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My Staff Newsletter

I do a newsletter for my staff each week. For some reason, it is really difficult to write. Some people enjoy it. Some probably trash it right away. ;) That's ok, one person suggested I share it more broadly. So here it is:

Hi Team,

I hope that you had a wonderful break and took some much-needed rest and relaxation. I know I did. I am very grateful to work here and to work with you. Last week I challenged you to thank a student who motivates you and keeps you going at work. I heard a couple neat stories and I did it too. When I saw my student’s eyes light up when he realized what I was saying it was pretty special. We were in the gym, and balls were flying all around us, but it was still special. If you didn’t get to it last week for some reason, today’s a great day to tell someone you are grateful for them. Here is a neat little video of another school doing this.

Upcoming Calendar items:
Assessment Calendar - Please note the following windows for assessments

  • K–8: AIMS: Dec. 5–16th (done in ELA and Math Classes)
  • K–12: MAP (include writing!): Dec. 1–16 (We will do ours next week. More details to follow.)
  • 2–12: SRI: Nov. 28-Dec. 9th (Done in ELA or Social Studies classes)

This Friday will be our grade-level team meetings. Next Friday will be our committee meetings, and the following Friday will be a party by the sunshine committee.

Creating a Welcoming Classroom for Special Ed Students - This podcast talks about how to make sure kids feel welcome in your classroom.
This three minute podcast talks about using gardens as a maker space. We’ve got some great gardens going on, but what I liked about this teacher’s short example is that he talks about how he didn’t just give an answer but made sure he went through a rather long and lengthy process to show an answer.



The 25' Airstream at the Coast Guard Campground

Last week we did one of my favorite things at school. We visited the homes of our students.

I learned about this from Rob Carroll and I just loved the idea.

It's got to be hard not having a home, especially in middle school.

I went back to work last week, but all my teachers came back this week. We also did something really cool: Home visits. I'd like to share the video we made with you. Click HERE to watch it. We visited 460 students' homes and even a couple that we didn't know about that were around.

We broke up into pairs of dedicated teachers and visited the home of every student that we had an address for (and even some new move-ins we hadn't met yet)!

There was even a student who had an address of "25' Airstream at the Coast Guard campground"!

The best part of the visits I did that day was visiting the student who was at the Coast Guard campground, who didn't have a home to live in yet.

Being a middle schooler, and living in a camper trailer that your family just towed across the country would be difficult in the best circumstances.

We made sure that this kid who didn't have a home knew that he had a home at the Middle School. We are excited he made it here and we can't wait for him to be a part of our school.

What a fantastic day.

Press Release: Transformative Leadership Summit to Offer College Credit to Summit Attendees

Contact Information:
Jethro Jones
Transformative Leadership Summit
(801) 753-8476

Transformative Leadership Summit Announces College Credit Option


Kodiak, Alaska – August 6, 2016 – The Transformative Leadership Summit today announced it has teamed up with University of Alaska, Anchorage to offer College Credit, for attendees of the Summit. It will be available for registration on August 6, 2016. The course is EDL 591: Transformative Leadership for Educators.

College credit gives participants credit for attending the Summit and learning from over 40 experts in education.

By obtaining college credit, educators can receive hours to move forward in their pay, earn credits towards a Master’s degree, and get credit for relicensure.

“It was a team effort and we are excited to partner with the Transformative Leadership Summit to bring credit opportunities to educators who are attending the Summit from anywhere,” said Jennifer Harty, Coordinator of Professional Programs at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Jethro Jones, founder of the Transformative Leadership Summit is excited for what this means for the future of online professional development. He said, “Offering credit recognizes the valuable way this Summit is being offered. We’ve had online classes for a while, and this gives credibility to the idea of an online conference. I’m honored that the University of Alaska, Anchorage is on the cutting edge of this opportunity to give college credit to educators in a way that works for them.”

The Transformative Leadership Summit is the #1 online educational leadership conference focused on helping school leaders from across the globe improve their schools. Bringing together over 40 experts makes this unique conference the only venue for the inspiring speakers. Learn more at

The speakers for the Summit include the following: Will Parker, Brad Gustafson,
Kimberly Miles, Jeff Zoul, Daniel Bauer, Kendra Washington-Bass, Kyle Palmer, Robert Dillon, Jennifer Abrams, Jonathon Wennstrom, Amy Fast, Jethro Jones, Glenn Robbins, Geri Parscale, Anne Beninghof, Mike Kelly, Bill Ziegler, Clayton Reedie, Vicki Davis, Mary McMahon, Doug Timm, Mark Modesti, Justin Baeder, Neil Gupta, Mike Anderson, Don Wettrick, Emily Drake, Damon Hargraves, Jennifer Gonzalez, Eric Connor, Paul Erickson, Rob Carroll, Stacey Keown, Erika Mortensen, Christina Lufrano, LaVonna Roth, Marlena Gross-Taylor, John Linney

My Daughter Ran Away and What I Learned about how to be an Effective Educator

My daughter ran away while we were camping. She was supposed to just go to the bathroom, early in the morning, but instead went to go find someone. That's pretty scary to begin with, but it is more scary when compounded with the following factors:

  • We were in Denali National Park.
  • There were signs everywhere about a moose charging people if they got too close.
  • There was a river not too far from our campsite.
  • My daughter has no sense of direction.
  • My daughter has no sense of consequences.
  • My daughter is very stubborn.
  • My daughter has down syndrome and can't communicate very well to all people. We understand her, but not everyone else does.

I went to a place where I thought she might go. It was a place where she and I walked two days before, so it is possible she might know the way. I told the workers there the situation, and one worker's response was

"Oh, just make breakfast. They usually come back when there is breakfast."

That one comment brought about so many emotions I could hardly stand it.

Anger - I was really angry that she would say something so insensitive. My daughter had no idea where she was or where we were. She has no sense of direction or ability to find her way back. She doesn't know what campsite we were at, only that we were in Denali. It wasn't just about breakfast. She was lost, and she would not miraculously find her way back.

Frustration - This lady was not listening to me. She didn't understand my daughter! How dare she make some off-the-cuff response that totally disregards all the information I had just given her about her disability and inability to find her way home.

Sadness - My daughter was lost, and nobody could tell me that she was going to come back home on her own. I needed help to find her, and someone who should have been able to give some help or advice on how to get help was completely unable to offer support.

Hurt - I felt like this lady was judging me that I was upset that my daughter was lost. She seemed dismissive about what I was going through.

Empathy - I suddenly realized that this lady was totally unequipped to help comfort a parent who was in a dire situation. She didn't have the tools to help me be successful.

What does this have to do with Education? I'll tell you:

  1. We need to be supportive allies of parents. One of my friends asked me a while ago, "How can I be a good friend?" Many times, with parents, that's what we need to do.
  2. We can't judge parents. Parents are likely doing the best they know how to do. We can't waste any time making judgments about what they are doing or how they can or can't do something. My daughter ran off through no fault of mine or my wife's. She had been to the bathroom at the campsite many times by herself, and she chose to run away rather than go to the bathroom. When that lady that should have helped me made me feel that way, I felt like I was a bad dad. I'm not. I'm not perfect, to be sure, but there was nothing I could do to have prevented it.

I hope I can approach situations with my students and their families with more empathy, respect, and lack of judgment.

I hope you'll join me in August for the #1 online conference for educational leaders: Transformative Leadership Summit Join me and over 40 amazing educational leaders to discuss all the ways you can improve your school this year.

Loved #modelschools? Go deeper with these podcasts for the trip home!

If you, like me loved, the Model Schools Conference, you’re going to love these podcasts.

For listening to podcasts, I’d recommend Overcast for iPhone or Podcast Addict for Android.

Here are some of the podcasts that I’ve recorded with some presenters from #modelschools:

Bill Daggett

Sue Szachowicz

Eric Sheninger

Rob Carroll

Kyle Palmer

Also, if you want to take your leadership to the next level, check out the Transformative Leadership Summit, the #1 Online Leadership Conference focused exclusively on K–12 school leaders and teachers.

I work in an awesome place

This is my newsletter for this week to my team. I'm really grateful to work here.

Hi Team!

Thanks for all your hard work last week in getting the Spring aimsweb assessments completed, graded, and entered. Here are the math results:

6th Grade MCAP

7th Grade MCAP

8th Grade MCAP

You’ll notice that the number of students still in the red is quite low (less than 13%).

Last week I asked you what things we should be measuring. A few of you responded and we have been able to have a great conversation over email about what we should be measuring. Most of the responses indicated that these kinds of scores are good to have, but not the indicators of real success. I believe that as we focus on helping our kids feel comfortable and safe these scores will take care of themselves. We need to pay attention to them, but we also need to recognize the benefits of other practices, like trauma-informed practices, recognition, and empathy. The little things we are doing, like providing standing desks, fidget boxes, and stools are not a big deal, but they let kids know that we understand that they are individuals. Thank you for your care and consideration towards our students. There are so many more things that you are doing that help our kids to be successful.

Upcoming Calendar Events:
We are in that weird time of year when the days will go by so fast, yet so slow.
Our Friday meetings are as follows:
May 6: professional development in the library
May 13: grade level PLCs planning for next year (recommendations for foundations, student groupings recommendations, etc.) - You can start the efforts in basecamp if you would like. I’ll give more information for foundations and special ed teachers and where they should plan to go for these meetings as we get closer.
May 20: Final planning and preparation for the last week of school activities in your grade level teams. You can also start this work in Basecamp.
May 27: We will have a farewell breakfast and celebration in the morning, and then you will have the day to prepare for summer.

If any of you are participating in the summer academies, or are planning on it, please let me know your intentions so I can help support you.

Three Tips for More Engaging PBL Projects - Here’s some ideas for helping your Project-based Learning projects more engaging.

Making the Courageous Choice - Sometimes we need to make a courageous choice. Courageous choices sometimes make us choose between two bad choices. They aren’t always easy choices to make.

Closing the Gate - We have a really great team at the middle school. We have grown and changed and understood each other better over time. As with every year, people leave and new people come. How can we help those who will be new next year hit the ground running and be successful? How are we going to welcome them to our school and make their new transition as successful as possible? You already do this, but we don’t really talk much about it.

Beautifully out of reach via @gcouros

Beautifully Out of Reach | Connected Principals

The moment we feel we have “arrived”, is the moment we might as well pack it in and call it career. As education develops and we know more about learning, we will constantly be reaching for a target that is seemingly, and beautifully, just out of our reach.

This is great. We need to be responsible for our own learning. It doesn't matter how old we are. We need to be in charge. There's a great quote from Stephen Downes in that post, too.



I am so fortunate to work with some amazing people. Our awesome assistant principal, Damon Hargraves arranged for a bunch of our teachers to talk at board meeting tonight and they were incredible. They told our story, the story of the work that we do to help the students of Kodiak Middle School, and they told it beautifully. We weren't asking for anything, we were just explaining who we are.

These teachers jumped out in front and made us look good. They talked about trauma-informed practices, our tutorials, our math intervention practices, our PLCs, our culture. We are a culture of amazing educators that rock! It is an honor to work with them!

More from Seth Godin on Storylines

Seth's Blog: The dominant narrative

We come up with a story (about an organization, a person, a situation) and all the data that supports it, we notice, and the nuance we discount or ignore. So, if you believe that Whole Foods is expensive, you won't notice the items that are a little cheaper, but the overpriced things that confirm your narrative will be obvious. If you believe that your boss is cold-hearted, you'll gloss over the helpful moments and remind yourself of the other times.

These are storylines. It is so important that we, as leaders, are able to define ways for our teachers, students, and parents to approach us when they have a storyline and get the story straight.

Use my communication cards to help you do that.