Have you ever stopped to think or have been told that ‘there is more?’ In the educational setting, we usually hear a second part of that phrase which goes something like “…to do.” More mandates, more tests, more requirements, etc. Although this is often the case, I challenge us to complete the phrase with “..to be.” There is more to be for our students, colleagues, and parents. This state of being is a constant ebb and flow of how our conscious actions can enable each group to reach greater depths of personal and professional fulfillment.

I share with the staff at Kelly Mill Elementary, that we certainly want academically successful students, but an equally important goal, is in helping our students, colleagues and parents be the best people they can be. In order to reach this goal, “There is More…”

Boy! I cannot believe that it is that time of the school year when we are winding down. Could it really be that another year has come and gone? It literally seems that we were just seeing the finishing touches of paint being applied, we were waiting on the classroom furniture to arrive, we were checking to make sure that all of the lights worked and that running water was accessible in the cafeteria. I remember sharing on social media sites that @KellyMillES was going to be the place where educators could provide the type of educational experiences for students that they always wanted to provide. I readily admitted to my staff that I was making promises they would have to keep. 🙂 (I am thankful they have done just that!)

As I reflect on this first year @KellyMillES, I often share that these things should not happen to a first-year school. My actual quote is, ‘It Ain’t Normal.’

Yes, I do know the correct grammatical format for the sentence, but I also wanted to emphasize a point with my staff. Too often we accept the ‘way we have always done it is good enough’ pathway to education. We rationalize that it was ‘good enough for us’ so ‘why shouldn’t it be good enough for today’s learner.’ Well, the short answer is that today’s learners are not like us. They truly learn differently and in order to reach them, we must teach differently.

I have been honored to work with such a dedicated group of educators who have embraced this ‘teach differently’ mentality and are making the atypical…typical. We have received local, state, national, and global recognition. This is humbling, but it is mostly exciting because it has allowed us to connect with other phenomenal educators and learn with and from them as they also strive to do what is best for today’s learners. We have held sessions on Skype, Google + Hangout, presented at conferences, won national competitions (Siemens Change the World), had numerous site visits because of effective technology integration (Breaking Barriers) and from the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) Bus Tour, had a graffiti artist work in our Media Center, had invaluable support from our community, etc. The list literally goes on and on. Bragging? No. Proud? Definitely, but mostly because these serve as tangible evidence that we as educators DO have the ability to create learning experiences for children that do not have to be merely the expected. We CAN teach differently and meet the rigorous expectations of life in the 21st Century. We CAN effectively integrate technology so that it becomes a natural and expected component of the educational experience.

The secret to all of this?? Simply DOING differently, taking risks, collaborating with other educators around the world, being open to a different perspective, doing what educators naturally and passionately want to do…do what is best for their students.

I am grateful to be part of a district, community and school (Kelly Mill Elementary) that strive to do this daily. Just like you in yours…

Ron

Experience Doesn’t Make You Better, Only Evaluated Experience Makes You Better. (Dr. Howard G. Hendricks)

I recently heard this quote in a series by Andy Stanley. As I began to think about this statement, I continued to see its application within the educational setting and mentoring aspects of leadership and leader and teacher development. Educators know that providing descriptive feedback to the learner is a critical element for learning and growth.

Marzano and others have long researched the benefits of consciously providing feedback to the learner.

W. Fred Mizer stated, ‘Feedback is an objective description of a student’s performance intended to guide future performance.’ Teachers have long understood that the more specific they are in their feedback to the student, the higher the ensuing achievement of the learner. No longer are ‘Good Job’ or Smiley-Face stickers appropriate for providing feedback about learning. Feedback is specific and non-judgmental. It is merely a statement of what was observed and what can be done to improve the next time.

The same goes for educational leaders responsible for providing feedback to the instructional staff. No longer are comments like ‘Good Job’ or ‘I enjoyed the lesson’ appropriate as end conversations about the teaching and learning that has taken place in our classrooms.

With the renewed interest in teacher evaluation systems and the emphasis on learner outcomes, it is important that current educators realize that our emphasis is also on the input. As Dr. Hendricks stated, it is ‘evaluated experience’ that improves practice. We must embrace the benefits of descriptive feedback that we can both provide and receive from colleagues. Too often we simply reflect on our practice by answering, ‘What worked? What needs to be improved?’ Please do not misunderstand me. These are valuable questions to ask, but we also need to utilize the benefits of having someone else provide feedback to us in the course of our daily practice in order to effectively answer these questions.

As building leaders, we must continue to provide the kind of descriptive feedback to teachers of all levels in order to promote growth and the best instruction for all of our learners, student and adult.

The next time that someone says ‘Experience makes you better,’ remember that only ‘evaluated experience’ makes you better.

 

Ron

I just ended one of the most energizing two days with my staff @KellyMillES. The energy and enthusiasm truly filled the room. The staff willingly came together during their own time to continue our journey to become the best staff we can be and attain our great moments.  We met new people, had lots of laughs, collaborated with educators @shiraleibowitz and @S_Blankenship in a Google + Hangout, had lessons on fly fishing, pottery, phone photography, sacred harp (shaped note) singing, and weaving.

We spent time learning about ourselves (directionality) in order to learn about interacting and collaborating with others. We resolved to practice three concepts:

  • Commit. We understand that unless we all commit to each other we will not commit to do the right work for students. In absence of a commitment, the action becomes merely a task to be completed. It is the commitment, or connection, to the person that results in the highest levels of achievement. We commit.
  • We don’t have the answers. In an era within education where information multiples at an unimaginable rate and knowledge abounds, the work of educators is more complex that it has ever been. Progression of standards (Common Core), intense scrutiny on assessments, and other demands cause us to realize that having ‘the’ answer is an archaic mindset. We do; however, realize that having lots of questions is more important and allows for true learning to take place. We don’t have the answers, just lots of questions.
  • Listen to Learn. As part of the human race, we understand our nature is to teach those most like us in terms of personality, learning style, etc. As such, we miss many opportunities to reach our students who are not like us and collaborative interactions with others who can help us become better and connected educators. So, we choose to listen with open minds, not having a preconceived idea of what the other person is going to say or what they should do. We consciously listen in order to learn. We listen.

At the conclusion of an amazing time together, I shared a quote that, in flipping channels, I heard from a TV commercial.

You’ll never get to the next great moment if you don’t keep going, so that’s what I do, I keep going.

If we are true to the three concepts @KellyMillES, I think that we will get to our ‘next great moment.’ In doing so, the students and adults connected to KME, will have their next great moment.

I can’t wait…

~Ron

I have to admit that I have found a recent addiction to the TV channel, TCM, as it has featured its ‘31 Days of Oscar.’  I have heard of many of the titles, but have not actually seen many of them until this past few days while I have been completing homework for my doctoral program. (Yes, I know…focus on the homework).

I truly appreciate what the actors, producers, directors, musicians, and the technical casts have accomplished in such treasures as Singin’ In The Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Now , Voyager…I could go on and on. There are so many great films that we should remember.

One of the films, Now, Voyager, was new to me so I was especially interested in seeing it since it featured one of my favorite actresses, Bette Davis.  She pays the role of a young lady who goes through a transformation reminiscent of ‘The Ugly Ducking.’  It was a heart-warming story of her attempts to find herself and then help in the transformation of someone who reminds her of her own story.  The movie ends with Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) and her friend, Jerry, standing at the library window looking at the sky.  Charlotte looks to Jerry and says, ‘Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.’

‘Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.’

I thought, ‘Yes, Charlotte! You understand.” (I now know that many others agree since this particular line is one of the most famous closing lines in all of cinema. Thanks, TCM for adding that bit of trivia).

I thought about my present circumstances with the opportunity to open a new elementary school in the fall, and I find that the more I visit the new school, @KellyMillES (Kelly Mill Elementary), the more excited I become about the possibilities that exist.

As I have been talking with some amazing teacher candidates, I have noticed that this enthusiasm and excitement are contagious!  The more we talk about creating the KME Family, I find myself sharing the vision of being the best school in the state (yes, I DO think it is possible and that you can intentionally design and structure events to cause that to be the likely outcome), and I ask the question, ‘What Can’t We?’

Like Charlotte and Jerry, why should we settle for ‘reaching the moon’ when ‘reaching the stars’ should be our goal?  Too often in education we settle for ‘the moon.’  Sure, it’s no minor feat to reach ‘the moon,’ but we often settle for that when with a little more determination, focus, passion, and fortitude we could help our students ‘reach the stars.’ After all…aren’t they worth it?

I have recently been appointed as the Principal of a new school opening in August. I am so excited as well as deeply appreciative of this rare opportunity.

As part of the intentional efforts to bring together a new community of learners and create a school family, I have been conducting Parent Meet-and-Greets. We answer questions that the Parents have identified as important to them and share some goals that will make the school family a success.

After one of these sessions, a parent asked a question that stood out to me. ‘Can you really do that?’ she asked.

My brain immediately thought of the lyrics to a Gaye Marvin song, It Takes Two. some of the lyrics are

To make a dream come true, just takes two

A typical educational response would be similar to these lyrics – we would say it takes home and school-and that would be correct, but my response was a little different.

My response was ‘Yes, absolutely, but it takes three things -strong school leadership, strong teachers, and strong parent support. Great things don’t happen just because we want them to but because we intentionally position things to increase the likelihood that great things happen.

So, it takes two isn’t exactly the full story…

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