Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Random Thoughts

I wasn't going to write until after Christmas break but after finishing our Christmas shopping yesterday I just can't resist.

I detest shopping-don't mind buying but don't want to waste anytime looking. I usually go to the first store employee I see and ask if they have the item, if not out I go.

When I go with my wife, of which I did yesterday, the mere thought of going to JoAnn's or Hancock Fabrics almost makes me physically ill. Then you throw in Wal-Mart and my patience level and aimlessly walking around is more than I can take.

We had to go to Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Ks. yesterday which is a suburb of Kansas City, and guess what we weren't the only ones there. Now I am realist about myself I'm a short, fat, middle-aged man that will never make People magazine list of 100 sexiest men alive. Hell, if they have a 100,000,000 list I would be questionable in making that. But good gracious, do some of these people not own a mirror, there were some strange looking cats hangin' at the mall. Maybe I just need to get out more, refer to earlier paragraphs.

Just a few things I noticed-your drawers should come over your butt cheeks, the bill of a hat goes in front, exactly how long does it take to put your hair in the 12 inch spikes or to dangle in front of your face so you can't see a thing? Is the middle of December really tank top and short weather?

The other thing I enjoy is going into the stores where they want to see your bank statement prior to entering. I really have fun with these employees, I usually get away from my wife, then ask a meaningless question, and wipe my nose with my sleeve, just to let them know what us common folks are like.

Sometimes I annoy my wife when she takes me out in public, but if I'm going to waste a day shopping I'm going to have fun. Have a great Christmas and Happy New Year and its a year before I have to go back to the mall.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Educational Philosophy

Most of the time when someone mentions philosophy to me, or asks me about mine, I tell them if you want to know about philosophy go read Aristotle or Socrates. They know philosophy, I don't and when you want to know in depth about something you need to consult an expert in that field. If I wanted to know about ladies to have a good time with I'd try to contact Charlie Sheen. I never knew my thoughts or beliefs would impact a school district, but the day I became a superintendent that changed. I have found, also, that as I learn more my philosophy has become a revolving door, it changes with gained knowledge.

I do hate walking in schools, at least in this part of Kansas, and seeing their mission statement and no one knows what it is. The thing I have noticed is they all say the same flowery things to which the meaning gets lost. I believe our mission at Pleasanton is to prepare our students to be adequately prepared for their next step in life. That may be going from 3rd to 4th grade, junior high to high school, or high school to college/work. Thats it.

But here are some other things that I feel we need to examine at my school and I have the many contributors to twitter to thank for opening my eyes and brain, and it didn't even hurt to much.

Learning content to learning how to learn-Spewing facts back at me is not going to make it in the world we are now living. A student had better prepare to open up to new learning to be successful. This is why some veteran teachers struggle, just be a life-long learner.

Going in that same direction the instruction needs to shift to life skills-be able to work in groups, where to locate and determine relevant information, and students will take more ownership in learning as we shift from data-driven instruction.

The one size fits all teaching will go away-As well it should differentiating learning should have been done so long ago, no one can imagine that all students learn at the same rate, so why do we teach them that way.

Assess what they have learned-I think we will eventually learn that so much standardized testing means nothing about learning. I think semester type testing will go away and shorter more frequent measures will guide our instruction.

"We've never done it like that before." If a teacher says this-they will be fired on the spot whether they have tenure or not.

There you have my educational philosophy for December 2010, I guarantee you it is different from December 2009, and hope its different in December 2011. Did you think of Aristotle or Socrates when you read this?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Random Thoughts

Well winter has hit, even if it hasn't officially started on the calendar. It was very cold in Kansas this weekend, but at least we didn't have the problems they suffered in the upper midwest. Guess there is a reason we don't have a domed stadium in our state, the roof can't collapse.

Its hard to believe its Christmas season since I've yet to see one chia pet commercial on TV, just can't get in the mood until I hear ch-ch-ch chia. I have seen that they are doing chia's of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. I'm sure those four historic gentlemen and leaders would be proud to see themselves with green hair.

I also see that Oprah has gone to Australia. I only can hope she will do as much for them as she has for us, wonder if she could take Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and Guggenheim with her. Change the locks on America now.

The first weekend without a full slate of college football games, but I love the Army-Navy game. Those kids really understand commitment, sacrifice, and courage. They are also playing for the joy of the game with no aspirations of the NFL. You can also include Air Force in all these comments, I admire all three institutions greatly, no jaw-jacking amongst players just playing the game as hard as they can. They are the meaning of class.

Speaking of class, how about the assistant coach of the Jets tripping the Dolphin player as he was heading downfield to cover a punt. Are you kidding me? That doesn't happen in high school games. How about a little class, Jets, instead of being two letters short of class.

My goodness could John Boehner cry any more on his 60 Minutes interview last night?

Have a great week and a good Christmas Season.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do What You Can Do

Last Friday we visited Van Meter, Ia. schools I was accompanied by our High School Principal and IT person on the trip, our Elementary Principal was ill and unable to attend. We are thankful to John Carver and Shannon Miller for spending the time with us. It dawned on me after the visit that we never once mentioned state standards, test scores, or AYP, we discussed the future of education, the future of our nation, and student learning. The ride home we probably had the most engaging conversation we've had since I have been superintendent here.

We talked about what we can do for our students at Pleasanton to improve our schools. I told the two others that no excuses will be tolerated, we are all college graduates with advanced degrees and we need to figure this out with what we have available to us.

We cannot afford to be a 1:1 school at this time no matter. That may limit us on some things we can do but we can make different class offerings to access what we do have. It is not about computers its about engaging kids and a different mindset. We can provide staff development to insure success for what we want to do.

We talked about how to change the people on our staff and board resistant to change who consistently say "We've never done it like that before." A saying that makes me cringe. We developed strategies to combat the "yeah but" resistance we will meet. You know who I'm talking about the people that when confronted with change always respond with "yeah but". Thats another saying that makes my hair stand up on end.

We are going to do what we can do and it benefit our kids at Pleasanton, it may not be be what some districts can do but its what we can do. We are going to take a combative approach if necessary because its what we believe and its what is best for our students and making excuses will keep us in the same rut.

We know we are instructing kids not subjects and/or disciplines an are willing to fight for them. We are making our stand to Do What We Can Do.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Random Thoughts

Maybe I should wait until Monday to write these instead of Friday, that way I can comment on the weekend happenings and games.

The wikileaks fiasco has sure topped the news items. I just wonder why we put a Private First Class in charge of so many classified documents? And if he hacked to gain the information why isn't our system a little more secure? Seems like someone higher up should be answering some questions.

I heard a government official last week commenting on counterterrorism, he stated that they were trying to be 100% accurate but will never be 100%. Thats funny since they are requiring schools to be 100% proficient in the standardized testing world, pretty tough to do isn't it.

Congress is once again going to cut social security benefits to the elderly in order to bring the deficit down. Since they receive a pension in excess $10,000 a month I really think this is a fine gesture on their part. Then you add in that (as of this writing) they are also not going to give tax cuts to us. I wonder how they look at themselves in the mirror.

Well the bowl games are set and in the national championship is Auburn vs. Oregon, two well deserving teams. I am pulling for Auburn and the reason is stupid, but its still my reason. Oregon this week wore gray, white, and black trim uniforms. According to their website their colors are green and yellow. I can't back a team that won't wear their own school colors, Auburn wore their normal road uniforms which sport their school colors. Told you it was stupid.

Brett Favre got hurt Sunday and had to leave the game early. The Vikings went ahead and scored 38 points, really missed you, Brett. He has already stated he doesn't know if he'll be able to start next week, which means he most certainly will. Funny how he has already drawn the attention to himself instead of the team and we will be fortunate to hear the drama all week long. Wonder what the Vegas odds are on him starting?

Have a great week.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Perspective on 21st Century Learning

As I was reading some twitter posts yesterday it suddenly came to me what the term 21st Century learning means to me and the school reform that goes with it. I believe that we are looking at traditional education and questioning the phase "we've always done it like that before" and trying to prepare our students for their world. We consistently hear the same terms and my thoughts are we have finally put adult meaning to them in an effort to make education more meaningful to the world outside of school.

Collaboration-We have always said and believed two heads are better than one, and its true. If you have a problem and one person in the room can solve it, you no longer have a problem. As adults if someone is doing something that you are interested in then the logical thing to do is to visit them to see the ins and outs of what they are doing. Our administration team will be visiting VanMeter, Iowa, schools to see what they are doing for example. So does it not make sense for our students to work together instead of the age old system of doing all your work independently? Why we insist if students work together its cheating I don't know.

Mobile Devices-Why do so many schools view these as the devil is a mystery to me. We all carry them and we might as well face it they are a part of life in this day and age. We need to teach responsible use in that they shouldn't go off during class, but to ban them is a losing battle. I can only imagine the reaction if we confiscated our faculty's cell phones prior to starting a professional development session.

Filtering-Once again we need to teach responsibility instead of blocking all things, which is a hinderance to staff as well as students. When students leave our hallowed halls they will have access to everything, and the only way to teach appropriate use on the job or elsewhere is to have them learn it in school.

Making Learning Meaningful for Every Student-Why we have taken the cookie cutter approach to teaching for so long no doubt has increased our dropout rate. Differentiated Instruction means that teachers should spend more time on their lesson preparation instead of grading worthless worksheets.

Homework-I've written about this before so not much time here, teacher guided homework is so much more meaningful, and if you have enough friends you will get your homework done. We are paranoid about cheating and yet assign things daily that screams for students to cheat. Teacher guided practice would also serve as step one to learning to collaborate.

Assessments-The conversation always comes around to meaningful assessments. Okay, how many tests do you take after leaving school? Your driver license exam. So how much sense do these make?

Technology-I have a confession I fought technology for quite some time. I was wrong. As many have said before me its not about the computer, its about learning and being prepared once again for the world. When you can have conversations world wide, do away with textbooks, work smarter instead of harder, then why is it not embraced more? The vast amount of information also is a work in responsibility, so one can learn good information from bad.

Life-Long Learner-What college told us that the day we graduated we had all the knowledge we would ever possess? None. For heaven's sake we are in the learning business, keep learning. We owe that to our clients.

I realize this is long today but when an epiphany strikes you have get the thoughts down at my age or you'll forget them.