Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to School! (And an new, technology-driven Engaged Learning Initiative)

Who remembers starting school after Labor Day?

I do! And because I'm feeling nostalgic, I thought it would be a good time to resurrect my blog about education. Specifically, education at Hoover High School. 

I took the summer off from blogging... and since then, I decided I will continue to write blog posts next summer because I'm asked all the time, "What do administrators do in the summer?"  Hopefully I'll be able to put the mystery to rest. :)

We've got some really exciting things going on at Hoover High School this year! Our school district has launched what it calls the Engaged Learning Initiative (ELI). We call it the iPad Initiative... starting on Tuesday after Labor Day, seniors whose parents have signed the agreement form will receive an iPad for their use this year. Early in 2013, juniors will receive an iPad. If all goes well, freshmen and sophomores will join them next fall and all 2600+ students will be using iPads for their learning.

Our teachers got their iPads a couple of weeks before school started, and our professional learning days on those days prior to students returning was focused on integrating technology in the classroom, the iPads and apps, and social media. The excitement in the building has been incredible, the teachers have been sharing their knowledge with each other and with students, and they have also been learning from students. 

The 12th grade principal, Holly Sutherland, and I have been visiting classrooms almost everyday and tweeting about what we are seeing. Now teachers are sending us emails inviting us to see the wonderful things that they are doing each day! 

While the iPads are a tool for increasing student engagement, we are seeing that teachers are also more engaged (some rejuvenated!), which has the trickle-down effect for students and colleagues. This year is proving to be one of the most exciting and transformational yet. 

Stay with me through my posts this year so that you can follow our journey....

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Pact Inspires Young and Old

One of our teachers told me about a movie she was showing and discussing in her class called The Pact. It's a movie about three kids who live in the inner city world of drugs, thugs, and poverty who make a promise to each other that they would go to college and become doctors.

Sound far-fetched?

It's a true story of Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt, and George Jenkins. (You can read more about them at their website, HERE.)

Because the boys had intelligence going for them, they tested into University High where they got into trouble and did as little schoolwork as possible, until they heard a presentation by a representative from Seton Hall.

It is extraordinary that three boys from such dire circumstances could have the tenacity and courage to see their goals to the end. In the epilogue of their book, they share points that are applicable to many of us in situations where we are working towards a goal. I want to share them with you here:

  • Join trustworthy friends who have the same goal.
  • Find strength in your differences. Friends don't have to be alike to be a part of a pact.
  • Believe in yourself and your friends.
  • Compete in a healthy way. We learned from one anther and leaned on one another's strengths.
  • Communicate openly, honestly, and often.
  • Lean on your friends and allow them to lean on you. One of the main benefits of forming a pact with friends is that you have an automatic network of support.
These ideas are not new. Through experience, we know that accountability is important. We know that support systems are important. We forget that we can create for ourselves a situation that gives us both. And we have to help kids to understand that they are empowered the same way.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Work Ethic and Today's Teens

One of my former students came by my office to see me today. She was in my biology class two years ago, and she'll come by and tell me how she's doing in chemistry and life in general. Today she came by to tell me about a speech she had given at a conference she goes to each year. For the speech, she created an acronym for WORK.

W - Willingness 

O - Opportunity 

R - Reward 

K - Kindness

She had prepared and given a speech centered around work. And she came in third place in the conference! Wow!

Her speech topic got me thinking about the teenagers that are in our schools today. We notice a different work ethic with them. Do they have work ethic? Is it just expressed differently? Where does work ethic come from? How do you teach it?

Generation Z - born around 1990 to 2001, the students of today - have been accused of being lazy. The online communicators. The multi-taskers.

Click here to read what Huffington Post wrote about Generation Z.

Many articles about working with Generations Y and Z can be found on the Internet. Here's one by Kelly Services, and click here to read one by Reliable Plant. All the business articles have a common theme... how to work WITH them.

In terms of school.... school still looks a lot like school did before the Baby Boomer generation. What are we doing as educators to work with students on their work ethic? As Geneva Gay writes in Culturally Responsive Teaching, Success does not emerge out of failure, weakness does not generate strength.

How do we teach kids not to fail at work ethic? How do we teach them what it is and how to get it? I like how KLO Middle School designed a work ethic rubric to be used in each class. Is it possible to use something like this at the high school level?

Who taught you work ethic, and how can we teach Generation Z?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why COMPELLED Educator?

Long ago.... after 4 short years into my career as an educator... I thought I needed to get out of coaching and education. My husband and I owned a fitness club and I was a personal trainer (still coaching!) After 2 years, even though I enjoyed what I was doing at the time - I "knew" I was supposed to be in education.

A couple of years after getting back into coaching and teaching, I went to a softball coaching clinic where I heard Jeff Janssen speak about the personal development and team-building work he was doing at the time with the softball team at the University of Arizona. He gave everyone a copy of his “Commitment Continuum,” a document I had laminated and have used since I got it those years ago. I have used it with my students, athletes, teachers, and myself. It is a guiding chart for teams to determine where team members are with their commitment to the team goals. With some tweaking, it can also be used to self-check levels of commitment to individual goals. At one end of the spectrum, you will find Resistant. At the other end, you will find Compelled.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,


 verb \kəm-ˈpel\

Definition of COMPEL

transitive verb
: to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly <hunger compelledhim to eat>
: to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure <public opinion compelled her to sign the bill>
archaic : to drive together
Coach Bob Starkey describes Compelled this way on his blog...
Compelled- team goal is of utmost importance and the player is totally invested in making it a reality. These are the players who feel a true sense of mission and purpose in what they are doing. They seek to and enjoy putting in extra time because they view it as an important investment in achieving the team’s mission.
Coach Starkey sums it up nicely for me. There's never a day that I don't feel a passion for what I'm doing or a lack of a sense of purpose. I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts, experiences, and ideas as well as learning from you.