And there’s joy.

Our district recently held its annual Life Skills Kickball game. My friend, Elaine Smith, captured a whole bunch of pictures of kids, grown ups, and joy.

Sometimes, in the day to day business of school, one might forget the opportunities to experience joy. Doesn’t cost anything or much, and can be a choice.

We celebrated our Unified teams, with kickball, and the experience of joy.

Good day at work.

Thanks to Cami for this joyous blast from the past!

What would your word cloud tell you?

Caught this article this morning It talks about student led discussions. It also reminded me of the great quote, “Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning.”

Hard to hear, but Tip #1 is, “Stop talking so much and make time for inquiry.” This also reminds me of another quote, “Is talking teaching, is listening learning?”

Kind of amazing how many tangents a challenging article will create.

Kids getting ready to do the talking.

Speaking of tangents. I recently did a word cloud of 3 of my favorite blogposts. Ten Tips for New Teachers, Ten Tips for Principals, and Top Ten Learning Quotes. Here are the results. Lots of words about teachers, kids, students, principal, classroom, learning, and for some reason, the word ‘always’. I don’t think of myself as an ‘always’ kind of guy. In fact, I always bristle when I hear someone refer to something has always been a certain way in our district. Our district has been around for over a hundred years. Something has always been? I have the same reaction to the word ‘never’. We’ve never done this? Really?

I digress.

The odd word cloud result of ‘always’, got me thinking about a verbal word cloud over the course of a typical day in the life of an educator.

What would our top ten dominant words be? Would they match up with what we would hope or want them to be?

It would be great if my word cloud was: love, patience, grace, caring, dedication, kids, students, teachers, families, hope, and so on.

I am curious to know what it would actually show. I would be willing to bet I wouldn’t be super proud of what it showed. Need to think about that some more.

The gift of time.

Somewhere in a box is a poster my dad gave me when I was in junior high. It was one of those kind of glowy, 70s posters, with sunlight coming through a twisty tree. The message, however, sticks with me to this day. “Be patient with yourself. Grow in your own way, in your own time.”

Caught the message below yesterday. Kind of the same idea. Thanks to Rita Wirtz for sharing.

Sometimes it does seem like we’re in a rush. We have so ‘much to cover’, ‘so much to do’. I like reminders that arrive to remind us to slow down as adults. And to let a kid grow at a personal pace.

I’m a grandfather now. Being a grandfather sure lets one see things through a different lens. A slower, less frantic lens. Time is a gift for a grandparent. I like a reminder that it’s a gift for a kid too.

The Marshall Memo

One of the first things I did when I moved from the role of building principal, and after spending 31 years in buildings, was gather resources, connections, and networks to challenge my thinking beyond all that I knew and thought I knew from that long stretch of time.

One of the resources I found was the Marshall Memo. I’ve signed up for Kim Marshall’s weekly memo. He culls through a ton of resources, identifies articles of wide interest, provides a brief summary, and sends it along. Every week. And every week I find something of value. On occasion I’ll share part of what I’ve learned that week.

This week is no exception. This morning I learned about ‘Stay Interviews’.

“Stay Interviews” – A Proactive Strategy on Teacher Attrition

            In this article in The Learning Professional, consultant/coach Kathy Perret says exit interviews give leaders insights on why people are leaving their jobs, leading to improved working conditions. But “stay interviews” are a better idea, she says: asking staff members how they are feeling about their jobs and what they need to happily remain in the school. “Such reflective, one-on-one conversations between teachers and school leaders,” says Perret, “are critical for nurturing a healthy school culture, and stay interviews can show staff that you are invested in them for the long term.” 

            Perret recommends making the interviews voluntary, choosing questions appropriate to the school, and stressing that the chats are confidential and aimed at making things better for staff and students. Some possible questions:

–   What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?

–   If you were to consider leaving this position, why would that be?

–   Describe your ideal school.

A middle-school principal in Texas was surprised when a number of teachers immediately signed up after she floated the idea of stay interviews. The conversations were “amazing for my soul,” she said, providing valuable insights on changes that needed to be made. Teachers said they were grateful for the opportunity to share their perspective. 

            Perret recommends working with an instructional coach or another member of the leadership team to organize teachers’ suggestions (anonymously) by topic, analyzing them looking for trends and Aha moments, discussing the findings with the staff, and deciding on a few immediate changes (quick wins) and longer-range initiatives. “After these steps,” she says, “leaders and coaches should monitor the changes over time and collect artifacts to share with staff about progress and areas in continuing need of improvement.” 

“Want to Retain Teachers? Ask Them What They Need” by Kathy Perret in The Learning Professional, February 2023 (Vol. 44, #1, pp. 10-11); Perret can be reached at

As we continue to unknot the challenges from the pandemic, and there are many challenges, and they are real, it is part of everyone’s role to attend to the needs of the people who carry the weight of our work. Teachers. And seeking out teachers’ input on what is right and good in buildings to build upon makes so much sense. It’s easy to find the difficult and challenging, but do we ever ask what is good, helpful, and possible?

Here’s an opportunity to do just that. Stay Interviews.

It’s still just a tool.

Caught this as part of a tweet this morning. From Rob Lennon. A Wharton professor requires his students to use ChatGPT. Here are the rules for its use:

This is a solid policy, in my opinion. My favorite bullet is the last one. It’s a tool. Great for some uses, terrible for others, emerging as a tool. We’ve had that stance in our district for a long time. Sometimes a pencil is the best tool for the job at hand. Or a device. Or ChatGPT. Or…..

Learning how and when to employ a tool is a skill as much as anything else.

“Learning to use AI is an emerging skill…” I like this too. Let’s not run away. Let’s not be afraid. Let’s not ignore. Let’s embrace, learn, control, build, imagine, scheme, and grow.

“Be thoughtful about when this tool is useful.”

Sounds about right.

Once again, a simple idea.

Photo via Twitter

Here we have a great picture of kids studying, working, and learning in a group. Reading books of choice in a Holocaust unit. 8th graders. Picture and lesson design shared by Dr. Jacquie Duginske.

Check out the bulletin board behind the kids. That immediately caught my eye. I have a propensity to look at all the stuff in a picture. That board jumped out big time. I believe an entire doctoral program could be used to study that which teachers choose to adorn bulletin boards. The choices are just amazing. This one is a beauty. Is beauty.

“Take what you need”

Humility, hope, love, self-control, kindness, peace, patience, confidence.

I reached out to Dr. Duginske to ask about the board. Here’s what she said, “Yes, the teacher puts quotes in each envelope for students to take when they need one.” I love this idea.

My teacher heart and mind just started cranking additional ways to use this idea. Kids create the SEL areas for quotes. Kids find and fill the quotes. Kids take the quotes they need. Quotes in other languages. Pictures.

Such a simple, beautiful, elegant idea.

Taking what I need.

Took a minute.

Had a few minutes this morning before various events, visits, and meetings. Headed to TweetDeck. Found 3 ideas/quotes that caught my attention and challenged me to think.

Good way to start the day.

Idea one:

I have seen this idea before. It sure seems like a great way to start any meeting. I know we have done this very activity in our TLI department. Wrote cards to various colleagues. Of course, the cards were well received and appreciated. I also know from my teacher/principal experience that feelings would be amplified when the cards/messages are sent to kids or to kids’ caregivers/families. Thank you Emma Pass for this one!

Idea two:

I just love this idea. In our district, we start with relationships. Peers, colleagues, kids, families/caregivers. The teaching and learning act remains a human endeavor. Tools are always flying at us to dehumanize the presentation of information and facts. They can’t replace the relationship between a teacher and a kid. Thank you Kimberly Kindred for this one!

Idea Three:

“It’s very simple. You just need to be a completely different person.”
-Michael Fung, then principal of Charlestown High School in Boston, to a second-year teacher who was still struggling with classroom discipline. Fung, who also served as principal of Taft Middle School and as a central office leader, passed away last month. (Marshall Memo, 2.7.23)

I’m still pondering this idea. My initial, gut reaction was to push back. Then I thought about different experiences I have seen in classrooms. I don’t know about being ‘a completely different person.’, but I do know that the counsel I offered in some cases was that to expect a change in anything, while doing exactly the same thing, was likely folly. So something had to change. I also strongly believe that the best teachers are pretty much the same people in and out of class. I also think about the idea of ‘fake it until you make it’. So I don’t have any final, cool thoughts on this seemingly simple quote. Ain’t that great? It’s got my mind rumbling around, arguing with itself. To make it better, I need to talk with others about it. Probably why I emailed this quote to three different groups of colleagues.

Ok, off to a meeting.

Every day brings a new opportunity.

From the new FHS STEAM Center, photo credit: Rachel Elder

A good friend of mine made this photograph this morning. Her son has a zero hour class, so they were at school really early today. The photo is from our newly completed, and recently opened STEAM Center at Fife High School. Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. A gift from our community to its children and the people who work with them. Possibilities, dreams, action, plans, innovation, discovery, failure, challenge, triumph–all possible here, every day.

In addition to just being a stunning picture, a reminder of the beautiful area in which we work and live, it also reminded me of the power of every day and opportunity.

Reminds me of this great line:

“Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”

L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Always a tomorrow, to make new mistakes, new learnings, new discoveries.

As sure as the sun is going to rise.

As kids are leaving the classroom.

A message to students as they leave a classroom.

Saw a tweet from Zac Bauermaster last week. The image above was a part of the message. Got me thinking.

Thinking about upcoming professional learning sessions. Of any kind. Or any upcoming meeting. I’m wondering:

What would our message be for our students as they leave our classrooms?

Be safe!

Make good choices!

See you tomorrow!

You matter so much to me!

Ask questions!

Be curious!

Be somebody’s friend!

I’ll miss you until you come back!

Did we laugh today?

Did we learn today?