October 12, 2014

First Impressions

First impressions mean a lot. When you are first getting to know someone you do all you can to give off a great impression. You are all smiles, you are dressed smart (to steal a great term from my British friends), you use your best vocabulary and even try to give a firm handshake, all in the hopes of making that positive first impression.  We want people to connect to us and say, "Wow, this person seems great! If nothing else, I want to get to know them even more."

But, what is the first impression schools often give to students?  We often welcome them to school, by taking the first day to go through all of the behavior expectations we have.  While I support PBIS and think it is a good thing, this is simply code for teaching kids the rules.  I like that we now try to do it in a positive way and we focus on teaching the expectations, not just telling them the expectations. I'm just not sure it is the "welcome" to school we should use to be starting the year.

Sometimes, often as soon as the second day of school or at least by the second week of school, we begin by assessing students. We are trying to benchmark them to determine their academic skills at the start of the year so we can determine where each student is academically and then we can determine what each child needs for intervention and support.  This is code for, Testing.  We hit kids with numerous tests to determine fluency, comprehension, writing, computation, numeracy and problem solving skills. 

Some of these assessments are given twice because we are mandated to give some tests, but sometimes schools prefer a different test that has a higher bar of expectation, or looks at the same skills slightly differently, or produces a clearer set of data. Some of these assessments are computerized and some are given by a teacher in a one to one environment. Some are based on speed and some can take up to an hour to complete.

This is all pretty normal probably for most of the schools across America. Although it may not be so normal to those 5-10 year old kids. I know there are some schools that have broken this mold, and I am not here to say who does it great or right, but instead to have us reflect on what is common practice, and see if we can empathize with students and to see if we can create a start to the year that would help kids get excited and feel the joy of starting a new year instead of creating anxiety of tests and assessments.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas for how to address this concern.  Hold off on benchmarking until October?  Make the first day all about welcoming students, meeting teachers, meeting friends, having a special lunch?  Hold an assembly where students hear about all the special events coming up this year, a video of highlights from the previous year?  Please share your ideas and help me recreate the start of the school year I would like to see students have.

October 9, 2014

Personal Reboot

No, I'm not broken.  No need for a new me.  I just need to reboot the system and get myself back on track.  I've gotten away from blogging....I've gotten away from engaging and sharing on social media, especially Twitter chats, well, at least as much as I used to.  I've radically reduced my professional reading except for occasional articles and blog posts.  I have been asked to write articles and contribute to books and I have been reluctant to say yes.  I am supposed to be a Connected Ed mentor in my state and I am even supposed to help bring a social media lounge presence to our larger state conferences.  What kind of mentor for social media use doesn't tweet, blog or share articles?

So it's time for a reboot. Time to get back into my blog, connect on social media, and start sharing what I have learned and sharing the experiences I have daily.  I have sat down to write almost 20 blog posts in the past 3 months and I have been unable to complete any of them.  I lose focus, or motivation or I just lack the confidence that they will be any good. So tonight I am just cranking out this one post to break the ice and then I'm sitting back down to get going on an article I agreed to do 3 weeks ago, but haven't started.

I am also rebooting a couple of other goals I have set for myself, but have let fall by the wayside.  The diet is back on, and the exercise is back on.  I am fed up with my lack of motivation on these two parts of my life and it is time to get serious.  I am way too knowledgeable about both things and it is time to face my lack of intestinal fortitude and give myself the kick in the pants I need.  I have a herniated disc in my back and a knee that reminds me I should have quit football after high school.  But both of those things will just get worse by laying on a couch or sitting at a desk, so it's time to "get real" with myself and get started with living like I should.

No, I won't go crazy with exuberance and quit all sugars, or take off on a 5 mile run tomorrow (like I could even run 1 mile), but it is time to get started and to make a plan I can begin, continue and ultimately reach some serious goals with.  I won't be sitting down at the computer each night to start working on a new book, but it is time to set aside time to write and reflect again, and not just stay in the office to get paperwork done, just to come home and plop down on the coach with the TV on and a phone in my hand (really a phone, not a beer like in the picture).

So, I have to thank Connected Educator month again. In the past it has helped me to connect to some amazing people. People that have taught me a great deal, and people that have become lifelong friends.  People that taught me to value myself more and friends that convinced me I can do anything I set my mind to if I just give it my best effort. This year, it reminded me that I am a mentor and role model, and somehow I had forgotten those duties. No more!

Whew! Okay.....deep breath......let it out slow.......