Thursday, December 26, 2013

Old Pair of Jeans

This morning I decided to do some winter/post-Christmas cleaning and I started with my jeans. My jeans are basically broken into two categories - the ones that fit and the ones that don't fit anymore. Well, I decided the easiest way to go about cleaning out this drawer was trying them all on because that would simplify things - the ones that don't fit could be tossed. Well, much to my surprise more of them fit than I expected (I guess the stress of trying to balance family life while writing a dissertation and working full-time could impact more than my sleep) so I had to weed them out using different parameters - too short, too long, jeans my dad would wear, etc. Finally, I got to the bottom of the drawer and I rediscovered my most favorite pair of jeans - they are the perfect color, length and they used to fit. But, they were also frayed, worn out and there were holes in random places. I decided to try them on and they actually still fit but was that reason enough to keep them? Things that make you go hmmmmm....

2013 was the year where I learned that pushing myself out of my comfort zone, becoming physically uncomfortable at times and stretching my thinking have led me to learning experiences and opportunities that I never would have imagined a year ago. A year ago I would have naively said it was all because of Twitter. Well, here I am a year later and I can honestly say Twitter is an awesome platform that facilitates learning but for me, it is about the connections. The human connections. The human connections with educators from around the world. The relationships that I have established with the many amazing and dedicated educators who willingly share their knowledge, ideas, perspectives and passion. I have grown as a father, educator and person because of the connections I have established and nurtured on Twitter. 

What have I learned you ask? 

I have learned about different resources that can enhance learning in our classrooms. 

I have learned about how to best integrate iPads into the classroom when it isn't a 1:1 situation. 

I have learned about how to develop a level of transparency with the community so we can flatten the walls of our school and let the community see exactly what is happening in our school and why it is happening (thank you Eric). 

I have learned about the differences between being a Lead Learner and an administrator (thank you Joe). 

I have learned about the power of mentoring through the #SAVMP experience (I have learned so much from my mentees and from George Couros & Amber Teamann). 

I have learned about some amazing apps - Touchcast, Voxer and Storify just to name a few - that have impacted my ability to lead efficiently (thank you to my #WIAmigos)! 

I was introduced to the world of podcasts and have even had an opportunity to participate in a few of them - LOVE these resources. 

I have learned about the importance of branding our schools and telling our story, which has led to an exciting new project - the BrandED podcast on Bam Radio with my brother from another mother Dr. Joe Sanfelippo. 

I have learned how to co-moderate a chat (thank you to my fellow #NYedchat crew - Bill, Vicki, Carol, Blanca & Starr). 

I have learned about the power of blogging and using it as a platform to push myself and potentially others (thank you Peter DeWitt). 

I have learned so much from all the amazing educators in my cohort at Penn - a bunch of whom are on Twitter!

The list could go on and on because I have learned so much this year through these amazing human connections! I have grown so much thanks to these human connections. I have been pushed beyond where I thought I could be pushed because of these connections. In fact, I am so far out of my comfort zone on most days that it is a little scary but I am ok with it because I know I am a better me today than I was a year ago as a result of these connections! In the end, I have learned this year that it isn't so much about Twitter (I have even stopped preaching about it somewhat) but instead, it is about the connections.

So, what happened to those old jeans you ask? I decided to throw them out. I didn't need them anymore. Instead, I was going to push myself out of my comfort zone and go out and buy a new pair of jeans - I am a little nervous but super excited!     

Saturday, December 21, 2013

PLN Blogging Challenge

Truth be told, I have been avoiding this blogging challenge over the last several weeks... not because I didn't want to do it but because I didn't know if I had anything really interesting to share. First Seth Berg challenged me; then Michele Corbat threw the challenge my way; next Lyn Hilt challenged me but the whole time, I tried to hide from those challenges! Well, finally Andrew Sharos challenged me yesterday and even though I wanted to run and hide from him too, I couldn't do it! You see, Andrew and I were connected as a result of the #SAVMP program (thanks George & Amber) so how I could I say no to my mentee?? And, I also lost a blogging challenge a few weeks ago so it was time to pay up! So, Andrew, this post is for you my friend - thank you for helping me grow and learn over the last year - honored to be connected with you!

Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition and a little blogging love!
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated.  (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.) 

11 Random Facts About Me...
1) I was almost on Real World London
2) I was on the Golf Team in HS
3) I had my own radio show in college where we played Freestyle music (Cynthia, Johnny O, George LaMond, etc.)
4) I am scared of dogs
5) I am allergic to many fruits and almost all seafood
6) I was put on academic probation after my semester in college (I did really poorly)
7) I was on this dance show years ago called The Grind on MTV
8) I love blasting the music with the windows down when I am alone in my car
9) I am going to be 40 in 2014... that one is scary
10) I am a first generation American - my parents came here from Greece in the 50's
11) My first job was pumping gas

Answers to Andrew's Questions...
1) My favorite education quote: Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world - Mandela
2) I am most passionate about being the best dad possible for my son; he has taught everything I need to know about what matters in life! 
3) I like having students work in groups of 2 to 4 - I think 4 is a pretty good spot for balance, deliberation and discussion!
4) My favorite Sunday activity is hanging with my family (and watching football)
5) My favorite twitter chat is #NYedchat because I get to connect with people in my own state (yes, I am one of the moderators...)
6) My son inspires me the most in my world; his strength, courage and sense of humor keep me centered!
7) For anyone going on a job interview, I would say, be honest, be yourself and show them (without being cocky) that you are the best person for them! 
8) I am hoping classrooms will be different in 20 years... hopefully less high stakes testing and more personalized learning!
9) I watched Johan Santana pitch the first no-hitter for the Mets - I cried!
10) I was honored earlier this year by the Bammy's as the Elementary Principal of the Year - humbled!
11) Best concert was Bon Jovi at Giants Stadium - they played for HOURS!

The 11 Bloggers I would like to challenge...
Peter DeWitt
Vicki Day
Bill Brennan
Lisa Meade
George Couros 
Jessica Johnson
Curt Rees
Tom Whitford
Leah Whitford
Amber Teamann
Don Gately

11 Questions for my Blogging Friends...
1) What is your favorite TV show?
2) What is one app or resource you've learned about on Twitter that has been a game changer for you at work?
3) In one sentence, share your vision for your school or district.
4) What does being a connected educator mean to you?
5) What was the most amazing lesson you ever facilitated or observed?
6) What is one thing about your school or work place that you are most proud of?
7) How has your PLN impacted you?
8) What motivates you each day to be an educator?
9) What is your favorite device or gadget?
10) In one sentence explain to a "disconnected" educator why they should consider getting connected!
11) What makes you happy?

Thank you all for taking this challenge and thank you Andrew for giving me that final push!  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

EduBlog Award Nominees 2013

For the first time I ever, I excited to offer my nominations for the EduBlog Awards for 2013. I was honored to have one of my posts nominated last year but I am even more excited to spotlight some of the work that inspires me each and every day through my PLN connections. So, here are my nominations for the 2013 EduBlog Awards...

Best Individual Blog - Finding Common Ground - Peter DeWitt

Best Group Blog - Parent School Partners - Lisa Davis & Gwen Pescatore 

Best New Blog - Lisa Meade - Reflections

Best Class Blog - Grade 5 Alites - Cantiague Elementary 

Best Student Blog - StuVoice Blog - #StuVoice

Best Ed Tech Blog - Edudemic 

Best Teacher Blog - Blogging Through The 4th Dimension - Pernille Ripp 

Best Librarian Blog - Van Meter Library Voice - Shannon Miller 

Best Administrator Blog -  The Principal of Change - George Couros 

Most Influential Blog Post of the Year - Little Things - George Couros 

Best Individual Tweeter - Eric Sheninger

Best Twitter Hashtag - #Satchat

Best Free Web Tool - Twitter

Best Podcast - Techlandia

Best PD - EdCampNJ

Best Mobile App - Touchcast

Lifetime Achievement Award - Todd Whitaker 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My First EdCamp: Epic

From the live #Satchat with Brad, ScottBill & Daisy (live from her home in Arkansas and joining us through a Google HangOut) in the morning to the discussion about reshaping Faculty Meetings with Bruce later on to presenting with Joe (my brother from WI who I just met for the first time this morning) in the afternoon, the EdCampNJ experience was an AWESOME one that reaffirmed for me what PD for educators could be if we take control of our own learning! 

I had been reading about it, hearing about it and scanning tweets from the various EdCamps across the country for the last two years but until today, I never had the honor of actually attending one and all I can say is, BETTER LATE THAN NEVER! EdCampNJ is exactly what PD should be... MY choice, on MY terms, on MY time, in MY way and to help push MY thinking. That is exactly what today did for me. I was able to select from over 20 different sessions throughout the day and my biggest challenge was which learning sessions to attend... should I learn about Mindcraft? Standards Based Grading? Edmodo? Google Hangouts in the Elementary Classroom? Or should I offer a session and share something I am passionate about? The possibilities were endless and for the first time, I wasn't dreading the experience because I got to choose what I wanted to learn and if I picked something that didn't feel right after a few minutes, I could get up and find something else (and continue searching until I found the right fit). I was in complete control of my professional development experience - I had a voice in my learning! WOW - who would have thought that a professional development experience could be so empowering? Honestly, not me! 

I had heard all the stories about EdCamps but in my head I kept questioning the hype... was it really going to be that different than the typical PD experience? The standard workshop with the presenters just going on and on? The "shot in the arm" conference that would fade before I got back to work on Monday? How could the EdCamp model possibly avoid all these pitfalls (and many more I have not listed here)? Well, the answer is quite simple... the experience is rooted in the connections shared between like minded educators who are passionate about learning and doing what is in the best interest of children. That is what made this learning experience totally different than any other conference or workshop. No one HAD to be there. No one was letting PD happen TO them. No one was passively sitting through sessions in a disengaged way. 

Instead, a buzz filled the cafetorium from 7:30am and lasted all day to the last raffle prize was announced after 3pm. People were talking; people were sharing; people were laughing; people were teaching; and most importantly, people were LEARNING! All day, throughout every exchange and interaction, people were being influenced, shaped and informed. From my vantage point, that is another thing that made the EdCamp experience different - it was rooted in connections between people who shared a common passion and interest - the opportunity to LEARN! I was engaged all day and for someone who is impacted by ADHD, that is a big deal. I learned about how I could record a Google Hangout. I learned about how I could do an even better job of making our Faculty Enhancement Opportunities (that is what we call Faculty Meetings at our school) more powerful PD sessions for our staff. I learned about how to better brand our school. I learned about a bunch of tools and web based resources that could support a project based learning experience. 

The common thread that ran through all these learning experiences today at EdCamp? The connections... the connections with my peers, colleagues and friends... the connections that allowed me to discuss the endless possibilities... the connections that pushed me out of my comfort zone... the connections that helped me personalize the learning experiences throughout the day. That, from my perspective, is what made the EdCamp experience so much more powerful... the connections... the choices... the personalized learning opportunities! 

Although it was only my first EdCamp there are two things I know for sure... it will NOT be my last and it was arguably the best PD experience I have ever had in my 17 year career as educator! Thank you EdCampNJ for an EPIC experience!      

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Curved Journey

As many of you know, a few months ago I wrote a post entitled Ode To Paul about my amazing son and the impact he has had on my life. I also used that post as an opportunity to remind my fellow educators that there are many "Pauls" in our schools and lives and we should always keep that in mind when interacting with our students, staff and community members. 

Recently, my son wrote a personal essay as part of the writing workshop experience at school and he decided he wanted to share this essay with the world. The essay is about his journey with congenital scoliosis. Well, I have never been prouder to turn my blog over to someone else... our guest blogger this time around is my son, Paul, and his piece is entitled... 

My Curved Journey

When I was eight months old I was diagnosed with congenital scoliosis. When I started sitting up my parents noticed that I kept leaning to the right. My mom kept trying to sit me up straight but I kept tilting (my dad thought I was still learning to sit up properly but he was in denial). That is when my parents decided to bring me to the doctor to get my back checked out. The doctor examined me, took an X-Ray and discovered that five of my vertebrae were connected on one side. That was the beginning of my curved journey - my scoliosis journey - which includes my first surgery when I was 16 months old and my recent VEPTR surgeries.

Scoliosis is when your spine curves abnormally. Instead of your spine going down in a line it looks more like a "C" or an "S." Some kids get scoliosis when they are 12 or 13 but I was born with it, which is why it is called congenital scoliosis. Congenital means to be born with something. Congenital scoliosis is tough to deal with because for the kids who have it, they have many years to grow, which is why it is a curved journey.

After I was diagnosed the doctor kept an eye on my curve for a few months. When the curve got worse, it was time for my first surgery. When I was 16 months old I had a partial spinal fusion, which means that the doctor stuck together 5 vertebrae that were causing my spine to curve. Even though I don't remember it, my parents say I was strong and I recovered quickly.

My spine remained steady for a few years but by the time I reached first grade the curve was back and worse than ever!! This time the doctor put metal rods in my back called VEPTR. VEPTR stands for Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib. These rods have to be expanded every six months as I grow. Even though it is not easy, I am thankful that this surgery exists to help me and other kids. One of my dreams is to grow up and become an inventor and create the "No Back Surgery" injection to cure congenital scoliosis with one shot.

Although I have been through a lot, I live a normal life with lots of friends, lots of fun and a loving family. I know I can do anything because my past experiences have made me the strong person I am today! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Take a Day and Visit Your School

Today I had the honor of hosting my friend, John Fritzky, at Cantiague Elementary. John and I first connected on Twitter over a year ago, met earlier this year at #ParentCamp and then got paired up as part of the #SAVMP started by my friend George Couros. A few months ago we discussed the possibility of John coming to visit us at Cantiague and we were finally able to work it out. The opportunity to connect with one of the members of my PLN in "real life" always helps me learn, grow and enhance my craft as an educator and leader so I was looking forward to the opportunity! 

John just began in his first administrative position this fall as an Assistant Principal at a Middle School in New Jersey and was interested in checking out the instructional practices in our school. Although I guess John was hoping to learn something at Cantiague, in the end, the experience ending up teaching me a lot. We spent the entire day walking around our school, visiting classrooms, talking to teachers and engaging our kids in different conversations and discussions. How was this different than any other day? Well, today I took the day and visited my school and it was a game changer. 

I usually spend a lot of time in our classrooms on most days but today was different. Today I was trying to share information with John, answer his questions, spotlight various content areas and check out what our kids were doing. As we visited the classrooms and walked around the building the visit took on a whole other meaning for me. I wasn't really thinking about whether or not John was seeing anything "good" but instead I found myself smiling more and more and shaking my head in agreement with all the things happening in our school. I took the day, stayed out of my office and visited my school and this is what I learned...

  • The people in our building are happy. There were staff members, students and parents in the building throughout the day and their sense of pride and joy was clear!

  • There is incredible vertical alignment in the instruction in our building from Kindergarten through 5th Grade! The alignment was visible in writing workshop where all our children experienced publishing their first piece in the last week or two. The alignment was visible in reading workshop where all our children are learning various reading strategies and skills that are helping them grow with their independent reading. The alignment was visible in mathematics where our children are exploring all four operations within problem solving situations!

  • We value 1:1 instruction at all levels and in all subject areas. Many of our teachers were engaged in 1:1 conferences in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics. Our 1:1 experiences allow us to differentiate instruction, guide future instruction and best meet the needs of our kids!

  • We have come a long way in our six years together as a team! We have dedicated a lot of time, passion and effort to enhancing our craft and the results are evident.

  • We spend time planning for small groups as a way to further differentiate instruction! Our children experience guided reading groups, strategy groups, book clubs, group writing conferences and small group math stations just to name a few. There is a lot of research that speaks to the importance of proximity as it relates to learning and through the small group experience our teachers are able to keep a close eye on our kids and support their growth!

  • We love our kids and devote a lot of time to the development of their self-confidence and happiness. Although we have implemented the Common Core State Standards we are not defined by standards - we are more than a number! We devote time to the development of the whole child and the data comes in the form of smiles, laughter and genuine enthusiasm about being in school!

  • Technology has permeated our building as a way to facilitate and enhance learning! iPads are being used by staff and kids. One classroom was having a BYOD experience. One of our first graders created a story using a web based augmented reality site. One of our fifth graders is using Evernote to develop his own digital portfolio. Many of our teachers and kids are blogging. Our SMARTBoards are truly interactive just to spotlight a few examples!

  • We value community and collaboration! Our children are consistently offered opportunities to work together, "turn and talk", discuss their ideas and share strategies. We see the value in facilitating learning experiences between children - the theory of social learning has found a place in our school. 

  • Our kids tell our story. Whether through our Weekly Video Updates or just conversations in the hallway, the children of Cantiague can tell you what Cantiague is all about - what we stand for - what we believe! Check out a sample of our Weekly Video Update...

  • We still have a lot to explore, try and experience as we look for opportunities to innovate and push ourselves out of our collective comfort zone!

So, although I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to spend the day with John and "show off" our school, in the end, I am grateful for all that I learned today and all that I was reminded about in regards to the awesomeness of our community. With that in mind, I challenge all my fellow educators and Lead Learners to Take a Day and Visit Your School... it will be an experience that will change you and your community! 


Saturday, November 2, 2013

It Does Take A Village

Families. Parents. Community. Our children. Without these groups of people, none of us who have dedicated our lives to the world of education would have a career at this point. Our children are shaped, impacted and educated by the people in their lives, in their homes and in their communities. Our children's social experiences before and during the schooling years can very much dictate the trajectory of their lives and as educators we must respect that, appreciate that, consider that and value that. I know that our son, Paul, is who he is today because of the way our family - his mom, grandparents, aunt, uncle and me - has influenced his thinking, shaped his beliefs and devoted our lives to his happiness and well being. As a parent, all I can hope is that his teachers will understand and value that Paul is my heart and soul and everything I do, I do for him. As an educator, I must remember to step back and look at every parent through that same lens!

Recently I read a post by Matt Gomez stressing the idea that we must Start Believing in Parents Like We Do In Kids and it resonated with me for so many reasons and on so many levels. First off, as a dad, I found myself shaking my head and thinking, "YES Matt - AMEN - THANK YOU!" But it didn't end there because as the Lead Learner of Cantiague Elementary I couldn't agree more with Matt. In fact, I have devoted myself to serving the community and specifically dedicated a lot of time to "flattening the walls" of our school so the community knows exactly what our children are experiencing and what we believe in as an institution. I believe in the concept of servant leadership and it is my goal each and every day to best serve our children, staff and community at large.

Well, after reading Matt's post and thinking about my role as a dad coupled with my career as an educator, I remembered that the families of our students are our support, our allies and our partners in doing what is in the best interest of our children. Our families are dedicated to their children - their education, their development and their well being. That may not look exactly the same for every family - not every family can donate something for the Bake Sale; not every family can come to the Book Fair; not every family can make a parent/teacher conference; and not every family can help with homework. There are families who are struggling to survive financially. There are families who are battling illnesses or addictions. There are families going through divorce. There are families who are uncertain about their next meal. There are families who are navigating situations and problems that we couldn't even fathom. But, every family is dedicated to their children; every family lives for their children; and every family will do whatever they can for their children (I agree with Matt- I believe 99.999999% of our families are good people who are trying to do right by their children). We, as educators, can never forget these realities. We must remember that a strong home/school connection that is focused on meeting the needs of all children should always be our goal. We must work together to help our children achieve their hopes and dreams. We must embrace the idea that it takes a village to educate and raise a child. 

Below is an excerpt of an email I recently sent out to our families at Cantiague thanking them for their tireless efforts in supporting our school because without them we would not be successful...

"Although we are all consumed by our incredibly busy lives and our many obligations and responsibilities, I wanted to take a moment to thank each of you, on behalf of the Cantiague staff, for your unending support of the children and our educational community as a whole.
Over the last month, between the Car Wash, the Book Fair, Red Ribbon Week and most recently our successful PARP Week, many of you took the time out of your busy schedules to be at Cantiague supporting these special events and most importantly, spending time with our children. As a working parent I know how difficult it can be to juggle everything to be there for our children and still attend to the many responsibilities in our lives. Yet, somehow over the last month each one of our families have been involved and present at Cantiague for one event or another and we cannot thank you for these efforts.
The longer I work in education the deeper I appreciate the importance of a strong home/school connection – a connection that is unhindered by physical walls; a connection that keeps our children and their best interests at the center; a connection that speaks to the idea that it takes a village to raise and educate a child. Thank you all for your presence, your support and your active role in our children’s development and education – Cantiague Elementary would not be the best school on the planet if it weren’t for our amazing families and unending support. 

It is an honor to be the Lead Learner of this amazing community."

I share this email because I think it is important that we celebrate the successes within our community and that we thank our families for all they do each and every day. Without them we would not be in the business of education. 

So, the next time I am ready to blame a family for something a student has done wrong, I am going to pause, flip it and try giving them the benefit of the doubt. I am going to look at things as Paul's dad - not just as the Lead Learner of our school. I am going to remind myself that our families are dedicated to their children. As Matt suggested, I am going to believe in the parents like I do in the children because our children deserve to be educated by a village working together!             

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Put What Matters at the Center

From the first day I entered the classroom as a fifth grade teacher in the New York City public school system, one of my greatest challenges was time management. I would plan at least six different activities for the day and in the end, I was lucky if I got to three of those activities. Our math period would run into science; our writing workshop would last for hours; and our discussions about life or current events would become the priority. Whatever the details, the bottom line was I never got to everything I had planned and I always felt like my kids got short changed. My colleagues were zipping through the curriculum and we were always behind. Was I cut out to be an educator? Were my kids actually learning anything meaningful? Should I be looking for another job? Time management seemed like a crucial skill for a successful educator. 

Well, here I am almost 17 years later and I am still an educator. I am still working with kids. And, I am still lacking strong time management skills. But, here is the biggest difference, I no longer feel like I have failed our kids or staff because of my poor time management skills. A couple of years ago I came to the realization that being successful as it relates to time management skills wasn't just about getting things done in a timely fashion or about getting things done that others felt should be a priority. No, time management was about getting to the things that mattered the most; getting to the things that would benefit from my attention; getting to the things that were consistently at the center. 

For me, the kids, their needs, their happiness and their future successes were always at the center. So, effective time management skills in my world mean spending time with our kids. Spending time in our classrooms each day. Spending time getting to know our kids and their interests and passions. Spending time going out to recess to play with our kids and watching them laugh and have a good time. Spending time in the lunch room eating with them in a relaxed fashion and engaging the children in non-school related conversations. That is where I devote the majority of my time and I think I meet with success because our kids are happy; our kids are engaged; our kids are learning; our kids feel valued; and our kids love coming to school. Although I cannot take the credit for how our kids feel, I do think that I devote a lot of time creating a tone and mood in the building and that directly, and indirectly, impacts our kids. 

So, as I reflect on this idea of successful time management skills, I realize that isn't only about addressing the crises the emerge every single day; or putting out the many fires that flame up from hour to hour; or responding to the hundreds of emails that end up in my inbox. No, successful time management is about getting to the things at the center; getting to the things that matter most; getting to our kids.         

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dr. King: We Can Do This Together

Dear Dr. King,

About a year ago I wrote you a letter asking that you begin a conversation about the current landscape of public education in New York State. I was hoping that you would hear the concerns of the masses and reconsider some of the initiatives, plans and changes you were implementing with little feedback from those impacted most - our educators, families and students. Unfortunately, you never responded to that letter and you continued unfolding changes to the way we teach and learn here in NYS.

One of the biggest changes was the way that we evaluate educators. For example, I was rated a 9 out of 20 (the value added piece) according to your office based on the growth my kids exhibited on the state tests (which were totally different from last year so how they could be compared makes NO sense to me but whatever) yet the people who supervise me directly rated me a 59.5 out of 60 and last month I was honored with the Bammy Award for Elementary Principal of the Year for the entire country - somehow that doesn’t add up to a 9 out of 20 from my perspective, but what do I know? Can you please share the research that supports the value added method as an effective way to evaluate educators? I would love to be able to share that with our staff so they can begin buying into the idea. One of the things I know about effective leadership is that there must be a singular vision that everyone believes in and embraces if there is going to be growth and sustained change. You may want to consider this moving forward because it may change the way you are received by the masses or the “special interest groups.”

You have also started impacting the way we instruct students. Even though the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are supposed to inform us in regards to WHAT skills our kids need to have to be college and career ready no where in the mission statement of the CCSS do they mention HOW we should teach kids and with WHAT we should teach kids - they do not promote a "Common Core Curriculum." Yet, with all the “suggested” modules shared on the Engage NY site, which you reference almost every time you speak, the implication is that you do believe that a “one size fits all” curriculum rooted in similar instructional strategies and approaches is the way to go. Can you please show me the research that supports a “one size fits all” model as an effective approach so I can share that with our families so they can buy into that idea? I want to make sure that moving forward we will treat every child the same and instruct them in the exact same way. You see, that would be very different from the way we currently do things at Cantiague. We have devoted our time at Cantiague focusing on differentiating instruction with an emphasis on 1:1 conferences and small groups; we have also dedicated ourselves to meeting the needs of every child; and we have made it a point to create a happy and positive environment for children so they can feel good about themselves, which in turn allows kids to avail themselves to learning. These are the things that we believe in at Cantiague and they don't seem to be aligned to the ideas espoused behind a “one size fits all” instructional approach but with the studies and research you provide us, I am sure we can start convincing the community that a "Common Core Curriculum" is the best approach.  

Yes, the list of changes can go on but we all know what they are and they have not been received in the most positive way. With that being said, I believe you can still change the current landscape of public education - we can do it together! Call me idealistic, but I think you were on the path to changing the game until the plan imploded.  Recently there was a glimmer of hope because I heard you were going to be hosting Town Hall Meetings in conjunction with the PTA throughout the state to give our families a voice in this process - AWESOME! Our families, who are the primary advocates for our children, need to have a voice and better understanding of the current state of public education in NY so they can stand behind the vision after being assured it is in the best interest of children. But, as we all know now, you have cancelled those Town Hall sessions after the first one didn’t unfold in a positive way. After watching portions on YouTube I will say that I am disappointed in the way some of the people in the audience conducted themselves and the mob mentality that almost took over the space wasn’t productive in the end but you see Dr. King, I completely understand why that happened - I could have been any one of those people in the audience - any one of those parents or educators. I understand why people got angry; I understand why people voiced their frustrations; I understand the passion that permeated the room; I understand why people shouted at you and pushed you for change. The answer is quite simple… it is all about our kids.

Although I cannot speak for every parent or educator in New York State, I can speak for myself and what I can say is that I am having a hard time understanding that all of the changes that have been implemented in New York State are actually in the best interest of kids. How is testing kids for hours on end in their best interest? How is stressing kids out about a state test in their best interest? How are the curriculum modules on Engage NY in the best interest of kids? How is a “one size fits all” instructional approach in the best interest of kids? How is evaluating our teachers and principals on student state test scores in the best interest of kids? How is reducing our kids to a number in their best interest? These are just some of the questions I have because if you can explain how all the changes you have implemented are in the best interest of kids and can support those changes with sound educational research and theory then I will be a believer… a supporter… a voice for change. But until then, I am just a concerned educator. I am just a building principal trying to do what is best for our entire community. I am just a dad trying to rekindle my son’s love for school and learning because at this point it is almost gone thanks to the “pressures” of school.

Dr. King, even though I am frustrated and disappointed about the state of education today in NY, I am still rather quixotic by nature. I tend to see the glass as half full. I believe there is still hope. I believe we can still change things for the better. I believe we can do this together. I don’t know anything about being the Commissioner of Education here in NY but I do know something about public education and with over eight years experience, I know something about educational leadership. Effective educational leaders listen to all members of the community because they deserve to be heard even if their voice doesn’t end up impacting change. Effective educational leaders take constructive feedback and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Effective educational leaders don’t take things personally. Effective educational leaders do things for their students that they would do for their own children. Effective educational leaders work diligently to ensure that their vision becomes the vision of every member of the community. Effective educational leaders lead with their heart and mind - the people being led need to feel valued, respected and appreciated as integral assets to the organization. Effective educational leaders earn the trust of those around them because they are transparent in their actions and beliefs. Effective educational leaders have one goal - doing what is in the best interest of children.

Dr. King, I submit these traits of an effective educational leader not because I doubt that they are part of your skill set but because I can assure you, from my perspective, it doesn’t seem that you are accessing them to help you bring about the change you envision for public education here in NYS. The masses don’t seem to be supporting you Dr. King and if you are going to change things you need their support; you need the masses to believe they have a voice in this process; and you need the masses to believe that everything you are doing is in the best interest of children. We can do this together Dr. King because I, for one, believe in public education. I believe in our educators. I believe in our families. I believe in our kids. Please show us all that you believe too.


Tony Sinanis
Dad to an AMAZING 4th Grader
Lead Learner Cantiague Elementary School
Elementary School Principal of the Year
Doctoral Student at University of Pennsylvania  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Being Connected Saved My Career

Groundhog Day... the movie... doing the same thing over and over and over again... hitting the plateau and getting stuck at that spot... that was the best way to describe my professional world. I was becoming Bill Murray and I wasn't thrilled about it. Don't get me wrong - I love the movie and I think Mr. Murray is a talented actor but feeling like I could pull up my calendar from the previous year on any given date and it would basically be identical as the current date was starting to get concerning... boring... and a little scary! Not only did my ADD heighten my awareness of how stuck I was feeling but I always prided myself on staying current... on learning... on growing... on getting better and for the first time in my career I didn't feel like I was achieving any of those professional and personal goals. I was doing the same thing over and over again and I didn't feel like I was contributing to our school community. I wasn't feeling like a "value added" cog in the well oiled machine (I won't even go into a rant about the value added model because I don't believe it is an effective way to evaluate educators but it seemed to fit here). 

Fortunately, I work in the most amazing school, nestled in the most awesome community, on the planet! Our kids, staff and families always find new and exciting ways to do things. They always serve as a tremendous source of inspiration for me... and this was contributing to my personal problem.... everyone around me was growing, learning and enhancing and I was feeling stuck! I needed a jolt... I needed to learn something new... I needed a personalized professional development experience that would rock my world... I needed to be a better principal.... I needed to become a Lead Learner... I needed to get connected!

In January 2012 I jumped into the deep end of the pool and joined Twitter. I was extremely hesitant to do so because the whole social media thing wasn't my scene (all the negative buzz in the press didn't help) but I needed something to move me... I needed something to save me! Although I didn't get the whole Twitter thing at first and I wasn't seeing the benefits or rewards I figured I had nothing to lose because I needed something or else I didn't know how long I could last, professionally! So, I slowly started to build my PLN - my Personal/Professional Learning Network - and I filled it with passionate educators who seemed to be using Twitter to share, collaborate, learn and grow. I started by "lurking" - just reading the tweets of those in my PLN, connecting to the blogs of different PLN members, checking out the apps people were suggesting and reading the articles people deemed worthy to share. It was slow and subtle but before I knew it, I was hooked! I was learning! I was growing! I was starting to break the Groundhog Day cycle... what a relief!

Twitter was saving my career! Instead of watching the news each morning I started my day by checking my Twitter feed and invariably, I learned something new. I read about something I wanted to try to help me be a better administrator. I explored something I thought our teachers might love or our kids might enjoy. I was leaving the plateau! After a few weeks of lurking and consuming, I started to share information that I thought was relevant and useful (links to articles, featured apps, etc.) and started to interact more with the people who I valued in my PLN and to my surprise they started responding (thank you Joe, Eric, Jessica, Todd, Bill P., Peter, Vicki, Lyn, Josh, Pernille, Tom W., Tom W., Jimmy, John, Andrew, Joan, Matt, Jason, Spike, Bill B., Michael, Curt, Daisy, Dana, Brad, Scott, Erin, Elissa, Bill K. and the list goes on and on)! I was forming connections that would change my world. Connections with passionate and dedicated educators from around the world - Australia, England, Thailand, Pennsylvania, Canada - you name the spot on the map and there was a dedicated educator from there who was willing to share on Twitter! This is when the experience really changed for me... this is when I started to feel energized... excited... empowered. This is when I took control of my learning and growth. It wasn't about Twitter... it was about the connections. The people on the other end of the tweets that I loved reading were the source of my growth. The people who believed in education; the people who were dedicated to doing what was best for children; the people who believed they could learn and grow every single day. Those connections... my PLN... these people I didn't know in "real life" were becoming my support, my resource and my friends. My PLN and being a connected educator were saving my career.

You might be thinking - why do I need to go to Twitter for these connections when I have colleagues I work with each day and could just pick up the phone to connect? Well, that is a valid question and one I considered at length. I have incredible colleagues and I have learned a lot from them over the years but what I found was that we were all wrestling with the same questions, issues and needs and getting an outside perspective could only be a positive thing. The thing that is different about the educators on Twitter... the people who I have connected with... is that they are the best of the best from across the globe (not just from your own school or district)! They are willing to share, collaborate, problem solve, seek advice, give advice, offer perspectives, share resources or just share a joke or story that makes me laugh and gets me through the day. 

Lately I have been reading a lot about participatory cultures and I think this concept best captures the Twitter experience... the power of the PLN! Jenkins defines a participatory culture as a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement (discussing ed reform, sharing our students' blogs, etc.), strong support for creating and sharing one's original works (i.e. - blog) and a type of "membership agreement" where what is known by the experts is freely shared with the novices - and that experts and novices fluidly switch roles because at some moment in time we are all experts or novices. Members in a participatory culture feel like their contributions matter and they feel connected with the others in the community. Based on this "definition" and the connections I have formed on Twitter, I would say that the educators on Twitter have created a participatory culture... a culture where everyone feels valued, supported and heard. A place where one's thinking is stretched and being pushed out of one's comfort zone is the norm not the exception. A place where the connections serve as the inspiration.  

Want a place where you can personalize your learning and professionally develop yourself while standing on line at the supermarket? Want to learn from some of the most amazing educators in the world? Want to consume, share, grow and enhance your skill set every single day? Want to avoid the Groundhog Dog experience? Want to save your career? Then the answer is simple... GET CONNECTED!      

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Boost at the Bammys

This past weekend I had the honor of attending the Bammy Award ceremony in Washington, D.C. and words cannot even begin to express how much this experience meant to me. So, I was invited to attend because I was one of five finalists for Elementary School Principal of the Year, which was such an incredible honor considering my company (the likes of Mazza, Hilt and Wejr). In the end, I was selected as Elementary School Principal of the Year (still kind of shocked about that whole idea) and because it happened so early in the ceremony I totally flubbed my two sentence "acceptance speech" that was supposed to be witty, engaging and possibly profound - I don't think I accomplished any of those goals but it was an honor nonetheless.

This was just one small part of the experience for me because being at the Bammys was about so much more. It was an opportunity to meet, see and connect with some of the country's most dedicated and passionate educators! I had a chance to interact with Eric Sheninger, Tom Murray, Joe Mazza, Jimmy Casas, Jeff Zoul, Daisy Dyer Duerr, Bill Krawkower, Dana Sirotiak, Dwight Carter, Chris Lehmann, Pernille Ripp, Joyce Valenzia, Erin Klein, Joan Young, Shannon Miller, Amanda Dykes, Adam Bellow, Paula Naugle, Tom Whitby and Kristen Swanson just to name a few (definitely look them up and follow them on Twitter). I am still in awe thinking about it because each of these people has affected my thinking and practice in some way, shape or form over the last two years. Each of these people has helped me become a better Lead Learner and educator. Each of these people have helped keep me fresh and excited about my profession.

Now, did I get to talk shop with every single one of them? No. Did I get to sit one on one with each of them and have a profound conversation about how we could change the landscape of public education? No. But, I did have a chance to share a meal with some of them (thanks for lunch Jeff). I had a chance to share a joke and laughter with many of them (thank you Paula, Daisy, Jimmy, Gwen, Melissa, Tom, Adam, etc.). I had a chance to discuss some of the things I love about being an educator with several of them (thank you Joe, Dwight, Dana, Tom, Bill, etc.). I had a chance to be in their presence and soak up their passion and enthusiasm. For me, the Bammy Award gathering was an incredible boost! A boost of excitement about being an educator. A boost of energy to take that risk and seek the opportunity to innovate even when it's not easy. A boost of knowledge to question the norm and look at things through a different lens. A boost to remind me that our country is filled with incredible educators who have one goal in mind - doing what is in the best interest of children! Educators who are always willing to share and collaborate. Educators who get excited about trying something new in their space. Educators who look beyond the reform movement that is focused on reducing us all to a number. Educators who are proud to be educators.

Over the last couple of days, there have been concerns expressed about the Bammy Awards experience; there has been disappointment expressed over some of the things said during the ceremony; and there has been a lively exchange on Twitter about whether or not awards should be given. I think this is all great stuff because it challenges us to reflect and deliberate - both are opportunities for growth. 

Will the whole Bammy experience probably improve over time? My guess is yes (my first two suggestions are to make sure that the teacher categories get recognized during the ceremony and that they get some WiFi up in that place)! Could the ceremony be structured differently? I am sure that could be improved too. Should we be giving out awards? I see both sides of that argument. 

In the end, from my humble perspective, I thought the entire Bammy experience was awesome because it wasn't only about the awards (although I am honored to have won one) - it was about being in the same space with some of the most incredible educators in the world. I left Washington D.C. with many new friends, a larger PLN to collaborate with and a renewed excitement for my work as an educator. I got a boost at the Bammys and I hope I can return next year!  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Leadership Should be Shared

During my doctoral studies I have read a lot about the importance of distributed and shared leadership and the importance of those practices within our schools. Distributed leadership is a model that secures staff members' full participation in the school's decision-making processes, promotes powerful and purposeful collaboration and amicable work relations, generates passion for accomplishing common goals, and boosts student and teacher productivity throughout the organization (as described by Natsiopoulou and Giouroukakis in When The Teachers Run the School). This approach to leadership is basically a MUST in the current landscape of public education because the principal is expected to be a transformative leader who successfully manages and balances instructional leadership responsibilities with the countless administrative tasks and expectations. 

When considering the idea of distributed leadership, I immediately think about my own ability to develop leadership skills and abilities in those around me. Do our teachers feel empowered? Do our teachers have opportunities to assume leadership roles? Do any of our teachers want to "grow up" and become administrators? Unfortunately, I recently came to the conclusion that this is a deficit for me as a leader because I couldn't emphatically answer YES to any of the questions above. I don't think I am really good at developing leadership skills in those around me. I am not sure why this is the case but this is an area where I want to improve and grow. So, since I haven't actually mastered how to develop leadership skills in others, these are the I want our teachers to know as I try and achieve this goal... 

I want to ensure that our teachers feel supported and empowered. 

I want to ensure that our teachers know that taking risks and failing is considered a good thing - go for it! 

I want our teachers to know that if they have an idea, there is always a forum for them to share their ideas and eventually put them into action. 

I want our teachers to know that I trust them. 

I want our teachers to know that there isn't just ONE way to do things and that they can try different things in their spaces. 

I want to ensure that our teachers feel heard, valued and respected.

I want to ensure that our teachers have the opportunity to collaborate - there is power in numbers (in a good way).

I want our teachers to know that I would be honored to "set the stage" for them to assume leadership roles.

I want our teachers to know that I learn from them EVERY SINGLE DAY!

I want our teachers to know they are the true leaders of our space and that our children's growth and development is because of their daily efforts!

In the end, I am not sure if the list above will help me better develop distributed leadership approaches or help develop leadership skills in our various staff members but I do know that it will be one of my goals for this year... share the fun... share the passion... share the leadership!  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Trust: Foundation for Success

Although earning and giving trust can be quite challenging for some people, the bottom line is that no relationship will be successful without trust at the core. We need to trust that our friends and family have our best interest at heart. We need to trust that our significant others accept and support us. We need to trust that our children will make good decisions when we aren't around. Trust is a difficult thing to establish and build because on some levels it require a degree of blind faith until that other person has proven to be trustworthy. Yet, without trust, there will be no progress. No success. No growth. Trust is most definitely a foundational building block.

There is nowhere else this is more true than within an educational community. As the Lead Learner of Cantiague Elementary my primary goal was earning and maintaining the trust of all members of the community. I knew if we were going to be successful as an organization we needed trust at the core. I wanted the students to trust that I would advocate for them regardless of their needs. I wanted the staff to trust that I had their back and would consider their perspectives when making decisions. I wanted the families to know that I would love and take care of their children as if they were my own - our children are our lives. I knew that if we were going to move forward as a community we needed trust at the core. Research shows that social trust amongst all constituent groups in the educational community improves the routine daily work and is a key resource for reform, growth and success.

Although I still have a lot to learn about earning the trust of others, these are some of the things I did to build and earn the respect of each constituent group in our community...

1) I learned everyone's name. The names of each staff members. The names of the people who were important to our staff members (their spouses, children, etc.). The names of each child in our building. The names of as many family members as possible. Knowing someone's name isn't the biggest deal but it allowed me to establish a personal connection with every member of the organization and personal connections are critical to the building of trust. When I am able to greet someone by their first name or inquire about them by using their first name, the complexion of the exchange changes, in an incredibly positive way.

2) I am transparent with every member of our community. Our community knows about my family, my doctoral studies, my taste in music and television shows (Yes, I do watch the Real Housewives of NJ - don't judge me), my passion for technology, Mets and Jets. Our community knows who I am as a person and how I am wired and that is critical because those are the things that shape me as a leader (NOT the Real Housewives - don't worry!). Who we are outside of school influences who we are inside of school and the more people understand about the two the more likely they are to give trust.

3) I use social media and my blog to flatten the walls of our school and let the community in. They see pictures of children working in their book clubs, using manipulatives to solve math problems, playing handball at recess, participating in science experiments and generally having a blast in school. The community sees pictures of our staff engaged during faculty gatherings, classroom activities and various other interactions. The community reads my blog and knows my stance on high stakes testing, my opinion of the current evaluation process in NYS and my thoughts on what makes us a Blue Ribbon School. I use social media and technology to be transparent because without transparency there can be no trust.

4) I try to be fair and consistent every day with every member of the community. I want everyone to know that although I value each individual tremendously, I will deal with situations in a fair way without making them personal. This is key because it lets everyone know that there are no favorites - everyone will be treated fairly and with respect. This has seriously helped me gain the trust of our families because they know that my priority are the children and no one child or family gets special treatment.

5) I lead with my heart because I love what I do and I am incredibly passionate about my work as the Lead Learner of Cantiague. So, I realize that not everyone can or should lead with their heart but what I have found is that people in our community have been giving of their trust to me because they know my heart is invested in our students; my heart is invested in our staff; my heart is invested in our community; my heart is invested in our collective success. 

Although I have not done any formal research on the success of my five steps to building trust as outlined above, I do believe that there is trust at the core of most of my relationships at Cantiague. How do I know you ask? Well, you may not know this if you haven't been in our building but there is a sense of pride that permeates our space – we are, collectively, proud of the work we do for children and we will try anything and everything to affect our students and the community in a positive way. How did we make that happen? With trust, which is at the foundation of our success.          

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Am a Nine

In case you haven't heard, the whole educator evaluation process here in NYS has changed dramatically over the last two years. Although there are many significant changes, the one that stands out the most is that we are being rated and evaluated out of 100 points - 60 points come from the district level based on observations, activities, etc; 20 points come from how our students perform on local assessments; and finally, 20 points come from how our students perform on high stakes testing - this is known as the Growth Score (check out this cute little video NYS made for us so we can all understand how the growth score is calculated). 

Well, last week I received my Principal Growth Score as a result of our performance on the 2012-13 New York State Common Core Tests. I am a nine. A nine out of twenty. Less than half. Barely in the effective range. I am a nine. Although I was initially frustrated by the score, I have accepted my nine. Nine isn't the worst number. I loved my ninth birthday. My son is going to be nine this year. I have been a building administrator for nine years. Maybe nine suits me pretty perfectly - better than I initially realized. 

Unfortunately, there is another side to this nine - the not so nice side. You see, because of this nine, no matter how many points I get out of the other 80 possible points I can earn, I cannot be rated highly effective. That's it - no matter what else I may have done this year to push our building forward (our staff did INCREDIBLE things last year), advocate for the needs of our children (our staff worked tirelessly to meet the needs of each child), or support various community efforts (we flattened the walls to our school and made things even more transparent for the community), I will only be effective, at best. Don't get me wrong - I am not driven by a label - throwing the word HIGHLY in front of EFFECTIVE doesn't mean very much to me. I am fine with being effective because it means there is room for growth; room for risk taking; room to be better for our community. 

So, in the spirit of being better... and looking to learn and grow, I would like to share nine things that I think the NYS Department of Education and our esteemed Commissioner of Education, Dr. John King, should consider when planning for the future...

1) Our children, staff and communities are much more than a number. Instead of trying to reduce us all to a number (evaluative scores, test results, rankings, etc.) please take the time to get to know us and know what we are doing well because we are more than a number. 

2) Figure out what schools are doing well and try and emulate those practices instead of trying to make us all fit into the same box. I understand it's difficult to know what's going on in each school because there are thousands of schools in NYS, but a more robust understanding of the current landscape throughout the state would be greatly appreciated. Are there issues throughout the state? Yes! Are there schools and districts that need to improve significantly because the children deserve better? Yes! But, why must educational reform in NYS be rooted in what's wrong in our schools instead of what's right in our schools? Instead of feeling pressured to get our test scores up, I would much rather spend time sharing and collaborating with colleagues from around the state about best practices - these practices are what make a difference in the daily lives of children.

3) Give us time to shift, implement and take risks with our practices! We just adopted and implemented the Common Core State Standards all within the last year (many districts are still working on the implementation) and yet already, we are all being assessed against these standards. How is that fair? Just because a teenager passes his/her permit test and takes a few driving lessons, doesn't mean he/she are ready to race at the Daytona 500! Instead, we need time to experiment, fail and problem solve without being judged. Give us time!

4) Take feedback from the people working in schools, with children, to help enhance, modify and improve various mandates and policies. We are living APPR each day - let us tell you what should change! We administered the Common Core NYS Tests to actual children - let us tell you what happened and what could be changed. We are struggling to "fit it all in" - let us tell you what could possibly change. Instead of implementing all these sweeping large scale changes across the entire state, things should have been piloted or tested in pockets so State Ed could have worked out the kinks before imposing it all on every child and educator in the state. 

5) Evaluating a teacher based on how students perform on high stakes testing is not a reliable measure (check out this article about the issues with value added models). The scores for individual educators will go up and down each year with little ability to predict where they will end up. So, what's the point? For example, I know of an educator who received a 2 out of 20 last year but this year received a 13 out of 20. My guess is that next year the same educator will have a totally different score because of the student population. The number fluctuates dramatically each year and that is because there are too many variables to control for when evaluating an educator against how their students perform on high stakes testing. Eliminate this part of the APPR plan - let's implement something more robust and thorough (maybe a digital portfolio) and less quick and dirty (ratings that are based on high stakes tests that rely heavily on multiple choice questions).

6) Change the NYS Tests! Instead of letting them be so one dimensional with an over abundance of multiple choice questions, give our children an opportunity to show you what THEY know and can do in the areas of literacy and mathematics. Instead of trying to trick them with multiple choice questions that many adults cannot answer and trying to exhaust them with days of testing, give them a chance to evaluate, synthesize, think critically and apply the skills they have to solve real life problems and situations. This way, we can have a true understanding of what our children know and can do. Instead, currently, all we can really figure out is if they bubbled in the right answer - not WHY they bubbled it in just if they did. The current testing situation, where the results are used to evaluate educators, does NOT work. Furthermore, it seems that NYS is saying that we can assess college and career readiness with how students perform on multiple choice tests - REALLY?!? We need to consider multiple data points - not just the results of one test! By considering multiple data points we do not have to rely on annual standardized state testing to evaluate our students or educators. For example, our students could be tested independently every three years, starting in third grade, using a standardized test. This way, we will have data points that span from elementary to high school graduation. Additionally, there should be group task oriented assessments during the years between standardized tests where the students must collaborate to solve a set of real life problems. Furthermore, our students should be expected to maintain a digital portfolio that will feature work from all content areas that will be scored against rubrics generated collaboratively between teachers and students. By integrating all these assessments we can use multiple data points to determine student growth over an extended period of time and across all content areas, not just in Mathematics and English Language Arts. Multiple data points mean that we do not have to rely on summative assessments for evaluation purposes and instead we will have access to formative assessment data that can help us meet the needs of our students in real time and give every student an entry point to learning. 

7) Give us data we can use to inform instruction and help our children learn and grow! Our children spend hours taking these tests, which we are never allowed to see again, and we receive the results just in time for the next school! What's the point? We cannot do anything with this information because we don't have all the pieces in a timely fashion. As educators, many of us dedicate our lives to using as many assessment points as possible to help us plan and guide future instructional decisions to best meet the needs of our children. The data from NYS seems to be used for one purpose, and one purpose only, to judge.       

8) Implement policies and mandates that foster and expect the use of 21st century skills and innovation in our schools! Challenge us to make technology a regular part of instruction- not an add on. Ask us to encourage our children to collaborate for the purposes of thinking critically and creating - that is the root of innovation. Innovative thinkers who are willing to keep failing until they perfect their vision are the ones changing the world and affecting the global economic landscape - not the people who can pick the correct answer on a multiple choice test.

9) Don't use our children and educators as pawns in some massive money making scheme. Let Pearson figure out other ways to make money. Don't try and privatize public education and turn it into a business. Our children should be the focus - each and every day we should be driven by doing what is best for our children; not what is going to put more money into the already fat pockets of different individuals and corporations. 

Although this list can go on and on (please leave a comment below and add to this list - let's help NYS get better) because there are always things we can be doing better, I am only a nine. I am a nine who will not this nine define me, our students, staff or community. In the end, I am happy to share that name is Tony and I am a nine!