Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Future of Learning

After reading Patrick Larkin's blog I was left with wanting to share this video with the world. We must pay attention to those who can see a different version of schooling - and change. As parents we must demand this from our policy makers and local schools.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why School? Great question Will Richardson!

I am reading one of the best books ever - for a whopping $2.99. The book's title is Why School? by Will Richardson. I am not sure if it is the fact that he is a fellow New Jersey native or that there are so many similarities I find in common with him, ie- children who are school age and feeling responsible for fixing the broken system that I am a superintendent in. Honestly, I can't imagine how I will ever lead significant changes that are absolutely necessary and outlined in Richard's book while having the federal and state government oversight - and micro-management interfere with real change. One area I am extremely interested in is assessment. If we are to use authentic assessments to determine what students can and can't do - we will need to invest in the fact that it will be like stapling jello to a wall. Assessment is easy when we reduce it to a 'test' of narrow skills. It becomes increasingly difficult when we attempt to measure things like if students have learned to manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information. Below is an example from Why School that highlights the bizarre nature of things we assess in public education:

In the NY State Regents global history and geography test from 2011:

Which geographical feature impacted the development of the Gupta Empire?

Huh? Do any of you know what the heck the Gupta Empire even is? Without Googling. Thoughts so, but an entire generation of high school students in NY were deemed 'worthy' or not based on questions like that. Richards and I agree, we may be able to learn something from the Gupta Empire and the history - but answering that question - monsoons by the way - leaves us empty. There is simply no value in answering a question that can be answered by a quick Google search and then forgotten seconds after the test is over.

Rethink public education policy- stop using standardize test scores (from poor students) as a rallying cry for school reform. Get real, we must rethink the access we provide to all of our students and how we vision our schools.

Friday, January 4, 2013

10 Secrets to Success

Investor's Business Daily published their 10 secrets to success based on years of analyzing leaders and successful people in all walks of life. Below, I share them with my own twist:

1-How you think is everything: Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Beware of a negative environment.

(Twist- how you think is everything, but it is impossible to always be 'positive'. For me, when I find that I am slumping into negative thinking I recognize it as a sign that I need to change my patterns. Embrace negative feelings and thoughts for what they are, your thoughts. If you understand that they are yours to control, moving them into a more positive position becomes easier. Whereas, feeling that you must 'always be positive' will lead to your own guilt, depression, and fear that if you are not being positive all the time you can't be successful. Instead, embrace - seek to understand why you are feeling negative - then do something about it)

2- Decide upon your true dreams and goals: Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them.

(Twist- there is a difference between dreams and goals. As I see it, they are not the same. A dream, may be to play professional baseball, and despite how dedicated I am to this distant vision I could never create a plan and set of goals to make it happen. My age, my talent would make this impossible. Therefore, make sure you recognize the difference between and obtainable 'dream' and one too far out of reach. If you set toward a dream that could never be realized you will live a depressed existence. This does not mean stretch your goals to be something lofty, just out of reach, as with a proper plan and effort you can grasp the 'gold ring'.)

3- Take action: Goals are nothing without action. Don't be afraid to get started. Just do it.

(I have no twist on this...this is sound advice. You must move to advance.)

4- Never stop learning: Go back to school or read books. Get training and acquire skills.

(Once again, no twist...life long learning is a key to my own happiness and success)

5- Be persistent and work hard: Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.

(Twist- while this is overall sound advice, I must say giving up is sometimes necessary to finding success and happiness. Give up on things that simply aren't advancing your goals. Have the smarts to recognize behavior that is not producing results and don't be afraid of admitting you were wrong. Otherwise, you may continue doing something or pursuing something simply because you told others about it)

6- Learn to analyze details: Get all the facts, all the input. Learn from your mistakes.

(Twist- the only thing I would add here is that sometimes it isn't feasible to get all the facts or all the input. Don't paralyze yourself in over-analysis; sometimes you must just act and leap. If you miss the mark, learn from it. I love the line in Batman where Bruce's father finds his son in the bottom of a well. He asks, "Why do we fall down? So we can learn to get up".)

7- Focus your time and money: Don't let other people or things distract you.

(Twist- Recognize the difference between being distracted and being connected. There are times where I would initially like to shut people down when they seek my time as I see it as a distraction, only to realize later, that the interaction (albeit a bit distracting) was a benefit to my overall goals. We live and work with people - people need to be distracted sometimes as it renews their interest in the vision of the organization (if you are a leader, you must engage despite the time.)

8- Don't be afraid to innovate, be different: Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.

(Twist- be wise enough to resist change and innovation for the sake of simply being 'different'. There is often wisdom in the herd, as a leader you must appreciate the herd routine to understand how to inspire a new - better one.)

9- Deal and communicate with people effectively: No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others.

(No twist)

10- Be honest and dependable; take responsibility: otherwise 1-9 won't matter.

(Twist- be honest when it is appropriate. Too often I have met people who pride and boast "well you know me, I am honest" and the 'honest truth' is they are offensively honest. The old adage, when your spouse asks you if the dress makes them look fat recognize some truths are better left untold. There is no upside to that type of truth as it will only hurt your spouse. Instead, be supportive daily by getting them active - take up healthy cooking etc...In the work environment, there are similar crass truths being sprayed around in the name of honesty.)

As you are likely creating or implementing New Year's resolutions, keep this list in mind, or not, the choice is yours.