Category Archives: Middle Level Advocacy

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!


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

See on Scoop.itPurpose-Driven Technology Integration

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

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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!


Despicable Me

I’m a bad teacher.  I’m rounding the third term bases, rallying the troops for the “home stretch,” and quite frankly, running out of steam. I’m dusting off my white flag…just in case.

I face my 8th grade minions with all vim and vigor of a Ford Prius in a NASCAR race. Defeated with their low term achievements (don’t get me started on grades), defeated with their lack of passion and self-caring, defeated with the overall morale ditches that budget scares and uncertain “next years” create.

White flag in hand, I confess to my minions:

I care more for your educational success than you do. I will stay after school and get you caught up if that’s what it takes. I am contacting your adult units to share my concerns about your apathy, your disorganization, your lack of self-respect.

My white flag is now with blazing hot streamers flowing from it.

Deflated, I go home.

I get on my bike.

Eighteen miles and over an hour of soaking in the hills and simplicity of my Wisconsin homeland allow me to I ponder and think and scheme and cajole myself into believing that nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Screaming through tight corners and climbing steep inclines, songs of random inspiration burst into my head:  “There’s Always Tomorrow” (of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer fame), “Eye of the Tiger” (big-hair 80’s favorite), and “Dreamer” by Chris Brown…and no, I do NOT wear an mp3 while riding my bike.

Drenched in sweat, I return home.


Today, the same ears that listened to my ranting confessions of frustration the day before showed up, some even smiling.  They came back. I hadn’t scared them off.

I apologize for airing my ills to them. I share my goals for last term and encourage discussions about theirs. We take a deep collective breath and refocus. We talk about realities and dreams and steps it takes to get where we need to go. We get serious about choices for research papers. We debate appropriately over our arguments.

I gain some believers. I renew my faith in youth.  I remember why I have loved this awful, excruciatingly painful, mind-draining, heart-breaking career path I’ve chosen for the past 20-plus years.

**Sigh**  Maybe I’m not as despicable as I thought. Maybe I’m just human.

Parents & Teachers Speak Up About Digital Learning In Ohio

Via Scoop.itPurpose-Driven Technology Integration

This Wednesday, Tom Vander Ark, students, teachers, and parents testified in front of the Ohio House of Representatives’ Education Committee in support of digital learning.

Schools see potential with BYOD programs

Via Scoop.itPurpose-Driven Technology Integration

More U.S. school districts are experimenting with Bring Your Own Device programs as a way to bring mobile technology into the classroom without the cost of one-to-one laptop programs.