Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Principal Growth Plan

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“with the calendar about to turn to 2014, administrators must move past these tried and true techniques in order to stay visible and transparent and have an open door as a school lead learner – in the physical and virtual world.” –Mark Roth

It is a guest post Friday! True, I have taken 2 days off. And now I am guest posting…lazy? No. Truth be told  two days were spent in bed, with my two lovely and really sick kids. The flu bug got us all. Three days. Brutal. Flu shot avoidance no more. We were scheduled to visit a teacher friend and his family (we have daughters that share names–he named first) and I was scheduled to blog about our simultaneous teacher work in distinct parts of Ontario. Instead I watched 24 hours worth of Gold Rush, Ice Cold Gold and various Survival Shows (the real kind) with my two sickies. We slept and blew noses for the other 24 between doses of penicillin for the ear issues and motrin for the fevers.  In an unrelated and funny story the autocorrect feature on my planned hosts iOS called me a “sucky butt” instead of the intended sicky bug in her response text message to my plight and change in plans. Wouldn’t Freud be happy to know that even Siri slips!

Enough of my sob stories…

Today I am happy to introduce Mark Roth.  Mark’s work as a Vice Principal for the last 8 has brought him to 4 different schools.  There he has worked on his instructional leadership skills.  I am happy to share his first personal blog post here as another example of our administrative leaders challenging themselves to make their practise more transparent via web 2.0 tools.  Fittingly Mark has risen to the challenge b speaking on that very topic.

The Closed Door: No Longer an Option

by Mark Roth

For years staff in schools have wondered why administration have had their doors closed. Why, when there was a conversation in the office was it always private? Parents couldn’t understand why they had to wait four days after a report card before they could speak with the teacher. Administrators have walked the hallways, peered through the top half of a door and asked themselves, “why don’t they share with each other more”? Perceptions? Perhaps. I see a cycle that is being shattered by our youngest learners as they seek to change the world for the better. Then we realized, visiting classrooms, greeting parents before and after school, and making oneself available with an open-door office policy were great techniques to “open the door” and build deeper and meaningful confidence on the public education system.  However, with the calendar about to turn to 2014, administrators must move past these tried and true techniques in order to stay visible and transparent and have an open door as a school lead learner – in the physical and virtual world.

As a school lead learner, one must engage in learning and effective communication with staff, parents and students or one will be seen as having the door closed. The most logical way to stay engaged is to effectively use the tools that so many of our youngest learners are already using or better yet, be ready to use the ones they aren’t even using yet.  A quick Google search brought me to The Social Web. How can one possibly keep up? Web 2.0? Apps? iPad vs Android? To blog or to tweet?  Is this even smart as an administrator?

Social Learning in the Classroom

My suggestion, use the one(s) that work for you, understand the rest and continue to learn about the new ones. Let’s face it, our parents are engaged in the digital world. A recent study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 77% of 18-29 year-olds with an annual household income of less than $30 000 are smartphone owners. Usage increases to 90% as household income increases. Early Years students are Tweeting their twenty-something parents from school with a device that they brought from home and Skype with them at work so they can share with the rest of the class what their parents do all day. Aren’t these the parents of the young learners that will fill our schools for the next twenty years? My own teenagers have informed me that if I want to know where practices are or what time their next game is, I can subscribe to Remind101, check the blog, browse the website or join the e-mail list.

What? No phone calls? Better open the door.
Pew Research

You can follow Mark on his school twitter feed @brockbulldogs.  Stay tuned as he prepares his own blog for our shared learning.

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In typical Twitter fashion the connections between education folks has Kevin Bacon’s six degrees beaten hands down. Lisa Parisi, Brian Aspinall and Doug Peterson lobbed the ball to me (among others) to complete this blog meme. Lee Kolbert‘s challenge connects many of us.
Be sure to read all the way to the end because you may have been tagged to do this on your own blog.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 Random Facts About Me

      1. I’m a Creative Writing and English Literature double major.
      2. I love French toast, cooking it, sharing it, eating it. (real maple syrup only.)
      3. Before becoming a vegetarian in 2004, I could put away 2 Big Macs, a 9 piece chicken nuggets, a large fry and a chocolate shake. Scary.
      4. I put myself through university as Marmalade, goofy side-kick and jester for Canadian children’s entertainer Beebo. I played instruments, sang and danced but mostly acted like a clown for cheap laughs and children’s smiles.
      5. I can moon walk and do the worm. I do the worm (on the front lawn) on the last day of school every year as the buses leave.
      6. The second album I ever purchased was Michael Jackson’s Thriller on cassette tape.
      7. A team of 4, including myself and my wife, created two of the first academic “hypertext” websites for the University of Windsor, English Department. Christina Rossetti, Romantics Writer was our subject. We had to code every line. Our prof. would only mark the work if it was printed and bound. That is hilarious!
      8. I married my high school sweetheart.
      9. I cannot do the Rubik’s cube. Not even one side.
      10. I share a birthday with my first Principal as a teacher. – Mrs Keillor.
      11. I’m qualified to drive a semi, fully rigged transport truck in case this principal thing doesn’t work out.

11 Answers to Lisa and Doug’s Questions (I mixed and mingled them)

1. My favourite quote is:

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” ~ Carl Sagan From his fictional work entitled Contact. A piece of writing that inspires me to do my best as an educator is given to us by George Bernard Shaw:

“This is the true joy in life, that being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

2. Have you been to a concert?

A tonne of them. I am an Indie rock fan so my favorite spot is Magic Stick in Detroit. You can see great bands early in their career. The venue is small, the amps are loud. The building also houses The D’s oldest bowling alley downstairs.

3. Favourite book as a child:

In grade 5 Mrs. White read Robert C. O’Brien’s “Z for Zachariah “. I was captivated every day she read it and to this day it remains the only book I have read more than twice. I subsequently forgot to return it to the Maplewood school library and it is still in my possession to this day.

5. What movie do you think everyone should see and why?

I don’t answer should questions.

A movie that changed my perspective and ultimately changed my lifestyle is “The Cove”. I love documentaries. This one made the four of us weep (my kids included) As a family we do not purchase tuna and visit zoos or marine parks any more.

6. What is your favorite park?

My favourite park is “Big Hill Park” in Essex where I grew up. The kids named it that. The park is 3kms from my house with a man-made hill in the middle. I remember going down the hill on my bike for the first time when I was 8 years old. I took my son down the hill on his bike just this summer. The look on his face reminded me of the feeling I had. Exhilaration. Funny part…my home is taller than the hill.

7. What is the craziest thing you have ever done?

Most of those need to stay out of the print medium so my son doesn’t try them as a teenager. A double black diamond in Sunshine Valley, Maine was crazy. It was a natural run with trees and powder, like something out of a Warren Miller film. It was the closest I’ve ever come to actually flying. My brother-in-law bailed on his snow board and we thought he’d caused an avalanche. I have the whole event on video tape in my mind. It was awesome! Then there was the hike into the Tofino, old growth rainforest to the natural hot spring on my honeymoon to Vancouver Island. We started in at dusk. We didn’t have flashlights. My wife hits me in the arm to this day when I bring it up.

8. What are you better at than anyone else you know?

Easy, my hand written signature. I’ve been working on it for years.

I’ve been told in educational settings that at critical moments in meetings and conversations, both formal and informal, I use silence very well and know just the right questions to ask to keep the conversation critically productive. Critically productive does not mean comfortable. That being said. I’m self-aware that my biggest strength is also my double weakness.

9. If you were to know any language other than English what would it be?

Anishinabek / Ojibwe – I have a deep respect for First Nations people and culture. I would love to be able to speak the language and teach it to ensure it lives on. It is an honest and clear language. So far I understand that things are described in very natural terms, there is seemingly no hyperbole to distract the communicators from the truth.

10. What is the best picture you have taken?

My partner Tricia is the family photographer and my sister is a professional. For me though I got this one completely by accident last March break. I credit @jaxbeachteach for convincing me to stop off at Neptune Beach outside of Jacksonville, Florida on the way home.


11. What is your dream vacation?

This year I started a 4 over 5 with the intent to travel to 3 different continents during the year away from work. We have a family goal to write a book while away. We are busy narrowing down our list of 100 to 10 things we must see or do on the planet.

I nominate these great people to have fun with this activity: (If you don’t have a blog let this be your “About Page.”)

Jodie Nardone: @IteachELL
Zoe Cowper: @Zozibella
Shannon Hazel: @Shannonhazel73
Terri Barrette: @teach_terri
Connie Ellis Leclair: @ConnieEllis
Kelly Moore: @kellmoor
Chris Knight: @knightchris
Jenny Ashby: @jjash
Shelly Pike: @shelpike
Aviva Dunsiger: @avivaloca
James Shelly: @JamesShelley (my first twitter conversation ever)

Here are your 11 Questions:

1. What has been one of your most significant learning experiences?

2. Talk about something that, for you, reason can still not explain.

3. Rural living or big city life, why?

4. How did you get your name?

5. Name something you couldn’t live without.

6. If you were a professional wrestler what would your name be?

7. What are you pretending not to know?

8. If I dumped out your junk drawer what would I find?

9. What is a powerful lesson you learned from a parental figure?

10. Where were you on 9 / 11 / 2001?

11. If you could give all your time and wealth to a charity…who/what?

I need to mention this to Doug, Brian and Lisa…this blog post took me longer to format than the previous 80.

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I have to meet this science teacher.  I mean it.  Having a student work with these mediums and allowing for this level of responsibility must have required much work.  I want to know what was involved in terms of his or her (the teacher’s) learning.  This student must be completely engaged.  Great work.  Another example of the work teachers do to engage young people in learning.

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If you are an Ontario Educator and you have not yet signed up for your free full-fledged membership to Bitstrips for Schools you might be missing out on an incredible opportunity.  Many of your students certainly are.  Bitstrips for Schools is an online comic strip generator intended for use as a writing tool.  On many Blogs it is billed as the way to “motivate boy writers.”  Certainly there is an aspect to this program that would speak to some “hard to motivate” writers and yes many may be boys.  This software however is great across the board.  Homework can be assigned in any subject and students will run home to get online and complete the tasks that you set up (or you could use the many templates that are included with membership).  How do I know this?  Have you ever played Wii?  The best part of the entire experience is creating your Mii.  This is the digital, cartoon representation of yourself.  Last Christmas the Cowpernicus family spent about 2 hours making Grandpa!  Bitstrips asks every user to first create their avatar.  After this creation the process of making comic strips begins.

It is time to ROCK!

It is time to ROCK!

I want to know the technology and understand its use for my teachers so I embarked on a little experiment.  I created an online classroom for the school’s Learning Council or Professional Learning Team.  The team consists of a Learning Support Teacher, A Literacy /Numeracy Coach, an Admin-VP, Early Years, Primary. Junior, and Intermediate Teacher Leaders, The school secretary and me.  As the facilitator I assigned two tasks or activities so far.  1.  Create your avatar and place them in a comic about your life.  2.  Create a comic about the worst aspect of a traditional Professional Learning Experience.  Here is mine:Death by Powerpoint

A teacher wrote to me in an email–“I logged on to Bitstrips tonight and created a class. I am starting tomorrow. This rocks! Thanks for the idea…”   I have two teachers using this web 2.0 with classes and I am using it with a group of 9 adults.  My experiment is a risk.  Some of my students (adults) may not find the process worthwhile.  Some may love it.  For me it has been fun.  It is a completely different form of P.L. Hopefully it is not the topic of any of the comics generated for activity number 2 though!  I will keep you posted about my experience and results.

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Well, I’ve done it. That which I have been avoiding for sometime now. No, I have not taken the Facebook plunge. I may not. But, I am tweeting, blogging and began a Wiki.

Too much? The three are integrated so easily with the use of such tools as NetVibes and WordPress that I state a resounding “No.” Are you afraid of learning? Have you been making excuses like me not to get involved in the communication revolution? The speed at which the human mind can begin to process the tasks, clicks, multi-sensory stimuli etc. is amazing. Too Fast? Again, “No.” Give yourself a few days. Stick to it. You will begin to draw on the creative initiative that exists inside all of us. In a matter of three days you will start to discover answers to questions you have had for years. You will learn to network with people and integrate their thoughts into your own perspectives and experience. I have exercised my learnership in the last three days. I know it will carry over to my leadership.

Talk about putting yourself out there. The last time I did this was during the creation of the Christina Rossetti archive through the University of Windsor’s English undergrad program with Dr. Atkinson as my lead. That was 12 years ago. I am ready. My hope: an eduBlog that highlights my vision and belief for the students and community I serve in Greater Essex County with connections to the many “Real People” that I know and who have influenced my learning.

Stay tuned. I am working on where I fit in.

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