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 <http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/reflective-teaching-30-day-blogging-challenge-teachers/>&#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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Can This Be True? @corey_livieri @emmy_mccabe @krauseunc @phillklamm

Duty free lunch.

I’m hacking/tinkering/designing a bit.

The Avett Brothers Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise hits my Pandora and I cry.

Just a bit, a mist of a tear. But my heart flutters and I feel it. For the first time, I feel this school design and I want it bad.

Yesterday, my colleague/friend/thought partner, Corey Livieri, he emailed his entire building to tell them about the funky learning that’s been percolating.

We’re building now. Dreamers are welcome, designers, growers, workers, champion of youth voice & choice.

Haters are also welcome. We are ready for you. People touting forced-testing before human curiosity, we welcome you. It’s an us thing, and our non-negotiables are:

1. It’s about learning
2. People are brave, curious, and thoughtful
3. We build community where ever we go
4. Trust the learner, trust the process
5. The process is iterative, let’s create it together and refine it
6. Respect is essential, respect where the individual is on that individual day
7. Me, We
8. Create it locally, share it globally —> we can only keep what we have, if we give it away
9. This space belongs to the public, follow through from the individual to the group is essential to keep the space open to the public
10. We are all learners
11. Trust
12.  Total Improvement Depends on Everyone (TIDE)

We have a bus.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 12.31.32 PM


My superintendent is finalizing a deal in which a local bus company donates a bus to the District. The learners will then convert the bus to run on waste vegetable oil.  It’s hard to believe all of this is actually coming true. In a very short time, we could have a 1-room school house located on a 280-acre farm.

Since September 1, 2013, here’s what has already happened:

  1. Successfully received a grant for an outdoor apple orchard (farm to lunch initiative)
  2. Built a hoop house on the Edgerton Middle School grounds
  3. Submitted a grant to the Wisconsin Medical Society to place an outdoor fitness center at Silverwood Park
  4. Successfully planted carrots which will grow over the winter, (farm to lunch initiative)
  5. Cleaned up an abandoned house at Silverwood Park
  6. Received permission from the Friends of Silverwood Park to proceed with a school design
  7. Received administrative approval to teach a school design and Master Planning Process course second semester 2013-14.
  8. Received an acre at Silverwood Park to learn, create, and inspire


Here’s where we are going:

  1. Go through planning with the learners. In a typical school design, charter or any other, a group of adults build a new school. The adults settle on a pedagogy. They find a facility. They recruit the students. With this school design, the adults are intentionally staying away from pedagogy, scope/sequence, curriculum, and transcript. The adults want to go through planning with the learners. This is going to happen by Corey Livieri and myself co-teaching a school design and Master Planning Process class with students in grades 7-12.
  2. Once the bus is donated, we’ll house it at Silverwood Park and have people (learners & all community members) convert the bus from diesel to biodiesel.
  3. Master Planning Process whereby the farm is turned into a Dane County park is ongoing, and will be finalized July-ish 2014. The students of Edgerton School District have a unique opportunity to be a part of this process.
  4. Planning/Implementation grant for developing a one-room school house at Silverwood Park will be submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Instruction by April 15 (lots, and lots, and lots of paperwork and meetings to occur before this is put into action; again, the students ((learners)) are driving this process and not being pulled along).
  5. Develop and implement an array of summer school programming for 2013-14
  6. Edgerton Educators Conference will take place August 1-4, 2014 at Silverwood Park.

Edgerton is on fire right now with learning. They went 1:1 with iPads. Last April, they crushed a referendum for facility updates to the tune of 72% approval. They brought in, and continue to bring in talent. But the culture of excellence needs to continue to grow on a daily basis, and we (I) need to put each child at the forefront. If we (I) envision a District of choice, then we need choices for all learners.

And if this goes…if this low floor, high ceiling, wide wall #school #design goes…then my kids, my beautiful daughters, and my other 6-hour a day kids, they’ll have a space.

And I will too. I will have a space to grow as an educator, explore the world as a learner, and tackle tough questions facing public education, democracy, and academia.

So I ask, can this be true? Can it be this easy? A lifelong educator passes away, she donates her farm to Dane County for educational purposes, a local school district sees possibilities for kids, families, and communities and then seizes the opportunity.

Can it be that simple?

Up until today, up until just a few moments ago, I had been holding back. School design is gut wrenching, it’s twice as hard as being dumped at the 8th grade Valentines Day dance while Boyz II Men plays. But to walk through a school created for kids who want to learn, lead, and dream; that is unlike anything else I can describe. It’s part wedding day, part birth of child, and part victory.



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Failure – When Facilitating PD Goes Wrong

“Failure is good.”

That’s something I say and write about often. 

But failure is painful. 

I just failed.

I was facilitating a Google Apps For Education (#GAFE) Intro to Drive for my colleagues. 

I didn’t fail to prepare.

I didn’t fail to identify the audience.

I didn’t fail to know my target.

But I failed.

I threw too much, too fast, and didn’t slow down.

Here’s the agenda.

My colleague absolutely nailed Google’s Forms. 

I however, was all over the place.

I could feel the room getting lost. I could feel their conversations. But rather than slowing down, taking a breath and adjusting to the moment, I surged through the fog and kept talking.

Faster. And faster. And faster.

Fortunately, my wife is also a colleague and on the same staff. As she was getting ready to face her kids at 7:50am, I said, “That was bad. Too much. Too fast, huh.”

“Yeah,” Emmy stated, “You just need to be more concise and stay on the topic.”

Growth is painful. What I felt immediately after the session was a comparison to my colleague who was concise and masterful in description of using Forms as a survey or formative assessment tool. What I thought immediately after the session was never again.

Never again will I present to the whole staff at 7am in a computer lab. 

Never again this.

Never again that.

I recoiled.

I wanted to go into my classroom and hide.

But then I realized I needed to drop my kids off at daycare.

Then I realized a sub was waiting to get into my building.

Then I realized I may, if I’m lucky, I may just get to do that again. Less than an hour out, and writing this is helping me to restore confidence.

I hope, I really hope I get another chance to do better- that’s why failure is good.

Failing sucks.

It’s hard.

I feel vulnerable.

I don’t want to be less than. I don’t want to be perceived as being bad at. But if I don’t put myself out their, then I’ll never get better at teaching, training, and coaching. 

This gig is tough, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to do what I get to do.

Finally, am I being vain or narcissistic for blogging this? Should this continue to go in my journal and only be seen by me? That’s my essential question for the day.

Enjoy the time with learners today! 


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Missing Advisory

I miss my kids.

The Kornerstone Krew. I miss Chris, Parker, Liz, Savannah, and Harlie-

I miss Green Bay. The Dragons of JDAL, I miss the Wizard, Iz-ak, and HalfSwag.

Opening circle.

Closing circle.

Learning and community are not the same without it.

That’s not to say anything against my current post, but something has to change.

I have to be a part of these kids lives in a way that I once knew.

I have to facilitate.

I have to plan with the kids.

The rubber band has snapped back. I’m seeing worksheets again. I’m hearing rumblings of kids getting points taken off for turning their head towards the back of the class.

The good news, and this I will be writing more about, is that we’re building again. My wife and I are once again a part of school/program design. Selfishly, a multi-age advisory is a must-have. It’s a non-negotiable. Sitting in a circle, getting better together, having student voice and choice as an essential school element; that’s the long view. That’s what will keep me in this.

What’s different though, I can’t step in for a year and leave.

Never again.

The students of Kornerstone School and John Dewey Academy of Learning will never know how much richer my life is because of them. The courage it takes to go on an adventure and join a new school in start-up in unlike anything else an adolescent learner can go through. To leave the familiar. To lead. To follow. To push. To listen.

I miss my kids. And yet, they are with me. They push me. They lead me. I am following them.

Can I listen?

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School Log – Day 1

It’s about rising at 4:45am

It’s about the excitement of getting to do the morning routine once again

It’s about tears- new beginnings sometimes lead to letting go

It’s a recognition of doing a job worthy of my full attention

It’s a recognition of  spending time with others who have listened to the calling and are serving it as a vocation

It’s a recognition of the privilege of having other parents trust us with their children

It’s being grateful for the journey

It’s being grateful for the new iteration

It’s being grateful for the opportunity to engage in such meaningful work and dedicating a live to improving society

Every child

Every hour

Every day

It’s about the kids

It’s a recognition of the kids

It’s being grateful for the kids

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