Saturday, June 30, 2012

Month in Reveiw

Thanks for your continued support!  I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.  Here are the top articles, as determined by readership, for June.

50 Things Teachers Should Never Post

Ted Tuesday: How Great Leaders Inspire

HR for Principals: Interviewing & Hiring Part I (Part II comes out on Monday 7/2)

My 3 Favorite iPad Productivity Tools

Book Review: Shifting the Monkey

Remember, I'm available to answer your HR or school administrations related questions - click on the 'Submit a Question' page or shoot me an email.

You can let my sponsors know that you like what you read here by clicking through on an ad. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Distraction: Take a Vacation

Remember how when you first became a teacher all of your 'business world' friends were jealous every summer because you got 10 weeks or so of vacation?  I know you took classes and prepared lessons over the summer so most of it was really a working vacation.  But I'm sure you at least slept in a bit every day.

Then you became an administrator with a 12 month schedule and you stopped taking vacations.  "There's too much to do in the summer to get ready for the kids to come in September!" Is the refrain of  weary principals and assistant principals everywhere. 

Bullocks!  You need to recharge.  Make a commitment to take at least a week this summer for yourself and your family.  I guarantee that come September, you will be able to attack the school year with increased vigor.

Leave a comment and let me know where you're going.  I'm headed to Orlando for a week with the wife and kids.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Quick Rant: Blogger Natalie Monroe

Have you heard about teacher/blogger Natalie Monroe?

She is the High School English Teacher (Central Bucks East, close to where I grew up in south-eastern PA) who, back in 2011, said some nasty things about her students on her blog.  How nasty?  Here are some quotes:

“There's no other way to say this, I hate your kid.”

“Although academically okay, your child has no other redeeming qualities.”

(Your child is) “a complete and utter jerk in all ways.”

(I have a student that) “dresses like a streetwalker.”

(My students are) “out of contol,” “rude, lazy, disengaged whiners,” “rat-like,” and “frightfully dim.”

“I hear the trash company is hiring.”

Here's the thing, as educators we sometimes think not-so-nice things about our students.  We may even give voice to our thoughts in the privacy of the faculty lounge, we may gripe to our spouses.  The things we say may even be true.  However, the one thing that we may never do is publicly disparage our students.  

We protect, we encourage, we correct ... we don't attack, demean, and beat down.  

I remember greeting every student, even those who I hoped would take the occasional day off, with the phrase, "Hey you're my favorite student." Never once did I think about saying or writing, "I hate you."

This is not a free speech issue.  This is an issue of professionalism and lack there of.   

Monroe is set to be fired.  She is also set to bring suit against her division. 

I hope Central Bucks follows through and fires her.  I hope the judge makes her pay the division's legal fees.

Free speech my ass - if you don't like kids ... go work in a bank. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ted Tuesday: Feats of Memory

Watch the video and then I'll share how I used the memory techniques to to remember everything on my grocery list.

Ok, so we're at indoor soccer practice and my wife says to me, "you'll have to stop at the store on the way home."  Of course, I have no paper to make a list but I remembered the ridiculous story used in this video.  "I can do this" I say to myself.   Lisa, my wife, says, "We need milk cereal, Benadryl, and shower curtains for the bathrooms."

Here's my story - and I know I should be able to remember 4 items without any problems but the years are adding up.  I walk out my door to go to work and see Cookie Monster sitting on a horse hold two boxes of cereal.  I jump in the truck and John Travolta is sitting in the passenger seat holding a gallon of milk.  He sneezes and spills the milk all over the place.  Brittany Spears opens the door and hands him some Benadryl for his allergies wearing nothing but two shower curtains.  

 So Josh is right - stupid stories help you memorize things.  Who knew?  

Monday, June 25, 2012

HR for Principals: Interviewing & Hiring Part 1

Day 322/365 - Kilroy Was Here

It's summer ... which means besides having flashbacks of Will Smith's Summertime, principals are busy staffing their schools.


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Filling open teacher slots can be a headache - scouring through resumes or online applications takes forever.  Interviews can be deadly.  And sometimes it feels as if the entire process is a fruitless exercise so we end up taking what we can get.  This is especially true in hard to fill areas like SPED, math, and science.

Hopefully, this series will make your life a bit easier.  Filling teacher slots is, in my opinion, the most important 'summer time' job of the administrative staff.  Pull in the right person and the sky's the limit.  Pull in the wrong person and you've multiplied your troubles for the rest of the year and maybe for the next several years.

Today we're looking at what happens (or should happen) before you pick up (or click through) resume one.  Here are the steps I take to screen applicants and decide which candidates to interview.  Time is money, so I only want to interview high quality applicants. 

Pre-step.  In this economy it seems that everyone is applying for every available job.  So before I even start to look at resumes I eliminate those applicants that are not qualified for the position.  For instance, no teaching certificate? Off the list.  Wrong teaching certificate? Off the list.  Six felony drug convictions? Off the list.  Luckily my employer has a computer-based applicant tracking system so I can make these eliminations fairly quickly. 

1) Review the job description and teaching assignment.   Look at specifics.  Do you need a math teacher or an Algebra teacher?  Do you need an inclusion cluster primary teacher or a gifted cluster primary teacher?  The more specific you are in identifying the need the better you'll be able to identify high quality candidates.  Avoid listing things like, 'we need a young teacher' or 'we need an older teacher.'  Of for god sakes, 'we need a man.'  Look for and list your desired skills and competencies - stay away from listing things that could later be classified as discriminatory. 

2) Identify strengths and weakness of the grade level or department to which the candidate will be assigned.  Does the team lack communication skills? Then you know you need to identify candidates that are strong communicators.  Does the team lack edtech abilities?  Then you need to identify candidates that are not only strong with technology but who are tech evangelists.  Conversely, if the team has someone who writes award winning parent communications and is a Twitter expert to boot - you probably do not need a second expert on that team.  Look to fill gaps - first on the team, then in the school at large.  Avoid listing things like 'need someone who is a good fit.'  The term, 'good fit' is impossible to define and has a high likelihood of being challenged.  Inlcude the team needs in the list you'll develop in step 3.

3) After you've completed steps one and two, sit down and develop a list of qualities that your ideal candidate will have.  For instance, 'must be strong in reading instruction,' 'must effectively use SM to communicate with parents,' and so on.  Use your list to develop a scoring rubric* then score and screen each applicant based on the information contained in their application packet.

4) Include your highest scoring candidates on your interview list.  I tend to pick the top 5 or 6 to interview ... that way if someone is unavailable I'll still have multiple candidates to choose from.  

Next time we'll look at conducting the interview.


 * Just an aside - I always create a written record of the selection process from start to finish.  This would include lists of all applicants and the steps that were used to eliminate candidates from the list.  This important because you never know when you'll have to justify a decision later.  If you can show that Ms. Ziegler was eliminated from your list because she couldn't demonstrate ability in reading instruction as opposed to she was eliminated because she was _______ (fill in a protected category here), any challenges to your hiring practices will be much more defensible. 

Photo Credit - (CC) Kevin Harbor

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Distraction: It's the Weekend - Try Something

Hey it's the weekend ... why not try something new?

For Father's Day, as noted in a previous post, the kids got me a surf kayak.  A surf kayak is designed for pulling of surfboard like moves from a seated position.  If you've never seen a surf kayak in action check out this YouTube video.  Now, there's somethings you should know about surf kayaks.

1) They're not made for beginners,
2) They're not made for people over two-hundred pounds.

Both of these items apply to me.  So, why you might ask, would I want to get my fat butt on a surf kayak?  Because it looks fun.

Plain and simple - it looks fun.  I see people all the time surfing or paddling around with the dolphins.  Looked like a great time to me and I got tired of watching from the beach.  Sure I could have asked for a 'beginners' kayak and let my skill out grow it in a month.  Or I could jump right in with an aggressive machine and hope my skills caught up with my ride.  I chose the latter.  Hopefully, I'll be riding high in a couple of weeks.  The first session didn't go all that well (let's say I've never been that nervous in the water) but the second went much better.  By session 5 I figure I'll be riding waves more and climbing back on less.

Which brings me full-circle to my original point.  Try something new this weekend.  Climb, bike, walk, camp, shoot a goal, or blog your way into adventure.  If you need me, I'll be coughing on sea water as I try to master something new.

Have a great weekend.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ted Tuesday: How Great Leaders Inspire

This will change the way you think about leadership.  Simply one of the most powerful talks I've heard.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Story of Crashing Garage Doors: A Father's Day Lesson

Sometimes a good day can go bad.

Take yesterday, Father's Day, as an example.  Like most fathers of young children, I got to spend the day with my kids.  Here's a picture of us on the beach.

Good looking kids, right?  And we had a great day yesterday.  Early morning hugs and breakfast.  A trip to an estate sale, haircuts, and then off to beach where I was presented with my 'big' gift - a surf kayak.  (Kids got a big laugh because, as a complete novice 'surf kayaker' dad made a fool of himself in the water.) After the beach we headed to my in-laws house to give grandpa some father's day love then we went back to the house for a 'Father's Day Fiesta' dinner of tacos and other Tex-Mex fair. 

Here's where the day turns ... I opened the garage door to put the boogie boards and my new kayak away and somehow the door flexes and the entire thing comes off the track and winds up precariously suspended only a few feet above my head.  Basically the entire door came crashing down around me. Can you guess who's going to miss the Fiesta? 

Now I'm stuck inside an already over crowded garage trying to take this door apart so I can rebuild it.  Long-story-short, I successfully get it down and in two hours rebuild the thing so it operates correctly.  I go back inside to call my dad and mid-call my wife shouts for me, "Scott you need to come look at this ... the carpet is soaked."  Sorry dad, another crisis I'll have to call you back," I say into the phone as I run downstairs.

The air conditioner drain has broken and instead of expelling water out of the house it is letting it flow in between the exterior and interior walls.  And it looks like its been at it for a while.  I do a quick assessment but tell my wife there's no way to fix it tonight and it's have to wait until after work tomorrow. 

A good day gone bad?

Not really.  Sure I would have rather not had the garage door crash around me - and my back has been reminding me of that all day.  I sure as hell would rather not have to fix a drain pipe - I hate anything plumbing related - but the day was still fantastic. 

Then I got to thinking about work.  A lot of days are like that for administrators.  When I was school based, I remember greeting students in the morning - a great start to the day - then having to deal with 20 referrals throughout the rest of the day.  Now, as an HR pro, I hear great news about a teacher in the morning only to hear that another has made a career ending mistake in the afternoon.  Good days gone bad?

Not really, everyday that we're here we touch and influence the future.  As educators our work is always optimistic, always full of promise.  Press through the problems, there'll be plenty more tomorrow and remember to always keep your glass half full. 

That's the lesson I (re)learned on Father's Day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Distraction: My 3 Favorite UNproductive Apps

What good is carrying around massive amounts of computing power if you can't have a little fun?  Here are my top three apps that keep me from getting any work done.

All of these are wildly popular and are available on iOS and Android devices; not sure about Blackberry or Windows.

Download these today and you too can not get anything done - it is Friday after all.  

Temple Run

I don't know what draws me to this game.  All you do is run, jump, and slide your way across an ancient temple fleeing from crazy monkey looking things.  Reminds me a bit of the old Activision game Pitfall (yes, I know I just dated myself) so I guess I'm just nostalgic for my teenage days.

Words With Friends

Just like Scrabble but without the annoying licensing fee.  This game allows you to play with friends across the country or across the room.  My wife and I sit across from each other in the living room and play.  Sure we could just pull out the actual Scrabble game but then we'd have to do the math ourselves.  If you're really brave, look me up and send me a game.  Chances are you'll win.  The game is free but it's worth it to pay the $2.99 so you don't have to look at ads after every turn.

Google Currents

I use Currents for all the news I read but am too embarrassed to have sent to my RSS inbox.  Things like, Vice, Jezzibel, 500 pics, it's all there.  Integrates with Google Reader so you can actually be productive with this one if you so desire. 

Your Favorites?

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section or send them to me via email and I'll do a future post listing all the reader favorite UNproductive Apps.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Moose Sh** - Really?

This is post is a bit of a rant - it's also about shit ... moose shit to be exact.  If you've never seen moose poop it looks like this ...

Does that look like chocolate covered almonds to you?

It did to a parent-chaperon who was supervising 8th graders on a field trip in Manitoba, Canada.  The wanna be comedian/parent picked up the moose poop, put it in a baggie and gave it to students telling them it was chocolate covered almonds.  Victim one ran off to wash his mouth after a classmate yelled, "You just ate moose shit."

Enter victim two, who did not witness the first encounter, who ate the shit  - which then got stuck in her braces.    Embarrassed, humiliated, devastated, grossed-out, I can only imagine what went through this poor girl's head when she found out what had been done to her.

Her parents want some heads on a platter and I really can't say I blame them.

Nasty. And certainly not funny.

What, I wonder, would have happened if the roles had been reversed and the student gave the parent shit to eat - I'm guessing they wouldn't have been able to expel her fast enough. 

Here's the worst part.  Standing feet away, watching this happen was the school principal and the student's teacher.  It appears they were in on the joke. 

With all these adults standing around - who was looking out for the kids?

It is always, always the responsibility of school staff to look out for the well-being of students in our charge.

It is always, always the responsibility of the principal to stand up when no one else when no one else will. 

This so-called joke was mean, cruel, and absolutely disgusting.  It is shameful that the principal stood by and allowed this to happen not once but twice. 

Stand up for your students - every time - even if you have to put a parent in their place to do so. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

TED Tuesday: Schools Kill Creativity

I've just discovered TED talks and have turned into a full-fledged TED junkie.  Last week I downloaded the app on my phone and now, when I get bored with the radio or NPR is begging for money, I stream a talk while I'm driving.

These short talks are fascinating, and, since I also love to share information, and, I have a blog, I thought why not share my favorites for the week.  So here we go ... the first TED Tuesday.

In today's video, Sir Ken Robinson, posits that we are educating the creativity out of our children.  He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.  

Feel free to share your favorite Talks or reactions to the video in the comments section.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Distraction: The Amazing Spider-Man

I love Spider-Man, always have.  Don't know why, there are better, stronger superheros out there.  My brother has always been partial to Superman but my thought is, "he's from another planet - of course he's special."

Peter was just a dumb-kid who couldn't avoid a spider.  His life get changed by a fortunate accident.  His gift found him and he cultivated it until it grew larger than life.

Guess he reminds me of a few students I've had over the years.  Dumb-kids who find and grow into their greatness.

Looking for me on July 3rd?  I'll be at the movies.

Have a great weekend.

Do you think this would look good in my office?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My 3 Favorite iPad Productivity Tools

I'm not much of an edtech writer – there are already hundreds of voices and tons of information out there regarding technology and I’m not sure that one more voice would add much to the conversation.  That being said, I have always loved edtech.  I remember arguing with division IT guys back in the late 90s because the blocked blogger on the school network. (Of course they did this after I had set up class and student blogs – something about the randomness of the ‘next blog’ button.)

Now that I’m a central office administrator I still take the time to review the latest gadgets and software that enable student learning.  I’m also the office guinea pig when it comes to tech.  For instance, I have the only iPad in the office.

As an Android guy (my favorite gadget right now is my Razr paired with my Motorola Lapdock) I found it hard to make the iPad productive.  We are a Microsoft district so the iPad has trouble talking with my work documents and projects.  Plus, for me anyway, the iPad is awkward to type on.  It’s taken awhile but I’ve found some work-arounds that enable me to use my documents and files on the go.  I’m excited about it so I thought I’d do a quick write-up.

Here are my favorite iPad productivity tools (subject to change at anytime).

Quick Office Pro HD

A bit pricey but it allows me to see all the ‘stuff’ I create in Office to be viewed and manipulated on the iPad. It also serves as a PDF viewer so I can carry large files without actually carrying large files.   I use it in conjunction with Google Drive to easily move files back and forth wirelessly.  Just be sure to download items to the iPad otherwise you might get stuck without Wi-Fi and in desperate need of a document.

Google Drive

Five free gigs of storage and anywhere access make Google Drive my favorite cloud storage.  Download the desktop app to your Windows machine and you can drag and drop items rather than uploading via the web.  Use a separate account to store work related items unless you want your vacation photos to become “discoverable” should something go awry.


I hate typing on the iPad.  Penultimate allows you to write on your iPad using a stylus.  Multiple tools, styles, and pens give you versatility and allow you to be creative.  Pages can be organized into notebooks and sent via email, Wi-Fi, or the cloud.  Currently, integrates with Evernote and Dropbox but I did find a way to integrate with Google Drive by going through Quick Office. 

Not the flashiest of tools but they have helped me to be more productive.

What are your favorite iPad tools?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Reading List as Recommended by Your Peers

book sale lootThis post is a compilation from a conversation happening over on LinkedIn in the American Association of School Administrators group.  A comment was posted asking for book recommendations to build school leadership; these are the titles that were mentioned (in no particular order).

Building Teams Building People by Thomas R. Harvey and Donita Drolet
What they don't tell you in Schools of Education about School Administration by John Black and Fenwick English
The Political Dynamic of American Education by Michael W. Kirst and Frederick M. Wirt
Leading Culture in Change by Fullan
Breaking Ranks: The Comprehensive Framework for School Improvement NASSP
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership John Maxwell
Leaders of Learning by Marzano and Dufor
Leadership Challenge by Koulzes and Posner
Primal Leadership by Goldman and Boyatzis
Principal Leadership Behavior and Faculty Trust by Frank DePasquale
Designing School Systems for All Students: Building a Toolbox to Fix America's Schools by AASA
This We Believe AMLE
The Heart Aroused and Crossing the Unknown by David Whyte
The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know by Kouses and Posner
Reframing Teacher Leadership to Improve Your School by Douglas Reeves
Leadership Theory and Practice by Peter G. Northouse
Leadership Lessons from West Point by  Major Doug Crandall
Culturally Proficient Leadership by Terrell and Lindsey
Focus by Mike Schmoker
Shifting the Monkey ... by Todd Whitaker
Outliers (and anything else by) by Malcom Gladwell
A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Distraction: New Angry Birds

The new Angry Birds game comes out on June 18th.



Start clearing space on your phone now.  Have a great weekend.

Angry Birds Frown Box Tee


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