not frightened by glitches or betas (I’m running iOS 7.1 on my iPhone right now). I want to know how well-built a device is, and I always evaluate ease-of-use for students and staff. My students raved at how “cool” the 11″ HP Chromebook looked, but they couldn’t see why the micro USB port for power AND video might be a problem. I know HP provides a dongle for that, but why not just provide an HDMI port?

So I come at these devices as both an end user and support specialist. Some of my complaints about the various Chromebooks may seem minor; however, I have seen students bang the hinge end of their Samsung Chromebook down on the metal of the Chrome Cart, cracking the cheap plastic on the spine. I have watched students press their finger to the screen to point out something to me. I have watched staff struggle to figure out how to project their Chromebook screen to their LCD.

I do not come to bury the Chromebook, I come to push it.

I want to give honest feedback so that one day we can look around and say, “Did we really accept that an inexpensive device for schools had to look, act and feel cheap?” I want the Chromebook manufaturers to make a profit, but I also want them to innovate – to demand better of their suppliers. I may look at RAM memory and display resolution and the type of USB reports when others do not, but I do not accept the statements, “It’s good enough for students” or “It’s good enough for teachers.” If we want to prepare our students for jobs that do not yet exist, lets give them the best, yet affordable, tools with which to prepare themselves. Let’s start saying, it’s the best tool for the job.

This Toshiba Chromebook I have in front of me weighs in at 3.3 pounds, pretty close to that “sweet spot” I suggested in my HP Chromebook review. Maybe they are on to something…

…check that. The faux-metal texture of the case will turn off many teachers (and it won’t fool any students).

There is so much potential in all of these Chromebook devices. Which manufacturer will take the best of all of the chromebooks and come up with “One Chrome to rule them all?” I’m excited to see what new devices reveal themselves in the coming months.