My Brief ISTE 2015 Reflection


My ISTE 2015 experience left me with many questions and tons of energy to pursue them.   The big question I have is how will my teaching be transformed by what I have learned?

At an event like ISTE the sessions I attended were only part of the experience.  It is also the conversations with passionate fellow educators that often only happen virtually on Twitter that were transformative.

Here are some of the sessions that i attended:

I intentionally attended sessions focused on learning and skipped most of the tools focused ones.   Not that I feel that there is anything wrong with tools-based sessions as we are all at a different place on the learning path.  An event as large as the annual ISTE Conference is big enough to provide learning opportunities for all on a variety of topics.

The session “Is it Time to Give Up on Computers in Schools?” really had an impact on my thinking.  The session shed the light of day on the fact that tech in schools has been co-opted for testing and to control and manage student access to the web and tech tools.   I was once again reminded that tech should serve learning, in the true authentic sense.

In terms of the Expo Hall, I took Will Richardson’s advice and looked for vendors who were selling productsor services that would serve my students’ learning.  I did not find many that offered this.  So my time in the Expo Hall was brief.

So, as  I think about next school year, I am wondering how I can truly focus on learning for me and for my students.    I am going to view my room, not as a classroonm, but as a learning space,   I am not sure where it all is heading, but it is going to be an exciting year for sure.

Hoping to get to Denver.

Time To End Class Rank?

As we begin to plan next year’s scheduling of courses, I once again have been thinking about class rank.  So here are a few of my thoughts.

What is the purpose of class rank?  Some sort of extrinsic reward?  Class delineation?  Bragging rights?  College entrance?

For years, high schools have been ranking students.   Being number 1 is what so many kids want to be.    But does rank support learning?    I don’t feel that learning is a competition.    It is often said that we want all students to succeed, but ranking them sends the message that only the select few can actually succeed.

As thrilling as it may be for a moment for a student to be number 1, other students are instantly reminded that they are not “as smart” as others becusse their rank is low, possibly as low as last.   So it appears that rank puts stress on all students.

What happens when rank is eliminated?  Can it help to shift the focus from grades to learning?  I think that it can.    Motivation to learn should be intrinsic.   It should not matter to one student how any one else is doing.  The focus should be on them and their own personal learning.  And true learning is personal.   Why mix in the anxiety and the contest sense of rank?

I welcome and thank all who leave a comment.  I would love to hear from schools that have eliminated rank.

Thanks for stopping by.

EduCon 2.7 Starts Today

I am sitting here having some coffee.  It is early on a Friday morning.   But it is not the usual Friday morning.  Instead of preparing to go to school for another day of teaching and learning, I will be getting on a train later today to head to Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia for EduCon 2.7.  (Click on the link to learn more)

EduCon is an annual PD event that will bring about 500 educators together for a weekend of conversation on what we can do to grow as teachers, administrators and citizens .

Today I will visit the school while in session to learn more about how SLA weaves their core values into their everyday practice.   Tonight a panel discussion at the Franklin Institute.   I also look forward to seeing some old friends, and meeting new ones.

Looking forward to connecting and learning.  More later.  Thanks to all at Science Leadership Academy  who work tirelessly to make this event my favorite PD event of the year.




To A New Year

2013 ends at midnight all over the world.  It has been a great year and an interesting one for sure.  I started the year in one job and ended it in another.  I had time to reflect and pray during the summer.   The change in job was not really expected, but it has worked out very well.  Thanks to good friends and family, I have made the transition peacefully and am fortunate to be able to spend each day teaching kids some Math.  And learning so much in the process.

On June 29, 2013, I married an incredible woman who I love deeply.   We have begun to walk the path together, celebrating each other and surfing the waves of life together.

So, it has been a very interesting year.


Here we go into a new year!  So here is a list of what I would like to do in 2014.

Be a better listener and kinder. This past year I have strived to pause and listen. Mindfulness has helped.  But I am not where I would like to be yet.  I am a passionate person.  Particularly when it comes to education.  I need to present my opinions in a more welcoming and open way.

Be present to everyone I meet at the moment we meet.

Write more.

Write music again.

Be the best Dad I can.


Be the best teacher I can.

Pursue administration positions.

Be the best husband I can be to my beautiful wife.

Have fun playing music again.

Live in the present moment.

Well, there are a few things to start.  Thank you 2013 for being such a good teacher. Thank God for the patience and strength you have given me.  Thanks to all of the kids that I teach for being exactly who they are.  Thanks to my family for all of the support and love.  Thanks to Deborah, my wife, for loving me as you do.

I wish all a very happy, peaceful, and blessed 2014.

Thanks for stopping by and I welcome your comments.

A Few Reflections

Here it is, Christmas break.  Sitting here at the dining room table thinking about writing.  And I thought, just write!

Since I last posted, I have taught many classes, faced many challenges, experienced great joys, and learned so much.   One of those things that I have learned or gained is a deeper and more profound appreciation for what classroom teachers do every day.  The planning, grading and connecting involved in creating an environment for learning requires tons of time.  The amount of hours spent on teaching is immeasurable.

I feel very different now than I did when I was last in the classroom full time.   I feel that my online and in person connections with fellow teachers and admins, and my experiences that began with Powerful Learning Practice have transformed me into a teacher who knows that they are not alone in this journey, and also that the students are the center of all that I do.

Here are just a few of my thoughts from my experience so far:

  • Grades often get in the way of learning
  • I need to work on being more project based
  • Collaboration really does deepen connections and learning.
  • Kids need some agency over what they do

So, there are just a few thoughts.  If you have any useful links for good project based learning ideas for the Algebra 2 or Geometry class, I would be grateful.

Thanks for stopping by and I welcome your comment.

Wishing you peace at this time of year.

Merry Christmas!

Going Back To The Classroom

In the spring of this year, after 18 years as an administrator, I decided to take a break from administration and return to the classroom.  I know not what the future holds, but the present is teaching kids Math!

Through my time as an admin, I always taught 1 class each year, so I have never truly been out of the classroom. But going back as a full time teacher is quite a shift.

So here I sit writing at the end of my first full week in room 301. And it was a great, exhausting, and energizing week.

This gives me the perfect opportunity to “walk the walk” that I have encouraged teachers to take for the past five years.  Through my personal learning network on Twitter, the PLP experience, and conferences and connections that I have been so blessed to have made, I feel the refreshing challenge of putting the practice into practice.

I am teaching my students Algebra II and Geometry. I will be counting on my readers here and my twitter friends to inspire me and offer opportunities for me to deepen and strengthen my own love of learning and teaching.

Each day so far, I start by being mindful that my students are people.  They need to feel known. I need to give them agency.  I need to come from a position of compassion and care.  After that comes pedagogy.

I will be writing on my experience throughout the year right here in this space.  I am sure there will be successes, new ideas, struggles, and mistakes for me and my kids.  That is the ever changing nature of life. But it will be fun.

I look forward to this new experience and am honored to be serving as my students’ teacher.  I am back to prepping like a new teacher, thinking about UBD plans, working on being as creative as possible and dealing with occasional self-inflicted anxiety.   And while I came home this week completely exhausted, I was, at the same time energized.

So here’s to a year of teaching learning, laughing, caring, and growing.

More adventures coming soon!

Thanks for stopping by. Comments and brilliant suggestions welcomed!


Agency Anyone?

At lunch today, I decided, as I sometimes do, to do some blog reading.  So I went to Seth Godin’s blog, and saw this post Industrialism and the Death of Agency.  And, as his writing usually does, it got me thinking.

First, Godin defines agency:

“Agency is the ability to make a decision, and to be responsible for the decision you make.”

In education today, do we allow kids to have agency? Teachers?  Principals? If not, shouldn’t we?

The post ends with:

“As the industrial company sputters and fades, there’s a fork in the road. In one direction lies the opportunity to regain agency, to take responsibility for ever more of our actions and their effects. In the other direction is the race to the bottom, and the dehumanizing process of more compliance, a cog in an uncaring system.”

A cog in an uncaring system. Hmmm.  As we seek compliance to securely hold on to the current model of schooling, are we denying kids and their teachers and administrators agency?   If so, what stands in our way?


Jumping Back In

The path of life is curious.  I have been on the periphery of the edtech/elearning world for a while now.  I still visit my twitter feed several times a day, post occasionally, and think about writing, but never do it.

I have been spending a great deal of time this summer in reflection, work, and yes, a little fun with friends and family. It has been really great so far, but I want to find my educational voice again and get back into the conversation.

This morning, I was reading this post by Tara Sophia Moore.

“Can you give yourself permission to say your honest, heartfelt critiques even when you don’t have a solution to share?”


And while the post does mention education, it is not specifically about that. But as I read it, I felt the need, and most importantly, the intention to write.

I have been on the sidelines for personal reasons, but I was also feeling a bit tired.  And that is not my normal nature. I don’t mean physically tired, but tired in the sense that I have lost sight of the passion that lives deep within me that believes that we, as educators, can do what we do better. A belief that we are mindlessly moving through time, accepting standardization, test scores, the diminishing of the importance of the arts, fear of social media, fear of connected learning and a focus on  easily and cheaply obtained data can actually tell us something about learning just makes me tired.

I am so grateful to the voices that keep pushing for change one classroom or school at a time.  You inspire me.

I know what I need to do. I need to rev up my learning engine again, reconnect with my PLN, stay curious, be brave, and not worry about saying something important every time I write anything. Yes, I am struggling, but struggling, like everything else in life, is a wonderful teacher.

Peace and happiness to you and thanks for stopping by.

Pippin Has Me Thinking

I guess it is because I am in between the weekends of Pippin, our school’s spring show that I feel the need to write.  And the kids are doing an incredible job.  So here I go on to my arts in education soapbox!

From the Finale

As we look around our country, and the educational/political drive to standardization, the arts are often left out in the cold. You don’t have to listen very long to politicians, billionaires, or TV pundits to get the idea that the arts are just not necessary. When they discuss student achievement they mean success on standardized tests. Notice they never say student learning.

So As I watch the students in our show learn, collaborate, create, present, and reflect, I can clearly see their achievement. I can see their learning. As the spring moves on, students all over the country will play in spring concerts, (a good friend of mine’s son is playing trumpet in his school’s concert tonight) dance in recitals, perform in plays and musicals, and have their artwork and photography displayed. This isn’t fluff, this is real work. This is authentic.


So how do we get the word out on the arts in education to shake the established values?  I know, we can’t even get most to see the benefits of 21st century tech embedded learning.  But if the arts go, so does creativity, and where does that leave us?

Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to comment and add your thoughts. Peace.

Growing A Show

I am currently directing our school’s production of Pippin.  Working with a great creative team of adults, an incredibly talented and imaginative group of students and a great musical work is always a joy. It can also be exhausting a times, but so worth it.

As we are two weeks from opening, we can begin to see the show ready to bloom. So much to do, but so much already accomplished.  The rehearsals have gone well, the singing, dancing, and acting get stronger each week. And the adaptability of these kids to changes in concept, choreography, vocal arrangements, key signatures, and schedules is truly impressive.

The band has been working on the score, striving to bring perfect execution so that the singers and dancers have the best accompaniment.  And they will.

The stage crew has been imagining, building, painting, solving challenging complex problems, and staying positive and good-natured through it all. They are on lunch break as I type this. That’s right, it’s Saturday and about 40 students will be spending a long day here working on the set, sound, and lighting for the show.

Beginning on Monday, we will begin to put it all together. And the fun will continue.

And through it all, there is learning.

Thanks for stopping by.