Friday, July 29, 2016

Baby steps

So many new things are initiated with the idea that moving forward with baby steps is good!  Baby steps will eventually get us there.

The thing about babies is that they eventually grow up and take bigger steps.  They get where they are going because they have evolved into a fully-functioning adult human.  They take normal steps and have learned to leap when necessary.  In the early stages of development, baby steps can be a good start for some people to start moving forward.  If a person only ever takes baby steps, he will be left far behind and perhaps standing in a puddle.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Not interested

I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show on the way to work this morning.  Great podcast!  His guest said, "I'm terrible at things I am not interested in."


A pretty obvious point of view that tends to escape a lot of folks in education.  When kids are not good at something, it just might be because they are not interested.  When they are good at something, there is a good chance they find it interesting!

If kids are not good at something, perhaps we need to stop trying to provide interventions and remediation until we have found a way to make it interesting.  There are many ways to do it!  There are also two popular strategies that simply do not work.

1.  A teacher cannot simply convince a kid that an assignment is interesting.  You can't talk them into it.

2.  You will not garner their interest by telling them it will affect the job they get some day.  I don't know too many fifth graders who give credit to their future job aspirations for their interest in an assignment.  I know tons of high school kids who believe whole-heartedly that they will never use algebra.  Most of them are correct

When your students say, "This is boring," they are telling you it is not interesting.
When your students say, "This is cool!" they are telling you that it is interesting.  Ask why and I bet they explain how it connects to something they find important.

Make the connections and make it interesting!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Success breeds success... or not...

For years and years, I have believed that success breeds success.  Lately, I have been thinking about this statement more deeply.  How much success is necessary?  Is a tiny amount of success enough?  Can continuous success be a detriment to growth and effort?  What happens when there is no success for an extended period of time?

The answers to these questions can be seen in every school.  The kid who makes straight A's all the time and finds school to be easy may not understand that less-than-perfect is still pretty good.  This student may also suffer when that first B shows up on the report card.  I have witnessed an interesting connection over the years.  The later in a school a child receives his first B on a report card, the bigger the reaction.  Seeing a six foot tall 8th grade boy cry like a baby because of that first B is not a pretty sight.  That did not mean that all of his grades throughout his years did not accurately reflect his learning.  They may have!  But did we do this kid a disservice by providing him an easy avenue of all A's long the way?

Likewise, we all know the kids who barely scrape by.  Or, they don't scrape by at all.  They simply muddle through their day with very limited exposure to success.  We work our tails off in an attempt to catch them up.  Hopefully, we design learning experiences for these kids that provide some small glimpses of success so they will yearn for more success!  Lots of these kids don't see their personal little successes because they are too focused on the fact that they cannot succeed like the rest of the kids in the class.  They want nothing more than to succeed like the rest of the class.  But they don't so they become completely disenchanted.  With no light at the end of their little tunnels, they give up.  With no comparable success, why try?  We all know kids like this.

How much success is necessary to facilitate future success?  The answer is different for everyone.  How do we create learning scenarios for every kid that will provide the correct amount of challenge and the correct amount of success?

Monday, July 11, 2016


I don't like the idea that every decision and action must be funneled through me.  As a public school principal, I want the folks around me to use their talent, expertise, and passion in ways that make school better and better for kids every day!  I want to be able to clear paths for folks so that their own improvement efforts shine.

However, there are some things that I micromanage.  We all have the little things that we want to control.  As an assistant principal, I was really picky about checking the textbooks in and out.  I wanted it done my way.  I didn't care which books you wanted.  I didn't care whether you wanted a class set, one book for each kid, or none at all!  I didn't care if you used them one bit!  But I was very specific about how to turn those suckers back in to the book room!  They had to be stacked on the counter, by the door, face down, spine away from the wall, in stacks of five or ten.  This made scanning each book easy for me!

Looking backwards, I can see that I micromanaged a few things during my first gig as principal.  I can also see that the amount of micromanagement decreased each year for five years.  After finishing my first year at my new school, I can see a few things that I will micromanage for a little while.

For example, I want to see kids writing across the curriculum.  Students will be writing at least once per day in each subject.  They will also be sharing their writing with each other.  I want to see it!   I will also be asking teachers to design math lessons so that students are talking about math.  I want to see collaborative problem-solving!  I want students finding creative ways to answer math problems and talking about it!  I want to see it!

These are two of the things I care deeply about and I believe will help move our school forward!  So I will micromanage them. These two things are only a small part of the excellent teaching and learning that already happen, nevertheless, they will definitely increase learning.

There will be other things that I micromanage.  I know what some of them will be.  I'm sure there are some things that I don't even know I will want to micromanage.

The title of micromanager is not one that most folks want to have.  Most folks do not want to be known as one.  But we all do a little bit of micromanagement.  We all have those things that we want done a certain way.  I don't want to be a micromanager but I do micromanage some things.