Thursday, September 11, 2014

Attention to Detail

A friend of mine had the opportunity to listen to one of the directors of Frozen speak about prepping for the movie.  Prior to creating the animation they took people to South Dakota during the winter.  They wanted to film a woman walking uphill in the snow.  They found out that there is a unique way by which her foot sunk in the snow with each step.  They videotaped this, and in looking at the video also analyzed the way her hair swayed as she walked.

Chip Kelly, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, has incorporated science into his coaching.  An article on discusses how he uses the "latest wearable player-tracking technology" and monitors "resulting data in real time to determine how players and when they become injury risks."  Another article I read about him discussed how he monitors their sleep habits with the same technology, using the resulting data to determine how rested they are as practices and games approach.

This kind of attention to detail cultivates excellence.  What would this look like in schools?  What's stopping teachers from videotaping every lesson (every practice I participated in while playing college football was taped and reviewed) and sitting with colleagues to analyze?  What's stopping administrators from having a colleague shadow them and take notes along the way, and then sitting and reflecting at the end of the day, or during intervals throughout the day, to see what went well and what needs improvement?

What would this look like in your school?  And how would you make time for it?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Power Windows

Saying we need more technology in schools is like saying we need every car to have power windows.  Sure, the air is going to get into the car quicker, but it's still the same air.

To assume that more technology is going to result in more learning is inaccurate.  I've had the fortune of working with and/or watching some genuinely awesome teachers during my career.  A grand total of zero of them were awesome due to the use of technology, and a grand total of zero of them would experience a decrease in awesomeness as a result of a loss of technology.  They are awesome for a number of reasons, none of which have anything to do with technology.  Unless...

Unless they understand that technology is simply a tool to be used to strengthen their students' knowledge and develop their students' skills.  Unless they use twitter and blogs to widen their professional learning network and expose themselves to a variety of resources.  Unless they utilize technology to empower their students to think creatively and critically.

If we don't do these things, and so much more, we're just rolling up the car windows faster on a cold day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New Job, Same Responsibilities

Today represents the first day of school at my new site, Mendenhall Middle School.  When people ask how I feel about being at a middle school (after 10+ years at high schools), my most common response has been, "Well, it's nice to finally be taller than the majority of my students."  But of course, there's a lot more to it than that.

When I say "same responsibilities" I'm not referring to job duties.  Those fall into a column on a spreadsheet and have names like master schedule or facilities or testing coordinator.  I don't see those as responsibilities.  They're just part of what I do each day and throughout the year.

My responsibilities are far greater, and include:

Keeping students and staff safe.
Supporting teachers.
Communicating with families.
Making kids smile.

There's more.  But those are the first that come to mind.  And probably the most important.

And with that, I think I've started more than enough sentences with a conjunction.  Til' next time...

Monday, February 24, 2014


My first full-time teaching gig started February 2004.  That puts me 10 years into this whole education thing.  I don't think I could have imagined 10 years ago that my best professional development would revolve around a hashtag.

Twitter has proven to be my favorite and most productive way of learning about my profession.  It took me a while to get the hang of it, but now I can't imagine my life as an educator without it.  Twitter allows me to connect with passionate and unbelievably competent educators around the globe on a daily basis.  During my first few years of teaching I felt isolated.  I'd reach out to like-minded teachers in my district but only collaborated during workshops and district meetings.  We'd go to conferences and return inspired (and with lots of email addresses), but once back into the daily process of the job the emails would become less and less frequent.  Then I started blogging.

Well, reading blogs.  Dan's came first.  And his led me to many others.  All of a sudden I was reading about the ideas of a teacher in Wisconsin and realizing that I was having the same ideas.  I could contact that teacher and work together to make our idea better.  We could share strategies about implementation and reflect on our experiences.

Twitter took it to a whole 'nother level.  Twitter took all those blog authors and put them in one place.  Twitter allowed those authors to share a thought or a link or a resource instantly.  Twitter connected me to everyone those authors were connected to.  And now I'm part of #caedchat.

#caedchat is a weekly discussion on Twitter for educators in California.  Moderators ask a series of questions and participants respond with Tweets.  Last night was my favorite #caedchat.  The topic was Design Thinking and the conversation was invigorating.  I first heard about Change by Design through Chris Lehmann's blog.  I read the book, loved it, and began to incorporate the principles into my daily work.  However, I can't say that I ever expected that it would be the topic of a conversation I'd be having online with hundreds of educators I'd never met.  I was hooked in with these educators around the state (and outside of it, I'm sure) who were brainstorming about bringing Design Thinking to our classrooms and our school systems.  Incredible.

Professional development used to be something I'd "go to."  A conference.  A workshop.  Twitter brings it to me.  #progress

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Years ago at a bachelor's party a group of the participants were gambling.  I wasn't.  One of them asked why I don't gamble.  Other than the fact that I don't like the risk of losing money, I shared my main reason:

"My job.  I get my highs and lows everyday I'm in the classroom.  I don't feel a need to search for excitement or thrills on the weekend."

A couple of weeks ago one of my buddies was in town visiting.  We got to talking about exercising, what types of things we enjoy.  This is a guy with whom I played high school and college football.  Like many former athletes we miss the camaraderie and level of competition that come along with a sport like college football.  It's a high that's tough to replicate.  He said, of his morning workouts, "There's not many times that, like sports, I can get so 'in the moment' where I'm not thinking of anything else.  My morning workout is about as close to that as I can get."  My reply was that I get that everyday in my job.

I'm so thankful that I don't have to search for that.  I rarely feel as though I'm going to work.  There are days I'm so inspired I get goose bumps and there are days I'm so emotional I'm brought to tears.  And when the weekends come I usually want and need to get away from it.  And I'm thankful for that.  Because on Monday I get to do it all again.