Sunday, August 18, 2013

Where Do We Go From Here

Creative Commons License use from 96dpi (Andreas Levers) at Flickr
Every summer we spend time interviewing potential new staff members for jobs at Plymouth High School and as I reflect on the answers to the questions we ask, I often use my drive time home to think about how I might answer a similar question when the time comes for me to seek a principal position.  One of the questions that has always troubled me is "Where do you see yourself in five years?"  It is troubling in many respects, the first and foremost being that while wanting to sound ambitious and desiring to move up, you don't want to be viewed as being overly motivated by the desire to have the job of the person hiring you.  In today's world of education though, it troubles me more because I no longer know where we might be in five years as an industry.

When I was growing up teaching was one of the most stable professions in the world, so much so that this has become one of the chief complaints/criticisms of the industry as the reform era has dawned.  Despite recent high turnover, according to a 2011 Huffington Post article the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future estimates that 50% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years of entering it, in my educational life as a student (Lyons Township High School Class of 1987) it seemed as if my teachers never left, and where still there when I went back to visit unless they retired.  Today, with the pace of change that future can no longer be assured.  I often wonder if I will still be in education long enough to retire, not because of a decision by me to leave what I love, but rather because education as a profession will no longer exist in a form that supports the education enterprise.

I am not bemoaning change, in fact over my years in the profession I have not only embraced it but chased after it, but rather I ponder how those changes will come and what they may look like.  A few weeks ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled the The $4 Million Teacher, that might show us a window into what that five years from now world might look like.  It both exhilarated and scared me at the same time.  I was exhilarated at the possibilities of how we can use technology to better connect our students to resources and truly differentiate the learning they receive.  I was scared because of the wide chasm that the system described has created between those who have access to private teachers outside of school hours and those who do not and must rely on what schools can offer within their budget restrictions.  In a perfect world, all students would have access to the best and brightest teachers and know how to connect with quality resources for learning.  In the real world, the basic economic problem of scarcity will continually raise it's head and swat away those dreams and aspirations.  It is our challenge as a nation to see how we can pursue the dream of equality in education as it competes with the myriad other budgetary goals, entitlements, and Bridges to Nowhere.

Four years ago when I came to Plymouth High School I was asked where I wanted to be in five years.  I can no longer recall my response, but here is how I would answer if asked today, and it really is not focused on the position I would want to be in, but rather the type of school system I would want to work in.

I want to be a principal in a progressive school system.  One that is on the cutting edge of education, that embraces the changes and challenges of the profession, is a leader in expanding opportunities for students and meeting them at their point of need not our point of instruction, one that is built on a foundation of continuous pursuit of knowledge to improve the craft of teaching.  I don't know where that place is exactly, but I want to be a part of making this place become that one.  

What would your answer look like?  More importantly, what are you doing today to bring that ideal place into your current one?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tivo my Life

When I was growing up Thursday nights on NBC where consistently the best night of TV.  Hill Street Blues, The Cosby Show, Cheers, etc... Each of those shows became something you had to watch.  By the 90's, when Friends, Seinfeld, Fraser, and ER dominated Thursday night and it had become Must see TV.  Today however, appointment TV has become whenever and where ever we want it to occur.  We can Tivo our shows, to watch at a later time (5 of them at once if you have Directv's Genie), can watch anything on our phones, including football, and can watch live tv on our tablets.

But tonight's post is not about television and my by gone youth.  Nor is it about disconnecting from our hyper connected world.  Rather it is about a random thought as I walked out of school.  What if I could Tivo my exercise.  I am not talking about Tivoing shows to watch them later, while I am on the treadmill, but rather being able to pause, rewind, or record my actual workouts so that they fit better into my life.  Last year I did a wellness journey for a local wellness facility.  I worked out regularly, wrote about my experience, and in general enjoyed myself.  Then, when the time to promote ended, so did my journey.

Even when I would schedule a workout or class as an appointment-it wasn't Must see TV, and thus it often went undone.  Even the negative incentive for missing workouts-money I was paying for access to the club that I was not using being money that was basically being thrown away-was not enough to get me back on track.  As our Director of Guidance said in a meeting last week, the pace of our school is incredibly fast, and it is.  That became incredibly evident this week when the first two days of school sped by with me barely being able to find time to each lunch, and students haven't even arrived yet.

This week with school beginning again, I had made the goal of beginning to work out again.  The goal being to go to 2 classes a week (cycling and yoga) and then run/walk a minimum of 3.1 miles on my own 2 days a week.  So far I am oh for two, and it is not looking better for the rest of the week.  It is not so much that I don't want to be healthier, but rather time seems to slip so quickly by, and before I know it the day is done and my workout is not.  I need to find a way to insert more time into my day.  To be able to pause what is going on, spend my 30 minutes working out, and then pick back up where I left off.  In reality I need to not Tivo my Workout, but rather Tivo my Life.

Now if I could only figure out how to invent an app for that, or at least find a working method to make exercise happen...

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Joys of the Young

I spent tonight working on a presentation for our students with my daughter.  Normally, my work stays at school, or at least gets done outside on my deck as oppesed to being done in the house with my family. Tonight was different though, first I was attempting to make some informative videos regarding computer policy at our high school, and I wanted to have some fun doing them, so I used the Tellagami App to do them. If you have not used them before, Tellagami allows you to create gamis, which are full body avatars that you can create from scratch. You can choose the gender, eye color, hair color and style, skin color, and clothing of your gami, and best of all you can give your gami an outsized head. For a background you can use a pre-made one, or upload a background of your own from your photostream. For these gamis I used noticeable places from around our school, and then enlisted my youngest daughters help to design the gami (she consulted on mine and then designed 3 of her own) and then record 3 of the four messages. Per family policy, whenever I use either of my daughters in my work, or mention them in my blog or in class they are paid, so this would cost me $5 for creative talents, but the joy it brought was well worth it. It was fun to watch her as she practiced her lines, recorded her speeches, in her normal voice and her English accent, and acted out her gestures as she spoke. The best part though were the multiple takes. For each script she read through it silently first, asking for help with words that were beyond her 4th grading reading level, then practiced two times before hitting record. After each take she would listen, critique her work, and if not satisfied start over. It was a great way to spend and evening, but the best payoff was yet to come....When we finished with our gamis, she sat down at her computer and began typing out scripts for some gamis of her own. I can't wait to see what she produces. As an added bonus, while recording our gamis, I thought that maybe we should use some of the gamis to illustrate our dress code, create one dressed appropriately, and as my duaghter would say one "not so much" (must be said in a snooty English accent for best effect). My wife then suggested that instead of using the limited dress of gamis, maybe she would model appropriate and not so much appropriate outfits and give her opinion. For a girl who changes clothes 5 times a day, this was too good a deal. So tomorrow morning we will be up early, filming some dress code videos to share with the faculty, and hopefully continuing to have a blast, even if it will cost me a few dollars more.