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“You must unlearn what you have learned.”  Master Yoda shares counter intuitive wisdom to those of us in education who value the wisdom of the past (yes… I’m a recovering history teacher…).  Indeed I would and will often argue that our journey has taught us a great deal, and I don’t think Master Yoda would disagree.  In context, this quote is pointed directly at a struggling young Jedi with the future of the universe on his shoulders.  To succeed in the ultimate battle, Luke was being told to unlearn his fears and bad habits – and to learn anew, authentic confidence and discipline.  This is a lesson we educators would be wise to heed.   Read more »


Teaching History in a Time of Change – Revisited

Great reflective thoughts by a very bright superintendent colleague and a fellow history teacher. Chris Kennedy is a progressive leader in Canada who demonstrates communication abilities I can only hope to achieve. So what 10 things can you apply to your classroom or school?


Despite the speed at which our system and profession is changing, some aspects haven’t changed at all. I do think there have been major shifts over the last several years in West Vancouver, particularly with the proliferation of digital access and commitment to inquiry, among other factors.

Listening to Will Richardson at Computer Using Educators of British Columbia(CUEBC) during the last couple of weeks had me thinking and revisiting some of my early blog posts. Will has been someone I have been learning from for more than a decade. Before the Culture of Yes, I was blogging as a school principal in Coquitlam and also teaching AP European History. One of the early pieces I wrote (early fall 2006) was Teaching History in a Time of Change and reprinted below:

Teaching History in a Time of Change by title alone implies that there may be a time of stability around the corner. There isn’t.  And it is…

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Make Your Magic!!

It’s Labor Day.  While others are settling in after a long weekend vacation, us educators are trying to figure out how to settle in and sleep knowing it’s a worthless cause.  In a few short hours the little people (and some quite big…) will invade and the purpose of our life journey will again take over our space.  And that’s how we like it – except on Labor Day night…

I wish all educators a wonderful year as we take on the transition from a system based on manufacturing to a system based on personalization.  Most important is to dial in on each student – What does he need?  Why does she see it that way?  How can I help her frame that and take the next step?

Tomorrow morning 2014-15 begins.  Have you bought your ticket?  I promise a very real show awaits – and I am a part of it!!!

Good night oh great America!!!




Fired Up for 2015

In a few short – and probably sleepless – hours, we kick off the 2014-15 school year.  Teachers in MN don’t sleep much Labor Day weekend as they fret about the students walking into their classrooms on the first day of school.  I’ve certainly had my fair share of those dreams… students taking over the classroom… a serious wardrobe malfunction… What teachers should know is – we administrators have the same dreams with students – you – in bigger bodies.  Yup.  Ya’ll make us just as nervous and anxious as the students make you on the first day.

So what is the root of all this anxiety??  We, who sign up for the profession we call education, seek to change lives… make someone’s live better due to our actions.  Our decisions.  Our work and efforts.  Yup.  We choose to live with the daily responsibility of making the lives of others better.  How’s that for a high standard to meet?  In the days of public accountability, how many stock brokers can say they made a positive impact on someone’s life each and everyday?  While not compensated for the value of this work, we choose to get up at daybreak and work well beyond sunset to make sure the children in our classrooms have every opportunity to succeed.  And tomorrow morning we kickoff that effort for the 2014-15 school year.  

I’m fired up for the year ahead on Pequot Lakes, MN.  Our school board has declared that our mission is to “inspire a passion for learning” for each student that walks through our doors.  Could it get any better?  Isn’t that why we signed up for this gig?  I’m excited to further the great work of our staff who work tirelessly to make sure each student is on track for success in a career with post secondary training.  I’m excited to establish a 5 year district operational plan to implement our district strategic roadmap.   Indeed, today is a great day to be a Patriot – a great day to ignite passion in the eyes of the students I influence!!!   

What will you do this year, to inspire a passion for learning in the students you teach and work with?  





Good at School?

Good at SchoolI don’t know about you, but I’m hoping my children move beyond needing tuition payments.  I love this slide from blogger, teacher and author Bill Ferriter.  As usual, Bill (@plugusin) is stirring up some good conversations with a quote from author Seth Godin.

Do we really want our students to be great at doing school?


Teacher Appreciation Week

teachersThanks to elementary principal Melinda Miller, I’m sharing this playlist of videos in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week.  I was in high school when I realized the impact that some of my teachers had on my life throughout childhood.  The way they loved me and coached me through difficult times ultimately led me to dedicate my life to the same great – and demanding – profession.  To those who teach, thank you for touching the future.  Every decision you make in your day to day dealings with students has an impact on the future of each student and on the future of our great nation and world.  Thank you for dedicating your life to a career that challenges us in mind, body, and spirit.  May this be a week that you feel appreciated and honored!

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How Do You Make Rigorous Instruction Relevant?

351x301xblooms_new.png.pagespeed.ic.aGecvMechvAs a junior high principal 5 years ago I worked with some great teachers who took it upon themselves to make sure their students understood Bloom’s Taxonomy and how it applies to the activities each day in the classroom.  Students were asked to hold the teacher accountable for making sure that homework and assessment activities applied to the top 3 layers of the taxonomy.  Action phrases and verbs for each layer created a huge wall display of the taxonomy in classrooms, and conversations about why each activity in the classroom was planned for took place in the regular ebb and flow of routine.  Did you hear that?!!  I can honestly say that students understood the why!!  You know… the “why are we doing this???” question that frustrates many-a-teacher?  A commitment to being able to answer that question for every pedagogical decision we make – a true commitment to being disciplined in thought and action – is an authentic commitment to being a true professional… A real Professional Learning Community.

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A Small District PLC?

makingteamworkmeaningfulMoving from a district of 10,000 students to one of 1,600 students this past year has made me reflect quite a bit on how to structure collaborative teams to do the meaningful work of a Professional Learning Community when there are fewer teachers to team up.  The research on effective schools is clear that collaborative teams of teachers focused on common formative assessments and implementation of interventions/enrichments to ensure all students learn at high levels is essential, but how to structure those teams for success is always a challenging leadership question.  As often happens, my Twitter feed offered some “just in time professional development” this past week as I ran across an excellent presentation by author and 6th grade teacher Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) focused on this very topic.  The ideas and options he shares are relevant to a school or district of any size.

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Rick Wormeli on Formative Assessment

Fair Isn't Always EqualThis is the sixth post in a series of short YouTube videos by Rick Wormeli, author of the book Fair Isn’t Always Equal.  This episode focuses on the power of frequent formative assessments and tying that into a standards based grading system.  I wish I had learned about the power of formative assessments and a standards based approach to grading when I was teaching…  Might you take what @RickWormeli has to offer and implement it in your classroom tomorrow??

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Diving Into School Morale

The February 2014 Educational Leadership publication is focused el-feb14-lefton building school morale and offers several articles reflecting on how to cultivate positive spirits in a school staff.  The timing is superb…  I note on my calendar at the beginning of February every year to brace for the mid-year slump.  While I’m convinced it has a good deal to do with the lack of daylight and cold weather here in northern MN, I also agree Megan and Bob Tschannen-Moran that “bolstering school morale is a primary school improvement strategy” (pg. 38).  School leadership teams need to assess, plan for, implement action plans to address, and progress monitor the emotional pulse of the larger school team just as an effective coach of an athletic team or the director of musical must do.  An emotionally flat team simply cannot perform well while one wrapped up in the positive synergy of real, results oriented school improvement can knock it out of the park.

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