Failing Forward

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Failing Forward! As a teacher, with 12 weeks left to go in school, I always gave myself permission to try some new ideas, and to implement strategies or activities I had read about in books or seen in other areas of my personal professional development. This permission gave me a chance to work out the kinks, ditch an idea, or find a home run. I found it reenergized my end of the year, not only for myself, but also my students. I was brutally honest with them as we rolled out a new idea and they shared that same honesty with me. We experimented together and we all loved it.  
I remembered this process as April rolled around my first year as a principal. Of course, I was overwhelmed and I felt lost because everything was new. The risk I took paid dividends I would never have imagined. I discovered Twitter that winter and came across thousands of ideas. Twitter led to countless connections, a new amazing learning network, where people shared ideas I never dreamed possible, and soon my world became larger and smaller at the same time! I started a blog, a social media page, augmented reality in our art show, and used the Smore platform for my newsletters. I never looked backūüėÉ
Every year, I remind myself and the staff to think ahead and give yourself permission to challenge yourself to try out new ideas. Don’t be afraid to take a chance you have been thinking about and it’s okay to fail, to alter, and hit a home run!  
My risk this year was to jump into creating a genius hour for the staff. My goal was to give time to share ideas and learn new techniques, so that we can share this process with all our students in the Fall! I created a hyper doc, which I learned at an Edcamp, and linked google hangout to model distance learning. We were all set to go, but our internet slowed down, and we had to go back to modeling the doc in the room. The days after, I received great feedback and lots of excitement. They saw my risk of a google hangout failed, but it was okay. We can only grow when we fail.  
I challenge you to implement a new idea and challenge yourself to fail… it’s okayūüėÉ  

Changing from “Balance” to “be present” in 2017

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My #oneword has always been “balance”. ¬†Last year was an amazing ¬†one for me professionally, but lots of ups and downs personally. ¬†Professionally, I decided to leave a school that was operating on mostly all cylinders and had successfully changed the focus from best for teachers to best for students. We had improved our community outreach, our engagement and returned to “purposeful” learning driven by students, we focused on teaching to the needs of every student and saw huge improvements. ¬†Our in-house data jumped to over 81% student proficiency from the mid-40’s a few years earlier. ¬†Most importantly we created a school culture that ensured each and every school community member (kids, teachers, parents, and local community members) felt welcome and valued. ¬†We had family nights every month focusing on technology, literacy, math, or just pancakes. ¬†Our school felt amazing!

In April I decided to return to the district in which I had taught for 13 years.  The district was looking for change in leadership.  A new superintendent was hired with a vision similar to mine and I could feel lots of positive momentum in a district that has always been met with challenge.  ACES, a new school, was being built and would open in the Fall of 2016.  The school would continue to carry the level 4 determination from one of the 3 schools that were being combined in the new school.  We (kids, teachers, community) knew that together each one of us had something to offer that could change the path.  A new vision with a focus on kids was discussed and I wanted to be part of that team.  We developed a plan, a vision, and in July set off to work.  We hired energy and positivity.  We quickly reconnected with kids and adults.  We created opportunities for everyone to meet and greet and enjoy moments before the school opened.  The energy was amazing!

August came quickly and we finally opened the new school. ¬†We were heading into the first ever meeting in the building to discuss the plans for opening, how we were going to utilize staff to build teams and how we would meet each students needs academically. ¬†I was very excited knowing this is my “wheelhouse”. ¬†A text went off in my pocket as I sat at the table next to the superintendent. ¬†I checked the message and it was from my wife, my Dad had a stroke. ¬†My initial reaction was shock and surprise, but I compartmentalized and the thoughts of “many people have strokes” and a calm of knowing my wife and I know people that will help my Dad back to normal. ¬†The meeting continued and the positive path was set. ¬†Immediately after the meeting we had planned a “hot dog pop-up” stand as a meet and greet for the school community. ¬†I threw the grill into my truck and headed off with a cooler full of 300 hotdogs, buns, water, and all the condiments to have an awesome time for the incoming kids and teachers heading to ACES in a few short weeks. ¬†as I unloaded the truck a Kenny Rogers song was on the radio and 2 geese flew over head. ¬†a quick vibration and another message from my phone stating, “You need to get to Vermont your Dad is not going to make it.” ¬†“How could I leave an experience I created for so many before it even started? ¬†What kind of a leader would I be to pass this responsibility off to others?”, were thoughts that went through my mind. ¬†I stayed, manned the grill, shook hands and gave plenty of high-5’s and silently prayed for my Dad to hang on until I could get there. ¬†I prayed for strength for my Mom. ¬†Minutes after the event we dropped off the grill at school and noticed a beautiful rainbow hanging over the sky. ¬†Moments later my car was packed and I was heading north, alone. ¬†Hours later, with the removal of a breathing tube my Dad still hung on. ¬†I parked at the hospital and ran in. ¬†He would never say a word to me or open his eyes and a day later he was gone. ¬†One of my “stones” was gone. ¬†Of course the pain has been insurmountable and amazing comfort, love and support has been offered by so many wonderful family and friends.

On a September Saturday, I delivered the opening speech of hope and positivity about our new school, ACES, in the morning to many future students, parents builders, and local dignitaries in attendance. ¬†Later on the same day in the afternoon, I presented my Dad’s eulogy to family and friends. ¬†It was an emotionally difficult balance and I still struggle with the events of that day. ¬†The extreme highs and lows. ¬†Through it all were my wife and kids. They provided the exact amount of strength and balance to survive through the day.

ACES opened successfully, intervention blocks have been established, PBIS has become more than letters, robots, 3-D printers, and positive experiences have started to be created.  The focus to kids has happened.  The vision is still in its early stages but incredible progress is visible.  The Massachusetts DESE is happy with what our school has done to begin to meet the challenges.  The countless hours put in by so many is paying off and positivity, teamwork and the kids will eventually win, but I missed it.  I put my family second for so long and I missed it.

The Winter Vacation has been so very important to me and for the first time I put “school” away and focused on my kids, my wife, my Mom, and my extended family. ¬†I cried and laughed and listened, and watched every moment. ¬†As we head into 2107 my #oneword focus is 2 words “be present”. ¬†School is my passion and I love every second, but my family is my life and I need to be present so I don’t miss out…again!

Success in the School Corn Maze

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The 2016-17 school year starts on Tuesday for me in a brand new school in a brand new district. ¬†I often refer back ¬†to the school year cycle “Phases of first year teachers’ attitude towards teaching” I found using Twitter a few years ago. ¬†Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 9.31.52 AM¬†¬†I feel it is relevant for any educator at any point of the year. ¬†This year as my family was taking our annual trip through the Fort Ticonderoga Corn Maze, the school year cycle popped into my head right before we entered. ¬†I felt the “anticipation” of beginning the corn maze challenge, knowing we had all come prepared with the map and bottles of water. ¬†As we entered the maze, a few of us my two daughters, my son and myself ran to find the first marker, but we were running so fast we missed one of the small turns that my wife found only minutes later, that led to the first stamp on our journey. ¬†My youngest daughter was finally tall enough this year to stamp our card of success. ¬†We celebrated the success and continued our adventure looking for marker number 2. ¬†Soon we found ourselves in the “survival” mode of the adventure and relying on my daughter and sons’ knowledge of history to help solve the questions along the path. ¬†Every turn and path seemed to look the same and paths we had traveled were beginning to be overlapped, as we were suddenly lost looking for stamps 3 and 4. ¬†It was very apparent that we were we now into the “disillusionment” phase of the adventure we had thought be an easy activity that we had completed several times before. ¬†As we found markers 6 and 7, we began coming back together and beginning to get excited as we had one marker left to complete our adventure again this year. ¬†Everyone wanted to find the last marker and complete the final stamp . ¬†This year I found the marker, I yelled to my son, 2 daughters, and wife that I found our final stamp and now we needed to find our way back out. ¬†My son had a great idea to look up because he could see trees and knew there were trees when we first entered the maze. Through all the frustrations of missing stamps ¬†and wandering in circles at times, we laughed and enjoyed the idea that together each one of us helped in our own way, but it was our teamwork and everyone using their own strengths that helped us experience the eventual success. ¬†We celebrated finding the early stamps that seemed minimal at the time, but in reality were as important as the last one. ¬†We all ran out of the corn maze together. ¬†We wrote all our names on the board of completion and reflected on the adventures in the maze throughout the remainder of the day. ¬†The school year is a marathon and at times we run to get to the next milestone, but the lesson of the corn maze is for each member of the team to use their strengths to better the team for success. ¬†The “stamps” may seem small at the beginning, but they are just as important and worthy of contributing to the celebration and success of the year!!!!

 

Time for 5 Quick Things with NBES new fourth grade teacher Ms. Connors. She was in the hot seat this afternoon…. 1. She has a trip scheduled to Disney and is leaving on July 5th..her favorite Disney character is Daisy Duck ( We expect a picture) 2. She is getting married in June of 2016. 3. Her favorite 4th grade book is Frindle.. She enjoys the book as a fun read aloud and really enjoy books that make you laugh 4. Loves to cook and try out new recipes.. Cooks a lot of Italian food and does lots of baking 5. Getting a black lab rescue puppy after she returns from Disney. Her name is Charlie and she is going to bring in pictures… Thanks for sharing your 5 quick things and welcome to our wonderful school!

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via North Brookfield Elementary School http://ift.tt/1HuKBjL