A plan comes together.

So we just completed our very first Podcast Interview with a learning leader!  Thank you to Mark Beddes, our principal at Surprise Lake Middle School…and his willingness to throw his learning out there for one and all to consider.  It’s a pleasure learning and leading along side of him.

We’d welcome feedback on this podcast!

One of our goals, is to ask the same 3 questions of learning leaders around the USA and beyond.  We first need to figure out how to record an interview on the phone, but that’s a neat learning opportunity.  If anyone has experience or a suggestion along those lines, please fire away!


Speaking of simple ideas…

We have started doing TLI podcasts now.  3 podcasts officially qualify us as grizzled podcasters with a listening audience of at least 5.  But everything must start somewhere.  And as with blogging…the learning comes in the doing.  We’re simultaneously learning how to do a podcast, flaws, mistakes, and all….and thinking out loud.  Both pretty good exercises.

Our latest idea for podcasting is a series of brief interviews with learning leaders in our district.  We will ask the following questions, and record the answers.  Should be pretty cool to hear what people have to say.  We want to interview a whole bunch of people to get a wide range of ideas and thinking.

Stay tuned!

Here are the questions!

Podcast Questions for Learning Leaders in Fife

  1. Introduce yourself, background, time in our district.

  2. How do you continue to grow and learn professionally?  How do you model your growth and learning?

  3. What excites you most about being involved in education at this time?

  4. What is a book or resource you’d recommend to other learning leaders?  Why?


Sometimes the simplest ideas…

Caught this gem on twitter this morning!

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 7.23.24 AM.png

Holy.  Cow!  The simplest ideas have layers and layers.  Promote and model learning to kids and teachers…and anybody walking by.  Yowzers.  And…bet that anybody walking by will want to know more about Culturize, which is an excellent book by the way!

Thanks Evan, Jimmy, and Dave!

And this is why twitter continues to be my best source of professional learning.

Oh by the way:

Mr. Nelson is currently reading:

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 7.26.46 AM.png

Great book by Paul Solarz!



Lead Like a Pirate. Please.

Two recent developments here at TLI (Teaching-Learning-Innovation) headquarters.  One, I read Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf.  Safe to say the book had a huge impact on me.  In fact, we bought 25 copies and are using it as the basis of our building leadership retreat this summer.  And two, the following quote rang so true to me, I decided I better think about it for awhile and see if it kept ringing.  It did.  Time to write about it some.

“A seismic shift seems to occur when moving from the classroom into a position of educational leadership. People look at you differently. They treat you differently. They think you have sold out. They no longer see you as an educator, but as a paper-pushing “administrator.” They believe you have crossed over to the dark side and have become one of “them” instead of one of “us,” and oftentimes they see you as no longer having the ability to make a life-changing impact on the lives of kids.”


I’m sure most people that have taught and then made the move into administration will recognize the quote.  And probably have heard comments, joking or otherwise, along the lines of, “Well you got out of education.”  “You wanted the big bucks.”  “When was the last time you were actually in a classroom?”  “He sure has lots of great ideas for us.  I wonder if he’d do any of them.”  And so on.

Let’s address those comments, shall we?

My strong suspicion is that very few, if any administrators feel they ‘got out of education.’ Speaking for myself, I am more aware of the great possibilities afforded kids via great teachers and great education than ever.  I had to leave the classroom to get a broader and deeper view of the possibilities, then figure out how to use my new principal role,  then district office role to make as many possibilities for kids and teachers come to life.  I had/have hands on better levers to make those moves.

The big bucks?  Nah.  They’re bigger, sure.  But not that much bigger for all the stuff that principals get to deal with.  My good friends would walk by my office on one of ‘those days’ that all principals know, and just shake their heads.  They wouldn’t touch the job, for any amount of money, on one of ‘those days’.  Psst….what they don’t realize is that once you run one of ‘those days’ successfully….they’re kind of a rush, especially if you haven’t goofed anything up and still hold all the cards.

Good principals are in the classrooms as often as possible.  And great principals don’t need to walk into a classroom to know when good stuff is happening.  They know because they stand outside the door and listen and watch.  They talk to kids.  They talk to parents.  They talk to teachers.  Being in the classroom confirms and offers opportunity for richer and deeper conversations.  And frankly, the way I judge people who have left the classroom is…do I think they can still walk into a classroom and knock kids on their fannies?  Can I tell they have not lost their teacher chops?  It’s not that hard to figure out.

And the last one, most importantly.  Good leaders, once they leave the classroom, find a bigger classroom, be it a school or a district, and MODEL what they are learning, failure, warts, mess ups and all.

Each job I’ve had in education has been my favorite.  Including the one I have now.  But it is only fun because of the rich experiences and reflection I’ve done along the way.

On we go.

A podcast? Huh?

Well edchats can be dangerous things.  I had the chance to check out an edchat this weekend, following the hashtag #10principles. This was a great chat, which included the authors of the book The Principled Principal: 10 Principles for Leading Exceptional Schools by Jeffrey Zoul and Anthony McConnell. One of the questions in the chat was about how to share your school’s story. Ian Rockey answered that his school utilized a podcast.

Boom!  Successful edchat.  I hadn’t considered a podcast as a way to share a message and reflect on the thinking and work we’re doing in the TLI department.  Of course, I hadn’t considered twitter or blogging either as we were kicking this department into gear 3 years ago.  Now I can’t imagine my professional life without them.  Twitter and blogging have opened up and enriched my professional life more than I can describe.

So….wanting to model risk, innovation, likelihood of failure, and the possibility of learning, I did some quick research.  I googled ‘create a podcast’.  And found this link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/how-to-make-a-podcast.  I followed its instructions pretty much to a T.  And thus this now exists: https://www.buzzsprout.com/174555/.

Pretty clunky and rambling first effort, but it sure felt like my toes were hanging over the edge of a precipice.  Let’s see what happens next!

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 9.06.46 AM

Have your kids try this today.

Want to get them up and moving?  Want to see what’s on their minds?  Want to spark a little creativity?

Try this.

Set a timer for 1 minute.  Have the kids look around the room at everything, including you and each other.  Have them generate 5 questions. Then give them 10 minutes to find the answers to those questions.  Then have them share their favorite question and answer combination with the class.

Questions like:  How do you make a window?  Where do those learning target things come from?  When did you start drinking coffee?  What is that kid’s name over there?  Why is that class on the other side of the wall always laughing so much? Why are we doing this?

Of course you could direct the type of questions to be about content.  Questions like: is anybody else confused about number 12?  I’d love to share my ideas about finding slope, anybody interested? How did the order of the amendments happen?  How tall was Abraham Lincoln?  How tall was his hat?

You could refer to homework.  You could refer to an upcoming piece of content.  And of course, you probably need to set some kind of expectations for the appropriate types of questions. Ones that don’t hurt anybody or embarrass anybody.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 7.40.16 AM

There is NO reason to not develop a Professional Learning Network (PLN)

Here are just a few quotes from some smart people about making oneself available to learn and grow via a Professional Learning Network.

“Isolation is now a choice educators make.”
George Couros

“To have thousands of fellow minds in your pocket via mobile devices is to have an immensely unfair advantage over humans who think alone.”
Kevin Honeycutt

“Being a connected educator is the single most important thing I’ve done to transform how I teach. I have gathered and tried new ideas. I’ve learned, asked questions, and developed an amazing online, professional learning network.”
Matt Miller

“I realized two important things at this conference. First, as leaders, we must take time to engage in specific learning opportunities that help to improve our craft. We spend so much time in our positions working to help provide learning and growth to our staff that we forget about developing ourselves specifically in our roles. Secondly, I was introduced to the incredible power of a professional learning network (PLN) to combat the isolation of leadership. Until that moment, I thought Twitter was just another social media tool to keep up with what the celebrities were up to at the moment. PIRATE principal Jay Billy taught me the ins and outs of using Twitter as a tool to connect and gain access to 24/7 free professional development.”
Beth Houf

And here’s proof of the power.  This morning several colleagues and I were talking about ‘fidelity.’ Did asking educators to attend closely to new materials mean we didn’t trust them?  In reading Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf, a cogent argument could be made to that point. However, we didn’t feel like that was from where we were coming.  Trust was not the issue compelling ‘fidelity’.  So we used the power of Twitter and our PLN to reach out to both of the authors.  And we heard back from both.  Consider that.  These two authors have roughly 73,000 followers between them on Twitter. And we felt comfortable sending along a message with our thinking on ‘fidelity’, and they were kind enough to reach back.  Amazing.

Here’s the exchange:

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 9.39.16 AM.png

This would NOT have happened 4 years ago for me.  I didn’t get the power of Twitter or a PLN.  I thought Twitter was simply to take pictures of stuff and share it to 33 people.  Wrong.  And dead wrong.

If you are not making use of Twitter and a PLN, you are in danger of becoming illiterate.  And it’s by choice.  A little harsh, I realize, but I’m living the life of ongoing, on demand, learning, after 34 years in the education racket.  And it’s wonderful.