10 Big Ideas We Are Learning Through Our High School Internships

Internships is something that I was never lucky enough to experience in high school but have worked at 2 high schools that offered them and they are GREAT!  I would love to see more schools go to this model because it teaches our children so many things.

This post comes from Getting Smart and is highlighted by two 9th grade students who share 10 things they are learning through their internships.

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Image borrowed from Getting Smart

Here are their 10 but you know the drill… you have to check the article for the details!

  1.  Focus on Curiosity and Interests
  2. Be Yourself
  3. Celebrate Uniqueness
  4. Follow Dress Code and Language Code
  5. Use Connections
  6. Conduct Interviews, Follow-ups, & Job Shadows
  7. Do Your Paperwork
  8. Be a Good Communicator
  9. Keep in Touch
  10. Trust Each Other: “Once you’re at Big Picture you never really leave”

These are the 100 U.S. school districts that are actively pursuing socioeconomic integration – The Washington Post


6 Principles of Genius Hour in the Classroom

What is Genius Hour?  It is an approach to learning that is build around discovery, curiosity, and self-directed learning.

Terry Heick and Teach Thought bring you the “6 Principles of Genior Hour in the Classroom”.

Here are the 6:

  • Sense of purpose
  • 80/20 rule
  • Socialization
  • Creating
  • Inquiry
  • Design

How to Raise Successful Kids – Without Over-parenting


Julie Lythcott-Haims delivers a phenomenal speech on parenting and the concept of over-parenting.  I am a father of 3 girls (8, 3, 2) and this is something I think about ALL of the time.  My 8 year old is going on 16 and she likes to push the limit at every turn.

Being 100% transparent about my 8 year old: she has stated that she does not want to go to college and, at this point, that does not bother me at all because I want her to be happy.  As a former teacher, I have witnessed my kids go a variety of ways after school to find happiness so this does not intimidate me.  What does is that I want to make sure that I am treating her like a wildflower and not a bonsai tree.  I want her to grow up with a sense of self worth and efficacy, an understanding of love, and the ability to follow her dreams.

Do you raise your children or treat your students like bonsai trees or like wildflowers?

This TED talk is described below:  (Link to site)

By loading kids with high expectations and micromanaging their lives at every turn, parents aren’t actually helping. At least, that’s how Julie Lythcott-Haims sees it. With passion and wry humor, the former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford makes the case for parents to stop defining their children’s success via grades and test scores. Instead, she says, they should focus on providing the oldest idea of all: unconditional love.

New Year – Focus on Attendance

I have written in the past about attendance and how it is the educational epidemic that most do not talk about.  We focus on test scores, graduation rates, and other things (all important) but at the foundation of those issues is ATTENDANCE!

6 million students miss over 3 weeks of school a year.  3 WEEKS A YEAR!

If your frequent fliers are not in school then they will not close the achievement gap, graduate, perform well on standardized tests, or be the first in their family to go to college.

Elissa Nadworny, vai nprEd,  discusses how Gibson Elementary in St. Louis had big problems with absenteeism and how the addressed it.  It is so inspiring!   I will not spoil the fun of reading it for yourself but  I will say that Melody Gunn is an all star and she definitely showed her community who CARES!

I realize that not all scenarios are the same however, we have to do more as educators, administrators, parents, and the community to support our youth.  Children have needs and sometimes they cannot be met without help from us!  This story is amazing and I hope it inspires you to investigate absenteeism in your school because it is a HUGE issue and let’s face it, these children are the future!

Check out this 2nd story posted about Dr. Gunn and her school from The Huffington Post.

8 Proven Secrets To Superior Skill

Anyone looking for a challenge today?  This is a great article from the Blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree.  It discusses 8 secrets to becoming an expert and having superior skills.  Here are the 8 but you have to read the article for the details!

  1. Be In It For The Long Haul
  2. Find a Mentor
  3. Start With What’s Important
  4. Train Like You Fight
  5. Use “Desireable Difficulty”
  6. Get Fast, Negative Feedback
  7. Study Less. Test More.
  8. Naps Are Steroids For Your Brain



Teachers Create What They Experience


What a powerful speech by Katie Martin.  She is on point and does an amazing job explaining how classrooms today are not built for the modern day child.  She discusses her fears for her 2 children and how she feels the reform necessary for schools today can be achieve.  She developed 3 concepts to create learning environments to bring people together, create positive learning experiences, and feed your children’s love to learn!

  1. Shared Vision
  2. Learning as a process, not an event
  3. Go Open

Watch the video to learn more about her 3 concepts and be prepared to be inspired!


Foundation for Successful Schools: All About Who CARES

The idea of a Slogan, Theme or Tag Line for your campus reminds me of one of my favorite stories growing up; The House on a Rock.  For those unfamiliar with the story, the premise is that wise builders build their houses on a rock (believers who put the thoughts of God into practice) while the foolish builders build their homes in sand (believers that do not put the words of God into practice).  The story concludes with a great storm of wind and rain and the home built on sand fell with a great crash while the house on a rock stood.

The purpose of the story is not to speak of religion, but this concept directly relates to developing successful schools, businesses, and being successful in life.  We want to build our foundation with CARE and make sure that it is on a ROCK!  If your foundation is strong then you will be able to withstand the pressures of budget, test scores, bullying, etc.  When you analyze the strengths and beliefs of your campus, do you not only believe in them but put those thoughts into action?  When we build our foundation for our campus/district/school we need those concepts to not only be heard but followed or your “house” may fall.

The CEO of my company has been CEO of companies with 30,000+ employees before coming back to one of his passions, education.  He frequently comes back to the word CARE when he speaks to groups of people about education, where it was, where it is now, and where it is going.  His argument is that if you CARE, (like really care – not care like care if it rains today or not but like you cared about your Pokemon or Pog collection as a child) then the sky is the limit.  His speeches always motivate me in a variety of ways because it is evident by knowledge and passion that he CARES.

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The number 1 concern in this area is providing a environment where students feel safe.  A culture of learning also needs to be established that supports them as they grow and encourages them to be life long learners.  Knowledge is power!   It needs to be modeled at all levels that the campus/classroom is a safe environment for all to be themselves, learn, but also have some fun! Once they genuinely feel safe then you can start to break down the walls and work on the rest.  Students need to feel secure, respected, and supported.   This concept of “community” needs to also extend outside of the school walls to the playground, library, and at home.  If this can occur throughout your campus then anything can happen.


For this one I am look at you.  Yes you, the adult in the room, MUST check their ego at the door.  We need to completely buy into the first step to make this successful.  As a young gun, I sometimes struggled with this because I would get defeated when I followed the “community” concept, but then held onto my ego when kids challenged/disrespected me.  “I kept it together until the end” is not enough because the end is where you needed to show your strength the most.  This does not mean we give the control to the kids and hang on for the ride.  Classroom management is a huge piece of this and we must pick our battles with the end game in mind: creating a learning community where our kids feel supported, secure, and respected.  Having a Growth Mindset is a great way to show, support, and use this pillar.  Interested in more information?


Respect must be given to the kids right away while we earn theirs.  Who is thinking right now, “PSSSSH, Oh no he didn’t!  I respect the kids but the kids need to respect me”.  (I admit I even thought it a little bit while I typed it!)  Please do not click “X” and stop reading, stick with me here and hear me out.

Take a second and think back to when you were younger.  Let’s be honest: some teachers you automatically gave your respect and others had to earn it.  That could have been based on who was “cool”, attractive, scary, or whatever fit your personality.  We need to avoid thinking like my quote above.  We need to give the respect to the kids FIRST and the rest will follow suit once they witness your positive attitude, support, love, care, and respect first hand.  Again, this does not mean we hand the keys of the car to the kids, but we always need to keep community and attitude at the forefront!


Simple definition from Websters: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

This translates into being an understanding, sympathetic, loving role model for your students so that they see and feel the true meaning of Respect, Community, and a good Attitude.  Being empathetic does not mean you let things slide, give breaks when they are not deserved, or “insert whatever comes into your mind here”.  It means that we provide a learning culture that supports growth and understanding.  We can still give deadlines and hold firm on them or do not accept late work without a medical excuse.  You can draw the line in the sand where ever you feel it needs to be.  As long as you can be 100% transparent and say, “Yes I did” when asked if you provided all opportunities for success and supported the student along the way with encouragement.  You need to also provide them all the resources they need to be successful.  If so, then yes, sometimes the students need to learn a lesson the hard way.

If this is the case, I encourage you to have a conference with them (and maybe the parents too?) to explain what is happening, why, how it could have been avoided, and how it could be avoided in the future, so that you protect the community and the learning culture that you have fought to hard to build.  Again, never give up the ultimate goal, show them who CARES.


Plain and simple it is when your district turns the corner and starts to grow by creating learning cultures that foster life long learners.  Success can be defined in a magnitude of ways but I encourage you avoid student achievement, high test scores, national rankings, parent satisfaction, whatever you want to stand on as a campus or district, and focus on who CARES.  The success will follow.  I believe this because there is power when people know that you care and feel your passion.  It fosters success, growth and inspires people to try new things and accomplish things that they dreamed were not possible.

This is a model created on my opinions, experiences, and reflections on my time in the classroom and also working with schools.  It is however, based on several things that are proven to be effected and supported in the industry.  Take Finland for example.  They have the highest performing schools in the world and a recent article in the LA Times highlights what makes them so successful and they, along with my CEO, inspired me to write this post.

—–>>  Feeling inspired?  I want to point you to a friend and former principal of mine, Justin Aglio and his colleague Dr. Michael Ghilani.  They recently published an article that discusses this concept while sharing their districts tagline for this year.   I worked with Justin and he CARES and it easy to feel it while you are with him.  Their district, Montour School District, is one of the 30 schools in the US that you need to visit – says Getting Smart. Check them out!


Arts Education Needs Protected!

This article comes from Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers blog called Leadership 360.  Clara Lieu does a wonderful job explaining the significance of including Arts in your curriculum and I think makes the case a slam dunk as to why Arts Education should be protected!

“Art education provides a vitally important sandbox for learning in unconventional ways that is essential to education.” – Clara Lieu

Looking to be inspired today? Then this is a must read.  Clara discusses how she found the arts, landed teaching Art in college, and now volunteers her time working with students exploring if art is for them.  Her story is captivating and inspiring and as a former teacher, it is stories like this that keep my fire for education a live.

Visual arts are designed to allow for experimentation, allow for trial and error, patience, and dedication to your work.  These are qualities that ALL of us need to attain at some point in our educational career to be well-rounded individuals.  I am not sure that this is always gained from traditional education.

I think back to my time in Art class and I always loved it because I had great teachers who respected us, our creativity, and allowed us to experiment.  They did not grade us on if our work would sell at an art gallery but rather on our creativity, effort, and they always made it fun!  I hope yours was the same but I am sure that several of you did not have the same experience.  You might have had similar experiences to what Clara describes in her article.

Cheers to Clara for writing her piece and good luck with continuing to inspire young artists and making an impact!

Education Epidemic – Absenteeism


You all know how this message goes, or would go, if we could flash that red banner across your TV and all of the TV’s across the nation as we attempt to bring to the forefront a MAJOR issue in our schools.  Absenteeism. When you think of problems in our schools, the most heard topics might be bullying, too much standardized testing, or a variety of other concerns that make headlines in our schools.

The truth of the matter is, these are all important but none of these can occur unless students are in school and neither can the learning process!  The issues have been documented for the last several years but it still has not caught on as a major concern.  We have been focused on NCLB and now the ESSA, Digital Classrooms, Flipped Learning, all things that tie to achievement.  These are all important but again, students will not grow academically if they are not in school.

The U.S. Department of Education is now launching this website that can be used to see the data easily and learn about the issue.  Evie Blad published an article, that is the focus of my post that addresses this data. Please read the article as well but here are some of the takeaways:

  • In nearly 500 school districts…at least 30 percent of students missed at least three weeks of school.
  • About 19 percent of high school students missed 15 or more school days
  • About 17 percent of students with disabilities were chronically absent compared to 12 percent of students without disabilities. And the disparity held at every grade level
  • “About one in five students in both 4th and 8th grade reported missing three or more days in the month before the test,” the report says. “If that pattern persisted all year, the students would have missed 27 days or about 15 percent of the school year.”
  • “A new study by the  Baltimore Education Research Consortium found that half the students who missed two to four days in September went on to be chronically absent for the year, missing an average of 25 days. Nine out of 10 students who missed at least 5 days in September were chronically absent, averaging 70 absences.”

chronic absenteeism pic

That first one resonates with me – 30% of students missed at least 3 weeks of school.  That is 15 days!  Mind you that this was 3% of the total districts that were included in the survey but let me ask you this…Do you think all 500 of those districts would show low student achievement? High counts of students labeled as low socio-economic status? Struggle to perform on standardized tests?

If I was a gambler I would easily bet yes.  I would think that the odds have to be in my favor.  Think of your school, your campus, your classroom and the students that struggle academically.  (You all have those beautiful mug shots in your head now – you’re welcome!) Now think of how many of them have attendance concerns.  When I think back I would say it is at least 50/50 from my experience as an educator.

So how do we change this?  Evie offers some great suggestions in her article but for me it comes back to a theme that I talk about often in my presentations to clients/prospects but also on my blog – CARING.  If we CARE that absenteeism is a huge issue then we will work our hardest to make sure that our kids attend school and create as many different motivators to do this as possible.

At my first job as a teacher I worked for a principal that got this.  She was an amazing woman with great ideas, leadership, and charisma.  As a campus we had our ups and downs but one thing was certain and easy for all to see, she cared so much about the kids and their well-being.

Our school was in one of the tougher neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.  We had great students who were looking for their place, students just looking for a change, but also had a nice population of the tougher students from the neighboring districts who were looking for their place OR were forced from their schools.  Now we did not break the records on the PSSA’s (Pennsylvania’s State Assessments) but we made it a goal of ours to get our kids to come to school.  We held massive social events for all kids who missed less than 3 days of school in each nine weeks (Roller skating party, Amusement Park trip, Dance, and Field Day) and we let the students vote at the start of the 9 weeks as to which trip/event they would want to attend.  These kids came to school, even some that you wished might take an extra day off :), and we saw great attendance rates.  This helped us show huge gains in student achievement, even if we were not dominating the PSSA tests, because either way our kids were growing, learning responsibility, and stepping up to the challenge!

Now is it always that simple? No – You can argue that a party is not the reason that they came, that will not work for everybody, and your right.  When you deal with high school students, they consider themselves to be “grown” so sometimes motivating them to come to school is a challenge.  So then give them another reason!  Our students also came because we CARED.  We had kids looking to escape their family, escape the street life, find a consistent meal, a place to feel safe, and this sad list continues.

We really turned the corner with all of this about 2 months into school when there was a shooting in our neighborhood and teenager lost their life.  Almost all of our kids knew him but he did not attend out school.  We gave up a day of learning and made a giant circle, 3-4 kids deep, in our gym so that our kids could share their pain.  (Full disclosure, at first I was frustrated with this decision and then as the day grew on, and more and more students started to share feelings and stories, it was amazing.)  I will tell you that at one time or another there was not a dry eye in that gym because everyone was effected by this loss or had a story of another.  This experience changed the culture of our school.

Absenteeism is something that really needs to be addressed.  How?  Schools need to build data dashboards that show data dynamically so that we can analyze it and find ways to solve it.  Evie shows statistics that attendance affects achievement in another one of her posts and if that is your number one goal, student achievement, then you must tackle this epidemic in your district.  If my examples would not work in your district then strive to come up with your own way to address these concerns.

So…let’s find ways to identify these students, label them “At Risk for Failure” or something that let’s everyone at your district know that this student needs to be watched.  Let’s show/teach/model them the value of education, friendship, hard work, patriotism, fashion, music, whatever gets them to school right!?  Remember that if you experience issues with absenteeism at your district/campus that you can crunch data, throw parties, and offer rewards, but at the heart of all of that, your kids still need to see, know, and feel that you CARE.

Please comment on what your district does to impact/track attendance and share this article so that it can serve as a reference for ideas!