Wednesday, March 23, 2016

They're Only Sprinklers

It happened last week - with daylight savings it's light much later in the early evening and we've been able to go for a walk after work and my kids especially love to ride their bikes! 

We decided to skip our usual loop around the high school and headed to our pool where we're members which is right down the street. 

We crossed the bridge over the creek and my kids erupted with excitement - there was water running down the hill. Sprinklers were on for a few plants and there was a very mini-river coming down the path. 

That was it, my kids went from a normal bike ride to utter excitement. My dad hat went on - I starting to think about dinner when we got home and I didn't want them getting wet and dirty. Before I could say anything they spoke up!

Kids - "Ooooooh, check out the river dad"

Me - "Stay out of the water"

Kids - "Awwwwww"

Me - "Ride around the parking lot but stay out of the water"

Kids - Riding around, looking somewhat glum, eyeballing the water like crazy.

Me - (After just a few minutes) "Ok, you can ride through the water!"

Kids - "Are you serious - yipeeeeee!"

Then, in the matter of an instant their entire mood changed. They were laughing, chatting, singing, smiling, much more happy and effusive.

Yes, they got soaked and a little bit muddy - but that's it. We took off their wet clothes in the garage and put on some sweats for dinner, no big deal.

My wife rolled in from work and the very first thing my kids told her was about the river at our pool. How cool it was! They were running through it and singing. They got super wet and a little bit cold. At first dad said not but then he said yes.

It. Was. So. Much. Fun.

I blog about the sprinklers because it's made me analyze other moments as a dad. When I said no just to say no, because there was mud or dirt or water or something else involved that I would have had to deal with. 

That mud or dirt or water is such a small issue compared to the laughter and singing that takes place with all the joy that happens from my kids. Will I know let my kids do everything they want, of course not. I will relax though and not worry so much about messy children, play is messy and play is fun - let's go through the sprinklers!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Some Teachers You Should Follow

Looking at my Twitter there aren't many teachers that I follow. I tend to only really follow Principals so I wanted to highlight a few that I do follow and why you should too!

I have to kick this post off with the Gridley Girls. There's a crew of teachers at Wilson Elementary in Gridley, CA that I got to know a few years ago when they came to visit my school. The energy, excitement and love for teaching and learning is so profound!

Whitney Hardcastle (@edulebrity) and Carrie Wilson (@itsmyschool) are totally partners in crime and both teacher 2nd grade. They code with kids, have integrated Google Classroom, green screen action, QR codes, flexible seating options and workstations and of course a Makerspace as well!

Laurie York (@MsYorksClass) is a 4th grade teacher and a major driving force behind the North State CUE affiliate and the president. She codes, has Sphero's, Dash, Osobots, makerspace in her classroom and so much more. Laurie also does all her sub plans in Google Classroom and provides students live feedback even when she is gone!

A few more of the Gridley Girls at CUE last week!

Nick Zefeldt (@nzefeldt) is currently a Teacher on Special Assignment in SRVUSD and such an #eduawesome educator.  Nick runs a 3D printing class, is Google Certified, codes with kids and teachers, is absolutely amazing with supporting teachers and their migration to digital education - follow Nick for sure!

Sarah Landis (@SARAHLANDIS) is extraordinary in so many ways! She's a Writers/Readers Workshop coach, co-founder of #HyperDocs, literary and book genius and such such such a great person. Connect with Sarah who currently works in Pleasanton Unified School District!

 Karly Moura is someone who I've actually never met in person, but have heard SO much about! She's a Teacher on Special Assignment in Mt. Diablo Unified and so connected with so many people. She moderates the #MDUSDchat, attends and presents at conferences all the time and I'm pumped to meet her in person very soon! Karly is a must follow for sure!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Education Is Like Coffee - The Options Have Changed

I'm a coffee drinker, it started in college and it's been my morning ritual for many years! 

The other day for some reason I was thinking about coffee and my grandparents generation, what did they drink? Folgers - Maxwell House - Yuban! 

It turns out that I always collect the coffee drinks from my staff at the beginning of each year so I can surprise them on occasion with something from Starbucks or Peet's. 

Something totally hit me as I compared my favorite drink list to how my grandparents drank coffee 50+ years ago. There are WAY more options and people drink it all different types of ways.

Grandparents generation - 
How I see it, our grandparents pretty much had four options for their coffee consumption.

- Black
- With milk
- With sugar
- With milk and sugar

That was it for the most part. Then in thinking about our schools (as I always do) they were pretty much the same way as well. Kids sat in rows, all worked on the same curriculum at the same time and was very teacher directed - not a lot of differentiation. 

Our generation - 

That page above on the Peet's Coffee website is a perfect example of our coffee options in 2016. If you click the link, there are pages and pages of coffee drinks, so many to choose from! The coffee options are so vast that out of thirty-five teachers, I only have two that drink coffee. As in black coffee and not a drink with vanilla, or Splenda, or half of this and half of that.

Our options have changed and we have so many more options. We must be differentiating for our students and teachers. Let them drink their 'coffee' a different way, if given the choice there's a big chance they won't drink their coffee black.

Not all kids and teachers want it the same, drink it the same and have the same tastebuds. 

Enjoy that coffee however you may drink it!

Monday, March 7, 2016

My Most Recent Favorite Books To Read With Kids #tcrwp

It's been a few months since I've blogged about my new favorite books as Principal and figured it was time to share the most recent titles on my desk! 

I'm constantly looking for new books to read with kids - ordering them, reading reviews online, trolling the #tcrwp hashtag, and also texting/Tweeting/emailing/asking my favorite literacy coaches for their recommendations. 

Here it goes.....

All the Lost Things by Kelly Canby is a great story about adventure and courage for a young girl named Olive! Love reading this book with kids, anyone will be delighted with her story!

Poem in Your Pocket by Margaret McNamara is such a fun way to introduce or reinforce poetry with your kids. I'm thinking about making this my March book that will focus on Initiative as our Character of the Month theme. So many students have poetry inside of them, they just need some help bringing it out.

Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton helps you to open your eyes to what's around you in life. Make a wish, take a chance and see where it takes you!

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty is a delightful book filled with humor, some loneliness, friendship and fun rhyming that only Andrea Beaty knows how to do!

Little Tree by Loren Long is a fun story about the journey of life, hold on to what you care about and also know that not everything is forever. 

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal I actually read with a Dr. Suess book on Read Across America Day. It's such a sweet story and can foster really great conversation with kids. Many students at my school had some type of writing activity after I read - what do you wish for?

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry was my February read aloud for my entire school. Our Character of the Month theme was Friendship and it fit perfectly in so many ways. Try not to focus all the conversation on Stick and Stone - Pinecone was a really important role and actually needs more help in the end.

The Little Lemon Than Leapt by Karen Sanders-Betts!

Spruce and Lucy by Todd Nesloney is such an awesome story from my friend and co-founder of Kids Deserve It. It's an awesome tale that will having you smiling and having great conversation with your students. 

Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light was actually the bookclub choice for my Kindergarten/1st grade group this month! So fun to read with kids that I ordered my own copy to read at home with my own children! Encourage kids to harness their artistic talent and see where it takes them!

Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty is only on pre-order right now and will be released in September 2016. I obviously haven't read it yet, but EVERY other book that Andrea has written is amazing and I'm anticipating Ada will be the same!

Playing from the Heart by Peter H. Reynolds is only on pre-order right now but will be released in April 2016. I'm SUPER excited about this book from Peter, can't wait - order it today!

Follow These Female Principals - They're #EduAwesome

I know a ton of Elementary Principals that are male, I also know a TON of female Elementary Principals who are #eduawesome! The ten female Principals below are school leaders right now, they're in the trenches, on the front lines and all very active members in my PLN! 

I'm a father of a daughter, and showing her what is capable as a career is always important to me. Having a strong, fun, innovative, caring, in touch and passionate female Principal is key!

Please connect with the 10 ladies below, you won't be disappointed - they all rock!

Tracey Allen is Principal at Wilson Elementary School in Gridley, California and is always putting herself out there for kids. (check out the photo above) Tracey also presents at STEAM conferences and is the leading force of eduawesome on her campus with teachers! Connect with Tracey on Twitter and Voxer for some of her great energy!

Lindsy Stumpenhorst is Principal at Washington Elementary School in Illinois and is known to roll up her pants and play soccer at lunch with her students. She's got amazing energy and someone you for sure need to follow on Twitter and connect with on Voxer!

Jessica Cabeen is Principal of Woodson Kindergarten Center in Austin, Minnesota. She has 400+ Kindergartners at her school and is coding with them, has introduced Bee Bots and supporting their academic/emotional development so they're all ready for 1st grade. And next year, she has an entirely new student body - all Kindergarten students! Connect with Jessica on Voxer and Twitter for sure!

Melissa Kartsimas is an Elementary Principal in Chicago and I would definitely check out her blog Principal Melissa for some great ideas on how she runs her school! This year for the 100th Day of School she made 100 positive phone calls home to parents, wow! Connect with Melissa on Twitter and Voxer!

Lynn Colon is an Elementary Principal in Northern Virginia and is the epitome of a relevant school leader! She codes with kids, has purchased Sphero's this year and has basically transformed her school into a Disneyland type environment where everyone is welcome and feels amazing! You can connect with Lynn on Voxer and Twitter, she is definitely a Principal to watch!

Esmeralda Moseley is a dual immersion Elementary Principal in Napa, CA and has most recently created a Voxer group for other dual immersion Principals in the area! She has amazing motivation for kids and amazingly sweet personality! Esmeralda is also an emerging blogger, check it out here!

Kelley McCall is an Elementary Principal in Kansas and a huge sports fan. Kelley is also a affiliate and trainer where she spends time training other school leaders and teachers to bring coding into their schools! You can connect with Kelley on Twitter and Voxer - she's got tons of motivation and energy that you'll want to soak in!

Sanee Bell is currently an Elementary Principal in Texas and the Katy ISD Principal of the Year! You can read Sanee's blog here and I would highly recommend you connect with her on Twitter and Voxer! Sanee was also a guest on the Kids Deserve It show which you can watch here!

Shayna Peeff is a second year Elementary Principal in Lafeyette, CA and is the epitome of a student centered leader. Shayna routinely reads to classes, dances at recess with kids and tweets all day long about the awesome work happening at her school! You can connect with Shayna on Twitter and Voxer!

Claire Giardino is an Elementary Principal in Ohio and a newer member to my PLN. Claire is on Voxer, she reads books to classes each month, and has great energy that has motivated me! You can follow Claire's school on Twitter here!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

If Ferris Bueller Was At Our School #savmp #KidsDeserveIt #PrincipalsInAction #edchat

This post is co-written with Jon Harper and Adam Welcome. Jon is Vice-Principal at Sandy Hill Elementary School and his blog is featured on EdWords and BAM Radio! Adam is Principal at Montair Elementary School and co-founder of Kids Deserve It.

Ferris Bueller has come up in many presentations over the years. Adam has blogged about him before and there are a plethora of quotable moments in the movie that are timeless.

Then just the other day a question popped into Adam’s head -

"What would he do if Ferris Bueller was enrolled in his school?"

Adam could have written this post solo, but how fun would it be to have another perspective to add. A couple of quick Voxer messages and Jon Harper was on board!

While we’re not asking you to write a post, we are curious as to how you would handle Ferris Bueller were he to show up in your building tomorrow morning. So please leave any thoughts in the comments section below. We’d love to know how you would handle this rapscallion.

The competition for our students’ attention and energy is fierce. We are all well aware of the fact that the gaming industry spends exponentially more money on research and development than our education departments. While much of that is out of our control, we do know that when our students are with us, they are not always “with” us. They can be thinking about their own life, troubles at home, issues with friends, or how the curriculum they’re being taught isn’t engaging or exciting. 

Since we know this to be the case, why not try to channel some of this Ferris Bueller-like energy while our students are inside our buildings? I think if we don’t, we run the risk of losing them and more importantly, their creative energy, to grander schemes and greener pastures. And while I don’t think that our students are going to pull off any downtown parades like Ferris did, I do worry that we may be gradually putting them to sleep as Ben Stein so effectively demonstrated. Anyone...anyone…?


School was a different place in 1986 when the movie came out. They didn’t have Genius Hour, 20% time, Chromebooks, Google Apps, Kahoot, iMovie, podcasting or even Flipped Classrooms. 

If you have a student like Ferris Bueller in your school, class or district and someone isn’t harnessing their potential, we’d consider them at risk. At risk of not being challenged - at risk of falling through the cracks - at risk of being disengaged - at risk of getting into trouble - at risk of not accessing their absolute full potential - it’s our job as educators to reach all students and push them as far as they can go! 

If Ferris Bueller was at your school, what would you do? Many school leaders that we know are already doing it! They’re challenging kids in new and innovative ways, that push their thinking and open access to programs that have the power to engage their entire student body. 

Here is how they are getting it done: 

Student Run EdCamps  

Yes, you read that correctly. There are places across the country where EdCamps are being run solely by students. One such place is Northfield Community Middle School in Northfield New Jersey. Principal Glenn Robbins and his team have handed the reins over to the students. At least for a portion of the day.

The results have been amazing! In Glenn’s own words, “students rush to sign for classes.” In the past year alone, numerous teams have visited Northfield, to see for themselves the magic that is taking place. And they have left inspired and confident that they could do the same. I can picture Ferris right now. He’d be the one at the board. Marker in hand, orchestrating and arranging all of the amazing sessions that would soon be taking place.

To read and see more of what I am talking about click here.

Genius Hour 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 
Albert Einstein 

This is a time of the day when students get to pursue their passions. For the most part, as long as they can show that they actively engaged in a topic of interest, they are set free to go any direction choose. I am certain that many of you reading this are already aware of this concept of Genius Hour. I shudder to think what Ferris would have created had he had this time each day to tinker and explore. 

But I can’t lie. I would have been waiting in the front row when it came time for him to present.

With a blog titled, Engage Their Minds you just know it’s gonna be good. What Terri Eicholz provides via her resource-packed blog is nothing short of amazing. She is someone who has taken Genius Hour to a whole new level. If you have not already, I highly recommend you visit her page to find all of the resources you could ever dream of on this topic.


“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

Steve Jobs 

Sometimes we must simply provide students with the time, space and freedom they need to create. We can help by giving them access to various tools and materials. But other than that, it is important that we get out of the way. And let them create. And make. And fail. And fail again. Because eventually, they succeed and produce something we never thought possible.

When looking for examples of successful Makerspaces, one need look no further than Laura Fleming, library media specialist at New Milford High School in New Jersey. What she has created, written, and inspired in many, is nothing short of amazing. To learn more about her work and to witness firsthand how she does it, visit her site.

Social Media Interns

“Grown-ups love figures... When you tell them you've made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? " Instead they demand "How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? " Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.” 

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince 

Jason Markey has taken social media exposure and guidance to a whole new level for his students at Leyden High School. Jason promotes his #leydenpride hashtag with the entire school community and also has his journalism and school newspaper share their work constantly. Check out this post from a student on what they think about Twitter!

Adam started a program called Social Media Interns where he gave 5th graders an iPad and had them go around campus to take photos of students in action. They would then work with Adam on crafting Tweets for each photo, including the school hashtag, using filters and ensuring the identity of each student was safe.

Every two weeks new students would start the program, the only thing is Adam didn’t train those new recruits. The previous interns would show them the social media ropes and how to be socially responsible for the school!

Can you imagine how amazing Ferris would have been at running your school’s social media accounts!

Those That Are Connected

 “In my dream, the angel shrugged and said, if we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination and then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.” 

 Brian Andreas 

It really wasn’t his fault, Ed Rooney had to be a manager. Our schools were run differently thirty years ago. At least he was using a computer to the track attendance of his students.

Then we think about principals like Lynn Colon in Virginia, Mark French in Minnesota and Jessica Cabeen in Minnesota who just this year alone have started Coding Clubs, Sphero Clubs and are bringing relevant learning experiences to their schools for kids! Through the power of connectedness (Twitter and Voxer), they’ve been pushed and encouraged by other leaders from around the country who they’ve never met to try something new.

Many times all you need is someone else to say -

“Yes you can” - “I believe in you” - “Don’t over think it, put the kids in charge” - “You need to get connected, you’ll thank us and so will your school community!”

Don’t be Ed Rooney and slam the door - be awesome for kids and teachers, open doors for them, encourage them, get connected to be better for them - You. Can. Do. It.

Photo from PopSugar 

It’s our responsibility as educators to reach all of our students. In special education there’s something called ‘child find’ where it’s our responsibility to find students who we believe have a learning disability of some type and provide them with services. We should have the same responsibility to find those hidden gems among all of our students.

Providing kids with the opportunities to learn from each other, giving them exposure to social media so they can harness the power that’s in our world, allowing time during the day for kids to explore a passion while under the guidance of their teacher.

Go find a Ferris Bueller in your school, make them famous, help them to harness their talents for positive interactions!