1. Jump up out of bed and go into the day with a mindset that you are going to do great things for students.
2. Take risks! When you take risks others others will follow suit. Risk-taking is contagious.
3. Have real conversations with colleagues and students. Get to know people and let them into your own world.
4. Rely on the expertise of your colleagues. Every educator has a unique skill set that can help enhance your effectiveness and address student needs.
5. Continually evolve as an educator. Look for opportunities to grow in both the physical and virtual worlds. Your students will be appreciative of these efforts.
6. Highlight student and staff achievements using social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
7. Leverage the power of Google tools to drive creation, communication, and creativity.
8. Attend students’ extracurricular events. They love the support that you show and will never forget.
9. Send notes or emails of encouragement to a student and his or her parents. Put a smile on someone's face and let them know how much they are appreciated.
10. Add courses like STEM or coding to your existing offerings. Students love learning experiences that are hands-on and fun.
11. Conduct a Spotlight Assembly that recognizes students for their efforts. Byram Intermediate School in New Jersey does a great job with running this monthly program.
12. Visit your colleague's classrooms and schools to learn about new strategies. Just because you share the same hallway or office space doesn't mean you know what they are doing from an educational standpoint.
13. Hold monthly student round table meetings. Students must have a voice in decisions that ultimately effect their educational experience. This can be done at grade, team, school or district level.
14. Check in with a handful of different students each week. Just saying hello and getting some informal feedback about your class, school, or district can go a long way.
15. Conduct yearly stakeholder surveys, using a tool like Google Forms, to see how your classroom, school, or district can improve learning environments.
16. Give every student a voice in your classroom by using Flipgrid. Great way for students to share their own insight and gain perspective on important topics from their classmates.
17. Find a way to integrate recess into student's daily schedules. Movement is good for students. Stuck inside? Try using GoNoodle.
18. Take your students outside for a lesson. It's always nice to have a change of scenery.
19. Leverage the power of technology to provide students with timely feed back on assignments. There should never be surprises once a grade is given.
20. Keep parents in the know of classroom, school, or district happenings. Maintain a weekly blog and continuously update your website. It's very important to blast this information out via text, email, and push notification.
This list is a living document and will expand on a frequent basis. How are you helping students succeed? Leave your insight in the comment section. Remember to dare every student to succeed. Keep fighting the good fight!
I first wrote this blog post way back in 2013. Fast forward five years to the present and this issue still persists. Those who spin a negative light, particularly on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, claim they are "challenging" others to think differently. What they are doing in fact is turning a positive conversation into a negative. Personally, I do not need to have my thinking challenged in a negative way by some knucklehead agitator. Don't get me wrong, I love to think differently about important issues in education. But I don't force feed my thoughts onto others with curt tweets.
On the flip side of this issue, I do appreciate people holding each other accountable. For instance, there a few educators out there that are phonies and people are calling them out on social media. This absolutely needs to happen because I feel, along with many others, that they are giving educators as a whole a bad name. If you are going to call someone out, make sure that you have the basis to do so.
Here is my post from 2013...
Recently I have been seeing a “negative tone” trend on Twitter towards myself and other like-minded educators. Not sure as to the reasons why, but it has raised an eye brow or two on my end. Over the past year and a half on Twitter I have been exposed to an amazing amount of positive and enlightening ideas related to best practices in the school setting. I have made thousands of connections and participated in so many positive conversations that it truly has changed me for the better. So many wonderful opportunities have arisen because of my connections on Twitter such as #Satchat, speaking engagements, blog posts, conversing with lead learners, and most importantly being exposed to innovative ideas that will impact my students.
So why the recent negative tone on Twitter and in the blogging world? Not sure. Maybe a few educators are fed up with state mandates, evaluation reform, budget cuts, standardized testing, outside interests, or what some perceive as a negative outlook on the teaching profession. The fact of the matter is this, we all need to continue to be the positive force behind effective change and providing students with a innovative learning environment. The only way this happens is if we continue to share great ideas and resources with the hope of promoting the success of all students. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to challenge each other’s thinking from time to time. But to do so in a way that only incorporates negativity and a lack of solutions doesn’t help anyone.
In closing, the only way we can combat negativity is with positive solutions. Somebody once told me in a similar situation to just “kill them with kindness.” Educators on Twitter often share ideas or have conversations with best intentions in mind. And yes we realize that sometimes these initiatives can not be implemented whole heartedly due to the current climate that we are apart of. The fact remains is that we need to keep on sharing and moving the conversation forward as it relates to what’s best for kids. Let’s leave the negativity behind and think before we press “tweet.” For me, Twitter has been a “breath of fresh air” and has allowed all educators to thrive in so many influential ways. Let’s keep fighting the good fight and keep the “negative nelly” personas locked away in a box.
I can remember in the early to mid 90's when I took my first public speaking course as a middle school student. Looking back it was probably one of the best things I ever did in terms of building my confidence and learning how to get my points across to an audience. It was nerve-racking and challenging to say the least, but made me a more well rounded person. Learning how to engage groups of people helped me down the road when I ultimately landed my first job as a social studies and computer education teacher. Fast forward to the present, I use my past public speaking experiences as a social studies teacher, coach, and administrator to help me with presenting on the national stage about my passions in the field of education.
Pubic speaking in the year 2018, goes well beyond engaging audiences in the physical world. Now, there is an expectation for children and adults to convey their thoughts virtually. Whether it's an online meeting, webinar, Skype, YouTube Live, Periscope, Facebook Live, screen cast, or Flipgrid, people must possess a diversified skill set to get their points across through a device.
Here are 12 points of emphasis as it relates to public speaking in the digital world...
This past week I attended Techspo 18 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For once I did not present and focused on learning. Don't get me wrong, I am always learning through interacting with my PLN, reading, and observing the great things that are going on in our schools. But at least a handful of times a year, I really try to attend educational events as a participant. I enjoy sitting in on sessions, having informal conversations, visiting with vendors, and taking in the keynote addresses. Here a list of things I learned about at Techspo 18...
Don Wettrick's keynote address was phenomenal! He challenged folks in the room to truly think about the innovative learning experiences they are supporting or not supporting. In simple terms: Innovate or Die. I enjoyed listening to the stories and insights he shared related to Kodak, Moore's Law, 20% time, Linchpin mentality, and schools making the entrepreneurial shift. Check out Don's website, StartEdUp for a plethora of innovation ideas and resources. Also, check out his book titled Pure Genius for further motivation and guidance on the very important topic on innovation. As yourself as an educator: Are we really listening to our customers?
I challenge you to attend an educational event in the near future and learn about something new or how some traditional method has been modernized. Ask questions and network with individuals to gain as much insight as humanly possible. We owe to ourselves as educators, especially if we are the ones presenting most of the time, to stay current with trends that will ultimately impact the success of students.
Looking for an educational event that will help you evolve as an educator? Consider attending the 4th Annual Tomorrow's Classrooms Today Conference at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ on Friday, May 18 an Saturday, May 19. Eric Sheninger and Salome Thomas-El are the keynote speakers. Over 80 innovative sessions will be offered that focus on learning spaces, STEM, paperless environments, assessment, blogging, coding, digital creation, and so much more. Visit the conference website at http://www.evolvingeducators.com/2018-tomorrows-classrooms-today-conference.html for more information.
For the past six years I have moderated #Satchat, a Twitter Chat for educators from all walks of life. #Satchat was founded by Scott Rocco and I back in 2012. Soon there after, Billy Krakower joined our team, and the rest is history. It takes place every Saturday morning at 7:30 EST. #Satchat is one of the longest running educational chats and appreciates the hundreds of participants that tweet out on a weekly basis. Educators also have an opportunity to not only participate, but actually guest moderate #Satchat. They can select the topic, develop questions, and interact participants during the hour long Q&A. Once people drink the Twitter Chat juice, they often want to take a risk and start their own weekly educational chat. When this happens, people will reach out to me and ask what types tools are used to conduct a Twitter Chat. Way back in 2014 I wrote a blog post titled 10 Tools to Start a Twitter Chat to steer educators in the right direction. Here is an updated version of the list...
1. Twitter: This will be used to hold the chat. Make sure to choose a simple hashtag name. Some research will take place in order to determine if a hashtag you are thinking about is actually available. Use the search box on Twitter and type in the hashtag to see if it's available. and use a Q1/A1 format in order for participants to follow the discussion. Promote your Twitter discussion on a daily basis leading up to the chat.
2. Buffer: This tool allows users to pre-schedule Tweets. I recommend pre-scheduling some of your tweets in advance of your chat to free up some time to interact with participants during the chat.
3. Participate: This phenomenal and interactive website enables Twitter chats to be archived and accessed by users. A great feature of this website is that it provides users with the ability to build their own content based off of a particular educational hashtag. It also provides useful analytics and sharing features.
4. Canva: Simple graphic design software that gives users the ability to create images that contain questions and promotional content for your chat.
5. Voxer: Extend your half hour or hour long Twitter chat using this messaging app. Questions can be discussed in more detail throughout week. Voxer puts a voice behind the tweet.
6. Cybraryman's Twitter Chat Page: Tremendous resource for all of your Twitter chat and hashtag needs.
7. Facebook: Start a Facebook fan page for your Twitter chat to keep people up to date. Great way to promote content, upcoming chats, and extend the conversation.
8. Smore: Promote your Twitter chat with this online poster tool. It's easy to set up and edit.
9. Google Sheets: Create a useful spreadsheet to house questions for your Twitter chat. It allows multiple users to collaborate on the spreadsheet in real time.
10. 140 Twitter Tips for Educators: Get Connected, Grow Your Professional Learning Network and Reinvigorate Your Career. This book was written by the founders of Evolving Educators LLC. It's a one stop shop book on everything educators need to know the impact of Twitter in their profession.
Brad has been an educator for more than 17 years as a coach, teacher, and administrator. He currently serves as a Director of Planning, Research, and Evaluation for the Chester School District in Chester, New Jersey. Brad is the 2017 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year and part of the ASCD Emerging Leaders Class of 2014. He is the co-founder and co-moderator of a weekly Twitter discussion for educators called #satchat. Brad has authored four books including 140 Twitter Tips for Educators and Hacking Google for Education. He presents nationally on leadership, teaching, and learning in the digital era. Brad currently serves as an adjunct professor in Drew University's Graduate School of Education. He also is a Google Certified Trainer and supports districts in implementing Google Apps for Education. Connect with Brad by following him on Twitter @thebradcurrie or visiting his company website at www.evolvingeducators.com.
Picture it, you are teaching a class just like any other typical day and then all of the sudden your cell phone dings with a notification. At the same time your desktop computer pushes out a blaring alert. It's a Share911 message saying that all students and staff must evacuate the building immediately. Your class quietly leaves the classroom in an orderly fashion and follows the correct evacuation procedures. As other students and staff leave the building, the command center, located in the main office and led by the building principal, is monitoring the Share911 alert that she sent out just a few minutes ago to see, in real-time, the various classes that are checking in from their smartphones. Based off of past drills that were conducted, teachers know that once they arrive at the appropriate evacuation site, they must check-in on the Share911 app. This gives the command center an opportunity to see who is accounted for and missing. Eventually, the building principal feels that enough time has lapsed to call off the drill. Using the Share911 app, she is able to send out an "all clear" alert to the teachers that the evacuation situation is over. Students and staff then return to their classrooms in an orderly fashion. The building principal then runs a report with a few clicks of the mouse or taps of the screen to see if everyone was able to check-in and that students were accounted for.
The situation described above would look much different ten years ago. An announcement would need to be made over the PA system, color coded cards displayed, additional announcements, and post drill collection forms filled out and collected. Share911 gives users the ability to quickly communicate with others during a crisis or drill on the internet enabled device. It could be utilized inside or outside the classroom setting. Many schools and districts now use Share911 to communicate during drill or actual emergency. It's part of school safety manuals and is an expectation that everyone uses the web application each time a situation arises.
So what do you say? Consider moving your school or district emergency management plan to the digital world. Meet people where they are, which is on their devices, to effectively to ensure their safety and provide real-time information.
Want to learn more about Share911? Click here to fill out a very brief contact information form and someone will get back to you as soon as humanly possible.
Disclosure: Share911 will potentially compensate me for helping to spread the word about their awesome product. I only recommend products on my blog that I truly believe in and would use myself.
A new year is upon us and with that comes an opportunity for educators to find new ways to enhance their effectiveness and promote the success of all students. Evolving as an educator should be something that is ongoing, that not only helps yourself grow, but others as well. Make it your mission this year to share the ideas and resources of others in the field of education, more than sharing your own ideas and resources, in order to underscore the importance that the world of education is no longer in isolation. Truly reflect on the ratio of what you put out there related to you as an individual versus others that you work with or that are part of your PLN.
Truth be told, I really try to share the great work and ideas of others more than my own work. Social media posts, blogs, books, podcasts, events, instructional practices, leadership methods, and other educational items can be shared out both in the physical and virtual worlds. Whether at a faculty meeting or a tweet, great things are going on and other people need know about it. I really believe that every single educator out there has something great to share. Over the past ten years or so it has become easier to share out ideas and resources to the masses through various devices and web applications. I implore you to take it upon yourself this year and commit to sharing the ideas and resources that others have to offer.
Don't get me wrong, it's still important to share out the wonderful things that you are doing as an educator. In fact, each morning I look forward to reading blogs and social media posts that others put out there. One tip that I like to promote is using a tool like Feedly to keep track of all your favorite online content. Most of what I share out across my social channels comes from Feedly. If I see a post from someone like Eric Sheninger or Monica Burns, I share it out directly from my Feedly feed. Other times I scroll through Facebook groups or Edsurge email insights to stay current with innovations. Once a day I really try to commit to sharing someone else's idea or resource. More often than not, I am able to share someone else's work two or three times a day. It could be on social media, via email, in an observation report, or through an informal conversation.
One thing I do twice a month is push out a list of five educational resources to my colleagues. When I come across a great blog post, article, or tool I make sure to bookmark and include in the next blast. It's called the Bulldog Bulletin, as our mascot is the Bulldog. Staff enjoy reading it for the most part and will sometimes send me resources they come across to include in the next blast. On the same note, you might want to subscribe to the Evolving 8 which comes out on a monthly basis and contains many great resources.
Right now take a few moments to reflect on how often or how little you share the work of others. Either way, somewhere around five shares a week is a good starting point. Pay special attention to what is going in your classroom, school, district, or organization and think about how what you experience can help other educators. At the end of the day people don't know what they don't know and it's up to you as a lead learner to let others to stay in the loop of best practices. Sharing brings inspiration to so many and motivates the unmotivated to try something new. It all goes back to helping students and the only way this can be accomplished is continuously sharpening your own saw and the saws of others.
2017 will go down as the busiest and most fulfilling times in my professional career. I was able to grow as an educator and experience so many wonderful opportunities. One of the highlights, was the release of my latest book that I wrote with Scott Rocco and Billy Krakower titled Hacking Google for Education. It’s done very well in the education genre and hopefully will continue to help educators understand the impact Google tools can have in a classroom, school, district, business, or organization.
Another great moment was experiencing the success of the 3rd Annual Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today Conference. Hundreds of educators from around the country shared their innovative ideas on the campus of Rider University. My hope is that the 4th Annual Tomorrow's Classrooms Today Conference will be even more incredible due to the fact that, for the first time ever, it's going to be held over a two day period (May 18 and 19).
On a sad note, my friend and colleague Bob Mullen decided to retire. I was very fortunate to learn from him these past five years and I am a better educator because of what he taught me about leadership. It was great to see Bob go out on top as Black River Middle School was once again re-designated as a School to Watch.
Let's hope that 2018 will be another year to remember, not only for myself, but everyone out there trying to "fight the good fight" and helping to the promote the success of all students.
10 Ways to Evolve as an Educator
It’s not too often in life that you are able to meet someone that impacts your way of thinking and how you approach your job on a daily basis. For the past five years at Black River Middle in Chester, New Jersey, I was able to work alongside our building principal Bob Mullen. Unfortunately for us, and fortunately for him, Bob decided to retire recently. His impact was felt far and wide, so much that a tree was planted in the front of our school, a community retirement event was held, and the gymnasium was named after him. I was asked to speak at his retirement ceremony and provided insight on what we all learned from Bob over the years.
Without hesitation, Bob would always lead by the mantra “family first.” No matter the situation presented to him or time of day, Bob’s response would always be “go take care of your family.” It wasn’t about documenting a partial absence, getting sub coverage, or gathering lesson plans. To Bob, it was about getting home to your sick kids or loved ones. No one ever took advantage of this, but knew deep down in their hearts that Bob had their backs when tough times arose.
Status Quo Is Not an Option
Striving for excellence on a continuous basis was something Bob took great pride in. No wonder Black River Middle Schoolwas redesignated three times as a National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform School to Watch. Behind this great distinction was Bob’s leadership and bringing everyone together to ensure the needs of students were met. Bob took ownership of everything pertaining to the orderly operation of our school no matter how small in nature it may of seemed. He modeled what he wanted out of others and simply put, that was a commitment to creating and maintaining a learning environment for students that was nurturing and engaging.
Pay Attention to the Details
Nothing ever went unnoticed to Bob in that he knew about everything, good or bad, that went on in our school. He read everything, asked questions and followed up like I have never seen anyone follow up on anything before. Bob did this because not because of trust, but because he truly cared about every aspect of school life. He wanted to make sure that our students had a good day every day. Bob truly wanted every staff member and student to be in a good place so that they could bring their “A game” on a daily basis.
Treat People with Respect
Bob treated every single school stakeholder with respect no matter how special or difficult the situation may of been. Every conversation started and ended with a handshake. When a student got in trouble, he would treat them with dignity in order to get to the bottom of the situation. From time to time a staff member would need guidance on how they could enhance their effectiveness and Bob would do it in a way that got the message across favorably. His dealings with parents were always first class and approached in a way that they knew their child’s best interest would always be taken care of. As a parent of two school-aged children myself, I always wanted them to experience what it would be like to attend a school where Mr. Mullen was the principal.
Dress for Success
Bob set the standard for how educational leaders should dress 365/24/7. Every day he would wear a suit and tie and this signified how important every day was to promoting the success of students. Even during the summer months and on field trips he would dress for success. Could you imagine wearing a suit and tie on hot June day in Washington D.C.? Well Bob did every year on the annual 8th grade field trip. He took great pride in his own appearance and the appearance of Black River Middle School on and off school grounds.
Help Those in Need
“What can we do for others?” This was a question that often came out of Bob’s mouth. He knew that many of us were more fortunate than others and could help those in need. During any given school year Bob would receive numerous fundraiser or food drive requests from students, parents, teachers, and community members. WIthout hesitation he would find a way to support their thoughtful efforts. It would not be uncommon to walk down the hallways of Black River Middle School and see three of four collection boxes sitting there on the floor. Several years ago we had a student that was battling cancer and Bob led efforts to ensure this child’s education continued during this tough time. Almost every morning Bob would set up the VGO robot that would allow this student to be in all of his classes virtually. There are hundreds of other stories related to Bob helping other people out. He cared so deeply about people and always found a way to make their day a little more brighter.
What Does the Research Say?
Bob would always make educational sound decisions based on research. He implored staff to write down or post the objectives to the lesson. Why? Because researched showed that students would have a much better chance at retaining what was taught to them. He once led an online book talk that focused on the book 17,000 Classroom Observations Can’t Be Wrong and focused on one of the main themes of the book that looked at the difference between students being on-task vs. engaged. Bob read voraciously and was always excited about sharing resources at faculty meetings and presentations that he made around the country. He was true “lead learner” of Black River Middle School and so many other school leaders in our county and around the state.
Every morning, Bob would stand out on the sidewalk and greet our students as they entered the building. Every afternoon, he would stand out by the buses and say goodbye to the students. He was in the hallways, classrooms, lunch duty, recess, extracurricular events, concerts, and meetings. You name the school or district function and he was there. Bob was visible not so much to make his presence known, rather he truly cared about what students and staff did outside of the classroom. He knew that informal conversations and a friendly wave made all the difference in the world. Through these simple gestures, Bob contributed immensely to our solid school culture and climate.
What’s Best for Kids
Creating and maintaining an educational environment that is all about doing what’s best for kids is easier said than done. Bob had a knack for making decisions that would ultimately put our kids in a position to be successful. When issues came up it was never about “I got you.” It was always about how can we learn from this situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t get me wrong, Bob held himself and others accountable every step of the way, but it always came back to doing right by students. Every once in a while, students would struggle academically and needed a bit of tough love. Enter Mr. Mullen’s after school homework club. It was not uncommon for students to stay after school to catch up on school work. Bob would be there sitting with them ensuring that they complete assignments and more importantly understand why they were learning what they were learning. Staff, students, and parents appreciated these efforts and felt comforted knowing that Mr. Mullen would always be there for them through good times and bad.
Surround Yourself with Talented People
Not sure if this applied to me as the vice principal of Black River Middle School, but I would like to think that Bob hired me because he knew that I would have a positive impact. Every time we interviewed candidates for a particular position, Bob never hesitated to hire top notch educators that would move our school from good to great. Being new to our school, I could tell that over the years Bob hired some tremendous people that would ultimately make his job as a leader a little easier and help kids reach their fullest potential. I got to be honest, it’s quite amazing to work with such talented educators and being to see how they all reached students in their own unique ways. There is no doubt that talented teachers who truly get what it means to be an effective educator have the greatest impact on student learning. Bob understood this and continually hired folks that would rise to the occasion and make the Chester community proud of their schools.
Boost People Up
The greatest and most lasting impact that Bob had on me and others was his ability to boost morale and confidence. He truly believed that every single staff member was tremendous and could do great things for kids. From a personal standpoint, Bob made me feel like I could do anything and really contribute to the educational programs that we were providing students at Black River Middle School. In many ways, the distinct honor I received as the 2017 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year was in recognition of the tremendous impact that Bob had on my educational career in the Chester School District. I would often come to Bob with ideas on how we could improve our already outstanding school and almost every time he would say “that’s a great idea!” He would do the same with my fellow colleagues and made everyone feel so valued. There is no doubt that the reason so many of us wanted to contribute to the excellence at Black River Middle School was because of Bob’s supportive nature.
Bob Mullen will go down as the single greatest educator I have ever worked with or for. I learned so many wonderful leadership lessons from him over the years. Anyone that was fortunate to know or work with Bob undoubtedly feels the same way. If there is anyone that deserves to experience the fruits of retirement, it’s Bob Mullen. His legacy will last for the ages and all of us are better educators because of the high bar he set for himself and the entire school community.
Brad Currie has been an educator for more than 17 years as a coach, teacher, and administrator. He currently serves as a Director of Planning, Research, and Evaluation for the Chester School District in Chester, New Jersey. Brad is the 2017 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year and part of the ASCD Emerging Leaders Class of 2014. He is the co-founder and co-moderator of a weekly Twitter discussion for educators called #satchat. Brad has authored four books including 140 Twitter Tips for Educators and Hacking Google for Education. He presents nationally on educational technology and social media in the school setting. Connect with Brad by following him on Twitter @bradmcurrie or visiting his website at www.evolvingeducators.com.