Saturday, October 30, 2010

True Effective Teachers Teach Students, Not Subjects

I just purchased the Dalai Lama’s new book My Spiritual Journey. Like many of his other writings, this one is full of wisdom. In a section entitled “In Our Blood, a Vital Need for Affection” he states:

“If a teacher doesn’t limit himself to academic teaching, if he also takes on the responsibility of preparing his students for life, they will have respect for him and confidence in him. The things they learn from him will leave an indelible print in their minds.Conversely, subjects taught by someone who doesn’t care about his students’ well-being will be of only passing interest to them and will soon be forgotten.”

When I think for just minute about the teachers who heavily impacted my life, everyone that comes to mind were teachers who more interested in me rather than my test scores.

The whole problem with today’s “accountability culture is that it’s generating a culture where a student’s score on the latest standardized test becomes more important than individual student needs and interest.

The Dalai Lama’s remarks reminded me of my third grade teacher. I was fascinated with science, and she encouraged us to have class discussions about our own experiences with the world. It was not about memorizing and test preparation. It was about her guiding us to a scientific understanding of the world. I learned much more about science that year.

Then, there was my sixth grade teacher. I remember how excited she acted when students brought into her classroom fish, insects, reptiles, amphibians and anything else that could crawl or walk, even fly. She asked endless questions about these natural treasures, often prompting more than one student to go to the library to look up information so that she could answer her questions. She also frequently asked students to write original stories, fiction and nonfiction, to share with classmates. She always delighted in what every student wrote, and once even told me I would make an excellent writer someday. Her unrelenting interest in me was much more than test scores and how we did in the subjects she taught. She was genuinely engaging students, not subjects.

Later, I encountered Mr. - - - - , my geometry teacher. He taught the only math class in which I have ever made an A. While I learned a great deal in his class, what I remember most from his class was his “joke of the day” that was always extremely corny, but it never failed to solicit laughter. This action made him human to his students, and said to us, “Yes there’s geometry, but there’s also life out there.” He used geometry to teach us bout life, not the other way around.

What did all my most influential teachers have that make them still stand out to me today? Each of these teachers taught me, not a subject. In those days, of course, there were no standardized tests checking up on my performance or their teaching, but in that time you still had teachers who taught subjects rather than their students and those teachers and what they taught does not easily come to mind.

I think this is the distinction that the Dalai Lama makes in the above statement.  As teachers, we must never get entangled in subjects and test scores to the point that we forget we are teaching students. When the academic becomes more important than “preparing students for life,” our true impact on our students’ lives will be minimal. True teachers teach their students about life, and that impact is eternal.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fossils, Technology, and Leadership

I have read all the predictions about the"death" of the desktop and laptop. All the predictions say there's a migration to smart phones and handheld devices. In that spirit, this old digital immigrant educator is composing this blog post from my Droid phone using the app, Blogger-droid, while standing on parking lot duty. How's that for multitasking?

While I'm reluctant to place a great deal of faith in tech predictions, my being able to post this to my blog from a device while standing in a parking lot shows the unending promise of all-the-time Internet access. With my Droid, I can do everything that I'm able to from my PC.

I have conversations every day with school leaders who still shun technology. They barely use a cell phone. Mention Twitter and Facebook, their eyes glaze over, and their brow furrows deeply. I don't even have to guess their thoughts. "That stuff is useless and only causes problems." Any thought of using this technology is dismissed immediately.

Describing school leaders who have failed to embrace technology and this ever-connected world as "irrelevant" seems weak to me. What comes to my mind is the word" fossil." Perhaps our admonition should say, "Don't be a fossil." I say that with all love and respect, but there is greater lesson in all of this. We, and I speak to myself as well as all school leaders, don't really have choice. Disruption is happening all around us. No amount of policy and rules is going to prevent the all-the-time-connected world from moving forward.

Well, parking lot duty is ending and it's time to go back in the building, but here's a final though that occurs to me. I like this being connected everywhere. I can certainly understand why our students like it too. At least I'm a fossil who is always connected.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.4

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Democratic Reps Propose Bill to Tie Teacher Evaluations to Test Scores

Democratic Representative Jared Polis of Colorado and Democratic Representative Susan Davis of California have proposed a bill that would basically require states to tie teacher evaluations to test scores. Check out Stephen Sawchuk’s “Teacher Beat” article at Education Week for more details about this legislation. It is amazing to me that the political party that has in the past always been friendly to educator concerns has decided to take up the failed accountability policies of the Bush administration.

There was a time when educators looked to the Democratic Party as Champions of Education. Now, that party seems to have taken up the failed policies of the Bush Administration.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

5 Must Have Android Apps

For two months now, I have been exploring the use of my Droid 2 phone, and testing applications. I think that is the key to making a smartphone useful is finding those applications that allow you do what you want to be able to do. That’s a no-brainer. Here’s my current shortlist of applications.


At the current time, I live out of my Dropbox folder. This has to be one of the most versatile applications yet. I have it installed on my work computer and my personal laptop, and being able to save my work to this folder, and have it available on my other computers is amazing. I haven’t even begun to fully test the sharing capabilities, but as a tool to make sure my most useful files are accessible anytime, this program makes that happen. Now that I’ve installed Dropbox on my Droid 2, I can even view files anywhere I go. If I’m in a meeting and I need to look at a letter I typed earlier, I have access to it immediately. For more information about the PC version, check their Web Site here. There are versions of Dropbox for the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry. For information about Dropbox for these devices, check the Web Site here.


Quickoffice is highly useful application that allows me to access MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, and PDF documents using my Android. I can also create, edit, and view documents created by the popular MS Office Suite. While I am increasingly using Google Docs, I still have a great deal of documents in those formats. By having this application on my Droid, along with Dropbox, I have instant access to my documents. For more information about Quickoffice, check their Web Site.


I have used KeePass on my desktop and laptop for quite some time. It allows me to store all my passwords and usernames in one application. The PC versions have proved their utility often. Now that I have installed the Droid version on my smartphone, I have made it possible to access my usernames and passwords any where. By keeping the KeePass data file in my Dropbox folder, it is always synced and ready to go. KeePass is available for the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm OS, J2ME, and other smart devices. For more information about KeePass, check here.


The Blogger-droid app is one that I have downloaded and started using recently. With this application I am able to post to my blog directly from my Droid phone. You can also upload pictures and video clips as well. While this app is not very elaborate, it provides a simple means to access my blog. Here’s more information about Blogger-droid from Mash App’s description. On this site you can also access the app with your barcode scanner program.

Tweetdeck Beta Preview

Recently, I downloaded Tweetdeck’s Beta Preview for Android. Tweetdeck for the desktop is my favorite Twitter client. Naturally, I was interested in the Android version. I downloaded it last weekend, and I have to say, it is also my favorite Twitter client for my Droid 2. It is easy to use, and I have easy access to mentions, direct messages, and searches. For information on getting the Tweetdeck Beta Preview for the Android phone, see here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Encouraging Teachers to Make Homework Count

During my conversations with parents sometimes, they often point out concerns about one class or another if that particular teacher is not assigning homework. For some reason, there are parents who equate the value of a class and its teacher based on the amount of homework assigned. While there are all manner of reasons and arguments about the effectiveness and usefulness of homework, school leaders must be very careful to cave in to the systemic pressures of requiring or expecting homework to be assigned by his or her teachers. Homework in itself is not a sign of teaching effectiveness. The lack of assigning homework is also not an indication that a teacher is not doing his or her job. Homework must serve a legitimate purpose, and that purpose must not be an indicator of effective teacher performance.

I recently read an article in Educational Leadership entitled “5 Hallmarks of Good Homework.” It was an excellent description of what homework that is effective should look like. As school leaders, we can help our teachers understand what effective homework should look like by reminding them of the following:

  1. Homework should have a purpose. It should be for practice, understanding-checking, or application of what was learned during the course of the day. As administrators, we should see homework as extension of what is happening in the classroom. To expect that teachers always assign homework is not a legitimate expectation, but we should expect that when students are given homework, it does serve a purpose.
  2. Home should be efficient. We should discuss with our teachers the importance of providing their students with homework that is reasonable, and that can be completed reasonably. For example, asking students to create a model castle without providing all students with the same resources to complete that project might not be inherently fair.
  3. Homework should allow students to form a personal relationship with the content. School leaders can help teachers find ways for students to make the assigned tasks their own. This might mean providing additional resources to help the teacher do this.
  4. Homework should assist students in feeling competent regarding school content. School leaders should work with teachers to help them understand that homework tasks that make students feel inadequate are not productive. Student homework should do the opposite. It should assist students in being more confident and competent in carrying out tasks.
  5. Homework should have aesthetic appeal for students. School leaders can assist teachers in understanding that how a homework assignment looks to a student might actually prevent him or her from completing it effectively.

As principals, we need to remind parents when they question homework or the lack thereof, that homework is only part of the education of their children.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

True Innovation Begins with School Leaders Exploring the Edges of the Adjacent Possible

Over the past few days I have been reading Steven Johnson’s new book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation and in it he describes some common characteristics of environments that allow for innovation. In the first chapter, he focuses on what he calls the “adjacent possible.” In the book he states, “Innovative environments are better at helping inhabitants explore the adjacent possible, because they expose a wide and diverse sample of spare parts---mechanical or conceptual---and they encourage novel ways of recombining those.” What exactly is the “adjacent possible? According to Johnson, the adjacent possible is “a kind of shadow future, hovering at the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” In other words, innovation becomes more possible in those environments where those who work there have the freedom to explore possibilities.

How many times do we sacrifice access to the adjacent possible in our schools by strictly adhering to policy, rules, and regulations? How many times do we as administrators (and I am speaking to myself here) inhibit true innovation for the sake of a rule, policy or even political expediency? According to Johnson, “environments that block or limit new combinations---by punishing experimentation, by obscuring certain branches of possibility, by making the current state so satisfying that no one bothers exploring the edges--will on average, generate and circulate fewer innovations than environments that encourage exploration.”

It would seem to me that the challenge for reforming of our schools falls clearly in the hands of school leaders and policy-makers who control the rules and policy that govern how we conduct our business. If we want true innovation and reform, school leaders need to create conditions conducive to allowing individuals to explore those edges of possibility. What does that look like in practical terms? Perhaps here’s some principles of innovation for school leaders:

  • Seriously question the need for each policy, rule, regulation. Does it limit exploration and experimentation? Does it keep those within the schools from exploring what is truly possible? For example. does the current cell phone policy inhibit exploration of innovative possibilities for use of these devices?
  • Never sacrifice innovation for political expediency. How many times have school leaders created limits in the form of school policy that was perhaps politically popular but damaged the possibility for future innovation? Perhaps school leaders need to come down on the side of true innovation in those cases, even in the face of political sanction.
  • Make experimentation and “exploration of the adjacent possible” the norm. True school leaders are out exploring this “adjacent possible” themselves. They are not waiting for mandates from central offices or even state government entities. They lead their teachers in exploring the possible. Teachers who have leaders “out there” are more likely to be at the edges exploring and experimenting too.

It would seem to me that reform and innovation begins with the school leadership. School leader who truly want reform are at the edges of the adjacent possible themselves, not waiting for permission from the powers that be.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do Teachers Ever Get Enough Praise from Their Principals for Their Work?


I stood at the front of the room, while Elizabeth who was sitting in the last desk to my right, described how she had recently been mean to her brother when he tried to do something nice for her. She stated, “I’m not sure why, I just had this feeling like I wanted to get back at him or something.” “Yeah,” Billy said. “I felt the same about my little sister one time when I was six. She was just being a kid, but for some reason, I had this feeling like I wanted to do something mean to her, so I reached over and pulled her hair.” At that moment, a low rumble erupted as students around the room started whispering to their neighbors about times when they too had that feeling.

We were discussing James Hurst’s short story, “The Scarlet Ibis,” and students were still trying to grasp how the narrator of the story could have run away from his brother who was yelling for him, only to later come back and find him dead. Hurst’s story was a constant winner with my ninth graders, because so many of them could relate to its characters. On this particular day, student engagement was extremely high. It was one of those moments that captured so many of the reasons I went into teaching the first place.

It was in the middle of our discussion, that my principal walked into the room and sat down in a desk at the back of the class. Like all first year teachers, a feeling of panic began to rise from within. “Why is he in my class?” I asked silently to my self. “Is he here because I’ve done something wrong?” These questions raced through my mind as another student began relating an incident that had occurred in his life a few years earlier. I have to confess I don’t remember a lot of what this student said because of our new classroom visitor. As students continued to relate their connections to the characters in the story, I noticed that now my principal was writing something on a legal pad. For all practical purposes, I was rattled.

In spite of the stress, I survived the visit that day. My principal remained in my class for the entire period. Eventually, I was able to move my students from the discussion to completing another assignment, but I spent the rest of the day, wondering why my principal visited my class. That afternoon, I found out why.

At three o’clock that afternoon, I went to check my mailbox next to the office, and I discovered a handwritten note there. It read:

“Thank you for teaching such a fantastic class second period today. Your efforts to engage your students in the discussion of that story was right on! I want you to know that your class was one of the most engaged classes I have seen so far this year. Keep up the good work!”

In all my years as a teacher, this one note gave me the inspiration and drive to do whatever was necessary to become the best teacher I could. I never told my principal how much that note meant to me, because he moved on to another position soon after, but it was powerful. It gave a fledgling teacher enough confidence to continue to grow and learn for quite some time. It was a simple note, handwritten on a memo pad, but it is a gesture I have never forgotten.

I asked the question in the title of this post, “Do teachers every get enough praise from their principals?” I am not sure I can answer that positively or negatively. Praise is one of those things that can be cheap and awkward if it is not sincere, and we are all skilled in spotting its counterfeit versions. But as school leaders, we have got to stop once in awhile and drop a little handwritten note to our teachers and sincerely tell them that we do notice the great things they are doing with our students. Or, perhaps we need to take moment in our next faculty meeting and let them know sincerely, that we notice how hard they are working.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

KeePass: Solution for Remembering Multiple Passwords


KeePass Idea Update

Thanks to twitter follower @newfirewithin for an additional thought about using KeePass. Sometimes we are too close to the ideas to see it, but he suggested storing the KeePass data file in Dropbox, so that it would be available to any computers linked with this file. I’m just a bit squirmy about the security, but might be a great way to ensure that your KeePass password safe is accessible anywhere. Great Idea.



One of the most difficult problems I have faced as an administrator, is finding a way to remember all the user names and passwords I receive for all of the web services our school system uses. There’s the student database, test score database, teacher evaluation instrument, and countless other web applications that I have to use during the course of my day. Every one of these often requires a different username and a different password. There are also those I only access once or twice and year, and remembering those is even more difficult. It certainly is not good security practice to use the same password for each site, but it is frustrating trying to remember these usernames and passwords.

That’s where KeePass, the open-source password safe software comes in. It allows me to store my usernames and passwords in a single program, that requires only one password. It will also has some other interesting features as well. These other features include:

  • Ability to store a URL with the site username and password
  • Password quality meter
  • Place to enter notes
  • Ability to set an expiration date and time
  • Ability to allow program to auto-type your password and username
  • Ability to use multiple groups of usernames and passwords
  • Ability to make it portable to your flashdrive

It is an excellent open source solution for keeping track of all those usernames and passwords.










KeePass Main User Screen

To download or get more information about KeePass, check our their web site here.

For those with smart phones, you can download a version for most phone operating systems. I use the Android version, and it has made accessing my usernames and passwords even easier. KeePass is one of those must have open source programs.

Monday, October 11, 2010

5 Considerations for Allowing Students to Use Personal Computing Devices on School Wireless Networks

For the past month, I have been working on trying to develop a procedure to govern student use of personal computers when accessing our wireless Internet. In times of shrinking budgets, we just don’t have enough technology, so we decided that providing students with wireless Internet access for their own personal computers was a means increase total student access to Web resources.

I initially turned to the web to find other schools with wireless access policies and procedures. After examining the procedures and policies of several of these schools, I found that they all contained common components. These 5 common components are vital to any wireless access policy for a school.

Technical Requirements for Access

One common component for a wireless access policy are guidelines specifying what technical requirements each personal computer should have. The two most common are:

  • Un-expired and functioning Anti-virus protection
  • Wireless Network Access Card with Statement That Prohibits Connecting by Cables

Most schools required working anti-virus in order to prevent network infections, and a wireless card for access. By allowing only wireless access, it protects the integrity of the main school network.

General Guidelines for Use of Wireless Access

Guidelines are needed to ensure that students understand that their use of computers and devices are welcome, but that the teacher and instruction drives that use. Some guidelines to include are:

  • Clear Statement That Use of Computer or Device Is at Teacher’s Discretion
  • Use of Computer or Device Must Support Instructional Activities
  • Use of Computer or Device Must Not Be Disruptive to Other’s Learning
  • Use of Computer or Device Must Be In Supervised Area of School
  • Students Must Have Signed an Acceptable Use Policy
  • Students Are Prohibited from Accessing Other Network Resources Other Than Internet

Consequences for Failure to Follow Guidelines

Only some of the procedures and policies I examined included consequences. These issues are often addressed in a school’s acceptable use policy, but consequences often involve some kind of restriction regarding the student’s continued use of the device.

Procedures for Gaining Wireless Access

Another important component for the wireless access policy are the procedures that must be followed to obtain that access. Usually these procedures involve the following components:

  • Submitting a Request Form of Some Sort
  • Submitting the Device for Inspection and for Recording Device Identification Such as Serial Numbers and/or MAC Address


It is important to include disclaimers in the policy or procedure as well. These disclaimers should make clear the following:

  • Wireless access is for Internet only.
  • School technology department is not permitted by regulation to provide technical support for personal computers.
  • School does not assume responsibility for damage or loss of these computers or devices.

When trying to set up a wireless access procedure or policy, it is vital that the integrity of the school network be sustained, protections are put in place to ensure proper use of network resources, consequences are outlined for subsequent violations of user agreements, procedures developed for obtaining access, and disclaimers are detailed to make it clear the school is not responsible for damage or loss.

Should anyone wish to see a copy of our procedure, just send me an email at and I will be glad to get it to you.

Leader or Manager: What’s the Difference?

There are many people who have a much better grasp of the difference between these two than I perhaps, and they’ve done a much better job delineating the difference between the two. For example, Changing Minds.Org has a really solid look at these two here. The folks at Legacee have a solid description of the difference between leadership and management as well. But perhaps the best way for me to distinguish between the two is to describe the two roles from my experience.

Several years back, I was a manager of a store in a national drug store chain. I was clearly a manager and not a leader. In fact, this retail chain did not want “store leaders,” they wanted “store managers.” My role as store manager began each day at 7:00 AM. I gathered the previous night’s receipts and register bags, and balanced the registers and prepared the daily deposit. Purely a mechanical task governed by company procedures with absolutely no room for initiative or independent thinking. Next, as my employees came in, I provided them with their register bags and sent them to their various work locations in the store. Then I went to the stock room and turned on the store lights, before walking to the doors and unlocking them so our first customers of the morning could come in. Everything I did was governed by prescribed procedures and company policy. Any deviations from that policy was discouraged. Even how the stock was placed on the shelves was dictated to me by the company. My job was to manage the store not. So, to me management is “taking care of stuff.” I have heard it called administrivia by some educators. Managers are not asked to take the initiative. They are asked to take care of the day-to-day stuff of doing business. And, in some cases, like my job with the drug store chain, initiative and vision were discouraged. The higher ups provided that for us. All we had to do was manage the store according to their vision of what a good drug store should be.

To me, leadership is quite different. It requires the ability to shift from “taking care of stuff” to almost seeing into the future. It involves not blindly following procedures and policies, but perhaps interpreting those for the good of those you serve. Principals have to enforce policy, but in that enforcement, they are always looking to the future.  As a manager, I simply told those who worked for me what to do.  Leadership is different. It is all about trying to influence people to carry out the vision and mission of the organization. As principal, I include staff in all major decision making. I think that’s leadership. As principal, there’s time when hard decisions must be made in the face of adversity. I don’t dump those decisions on staff. I deal with them. I think perhaps that’s leadership. As principal, there’s times when being open to staff ideas and secure enough to let them implement them is important. I think that’s leadership. Finally, being willing to do the same things you ask your staff to do, that’s leadership.

My own experience and definition of leadership continues to change. This is especially true when I take new positions that ask me to work with new kinds of people in novel situations. Truth be known, perhaps true leadership is being able to adapt your approach to situations as you encounter them. At this point my leadership definition continues to grow with my leadership opportunities.

Beware of Education Companies and Organizations Bearing Promises of High Student Achievement

One thing you can be sure about with all the federal “Race to the Top” money being distributed, there’ll be an inordinate number of companies and organizations seeking to get a piece of that pie. Almost every single day, there are new companies springing up like weeds in a garden that make promises of increased achievement and of closing the gap. This happens every time the federal government decides to throw money around. For example, most of us remember the same thing happening with the “Abstinence-before- marriage” sex education agenda adopted by President Bush. Anyone who could spell the word curriculum had one to sell, never mind that research appeared showing how ineffective abstinence-only sex education truly is.

In these times of tight budgets and scarce resources, it is imperative that school leaders and administrators be skeptical of the promises made by these companies. Our budgets are tight enough, and for me there is something unethical about contracting with a company to provide educational services and consulting just because they make a good sales pitch, or because they happen to be a retired educator friend looking to make some extra bucks. We have an obligation and a responsibility to make sure that: a) the companies we contract with are not selling snake-oil, b) that the products or services they sell will not harm or take away from our students, and c) that we use all the money given to us in a frugal manner. Nothing makes education look worse than headlines describing who much money a school system has wasted on products or services that just don’t work. In these tight budget times, we have to be even more skeptical.

In my twenty years experience, I have witnessed several incidents where education organizations have chosen to purchase educational products or consulting services, that in the end did very little to increase student achievement or educational system efficacy. These products and services were purchased based on a sales pitch and vague testimonials from neighboring school systems. In some of these instances, school system administrators hired their old friends out of personal loyalty, not based on healthy evidence or track record. There are all kinds of ethical issues with that kind of practice.

School leaders need to be skeptics by nature when it comes to programs and those who come bearing new programs and consultation services. They need to be willing to ask hard questions to make sure they do not waste money on the latest “snake-oil” remedy being offered. What might some of these questions look like? Here’s few I would ask:

  • Ask them how often do they spend time in schools like yours? Ask them to provide specifics of the schools they have sold their products and services to, and the results they achieved. Don’t settle for soft answers; ask them to provide hard data. Just because their product worked for school A, it does not necessarily follow it will work for school B.
  • Ask for contacts at those schools to whom they have sold their products and services. Be extra wary of testimonials and recommendations like this alone. The contact they give you may be their best friend or weekend golf buddy. You might even ask them if they have any kind of outside relationship with this person. To avoid conflicts of interest, you might inquire about the product on a widespread basis. Don’t trust just a handful of recommendations.
  • If the company contact is a retired or former educator, ask them for a curriculum vitae, and ask them about their own performance as an educator. You might even ask if you can contact their former employers. If they claim to be knowledgeable about education, check them out, but don’t just settle on their word. There is nothing wrong with completing a background check on their company and those who work for them. If they are knowledgeable educators, you might even conduct a formal interview with them. Put them on the spot and make them support their claims.
  • If they are boasting about increased achievement or educational efficacy, ask them to provide peer-reviewed research supporting their claims. “We decreased our drop-out rate by 15%” is not sufficient to sell me a drop-out prevention program. Provide me with a complete picture and demographics. Their product or services might not have been the actual cause of the increase in achievement.
  • Ask locations that have implemented their products and services and go visit those locations. Once there, speak to everyone you can. Don’t accept a “dog-and-pony” show as convincing.

I’m sure many of you can offer additional questions and strategies we can use to critically examine these companies offering products and consulting services. School leaders need to be natural skeptics when presented with the sales pitch. What are some additional questions and strategies school leaders should use to critically examine products and services being offered by outside companies and organizations?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

So-Called Manifesto of Education Leaders Is Bankrupt Attempt to Shore Up Obama Education Policy

Valarie Strauss does an excellent job here of eviscerating the so-called “School Reform Manifesto” signed by 16 school district chiefs around the country. She points out that:

“It starts by saying that everybody is responsible for improving schools but then proceeds to bash teachers, and doesn’t say a thing about about the responsibility of superintendents.”

I think the real danger in the statements made by this manifesto is how such rhetoric is contributing to the de-professionalization of the teaching profession. Superintendents and school leaders who join into this kind of name-calling and finger-pointing are only going to make the entire education reform battle more polarized and antagonistic. What happened to the idea of trying to get all stakeholders involved in the decision-making? But I am sure if one were to examine closely how each of the school leaders who were part of this document, we would see individuals who are autocratic, and who believe that only their brand of school reform is what will work.

Superintendents and school leaders who create divisive documents like this are perhaps not interested in truly reforming schools. Maybe they are more interested in getting their names in the headlines and promoting their own marketability. I hope not. It is the rhetoric of these kinds of documents that is demoralizing teachers everywhere, not asking them to be a partner in school reform. School leaders who continue to make teachers their enemy will turn around and find no-one following, except perhaps Secretary Arne Duncan and the Obama administration.

NBC’s Education Nation’s Weak Attempt to Set the Tone of the Education Reform Debate

A few weeks out from NBC’s Education Nation event, I have had a great deal of time to reflect on that event and my experience with it. Others have done a much better job of pointing out all the flaws of that event, so I don’t have a great deal to add to that. One thing I would add regarding that event was if its purpose was to set the tone and focus of the education reform debate, it may not have accomplished that purpose. It was clear to me that NBC was not interested in opening up the debate to question whether the Obama Administration’s education policy is the right thing for schools. This was no more clearer than the segment with Joe Scarborough. He barely allowed AFT’s Randi Weingarten the opportunity to respond, and the questions he asked were already loaded and slanted against teachers and teacher unions. But I won’t go further in the specifics of the whole NBC production, other than to say that they did try to control the debate and the conversation with news show hosts and moderators who made it clear where their views lie. It’s not really a shock to me any more. The Fox News Channel does the same thing 24 hours a day. They control the debate tightly on their broadcasts. NBC did the same thing with Education Nation, or tried to.

I say tried to because in the 21st century world of social media, it is impossible to control the entire conversation. NBC might be able to control who is speaking and asking the questions on their sets, but the Twitter stream and comments being posted on Facebook can’t be controlled. I was amazed by the tweets of fellow educators during each of the NBC Education Nation events. Most were thoughtful and passionate comments that displayed a genuine concern for what is best for the education of our children.

In the end, just what did NBC gain with it’s Education Nation broadcast? It obviously scored points with the Obama administration and Secretary Duncan. The charter school companies and supporters were happy. In the end though, NBC left a lot of educators angry and feeling more dejected about a profession they dearly love. For me, I haven’t been able to tune in to my favorite Rachel Maddow since. I am still trying to decide whether MSNBC has chosen the same path that Fox News has blazed with its unwavering support for the Republican establishment. Perhaps the NBC network has decided to become the unwavering voice of our Democratic president and his his education policies specifically. I hope not. I have always admired this network’s independence.

Blogging Difficulties: Adding to the Blog Noise

I am guilty. I will admit to my fault. I have not been blogging lately. I have opened my Live Writer program on several occasions, only to rationalize, “I’m just too tired to blog today.” The life of an administrator is exhausting. Once I leave my job in the late afternoons, I really am exhausted. Trying to pull myself together to post something of value or at least something that might be useful to others is extremely difficult. Perhaps my standards are too high. Throughout the day I’ll think of many topics that might become a blog post, but I usually toss them out with the thought, “That would be a waste of readers’ time!” So this dance of topic-tossing for the blog goes on day after day.

I really envy those bloggers who are churning out three or four, even more topics out each day. I perhaps could do that, but would I be giving those who visit something of substance? Maybe if you churn out enough posts, the odds are, you will hit a homerun every now and then. My problem is, perhaps I want a homerun each time. More likely though, the old English teacher in me can’t stand the thought of just slapping something together for the blog. I don’t want to waste people's time with inane blog posts, but it seems everyone is doing it, why don’t I join the blog noise?