Customer Service


I teach a KardioKick class at a local fitness center two nights a week. The center just opened, and we’re eagerly listening to feedback from clients to customize a summer schedule that best fits their needs to keep them coming back and engaged in the class.

As the year closes so do the minds of my students, it seems.  Some have tuned out, tuned off, and tuned into summer mode already. How do I keep them engaged these last few days? And even more importantly, how can I ensure that I don’t lose my new students in the fall?  Then, it dawned on me: ask them.

Spending quality time asking quality questions and genuinely listening to the feedback of the patrons of the fitness center have garnished more clients and more requests for classes.  

So, I tried it with my students. My educated mind, years of teacher training, and those glorious standardized testing gods already told me what students in my English 8 need to know and be able to do. I genuinely wanted to know what my middle schoolers want. I crafted a quick questionnaire using Google Forms and carefully read through their responses. I plan to organize and use their responses to craft my 2012-13 school year.Image

No doubt about it: in any business, customer service is important.  Education is no different, and anytime of the school year is a good time to remember who the real customers are.

Have a safe and learning-filled summer!


Why I Should Not Be a Principal

As much as I’ve contemplated pressing encouragement of colleagues regarding some apparent potential to grow into a principal, I request a pass. I wholeheartedly respect my administrators and my administrator friends. Their duty is never easy. I admire their cool heads in tough times. I appreciate their ability to put out fires with students, parents, and yes, staff, including ones I start myself.

I do not want to nor could I…do that. Period.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see higher bimonthly payroll deposits. I would love to be able to know all of the students at my middle school; right now, I only get to know the eighth graders really well. I would love to have a stronger, more revered voice when it comes to public perception of education, policy-making, and educator evaluation. I would enjoy the position to be able to leverage community support for my colleagues than I have now.

Oh. Wait. I can have all those things now. Thanks to Seth Godin’s Linchpin, I can! A powerful and relatively quick read, Linchpin offers strong suggestions of leadership “among the ranks.” And, that’s where I am most effective. In the ranks. Working directly with the kids, while working collaboratively with my able administrators to make our world in the middle a more positive and productive place where students can learn and succeed. I appreciate the nod, but I prefer to stay here in the fox hole, where it’s wet, cold and sometimes downright messy. Sometimes, it’s just the place to do the most effective leadership triage.

So if you’re like me and just not ready to jump the ranks quite yet, here’s to your inner linchpin!

Tim’s Top Tech Finds: What Tim Found Today #edtech 05/09/2012

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What Tim Found Today #edtech 05/09/2012

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Helping Middle Level Learners End the Year Strong

Look around your middle school. Are students as enthusiastic about school as they were in September? Telltales signs from my 8th graders abound:  from the cockiness in their “almost freshman” saunters to the trepidation about high school registration and what the future holds in store for them. The calendar may still say April, but chances are your middle level learners have already traded in their backpacks for flip flops! 

The last few weeks of school are as important, if not moreso, than any other. It’s vital that we help our students stay focused and on target so they finish strong.

  • Stick to it.  Just because the mercury goes up on the thermometer and the summer sun beckons, middle level learning is not over yet.  Keep asking questions and stay interested in your students. Parents can encourage their teens to continue telling them about what happened in class–do not accept “nothing.”  That’s NEVER the case.  Don’t kid yourself, students see whether we, too, have shut down or not.
  • Keep routines. The extra daylight may taunt us to get a little extra yard work or rounds of golf in after school this time of year, but it’s important for us to stay energized for our students by keeping the same routines we’ve kept all year.  If they know you’re going to open your classroom for help in the morning, then continue that. Parents of transescents can keep curfews and bedtimes the same until that final school year alarm clock rings. This will help students remain rested and focused for the rest of the year.
  • Offer one warning strike.  Now might be a good time to rev up the GPA reminders, not to allow our middle level learners to let those grades slip. Issuing a warning allows teens to slip up once and then get back on track, knowing our expectations and possible consequences before it’s too late. Parents can follow suit with reminders and warnings. Students who know a movie or trip over the summer is at stake may rethink not completing those last couple of math problems.

Leveraging iPads, laptops, and other Technologies to Differentiate Learning & Teaching

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Leveraging iPads, laptops, and other technologies to differentiate learning & teaching #edtech #edchat #middlchat

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Increase Student Engagement by Getting Rid of Textbooks | Connected Learning #elearning #middlechat #WIedu

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Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blogger is Shelly Blake-Plock a high school classroom teacher from Maryland, who blogs at Drool in the textbook.

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How Do You Teach Passion?

One of the (many) things that has consistently baffled me about me is my level of passion.  Why do I get so dang worked up about a political commercial?  Why do I train for triathlons, even though I am clearly not (repeat three times) what most would define as a true triathlete? Why does (insert Disney flick here) get me every single time?


It’s the reason I come to work in my middle school every day. With a smile on my face. Happy doing something I truly love.


how do I share this with my students on these April-soon-to-be-May-soon-to-be-summer days? How do I get my students as fired up as I am about learning this late in the game? How do I get them excited about learning new things? Expanding their brains? Trying (and sometimes failing) new endeavors?  How?


Digging through my ever-expanding bag o’ tricks, I decided to pull out the Love and Logic gems from years back when we were trying to raise healthy, responsible children in my home. If it worked for them, it certainly can’t hurt with my “family” at school? Right?

It might be a long shot, but for now, I am determined to spend the remaining days of this school year sharing my continued passion for learning, passion for learner success and passion for developing positive, accountable young adults as they leave my little, middle world and venture into the bigger world of high school and beyond.

Keep the Passion!