Sunday, May 22, 2016

What If...Reverse Mentors in Edu

New post: "What if-Reverse Mentors in Edu"

Friday, March 11, 2016

Embracing The Inner Hermenaut - #PENNSV16

Throughout this past year, I have been blessed to travel across the globe, searching for creative ideas, deep conversations, unique methodologies, and so much more, in hopes of continuing to improve my staff, students, and my family. Ultimately, it's about trying to disrupt the hedonic adaptation that consumes our lives, our schools, and those around us. I am honored that I have the opportunity to join an incredible group of educational minds on the #PennSV16 study tour, lead by Dr. Joe Mazza, as we head to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.  

Here are some focus areas for the trip, as we visit multiple schools and companies: 

Flexible space, brain-based design
Brain-based learning
Instructional design
Low-income devices
Student privacy
Virtual Reality
Networking internally and externally for PD
Research on audio, asynchronous, wearable tech, artificial intelligence

Be sure to follow along with our journey on Twitter at #PennSV16, starting March 20th. 

"Why We Explore", by Shots of Awe   

Sunday, March 6, 2016


“Nothing.” Yes, that simple, yet, truthful, one word answer that every parent, and/or family member receives when they ask a student, “What did you do today at school?” Yes, “nothing” is the very powerful word that students bring home, when they aren’t engaged or empowered.  In a day in age where advanced technology is available for all ages, and could fit in the palms of any hand, there are so many educators that continue to ignore, banish it, or restrict it. We have the opportunity to be connected to infinite resources, worldwide communication, and tools beyond our wildest childhood imaginations, yet we embrace fear when it comes to allowing students to use it in schools. Ultimately, as educators, we must overcome our fears, become more transparent, and establish trust, respect and student voice. When students feel valued, empowered, and can engage in honest conversations, that’s where “sparks” begin to fly. 

Take a moment and think of a time in your life, that something or someone caused your mind to reach a state of rapture, which prompted you to share with everyone? As Jason Silva states “these moments are what make final cut” and create memories of a lifetime.  These moments occur in school, when students are empowered by educators to take risk outside their comfort zones, utilize design thinking and/or personalized learning, without the sense of failure, as learning is the main focus, not grades. Student empowerment reawakens curiosity, wonder, and moments of awe, that is sadly missing in secondary school systems. 

“Most creative, successful business leaders have tended to be expert questioners. They’re known to question the conventional wisdom of their industry, the fundamental practices of their company, even the validity of their own assumptions.” (Berger, 2014). We need to continue to question the traditional silos that have been in place for years, because “it’s always been done that way,” and realize that authentic learning can only happen if students and staff are given a chance/voice to create their own beautiful questions.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ego, Jealousy, and Fear

Ever since NASSP bestowed me Digital Principal of The Year, I still wonder about others in education who are affected by “ego, jealousy, and fear.” As of today, my school has hosted over 30 schools from across the Tri-State area. We gladly share our story, all our resources, and make sure visitors leave with more than they came with. The biggest message we try to send them home with is what matters is what you don’t see. Our focus is always on answering the following question:

Why did you become a teacher, paraprofessional, supervisor, principal, superintendent, and/or board of education member?

Of course the most obvious answer is: to better the lives of students. 

It is so important that we make sure that as a faculty, we hold true to our initial reasons for entering the field daily. It is too easy to lose sight of the obvious answer, which is why we repeat our mantra daily. 

In education, there are producers and consumers. You know who the producers are: they are those who happily give whatever intellectual property they own to support the growth of others, expecting nothing more in return than the opportunity to talk education with a peer. The opportunity to potentially raise the level of pedagogy to positively impact instruction. That’s gravy. 

Then, there are consumers. We know them, too. Consumers work from a place of intellectual property rights and tradition. They wear their fear, competition, and pride badges in the same place the producers wear their hearts.

We know as a building, and a school district, that it was important for us to always be producing -- for ourselves, for each other, for the field at large, and for our children. If not, our daily affirmation could be anything, and it wouldn’t matter.

As the lead learner in the building, I regularly reflect on the memorable people who’ve impacted my career in education. Were they producers or consumers? Did they hold true to "bettering students," or did they possess and demonstrate "ego, jealousy, and/or fear?" I remind myself of this because the dual dynamic ultimately creates the opposite of potential empowerment. It creates toxic environments, bringing out the worst in people instead of the best. 

I often wonder why this continues to occur and why it continues to happen in some places. At Northfield, we talk of innovating, bettering our students/staff/schools, and then check our egos, jealousy, and fear to make sure we don’t sabotage ourselves on the way to success and forward thinking for our students. 

As I work in the field of education, the staff of Northfield and I will continue to affirm ourselves and each other, as well as ask our daily questions in order to continually reflect on who we are, and why we do what we do. We can be part of the problem, or part of the solution, but we cannot be both.

When our visitors come, we ask them to do the same.

“Imagine what we would do if we weren’t afraid,” Dr. Spencer Johnson, from Who Moved My Cheese. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Over the past two months, the most popular hashtag on Twitter, in my opinion, was #Oneword. What's your one word for 2016? Last year, I had several words, 

However, this year I want to remove the #oneword "idea" and place a word into action. Yes, I'm talking about not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk. 

My word/action: Gratitude.

Gratitude for being named the 2016 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year alongside Winston Sakurai (@WinstonSakurai) and Bobby Dodd (@Bobby_Dodd). 

I cannot even begin to tell you how honored I am to be named in the company of true game changers in education. To receive this honor is a true testament of what my school community has done, believes in, and strives for each year. 

WORDS ALONE CANNOT DO JUSTICE FOR HOW MUCH THIS MEANS TO ME. NASSP, I will represent you with immense pride!

Four years ago, I was looking to move up from being an assistant principal to principal. 

Gratitude for my current school giving me the chance to land on my feet at Northfield Community Middle School.  Dr. Janice Fipp, the superintendent at the time, understood what I wanted to do, even though it wasn't being done elsewhere. Dr. Fipp made an investment in me, and I promised her as I signed the contract, "I would work harder than anyone before and I will take this school to higher heights." Why? Because of the gratitude that I had for her and her giving me a chance to become a principal.  

Gratitude to Mr. Robert Garguilo, our interim superintendent, for empowering me to take the school to new heights. I asked him during his first week on the job, "what would you like me to do?"  His response was so simple, yet so powerful, "run your school the way you want to run it." You know you have upper level support when he loves hearing our saying, "where we're going, we don't need roads!"

Gratitude to IT Director, Aleng Phommathep. Without Aleng, there is no BYOD program that sparked the change in our school. One of the brightest minds in the business, as well as, one of the best "teammates" I ever worked with. We made it a passion to bridge IT, curriculum, instruction and culture! Also, with the addition of Janice Dye, our Director of Curriculum and Instruction, it has made us even stronger!

Gratitude to all of them believing in my innovative, digital visions, when it wasn't attempted at the majority of schools, let alone middle school level. 

Gratitude to Kevin Jarrett, our Digital Shop teacher/designer, who has helped to take our school to higher heights than ever imaginable. How high is up?

Gratitude to Kristen Polak, one of our ELA teachers and president of the teachers union. She represent the union with such pride and understands the direction that we are moving to better the lives of all, in OUR building. We meet daily to discuss the culture, climate, vision, and all concerns that the staff have. 

Gratitude to my ENTIRE STAFF! Four years ago when I started, they will be the first to admit, I walked into a school that needed TLC, technology updates, teacher empowerment, vision, and innovation. When I sit in their studios today, I cannot stress how far they have come in growing as innovative leaders. I am proud to see how students' eyes "light up" when the staff creates interactive/digital lessons from our curriculum. They have grown so much over the past four years, that I'm not sure they realize it.  As one recent visitor stated, your school is "one giant makerspace." #NCSPRIDE 

Gratitude to Business Administrator, Linda Albright. Without a doubt, a leader in the field of educational finance. I cannot thank Linda and her office enough for working with me to ensure that our school can have the best products. 

Gratitude to my friends, family, and PLN. Over the years, I have made so many connections thanks to Twitter, and these amazing people have helped to better me and my school. Trips to various parts of the country and the other side of the world. I plan to continue to "play it forward" to others so they too can see the positive impacts of having a PLN. 

Gratitude to the 30 plus schools that have visited and are going to visit our school this year, to gain a better sense of where we are taking our students in education. We are in the business of preparing students to adjust to the shifts that come at them throughout life. *Imagine if more schools collaborated together, instead of competing against one another.* 

Gratitude to the staff, students, parents, and our community for embracing all of our changes. Our culture and climate has never been higher, and I couldn't be more proud to see their smiles entering the building, instead of leaving. 

Most importantly- Gratitude to my amazing wife and son for their unconditional support! 

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." Dr. Albert Schweitzer 

Powerful podcast "How Gratitude Can Change Your Life" - Curious Minds by Gayle Allen-