When the Wi-Fi Gets Turned On

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I have been fortunate enough to meet and learn from some of the (what I consider to be) forward thinkers when it comes to educational technology and technology integration in the country. While their delivery and presentation styles vary, there is one solid message that comes across loud and clear. We should not be using technology, just for technology’s sake. It is pedagogy first and technology second.  They go on to share examples of what would happen if a case of (insert device here) arrived in a classroom tomorrow and teachers were not prepared to deliver instruction with true technology integration. Having an (insert device here) show up, is having an (insert device here) show up just for technology’s sake. How are we as leaders preparing our teachers to deliver instruction that truly imbeds technology so they are prepared for when the (insert device here) does show up? A more difficult question may be, as a teacher, how open are you to learning how to embed or integrate technology into your classroom while you wait for the (insert device here) to show up? If it even does. 

If you are keeping up with recent trends regarding education and/or educational technology one of the hot topics is the access divide. This divide goes hand in hand with equality. How can we have equality among our students, classrooms, neighborhoods or schools without equal access? 

Recently the City of Plano has taken steps to address equal access by offering free Wi-Fi at all parks. In fact, they will become the first city in Texas to accomplish such. Now, I will be the first to recognize the fact that the vast majority of families today, impoverished or not have at least one device that can connect to Wi-Fi. Mission Accomplished…right? 

Plano to offer free Wi-Fi at all parks


Wrong. It is just the first step. What role does a school or school district play in offering free Wi-Fi or access to such? Is it the role of the school or school districts to supply the Wi-Fi or to educate it’s teachers, students and families to take advantage of the Wi-Fi, properly creating and delivering instruction and opportunities that allow students and families to do so. If a city or apartment complex knocked on my door tomorrow and announced that families would have unlimited access to Wi-Fi, would we be ready? 

As the school year slowly winds down and we (as a collective group of educators) begin to reflect on the year and begin to make plans for next year, how do we begin or continue to educate our teachers, students, parents and families on the appropriate use of technology and the effectiveness of integrating technology to support the pedagogy? How can we ensure that not if, but when the access divide closes, because at some point it will, our teachers, students, parents and families are equipped to take advantage? If we cannot grow the capacity in our teachers, increase their level of comfort and empower them to make the necessary changes to their instructional delivery, when the Wi-Fi gets turned on and the access divide is no longer a divide, it will be just for technology’s sake. 

What was your moment today? 

Now Hiring

Our staff conducted a survey at the beginning of the school year that reviewed our professional practices. We covered it all. We surveyed culture and climate, instructional practices, professional learning, collaboration and yes…hiring practices. What we discovered was that our core interview questions “as written” were not the type of questions we wanted to be asking the next generation of teachers for the students and families at Sigler Elementary. I firmly believe we should be hiring teachers that will help us reach our full potential. This means hiring teachers that are unlike the teachers we currently have. Now, there is nothing wrong with the teachers we have…in fact they are amazing. But…if we continue to hire exactly what we already have, will we evolve? Will we change? Will we improve? I appreciate the perspective new teachers or veteran teachers, who are new to a building bring to the campus. New perspective can help challenge status quo.

I have had the opportunity to sit on hiring panels when interviewing potential assistant principals, and one of the questions we ask is, “What is the most important responsibility of being an administrator?”Answers range from student safety to developing relationships to being an instructional leader. All of those answers are great. You could make an argument for each. In my opinion, the most important responsibility I have as a building leader is recruiting, hiring and retaining the very best teachers.

In order to recruit and hire the best teachers, I need our interview questions to evolve so we are asking potential teachers questions that reflect the teachers we want working with and for our students, teachers and community. Once we have have hired them, the retention piece is up to us.

Here is where you come in! I wish this idea was my own, but with many ideas in education, one person has it and the rest of us steal it, so in the spirit of transparency, I am stealing this idea. Last week, George Couros led a session at TCEA (Google Tools for Admin.) and in the midst of this session, he shared a Google Doc with those in attendance, which of course was tweeted and retweeted enough times to travel around the world twice. At least! The purpose of this Google Doc was to “collect some inspirational videos on teaching and learning”. I am not sure about you, but I know I have searched You Tube an endless number of times, looking for just the right video, but come up short, more than once. I know where my search will begin now. Thanks to this Google Doc. Check it out!

Now, back to where you come in. I need your voice. I need your experience and I need my PLN. As we work to reinvent the interview questions we ask, knowing we are trying to recruit and hire the very best, what interview questions are you asking? What interview questions have you asked? Let me know! As we begin to refine our questions, we may just use yours!

Use the link below to submit interview questions you have asked or have been asked that you feel help recruit and hire the very best teachers.

Click Here to Contribute Your Interview Questions

My Moment – Day 24 – 3 Questions

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I received a message via Twiter today from a teacher within my PLN who was pitching an idea she wanted my feedback on. After she shared her idea, she posed the following questions: 



“Wouldn’t that help build capacity in our teachers?” 
“Better together, right?”
“Would you be on board?”

Those three questions…I have been thinking about them since seeing them this afternoon. I completely respect this member of my PLN and am honored that she asked me for my input. I was inspired by her challenging the status quo. 
As I have had some additional time to reflect on her idea and even now as I am starring at the three questions she asked me, I am thinking, This teacher gets it! 
“Wouldn’t that help build capacity in our teachers?” 

This is the essence of leadership right? Building capacity within our teachers. Growing our people. It is a responsibility I fully embrace and recognize it cannot be done solely by the campus principal. Yes, I play a huge role in building capacity, but I appreciate this teachers stance. She recognizes the teachers as “our” teachers. Not mine and theirs, but ours. This question is one I need to ask myself daily. I would like my teacher leaders to ask this question daily. “Did I help build capacity in our teachers today?”
“Better together, right?”

You ever try to create a plan, articulate a vision and walk that vision out daily? On your own? How did that work out for you? I know it would not work out very well for me. This teacher is spot on. We are better together. This past week at #TCEA16, Steven Anderson shared, “You may be sitting next to the smartest person you don’t know.” We must do this work together. If we bring teachers together, knock down the barriers (aka…school walls) and allow teachers to collaborate with like minded individuals, we WILL be better together. No doubt about it. 

“Would you be on board?”

Absolutely! I would hope that would be the emphatic response from all school leaders. As a building leader, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure in trying to get people on board with ideas. Sometimes the ideas are mine, sometimes the ideas belong to someone else. At the end of the day, it is not about who had the idea, it is about who has the best idea. 

This teacher presented an idea that will without a doubt, be transformative, build capacity in our teachers and bring great teachers and great practices together, making us all better. You bet I am on board. 

Let’s do it! 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 22 – Connecting Your Campus

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Today was my final day in #ATX (hopefully for a while). While I absolutely loved the learning and connecting I am ready to be home.

Yesterday, I was able to present “Connecting Your Campus” at #TCEA16 and today I am witnessing the power of being on a “connected campus”.

Today is Global School Play Day 2016. A day dedicated to returning play to classrooms around the world. You can read more about #GSPD2016, but just know that over 170,000 students around the world learned in a different way today while at school. I could quickly begin another blog post about why everyday should be like this, but for the purpose of this post, I will spare you my soap box. The important thing to focus on is that students learned in a different way today. It was a day that had purposeful play and engage students in activities in each of our grade levels. The bad part…I was not there. However, at the same time…I was. Teachers across the building posted pictures and tweeted to the hashtag #GSPD2016 and I was able to keep up every step of the way.

Consider how many parents are interested in seeing what their children are doing in school throughout the day. Does your school give them an opportunity to see what their children are doing? Are you a connected campus?

While watching the videos and fun unfold through images is not the same as being in the classrooms seeing it, I was just as proud of our students and teachers for embracing the idea of #GSPD2016 and engaging students in activities that allowed them to play. I am excited to get back home and hear their feedback.

In the meantime, I thank each of our teachers from the bottom of my heart, for including me and all of the others who enjoyed your tweets today. Thank you for “connecting our campus”. See everyone tomorrow!

Check out some of the play that happened today at Sigler Elementary:

https://storify.com/matthew_arend/gspd2016-sigler-elementary

My Moment – Day 21 – Powerful Learning Network

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Ever have a day that just gets away from you? Good. Me too! Fortunately for you, since yesterday got away from me, you are going to have the pleasure of ready two posts in the same day from your’s truly. Enjoy! 

You hear people speak about the power of being a connected educator and the relationships you are able to develop with like minded individuals. I cannot disagree with them. In fact, yesterday both of the presentations I was a part of referenced the power of being connected. I know, you understand it. You are connected. How else would you have stumbled upon this blog post? However…after two days at #TCEA16 I am reminded that there are educators who are not connected. Do you know someone like that? Share this post with them. 

There is certainly power in being connected. My “PLN” or professional learning network (or POWERFUL learning network, as we referred to it in our presentation yesterday) continues to grow and expand. The best part…getting to meet members of your PLN for the first time face to face. I had a similar experience last year at TCEA15, which you can read about here: The Power of a PLN – My Personal Experience

As my “PLN” grows, I feel responsible for growing the network of others as well. It is my hope I was able to do that yesterday as I shared testimonies about #edcamp and being a connected educator from past and present teachers at Sigler Elementary. Be sure to give them a shout out and add them to your PLN. Next year, my goal is to bring teachers with me! 

PLN Members – @E_Sheninger @MattEndsleyTX@VealHeidi
@techwnancy & @R_H_Steele

@SOC54
@RobinStokes24
@MagdaJPorter
@StaceyFawley
@DeboerDo1
@SSchweikhard

As I mentioned, there are members of my PLN I am meeting for the first time face to face this week and then members I am reconnecting with that I have met prior. Either way, the power we can harness as connected individuals far exceeds the power of one and constantly challenges me to think differently about my roll as a principal and educator.

First time meeting @OTCVisser – Pictured Center

To be honest, I had several moments yesterday as relationships were strengthened, cultivated and in some cases, created by meeting someone for the first time.

What was your moment “yesterday”?

A couple more images of my PLN from #TCEA16

Long Time PLN Member: @ShawnaFord1, @tinaberumen@jess_malloy

First time meeting @menxueiro @Owl_b_TorresEdu– Pictured Center

My Moment – Day 20 – Applause

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

In the midst of back to back conferences in #ATX I managed to actually find one day at the end of last week to be on campus. You can read more about my day back by checking out My Moment Day 19. During a whirlwind of a day, I noticed a teacher that I could tell, was not having her “best day” at work. Despite my attempts to brighten her day, it was clear, she was defeated and just was not herself. Later in the day, she made her way by the office and we were able to talk for a moment about what was on her mind. The success of her students weighed heavily on her and a small group of her 4th grade students had just taken a quiz on fractions. Needless to say, the students did not do well. She was frustrated. She shared her thoughts with me and I did my best to listen to her concerns. She had tried teaching it in a number of ways. She taught using ways that allowed the students to be able to visualize the fractions, discuss fractions and use manipulatives with fractions and felt as if, based on the unit, students had an understanding of the concept. Evidently she was wrong. I hate being wrong. Who doesn’t. The good news, she realized work was yet to be done. After some reflecting, I knew she would return with a new plan and be ready to approach fractions in a different way on Monday. As she left we discussed some different approaches she could possibly take that may allow students to understand fractions. 

The weekend came and went and here I am, back in #ATX (Austin, TX) for #TCEA16. In the middle of my day, a brief moment in between sessions, I received a text message from the teacher referenced above. She had spent the weekend reflecting and came back stronger than ever. She came back with a mindset to change and approach fractions differently with her students. No worksheets, no workbooks, and new manipulatives. LEGOS! I love legos and guess what, students do to! If you look closely, students are working on equivalent fractions using Legos. It is not exactly how the curriculum was designed, but if students can make the connection using Legos, why not? 

 I applaud this teacher for a couple of reasons…

1. She recognized her first attempt in teaching a concept was unsuccessful. It is not always easy to admit or recognize that what we did as professionals did not work out. Again, who hates being wrong. We want to be right. We want things to work the first time. However, when they do not, how will you respond? This teacher responded with a new approach to teaching a topic she knew students were struggling to understand, she did not give up. 

2. She took a risk. She is using Legos to teach math, more specifically teaching fractions. How many teachers are willing to teach fractions with Legos? Teachers today need to be willing to do it differently. The workbook is not going to get it done. A worksheet is not what students want to do and if they do not want to do it, will they really learn it? I do not think so. 

Being completely honest and transparent, the students demonstrated an understanding of fractions today, but the true test will come when they return to school tomorrow and demonstrate the same understanding. If they do, hats off to the teacher for trying something different and finding something that worked. If they do not, then what? Do we quit trying and just move on or do we reflect and come back the following day, stronger than the day before? I know what my answer is, but what is yours? 

When teaching gets tough and the ideas we have or the curriculum we teach does not promote the success we seek, what do we do? Do you keep going or do you continue to find the moment? 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 19 – Sharing the Story

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Feels good to be home…even if it was for one day. 

Sandwiched in between the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute or #TXPVI and the Texas Computer Education Association Conference or #TCEA16 I returned home for one day on campus. Ever been on campus for two days, returned for one, before leaving for three more? That is the challenge I find myself in right now. 

Well knowing I had limited time on campus, I was in extreme “get it done” mode today. I answered emails, conferenced with staff members and teachers, sat in on parent meetings, returned phone calls, showed visiting teachers around our building discussing AVID, ate lunch with a student who had purchased the opportunity to do so from our school store, competed in a #mathfactchallenge with all of our @SiglerStars3rd grade students and just “caught up” with students and teachers I had not seen since Tuesday. I LOVE MY JOB! It was an awesome feeling to just go, go, go today. 

In the midst of my “get it done” mode, I happened to sit down at a table our parents use when they come and eat lunch with their children. (They eat with their children just outside the cafeteria.) It was no coincidence I sat down with this particular parent, as earlier in the week her daughter, a former Sigler student, had come back from middle school with her teacher and friends, to share their experiences with our 3rd-5th grade students about middle school and AVID. I wanted to share how proud I was of her daughter, which somehow led to a conversation about when her son would be able to eat lunch with me. We have a couple different ways students can eat lunch with the principal, which this mom was aware of and which her son, who was sitting with her was aware of as well. He had yet to have the opportunity, and as a 4th grader he felt as if he was running out of time. I pulled up a chair and continued to talk with him and his mom about all things Sigler. We talked about her younger children, my son, July birthdays, September birthdays and how I was retained in Kindergarten. (Another story for another day) 

As I was about to leave, mom shared her thoughts about our campus activity on social media. What mom did not know was that I am finalizing a presentation for #TCEA16 titled “Connecting Your Campus & Community Using Social Media”. She was sharing the exact message I wanted my audience to hear next week. I completely interrupted her and asked if I could record her sharing why she loved our social media presence. She said of course and now I have an awesome video testimony to share with my attendees next week at #TCEA16. It was perfect. The funny thing is, if I had not taken the #moment to sit down and speak with her, I would have never known what she was thinking. I would not have had the opportunity to listen and I would not have been able to eat lunch with her and her son. I would have completely missed my moment. 

The moral of the story…we all go through seasons of being off campus and I am in the midst of that right now. It does not matter if you only have a day or an hour, take the time to listen to your people…teachers, parents, students and staff. They all have a story and sometimes, if we find the right moment, the story they share will help the story we are trying to deliver. 

What was your moment today?