In the throes of change…



  1. intense or violent pain and struggle, especially accompanying birth, death, or great change.

Not sure which of those ideas is most on my mind as I write this morning, but here is what prompted my writing. I think I’m in the throes of change, absent the birth/death part.

Two worlds collided. One, I’m reading Transforming Libraries-A Toolkit for Innovators, Makers, and Seekers, by Ron Starker. So far, so good. I’m hoping to get some good ideas for three of our ongoing building projects. A new middle school, a new elementary school, and a new addition to our high school.

Image result for transforming libraries by ron starker

Hit this quote by Mr. Starker, “Those libraries offering only access to information will most likely perish, while libraries offering members the opportunity to build, create, problem solve, collaborate, network, innovate, and learn lifelong skills will become innovation hubs and critical change social institutions that carry us through times of turbulent change.”

I absolutely agree with this. Libraries are critical in our world, in schools, and for kids.

So I’m reading this book. And I get a message from a colleague about an article from Sydney, Australia, March, 2019, titled, ‘Major distraction’: school dumps iPads, returns to paper textbooks’.

Frustration was my first response. My assumption was that the sender of the message saw this as some kind of victory over change, over kids using technology in schools. Probably an unfair assumption. I make a lot of those. And I love that colleagues send me stuff to read.

And the frustration went away pretty quickly. Any change will happen in fits and starts. The quote about libraries above seems definitive in my opinion. Ultimately, for example, “…Google’s digitation project will greatly help libraries and will bring back thousands of out-of-print books, creating universal access that will ultimately benefit authors and readers alike.”

Reading the article made several things clear.

The ‘dumping’ of the ipads was to eliminate distraction from popups during reading. I suppose that’s kind of reasonable, but popups can be eliminated in other ways. However, the ‘dumping’ was also addressed. “The school will also phase out iPads and begin a bring-your-own device policy with a preference for laptops.”

Oh. Bring your own device, with a preference for laptops. That seems good.

Throes of change. Fits and starts. Intense or violent pain and struggle. Great change.

Bring it on.

Happy last day of school!

Here’s the thing that people who don’t work in schools don’t get. Teachers and kids are READY and have earned a summer break. Until you have worked in a school, you may not understand that fully. There does come a point of officially winding down, refreshing, and moving to next. That’s one of the things that happens during summer break.

When I was a middle school teacher, sometimes we’d be concerned about the 7th grade class. And usually we’d be concerned about the maturity level of the boys. Our wise principal said, “The best thing about 7th grade boys is the summer between 7th and 8th grade. They’ll come back as different people.” The first couple times I heard this…I was skeptical. Then it happened. And it happened again. And it happened everytime.

Then I went to another school with older kids. And the same kind of worrying was heard about the ‘next class’. And I’ll be darned if something didn’t happen to those kids in the ‘next class’ over the summer.

My money is on the fact that they did grow up a little. But the concerns were always expressed at the end of the year. when everybody is tired and ready for a break. Then we go away, refresh, regroup, and come back fired up. And the kids rise to the expectations of next.

So enjoy your well earned summer break everybody. We’ll see you back, ready to grow, learn, laugh, cry, and change some more next year!

Mr. Nelson is now reading books by Tom Hierck

Here’s a pretty cool thing. Our school board president recommended an educator/writer to me. The educator’s name is Tom Hierck. Looks like he and I are of the same vintage. He fired up his career in 1983, I fired up mine in 1984. As I read Tom’s work, I find myself nodding a lot and highlighting big chunks of text. Those are good signs that I’ve hit ideas that challenge me. I try not to spend too much time highlighting everything with which I agree. Not as much growth potential there. I like the tougher stuff better.

I first read Managing Unstoppable Learning. Great book, highly recommended.

Image result for managing unstoppable learning

When I write ‘whoa’ that’s usually an idea that challenges me. Example:

Now I’m reading Starting a Movement.

Image result for starting a movement

Just underway in this one. Through reading, I get introduced to Lyle Kirtman. Mr. Kirtman shares a list of 7 competencies for high-performing leaders in education. I wanted to share them via this blog today:

  1. Challenges the status quo
  2. Builds trust through clear communications and expectations
  3. Creates a commonly owned plan for success
  4. Focuses on team over self
  5. Has a high sense of urgency for change and sustainable results
  6. Commits to continuous self-improvement
  7. Builds external networks and partnerships

I am excited to read on and learn more about each of these competencies, while considering them about myself as a leader, as well as my leadership colleagues.

I love my job.

Good day all!

I need a year to fly by quickly please.

We’re registering for DBC Con, in San Diego, in June, 2020. Yep, can’t even make airline reservations at the moment.

But good Lord. The lineup of authors and thought leaders blows. my. mind. The DBC house of authors is ridiculous. I ran out of room on a tweet I sent out expressing my fan-like excitement for this conference. More authors than I could fit on a single tweet. That is a sweet problem to have.

I was thinking about a question I’d like to ask each author listed above. I suppose I’d like to know what each has learned AFTER her/his book was published? What was learned from peoples’ reactions, as they traveled around and met guys like me? What would be added to or changed from the original thinking?

Anyway. I can’t wait. It’s bananas how excited I am about this Pirate Con.

See you all in San Diego!


Tweeted this recently, “The outdated model of a silent classroom as a sign of learning is long gone. Instead, teachers and school leaders listen for the hum and buzz of students as they explain ideas, justify their thinking, pose questions to one another, and make decisions with classmates.” -Frey/Fisher

The idea really hit me as we were working with a group of adults.

We hummed, buzzed, explained, justified, posed questions, and made decisions. Just like we want kids to do. Silence would have produced nothing but silence.

The cool thing is that the outstanding educators in our district know this and do this!

Got me thinking.

John Ratko, the principal that hired me for my first teaching job!

We are smack in the middle of planning our brand new middle school. One of the cool things I get to do is be the district liaison guy for all of our building projects. The fellow on the left above is John Ratko. He was the second principal at the original middle school, and is currently the most senior principal from that school still alive. He also is the guy that hired me in 1984 to be a US History teacher at the middle school. His heartfelt job offer still rings in my ears, “Well Nelson, I’m probably making a mistake, but I’m going to offer you the job.”

35 years later I’m still in the same district, now on my 4th different role, and John is long retired.

Last week I gave him a call and invited him to join us for the groundbreaking at the new middle school, being built on the same site. He accepted and we chatted a bit. One of his comments caught me off guard and got me thinking. He said, “You know, SLMS isn’t where my heart is. I’ll have FHS on my tombstone.” Then he talked about the fact that he was hired as a teacher at the high school, and eventually became the principal there, before finishing his last 12 years as the principal at the middle school.

I was surprised how he described the middle school vs. his time at the high school. Then, as I thought about it, I realized I was the same way. My first job was at the middle school. It’s where I met most of my longterm colleagues, who became personal friends. We experienced marriages, kids, births, deaths together. And John was the principal who hired most of us. That’s where my heart is. I loved my time at the other schools, especially our junior high school, where I was the planning principal, opened the building, and was its first principal for 12 years. But if push came to shove, I’d have to say my heart is still at my first school. Weird. Never thought of it until John made that comment.

Not sure why I decided to write about this brief interaction with one of my education heroes, but it was still banging around in my head, which is usually a sign for me that I should write about it. I’ll be forever grateful to John for hiring me in Fife. My roots here are now beyond deep. I love our district, and especially my first school.

Where does your heart live?

As sure as the sun is going to rise…

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Kids these days, boy I’m tellin’ you.

Question. Does the general pattern hold that every generation bemoans the state of the next generation? That ruination and despair will fall upon the land when ‘these kids are in charge’?

I’m pretty sure the answer is yes. That’s the pattern. The fellow below is the source of the quote above. Socrates. Had it up to here. Kids these days. In 400 BC. Slays me.

Anybody else feel a little sorry for us when we don’t recognize that we’re among a generation that was most recently lamented? Now it’s our turn to lament.

My dad, a 40+ year teaching veteran once commented about kids, “When you don’t find junior high kids funny anymore, it’s time get out. They’re not going to change.”

It’s possible that it’s not the kids. It might be us. It was me.

I recognize this as a former principal. I found myself losing patience with pretty normal concerns. I’d just addressed them so many thousands of times already. It was NOT about the person with the concern. It was me. I needed a change. So I took a chance with a new gig. Helped a lot. New reservoir of patience. New things to ponder.

So as we wander through our careers, working with kids and parents, when we start to lament, maybe do a check. Is it actually the kids/parents…..or us?

I sure miss when kids used to stand when elders entered the room though.