Kids learning from kids

While this will be a bit of a short post, I am inspired by what I am seeing today in Darcy Bath and Wendy Bider’s co-taught Freshman Health class.  Topic – impact of drug use and abuse on the body.  The teacher – Health Occupation Career Academy junior students.


Mrs. Darcy Bath and Mrs. Mackenzie Faris teach the junior year Health Occupations course, coupled with their Government class (Mr. Rick Mitchelson) – allowing for job shadowing to take place once per week.  However, they are also currently working on a project to demonstrate the impacts that drug use and abuse has on the human body.  The photo above, you see three Health Academy students presenting their body layer models (each layer shows different impacts that drugs have on the body.

IMG_0661 IMG_0664

Truly no better way for students to learn material than to have to teach it to someone else.  Likewise, what better way for our younger students to learn than to have our older students come into their class and share their knowledge.


Again, let’s talk about skills – the skills demonstrated here (and taught by teachers to kids) are presentation skills, life long healthy choices, decision making, critical thinking, and collaborative work.  Having watched our career academy students over the past several years, one of the things that always stands out about them is their ability to present to an audience.  This is not a coincidence, they practice, they are taught, they are critiqued, and they grow their skills over time.  Its not done once and we ‘move on’, rather it becomes just what they do.  Truly awesome skill building!!!

I’m really proud of these kids and of their teachers!!! Great work all

As always, I’m #ProudToBeATiger



Authentic Learning

Ghandi once said that education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.  Often, we as educators, lose sight of the power of the minds with which we are charged to educate.  We think we are supposed to fill the bucket (brain) with knowledge (content) but the reality is quite different.  We live in a society, as described by Diana Laufenberg, that is experiencing an information surplus. (this is an awesome TedXTalk by @dlaufenberg, don’t miss it)

As Laufenberg points out, teaching and learning are so vastly different (or at least should be) for this current generation of students.  Gone are the days where kids had to come to the school house to get knowledge – that is as simple as opening an app on your smart phone now.  Today, we must give students the opportunity to use their voice to impact the world, make a change, and determine how they will use the vast amounts of knowledge available at their fingertips.  Teachers today have to teach skills, not content, in order for our kids to be successful in society.  What does that look like though?

Today, I witnessed just that – student voice driving education in a 9th grade US History class.  The topic, originally, we focused on immigration.  So, just give the old Ellis Island talk, throw out some stats, maybe have kids research one person or something like that, give a test…right?  WRONG – not in Angela Stephens classroom!!  The discussion about immigration and refugees spawned an interesting twist…how can you connect the immigration to the US to the current refugee crisis in Syria?

Mrs. Stephens class has taken this question and run with it.  Rather than being lectured to, the class has self-selected into four groups doing research specific to the Syrian refugee crisis happening right now.  The students were so motivated that they asked for me, as principal, to attend class today along with a couple older students and sponsors of clubs in our school.  Their learning was demonstrated today by presenting to us what the current status is with Syrian refugees – why are they all fleeing the area, how many, where are they going, and what has happened to them to force them out.  Another group chose the stories of 5 refugees and acted them out, telling the personal stories of 5 people driven from their homes, beaten, starved, and taken against their will.  A third group gave us a very clear understanding of the geography of the area. Mind you, Mrs. Stephens didn’t spoon feed or ‘teach’ this information only to have it regurgitated in a presentation.  She simply lit the fire and got out of the way.  The kids did the rest – STUDENT VOICE!!

Mrs. Stephens asked the group which country they felt would be most impacted, or in greater crisis, as a result of mass influxes of refugees.  HERE is where I really saw evidence of learning.  9th grade students having an open dialogue, acknowledging points made by others, agreeing and disagreeing but doing so in a manner that showed both the knowledge they had gained by doing research they were not asked to do, and showing respect for the political and ideological thoughts of their peers. The final step in today’s class was the 4th group presenting what they would like to do, as a class, to impact the current refugee crisis.  As a group, our kids will work to raise money, a current goal of $5,000, to support the refugees.  They have researched foundations that accept donations and assist refugees. (they have even researched their Better Business ratings to ensure they are raising money and sending it to a reputable foundation)  As they take their ‘next steps’, we will see presentations to our student body, other instructional staff, and so forth.  I am excited to see where this group takes this fabulous idea and how big of a project it may become.

Not all 9th grade classes look like this, for that matter few like this at other grade levels – and it is a perfect example of what we are looking for when we ask our teachers to focus on teaching skills not content.  I know that many struggle with this massive shift in the paradigm. How do I do this and what is my role as the teacher?  What skills do we mean?  What do they look like?  How do I assess them?  In this example, the students have clearly learned content, but more importantly they demonstrated their learning of public speaking, presenting and defending an argument, reasoning, empathy, writing, and global awareness.

Kudos to Angela Stephens and congratulations to her 4th hour 9th grade US History class.  They make me #ProudToBeATiger



Keep rolling down the #RoadToAwesome,



Inspired by Resilience

I begin this blogpost with two definitions because I believe them to be so very relevant to the end of our week last week here at Rock Springs High School.
Resilience is defined as:
1.  the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2.  the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
Adversity is defined as:
1.  distress; affliction; hardship
2.  an unfortunate event or incident
If you are like me, you are continually amazed by the students with which we spend our days.  I am constantly reminded of how kids carry a resilience many of us forget about in our daily lives.  Sure, we can point out the negatives of any of our kids, we can complain about their lack of interest in our homework assignments (which should tell us something about us), and we can make statements about how kids aren’t like we were at their age (well, duh).  Instead, let’s talk about kids overcoming adversity and rising above some incredible challenges.
Truth be told, we are having a terrific year at Rock Springs High School.  Our enrollment is up, again, school spirit and culture are quite positive right now, and our fall sports teams are enjoying a great deal of success.  Among these successes is our 4-2 football team, off to their best start in over a decade.  This, by itself, does not merit special consideration over other activities and clubs but it does serve to point out the big increase in support and positive feel our community has for our teams and school.  This photo says a lot about the support from our community…
Last week was Homecoming week for us and we had a terrific week.  Students and staff dressed up and showed their school spirit, our pep rally and parade were among the best in recent memory, and the football team earned a rather dramatic win to cap the night.  But this, by itself, is not what inspired me to write today.  Rather, it was a series of events in which one, or more, of our kids overcame adversity, believed in themselves and the people around them, and accomplished something awesome.
Three specific events led me to write this post – so let me elaborate…
1.  We had reached halftime of the football game Friday evening, honored our homecoming court, and had our fabulous (and should be world-famous) band perform.  Upon the conclusion of the band performance, the cheer squad took the field to perform.  Tonight would be unique to their work up to this point, especially since they would perform to music for the first time all year. Cheer took the field, lined up, and started their music.  BAM – the music cut out.  They waited, holding position and smiles in place.  The music WOULD NOT play – after a couple minutes it was apparent that the music would not be joining our cheer squad this night.  Undaunted, the cheerleaders performed their routine to a very large ovation.
2.  Immediately to follow the cheer squad was the Tiger Rhythm Dance Team.  Yes, they require music.  Again, apparent that the music would not play – the dance team (21 girls) sang their song while they danced.  Pretty amazing to watch them dance without music.  As well, huge ovation from the crowd.
3.  With less than 3 minutes left in the game, and without the ball, trailing by 11 points things didn’t look good for the Tigers.  However a stop on defense followed quickly by a 40 yd TD pass from Padilla to Rosette and we were back in the game.  Less than 2 minutes left…we recover an onside kick.  The place goes crazy…we need only a FG to tie.  Quickly, we find ourselves in 4th down, less than a minute now on the clock.  Odds stacked against us, Markus Kalista takes the handoff and goes 35 yds for the go ahead TD.  But still time remains…Evanston drives to our 24 yd line and with 1 sec left on the clock lines up for a FG to win it.  Somehow, the kick is wide right and the Tigers have prevailed.
Again – adversity can be an unfortunate event, distress or hardship.  In each situation described here we saw adversity step up in the faces of Rock Springs students.  Resilience is, again, the ability to return to original form or to recover from adversity – like buoyancy.  To say that in all three cases, our kids demonstrated incredible resilience to bounce back from adversity would be an understatement.  But again, its more than that…I posted the following on our Facebook page late Friday night…
Hey Tigers – we learned a very valuable lesson about overcoming adversity tonight. When you believe in yourself and the person next to you, you can accomplish great things. I’m not just talking about football (our cheer and dance teams proved that). Believe in who you are and what you want to become – believe that you are the Greatest High School in America…because you are – I’m so very ‪#‎ProudToBeATiger‬ on the ‪#‎RoadToAwesome‬
What our kids proved is when you believe in yourself, and you believe in the person next to you, behind you, and in front of you (be that dance, cheer, or football) you CAN accomplish anything.  I have never been more proud of our kids!!  Not because we won but because our spirits refused to lose.  In those minutes of a Friday evening, I believe we found the defining moments of what will be the greatest school year in the history of Rock Springs High School.
I am, humbly, the principal of the Greatest High School in America…Rock Springs High School.
Keep navigating the #RoadToAwesome

Friday’s High-Five

What is a great school?  How does it look? Feel? How do you know it’s great? It is rather an elusive thing to put your finger on what defines a ‘great high school’.  Certainly there are a number of books that you can read, each of which has their own flavor on what to do to be ‘great’.  When I became principal at Rock Springs High School 4 years ago, I am rather unclear on how to, as a school, be great!  I really focused on academics, what instruction looked like in the classroom, and making sure our teachers were using strong instructional strategies.  Great, right?  Certainly nothing wrong with focusing on academics, we are a school after all.  We pushed hard on graduation rates, which have dramatically risen, but something seemed to be missing.  We are a Jostens Renaissance school, have been since inception of our Renaissance program in 2007.  Our program as focus on attendance, grades, may other areas to impact our school culture.  I am very proud of that program, but still, something was missing.

This summer, while at the Jostens Renaissance conference, it hit me like a bolt of electricity.  Every year I attend I come back fired up, ready to make change, impact our kids in a positive way…you know, the usual!  This year, with the eye on school culture and climate, I set out  to make an impact, not a drop of water in the lake but a crater in the mountain type of impact, on our school culture and climate.  With the excellent work of several staff and many students, we transformed the look of our building during July and August. (see – )

But painting the walls is not the missing piece…but it might be what puts it all in motion.  As we begin this year, that missing piece has been identified – one that will not go missing again.  This year IS different – that missing piece is a High Five.  No, not just the actual act of a high five but 5 items to keep high on the priority list.  minionfive

Rock Springs High School is on the #RoadToAwesome because of our High Five – the five most important things we, as school leaders, must do to ensure success.

1.  Be a Team – often, especially in High Schools, we become so caught up in our content and our departments that we may not know everyone teaching in our building.  RSHS has a staff of nearly 100 teachers and over 150 staffulty working in the building daily.  It is hard to know who everyone is unless a concerted effort exists to unite them.  This year, our crew began the year, like many other districts across the country, in a district-wide meeting.  The difference, our team was dressed in a team polo shirt.

staff1 staff2

Sure, its just a shirt…but the tone that it set was that we will work as a unified group all focused on the same thing…success!  On our first day of school, we told staff that we could use the day as a ‘spirit day’ – to which nearly 90% wore their team shirt again!  Don’t get me wrong, it takes more than a shirt to develop a team; we will have to do much more.  For example, this year we are all reading Daniel Pink’s Drive and will reference the book in each staff meeting.  I gave each staff member a copy of the book at our first meeting and included a personal note to each of them.  It was worth the time it took to write to each person and share a thought both about the book and something personal.  We asked each staff member to read a few pagesIMG_2877 from the book then discuss with their table group what it is that motivates them.  Very powerful what was shared out, so much about wanting to make an impact on kids lives, a desire to self-improve, and many who want to always be learning themselves.  Each upcoming meeting will be similar, with pre-selected groups having those important critical self-reflection conversations, aimed at getting to the core of what we do and why we do it.  The bonus, work with others you don’t know well to develop more of a team.
2.  Show your kids you care – here is something that should be automatic, but often gets overlooked.  We know that kids will work hard for those who care about them as more than just a grade, just a face in the room, just another kid.  We talk a lot about relationships in our school – and in many places we really do it quite well.  But it starts when the student enters the building daily.  Daily we are greeting kids at the front door with a smile, a handshake, knuckles, and holding the door.  This is a great opportunity for us to get to know our kids and work to know them by name (1400 kids, its not easy).  Mr. Skinner (one of our leadership team members) instituted #HighFiveFriday at RSHS this year – and today we greeted kids with high-fives. (I actually handed out paychecks to staff today with High-Fives as well).  Really get to know your kids, celebrate who they are and what they do…one of our murals that we painted this summer focuses on who are kids are outside of school…one more way for us to show them we care about who they are both in and out of school.

IMG_2890 IMG_2888 We are challenging our kids to “Be Epic…Not Ordinary”

3.  Focus on more than academics – that doesn’t mean stop focusing on academics, that is a critical element.  One of the 7 A’s @DwightCarter talks about in his post The Seven A’s of Successful High Schools ( Putting the spotlight on all the great things that kids and staff do will increase buy-in and school spirit.  We held our 2nd annual “Tiger Town Bash” Wednesday night – essentially a big city-wide pep rally for all our fall activities.  Great turn out from the community, lots of spirit and Tiger Pride (tons of orange and black) and every fall activity represented.  Was a great opportunity to rally everyone together and focus on the great things our kids and coaches do.  This will also generate some buzz for tonight’s big game!11150957_897229377009877_877171395820333171_n 11953015_897230563676425_6005488528628984030_n  #ProudToBeATiger


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4.  Support your staff – Nobody should be made to feel insecure in their place of work.  Our teaching staff all, at a minimum, have a bachelor’s degree of course, with many holding master’s degrees and even a couple doctorate degrees.  We have set clear expectations of parents, and called them on it when they fall short, regarding their treatment and behavior with RSHS staffulty.  We won’t tolerate parents yelling at us, and staff is empowered to leave a conversation if that happens.  We will work to get them any resource they need to improve student learning.  We tell them and show them that we appreciate them.  Most importantly though, they simply need to know we have their backs – which is part of being a team.

5 – Reinforce your beliefs and Be Grateful – I am honored to be the person who carries the title Rock Springs High School Principal.  I am grateful to work alongside the best educational staff in America!  This year I am committed to reinforcing our beliefs and priorities each and every week.  Tell your kids you love them, show them you care, embrace your staff and be a team!

This is the RSHS High Five – Team, Care, Focus, Support, and Reinforcement – this is what has us on the #RoadToAwesome and off to a fabulous start to our school year.


Until next time…inspire others,



Wall – post labor

In late July, I wrote a post focused on making some changes.  Two specific blog posts

were written with the thought in mind that it was time to give our building a much needed facelift.

Schools should be about kids, for kids, and owned by kids…which is a difficult shift in most people’s thinking.

A snipet from my blogpost on July 20 had a few questions that were on my mind at the time, specific to making this all important change to the look of @RSHS_Tigers building.  This is what I wrote then..

** I find myself today asking the following questions:

  1. Are the hallways of the building eye-catching?  Do they make staff and students want to be here, or are they bland and traditional?
  2. Are there more areas where we can showcase student work?
  3. Can we brighten up the look and feel of the hallways?  Can we put an emphasis on making all students welcome in our building, not just those that fit the ‘mold’ of jock/popular kid?
  4. Are we promoting a positive climate or perpetuating a traditional design that only those who ‘play the game’ feel welcome?
  5. What can I do with about 6 weeks until the start of school to change what we current have in place? My answers to the questions above tell me we need to make some changes.

I included in the blogpost from July 22 pictures of the boring, bland, tan brick walls (see link above) with a promise to bring an update soon.  I also promised this on @twitter – specifically to Sara Cowey (@CoweySara) and both Phillip and Tara Campbell (@docstobe).  As well, inspiration was gained from Tom Nichols (@NicholstcTom) and his awesome orange and black wall at North Stafford (#NorthNation).

So, without further ado, here is where we are today…

At the entry of the building, you will now find our Mission and Vision statements.  We asked students to identify the words that really should stand out in the mission and vision.  They unanimously chose the words in orange and silver as ‘power’ words. (and after the picture was taken, Rock Springs High School at the top is now all painted orange)

Mission and Vision

These two murals are separate in their focus but are really cool.  The ‘Foundation of Education’ was a mural proposed by one of our counselors (thanks Nathan Wiest) and will be signed by every staffulty member later this week.

The Make-A-Wish wall relates to the Make-A-Wish foundation, which is the primary charity of Wyoming Student Councils.  We have raised, partnered with our ‘rival’ in Green River, over $250,000 for MAW in the past 8 years.  Pretty awesome work for a county of less that 50K people.

The “Foundation of Education” & ‘Make-A-Wish’

These pictures are of the main hallway.  Previously plain tan brick, we chose to hilight who are kids are OUTSIDE of school.  We want our kids to feel welcome, appreciated, and NOTICED when they walk in the front door.  These top two photos have been the ones most talked about. The third picture is a close up of what is in the middle of that wall…our COMMITMENT 2 GRADUATE (C2G) graduates.

Be Epic…Not Ordinary
C2G (Commitment 2 Graduate)


Next up is the nearly 100 year old Rock Springs crest – painted opposite C2G and Epic

RS Crest

We got a little creative outside of our band and choir rooms (now they want to paint the music staff and ‘lines’ down their entire hallway – AWESOME)

Band and Choir entry

We ‘copied’ from both Phillip and Tom in this area, putting in our Pause Before You Post and No Bullying wall murals; but we added in a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt

Quote reads “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

Our cafeteria needed a major boost, and its getting one.  The painting should be completed tomorrow, with 4 student microwaves coming tomorrow as well.  From boring to ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ in a couple short weeks.  Whether you are coming or going, you will clearly know its all about the Tiger here…

This cafeteria wall (food line entrances) will say “Welcome to the Jungle”
As you leave the Jungle, you are reminded that “It’s a great day to be a Tiger”
Use window space wisely – #TIGERS and RSHS surround our windows now

Nothing speaks to who we are more than this phrase, coined by, then painted by, senior Erikka Soto (@errrikkamarie98) – we are truly #ProudToBeATiger


Well, I think I hit it on all but one of the questions I was asking myself.  I still need to identify spaces for student work to be displayed.  That is coming…but in the mean time, I am super proud of my kids and team of educators.

So…where are WE headed?  As if you have to ask…

#RoadToAwesome – the @RSHS_Tigers destination

Inspire others,


Schools of the future (or of the now)

We are fortunate in Wyoming, as we, unlike other states, don’t have to bond for the building of new school facilities.  Our state is quite wealthy when it comes to natural resources with coal lease agreements paying for school facilities each and every year.

We are fortunate in Rock Springs that our enrollment has continued to increase, graduation rates have continued to increase, and attendance has continued to increase causing a capacity issue at Rock Springs High School.  To that end, we are in a position now to have the state build for us a 120,000+ sq ft satellite facility.

You might think, cool – a new building with new possibilities; and you’d be right.  The other side of this is the work that goes into the planning of the spaces, curriculum, scheduling, staffing, and over all management and design for this satellite facility.

I am fortunate enough to work in a district that is truly forward thinking, having a desire to be as innovative as possible, and to be surrounded by amazing people who are, mostly, like minded.  Today, I spent the whole day with many of those people talking about, debating, and hammering out some early (very early) stage planning of our new facility.  They call it a charrette – fancy way of saying let’s get a lot of really good people who are invested in the long term of this new building and have them really cut to the relevant pieces of this new site.

Weekly, it seems, I am engaged in a great educational conversation with my good friend, colleague, and co-worker Bruce Metz (@metzbruce78) with the topic being educational reform, innovation, and the 3 R’s (relationships, relevance, and rigor).  Bruce is an amazingly passionate educator who is so good at these 3 R’s that he struggles with anyone who doesn’t get it like he does…today Bruce had a room full of people singing his song.

What is important about all that I listed above is this…in Rock Springs we are currently at a very important crossroads in our 9-12 educational paradigm.  We have a lot of staff, a lot, who want to be innovators and want to be changing the paradigm.  We have a small, vocal minority who are very traditional (ie:full frontal lecture) that do not and cannot see the reason for change.  I am hopeful that this group, this facility, and this opportunity do not pass them by and become only another excuse for them to complain about ‘change for change’s sake’.

It is critical that we are always moving forward, innovating, adapting, and changing.  Darwin’s work on the Galapagos Islands, summarized in The Origin of Species, encapsulates it well; ‘Adapt, Migrate, or Die.”  I will just leave that phrase hanging there…it can mean so many different things.

I enjoyed my day listening to others think aloud about education in its current and future forms.  Can’t wait for next Thursday and Friday when we reconvene…should be quite interesting.

Thanks for reading my ramble…

Inspire others,

The Wall (pre-labor)

So I wrote on Monday that I am truly inspired to get after it here at RSHS to make a difference in the climate and culture of our school.  No, there isn’t anything wrong with our culture, but we are at a point where we have to become even more kid focused if we are to take the next step.  To that end, I was really inspired by the work of Phillip and Tara Campbell from Portland, TN (go @PHS_Renaissance) along with North Stafford HS in Virginia (@nicholstctom).  Since the previous post, I have gotten some pictures sent and encouragement from my friend Sara Cowey (@CoweySara), thanks Sara!!!

I promised some pictures of what the building looked like pre-painting.  The stuff that was on the walls, mostly old history documents and photos of long dead politicians, have been taken down so we have a truly blank canvas.


I have @BradleeWSkinner and two of our rock star students (Alex Soto and Kenzie Overy) planning out the look of the hallway. Our Student Council, led by Marianna Pizzatto, Hayden Searle, and Lexi Bedard will be painting a Make a Wish foundation mural, their big charity.

We use the hashtag #ProudToBeATiger, so the first kid to use that, Erikka Soto (@errrikkamarie98) will paint that above the trophy cases in the last picture of the above gallery.  We have lots of fun ideas, including following the example from North Stafford with the “Do you believe in me?” wall along with an anti bully and pause before you post wall (thanks Portland HS).

More to come…this is truly exciting and will make a difference in the climate of this school that kids, staffulty, and parents will quickly feel.


Inspire others,


Injecting life into your school climate

This time of year we all, as administrators, want to have the best possible welcome back we can for our staff and our students.  There is no magic formula for this and you can’t always predict success.  You can, however, take a look at the climate of your school and make adjustments to your focus as it relates to student and staff culture.

I find myself today asking the following questions:

  1. Are the hallways of the building eye-catching?  Do they make staff and students want to be here, or are they bland and traditional?
  2. Are there more areas where we can showcase student work?
  3. Can we brighten up the look and feel of the hallways?  Can we put an emphasis on making all students welcome in our building, not just those that fit the ‘mold’ of jock/popular kid?
  4. Are we promoting a positive climate or perpetuating a traditional design that only those who ‘play the game’ feel welcome?
  5. What can I do with about 6 weeks until the start of school to change what we current have in place? My answers to the questions above tell me we need to make some changes.

I spent the week last week at the Jostens Renaissance conference in Orlando, FL.  If you have never attended one of their conferences I highly suggest you do so.  I have been a number of times and, at this point, feel that my mindset changed a little from this current conference.  I have believed for a long time that with our Renaissance focus that we would reward and recognize students and staff for doing great things.  We do this, in my opinion, still a bit to awkwardly.  Renaissance is not just about recognition, you see its about culture and climate.  The look and feel of a building is every bit as important as the recognition that students and staff receive.

So, I have work to do…time to get out the paint clothes and get moving on dressing up this blond bricked building.  We have painted some stuff here and there, but it is time to make a BIG SPLASH.

What do you do to make them feel welcome?  Send me some pictures if you don’t mind…I will post pictures of our work once it is complete.

Inspire others,



What do you expect?

I have been thinking a lot lately about expectations.  Specifically related to myself as an administrator, for my teachers, and my coaches.  Often times we talk about having ‘high expectations’, but what does that really mean?  In this post I aim to talk about setting expectations, the difference that exists between what we expect and what we accept, and finally having the guts to not settle for anything less than what you expect and/or want.


Among the common buzz words in education, high expectations gets thrown around a lot, I mean, A LOT.  I hear this used often in the context of letting people know what you want/wish them to do/complete/act as/behave like etc.  Last year I had 19 new members on staff (we have about 100 teachers for reference) and I asked each of them the same two questions both early in the year and then again later during a performance review:

1) Do you have high expectations of your kids? 2) Do you have high expectations of yourself?

Most of them had similar answers, along the lines of ‘I would like to’, ‘I hope so’, or even ‘No, and I need help in this area’.  Two of my veteran staff members, both of whom currently have rather high failure rates, asked the same questions identically: yes I do, which is why so many kids fail my class, they can’t live up to my expectations.  YIKES!!! I struggle so much with this position, this narrow and blind vision of what expectations are…

Expect vs Accept

I am a firm believer that you reap always what you sow, meaning that the efforts you put into whatever it is that you do are in direct correlation to what results you ultimately see.  When given the chance to describe the above classification of ‘high expectations’ the two teachers both told me that students don’t or won’t put in the time and effort that is necessary to pass their classes.  While, at times, this could be a true statement, it brings me to the same place I always arrive…what is the connection to what you are doing like in relation to their world; is it relevant, is it meaningful, or is it simply busy work (worksheets and vocabulary puzzles) that students won’t do?  For another post, Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor will be our focus at RSHS for the foreseeable future, but that would be chasing a squirrel now.  In essence, and back on point, I can summarize the difference between expectations as this:

Expectations are what you hope to see/get/gain/develop in your students, your team, your staff

Acceptance is what the bare minimum is, I will accept nothing less than ___________.

Most people would agree with these two statements, with potentially a minor modification to either or both they are essentially universal definitions of the two words.  I would, however, argue, that the two are so tightly aligned that those who struggle with student behavior, teacher behavior/performance, or achievement, miss the POINT.  Here, in my mind, is the POINT – I call it the Rise and Fall Principle…

Your students will either rise or fall to the level of expectation you are willing to accept.

Yep, that’s right – what you accept is what your ACTUAL expectations are…be that your expectations of students, athletes, or even yourself.  If you accept less, your expectations are less.  So if you have a high failure rate or poor classroom behaviors, I would argue that it is on you.  You are accepting less that what you stated you expected.

You don’t have to be mean, rude, strict, or “awful” to get your expectations and what you accept to match up – two key things must exist; 1) relationships – kids/staff/athletes must know you genuinely care about them for them to truly work ‘FOR’ you; 2) consistency in communication and follow through – if you don’t hold all to the same, if you allow one student to do whatever they choose or behave in a way that doesn’t meet the expectation, then you have settled for less.

The guts

When you share what you expect, you are making a contract with those you share with.  You are telling them an order exists and, provided it is maintained, all will achieve and be successful.  The mark of a great teacher or administrator is when that ‘order’ is not met.  How do you handle those who choose, for whatever reason, not to meet the expectation?  Do you ignore them and allow them to ‘fail’?  If you do, you have lowered your standards for all.  This is an area where I have struggled at times – nobody likes to call someone out, to have the uncomfortable conversation with an employee not living up to expectations, nor do teachers like to have to call the parent of a kid not doing what they are supposed to do.  But this is where movement happens.  Last year I made two of the most difficult decisions of my professional career, both related to personnel not living up to what I expected.  If I allowed them to continue, I was lowering my standard.  It meant me and my team taking on more responsibilities down the stretch of the school year, but I could not allow it to continue.

This is a pretty extreme example of holding to your expectations, but I did hear from a number of staff members that they appreciated the decision I made, and supported me in making the tough call.

This year, we will meet with our entire staff, outlining for them what we as an administrative team expect of them.  I would imagine that nearly all administrative teams do this, calling them expectations or non-negotiables or whatever the current jargon is.  Taking it a step further, my team will meet individually with each teacher, specifying what their role is and what we expect of them during the upcoming school year.  The expectation is different for each, sure the basic expectations are the same, but the big teacher leaders will have a different role on staff than the first year teacher right out of college.  It is important to let them know what you need from them and to find out how you, as their leader, can assist them.  The same is true of your students – not that you have time to meet individually with them, although you certainly could – letting them know, beyond what’s written on the syllabus or classroom management plan, what you expect of them and learning how you can help get them to those expectations.

End result

At the end of it all, it comes down to being clear in what you expect and being consistent in not settling for less than your expectations.  Sometimes we get caught up in setting a bar so high that only the superstar can reach it, that is why words like excellent, superior, distinguished, etc exist.  Set expectations that are realistic, attainable, and result in success for students or staff.  Those who excel will have no problem sailing past the expectation, they don’t need that extra push – those who may fall short are the ones who need us, dedicated educators, who don’t wish to see anyone fail.  Those who are the reason we are teachers.

I had some goals when I started this post and, without any editing, I will  post this raw level of thinking.  Did I hit my goal?

Until next time – yours in education




This past Friday, we embarked on a journey as a staff to learn from each other.  We held our first EdCamp-style professional development, and while some things will need to be modified, it was truly a success.

The Set Up

Initial set up of this process included showing a brief video to staff to explain what an EdCamp was and how it would be formatted.  The video link below is the one shown to staff

Although, many other great videos of EdCamp formats exist:

After showing the video, staff was given a list of some topics we had heard as an administrative staff as possible ‘needs’ and areas of current expertise that existed on the staff.  Items included: leading a thinking classroom, setting good learning targets, classroom management, use of technology in the classroom, Google in the classroom, special ed accommodations, and so forth.  We asked that staff reply to us via email if they were interested in starting the conversation on a particular topic.

The EdCamp

We were able to have 20 different sessions offered, in three time blocks, during this initial effort.  Our schedule included three 30 minute sessions, stacked back to back, in a concentrated area of the building.  The idea was to keep the rooms close together so we didn’t lose time in transition from session to session.

In many ways our EdCamp felt like being at a conference where you just happened to know everyone there.  Most of the rooms were full and the conversations were genuine.  I was pleased to see the level of engagement in the conversations from our staff and even more pleased at the ‘buzz’ in the hallways during transition from session to session.

Observations of EdCamp

* Powerful seeing a music teacher and several math teachers dialoguing about ‘real math’ and the connection to music.  Equally exciting to hear them discuss the math behind puzzles such as Rubik’s Cube.

* Laughter, genuine laughter…nearly every room had staff sharing a laugh over some topic (this made me fist pump a little)

* Two Career Academy teachers led a discussion on never working harder than their students; this is an important topic for us as we often times have teachers who do all the ‘heavy lifting’ and leave students working at a very low depth of knowledge level

*  Similarly, leading a thinking classroom had colleagues discussing and listening to one of the best in this area around having the students do the thinking and pushing it to higher levels

*  The sessions were TOO SHORT – we had them in 1/2 hour intervals and often the conversation was just heating up – we will move to probably 45-50 min per session next time around

*  Google in the classroom was a popular topic, with many staff asking me about it today as well.  It really puts the spotlight on getting technology not only into students hands but also arming staff with the know-how to use tech as a learning tool.   This session was a great starter kit for teachers who want to take that next step toward having students be independent and interdependent with technology and their learning.

*  Expertise – there is a lot of expertise with my staff, and in many areas.  We really need to continue learning with and from each other.  For the longest time we have relied on bringing in experts from everywhere on the planet but have not used the skill set we already have in place.  It was an awesome experience to see, hear, and feel the learning that took place between members of the same staff.

Teacher Feedback

“Loved it. Would love to have it again.”

“Yes-overwhelmingly positive response! More session time”

“I would love to go more in depth to help others.”

“I thought it was well worth our time….look forward to >”

“Thought the format was very good. Best PD in a while.”

Next Steps

As we move forward, I know we will be doing the EdCamp structured PD in our next building-wide PD day.  We have some edges to tighten up but given the positive feedback from staff, they will be excited to do this again.  We must make sure our focus is clear, however, and that we aren’t just chasing rabbits.  A survey will be created to identify what type of sessions staff would want, how many is too many during a session, and how we can support their learning after the day is complete.

Questions or Comments????


Thanks for reading…

Inspire others,