Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fundamental Attribution Error; A Cautionary Tale

Driving to work this morning, I carefully began to enter the intersection when out of the blue a car cut me off and sped through the red light. My mind immediately began trying to make sense of the reckless behavior I just witnessed. My heart rate is up, I am thinking about my family- that I may not have been able to see ever again if I didn't avoid the car. I find myself saying things like, "That driver is a terrible person! How selfish, only thinking about their need for speed! Probably a criminal fleeing the scene of an armed robbery". These are natural thoughts that help us reason away scary situations but the chances are it was something else influencing the driver's behavior...

We don't only do this in scary situations. We attribute a missed deadline by a coworker as them being "lazy or incompetent". Instead, I ask you to challenge yourself to avoid the fundamental attribution error and think differently in those moments. For example, the driver that cut me off- perhaps his wife needed to be rushed to the hospital and her life was literally in jeopardy. While I still wish he would have used an ambulance or been more careful, I am more sympathetic to the driver. Instead of thinking badly of a colleague who missed the deadline- give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they are dealing with a difficult life situation outside of the workplace that is interrupting their ability to perform. As a leader, take the time to learn what is really going on.

We love to link any unfavorable behavior we see in others to an internal personal character flaw rather than considering that there are external variables at play that make the behavior understandable.

Food for thought!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Shadow; A Day as a MSHS Junior

Today, I spent some time as a high school junior.

I asked the high school principal to randomly select a student, print their schedule, and introduce me to them. Joland Stokes, a MSHS Junior, is a soft-spoken young man with a great smile. These two characteristics were what put me at ease from the start. He simply said, "hello, come with me" and off we went to first block, Health Class. During this time, I was his partner working on a 'one-pager' or one page summary of a health topic. Our topic was injuries. I found Joel to be a hard working student, who made sure he - I mean we - completed the assignment properly. First block comes to an end; I am already noticing how uncomfortable the desks are.

Off to second block, English. Immediately after the bell, the class is thrust into the world of "The Devil and Tom Walker", a story by Washington Irving. We learn that Tom and his wife fight constantly; leaving Tom with bumps and bruises. Tom meets the Devil, or so we assume, and the story takes off. Personally, I love literature! I found myself impressed with the participation from my fellow classmates. I even joined in to respond to the teacher prompted questions which guided the class. Second block comes to an end; the desks are VERY uncomfortable!!! I don't know how I ever sat in them day in and day out.

Lunch in the cafeteria with Jo and his friends. While standing in line with Jo, we could not help but laugh as one of his friends finds my brief case where he normally sits. For a minute, I worried he may throw it out the window. Jo assured me that his friend is not the kind of guy and went over to explain. The friends at Jo's table were welcoming and surprisingly comfortable around their superintendent. They told me that the best sauce for the chicken nuggets is the barbecue. Lunch went by very quickly and it was off to our next class.

Third  block was Culinary Arts. I was able to taste a delicious carrot cake made by one of the students. I learned about sanitation guidelines for restaurants. The students spent time critiquing Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. The class discussed an upcoming cultural day they are planning which will include food from the class's diversity. The class is coming to an end; the seats are still uncomfortable and I am beginning to feel a little tired. Our students do not get any down time from the start of the day until now. I am impressed with how they do not seem to be showing any signs of fatigue. Youth!

The fourth and final block of the day is Spanish 3. Although I spent four years of my own high school experience as a Spanish student, I found I was more than a bit rusty. The energetic Spanish teacher captured all of our attention and rarely spoke in English during the entire block. Fortunately for me, she did allow the students around me to assist when needed. It was needed often. We worked through a video in Spanish, working to understand what was happening to the characters. The class was interesting which made the time go by quickly. The classroom was very warm as the air-conditioning is not yet turned on. I honestly found myself feeling exhausted from the heat as well as the rigors of the experience.

Ultimately, our students work very hard. They transition smoothly from one content area to the next. I noticed that our staff has positive relationships with our students. Our students are amazing! Smart, funny, and determined to be the best they can be. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity today, to spend time in the shoes of one of our students. Take-always, we need to have furniture alternatives. Sitting in the desks all day is simply unacceptable. We also need to have working air-conditioning for our students and staff.

As promised, today was non-evaluative. I was not in the classroom to evaluate the teacher or the students. I instead put that aside in order to just experience the day through the eyes of a student. I would like to thank the teachers who helped make my experience a memorable one.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thought Provoking

I am quite certain this talk is worth considering! Thought provoking!!!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kids These Days!

Kids these days...are awesome! There are so many amazing happenings in the Millville Public Schools but one recently stood out to me. During my schedule review with my dedicated assistant we reviewed the week to come. I noticed a meeting set for September 17th at 2:45 pm with Mr. Kyle Permuy (@varninja on Twitter). Not recognizing the name, I inquired as to what the meeting's purpose was. My assistant stated that a #MPS senior respectfully came in to set up a meeting with me to discuss an idea. I was immediately excited by the student's conduct.

He arrived 15 minutes early, (Coach Surace, my former football coach always said, if you are early you are on time, if you are on time you are late, and if you are late you are forgotten). His showing up early was only one of the many things that impressed me.  At 2:45 we sat down in my conference room and I asked him "what can I do for you?". He leaped into a well prepared and organized presentation about an event he would like to hold in Millville next May. (May 7th, 2016* tentative). The event essentially will bring high school students (9-12) from across South Jersey to spend a day coding their way to solving a problem, any problem of their choice. Kyle explained that this is called a 'hackathon' and there is lots out there if you are like me and plan to Google it after reading this. His excitement around a passion of his was simply contagious. I found myself smiling from ear to ear. Together, he and I spent nearly an hour brainstorming how best to make this event a success. We talked about how he could share his love for coding with our younger students by being a guest teacher...so many possibilities simply because this young man was brave enough to take a risk and ask his superintendent for a meeting.

So the next time you hear, or read, about all that is wrong with #MPSWC or kids today, think about @varninja aka Kyle. Kids these days...are awesome!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Robotics & Algebra

Robotics & Algebra
Posted by David N Gentile at 4/15/2015 9:25:00 AM

A new approach to Algebra...
We are partnering with Rowan University to seek a grant opportunity. See below

Summary Below: 

CS-ACTION: Computer Science through Algebra and Computational Thinking Innovation and Opportunity Networks

Project Summary
CS-ACTION is an Exploratory Research proposal to investigate the efficacy of the integration of concepts and skills in computer science (CS) and college- and career-readiness (CCR) into a Common-Core aligned Algebra I curriculum at multiple low-income schools that serve populations of students who are underrepresented in computer science.

At the center of the CS-ACTION model is a sequence of innovative, integrated, and immersive curriculum units designed to provide students with opportunities to engage concurrently in learning concepts and skills in CS, mathematics and college- and career-readiness. Aligned to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (CSTA), and the American School Counselor Association Mindsets & Behaviors (ASCAMB), the units will be designed as replacement units for those typically taught in Algebra 1 courses.

Designed to be implemented by partnerships between and among schools and higher education (HE) institutions, the model includes multidimensional, embedded professional development (PD) for teachers and school counselors who will work with HE faculty to implement the curriculum units and facilitate informal after-school activities, challenges, and extensions. The implementation of these units requires an informed, supportive network of teachers, school counselors, and HE faculty who understand and have skills in these areas.

Intellectual Merit
CS-ACTION proposes a solution to the problem of access to computer science courses and careers by integrating concepts, skills, and career-readiness in computer science into an already overfull high school mathematics curriculum. While both CCSSM and CSTA specify standards for CCR, few programs actively address them. The model includes significant PD and ongoing support for in-service teachers and counselors to ensure that they are well prepared to implement the units and informal activities. CS-ACTION builds on the PIs’ experience developing and facilitating highly successful comprehensive and developmental summer programs to assist underrepresented students in gaining understandings skills that support their pursuit of STEM majors and careers. Additionally, the PIs have 40 years’ combined experience delivering small- and large-scale PD to teachers and school counselors (both in-person and online), including (a) introductory concepts and skills in programming and computational thinking; (b) student-centered pedagogies within integrated STEM curricula; and (c) college- and career-readiness for first-generation and low-income students.

Broader Impacts

The results of this work will establish a basis for further integration of foundational CS and CCR concepts and skills throughout the K-12 math curriculum, preparing students for more advanced study and increased enrollment in computer science classes. The project goals and activities are aligned to CCSSM, CSTA, and ASCAMB, ensuring that the modules produced will be appropriate for adoption by other schools throughout the nation. Curriculum units and PD modules developed for this project will be widely disseminated so that other K12-HE partnerships can enact them. The school districts selected to partner with this study were chosen specifically because they serve underrepresented populations of students. Multiple cohorts of students from each school will be studied, including cohorts of under-performing students who have been required to attend summer-school following failing grades in Algebra 1 during the school year. Successful outcomes for these varied cohorts of students would be strong evidence to other K12 schools that such HE partnerships could prove effective. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Today was a challenging day for my community. I am truly at a loss for words. As a leader, you feel you should be able to guide your team through any storm. However, some storms just can't be avoided. Without going into details, I will simply say that we mourn the loss of a fellow Thunderbolt. Our motto is "its a great day to be a bolt", but today, just for today, it wasn't. Take comfort in each other...support each other...love one another! Life is precious - please dedicate your life to adding value and lifting up those around you. If you or someone you know is in pain there are people here ready to help. Contact the guidance office immediately if you suspect someone needs a little extra support!