Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be the pig

I am coming upon one of the longest nights in creation...the night of our school's Open House. I really love to put in 15 hours days! Of course, I could make tire skid marks as I race the teachers to get out of school as the bell rings, so I can run home, while my wife is still at work and do nothing for about an hour and then turn right around...but considering that it would be about an hour's worth of drive time round trip...I think not.

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

The Perfect time of year and $23

It is that time of year again…right before the leaves change color, the occasionally crisp day intermixed with blazing heat and suffocating humidity, and the teachers still have the glow of optimism of the new year, yes, it is the time for Fire Drills!

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

The Olympics are killing me!

I look forward every year to the beginning of a new school year. There is the excitement of hearing about all the interesting things teachers and students did over the summer, getting to know the new students to the building, and just the general hope and honeymoon phase happiness of the new school year.

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. 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

Carrots, Eggs, and Coffee

No, this is not my order for breakfast.

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

Kids today...

As I was looking through my PLN on Plurk, I came across a link to this poster. (Thank you to kmulford for bringing it to my attention.)

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 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?