Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stressed About Your Packed Calendar? Try Changing Its Colors!

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at my Google Calendar, and feeling pretty stressed over the whole thing. Even though the school year hadn't begun, my personal and shared calendars were getting pretty packed with events. As I sat and stared at the calendar, I began to wonder what exactly was making me feel so agitated. It really wasn't any more jam packed than it had been in the past, but it was definitely irritating me.

Then I realized it wasn't the events that were stressing me out, it was actually the colors of the calendar that were stressful to me. Here is a snapshot of my calendar and shared calendars from this past week:

The colors used to represent everyone were hard on the eyes, and the colors didn't exactly scream serenity either. Because I really disliked my own color, I did some research on how to change it. You can find the directions for changing colors on the calendar by clicking here

I found a color I liked, but the color still didn't help enhance the scene. I then took a page right out of my art classes from middle school. I Googled hexadecimal color wheel images to determine colors which would compliment one another. After playing around a bit, I came up with a grouping of colors that was more pleasing to the eye:
These colors remind me of the flowers I have on my back deck in the fall; of calm, cool afternoons sitting outside with a good book. Perhaps when winter comes, I'll choose a different color palette. 

Could I have spent my time doing something else? Probably. However, I don't feel as stressed out when I look at my calendar anymore, and that makes a big difference in my perception of the day ahead. When I have a positive outlook on things, I'm more productive! A change in color can make all the difference in the world! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cool Videos to Show Teachers and Staff...And Maybe Students!

For as long as I could remember, the beginning of the school year has always been an exciting time. It seemed as if everyone returned to school with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. They were ready to be motivated and inspired.

When used properly, a motivational video can really work in your favor to emphasize a big idea, send a message, or put a grin on peoples' faces. While I've been exposed to quite a few of these over the years, here are some of the more recent ones you can use to enhance your next faculty, department or PLC Meting.

Be more dog

  • I LOVE this video for two reasons. First, I'm a lover of animals. Second, I LOVE the message. Some of us are unwilling to try new things because of our attitude or demeanor. This video shows what happens when a cat casts aside the stereotype of being a cat and tries being "more dog"! 


  • Do you still have people on your staff who don't understand the impact of social media? Do you have people on your staff who completely understand the impact of social media. This video will certainly entertain and/or inform all staff members - no matter which end of the instructional technology curve they are on. 

Every Kid Needs a Champion:

  • I came across this TED talk last year when I was researching information for our success class. Rita Pierson has been a teacher for over 40 years, and she has a very deep understanding of the importance of building relationships with students in order to help them succeed. 

My 12 Pairs of Legs -

  • Aimee Mullins is an athlete and a runway model. She also had both of her legs amputated when she was a baby. Instead of portraying her disability, she portrays the opportunities and adventures she's encountered as the result of using prosthetic limbs. 
There are so many more videos out there: Ken Robinson's "Schools Kill Creativity" Video, The "Herding Cats" commercial, the "212 Degrees" video, Kid President's "Message to Teachers"...I could go on and on! However, my goal in this post was to give you a few new videos that you or your staff would find inspirational and informative in the coming weeks; some of the most important weeks of the school year. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Brushing Up On Some SAMR
image from
Every year, our school division requires teachers to attend a technology-driven staff development day a couple of weeks before teacher work week begins. With all of our middle school students getting Chromebooks, much of the workshop was centered around ensuring students received the best possible blended learning experience.

Teachers were shown how to navigate curriculum based websites, how to enter information into the new electronic gradebook, and were also given a mini lesson on the SAMR model.

As an FYI, Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything has some GREAT SAMR resources for teachers who are just getting their feet wet in SAMR land!

SAMR is an acronym for the following:
  • Substitution,
  • Augmentation,
  • Modification, and
  • Redefinition
Basically the premise is that the use of technology in education can be categorized into one of the above four methods. Let's take for example, the act of note taking.

In substitution, the technology is simply taking the place of a more traditional method - like using a word processor instead of a typewriter, or a piece of lined paper.
Through augmentation, the technology is basically a slight improvement on the traditional tool. For example, spell check and formatting tools make the process of note taking easier.  
The modification stage is where the real fun begins. The traditional notes become interactive. Students use the Internet to enrich their notes. Hyperlinks to interesting sites or video may be added. Images are added to the page. Students can utilize Google docs for sharing and peer editing.
Redefinition - The notebook turns into a blog that is published and shared with not only their classmates, but experts in the field. Questions and comments can be posted, leading to a deeper thought process. Students have an audience beyond their classroom.

As I observe classes this year, I would like to give some feedback based on the SAMR model. I want to ask teachers how they would rate their lesson. Would the lesson be more of an S, or more of an R?

I chose the topic of SAMR note taking because there is a debate in our school system right now. Even though students are going to be given Chromebooks, teachers want to be able to continue using paper notebooks because students retain more if they can cut and paste something into a notebook. Even as an administrator, I have found the best way to get my point across is by modeling my expectations. As I think about what this could look like, the idea of an "Interactive PLC Agenda" comes to mind. The agenda with videos, links, and pictures posted on our PLC site teachers can comment on and share. It's worth a shot. I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Personal Professional Goals

At the beginning of each school year, I have to write a professional growth plan based on the goals of our school and school division. In addition to these goals, I also choose some personal professional goals to reach.

I had made a resolution at the beginning of the new year to maintain a Personal Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter. Prior to that point, I had done very little with Twitter or Personal Learning Networks, and I knew I really needed to. In the months to come, a whole new world of FREE professional development opportunities opened up to me. In fact, my personal professional goals for this year come directly from ideas generated through my PLN.

Goal 1: Maintain Regular "No Office" Days.
I am sincerely worried about the amount of change we are asking of our teachers this year. In addition to working with a new student database system which includes a new electronic grade book and method for posting assignments, we are also giving each one of their students a Chromebook. One evening, a member of #cmsk12chat mentioned the concept of "no office" days. Basically, select days to work outside the office. I'm hoping that in doing this, I will have a better idea of what is going on in classrooms. I'm hoping that by spending more times with teachers and students, I will be better equipped to accomplish my second goal.

Goal 2: Make Sure Those I Work With Experience Personalized Learning
As our school division implements so many new initiatives this year, there will be teachers who will embrace them and instantly thrive in their new teaching environment. Others will need some guidance to be more successful. There will also be a group who will struggle, who will need intensive support and coaching. Using "no office" days will allow me to gain a greater understanding of what our teachers need. I can then seek out resources to help provide them with professional development or coaching that fits their individual needs. I'm willing to bet I could pair them up with a PLN that would help them grow like I have. I know there will also be some tough conversations that will take place as a result of what I see, and that is why my final goal is so important.

Goal 3: Maintain Authenticity
One of my absolute favorite chats, #leadwithgiants, takes place on Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. They discuss trends in leadership. Back in June the topic was centered around authenticity. Being new to a building last year, I was afraid that I had lost some of who I was trying to fit in with the culture there. What I ended up realizing is that in order to best serve those I work alongside, I need to be true to myself.  I am at my most confident when I am true to myself. The teachers, students, and staff members I work along side deserve the very best from me, and I need to be at my best in order to give my best.

As you reflect on your upcoming year, be sure sure that the goals you set help your school and your division. However, make sure to set some goals which help grow yourself as well; because If you stop learning, those you work alongside aren't going to learn very much either. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What is Your Most Productive Time of Day?

As long as I can remember, I have been a morning person. Sincerely, I can't remember many mornings when I have slept particularly late.

Sleeping late has rarely been an option for me. I took a job as soon as I could - age 11 or 12 delivering the Boston Globe before school. Later on, I worked at a bakery. The morning shift began at 5:30 for me on weekends and during the summer when I wasn't in school. This may have something to do with being an introvert. I energize by taking some time to myself. I may as well be productive during this time!

I was really glad that I was a morning person when it came time for me to attend college. One of the techniques for weeding out those who aren't particularly serious about becoming music majors is to make sure all required music classes begin at 8:00 a.m.

When I entered, the workforce, I quickly realized that not everyone is a morning person, and I used it to my advantage. Getting up at 5:30 in the morning allowed me to get at work earlier than most; and I got so much accomplished during those "wee hours" of the morning. People who arrived at work at the same time I did had a similar mindset. They were there to get stuff done.

I remember interviewing for a position, and the "time management" question came up. I responded by saying that as far as I'm concerned, time during the school day is not my own. It should be used to work directly with teachers, parents and students. Since my brain is basically fried at the end of the day, I actually put a daily task on the calendar that I refer to as "stuff" between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. This block of time is when I am at my best; and I save the most complex tasks for this time. Depending on the time of year, I may even come to work earlier. I rarely stay past 5:00 in the evening unless there is an evening event. That doesn't mean I don't pull out my computer to answer some emails or take a look at a project I'm working on.

As you begin this new school year, take a moment and consider how you manage your time. Are you taking advantage of your most productive time of day? If not, I recommend you do so. It could mean the difference from being good at your job, and being great at it!