Sunday, April 26, 2015

Where the Wild Things Are by Jennifer Kloczko

Wild first grade writing
Deep conversation. 
On a Sunday. Questions. 
This question.
Are we really leading
if we are talking about
we could have done
20 years ago?
Is it technology?
Is that what makes us

Is it just-right pedagogy?

The art and science of teaching and learning.
Is it creativity and collaboration?
Or inspiration?

What if the most powerful learning I see in a day
is written in pencil
in a notebook
on the floor and under a table by a 7 year-old?

Or on sentence strips
written in marker with the word
spelled wrong
by a first grade zoologist.

Old school tools for future ready schools.

Whether learning or leading
where the wild things are really
are in the connections,
the ideas
that spread like wildfire
fueled by technology.

Technology that allows a Bee-bot dance 
coded by two fourth grade girls
in California
to be shared
in the


What was old is new
Kagan and Calkins and
brain-based strategies are now
remixed with rich academic language
and content
for a digital world.

New is the audience.
Shining a spotlight
on the work of kids and teachers.
Twitter and Voxer.
Storytellers of our time.

New are the leaders willing to connect with
a souped up walkie-talkie
to ask questions
to listen
to learn
to be inspired to try out an amazing idea the next

New are the leaders who learn first
Fearless and thoughtful.
Reflecting in a public space
sharing struggles
and celebrations
in blog posts or a tweets or in stories of
only 7 

Radical? In a way. 
Revolutionary? Maybe.
Yes. Leading wild means digging in and digging deep.
It means never giving up.
It means saying I don’t know
but I’ll try.

Learning has no destination.
We may never arrive, but we are on a journey.
Traveling a path where strangers are friends
and impossible is nothing.

Lead wild.

Cross posted on Lead. Learn. Sparkle.

Friday, April 24, 2015

This I believe: Life lessons and sports movies by Jennifer Kloczko

I believe in movies. Some people say that everything you need to know is learned in kindergarten, but I disagree. Life’s most important lessons are found in sports movies.

I have run a marathon, but I am not an athlete. I love sports, but I do not need to win. I can just see my daughter cringing when I say that. As the wife of a coach and the mom of a former collegiate softball player, sports have always been important to our family. And as an educator, I have often been struck by the parallels between teaching, learning, and coaching.

Do your best.
Be a team player.
Be passionate.
Never, ever give up.

What’s my favorite sports movie of all time? Major League-- and it’s no award winner. But I remember so many quotes from that movie and I love rooting for the Indians to win it all. As movies go, it’s kind of silly, but I love,  love the scene where Charlie Sheen heads out to the mound. Watch the crowd. It gives me the chills. They are all in. Passionate. They believe.

My favorite quote and one I remember the most? Attitude reflects leadership. When I think about the attitude of my students about school and learning, I believe that they were a mirror for me. The days I didn’t bring my best, I didn’t get their best. Every day, as a leader, I want to model the attitude that I’m hoping for with my team, whether it’s students in a classroom or teachers in my school. I want our students and teachers to be curious, willing to try and fail, and to be inspired. That’s what I’m hoping to bring every day. Am I always successful? No. But every single day I have that goal. Remember the Titans.

Who do you play for?
I love learning. As often as I can, and as much as I can afford, I try to learn something new, whether it’s on Twitter, by reading a book, or attending a conference. In my first year as a principal, I sometimes get funny looks and even questions from teachers about this. “You’re here? You don’t have a classroom. Wow.” I get this a lot, or something like it. People are often surprised, but I need to be there. How can I lead learning in my school if I’m not a learner myself? I sometimes hear teachers say, “I can’t do that, I teach kindergarten” or something similar, but really, good teaching is good teaching. It’s our job as learners to make the connection to our life, to make the learning relevant. Today, I attended the Area 3 Writing Project Super Saturday session for 3rd-6th grade teachers about using conversation to improve student writing, and we started This I Believe writing. I’m already excited to see what our third grade team does with the idea, and we’re thinking of sharing this idea with our teachers next year. I couldn’t wait to get home and write this post! Who do I play for? I play for #teamlearning!

Never, ever give up.
Life is hard. There are mountains of obstacles blocking the path to success, but we can’t get discouraged. Every day, we may fail. We need to be willing to take risks, to have courage, to believe that the impossible can be achieved. This is the thing that gets me going every morning and keeps me awake at night, inspired by the possibilities if we just believe that anything is possible. We may fail, but we cannot lose.

I believe in movies. Some people say that everything you need to know is learned in kindergarten, but I disagree. Life’s most important lessons are found in sports movies. Wild thing, you make my heart sing!

Do you have a favorite quote or life lesson from a movie? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Say That Again... by Jason Markey

“I call everyone ’'Darling' because I can't remember their names.” – Zsa Zsa Gabor

This isn’t really the problem at East Leyden.  You see it’s not necessarily the remembering of names but rather pronouncing of names.  A little context: in a typical year we have over 32 languages that are spoken in our schools and in our students’ homes.  As you can imagine these span the globe.  Large groups of students who are 1st or 2nd generation from Mexico, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Ukraine, China, Syria, and many more.  With these students come rich cultural traditions and heritage often coupled with a desire to continue to assimilate into American culture.  Which brings us to names.  Names like Avani, Xitlalli, Rohany, Najera, and Tautvydas.  

Our staff is extremely caring and driven to create positive relationships with students.  Our students are respectful and kind.  Often, because our staff is trying so hard and our students are so nice neither one wants to offend the other and names can be lost in the shuffle.  I’ve been noticing this the past few years, specifically this time of year.  As every high school administrator knows, this is recognition season, whether it’s award ceremonies or graduation we are constantly announcing students, often in front of their parents and others.  In these situations we strive to make sure the student’s name is honored and we pronounce it correctly.  We will visit the students in class or call them down to our office and feverishly make phonetic notes.  This has always seemed backwards to me, to take so much care in a name at the end of their high school career.  The complexities of a large comprehensive high school don’t allow easy communication of things like the pronunciation of 1761 names across 125 teachers.  

Earlier this year, I came across a web-based application called Name Coach.  The whole idea behind the website was exactly what I was looking for, a solution aimed at precisely what I identified as an issue for us at East Leyden.  With this delightfully simple idea, students are sent a link to record their name; this recording then populates a spreadsheet which can be accessible by anyone who wants to pronounce the name as the student does.  I was excited at the idea and tested it immediately with a small group of students.  The interface on the student end was straightforward and allowed me on the back end to sort and share the list.  This was the start of what I was looking for.  The next step was going to take a willing tech department.  Thankfully, with Bryan Weinert, we are fortunate to have a tech director that understands the importance of leveraging technology to enhance our school community.  Bryan worked with another member of our tech team and East Leyden grad Gabe de Soto to work with the Name Coach team on not only using the application, but actually syncing this information with our student information system.  The end result will be next fall, teachers will be able to select their class roster and arrive at a list of names with pictures and links to the students themselves pronouncing their names.  We will be moving forward with using this solution for graduation this year, and then a full launch for all 1760 students in the fall.

This may sound like a small thing, but recently Avani, pronounced Uv-nee, shared with one of her teachers that no one has ever pronounced her name correctly....since preschool.  This came up during a discussion in class about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein about the importance of the creature never being named.  Avani didn’t want to trouble anyone by correcting them; she shouldn’t have to.  When we can leverage such a simple idea with technology all of our teachers and students can benefit.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bursting. Overwhelmed. Full. by Amy Fadeji


That moment when you get in the car and are so excited to unbutton your jeans because you're just bursting at the seam. I mean, that's never happened to me before but I've heard that every now and then it's possible. I imagine that when my friend Curt Rees wears his jean shorts from the 80s, he feels that way frequently. Back to bursting - HOLY COW! Over the past week, my mind is absolutely bursting at the seam! Things are overflowing all over the place. Phone messages are stacking up, lists of student names to follow up with spill onto every surface of my office, kindergarten registration paperwork pours in by the dozen, a "to do" list that should be laminated, big dreams that need to be pursued. 

Everything just feels to be bursting right now. Bursting.


That moment when I say to myself, "I wish I had a secretary" and realize that, "Oh wait, I do!" but there is MORE work than even the two of us can do together. (Not to mention that she has been out for over a week with a minor medical issue and I realize how MUCH I need her!) Overwhelmed with big things. Our 1:1 deployment, new active learning environments and 21st century furniture, teachers changing grade levels, hiring, my desire to be everywhere for every one 24/7 and knowing that I can't. 

Honestly, that's a big one for me. I remember two weeks ago sitting on the swing talking with a 5th grader who needed a little extra TLC. I was trying to give her my full attention but the demands were pouring in on my phone which I totally ignored.

"So and so really needs to see you."

"A construction truck is blocking the parking entrance, can you go talk to them?"

"Bryan grabbed Hilary's hair...again."

"Mrs. Jameson wants you to swing by for a quick technology question. When should I tell her you'll be there?"

In those moments, I'm already hard enough on myself. Wondering how I can possibly do it all. Wanting SO badly to be there for everyone at the perfect moment. Taking a deep breath when I realize that I simply cannot meet all of the expectations, especially my own.  And then a hard conversation with a parent. "I haven't seen you much lately. What's your vision and mission for the school in the coming year?" I'm fairly certain that the sound of my breath leaving my body was audible. I can't imagine how I haven't been seen! Or perhaps it's because I'm quietly reading with a 4th grader outside on a bench, hiding in a supply closet to answer an important email, or hugging a teacher as she shares a personal challenge. 

Who knows. Overwhelmed.


Despite the real struggles I share above, there's a feeling that overcomes both the "bursting" and the "overwhelmed." That feeling is "full." Full of admiration for the dedication our staff pours out on our students daily. Full of respect for parents who take the time to question things like mission and vision, and point out things that may be difficult to hear. Full of complete humility that I have the opportunity to hug and support so many people in my profession. Full of new ideas and intentional reflection thanks to the Lead 3 Conference I attended last week. Full of amazing things to look forward to in the coming days, weeks, and months. Full of laughter thanks to friends who keep me on my toes and check on me constantly. Full of a consuming love that is a result of the people I do this work alongside. A love that won't loosen its grip on me because when I'm bursting, when I'm overwhelmed, my guard comes down just a little more. I find myself full. And being full trumps bursting and overwhelmed any day. 

Full. I'll take it.   

High Schools Need True Community And Happy Students by Michael Niehoff

Lately I have been asking school leaders, staff members and education aficionados what I consider to be a universal question now for all high schools:

Since any or all high school students could choose to leave your school tomorrow for on-line or independent study programs, what are you doing to keep them coming to your school today?

 High school students have more choices than ever before and rightly so. They can choose charter programs, independent study, on-line schools, blended programs and more. So again, with all of these choices, are our schools thinking how to keep them coming to their schools today?

This is a somewhat new or even foreign idea to many educators. Historically, students, primarily from our neighborhoods or attendance boundaries, just showed up and made up the enrollment or student body. More recently, with more choice type situations being created, we might have seen situations where students are transferring from one school to another.

Either way, educators have not been in the mindset of competing for students. Indeed, most of us have not connected our positions or jobs with the numbers of students enrolling in our classes, programs or schools. If we taught electives, we might have experienced the practice of recruiting enough students in order to make a class actually exist or not. However, we have not approached students as customers, but rather as passive attendees.

First we need to accept that students now have choices with presumably more on the way. Comprehensive high schools have a strong foundation of tradition. But with each passing year, that will mean less and less to students who are struggling, disconnected, disengaged and dissatisfied. They will continue to gradually opt for other options and more will follow as more options are developed.
So, for those whose jobs are connected to any comprehensive public high school, they will have to consider a couple of things:

1) Our students have choices and we will want to make sure that they realize that their existing school, or school that they are expected to attend in the traditional sense, is a good one for them.
2) Our jobs depend on enrollment. If we lose students, for any of the above reasons, someone’s job is connected and will go away.
3) Since our students have options, they need to be valued as customers who have buying power and will desire a unique, powerful and positive educational experience from their high school program.

Once we make this leap in our thinking, then we can begin to examine our programs. This includes our school culture, unique programs and offerings, our instructional practices and more.
We need to develop and enhance any of the reasons or rationales here. We need to think of our schools as unique communities. It seems that it will be community that will keep students coming. And a lack thereof will send them away. 

In other words, what can your school community offer them that they will not be able to experience or replicate on their own on-line or independent study? Here are some ideas:

1) Students need to have access to professional gear, tools and resources. They have Internet access and other tech resources often at home or elsewhere. But they probably won’t have access to 3-D printers, recording studios, multiple types of media/music production and editing software/devices, commercial kitchens, fitness centers, performance spaces, hand tools, servers, recreational equipment, design centers, makers’ labs, robotics, studio space, ropes courses, gardens, greenhouses, solar farms, etc. You get the idea. Students need professional environments with the best technology and resources.

2) Positive School Culture and Powerful Peer Relationships. As everyone knows, we are social creatures. And high schoolers are social junkies. Sure they can find a social life on-line or in their community, but their most powerful and impactful one can still be at school. However, it needs to be supportive, friendly, safe and available to all. Schools will have to redesign or recreate their systems and practices in order to create school cultures where all students feel safe and part of the school. This means valuing their opinions and individual learning paths, but also focusing on an environment that is truly accepting, positive, friendly, participatory, collaborative and accessible for all. 

3) Powerful Support Systems. I don’t want to use the cliché about the village, but you know it’s true. Students can enjoy a high level or mastery and career readiness if they have access to and programs for mentoring, community partners, project leaders, advisors, coaches and more. Each student needs positive, long-term relationships with adult mentors on and off campus that are invested in their long-term success through project and performance advising.

4) Performance Opportunities. Every student needs a stage or multiple stages in order to share their talents, interests and work. Traditionally, things like athletics and performing arts have been afforded these opportunities. First, these programs need to keep evolving to create more choices and opportunities for all students. Can schools offer more ways for more students to be involved in athletics and performing arts beyond the traditional program? Additionally, and maybe even more importantly, schools need to create public venues – both FTF and digitally – for all students to show and share their individual passions and pursuits. These include, but are not limited to the following: media, art, makers’ programs, robotics, engineering, rock music, song recording/production, writing/publishing/blogging, presentations, entrepreneurship and more.

No offense regarding the common discourse at schools, but much of it is dominated by continuous work on better assessments, policies and the like. School leaders and staffs will have to re-examine what their focus is. It seems safe to say that new assessments and new policies, as a couple of examples, will not address the larger issue of whether students see their comprehensive high school as the best choice for them. 

Will our schools work to create more satisfied and successful customers or continue to chase them away? 

That is today’s big money question.

The Child Within by Rebecca Davis

I had the opportunity to get off site this past week and attended the Lead 3.0 Symposium in Redondo Beach and connect in real time with some "LeadWilders",  Anne, Jonathan, Jon, Amy, David and other AMAZING educators.  Conferences are a special time for me to reflect on the various roles in my life, such as parent, spouse, school administrator, educator,  friend and the child within. Stop! Say, What? Yes, the child within! 

Inner child, Spirit, Heart, Soul, Passion
What is my reason I do what I do each day? What motivates me to make a difference in the world in which I live? How do I welcome the day? 

When I was fourteen, an old eccentric parish priest gave me the following advice: if you cannot see an adult as a child, something is wrong. I was confused by the statement and I still am baffled at times. However, at that specific moment, I was concerned about forgetting what it would be like if I was old and forgot what it was like being a child. I never wanted to forget my childhood experiences because, if I did, something would be wrong with me. Therefore, I have many memories of my school, family and church childhood experiences. I wanted to make a commitment to advocate for children as an adult. I wanted to remain "child-like" to understand children and have an empathetic heart.

As a Vice Principal, I get the opportunity to "remember" my childhood and talk with students throughout the day. I am amazed at times how I can remember feeling bad when I was labeled or not recognized for making a good choice after twenty times making a bad one. I look at my students and I understand. I get it. I want to embrace the child within to guide them and help them make better choices.

Today, I make a choice. I will meet with the child for the twenty-first time they argued with their teacher, and smile. I will also look forward to the time, whether it's tomorrow or a month from now when the student makes a good choice and I have the opportunity to celebrate with them.  I will be ready to give a high five, both to my student and to the child within. 

Feedback. Don't freak out. by Jennifer Kloczko

I love this quote. Every day, I try to live this quote. I click buttons fearlessly. I try things I have no idea how to do. I will dance in front of strangers. I embrace the mess. But one thing was freaking me out a little. A lot. Feedback. Mostly receiving it. I feel a little like Scooby and Shaggy when it comes to asking for feedback as a school leader.

I recalled things that I had said before to others. "There's no such thing as bad data!" "We're just looking for strengths. Areas for growth." But still I struggled with asking for feedback about ME. What questions should I ask? What if they are HONEST? What if they don't like me?

And then I read this book. It's all about assessing your school and how feedback can help you transform your school culture, and includes tons of great questions for teachers, leaders, and more.

I kept thinking. Listening to colleagues like Jon Corippo and Eric Saibel helped me. I wanted a short survey. I wanted to start with ME. If I could be open and transparent and share the data about me, could that help to open conversations about other areas of our school?

Jon Corippo

Eric Saibel
But still I was a little scared. Then Eric posted this on Twitter. Feedback about him and his leadership team. Public. AWESOME.

Inspired by Eric, I created my survey that day. Seven questions. About me. Okay, six. (I accidentally asked the same question twice!)
I used a 1-10 scale and left space for comments after each question.
I sent it out before I could change my mind.
Thanks for the push, Eric.
The results from my survey are below. I love having the data.
All of it. I'm excited to talk about it. To ask more questions. To keep learning.
I'll be posting it on the wall of our staff lounge when we return from Spring break.


Looking at this data, what questions might you add? How can I improve? What does it tell you about our school? Our culture? I can tell you that I think I work with an amazing team of teachers who are passionate, creative, and kid-centered. I feel so fortunate to lead our school!

Feedback. It's a good thing. Ask questions. Put the data out there. You'll be glad you did.

(This post cross-posted at Lead. Learn. Sparkle.)

#leadwild not lead mild; How management almost overtook leadership this week. by Catina Haugen

Jon Corippo inspired the start: #leadwild not lead mild

Jason Markey cemented the rest with a single supportive Vox.

I have high expectations for myself.  I work hard.  Some days, I make my work look easy.  I am fallible, wrong at times, and have much to learn.  And I am good at what I do.  I bring value to students' experience every day, and I support teachers up to their potential and beyond.

This week, I allowed management missteps to cloud my leadership.  I wallowed in my own errors and failed to rise above and LEAD. Who is to blame?  At whom should we point a finger?

It doesn't matter.
Point at me.

What matters is how I (we) move forward.  What do I do when I get mired in management when my eye should be on the prize which is LEADERSHIP. I think it's a common pitfall for admin.  The management/leadership balance is always delicate.  Rather than try to maintain a balance, this week has taught me, it's more important to manage our reaction to management's pull rather than try to pit one against the other.

I did not manage management well this week.  I allowed myself to get sucked into petty decision-making, scheduling and communication errors when I should have looked to the vision.  What do students need?  How do I fit that need? Then I would have overcome management and remained fixed on leadership.

I lost my way. Who is our worst critic?  Yep, it's me.  It's you.

So management is a part of our job.
Got it.

When it threatens to degrade the REAL WORK of school, I need to get uber focused, laser like centered and do the work.  Then move on.

That's what management is. The what, why, who, how... but it can never overtake the WHY.
It's all about student SUCCESS.  It's all about students WANTING to be at school.  It's all about students feeling SUPPORTED by the adults around them.  It's all about LEARNING.

I'm on board for that.  I can give time to schedules, staffing, grounds and maintenance but MY REAL JOB is about students, their well being, their growth. 

It's #leadwild, not mild.  That's LEADERSHIP.

Cross posted from

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why Voxer? It's more than just voicemail! by Jason Markey

The following post is from Jason Markey with audio for the #leadwild crew.

Several years ago I recall hearing about Twitter and thinking it was one of the silliest ideas I have ever heard and decided to wait until the initial buzz died down and it went away.  It didn’t.  I have tweeted over 30,000 times since.

About a year ago I remember hearing more and more people talk about Voxer and how they were using it all the time and had moved many of their conversations from Twitter to this space.  Again I didn’t get it.  Why would I want to listen to messages, often the convenience of Twitter and email is that I can read it and I don’t have to stop and listen.  That is a convenience but there is often a level of conversation that cannot be reached via the written/typed word.  In fact the many nuances in the spoken word are what you quickly see as an advantage of Voxer.  So thanks to a fantastic PLN, here are their words (spoken, not written) on why Voxer has been a powerful tool for them.

*Note - the following posts were recorded initially to use in a presentation.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What does it mean to #leadwild? by Eric Saibel

Powerful rivers begin as small trickles, wending their way down mountains, at first drop by drop. When the droplets converge they gather strength; movement that is at first imperceptible to our senses becomes audible in its downward cascade - sometimes deafening. At first, water must find its way around the many obstacles in its path; eventually, it shapes the landscape around it.

Ideas become reality in much the same way; a thought emerges first as a lone droplet, and grows through contact with others. In the fall of 2014 a couple school administrators - who had connected through Twitter - decided to use the Voxer app as a way to share and discuss professional readings. The first name for this small group was "Leadership Book Club." After a few earnest attempts to get started, it became evident that there wasn't the time or capacity to do that kind of serious reading on top of jobs, families, and the many rapids of life.

There was, however, a deep desire to continue to grow the small stream of ideas as a source of nourishment, inspiration, and growth - both professional and personal. As this group expanded, it began to understand that a singular focus was too narrow; the collective curiosity, experience, passion for learning and commitment to shaping the educational landscape of the future was too strong. The name this group eventually came to adopt reflects the spirit of the untamed river - a place where life flourishes, where new trickles of water join and expand the collective force of our forward movement:


LeadWild is a state of mind and a way of being. Powerful educational leadership does not come from a title, rather from the connections we make between people and ideas, the strength we help others find in themselves, and an incessant commitment to pushing forward through stagnant, comfortable tradition.

What does it mean to #LeadWild? Our growing stream of school an district leaders answers below in our inaugural post; our first droplet of water in a growing stream of thought, action, reflection, experimentation, and innovation.