Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What Do You See?

When you observe those around you, what do you see? Do you see potential or flaws? Do you see strengths or weaknesses? From an organizational standpoint, each employee in an organization has, (or had at one time) a strength or some redeeming quality that caused him/her to be hired in the first place. Unfortunately, over time employers discover employees weaknesses and spend valuable time and resources attempting to "fix the problem."

While some weaknesses cannot be overlooked, a far more effective strategy is to focus on an employee's strengths. What are the employee's unique talents or skills and how can those talents or skills be used to help advance the organization? In the book, "First Break All The Rules" authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman suggest, "One of the signs of a great manager is the ability to describe, in detail the unique talents of each of his or her people - what drives each one, how each one thinks, how each builds relationships."

Parents, teachers, administrators and other leaders - when it comes time to decide where to dedicate your time and resources, take a minute to focus on the strengths of those around you. As I used to say when I was coaching, "put people in a position to be successful."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Legislative Activity

During the current lame duck session, the Michigan Legislature is considering a series of bills that would dramatically change public education as we know it. The bills I am referring to are:

I encourage you to take the time to read and thoroughly understand these bills and the impact they would have upon the Saline Area Schools. If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please take a moment to contact your Senator and Representative. Their contact information can be found here by clicking on "Find Your Senator" or "Find your Representative.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Strategic Framework

Last night Saline Area Schools began the process of reviewing and updating our Strategic Framework. For those who are unfamiliar with the Strategic Framework, it is a series of five (5) goals that guide the District. Below is a summary of the goals:

Goal 1: All students will acquire the essential skills and knowledge to meet or exceed standards in reading, writing and mathematics by the end of Grade 3.

Goal 2: All students will acquire the essential skills to be lifelong learners and leaders in an ever-changing, 21st Century, global society.

Goal 3: Strengthen family-school relationships and continue to expand civic, business, higher education  and community partnerships that support improved student achievement.

Goal 4: Enhance a positive school environment that promotes students & staff well-being, satisfaction and positive morale.

Goal 5: District shall establish short-term fiscal stability and long-term fiscal solvency.

Our goals with this review are numerous. We will develop a working understanding of the various elements of a sound planning process. We will define appropriate roles for Board, staff and community. We will develop specific action plan elements that will be recommended to the Administration and Board. We will ensure the framework elements are clear and coherent to promote broad understanding. Finally, we will incorporate a calendar for review of progress.

To achieve these ambitious goals we have asked approximately 75 students, parents, support staff, teachers and administrators to participate in the process to ensure we have broad range of perspectives and divergent thought. We must creatively improve the Strategic Framework and developing solid, executable action steps to make it come alive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Present for All

Thanksgiving represents the first significant break during the 2012-13 school year. While the lazy days of summer have faded into distant memory, the hustle and bustle of the Holidays is just around the corner. I'm even told that some have begun planning for Spring Break!

As we approach Thanksgiving, enjoy the moment. Spend time with family and friends, read a book or quietly reflect - simply relax. The vast majority of our lives is spent analyzing the past and planning for the future, with far too little time appreciating what is happening today.

As the old saying goes, "Yesterday is the past. Tomorrow is the future. Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Moving Forward

After months of television and radio advertisements, phone calls, yard signs, nationally televised debates and any number of conversations and/or arguments with family and friends, Election Season 2012 is finally over. While the popular vote for President was quite close, the philosophical divide between supporters of the candidates could not be broader. Therefore, it is logical to ask where we go from here?

Regardless of political affiliation and ideology, we owe it to our children to make education a priority now and into the future.  We must focus not just on the rote recitation of facts, but more importantly upon critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity/innovation. In addition, job creation, health care access and cost containment, the security of our Nation and stability in the Middle East are all issues that demand immediate attention. 

As is often the case, I believe we can learn from history. In a speech given the summer after the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy said, "Let us not be blind to our differences - but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those interests can be solved." It is time to start solving problems instead of arguing about who created them. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Frame or the Art?

The MS and HS will be evaluating a variety of scheduling models in the coming months. They will take a critical look at their current schedule formats as well as a variety of others. The merits of block schedules vs traditional schedules, of trimesters vs semesters, of 5, 6, or 7 hour days, of zero hours, late start days and summer school will all be discussed and debated. The alignment between the MS and HS schedules, (particularly for those MS students who earn HS credits), the maintenance and creation of elective opportunities and any possible impacts upon class size will be areas of particular focus. However, it is worth noting that if there were a single, best schedule format that promoted student achievement, every school in the nation would adopt it. Rather, a schedule format is simply a reflection of a school's priorities and a series of subsequent compromises.

While discussions about schedule formats can sometimes become emotional and contentious, they need not. Students in Saline will succeed. We have involved and educated parents who have high expectations for their children. We have tremendous teachers, paraeducators and administrators who go to extraordinary lengths to meet the needs of our students.

A school schedule is, at it's core, a frame that students and teachers operate within. It's the art within the frame where the true value lies!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Start With Passion

In his book, "Bo's Lasting Lessons" author John U. Bacon begins Chapter 1 with Bo Schembechler saying, "Let's start with first things first: passion. Because without that, nothing else I'm going to tell you in this book is going to be worth a damn."

Passion? How often to do we talk about passion in education? In our business we have built an entire vocabulary of acronyms. Terms such as NCLB, IDP, AYP, CTE, ELL, ESL, IDEA, RttT, SIP, Title I, Title II, Title IX, GRE, SRO etc. Even our school service organizations have joined the movement, referring to themselves as the PTO or PTA.

If we are to be successful in education, passion must be the foundation of all we do. A passion to work with children. A passion to make a difference, one child at a time. A passion to teach children how to learn and to love learning. A passion to be just a bit better today than you were yesterday.

Take the time to visit a kindergarten classroom some day soon - you will see passion everywhere. Students jumping at the opportunity to participate, to answer questions, to engage in the learning process. It is our challenge to maintain that same degree of passion in the students right through the end of their senior year.

The children we lead deserve passionate leaders. If coming to school each day becomes a job for the adults, it will become a job to our students too. It is up to us as adults to demonstrate our passion on a daily basis.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reality TV

As the parent of two teens who are too young to vote but who have begun to show an interest in the political process, we have watched the first two Presidential Debates as well as the Vice Presidential Debate. At this point, I have been amazed and frankly disappointed with the conduct of the candidates. Rather than displaying the ability to listen respectfully and respond, the candidates have chosen to interrupt, smirk and laugh at one another. Instead of sharing their ideas, the candidates have decided to attack and call each other liars. As an educational institution, we would not tolerate any of our 2nd grade students finger pointing, interrupting, shouting at one another and refusing to wait their turn turn. However, these behaviors have become the rule rather than the exception in these debates.  

I hope the third and final debate is entirely different. I hope our young people, (as well as the rest of us) have an opportunity to observe two leaders with vastly different perspectives present their thoughts, ideas and concepts to not only the American public but to the world at large in a way we can be proud of.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

World Teacher Day

What do Mary Thomas, Cheryl Heoft, Jack Crabtree, Dave Phillips, Bob Marcero, Mike Smith, Jean Hutt, Ed Gall, Kathy Stacey, Bill Smigielski, Dave Johnson, Marelene Weintraub, Don DiPaolo, Mary Converse, Greg Lewis, Tim Kiraly,  Kathy Kiraly, Jim Wicker, Pat Fowler, Marge McNally and Joyce Jonik have in common? If you answered that they are or were teachers in Saline Area Schools you would be correct in most cases, (one is a professor at Eastern Michigan University). However, the most accurate answer is that each of these individuals was a teacher of mine at one point or another and each made a significant and unique impact upon my life.

These individuals taught me public speaking, consumer economics, physical education, English, (Research Seminar) world history, science, social studies, (anyone else remember the unit called "The Wave") sociology, psychology and the fundamentals of being a cadet teacher. However, they also taught me how to be responsible, accountable, passionate, engaged, caring, competent and empathetic. In short, they taught me not only the skills necessary to make a living, they taught me how to live.

October 5th is World Teacher Day. It is my opportunity, (and I hope yours) to say thank you to a teacher who had an impact in your life. I am fortunate to remain in contact with several of my former teachers and my life is richer because of the positive impact they have had upon me.

Saline, like every school district, has teachers who are having the same impact upon their students today that my teachers had upon me years ago. Take a moment to simply say thank you and job well done.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pancakes & Pep Assemblies

Homecoming 2012 is upon us! The week began with the PowderPuff game and the introduction of the Homecoming Court Sunday night and will conclude with the pep assembly, parade and football game tonight followed by the dance tomorrow night.

Homecoming is a very special time of the year for students and adults alike. Students create memories that will last a lifetime. Who will forget pajama day? Clash day? Superhero day? The pancake eating contest, (I sure won't). You'll remember the pep assembly, the game, the dance, etc.  for years to come. As adults, homecoming week brings back memories of our own and allows an annual opportunity to return to SHS to catch up with old friends, teachers, etc.

Homecoming would not be possible without the extraordinary effort of a few key adults. Many thanks to the class sponsors,

Homecoming is an opportunity to take a moment to pause, have a little fun and enjoy those around us. Happy Homecoming everyone!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Wise Man and the Dove

Some time ago I heard a story about a wise man and a dove. The wise man lived some time ago and was kind, compassionate and caring. As such, he was loved by the people. Not far from the wise man lived a young prince who despised the wise man, believing his followers loved the wise man more than him.

In an effort to discredit the wise man, the prince decided to dress as a peasant and go to the marketplace where the wise man spoke to the masses each day. The prince intended to carry in his hands a white dove. His plan was to fool the wise man by asking him if the dove were alive or dead. If the wise man answered that the dove were alive, the prince would crush it in his hands, killing it. Conversely, if the wise man answered that the dove were dead, the prince would simply set it free. It was a foolproof plan in his eyes and he looked forward to discrediting the wise man publicly.

Well the day finally came. The prince disguised himself as a peasant and he went to the market prepared to make a fool of the wise man. He approached the group the wise man was speaking to and boldly asked, "Wise man... I hear great things about you. Can you please demonstrate your wisdom and tell me if the dove I hold in my hands is dead or alive?" The wise man thought for a moment, looked at his followers and answered quietly, "Why my good man, it is what you make of it."

It is what you make of it indeed. Your circumstance. Your relationships. Your future. All are what you make of it!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Do The Right Thing

Do The Right Thing. Four words. Simple sentence. Simple concept right?

When value systems align, doing the right thing means the same thing to everyone who shares that value system. However, when values do not align, doing the right thing means different things to different people.

At the start of each school year, building principals, classroom teachers and coaches everywhere review their rules, regulations and expectations with students and parents at open houses and pre-season meetings. This is done so that everyone involved is provided with an understanding of the value system of that school building, classroom or team.

A clear articulation of rules, regulations and expectations allows all involved the very best opportunity to do the right thing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Caring Counts

In his book, "The Seven Secrets of Successful Coaching" author Greg Dale, Ph.D. explains that successful coaches care about the athletes they coach. More importantly, the students (players) know the coach cares about them.

At our annual summer retreat, administrators were asked to talk about the most influential person in their lives to this point. They were asked to share who the influential person is and why they were impacted by that person. Some talked about a parent, others talked about a teacher or a coach, while others talked about a mentor or co-worker. The common thread between all the stories - our administrators knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the influential person in their life cared deeply about them.

The beauty about caring is simple - anyone can do it. Caring doesn't require a Ph.D. or five years of previous successful experience. Demonstrating that you care can be achieved by asking someone how they are doing and actually being interested in hearing the answer. It can be shown by taking the time to say thank you, or job well done, or a quick phone call or text to say hi, I'm thinking about you. Perhaps the simplest and most profound way we can demonstrate that we care about someone else is by taking the time to just listen to them.

I once heard Lou Holtz say, "they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." As educators, these are powerful words.

Each of us has the power to be the most influential person for somebody today. Take the time to make a difference.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

To The Moon And Back

When our children were little, my wife and I would read to them each night at bedtime. One of our favorite books to read was Sam McBratney's, "Guess How Much I Love You." As the book ends, Big Nutbrown Hare whispers, "I love you to the moon and back" as Little Nutbrown Hare drifts off to sleep.

It seems like just yesterday that we watched our daughter walk down the street and disappear up the stairs of the bus on her first day of kindergarten. Recently that very same daughter showed us her senior photo proofs. Like parents everywhere, we have watched her grow from a cute little girl into a beautiful young woman. This Tuesday she and more than 500 classmates will begin their senior year of high school. Through the years we have helped with homework, watched class plays, attended concerts, attended parent-teacher conferences and watched her compete athletically. Much has changed through the years and no doubt much will change in the years to come.

As a senior, we no longer tuck our daughter into bed each night. However, whether she knows it or not, each night I walk by her door and think to myself, yes, I still love you to the moon and back.

Good luck to all seniors in the class of 2013 - I hope this year is everything you hope it to be!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

For Love of the Game

In 1999, Kevin Costner played Billy Chapel, a washed up pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who reminisces about his career while pitching his last game. The movie title was, "For Love of the Game."

During a tour of Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor today, I found myself twisting that movie title from "For Love of the Game" into "For Love of Learning." At one point our host said something like, "if a student escapes 8th grade with a love of learning and ability to read, he or she can catch up and excel in virtually anything they want to do." Those words hung with me throughout the rest of our visit, "if a student has a love of learning and the ability to read, he or she can excel in anything!

At Menlo the employees work with partners, not the same partner every week or even every day. They are a part of a TEAM and they have a love for what they do. As we continuously ask ourselves "why" we do what we do in education, some part of that answer must include instilling a love of learning in our students.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Have you seen children in the neighborhood throwing, shooting, hitting or kicking a ball, shooting a puck or running? Have you heard a child practicing his/her musical instrument?  If you are at all like me, you will see and hear those things on a regular basis all summer long. 

However, it's equally important to see those same kids reading a book, writing, (perhaps an actual letter to a grandparent who does not text or use Facebook) or learning some history while traveling this summer. 

Our children practice their skills all summer in an effort to improve their performance for the upcoming school year. While they enjoy some much needed time off, make a concerted effort to see to it that they spend some time practicing their academic skills this summer too!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Congratulations Class of 2012!

This past Sunday I had the honor of attending the commencement ceremony for the Saline High School class of 2012. Watching the young men and women parade across the stage as their names were read caused me to reflect upon my own graduation from Saline High School, and perhaps more importantly, upon my daughter's upcoming graduation from Saline High School in 2013.

Much will have changed in the years between my graduation and my daughters. A new high school has been opened and our "old" high school is now home to students in grades 6-8. Historic Union School no longer houses students, rather it was sold and is now home to a business. Jensen Elementary has been torn down and replaced by Pleasant Ridge, Houghton Elementary now sits vacant and the district has 3 other beautiful elementary schools in Harvest, Heritage and Woodland Meadows. Indeed much has changed. 

While new buildings have replaced older ones, much remains the same.  The same quality education I received many years ago is still available to our students today. The community remains committed to providing our children with a world-class education that will prepare them for the global society they will become a part of upon graduation. Our teachers and administrators continue to challenge our students, providing instruction in math, English, science, social studies, fine arts and physical education. They also teach our students life lessons that will enable them to become good citizens in Saline and beyond. 

The class of 2012 has left their mark and joined the long line of graduating classes that have come before them. They have contributed to the rich legacy of academic and extra-curricular successes that have defined Saline High School for decades. They now join a proud new group - Saline High School alumni. Welcome Class of 2012! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day

This past weekend presented an annual opportunity to witness some very moving tributes to the individuals who serve our country in the armed forces. These brave individuals make many sacrifices for the honor of protecting our freedom.

Behind every soldier, man or woman, is a family of husbands or wives,  sons and daughters, mothers and  fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. These individuals make sacrifices too - spending months that turn into years away from their loved one - hopeful that they will one day return home safely.

I am honored to say that two lifelong friends, (both Saline HS graduates of 1985) are both Marines who have and are serving our country. Not a day goes by that I don't think of Tim and Doug and say a short prayer thanking God for their service and asking that He protect them while they serve. To Tim and Doug and their families - Edie, M1 & M2, Doug, Penny, JJ and Douglas, Lee, Luana and Darren I say thank you. Know always that you are appreciated!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Back to 2nd Grade

The year was 1974. The Philadelphia Flyers won the Stanley Cup. Four top White House aides resigned and President Nixon was named by a federal grand jury as a co conspirator in the growing Watergate Scandal. Patricia Hearst was abducted, held hostage and later assisted the Symbionese Liberation Army in a bank robbery and "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band was the #1 hit of the year. 1974 also happened to be the year I started 2nd grade.

What do I remember about 2nd grade after close to 40 years? Well, I remember my teacher. Her name was Mrs. Cavanaugh, and after having a nun in 1st grade I appreciated the variety of her wardrobe. In many ways I revered Mrs. Cavanaugh. She was funny when the opportunity presented itself. She was tough when she had to be. She was kind, nurturing and genuinely seemed to care about me beyond the classroom, often asking me questions about my family, my sports teams, etc. Mrs. Cavanaugh was one of my all-time, favorite teachers.

Today I had the opportunity to volunteer in another 2nd grade classroom as a Junior Achievement volunteer. This 2nd grade class is right here in Saline and is taught by Mrs. Schwartzenberger.  Much like I remember my 2nd grade class, the room was filled with smiling, attentive, enthusiastic students who seemed eager to learn. When I asked questions, close to 20 hands shot up!

There are many opportunities to volunteer in our schools and literally hundreds of parents and community members who do so each and every year. Junior Achievement is but one option. If you would like to volunteer, please speak to your son or daughter's teacher or principal - I guarantee you will appreciate the joy of teaching and learning!

Mrs. Cavanaugh, Mrs. Schwartzenberger and all the 2nd grade teachers out there - thank you for all that you do! It is our collective responsibility to ensure that our students remain as enthusiastic and engaged in school when they enter 12th grade as they are in 2nd grade. As for my 2nd grade classmates - John Steg, Billy Poselli and Donna Fry  - I hope you are all doing well!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Finalists Selected in Search for Saline HS Principal

After interviewing eight candidates, Saline Area Schools has selected three finalists in their search for a new high school principal.  A committee of parents, teachers, administrators and a student selected Julie Helber, (Milan Area Schools) Alice Lashbrook, (Hartland Consolidated Schools) and Tyrone Weeks, (Plymouth Canton Community Schools) as the finalists after close to 10 hours of interviews yesterday.

The district will be conducting simultaneous candidate forums beginning at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, May 2nd at Saline High School. The forums will each be 40 minutes in length and will allow the public, (students and parents) high school teachers and administrators an opportunity to meet and observe each candidate in an interview setting. The candidates will be asked a series of predetermined questions. In addition, attendees will have an opportunity to submit questions on note cards and those questions will be presented to the candidates as time permits. 

The public, (students and parents) forum will be held in the HS media center. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lessons of a Mouse

There was a scientific experiment where a mouse was placed in a maze with food at the end of a passage. Through trial and error, the mouse finally arrived at the food. When he had run the same course several times, the mouse no longer hesitated or turned down wrong corridors but rather went directly down the correct path that led to the food. After a few more runs like this the food was removed from the end of the previous corridor and placed at the end of another passage. At first the mouse went to the old place. Finding nothing there, he retraced his path and investigated other passages until he found the newly placed food. Thereafter, he had no trouble acclimating himself to the new route that brought the reward.

The point of this story is that it shows the basic difference between mice and mankind. Eventually, the mouse will learn to seek other paths when the one he has always followed is no longer productive, while mankind will tend to keep going down the unproductive path forever.

In the world of public education, the food has been moved. How long will we continue travel old paths before we begin to investigate new passages?

Friday, April 13, 2012

e-Portfio - The New Frontier

As schools expand the use of technology for instructional purposes, a group of Saline Area Schools teacher-leaders are working with our instructional technology staff to build professional e-portfolios. The e-portfolios will contain a home page, the teachers resume and educational philosophy, their curriculum, instructional reflections and, moving forward, instructional evidence, (student growth data).

The e-portfolios promise to become a powerful method for our staff to collect, share and most importantly reflect upon their work in a digital format. Many thanks to this outstanding group for leading the way! 

Friday, March 30, 2012

When I arrived, there were more than 300 people in the building and, according to one individual, 75% of those present were under the age of 30. Almost everyone was dressed in jeans and t-shirts. There was a space where breakfast and lunch were served free of charge on a daily basis, (calling it a cafeteria would be an injustice). Additionally, there is a snack bar with light snacks and beverages available 24/7. There was a game room complete with a ping-pong table, video games and an outdoor patio with a grill. Any guesses where I was?

Did anyone guess I was in the Ann Arbor office of one of the world's most recognizable companies? I was at Google and the individuals I mentioned are employees who refer to themselves as "Googlers." The environment I described isn't a communal dorm or apartment complex, rather it is their workspace.

Since it's inception in March of 1996I, Google's mission has been, "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." While those words may not be quoted verbatim in any school district mission statement, the concepts contained within are not too far off.

As I reflect upon my visit, I find myself asking if Google employees representative of the typical 'Gen Y' employee? Is the work environment I observed there the type of environment they thrive in? If so, does the current structure of our schools prepare our graduates to succeed? Will the current structure of our schools attract the best, brightest and most creative minds 'Gen Y' has to offer?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our Magic Number is One!

Ten years ago when my son came home from his first day in kindergarten I asked him how things had gone. "Terrible," he announced. Naturally I wanted to get to the bottom of this so I asked him why things had gone poorly. He looked at me and said, "there are 3 boys and like a thousand girls."

That was 10 years ago and now, as a HS freshmen, I'm sure my son would relish those odds. Naturally, he had exaggerated, but at that stage of his life he was simply overwhelmed by the numbers.

When our HS principal posting expired, I was delighted to see that we had over 60 applicants. Our posting attracted candidates from all over the United States - from North Carolina to California and from Florida to Minnesota. I was somewhat overwhelmed by the fact that there are people all over the country who want to lead Saline High School. However, the number of applicants is irrelevant. You see, the purpose of our principal search is not to find applicants, but to find that one unique individual who possesses an appreciation and understanding of the culture, history, and traditions of Saline High School with the experience and ability to create an atmosphere of continuous  improvement.

Our magic number is one!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We Are All In This Together!

My daughter's high school teacher said, "What can you expect? The middle school just does not prepare the students to be successful in high school."

Her middle school teacher said, "Don't worry! Middle school is a very different experience from elementary school - an adjustment is to be expected."

Her elementary school teacher said, "We need to take a serious look at kindergarten and preschool."

Her kindergarten and preschool teachers said, "This child was not ready for school. What are her parents like?"

And my wife said, "Don't blame me, have you ever met his father?"

I share this story in jest as none of my daughter's teachers, (or my wife) ever said any of those things. As a matter of fact, she is doing quite well in school. However, the scenario outlined above does take place frequently in school districts around the country. It's always someone else's fault...

Successful organizations are filled with individuals who are accountable to one another and responsible for the outcomes, good or bad. Successful organizations have people who strive to find solutions to the organization's most difficult problems. When it comes to the education of children, we are all in this together!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Forgotten Element of Communication

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States was often referred to as "the great communicator. President Reagan's economic policy was called "Reaganomics" and he often called the Soviet Union the "evil empire." These catch-phrases were easy for everyone to identify with and rally behind. When President Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987 and emphatically said, "Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall" the evil empire had been defeated and yet another Reagan quote would be remembered throughout history.

However, effective communication involves more than the capacity to speak eloquently and to provide a sound message. In communication 101, we learned that the process of communication involves a sender, a receiver and a message, (both verbal and non-verbal). If any element is missing, communication does not take place. The sender must have the capacity to formulate the message clearly and to present non-verbal cues that support the intended message. The receiver must have the capacity to receive and decipher the message. The capacity of receiving and deciphering a message almost always involves having the capacity to listen.

Making a sincere effort to become a better listener and developing one's capacity to listen will enhance and enrich the effectiveness of communication on an individual, organizational, state or even national level. Taking the time to listen to others and hear their point of view provides an opportunity to obtain a deeper level of understanding.

"The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them." - Dr. Ralph Nichols

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Students, parents and community members are invited to participate in an informal forum to discuss the future leadership of Saline HS.  We are seeking input regarding the leadership qualities desired in our next principal. Feedback generated from students, parents & community members, teachers, staff and administration will used to create the principal profile and job posting. 

Two separate forums will take place on February 1st. The HS student forum will run from 2:45 - 3:45 PM with the parent / community member forum running from 6:30 - 7:30 PM. Both meetings will take place in the HS media center. 

Additionally, we have created surveys to assist us in the collection of data. Please take a moment to complete the appropriate survey whether you can attend the forums or not.  

The student survey can be accessed at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WLZHWCV

The parent / community survey can be accessed at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WVKGV8H

Thank you for your time and consideration. 
Students, parents and community members are invited to participate in an informal forum to discuss the future leadership of Saline HS.  We are seeking input regarding the leadership qualities desired in the next principal. Feedback generated from students, parents & community members, teachers, staff and administration will used to create the principal profile and job posting. 

Two separate forums will take place on February 1st. The HS student forum will run from 2:45 - 3:45 PM with the parent / community member forum running from 6:30 - 7:30 PM. Both meetings will take place in the HS media center. 

Additionally, we have created surveys to assist us in the collection of data. Please take a moment to complete the appropriate survey whether you can attend the forums or not.  

The student survey can be accessed at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WLZHWCV

The parent / community survey can be accessed at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WVKGV8H

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Pink Way of Thinking

Author Daniel Pink discusses the concept of motivation in his 2009 book titled, "Drive." In this text Pink attempts to debunk the popular belief that if-then rewards, (if I do what is asked of me then I will be rewarded) are effective motivators. In fact, he shows that if-then rewards actually decrease motivation and productivity over time. It's worth repeating, Pink's research shows that the concept of providing incentives and rewards for performance and production actually has the exact opposite effect it is intended to. Allow me to provide a few examples.

When they are young, children actually ask to perform tasks like running the vacuum, doing the dishes, washing the car, cutting the grass, etc. They actually want to do those things, and there are even toy vacuums, kitchens, lawn mowers, etc. designed to replicate those activities! However, as the children grow older, the performance of those tasks is often tied to conditional rewards, if-then rewards. Do any of these sound familiar, "if you do your chores, we'll pay you your allowance." "If you do your homework, we'll let you play with your friends." "If you do well on your report card, we'll allow you to play video games." The obvious connection is if you do this, then we'll reward you with that.

Now anybody who is a parent knows from experience that teens do not ask to vacuum, do the dishes, wash the car or cut the grass. In fact, those activities that were initially viewed as play become unattractive obligations as soon as the if-then rewards were attached to them.

Think for a moment about this lesson and how it applies to education today. Everyone - students, teachers, parents, administrators and politicians want to improve education. How are the decisions made at the local, state and national level impacting the outcome? Is providing if-then rewards to students, teachers, administrators, school districts and even entire states going to motivate those involved and increase productivity? Conversely, will it turn the educational process once filled with eager anticipation, excitement, the thrill of new discovery and the joy of learning into an obligation that actually decreases motivation and productivity?

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Year Resolutions

With 2012 now 13 days old, there is no doubt many us are struggling to keep our New Year Resolutions. Whether the resolution involved losing weight, exercising more, reading a book a month, or just spending more time with loved ones, New Year Resolutions traditionally represent lofty, (and sometimes unattainable) goals in areas where we are trying to make significant changes. 

Where the tradition of creating New Year Resolutions started I have no idea, however the concept of being resolute is something that should appeal to everyone - especially those of us involved in education. 

In adjective form, being resolute is defined as, being firm in purpose or belief; steadfast; determined. Schools today are faced with difficult challenges such as how to allocate their resources, what areas of the curriculum to focus on and how to recruit, hire, train and evaluate their teaching and administrative staffs. Having a firm sense of purpose, remaining steadfast in defending what we know to be educationally sound, and determined to provide the very best education possible for our children must remain our number one priority.     

Remain resolute!