Sunday, August 3, 2014


Dear Fellow Educators,

As I sit down to begin officially preparing for the upcoming school year, there are a lot of ideas and questions floating around in my head (there is way too much going on up there). How will the school year go? Will our community, especially our kids, be happy? Will the master schedule get done? Will I need to hire that last minute teacher? You know the questions as I am sure some variation of one or all have been permeating your mind too. Aside from all the questions there have also been some important thoughts and reflections. 

What I have been reminded of recently is that change, evolution and growth are important things – both in the personal and professional arenas. I have also come to understand that my personal development (such as mastering the whole laundry thing or experimenting with cooking) impacts my professional development as well and that is an important thing. Growth is growth; evolution is evolution; and change is change regardless of where it is happening because it shapes us in all areas of our lives and in the end, we control the power to grow, evolve and change, which can help us avoid the dreaded RUT (thank you BJC for forcing me to reflect on this point)!

As we all know, it is incredibly easy to get stuck in a rut and miss the opportunity to learn something new, experience something unique or try something different. Sometimes we just get comfortable or complacent; sometimes we are just tired and don’t want something “new” in our worlds; sometimes we are overwhelmed and stability is the only thing keeping us from going over the edge; sometimes we aren’t comfortable with the prospect of failure; and sometimes we just don’t know where to begin. Whatever the situation, context or variables, a rut is something most of us have experienced at least once and getting out of a rut can be a challenge. Well, worry no more because I am here to share a little secret with you… we have the keys to avoiding a rut within our collective grasps each and every day within the walls of our schools.  As educators, especially at the elementary level where all my experience rests, we have hundreds of opportunities each day to avoid the rut because we are surrounded by kids! We are in the company of excited, engaged and passionate little human beings who want to learn, do, share, think, work through failure and try new things each day! That’s right my friends… our kids are the keys to avoiding the rut; our kids are the best inspiration; and our kids can be some of the most awesome teachers and role models if we give them the space. Our kids are the opposite of a rut because they want to learn something new; they want to experience something unique and they want to try something different! 

So, as we prepare for the 2014/15 school year (our seventh together), let’s look beyond our evaluations (we know we are more than just numbers and ratings), our standardized test scores (we know our kids are much more than these singular data points), the Common Core State Standards (they are just the floor and we are always reaching for the ceiling) and worksheets (yes, please, let’s try and reduce the number of worksheets this year) and let’s focus on learning from our kids – a.k.a. The Rut Avoiders – and creating a safe haven for them, and us, to take risks and avail ourselves to learning something new, experiencing something unique or trying something different

So, what can you do differently this year to avoid the rut? There are hundreds of things but here are some suggestions that have worked for me...

1) Embrace social media and use it as a space to learn without the constraints of physical barriers!

2) Begin branding your space - ask yourself the following questions... What do I believe in? What do I stand for?

3) Encourage your students or staff start a blog and gain access to a world-wide audience!

4) Take your newsletter into the 21st Century and turn it into a blog, smore or weebly - have fun!!

5) Differentiate PD for your staff and encourage teachers to share their expertise and passion with each other!

6) Embed a SMACKDOWN into some portion of each of your Faculty Meetings - thank you Lisa Meade for that awesome idea!

7) Encourage your staff or students to share 30 second Shout Outs where they spotlight something awesome about a peer whether verbally, through an email or even a blog post - thank you Amber Teamann for that amazing idea!

8) Take your office or classroom and get rid of the desk and make yourself more visible and mobile - proximity and presence impact learning! Thank you Melinda Miller for that one!

9) Spend five minutes listening to a kid - not the kid that always talks to you - the quiet one who avoids your gaze! Those 5 minutes are critical to laying the foundation for a healthy and sustainable relationship!

10) Share your passions and interests with your students and colleagues - these become infectious to those around you!

The list can go on and on (please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section below) but you get the idea... tap into your surroundings to avoid the dreaded RUT!!


Tony Sinanis

Lead Learner 


  1. Tony this is a wonderful piece full of great ideas. All the folks you mentioned are giants that I look up to and I can't wait to steal their ideas. I am certain I will be contacting you often this year for advice on how to brand our school and how to tell its story. Thanks for inspiring me on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

  2. Tony, this is THE back to school post. I appreciate being mentioned but as I tweeted that idea was borrowed from Brad Currie. My staff took to it well! Didn't have to just be technology tools. They each had to share something they knew/used/did within 2 minutes with each other. I love the other ideas you have here and will likely borrow many of them too. That's the amazing thing about twitter, you and having a PLN. How can I not be inspired? I'm surrounded by goodness and thankful you are part of that inner circle. You know what I mean. ;)

  3. Enjoyed your latest blog, Tony. Yes, the kids are the true Rut Avoiders with their teeming questions and overflowing exuberance. This is the reason we are in education-to move students to higher levels and keep our practice fresh and rut free. Congratulations on moving your desk to another location.

  4. Well done, Tony. I'll have to book mark this to share later in the school year as it will be a great reminder for me and for staff. Maybe I'll use it near deer hunting season.