Looking for Middle School Advisory Resources


My project this summer is to help improve my schools advisory program. I am research resources to use with our middle school students. If you happen to have any great resources you use to help build relationships with your students I would love to hear from you. Currently, many of our teachers use Wonderopolis to help engage students in questioning and CNN Student News to keep students up to date on current events.  Otherwise each grade has worked on developing lessons to teach learning skills and help students grow socially, emotionally, and physically.  I hope to create a website that will give our staff adequate resources allow for choices to fit our students needs. If you can help out please fill in the form below.

#AMLE Institute for Middle Level Leadership

Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE)

While many teachers are enjoying the first weeks of summer break and the relaxation that comes after a successful school year, many school teachers and leaders are actively learning. AMLE holds an Institute for Middle Level Leadership twice during the summer. The institute helps leaders reflect on their practices and collaborate with others leaders. Many of the activities revolve around “unpacking” This We Believe:  Keys to Educating Young Adolescents, the AMLE landmark position paper. I have been following the event on twitter. Have been observing great ideas emerge from the conference. I hope some day to be able to attend.  Below is the link to an archive of tweets.

[View the story “#AMLELI13 Tweets from Leadership Conference” on Storify]

#ISTE13 from a far


ISTE officially kicks off today after a few days of kick of pre-events. I have mixed emotions about the event. Part of me would love to be in San Antonio, hearing about the latest and greatest ways to infuse technology into my instruction. The other part of me still asks the question I asked a year ago “Should there be an ISTE?” I will be following ISTE 2013, from my home. I could not find it in my personal budget to travel to San Antonio and wife and three children miss me enough during the school year. My district was kind enough to pay for me to attend out states equivalent to ISTE, MACUL, so I am feeling up to date and connected.

WHAT I Will Miss:

  1. Personal Connections: I value personally meeting educators I follow on twitter, and authors whose books I read. The following connection because real. I value all these relationships. For me this was the most powerful part of attending MACUL and meeting my #michED PLN. Whether it is seeing them present, a passing conversation in the hallway or a reflective meal, these face to face meetings are the most powerful.
  2. Presentations on TEACHING: I always benefit from hearing from other teachers about how they teach. It is valuable to hear how teachers use tools in their classrooms, especially when they discuss the pitfalls and learning moments they experienced in their instruction.
  3. Time to reflect: For me the most valuable time at any conference is the time it gives me to actively reflect on my teaching practices and how they can be improved in the future. After hearing a powerful presentation it helps me to think about my practice and how I can incorporate  new techniques into lessons.

I hope that my twitter PLN will keep me updated on these aspects of ISTE.

What I can do without:

  1. Product centered presentations: New tools are fun to learn about and it is hard to keep up with all of them, but I want to know how it will help me teach and my students learn. I want practical applications for my teaching. I don’t want to pay to hear a sales pitch. There are many websites and twitter feeds that focus on new tech. I know many teachers love these presentations but ask yourself, HOW is this going to improve my teaching?
  2. Crowds: 13,000 expected in San Antonio. WOW!! I learn best in a small group and being allowed to try things hands-on. I tend to be shy and get lost in a crowd. This is why Edcamps ate more for me. A sit and get lecture is not how I teach or learn. I can imagine the best presenters will be forced into this large lecture hall presentation environment.
  3. Sponsors SWAG: Sure I would love a new Microsoft tablet or free access to a pay website. How will my students benefit? Not too much. The purpose of the SWAG is to influence larger purchases. I don’t have the deciding power for these purchases in my district. I feel the sponsors money could be spent in better ways. How about helping subsidize teachers travel/ attendance to the conference? (Sure doesn’t help my crowd issue)

I wish all of you lucky enough to attend #ISTE13 a wonderful conference. Remember to share your learning with others because that is where it has true value. I hope to hear all about your experiences.



Educational Off Season!!

It is the educational off-season. Students and teachers alike are taking a break from the daily grind of 5-days a week of school. No assignments to complete or grade. Lesson plans are left on the shelf and relaxation takes center stage. Those involved in education need to be mindful of staying sharp and improving their game just like athletes. Here are a few tips to keep your game sharp:


Student/Parent Tips

1. Spend time outside- exercise, play and explore all things. Go to a Zoo, park or playground.

2. Take a break daily- Don’t run you motor at 110% all the time. Take time to just relax and chill -out.

3. Read- Yes, I said it you need to continue to read, try to set aside some of your daily relaxing time and spend it with a good book.

4. Have a hobby- Summer is time to explore things so pick up a hobby, Playing a sport or building models find something you like to do.

5. Limit screen time- Parking yourself in front of a screen is not productive. Sure spend an hour or 2 a day watching a movie or being on-line, but don’t make it your entire day.

6. Stay on a regular schedule. Try to stay close to your school schedule. Maybe sleep an hour or two but get up for breakfast and go to bed by the local curfew (most states is 11 or 12 pm)

Teacher Tips:

1. Take a break- Give your mind a break from educational duties. Go have fun. (Just not all summer long)

2. Read- Read something non-educational and stay current with educational trends.

3. Set goals- Set small weekly goals as to what you will be accomplishing to make your self ready for the school year. Check them off as you go.

4. Attend PD or follow it on-line- Improve yourself, attend local PD or follow PD virtually. There is so much out there that you won’t have time to check out during the school year. Many conferences like ISTE are during the summer months.

5. Try something new- Examine a new tech tool or teaching style. Summer is the time to decide if you want to try it in the classroom in the fall.

6. Shop back to school sales- Sales start in July so make a list and get what you need. (Since school here in Michigan does not start back till September I often forget/miss all the sales.)

7. Travel- Get out of your town and explore something new, the next town over or the other side of the globe travel always gives you a new perspective on things.

8. Be Ready- Make sure you are ready for day 1 because your students sure will be.

Enjoy your off season!! Remember the goal is to comeback in the fall better than you were before.

How you do something matters!!

As teachers we have to be constantly thinking. How we present matter, the words we use, how we build a collaborative culture of trust in our classroom. Our tasks are challenging. We have to make students do something they don’t necessarily want to do, learn, work and grow. Teachers don’t dole out incentives, such as money or promotions. Teachers don’t have the power to fire the students when they don’t preform well, We have to frame tasks in ways that give students the feeling of control and choice. while maintaining control, guiding towards learning target. Highly effective teachers spend weeks planning for the creation of their classroom environment. Procedures and policies help build the classroom atmosphere. Students learn about teacher expectations through these procedures. Routines are established and students gain clear expectations for their behaviors.


Classrooms spend weeks at the start of the  school year working on building this trusting atmosphere. As students begin to show trust, teachers focus more on academic lesson and less on modeling procedures to establish trust. At this point teachers need to be careful. One small slip up, one unplanned moment, second of anger all the hard work can be undone. Yelling in anger, not following classroom procedures, showing favoritism are all mistakes that can cause a classroom to fall apart. It has happened to me. You might not notice right away. You might catch yourself and think, well my students did not notice, but they always do. First you won’t notice the culture changing, it is hidden. Slowly students will test the boundaries and challenge the norms. If you are not careful, all control will be lost. Best solution is to acknowledge the slip up, apologize and move back to the norms. Trying to cover up poor choices and lack of planning is only modeling behaviors we don’t want in students. For me the trusting collaborative culture in the classroom is important enough for me to admit my mistakes.

Does this type of modeling happen everywhere?

I wish companies modeled more of the citizenship and collaboration expectations that schools help set. Many businesses including schools don’t seem to value these behaviors in their cultures. Bosses are often depicted as shouting orders, stealing ideas and demeaning subordinates. Our students have grown up in a culture where their parents are often grumbling about work and their working conditions. Many will argue that is the nature of work. I would argue that times are a changing. Many of the new corporate giants like Google, Quicken Loans, and Facebook are working hard to make their collaborative culture of trust a key to their success. Employees like working for corporations that follow their procedures, model trust and collaboration and apologize for hiccups along the way.

School districts need to follow the model their teachers present in the classroom and corporate success stories have used to grow. Too often, districts uphold the stereotypical  boss imagine. Shouting orders from on high, without spending time to develop relationships, build trust and give staff guided ownership in the necessary changes. Leaders often forget how to lead, once they have climb into their position of power. It is often how a change is presented that gains acceptance, than the change itself. Even the most necessary change, can break a collaborative trusting culture if presented in the wrong manner.

How we teach, lead, DO anything matters because that is how we are perceived! And perception is everything!!