Friday, April 24, 2015

Grateful To Be A Connected Educator

This past Sunday, I was contacted by a good friend, colleague, and member of my PLN, stating that he was nominating me for the Middle School Principal #bammyawards  The person who went out of his way on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to nominate me was none other than Steve Santilli (@SPSantilli). 

I am very much humbled and honored by his nomination as he a remarkable Lead Learner and Bammy award recipient that I am proud to call him my friend. 

Being a connected educator has opened my eyes to innovative ways to improve my school that I never knew were possible. It allowed me to connect with outstanding educators who were willing to share their success stories as well as their failures, all in hopes that someone would build off of it to make their school communities better. 

You would think that in our highly competitive society, individuals would not be willing to "share their secrets" to success without compensation in return. Yet, I believe I speak for many of us that it's about bettering each other, our teachers, our schools, and most importantly our students! No egos are needed if you want to make an impact in a student's life. 

There are so many amazing educators in our country and they all deserve to be nominated. All you need to do is simply go to and provide a voice for someone who deserves it. If you're still unsure as to who to nominate, you can still vote for others. Stand up and let someone know what they mean to you. 

Personally, my "award" is seeing the dramatic transformation that my school has gone through in my three years there. To have staff and students smiling each day as they enter the building means everything to me. As with any new position this was a challenge at first, but the hard work was certainly worth it.  The process of placing people before programs through trust, respect, empathy, encouragement of autonomy, and transparency has been an "award" for all at our school. Students and staff are given a voice, which resulted in outstanding ideas. They are trusted and respected to utilize a BYOD program when many schools in our area still collect electronics from students and staff are written up for having their devices out. The cultural transformation, while developing a 21st century learning environment that strives on teacher pedagogy of risk taking, and not being micromanaged or yelled at has been an "award." Everyone is as good as those around us. I am grateful for the team of teachers, students, families, and all community stakeholders who make OUR school better. 

Nothing makes me more proud than having our ambassadors (staff and students) bragging to their familes and friends about how incredible their school is. No piece of hardware could ever triumph the joy of teachers and students learning in an educational environment that strives to be better each day. 

Lastly, I am whole heartedly grateful for the votes being submitted to me. The words being shared about me to the Bammy community has been one of the most powerful, emotional forces to ever "hit me." The words, thank you, cannot be said enough! Those votes/statements are the best "award" that I could ever receive. As I mentioned earlier, everything that I do, is to enhance the lives of all of those around me. 

I can certainly promise everyone that I will work harder than ever to ensure that I will not let anyone of your words go to waste. 

My vision and goals each day are to provide an educational environment that truly prepares our students for their future and not ours. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Are We There Yet?

After having a half day scheduled, I waited for all my students to leave the school yard and then proceeded to head home to begin Spring Break. When I quickly arrived home, I switched my outfit, double checked the house, and then began our drive to Florida. My amazing wife, my son Henry (just turned 3 years old), and I could not have been in the car for more than 30 minutes when he asked us the dreaded question. "Are we there yet?"  I quickly looked at my wife as she did to me and instantly we asked at the same time, "did you teach him that?"  Turns out, neither of us had ever stated it before, so he must had picked it from somewhere. As we continued our 16 hour ride down to Florida, Henry must had asked that question at least seven more times. Yet, as I drove through the night, "are we there yet" stuck in my head.

As we continued to drive, I recalled an outstanding opportunity that I was invited to: Digital Learning Day, in Washington DC, thanks to Tom Murray (@thomasmurray). During my short time there, I had dinner with some of the finest minds in education today: Eric Sheninger, Tom Murray, Rich Kiker, Erin Klein, Tony Sinanis, Joe Sanfelippo, Kyle Pace, Amber Teamann, Angela Watsen, and Steven Anderson. I even used Uber for the first time with Rich Kiker, Eric Sheninger and Joe Sanfelippo. That as you could imagine was a hilarious ride. The following day was filled with workshops focused on celebrating Digital Learning Day, which featured speeches by Governor Bob Wise, Secretary of Edcuation Arne Duncan, and CEO of the National Board, Ronald Thorpe. The day also consisted of "#FutureReady" workshops lead by my dinner companions. 

When we crossed into South Carolina, I began to think of the Common Core State Standards and its push to make schools/students to be leaders in "college and career readiness." 

thought of my time at the Executive Summit at FETC this past December where professionals shared stories about their schools, and my new superintendent looking over at me saying, "you already do all of this. We are ahead of the game." Yet, my response was "Thank you as we worked hard to get where we are, but my new challenge is finding new innovative ways for our students to stay ahead."

I love the idea of moving our students, staff, and school communities forward to be Future Ready and College and Career Readiness. My vision and goals since arriving at my amazing school have been to prepare the students for their future and not ours. 

We increased instructional time, created/implementation of BYOD, revamped classroom furniture, created a culture that focuses on PBL, genius hour, e-portfolios, created a hallway makerspace during passing, flipped lessons/faculty meetings, provided educational learning advancements for staff by sharing resources, and 20% time to name just a few reforms. 

The main focus was to create an educational setting where students and staff know that they are trusted, respected, allowed to take risk, becoming more empathetic and increasing autonomy. 

As one of my newly hired teacher's stated to me during a reflective discussion about our time at #EdcampSoJersey, "you know I feel like you are leading us as if we are all participating in a school genius hour project. We follow a curriculum and have the freedom to choose how to teach it with your support to take risk, be innovative, and not being micromanaged." 

Yet, as I thought about all of this and more driving through the night, I could help to wonder if "are we there yet?"

With all the mandated reforms, laws, and policies that have been occurring in our educational profession, the question shouldn't be "are we there yet," as I wonder if "will we ever be there?" 

We have an outstanding school that is constantly trying to push staff and students to be Future Ready and College and Career ready, but will we ever get there? After attending several conferences in the last few months, I wondered how many schools are still trying to "get there" by continuing with traditional methods?

When Henry asked one last time before falling asleep for the night, I responded, "not yet buddy, but Daddy is working hard to get us there!"

So I ask you- Are we there yet, and will we ever be there? When we get there is it enough, or will we want/need to go further? 

Driving break 

After driving 16 straight hours we had to catch a lizard at 6:30am. 

Abby and Henry enjoying the beautiful weather at the inlet.