Tuesday, September 30, 2008
That's right, loyal readers (all 3 of you), it is Homecoming Spirit Week. That crazy time of year when the student council begs us to let the student body do crazy dress up days. Each year we say that it will be fine. Usually, it is OK. We are still in the honeymoon period of the beginning of school and think the best of our students.
When will we learn???
I must say that 90-95% of our students do exactly what they are asked to do. While some of that 90-95% will push boundaries, when the guidelines are clearly set they will follow requests of the staff, faculty and administration. But it is that blasted 10% that think, hey, it is homecoming week...I can do whatever the @#$%^#&* I want!
Do modern day students even know that Homecoming is not for them!? They are already at home.
This week should about inviting alumni back (former students COMING HOME, hence the name) and showing current students how successful they have become with hard work, perseverance, and some times learning the hard way. As a school, we should be showing off our best and brightest, our hardest workers, students who were on the edge of failure and fought long and hard for many years to make a decent, respectable, honest living. Homecoming week should be a beacon for our students showing them that it is possible to achieve their dream. Any alumni reading this, please contact me to get this going. This idea of homecoming should be inspirational!
I am not sure how that gets interpreted to our starting football players wearing ballerina tutus.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
As I normally drive home, I turn on ESPN 1000, the Mac. Jurko and Harry show. As I am driving home, I hear the following parable in a commercial that I cannot remember about commitment. Please enjoy:
As you sit down to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, take the time to think about it...sure, the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed!
I am a firm believer that there are some things that I can change and there are some things that I cannot. If it is something that I can change, I will work on improving a situation. If it is something I cannot change, I simply need to roll with the punches. Open house can sometimes be a right cross.
I need to be the pig about Open House. It really is nice to have the parents in the building for an enjoyable evening of meeting the teachers and seeing the building. I have to recognize that I need to commit to this night and accept it for the positive and hope-filled evening that it can be!
I will be the pig...but let's hope my fate is a little better that old Wilbur who "donated" to the breakfast!
Monday, August 25, 2008
We always work to get the fire drills completed early in the year to make sure that students and teachers, and we administrators, out in a rain storm or blizzard. There are the standard complaints issued about why can we [the teachers] not be told about this to adjust our plans accordingly? The response of that a fire doesn’t let you know when it is going to ignite is never a good enough answer.
Last year, we had our 2 fire drills very early in the year. As a school, we wanted to get a good reading on how our escape time would improve with practice. How can you accomplish this?! We had them on consecutive days.
Please keep in mind that while we are calling these drills of last year “drills”, we did not know that at the time.
The first alarm was triggered by one of our chemistry teachers. While performing the classroom rendition of the Hindenburg (which is a normal demonstration), this teacher managed to set off the smoke detector in room because they used powdered zinc instead of mossy zinc. When the balloon burst, the zinc powder that clung to the inside of the balloon was released into the air and thus the smoke detector began ringing.
The second “drill” of last year, the day after the first one, was set off by…drum roll, please, the same chemistry teacher. The teacher is so talented that they found a whole NEW way of setting off the alarm. (This time is was a Sodium and water reaction).
So, now we arrive back at this year. At 8:48 am, the alarm signals. Students, teachers, police liaisons, and administrators move in concert to get our students out of the building. I run down to the chemistry lab. I am happy to report that, this time, it was not the chemistry teacher’s fault!
The fire department arrives, we get the “ALL CLEAR” signal at 9:01 and we being herding students back to their classes. I note the times to record in the crisis plan log and begin gathering my personal effects for my Admin Team meeting that was slated to start at 9 am. (Normally, if you are late, you owe a dollar for every minute tardy, but thankfully, we were excused from this penalty for this day).
You remember how I previously mentioned that “As a school, we wanted to get a good reading on how our escape time would improve with practice. How can you accomplish this?!” Well, always wanting to improve the process, we did not want to wait an ENTIRE day to have another fire drill.
The alarm went off again at 9:06.
We evacuated yet again; the fire department didn’t even have the opportunity to leave our building yet. We received the 2nd all clear at 9:23. We found the culprit (it was steam from a dishwasher).
All in all, we have 2 drills down in the books, the students and staff improved their time from the 1st drill to the 2nd drill and I didn’t end up owing $23 for being late to an Admin Team meeting.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I have none of that this year...reason being...the 29th Olympiad.
I generally love the Olympics. The sense of national pride, the competition, the women's beach volleyball...all spectacular parts of the Olympics. The issue I am having is that I have to stay up until 11 or 11:30 at night to get the results and watch the actual competitions and I am not in my 20's anymore.
I have a pregnant wife at home and when she cannot sleep, neither can I. Combine that with me HAVING to stay up later to watch the Olympics and the results that we get are me eating late a night and being a zombie morning. Increased weight gain, little sleep and high blood pressure...the Olympics are going to kill me!
If it was just the Olympics or just the pregnant wife, I think I could deal with it. But put together...I am very close to losing it.
AND...it is ruining my start to the school year. This is such a great time of year full of hope and optimism. New students excited to start school again; New teachers eager to influence children for the better...I have to keep the good feelings going.
Thank goodness that the Olympics are only going to last until the 24th!
Monday, August 11, 2008
This is an anecdote that I recently heard that fits well for the beginning of the school. I wish I had the reference to provide and give credit to its author. This is a little more "touchy-feely" than I normally prefer to get, but I liked the story. I am learning that when things don't go the way that you want, look in the mirror first, before placing blame on others.
A mother and daughter were having a "strenuous" discussion about how effective she is warming the bench on her soccer team. The daughter wanted to quit the team because she felt that she was not doing anything.
The mother then, without conversation, took out 3 identical pots, filled them with equal amounts of water and placed them on the stove top and set the burners to the same level of heat.
In the first pot, the girl's mother placed a carrot, in the second an egg, and in the third she placed some fresh ground coffee. The mother let the pots and their contents sit on the stove for 30 minutes. During this time, she said nothing and her daughter look at this activity with wonder and a puzzled look, still upset about her situation regarding the soccer team.
When the half hour passed, the mother removed the pots from the stove. Her daughter moved over to the pots and asked what was the meaning of this demonstration. The mother ask her daughter to describe the carrot before and after the time in the pot. The daughter replied that the carrot was firm and crisp before being placed in the pot and it was mushy and limp.
The mother then asked the daughter to describe the egg before and after the time in the pot. The daughter said that it looked the same. The mother then asked, what if she cracked the egg on the table? The daughter then said that before the pot the egg would have been liquidy and dripped all over the table and floor, but after the pot, the egg was solid and unyielding.
The mother then strained the contents of the 3rd pot and had the daughter take a sip. The daughter enjoyed the full, rich flavor that the coffee had.
Before the daughter could say a word, her mother said the following, you can let a situation defeat you and you become mushy like the carrot. You could also let a situation harden you and make you unyielding to other possibilities. Or, you can be like the coffee grounds.
The daughter asked, but what did the coffee grounds do? Her mother replied, they changed the water. She then asked her daughter if there was a reason she was on the bench. could her daughter try harder? Practice more? Listen to and learn from the coach? The daughter smiled and realized that she could change her own situation.
With the new school year upon us, how can we do things to change the water? When students are not performing as well as I would like, I know that I used to say that the kids were just not trying. While that may be true in some instances, how many different approaches did I try? Did I call home enough to get encouragement for the student on 2 ends? Did I make the student come in for extra help or just give them a flimsy option of attending? Did I make it easier for the child to succeed or continue to fail?
Friday, August 01, 2008
It really got me thinking about the students that we encounter in our schools today. Students are more fluent in computer applications than many of their teachers. I challenge you, as the reader, to identify each of the objects represented by the letter in the box. Many of us are more familiar with this style of the poster. I know that I had trouble with the "E" and the "H", any help would be greatly appreciated. :)
As we finish up the registration processes, new teacher orientations, back to school institute days, and first days of school, how can we educate our teachers about the new tools available with all of the stress on standardized test results, NCLB, etc.?
As I have begun to explore Web 2.0 tools, I am sharing them with everyone that I know in school. As the exposure begins to grow, the ideas will start to flow. (Honestly, it is a little late and a lack of sleep caused that rhyme. It was unintentional, sorry)
My first attempt at creating an interest is creating a Ning site for my department. I am also working with the admin team on the benfits of google documents.
As we, as a school, continue our work on curricular alignment and improvements and the incorporation of data to drive our decision making process, we will need to incorporate these tools. We need to meet our students who are learning their ABC's by Apple Computers, Bluetooth, and Core Duo Processors.
On a quick side note...as I looked at the poster and the alternative ways of looking at teaching our basics, I was reminded of the book, Q is for Duck. As we re-examine our teaching methods, can you determine why A is for zoo, B is for dog, and C is for Hen?
Thursday, July 31, 2008
That being said, it bothers me to no end when I am dependant upon other people, especially a member of my team, doesn't follow through. I hate it when I am made to look like a jacka$$ because I can no longer live up to my word. I can make myself look foolish all on my own, I don't need other people helping me.
If you do not have a lot of time, here is the end of my blog post. Feel free to read the abridged account of what transpired.
Moral of the story: Know when you can make promises and that they will be fulfilled so you can keep your word. To maintain personal integrity, I must realize what I can control and recognize that other people may not be as "into" keeping their word as I am.
And now for the abridged account: What began this tirade is science classroom furniture. Before the end of last year and before the former principal left, I walked around with the construction team, building Foreman, and sales people, sometimes interrupting classes to take measurements and get teachers opinions on furniture options to get my science classrooms into the 20th century. (No, that is NOT a typo). I was told that this furniture and equipment would be here for the next school year.My request was placed with the other furniture requests for our building and submitted. Our team is very efficient and usually get our requests submitted first, before any of the other buildings. This was no exception. The requests go to the Board of Ed and they get approved...for the other 2 schools in the district. Our request was mysteriously lost. (And we wonder why we think of ourselves as the red-headed stepchild!)
So, we resubmitted and it was going to be piggybacked onto another request. Again, it did not go through. Please keep in mind that we were told that this was already approved, especially since we walked around with the sales reps and they took our order.
So now we arrive at the point where I ask a member of my team, who is overseeing the construction, where we are at in the ordering process. That team member told me that we needed to prioritize the requests because not everything was going to be fulfilled. I said fine. We sat down, discussed what was going to be used by the students and that is what was going to be ordered. Team member said that it was now taken care of and I had nothing to worry about. More incorrect words could not have been spoken.
The next day, I spoke with our building Foreman who asked me about furniture. I thought that I would going to have to apologize for my disbelief. Unfortunately, he was discussing some other furniture and knew nothing of my order. So I went back to the team member who again stated, it's done. I did it yesterday. We looked at what was sent and only 1/10th of what was requested (after prioritizing) was going to get ordered. Team member stated that the other stuff (student seating) was not approved and we would just have to make do.
To make this extremely long story a little shorter, after an upsetting conversation with team member & my new principal, messages to the assistant to the director of buildings and grounds and the director (multiple times) the sales people are coming back on Monday.
Moral of the story: Know when you can make promises and that they will be fulfilled so you can keep your word. To maintain personal integrity, I must realize what I can control and recognize that other people may not be as "into" keeping their word as I am.
Friday, July 18, 2008
People rarely look at it from the organism's perspective. What if they like what they do and where they are...and if you have ever talked to a teenager, they will be the first to tell you that you cannot tell them what to do or how to be. To quote Office Space, "Why should I change my name? He's the one who sucks!"
Change occurs to you and you can either adapt and flourish or cling to the olden days and be stuck in the past. So, let's take a look at the change that is happening to me:
- Biggest Change: First baby is on the way
- New Principal for my school
- Friends and colleagues leaving for various new positions
- Hiring of new teachers for my school
Many, many others that I cannot go into right now...So let's take a look at what we have to adapt to.
#1. The new baby
I have to say, while I am nervous, scared, and whatever other words that are out there to describe the malestrom (GRE word) of emotions that are occurring, my wife and I are EXTREMELY excited about this! We have been incredibly fortunate (knock on wood) with the pregnancy being easy.
Please note: I say we...I mean my wife; she is incredible. She is adapting to many more changes that I think I could handle at one time. Changes in body, emotions, hormones, sleep patterns etc. and yet she still does everything that she did before. Every day she impresses me over and over again.
I have the distinct pleasure of getting the nursery set up. I painted the ceiling 2 weeks ago and a buddy is coming over to help me finish painting the room. We are ging with a yellow and green classic Winnie the Pooh theme. I am excited to contribute in this process any way that can.
No matter how excited we are, we must examine how much change is going to arrive when the baby is born. We read books, friends and family tell about what to expect, but I think that this will be the biggest test of our ability to adapt.
#2 New Principal
I feel good about this one. I was a part of the focus and interview committee. The committee looked at all of the candidates and I feel that we selected the best one. Best of all, our opinion was listened to. The hard part about this is not referring back to the past.
When I made the transistion to my 2nd teaching position, it was pointed out to me that I would CONSTANTLY refer to my former school. I need to avoid making this mistake again. While history and tradition need to be recognized and upheld, I must not expect things to be the same. I must expect that there will be some differences and learn about my new principal.
#3 Friends and colleagues leaving for various new positions
Since we have a new principal, our old one, no wait...former prinicipal (he hates the old jokes), has moved on to a new opportunity. I know that we wish him the best of luck, but he leaves a vacancy (filled by #2) This seems to be a completely different type of change to adjust to. Of course, as the new school year starts, there are other colleagues of mine who have decided to persue opportunities elsewhere and for various reasons. I wish them all the best and hope to continue learning from them and talking to them. Hopefully, they will find things like twitter and plurk to stay in touch.
This leads to...
#4 Hiring of new teachers for my school
While I do not like to have to fill positions of valued colleagues, one of the favorite parts of my job is meeting new teachers and finding people who would make a valued new addition to our team. I had the opportunity to attend some job fairs in Central Illinois, representing my district. Although I had a fever of about 102, I enjoyed meeting a lot of candidates and many of them were hired by my district. I feel like I did a good job.
Overall, there is going to be a lot of change coming up in my life. I tend to be flexible and pretty well adaptable to new situation. I know that somethings will come easy and others will be more arduous (more GRE words).
I look forward to the challenge of adapting, changing, and evolving. The alternative is not so good. ;)
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
If you donate on a regular basis, thank you! Each donation saves up to three lives. If you have never donated, it is COMPLETELY safe, it is nearly painless, it costs you nothing and you can literally be a Life Saver!
Thank you in advance. The email is below:
Friends & family members:
I once again must apologize for the impersonal nature of this email, but as you can imagine it is impossible to contact everyone individually and we wanted to let everyone know what’s going on. As some of you already know, Corey is scheduled for his fourth open heart surgery on Wednesday, August 6, 2008. His last surgery was slightly more than two years ago, and while there are no guarantees in life and we knew this day was inevitable, it certainly arrived much sooner than we had hoped.
Because of the defect with which he was born, Corey’s aortic valve allows too much blood to flow back into the heart once it has been pumped out, causing the heart to work harder than it should and possibly resulting in an enlarged heart, which can lead to further complications in the future. We are very fortunate that to date his condition has not affected his development in any way or limited his activities. He is very tall for his age and as far as his doctors can tell, it does not appear any damage has been done to his heart. He is very active in sports and just completed two successful (and chaotic) seasons playing both baseball and soccer, making the respective baseball All-Star and soccer traveling teams. He does, however, tire more easily than your typical 7-year-old, and we notice a marked change in his demeanor and attitude when he does not get enough sleep. As you would expect, his doctors want to be proactive and deal with the situation to prevent any lasting damage to his heart.
Unlike his previous three surgeries, this procedure will be much more invasive and involved, as his doctors will be implanting a replacement valve in his heart. It is expected that he will undergo what is known as a Ross Procedure, wherein they remove his heart’s aortic valve, relocate Corey’s pulmonary valve to the aortic side, and insert either a cow or pig valve on his pulmonary side. The theory behind this procedure, which first came into practice only 15 years ago or so, is that it is better to have his aortic valve – which pumps the blood from his heart and is much more active than the pulmonary valve, which acts as a funnel for blood back into his heart – be an “original part” and be comprised of his genetic material so that it grows with him as he grows. The risk is that the pulmonary valve, which is not built to withstand the rigorous activity performed by the aortic valve, will fail and then he will have two replacement valves.
By its very nature, this is a very complex procedure that requires upwards of 15 hours in surgery and a hospital stay of one week, followed by another week of recuperation at home. He is missing the final week of camp, and our hope is that if all goes well, he will be able to start school on time later in August. I joke that after this surgery is performed, his replacement valve means he will no longer be Kosher, only because I can’t bear to think of him lying open on the operating table for that long.
With a Ross Procedure, Corey will be on a regular course of surgeries; because the replacement valve does not grow, as his heart grows the valve will have to be replaced. However, he will NOT have to be on any blood thinners such as Coumadin, which for a child (especially one like him) is extremely difficult as it limits them from any type of physical activity whatsoever. Once he reaches his late teens and his heart stops growing, his doctors can implant a replacement valve that could last him 10-15 years. Who knows, with the rapid advances in medicine, by that time they may even be able to generate a new valve or two from his genetic material.
Corey’s surgeon, Dr. Michel Ilbawi, is one of the leading pediatric cardiac surgeons in the world. We are very fortunate to have him located so close to home, as we have met many families who have come from across the globe to have him operate on their children. Having him in our corner certainly eases our concerns, but as with any surgery nothing is a given. We have the utmost confidence in Dr. Ilbawi and feel he is in the best possible hands.
All we ask from you is this: 1) that you keep him in your thoughts and prayers; and 2) that if possible, please donate blood in his honor to your local blood bank. His doctors have set up a direct donation program through LifeSource, and you can reach their Direct Donations department at 847-299-7386 to get screened and schedule a donation. We are required to have a certain amount of directed donors for his surgery, and Corey’s blood type is A+. Although several other blood types are compatible with his, Dr. Ilbawi only uses A+ or A- for the surgery. As I am an exact match, I will be the first and primary surgical donor, but others are needed as well.
Because he is a minor, LifeSource requires that Cheryl and I consent to any donation given in his name. If you can find it in your heart (pun absolutely intended) to donate, please let me know so that I can provide LifeSource with your name. They will be accepting donations in his name from July 23 through August 2, and you can give blood at any local LifeSource facility.
As I mentioned above, we are required to have a certain amount of directed donors for his surgery; through the love and caring of each and every one of you, we have always greatly exceeded that requirement. Even if your blood type is not a match, you can still donate in Corey’s name. Even if you live outside the Chicago area and do not have access to LifeSource, I ask and encourage you to donate as there is still a shortage of blood donations around the country and the world, and there are many other children like Corey who are not as fortunate to have the support and care that he does.
I apologize for the length of this email; you can have read the entire Wall Street Journal in a shorter amount of time. However, we wanted to let you know what is happening and ask for your assistance. We will let everyone know his progress at the first opportunity, and I promise the emails will be shorter. Each of you is special to us, and we hope all is well with everyone.
Cheryl, Russ, Max & Corey (& Maddie, lest we not forget the driving dog)
I am a science educator and school administrator. I am currently learning about Web 2.0 tools and creating PLC's. I am also trying to encourage my teachers to being working with our Ning site. You can find me on Twitter, Skype, Plurk and LinkedIn.
My wife and I are expecting our first child in September and we are both very excited. I am sure that pictures will be posted to beat out the paparazzi. :)
This is going to be my first blog: Summer Vacation
I became an administrator during this past school year. I started the year with 1 section of Honors Chemistry and at the semester break I no longer had a class to teach. While I miss the fun and excitement of being in the classroom, I did know that I was not able to give my usual 110% to my kids; that disappointed me.
With the transition to the office, I was signed a 211 day contract. Literally, I was supposed to work 211 days, as opposed to the 180+ days of the teaching contract. If I followed that to the letter of the law, I would have been finished on May 23. The usual interpretation is that 211 day employees would from July 15 - June 15 (on or about).
So, I continued to do the work that needed to be done. For my "month off" from work, I was in at least 80% of my days off. Things that I accomplished in this time: worked with a committee to hire our new school principal, who everyone on the committee was very pleased to get, participated in writing a grant for close to $500k, examined the proposed enrollment of every student in Chemistry and Physics to make sure that pre-requisites were being followed and the that proper credits had been earned, worked on our Advisory program curriculum, supervised summer curriculum projects as well as various and sundry other activities that needed my attention.
Some of the "fun activities" I did get to do: Painted the ceiling in the nursery to be, took my 7 month pregnant wife to Atlanta for a wedding (on our 3rd anniversary, with all of my in-laws, in the middle of the PeachTree Trot (the worlds largest 10k) and Atlanta's Gay pride celebration), learned more about some Professional Learning Communities (Ning, EduBlogger, etc.), took the GRE, applied to a Doctoral Program with Illinois State University (and still waiting to hear about it!) and my ABSOLUTE favorite, reading with my wife in our baby book every night when she gets home.
All in all, although I worked through my vacation and got to enjoy the heat, humidity, and various communities of Atlanta, it wasn't so bad.
I look forward to blogging more and all of the excitement in the school year to come.