Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"My Little Pony Parents"

The term "My Little Pony Parent" was a new one for me. I recently read the Atlantic City Press editorial by Lane Filler on Monday and was introduced to the term. Parents described as a "Tiger Parent" was not new. That term was coined and made popular by Amy Chua, a Yale law professor, in her 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. A Tiger Parent is one who is obsessed with their children's success - and pursuit of excellence...the parent who forces their child to practice the violin for five hours a day, anything less than an "A+" on the report from school is unacceptable and they feed on competition. Amy Chua admittedly rejected a birthday card from her 4 year old because she found the quality wanting. Fortunately, I did not grow up in a Tiger Den, although my parents certainly had high expectations for my sister and I. They pushed us to do our best and pointed out when we did not. They did not shield us from disappointment but rather taught us that it was part of life. If we did not receive a trophy or ribbon it was because we were not among the best in that particular event.

According to Lane Filler, there is a new parent type that is growing, the My Little Pony Parent. MLP Parent attempts to shield their children from any and all discomfort. They never want their children to feel inadequate, instead, they go to great lengths to tell them how special - smart - and accomplished they are all the time. Fearing that if their kids were ever told they aren't the best, it would destroy them. So they set out to congratulate them on tasks that are banal.

Of course, the occasional "its ok, honey, you tried your best and that's what counts" is warranted and healthy. According to Filler, however, constantly shielding your child from the reality that they are not the best at (enter your choice here: math, writing, sports, school, singing, art) is harmful. He writes, "Earthworms try. The Confederate Army tried. Even the Jets try. Sporadically. It's the results that count, but hiding that fact from our kids has become normal for many".

Filler wrote of the implementation of the Common Core standards and how MLP Parents are reacting to it. A growing number of parents are threatening to "opt" out of having their children take the state assessments. After year two in New York, the results were daunting. The percentage of kids who met or exceeded the accepted skill level was half what it was the previous year, with about 30 percent of students statewide hitting the mark. Filler says that in light of the results, My Little Pony Parents are preparing to make sure their children don't even encounter a test (or test result) that leaves them feeling less than superb and masterful.

Filler says that the tests difficulty should be their selling point, a high standard. Sometimes feeling badly about ourselves is what makes us try harder. I know from my own life experiences, it has been after a set back that my motivation has been highest. I can think of my high school senior year for an example that is still fresh in my memory. Going into my senior year I was determined to be the quarterback - it was my turn as I had been back up the years before (playing defensive back as well). To my surprise, people came out of the wood work to point out that the underclassman backup should be the quarterback instead of me. Pointing to all of my shortcomings, height - skill - and how on both they felt the underclassman had me beat. I can even remember a preseason breakfast with the head coach where I think he was exploring the idea with me. Seeing if I would be up for simply stepping aside quietly and settling for just playing defensive back/safety. My reaction at that breakfast set the tone for camp - for the season - and for my life in many ways.

I was so angry and disappointed it made my blood boil. I could have rolled over, or pouted and complained about how unfair it was. When I went to my dad for advice, he did not try to shield me from being disappointed or go talk to the coach, instead he said, "what are you going to do to prove them wrong?"

My answer was to outwork everybody, including the underclassman - who truth be told - had more natural ability, talent, and definitely height than I did. But that year, nobody worked harder than I did. During weight training, running the mile for time each practice and the countless wind sprints...I was first. When others were in need of support, I encouraged them, I stepped up and found my leadership spirit. I earned the position and respect of my team. I wish this part of the story had a Rudy like feel, where I go on to lead our team to state championships or that I go on to get a scholarship for football, none of that happened, we did have a winning season 5-4 (we beat Vineland) and proved to myself that I could accomplish whatever I set out to do if I was willing to work. I set a school record, for the most minutes played - I played full time as quarterback and full time as the defensive safety (occasionally talked the coach into letting me run down on kick offs too). I simply refused to come off the field.

Reflecting back, if my parents were My Little Pony Parents, how would my life have been different? I probably would have never gone out for football in the first place. Since I didn't decide to play until my freshman year. My parents fearing that I would be behind the other kids - or that I was too small - may have actually forbid me to play. What if every time I was about to face a challenge in life they stepped in and made me feel like I was the best despite the fact that I wasn't? I think life would be pretty empty. Nothing is more fulfilling than setting a goal and legitimately accomplishing it (or failing while trying).

It is important to find a middle ground. Where the Tiger and Pony meet. Children are supported for honest efforts but they aren't lied to about the results.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Don't Peep My Tweets"

A recent exchange via Twitter with one of my high school students should serve as Best Practice for us grown ups when dealing with social media! The mission should be education - we should add value to our students' lives as well as the world around us. We should model good behavior as well. Some of you are guilty of questionable statements and comments on social media too. Why would it surprise us when our children follow suit?

The scenario: I announce snow closing and/or delays first on Twitter - as an unintended result, I have more high school kids following me than I ever did before. I see an upside, at least one voice they will have no choice but to "hear" is my own. I take that as a responsibility to teach and learn with them. I do not see it as my job to police their Tweets. The student asked a great question about what the delay would mean for HSPA Testing to which I responded. What happened next was very interesting...the student wrote back (half joking I suspect) and essentially showed concern that I would look at his Tweets... I am fascinated that any of our students would send out messages via social media that they would later be worried about. Simply, they should know better. My response says it all. We need to make sure our students understand that you can't get back what is Tweeted, Blogged, Facebooked, Pintrested, etc... once it is out there, it is out there. In many ways, social media has made the administrator's job of discipline easier - there is evidence that can't be refuted in most cases of bullying or harassment. 

My vision is to help the students build a social media resume that they can be proud of instead of worrying about what will be seen by their supt. 

So, instead of spending our time policing and banning these tools, we should teach "Tech Tool 101". To my students out there... I am not looking for your inappropriate Tweets, but someone is and it tells of your character - it also has implications for your future. I promise this, your future employer or University admissions office will search to see what your footprint looks like. Don't wait until then to try to put the toothpaste back. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

KANO Project Continued; Part 2 Community & Stakeholder Engagement

Part 2 

Here is the latest update to our application of the KANO Model to improve community outreach, engagement and overall communication with our stakeholders. As mentioned in previous post, I am going to share information as it rolls many cases I will be sharing raw data or information just to share the experience.

Included in this post:
Results from the survey of "Best Practices" are listed below in no particular order (Raw survey entries)
We asked school leaders, "What are the successful strategies and/or practices you use to engage your school community and stakeholders?"

Educational Programs at PTO Meetings
small group meeting on important topics (school uniforms, etc.)
Superintendent round tables
news letters/ publications
news letters/ publications
Nothing overly special
Hard copy newsletter to whole community w/ board president 2X per year
set goals associated with the six types of family engagement
I make videos, often with stduents, to communicate and celebrate.
Parent meetings offered during the school day & evening with babysitting
Survey Parents/Community
School Website-posting of messages
Meet and Greets
Strategic Planning
Weekly email blast that contains needed info
School Newsletter
Breakast/Community open meetings
Appreciation and Feedback Sessions with Volunteers
Structure: Parent/Child events
Mobile App
Regular Communication via email, twitter, and the web
Matching events-Back to School Night and Anti-bullying parent events
Email blast
email communication
email communication
website - try to keep updated at all times
Share services re: one call system (not realized yet)
sponsor monthly hands on, minds on family activities
I use creative writing as opposed to form letters where possible to communicate.
Translator at meetings
Community events supported by the school
Parent portal in PowerSchool
I attend PTA meetings
Social Media Outlets
School Based Events - concerts, plays, etc...
strategic planning process- over 100 people involved
School/Community End of Year BBQ
Partnering with parent organizations for events
Notification: Phone message system, text, Facebook
Community Meetings
Invite parents in for classroom events
Superintendent corner newsletter in local newspaper
press releases
press releases
Instant alerts (phone, email, text)
Attend town council meetings
publish a weekly newsletter
Social media presence.
Invite parents to be part of committees
Family Events
Semester Open House
Key Communicator meetings
Evening Presentations/Concerts
Parent Portal/Facebook/Websites
using what i like to call my inner circle of power players in the town- personal invites from me to all heads of important town groups
Back To School Bonanza (August)
Monthly Newsletters (Building based)
Student Voice Sessions
Informal "Coffee with Supt" meetings
Encouragement: Rewards (w/educ value)
school activities
Foster volunteerism (parent and community)
Alumni association
school meetings
school meetings
Frequent use of school reach text service
require in person progress report and report card conferences
E blasts, phone blasts, and text blasts.
Survey parents/communities on how they perceive we are doing in meeting goals
Parent presentations
Open Agenda Meetings
Various shared stakeholder meetings
Local Cable TV Programming from the Schools
community surveys
Open House/ Fun Nights
Student performances
Parent Organization meetings
Parent Organization meetings
School wide events open to community
Utilize blogs, websites, videos, podcasts global connect to inform parents/community about things related to school
Key Communicator Meetings/Communications
curriculum demonstration nights

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The KANO Model; Community Engagement Project

One of my focus points this year is to improve community outreach and engagement with my school community. For many boards and superintendents, this is an area that can challenge and frustrate all involved. When shareholders feel they aren't informed or that their voice isn't being heard, they express frustration and can eventually develop a negative impression of the district or school. Often, the school district feels they have provided information in multiple ways so they become frustrated to hear that their message wasn't communicated.

Ultimately, it boils down to one question: "How do you even begin to define communication?" You have probably heard the old saying, "Communication is a two-way street" said after communication breaks down. Can you actually quantify and measure "good communication and community engagement"?

I began trying to answer that question earlier this year. In an effort to demonstrate our Systems Approach here, I am going to share the notes, flowcharts, and other project artifacts as they exist (and unfold) - unedited in many cases.

For this project I am using the KANO Model to embark on defining what good communication and community engagement means.  KANO Explained

Essentially, we are seeking to define the Customer Voice and Define the current performance - or process of communication and engagement so that we can begin to improve upon it. Using a flowchart to capture the 'as is' process from the organization of a school event (or simply any contact our parents/community has with the district) through the customer's opinion being formed will help us look to improve it. We will seek to clearly define the customer voice - quantify exactly what it is that our shareholders expect from us - in the KANO Model, they are categorized in three groups: Must Be's, Satisfier's, and Delighter's. The Must Be's are, well, Musts. If they are not there total dissatisfaction- the customer will go elsewhere! The Satisfier's are the things that deliver a satisfied customer - more is better - while they improve satisfaction if they are missing the customer will likely stay, and a Delighter are the things that the customer did not even know they wanted but delight them. As in all continuous improvement efforts, today's Delighter becomes tomorrow's Satisfier and then a Must Be. Example, there was a time when a radio in a car was delighter, then it became standard, (with a CD changer) - now, you would likely never buy a car without a radio (most demand Bluetooth, GPS, Heated seats etc...) Cars today are being designed to actually stop before you hit something (just in case you aren't paying attention)...someday, that will be a standard feature.

Currently, we have developed a survey that is being administered to superintendents, administrators, and districts to capture what others use as "best practices" to engage and communicate with their constituents. I will share the results once finished. If you want to participate in the survey please go to Community Engagement & Communication We will then survey the community in order to define their voice - what are their expectations?

Here is the draft Flowchart that captures the "as is" current performance. It is critically important at this phase of any improvement effort that you do not get caught up in what it should be, but rather, simply capture to the best of your ability what is. So often, we begin trying to fix a lose problem without clearly defining it...

I am excited about the potential this improvement project has to improve the way we serve our customers and engage our community. I look forward to sharing the results as we move forward.

Monday, January 6, 2014

PLN Blogging Challenge

Dr. Cook set the challenge to me to participate in the PLN Blogging Challenge. I always like a good challenge. I listed 11 of the people I would like to see participate - 

This is what a PLN Blogging Challenge is...“If you’re on Twitter then I’m sure you’ve seen people tweeting out the PLN Blogging Challenge, Sunshine Award, Homework Meme, or whatever other names they are giving it.  It’s basically like a chain letter for blogging, which I have enjoyed reading others’ posts, but have been avoided joining in myself.”

This PLN blogging challenges gives us bloggers a chance to get to know each other better through this post (and reading each others’).

Here are the rules of the challenge:

Acknowledge the nominating blogger. - Dr. Spike Cook (check)
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

Here are my 11 random facts
1. I am addicted to playing Dark Souls (Xbox live) and often play on weekend nights until the early morning.
2. I worked as a bartender to help pay for college.
3. My initial attempt to get my wife's phone number (back in college) failed.
4. I have more than one tattoo.
5. I love MMA.
6. My first concert was Motley Crue (and Whitesnake opened) in 6th grade with Millville coaching legend "Rocky M".
7. I play the guitar (sort of).
8. My family is fun (and a lot crazy)
9. I was a beach lifeguard (Cape May Point)
10. I once rowed in a 6 mile bay race in Strathmere NJ.
11. Mike Trout's dad was my high school baseball coach.

Now to answer the other 11 questions from the challenge (I just used Spike's)

1. What is your favorite tv show? Game of Thrones; Dexter was; Homeland

2. What is one app or resource you’ve learned about on Twitter that has been a game changer for you at work? Google Docs

3. What is your typical bedtime? Not applicable - I often have insomnia.

4. Best book you’ve read in 2013? Game of Thrones (all 5) and The Blade Itself (Reign of Error and lots of other leadership or Education books)

5. Favorite Twitter Chat: #suptchat

6. Best place you’ve vacationed? Montigo Bay Jamaica

7. How has your PLN impacted you? I have met and exchanged ideas with people I would have never met otherwise.

8. What motivates you each day to be an educator (what motivates you period)?  A belief that despite all the complexities of being a chief education officer, I add value !

9. What was the most amazing lesson you ever facilitated or observed? too many to name, but, anytime learning is the focal point is an amazing lesson.  - I am not looking for a "dog and pony" show or fireworks just opportunities for students to be engaged in meaningful work.

10. If you had a whole day to do just what you wanted, what would it be? be with my family - (or maybe just play Xbox)

11. Favorite tv show when you were growing up? The A-team, Magnum PI, Growing Pains

11 People I would like to see take the challenge (if they haven't already) - I went big!!!

Alan November ‏ @globalearner
EUFSDSuper ‏ @DrJosephRicca

Joe Sanfelippo ‏ @Joesanfelippofc

Jennie Snyder, Ed.D. ‏ @POUSDSupt

Monday, December 16, 2013

A need for an uncommon standard

What exactly is a standard? Often defined as any norm, convention, or requirement...but who defines the norm, convention, or requirement? or decides which standard in which field is most important?Society? Government? Need? How much thought actually gets put into it or do we do what we've done just at a higher level?

Recently I attended a few Holiday events (socially) and couldn't help but relate these experiences with my passion - learning a.k.a. "education". In my profession, there is an enormous amount of pressure and energy being applied to raise the "standards" and ensure that all children achieve this standard, as defined by the Common Core - and State Assessments (only currently in Language Arts and Mathematics, and sometimes Science)...

Back to my event epiphany, how dull would the events (or life for that matter) have been (and they weren't because the people there have a wide variety of ideas, skills, and proficiencies), if all of those attending were exactly the same? Same level of proficiency in writing, mathematics, everything - all standard. My feeling is it wouldn't have been interesting at all. Nor is it possible. We can't be all things to everything. Example, in my own life, I LOVE to play the guitar and sing - my wife and kids would tell you they wish I didn't...if I was told I had to be at the same level as the Avett Brothers (a great band in my opinion) I would not measure up...ever...despite the many remedial classes I would forced to attend. And while trying to be something I'm not, I would fall behind in the areas I excel. The truth is, there are people who are better than you at certain things. My belief is you are better at other things than they are. The point, what if instead of standardizing everything, we just let children and people develop their passions to the point of exceptional? Expose them to all subjects imaginable, provide them with resources and support and just see what happens...poof your mind just exploded right? I know, it is hard for me too - to imagine a system that is different than the one I was "educated" in...but I think we owe it to our students to try.

In life, and my little social life events, there are people who have a trade and work with their own hands everyday to make something - or make something better, those who are medical doctors, those who are in charge of leading others to accomplish a single mission, those who create the soundtracks to our lives, writers, and my favorite - those that spend their day helping children realize they are wonderful even if they haven't quite hit the standard (YET) - they help them learn about themselves and what they are exceptional in. Perhaps it is ok to have a standard for each discipline but maybe a bit silly to expect every child to achieve the same standard at the exact same time in their learning life. Learning is not linear.

Final thought, what if those who make the standards all decided to measure you - not based on what you have decided is your life's work, but instead in some other thing that they feel is in your best interest. Would you (or I) measure up? Not if we all had to be world class guitar vocalists!

Happy Holidays-

Food for thought!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Teacher Leaders!

Well done. Teacher led, building lead! So much more powerful than Top Down - I can feel the ownership..(Essentially, this is one of the elementary schools in MPS (RMBACON) going out and getting free materials for a year to try out - after a year of implementation, they obviously love it as evidenced by their putting together this video for a briefing (that was snowed out). 

Our challenge and opportunity is to make the budget work- Good job RM