On Wednesday, October 13, 2010, I boarded a plane at ATW and headed to PVD. My trip from Appleton to Providence had a brief layover in O’Hare. The trip out will be remembered by a near coma from a cat on the plane. I was the one who almost went into the coma and not the cat. Why was a classroom teacher going to Groton, CT in the middle of the week. Why would a classroom teacher be going to 6 conferences in 32 days? Why would a classroom teacher miss 16 days of school and be away from his family for 22 days in a 32 day period?
I had to get coached up.
Creating a new school is hard work. In April 2009, I was consumed with a vision. I was petrified to share my vision per fear of being called a fool. I’ve been told such things numerous times before. When I moved to Phoenix to chase my dream of playing college basketball (failed). When I drew up a business plan to create a 24-hour pancake house and basketball mecca (still in the works). When I chose to take my first teaching job in a credit recovery charter school instead of a traditional Spec Ed classroom (success. i think).
…getting back to April 2009- – I shared my vision of a new school with my wife and thought partner Marcia Van Hout. The four of us were on our way back from the Wisconsin Charter School Association conference. I attended the technology strand. Guys like Rich Halverson, Rovy Branon, Judy Brown, and Kurt Squire lit fires. Classroom teachers & leaders like Seann Dikkers made me believe that anything was possible (& a lunch session with James Paul Gee was transformative). This two day conference collided with something that I still can’t put into words, but can surmise as fatherhood. My first child was born on March 10, 2009. Suddenly, being 27 didn’t feel so young. Being a second year teacher, didn’t really matter. Age and inexperience were just excuses. What schools were going to be ready for my daughter? I went to a conference and came back scarred. Living in the Fox Valley in Wisconsin, we have some of the best public high schools in the nation, we really do. Kimberly where I teach is unbelievable [enter newsweek link]. Appleton, where I reside, has 16 charter schools and three very good public high schools. At the time, in April 2009, I didn’t know anything about Project-Based Learning or Service-Learning. I didn’t know the pedagogy that drives the day-to-day learning. I didn’t know the philosophies behind teacher led schools. I didn’t know that much about school financing or the Master Contract Agreement between the KASD and the KEA (school district & my union). What I did know was that amazing things were happening at the GLS Department at UW-Madison. I did know that the mobile learning guru in the United States lived just a few miles from my house. I did know that a switch had been flipped, and it wasn’t going to be turned off as easily as my college basketball dream or the pancake house that will open in 2028. I want to end this monster of a run-on paragraph with a bit of background and context. Two people made this new school idea come to a reality in April 2009. On this Thanksgiving Day of 2010, I want to give thanks to both of these people. My wife was in the car with my colleague Marcia Van Hout, and my daughter. My wife said three words that day that I’ll never forget. After ranting about my vision for a new school for almost 100 miles, and asking several clarifying questions, shes said, “Go for it.” On May 15, 2009, I was working my last day of the school year because I was getting ready to go on paternity leave (which was awesome). I stopped by my principals office, and talked with him about an idea I had for a new school. Mike Rietveld, listened intently to everything I was saying. This was the man that could kill this idea on the spot and I would have to respect his decision. He is the vision keeper of Kimberly High School, and as such, he knows everybody and everything about KHS and the Kimberly community. He’s been in his current position since I was in elementary school, and as a marketing teacher at KHS he built up DECA into something that is still vibrantly living today. Mr. Rietveld had the same answer my wife did. He helped with forming the initial team. He gave me days off to go to trainings, including the massive amount of days off this year. His leadership and open door allowed me to get on the plane on October 13th.
I had to get coached up.
To explain everything that happened between May 15, 2009 & October 13, 2010 would require a Ken Burns narrative and a Desperate Housewives timeslot. The important thing is this: a new is going to open, and the staff of that new school need training.
I went to the DCDT (Division on Career Development and Transition) Conference in Groton, CT to get training on after school programs. The first person I met the morning of the conference was a consultant who designs assessment apps for mobile devices. Believe it or not, he lives in Appleton. His company is just a few miles from my house and I’ll be meeting with him in the next few weeks to discuss assessments for Kornerstone School. I would love for students to be critique their employability skills on their iPods, iPads, iPhones, or other SmartDevices. The conference was okay. It was a bit disability heavy and didn’t have exactly what I wanted as far as After School Programs (ASPs). I went to the same conference in Milwaukee in 2008 & got a ton of stuff on ASPs and school based enterprises. It’s amazing how much a conference can change in such a short time. The keynote speaker to start the conference was amazing. LeDerick Horne started out the conference by with spoken word. He was legit. His story was inspiring. Stan F. Shaw was the most useful presenter. This guy dropped serious knowledge regarding the grant writing process. Check out the attached link, he’s a professor at the University of Connecticut and has successfully written numerous grants for millions of dollars.
I got home from DCDT on my 29th birthday. On the following Tuesday, I woke up in Tuscon, AZ and had a day I won’t soon forget. I spent a day in one of the most innovative school districts in the country- Vail, AZ. If anyone is ever setting up a new school or trying to rebuild culture in an existing school, go see the folks in Vail, AZ. Three things struck me, 1. Standards 2. Technology 3. Team. They were standards crazed. And although I’m not a huge fan of standards-lust education, they’ve aligned everything with the state standards and their district standards. I went into the cleanest bathroom I’ve ever been in in a high school, and thought, huh, why is this so clean?
The bathroom at the high school wasn’t clean by accident. It was clean by design. The technology and openness at Vail was second to none. They had well over a half dozen different wifi logins, each with different access and filtering features. One high school had a 1:1 initiative and the other high school had a Bring Your Own Device philosophy. Vail was incredible. There was also a sense of professionalism. The people working at this school district presented themselves as being a part of a team. Their team’s mission was simple, what’s best for our students? Vail was very refreshing. I went from Vail to Phoenix for the last T+L Conference. T+L is an abbreviation of Technology + Learning. This conference has been put on for the last 20+ years by the National School Board Association. I got a ton out of this conference; however, I came away from Vail and from this conference with the thought that Kornerstone School is something different, something not being talked about at some of these larger conferences. After seeing Vail, and coming off trip to three innovative schools in Minnesota, I became consumed with school design.
The above video is something I put together that shows the importance of having a school designed that not only enhances the students learning experiences, but allows for students learning experiences to shape the school. The video features audio I captured with my iPod from Richard Gerver. He’s a stud. Check out his site. His keynote, and the TEDx portion of the conference stuck with me. I got a ton of great stuff on creating ePortfolio’s with Adobe Acrobat, and better grasp on hurdles associated with giving every student a laptop.
I better explain #30daysofgettingcoachedup – – While sitting in a Starbucks in Groton, CT, I was on twitter and trying to think of way to track the upcoming month. For noobs to Twitter, if you put a # symbol in front of a word, that’s called a ‘hashtag’. This hashtag allows people to search for tweets/posts with the common # + word. So whenever I make a tweet and put #30daysofgettingcoachedup with it, people would know that I’m relaying what’s going on in the conference circuit. This also allowed me to track tweets. At one point, in a moment of sheer grandiosity, I even thought hey this would make one helluva documentary. Maybe even a bookish/memoir thing. So that’s the explanation for #30daysofgettingcoachedup. In Part II of the blog, I’m going to get into the last 4 conferences I attended and some of the interesting things that happened while being on the road.
I’d love to keep grinding on this post but I have to get sleep. Morning practice comes soon.