When words strike…

We are in the process of planning three new buildings in our school district. A new middle school, a new STEAM center, and a new elementary school. One of our architects mentioned a book during our last meeting. I like books. So I bought a copy of The Space: A Guide For Educators, by Rebecca Louise Hare and Dr. Robert Dillon.

I think the best way to describe the book, which is excellent, is as a workbook. Or as the title suggests, a guide for educators. We will use it as we begin ed specs on our new elementary school.

Early in the book, I hit these words.

It’s hard sometimes to figure out why certain words or phrases just hit you. These words just hit me. P.S. Students are humans. Those words got me thinking about all the different ways we consider students, or what students represent in the school structure. Test scores, FTE, gender, race, high-cap, special education, Title, homeless, free/reduced, and on and on.

It was good to be reminded simply that students are humans.


So are teachers.

So are administrators.

So are parents.

So are we all.

Fourteen Reasons All Educators Should Use Twitter!

As I was writing this blogpost, I retweeted the following and found a new colleague via Twitter!

“After 20+ years in teaching I had got to the point where I was coasting until I actively engaged with twitter. Thank you for inspiring me, encouraging me and pushing me. You made me a better teacher.” –Karen Knight

And now…the blogpost.

If anyone has read many of my previous blogposts, my sad story of Twitter is known. Might be typical for a lot of educators. When Twitter first reared its head, I was a junior high principal. I knew that Twitter was for movie stars and teenage musicians. I just knew it and I was pretty sure I was neither a movie star, nor teenage musician. So Twitter just sat there. Along around 2009 or so, I was hassled into getting an account for our school, via my principal role. I robustly tweeted out some school things on a blistering schedule of a tweet every couple of months to my tens of followers. I still didn’t get it.

Twitter was founded in March, 2006. Officially launched in July, 2006. Officially just sat there for me until about ten years later.

It turns out what needed to happen for me to get Twitter as a Learning Tool was that I needed to get a new job. Shake things up in my professional life and thinking. After 31 years in school buildings, I took on a new role at the district office. Executive Director of Teaching-Learning-Innovation. I had the chance to make a new department, where one didn’t exist. I was casting around for ideas…and found George Couros. On Twitter. And that was that.

I am now an evangelist for Twitter as a Professional Learning Tool For All Educators. And if I can convince just one educator to learn from my sad, slow tale of Twitter acceptance, I know that all of that educator’s teachers/students will be impacted in significant and positive ways.

Twitter has changed, challenged, and enriched my professional life and thinking. Full Stop. -Jeff Nelson, @jnelsontli

Here are Fourteen Reasons
All Educators Should Use Twitter!

  1. Get a new idea/activity/practice in seconds. Find it, think about it, implement it. Share how it went.
  2. Meet authors. Among the authors I’ve met and personally talked with, some of the biggies in our line of work. George Couros, Shelley Burgess, Beth Houf, and Tara Martin, among others! And though I haven’t met him yet, I’ve exchanged thoughts/ideas many times with David Geurin!
  3. Challenge your old thinking. Humbling. But exciting.
  4. Edchats. Twitter Chats. Whatever one wants to call them. A group of educators from around the world, digitally gather around a hashtag and a group of questions and share. My favorite is Saturday morning, 7:30 am (PST), #LeadLAP
  5. Find your voice. Share your voice.
  6. Amplify Your Why via others.
  7. In challenging or dull moments, reinvigorate. Find inspiration. Quickly, easily, and authentically available in seconds.
  8. Follow a real-time hashtag in your classroom to keep up on a current event/pop culture.
  9. From Beth Houf! “My number one reason would be the opportunity to showcase the amazing things that happen in classrooms and buildings each day. We are better together for sure!”
  10. From Tara Martin! “My number one reason would be to amplify impact and build connections with like-minded professionals. There are so many incredible things happening inside the walls of classrooms, but for all of us to peek inside the buildings of these outstanding EDUs and truly learn from each other, we must share openly! Twitter is a perfect platform to amplify the impact of educators around the globe. In the process of sharing and collaborating online, many times…lasting friendships are formed.” By the way, do yourself a HUGE favor and check out Tara’s Twitter 101 For EDUs!
  11. From Robert Kratzig, a real teacher in a real classroom, every single day! “Sharing Ideas / Collaboration – I am certainly not the only person in the world that teaches what I teach (even more true when I was teaching Social Studies), however it often feels like we’re all disconnected.  I was sure there was probably a social studies teacher out there doing something absolutely amazing, but I had no way to professionally meet them, connect with them, see those ideas, and discuss.  Twitter is that avenue!  I have gotten some of my best ideas, things to try or adapt, and just “ah-has” from posts I’ve read from what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.”
  12. Also from Robert Kratzig, “Perspective Shifting – People in other areas of the country or even just in other parts of Washington have different educational experiences and social constructs that led them to have different world views or philosophies of education.  I’ve been a Washingtonian my whole life, and I think that limited perspective is expanded by interacting and seeing posts from others around the world and the social, familial, and educational issues different communities are facing.”
  13. From David Geurin! “Twitter is a great place to get ideas and inspiration. It’s great being connected to fantastic educators from everywhere.”
  14. From The George Couros! “For me, it is the opportunity to provide a “world class” education by seeing what other teachers around the world do in their classrooms.”

I’ll add to this list as other great ideas come flying in to headquarters!

Bitmoji Image


My Why.

We had the chance to sit with a group of aspiring administrators last evening, discussing the advantages of a smaller school district. Along the way, the ever important discussion turned to the question of each leader’s ‘Why’. Why do we do what we do? For whom?

Hard to imagine that any educator’s why wouldn’t somehow be related to the picture above. This is a group of kids from our junior high school. It’s a great representation of Why.

I see Potential. Leadership. Opportunity. Challenge. Growth. Curiosity. Hope. Questions. Answers. Innovation. Wonder.

What do you see?

Not a big fan of the term ‘classroom management’.

I thought long and hard about the title of this blogpost. My first thought was, “I hate the phrase ‘classroom management’. That seemed too harsh. So I dialed it back a hair.

A gifted teacher, working her magic with her kids. ‘Classroom management’ is her loving, respectful style.

Stand back for a big announcement later in this paragraph. I was a middle school teacher for 16 years. Middle school, grades 6, 7, 8. Kids that were 12, 13, 14 years old. Earlier this week, we met with the staff at our middle school to talk about construction plans. I mentioned that when I was a middle school teacher, and I was out and about, I would tell people that I was a teacher. They usually found this charming and inspirational. Then I told them I taught middle school kids. And they usually expressed some form of horror and pity. Cracked me up everytime. Here’s the big announcement. Not intended to be bragging, but it is a fact. In 16 years as a middle school teacher, I sent one referral to the office. It wasn’t that my classes were perfect, that I didn’t ‘lose it’ sometimes, that kids behaved like little angels all time. Of course not. The kids were good, typical, middle school kids. Nope, it was that my ‘classroom management’ strategy entirely consisted of treating the kids with respect, having a sense of humor, laughing with the kids. We all knew that we all cared about each other, and when I was having a bad day, they graced me the time and space to do so. As I did for them. And that lasted for 16 years. I learned that being myself in the classroom was my best tool.

The words ‘classroom management’, in my opinion, are too cold. A teacher is not ‘managing a classroom’. He/she is working everyday, with kids. Human beings. Period. ‘Classroom management’ too often connotes ‘discipline’. Rules. Regulations. I think we make it too hard sometimes, as teachers. Treat the kids as you would want your own kids to be treated is a pretty good guideline.

By the way the teacher in the picture is a former student of mine at our middle school. And every teacher who has former students return to be colleagues knows what a thrill it is to see them in action, in the trenches, working with kids. That’s what I get when I cruise through her classroom! Smiling, laughing, respecting, and loving on kids.

Works every time.

Our educators continue to learn and read.

Recently each of our schools had the opportunity to do professional learning, based upon each building’s needs. We love that the bulk of our professional learning is directly tied to the individual needs of each school. We do all we can to avoid ‘top down professional development.’ The educators in our schools know the kids and know the kids’ needs best.

Here are a couple examples of recent events to drive home that our educators didn’t stop learning the minute they left college!

At one of our schools, teachers looked at What Great Teachers do Differently, The Innovator’s Mindset, The Power of Moments, and Who Moved My Cheese. This school called the activity Book Tastings. Served with treats and beverages, teachers sampled different books to determine which would suit their needs and interests!

At another one of our schools, educators reviewed Grit, How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms, and Classroom Management in the Digital Age. This school did a series of Book Chats. Broke into groups that rotated every 15-20 minutes. Had a variety of different activities for staff to get an introduction to each text.  Chats were led by TLI and building administrators. Teachers then made their selections via Google Form as to the text they want to read. The follow up will be a twitter book study, using #CJHreads in March. Also going to use a Padlet to have a digital dialogue with benchmarks for reading. All of this will launch next week and wrap up after spring break with a World Cafe activity!

Recently I had read a fantastic book, Grading for Equity. One of our principals asked to read it as well, based on the needs at his school. When I dropped the book off, he showed me the 2 or 3 books ahead of Grading for Equity. All books that the teachers had his school had been reading and were recommending to him.

Looking for a copy of this book!

Another great example of our dedication to continual learning centers on the book above. One of our teachers sent an email to her colleagues in her school looking for a copy of this book, based on the needs of her students. Then that request was shared with other building principals…then with entire other buildings’ staff members. All stemming from the request of a single teacher, wanting to learn more to help her kids in class. Amazing. But not surprising in our district.

It’s how we roll.