Day 9 – 30 Day Blogging Challenge

Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care)…

I skateboarded today for the first time and loved it.

A student let me try to skate on his board.

It was awesome.

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Desk Drawer, Day 8 – 30 Day Blogging Challenge

Topic: What is in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?



The completely un-staged picture of my “desk”. I put desk in quotes because I’m trying to get away from the desk.

The golf ball came from the pantry garden last spring.

The Apple TV box is in my desk because I don’t want to throw it away.

The charger belongs to a student and needs to go back to her tomorrow so she doesn’t get a $38 fine.

The sticky note says:
The kids
The environment
The organization
allows it to happen

The sticky note note tells me what to be grateful for and to remember my constraints. I can shape and change each of those variables each day, then I’m doing what I’m called to.

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Most Inspirational Colleague, Day 6 – 30 Day Challenge

Topic: Who was/is your most inspirational colleague and why?


I would not be in the Edgerton, Wisconsin if it were not for Phill Klamm.

Want to get inspired?  Go to Phill’s website:

He’s leaving his post as Associate Principal of Edgerton High School to move to Kenya. Follow his journey…it will inspire you as well!



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Mentors, 30 Day Challenge – Day 6 #reflectiveteacher @teachthought

What does a good mentor “do”?

A good mentor provides counsel, gives feedback, listens, and supports. Teaching is an incredible profession, but for many new teachers, teaching can be an incredibly tedious profession. Forms, digital grade books, progress reports, department goals, classroom observation, aligning content to curriculum (or vice versa), and making sure kids are getting to school ready to learn- this is teaching.

It’s intense.

I can not begin to stress how important my first three years as a teacher were from this standpoint: I went through a system which taught me how to teach. My wife and I say often, “The standards-based teaching for learning taught us two concepts, what do I want my students to learn and how do I know they learned what I wanted them to?” The system was kicked off with a multiple day course on the teaching process. A part of that course was a mentor lunch. What was immediately evident about my assigned mentor was that she was more than just a special education teacher. She was a literacy guru. She pioneered a co-taught Young Adult Literature class that was full every semester. From the onset, it was clear to me that my mentor was an awesome teacher and that she had a passion for continuous improvement.

When I didn’t know what was wrong with PowerSchool, she would tell me what I needed to hear.

When I had my first student quit school, she said he would be back (and he was, he was my first 5th year student to graduate).

When I was unprepared for the class we co-taught, I was held accountable. Not with words, but with corrective suggestions and ideas on how to improve for the next day (Ishmael Beah A Long Way Gone was the unit I bombed on).

When I wanted to do more, for kids and in my practice as an educator, she listened, she went to trainings with me, she participated in the design, she encouraged me to go forward.

Mentors are key. They show new frightened teachers that making a difference in kids lives is possible, and they show them how. If I would have had to figure out everything by myself in a one room schoolhouse, I would have probably failed miserably. More importantly, I would have missed on seeing world class teachers work their craft. I would have missed on seeing unparalleled dedication to kids.

Mentors carry the company ethos, and when the District or school strives for excellence, mentors carry the responsibility and have the privilege of on boarding new faculty successfully.

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30 Day Challenge – Day 5

Post a picture of your classroom and discuss what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to


I see a different era of Ed Tech. I see holding on to resources no longer relevant to learning.


I see 25 years of worksheets. I see a pre-Google era level of compliance among students which is unknown to new teachers and current students. I see progress and a shift towards student centered inquiry-based learning.


I see a great place to have discourse, design projects, and begin to dream. I see a lack of clutter. I see a blank canvas. I see administrative supporters who promote the crazies when they say, “So, we want to get rid of all the worksheets and turn our GED program into a project-based center.” I see a safe place to learn.

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What do you love most about teaching? Day 4 @teachthought #reflectiveteacher

What do you love most about teaching?

I love the people.

I love the grind, the excitement, the gut wrenching defeat of having young people share their greatest sorrows. I love being present for that. Because I am learning to listen, rather than sit and attempt to cure.

But what I love most about teaching, is seeing the fire begin. Having students learners as designers of their own learning, and then watching them carry out their plan is what I love most about teaching. I enjoy the dialog. The push towards deadlines of meaningful projects and the rhythm of the day when engaged folks enjoy breaking through the door.

I love working with high octane professional kid magnets who “get it”. These colleagues are not whiners, they are winners. They can not tell me the exact number of their salary and often have students roaming in and out of their rooms before school, after it, during their lunch, and certainly on prep. They listen. They push, pull, scaffold, and are proximity control gurus.

I love the parents. I don’t always like them, but I do love them. They trust their school with their greatest treasure and have been more than kind to me and my family.

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Day 3 – 30 Day Challenge

Our suggested topic for today:
Discuss one “observation” that you’d like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

This is a difficult topic for me to address. I have been inundated with evaluation over the last few weeks. Wisconsin is going to an effectiveness evaluation this year for teachers. One observable area I want to get stronger in this school year is differentiating within formative assessments that are tied to activities. Every one of my students will have a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) completed by the end of September. Today I wrote on the board, “Different rules for different people,” and I explained how I heard Shaka Smart break down that quote at a Nike Coaches Clinic last spring. People who are great at a skill still need to be pushed, whereas, people learning the skill require more attempts and possible varying degrees of scaffolding.

Differentiation to me means, “Different rules for different people,” in action. And if I can get buy-in within the learning space that each persons goals and “rules” are tied to their PLP, then there will be a ton of success and positive group culture.

I want more than one possible assessment per group per activity. Also, I want to completely open-up & extrapolate the term “formative assessment”. During my third year as a teacher, I went through a similar process with checking for understandings (CFU’s). I am hoping for a similar outcome as that school year. I want real conversations with colleagues. I want to be challenged. I want to get better at teaching and helping youth get connected with what they are passionate about.

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30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 2

Write about one piece of new technology that you’d like to use this year and why.

I’d like to better utilize mobile devices in the field for uploading data and curating at a later time. Example: students take video, pictures, and jottings while at project site and put their media together on the go, then share it out when the Internet is available.

Smartphones and tablets have much greater capacity for learning and content creation capability than I have unlocked within my practice.

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A New Found Respect For Single Parents @teachthought #reflectiveteacher Day 1

This post is dedicated to Janna

I recently had the opportunity to spend five nights and six days with my daughters. This was the longest stretch of parenting alone I had done. On Day 3, I started to realize how much I depended on my wife for every phase of my life. For the past year and half, I’ve enjoyed being an early morning runner. I was unable to leave the house to run. This is something small, yet, something big. I rely on my wife to watch the house while I run. 

We had a blast. We went to the gym. We went to the “Dinosaur Museum” and a half dozen other free outings. I found my behaviors were changing. My thoughts certainly were. I have gotten good, if not very good, at saying, “No.” However, as the week progressed, I found myself breaking the family budget a dollar here or five dollars there. Ice cream from A&W, donuts from Dunkin’. I found myself wanting to provide treats to my kids, it was almost as if I was trying to make up for a presence I knew I could not fill. 

On Day 4, I was struck by a statistic I used to rattle off frequently. In my first four years of teaching At-risk youth, only one of my male students had their biological mother and father living in the same house. As the last few weeks have passed, and I’ve gotten to know my students through Infinite Campus, and hold the occasional pre-season IEP roundtable, I have been humbled. I have questioned my past judgements. 

How many times did I judge a single-mom in a meeting? 

On how many occasions did I critique the smell of cigarettes and energy drink in hand?

On Day 3, the kids were at daycare because I had training all day at work. Over lunch, I went home and got in a quick run. I had to rearrange my entire schedule and at the same time go with the opportunity. 

At the end of each day, I was spent.

I thought of my mother every day.

I thought of my sister every day.

I thought of my students in the past I had that were teenage mothers and going to school. 

When my wife drove into the driveway on Saturday, August, 16; I was grateful.

I won’t be so quick to book a weekend conference or coaches clinic. I’ll first think deeply about the impact of leaving a void in my house (one that has been left vacant on many weekends for earning licensures and attending workshops).

I have been wanting to blog for quite some time. An email went out from @jhenze44 a few days ago. She was encouraging anyone and everyone from the District to participate in the #reflectiveteacher 30 Day Blog Challenge put on by @teacherthought <>&#8230;When opportunity presents itself…

I am in.

Today’s post: Our suggested topic for today is post about your goals for this year. Be as specific or as vague as you like…

My goal for this year is to build community wherever I go. Not pseudo-community of hey, isn’t everything awesome…! But real community. 

I want to examine poverty and build inroads to combat hunger and over spending on perceived needs.

I want to combat drugs and alcohol use among teens, and ask: why use? I want to a supportive and engaging community that provides teens with many reasons to not use.

I want to dive into issues facing my program, my school, my District, my community and my family. 

I want to be a part of a dynamic PLN. One that exists outside of the realm of Twitter, but even further outside the world of mass email. This means, I will do a better job of supporting the fine arts in my District (I will be my wife’s biggest cheerleader, GO ART LEAGUE!). I will do a better job of attending girl’s sporting events. I will to a better job of nagging my colleagues to Tweet, collab on Docs, and innovate. I want to help @BaldRandy become a teacher. I want to learn from @corey_livieri. I want to enjoy the journey more. 

I want to listen better. For the third year in a row, I am trying to become a better listener. I hope to blog more about this over the next thirty days.

Be real. Be me. Treat humans like people. Do the next right thing, and do it to the best of my ability with full integrity. 

Here’s what I am doing to address my “want to’s”:

1) No desk, work among the kids
2) Every student has a Personal Learning Plan by the end of September. Allow for maximum student voice & student choice, while also setting SMART goals and tracking with weekly meetings.
3) Our GED program called Option 2 will transition away from a worksheet model and to a Project-Based Learning (PBL) model. 

Practices I must continue in order to be successful:
1) Continue to rise at 4:30am and aim for a 10pm bedtime (goodbye until next summer Tony Soprano, McNulty, and Nucky Thompson)
2) I need to make my kids lunch every evening, and not run into morning stress with packing lunches. A little thing, but a big thing that led to too many 5-minute late days last school year.
3) Trust the learner, trust the process

Finally, a goal I have is to stay plugged into the classroom. My father once told me, “You are cursed for administration.” As I enter my eighth year as a teacher, I am struck by the fact that I am probably closer to my first day as an administrator, than my first day as a teacher. I love teaching, but I am starting to feel the tug of the heart to a place where I can better design programs, impact colleagues practice, and utilize my skill set. I really hope I have another dozen years in the classroom and another two dozen on the bench because a single day engaged in learning with youth is worth a culmination of hoop jumping to get to.

[Enter Parker J Outro]

As Parker J. Palmer states, 

Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror, and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge—and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.

I want to thank my students and colleagues for helping me to see me better. I love getting better on the daily with all of you! 

Time to enjoy the journey and love the grind! DoWork.

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The Next Few Weeks…

The phone will not be getting parked in the basket right when I walk in the door. In fact, I will be bringing the phone with me to the supper table.

The iPad & laptop do need to be open, because I’m collecting data.

There’s a small window of an opportunity here. All else is secondary. I am responsible to the people I serve, and I must carry-on with this sense of imbalance in order to put the people I’m serving in the best position as possible.

A heinous sinus infection is just a few hours away (the third one this season).

Thank you’s are hollow to the one’s I love. My family has all sacrificed more than I will ever know, and all I can do is write this post to let them know I am grateful.

When Church ends on Sunday, film begins just moments later, guys come in for extra reps, ice baths, and to talk the game.

With less than two weeks left in the high school basketball season, we all take it to the next level. A friend from my youth said it best, “The game don’t love you back, people do.” As a high school basketball coach, I wonder what I have done to earn so much love from the people around me-  they continue to let me engage in what I love.

For the next few weeks…4:45am is not early enough of a rise and 10pm is no longer a bed-time. The no food after 8 o’clock is on hiatus in order to fuel up for filming sessions. Us, them, teams we may not even end up playing. As I left the parking lot at 9:24pm last night, and got in my car, I was struck by an incredible feeling, there is no substitution for feeling prepared. Getting back from a scouting trip, seeing a horrendous game in which a one win team in mid-February squeaked out their second win against the team we face tonight- I felt prepared. I knew my house would be asleep when I walked in. I saw the tired look on my wife as I left her classroom just before entering practice. I kissed my daughters as I left their daycare and told them I would see them in the morning.

This unsustainable short-term burst is being undertaken right now by many basketball coaches across the country. It’s the game we love, and we want our players to play one game longer.

This space, the competitive landscape, it does have a price. We pay the price. Coaches, teachers, building leaders, District administrators, school board members, custodians, cooks, bus drivers; we all pay the price at one point or another. When our project is put up for grabs, we pay the price. We do it because we want the people we have been trusted to serve to have the best experience possible. We prepare because no kick in the gut exist quite like the pain of heading into a game unprepared. Now, substitute the word “game” in the last sentence for lesson, professional development, board meeting, performance, meal, or trip in bad weather. A basketball game in late February is open to the public, our preparation or lack thereof, it is put on display in front of everyone. But the teacher who reads the writing with an open heart, and then modifies next weeks activity or lesson, that’s done behind closed doors. The administrator who has gone to great lengths to communicate with each board member about an impending difficult situation. The custodian who runs the Zamboni down the hall to bring the extra shine. The cook who adds a bit of unmandated spice to bring the flavor of the corn to taste more like corn. These actions are being done every day. In fact, the small window that exists over the next few weeks, all of our work as coaches and athletes, when that work lines up just right, we have the ability to provide the people who take care of us with an experience and a memory.

Does ego push the phone and the iPad? Sure. Does fear of failure? Absolutely. But so does opportunity. We have an opportunity to give back. When we win, our community wins. When we put it all on the line, we build something worth making a sacrifice for.

“Winning is nice, but losing is misery.” 
Pat Riley

“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”

This post is dedicated to the wives, husbands, and children of those who give of themselves in order to give to others.

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