2013 Quick Summary

Wow, what a year it’s been! I have grown as an educator, husband, father, and person. What do I have to be proud of?

– I am now 83 pounds lighter than I was at my heaviest weight 5 years ago.
– I have accepted that my wife will do what it takes for me to do my job to the best of my ability.
– I have worked more efficiently and effectively as a teacher with the reward of more family time.
– I have joined several school committees and engaged in more conversation outside my classroom.
– I have become more active on Twitter and used the chats to grow, learn, and collaborate with great minds from around the world.
– I have watched my girls grow this year in school and at home, and played with them more.
– Far less catches me by surprise now as I have returned to seeing issues before they arise, something that used to be a strength of mine and is again.

So what do I still have to work on in 2014?

– I need to continue losing weight, with the goal of 50 more pounds by May.
– I need to continue to respect what my wife does for our family and the sacrifices she makes to help us have a quality life.
– I need to continue to include new projects and technology into my curriculum, especially composition and music creation.
– I need to do more reading and research to support my continued involvement on school committees.
– I need to blog more often and continue expanding my social media and professional learning network.
– I need to play with the girls even more and simultaneously be more involved in their education.
– I need to get my leadership hat on and develop recruitment this semester.

I think I’ve had a pretty good year and still have plenty to work on. I hope you have a lot to be proud of, a list to work on, and a great new year!

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What I want for Christmas

Today’s #sunchat with @mssackstein and @barbarawmadden focused on wish lists for teachers. It was a great conversation with educators across the Twitterverse about what teachers and students need to be successful. I think @Principal_El made a great point:

@Principal_EL: Following #sunchat today and learning that we can’t continue to admire the problems in education! We need to find solutions/be innovative!

While I agree that we have to continue to innovate, I also think of the old adage about blood and turnips. I wish that schools had the resources they needed to provide for all students and teachers without having to make difficult choices. We, as a body of teachers, parents, and administrators need to continue to press state government to provide for ALL students, not just some.

In the meantime, here are my wishes for my students and me in my school:

– I wish that students didn’t have to worry about how to get to school, and that more students and parents would work together to support each other.

– I wish that all school programs had equitable access to technology instead of access based on arbitrary ranking. If it’s offered in the curriculum, it deserves access instead of excuses.

– I wish I had a command center in the front of my room. This would include a mounted projector, mount for iPad or laptop, sound system, document projector, and an office chair. This one is pretty selfish on my part.

– I wish more folks had @jimmycasas’s outlook on life. I would like to think I’m getting there, but for some it’s a journey to a belief and not a natural way of being. Check out his blog from today.

I told my kids the other day that after a kinda crappy day, they were a great way to end the day. Listening to them play, work hard, and just have a great time in class with them. I wish that everyone could have the experience I have with my kids in their classroom. It truly is a joy to teach and be with the leaders of tomorrow!

Gamification newest version of intrinsic/extrinsic motivation

I read an article today that talked about the psychology of gamification in the classroom. Read it here: http://t.co/J2NmRvn5Yb as a band director, I’m used to providing stars for completed assignments, varsity letter points for extracurricular participation, and other extrinsic rewards. I also work the intrinsic pride of accomplishment angle with students.

I work in a 1:1 laptop school; all of my band students in grades 7-12 have @SmartMusic. The article talks about all the benefits of gamification and how it provides the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation students need to do their best on class work. The other night in the grocery store checkout line, a current parent of a band student and alumni of the program was telling me about pizza parties for learning scales. I think this would be a great idea to build on with SmartMusic and required assignments for a quarter.

I believe I could divide the band into sections and use SmartMusic results to determine the strongest group each month. Any groups tied would receive the party with no tiebreakers. This would also motivate me to update grades more regularly so I could provide weekly updates on group progress.

I think there are a great deal of elements from the above article in what we’re already doing; I just need to tie them together with a little friendly competition in the name of higher achievement and an increased level of performance from the entire class.

Strong email communication skills are vital

@alanfeirer had a great blog post this week about leadership and working with others. http://ow.ly/rFkhP Alan’s blog for his company, Group Dynamic, has many great insights and posts on leadership – check it out!

My post today focuses on thinking before crafting questions or requests. I realized yesterday that a request I made gave no indication of my true intent. I only made a request instead of laying out the idea I had to help in a rough situation for a student. I came off as only concerned about my subject and a specific instead of contributing to resolution of the student situation.

I learn a new lesson almost daily about electronic communication and how vital it is to think through all the factors before sending emails. Another email that I sent yesterday that explained my confusion about a question resulted in a quick, effective resolution through a short conversation this morning. I am hopeful that I can work to resolve the other situation, we’ll have to see how that goes.

19 years of relationships

The past 19 years have gotten me through becoming a teacher, discovering myself as a teacher, and learning how to best serve as a teacher. Along the way, I’ve had many relationships that either come and go or remain strong. Relationships are the key to success in education, and I believe they are the reason why I continue to teach and look to grow as an educator.

@ToddWhitaker said during #iaedchat, “You have to build relationships before you need relationships.” That couldn’t have been more true today, when I forgot to communicate with the PE teacher about needing the gym for concert practice this afternoon. I totally forgot about it. After 15 years of concerts in shared spaces, you would think it would be a natural part of the preparation process.

I was extremely nervous about approaching the PE teacher today, not because we don’t get along, but because I knew this was going to throw a wrench in her entire afternoon. It did, and she wasn’t happy about it, but because we had a relationship already in place it was easier to get through. Without that relationship, there’s a good chance I would not have been lucky enough to receive the cooperation I needed.

Relationships are important every minute of every day. There must be a mutual understanding that we do for each other because we care about each other and want for everyone to have the success they desire. There will be times when favors are called in, and favors given out. Do unto others with grace and kindness.

Power Standards – Focusing On Success

In our school’s professional development we are exploring standards-based grading. Currently our topic of conversation is power standards. One of the best “ahas” for me came from my collaboration group when they put together what we’re doing now and how it can fit in to the power standards concept.

We have some standards that are in classes by year, some by gradespan. There are some standards that are vital for students to be proficient at this year because they need that standard to be successful in the next class or after graduation. There are other standards that need to be addressed but proficiency doesn’t need to be displayed because students will continue to see those standards in another class later.

This blog by Elena Aguilar describes one approach to increasing student achievement through power standards. She encourages teachers to focus their work, pick their standards, create quality assessments, and watch the students soar. Sit down with a hot cup of joe and enjoy How to Focus Lessons and Learning Goals | Edutopia.

Waiting for a meeting to start

As I wait for a meeting to start this afternoon, I all of a sudden thought of one of my favorite topics. People.

Why is it that some people have to be spoken to before they will speak? Maybe I’m just overly sensitive (and my wife might tell you just that), but it seems that if we’re not in this together we’re not in it at all. Maybe it’s like the old adage, if you think everyone else is an a– maybe it’s you.

I sure hope it’s not me, but then again maybe I shouldn’t care. Maybe I need more to do. I’d sure be open to discussion if someone would entertain me.