My Dilemma as Chat host

As I sit here at my desk tonight, mulling over topics for this week’s #mschat, I am confronted with a dilemma. I have a family, 3 children (8,3&3) a wife and a dog. It appears I picked the worst night to have a chat for my family. My oldest son, Griffin, just started playing football. They have practice Thursday nights, same night as his cub scout meetings too. My work doesn’t seem to help to much either with Thursday night Open house and conferences. My 3 year old twins don’t help much either with the 8 pm bed time on a busy night.

I love what #mschat has become, a place for middle level educators to come together and talk about current ideas to helps us reflect on our teaching practices. I don’t want to lose the momentum we have gained over the last month of chats. Easy answer is to move the chat either back to later in the evening or to another night. Moving the chat will mean I might lose some members of the audience. It also means I will be bumping into other chats. Since I started #mschat, I have become involved in #atplc chat that follows in the 9 pm time slot. I have also found value in other chats during other nights.

Since I am going to continue #mschat please comment on this post as to a suggested time/night for the chat to take place. It seems right now that Monday-Wednesday are pretty free for me but 2 months ago Thursday looked good. We will have a Thursday night chat this week worked in around my son’s football practice and open house but look for a move soon. I value my PLN’s input so please give it.





#mschat Guest Host for Sept. 6, 2012

I am a “live in the moment” type of person. I don’t wear a watch and rarely look at a calendar. So when I planned on starting up #mschat in July I did not have the foresight to notice that the 4th chat would coincide with School Open House. Can’t miss the opportunity to meet with parents and work on that all important connections. I also don’t want to abandon #mschat group that is growing and creating a great PLN. A friend has volunteered his expertise to our chat for Sept 6th. Ben Curran of Engaging Educators will moderate this week, leading the discussion on the topic of Common Core State Standards and how it impacts us in the middle school. I will be joining in from my cell as soon as the open house is over.

Common Core = College Core, should there be another path?

Like many educators I have spent time this summer looking over the “new” common core state standards. (In science they are called the Next Generation Science Standards) Overall I like the idea of having common standards between states, because up till now each state has had different standards. Comparing states educational systems has been very difficult. Some states have created rigorous standards, like Michigan where I teach, yet others have just left minimal requirements. Colleges have complained about students arriving with poor skills. Often so poor the students need to take remedial classes in record numbers. While I processed all of the information, I felt it would be tough as an college admission officer not familiar with all the different state standards. As a new college student I would be depressed if I was placed in nothing but remedial classes as a freshman. Core standards are needed. BUT are they needed for ALL students?

As I pondered these ideas, I started to notice articles about “Where the jobs are now.”  Sure you can find stories about unfilled STEM jobs that the Common Core will address. I noticed stories about jobs, I never expected: truck driver shortages and factory shortages. Does the common core help fill these vacancies? NO. What do we do with students who want to fill these positions? I believe the if the common core is the only avenue for them they will drop out! Is that what we want? I hope not.

We should not be telling our youth that the only path is College. Today more jobs do not require a college degree than jobs that do! Sure, I want to encourage everyone to get the best education they can, but there are many routes to success that don’t pass through college. As educators we need to be up front and honest with students. Tell them their options. Start them all off on the College Core path, IF and when it becomes evident that the path is not right, there needs to be another one for them to travel down.

When you ask a 5 year old what they want to be most will say: “Doctor, Lawyer, Fireman Police Officer, Nurse, or Teacher” as they gain knowledge about the many more professions it changes many times over. We need to offer core educational requirements that lead to ALL occupations: Musician, Artist, Cook, Truck Driver, Etc…. To do this we have to do away with 1 common core and create many cores that are as well defined as the common core. The common core is great for college bound students but not all students will go down that path.

Educational Technology Leadership- Keeping pace with tech change

How do districts keep up in this age of ever changing technology tools and shrinking school budgets?

Everyday I hear about a new tool to use in the classroom or a new technique on how to use the technology. Where I work we have seen our budget shrink every year for the past 7. Our Technology Director position is now filled by the business manager and we have 2 tech support people for 3,200 students and 7 buildings.

How do we keep up? Our district does the best it can by trusting the teachers to become experts in various technology skills and then share the skills back with the leadership and fellow teachers. We also utilize our Intermediate School District and the technology support that they provide to the all 21 districts in the county. Districts can’t afford to have a resident expert in all technology. We have been struggling to keep pace with change. Some of our administrators are not technology-savvy and do not feel comfortable using all of the tools at hand.

So do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?

Simple answers is NO. Administrators have to create a culture of learning and sharing among staff. Administrators have to trust their staff on leading them in the right direction. They also need to develop strong questioning skills to ask the staff about the technology to be reassured that the district is moving in the correct direction. Shared leadership helps districts keep pace with the technology change. Districts can’t afford to have a resident expert in all technology. They have to have trust in their staff to become experts in select technology. Then build an atmosphere of respect so staff feel comfortable training each other. The moment someone becomes an “expert” in a product, a newer, better, version is being released. If one person was trying to keep pace they would never have time train staff. Challenge yourself as a leader to share our leadership with your staff.

Two final thoughts-

1: Leaders have to embrace technology and learn if they want their staff to do the same. They don’t have to be savvy or the expert but they need to learn.

2. A great leaders isn’t the smartest person in the room but the one who surround themselves with the smartest people. If you know you have knowledge deficits try to find people to help fill in the knowledge void.