Subscribe to the Blog

Miranda Rights and Students with Special Needs

Charles Fox:

Although I am a special education attorney and not a criminal defense attorney, occasionally I receive phone calls from parents who are angry and concerned because their child has been questioned or searched by school officials for disciplinary infractions or worse. Occasionally these incidents involve school resource officers or police, particularly when drugs or alcohol are involved. Fundamentally, these parents want to know:  were my child’s legal rights violated?  Can my child be questioned by the school or police without my knowledge or consent?  Can my child or his or her possessions be searched? This issue comes up a lot and all too often with serious consequences for the student. Schools play on their authority and make false promises to induce "confessions" even from student with language-based disabilities. Criminalization of school students especially those with special needs is large issue that has not been effectively addressed.

Really great suggestions in this post. In dealing with students with disabilities, one of the things we have to think about is what the purpose of the discipline is. Are we trying to punish or teach a child? I'd argue that all discipline in school should be done with the intent to teach the children correct behavior. Zero Tolerance policies really are where this comes into play. If the administrators are using discipline as a way to teach rather than a way to punish, they will likely look at the situation and make more appropriate-for-the-child determinations.

Mr. Fox gave some great recommendations when I interviewed him for the transformative principal podcast.

Listening vs. Telling

Mike Kelly:

In my time as a building leader, I have run into a number of challenges when trying to lead change. One challenge has been the conflicting preferences of teachers when it comes to change. I have found that some teachers give feedback saying: "They always tell us what to do and never listen to us", while other teachers say: "Why don't you just be clear and tell us exactly what you want us to do." These two types of conflicting feedback make it very challenging when designing ways to implement change in a school. Recently, I have been struggling with this challenge while trying to lead our school in examining and improving our grading practices.

Some great insight from Mike on supporting both kinds of teachers.

Student Led Conferences

Sam Ledeaux:

Students consistently monitored themselves, their learning, and behavior, invested in their goals and plans of action, and achieved beyond anything I could have put forth for them at the time. By relinquishing control and utilizing the number one resource in my classroom, rigor was increased on all levels.

The biggest problem with student led conferences is that parents still want the "inside scoop" from the teacher. It'd be great if we could figure out a way for the students to have that information, and tell parents honestly.

Grading via @principalmkelly

Mike Kelly:

Grading student behavior or effort is a tricky and an inappropriate practice. To grade things such as work ethic, effort, participation or behavior, when these things are not part of a curriculum, and usually not explicitly taught, is inappropriate. Teachers often do not present clear criteria for meeting expectations in these areas, which makes grading them very subjective.

Mike is new to blogging, and has some great ideas. This quote is a small part of a larger blog post, which is well thought out and worth the read. He nails it here by stating that work ethic is not explicitly taught. I'd take it one step further and state that work ethic is something that many of us punish kids for when they don't have the skills. We not only don't teach it, we hide what it is until we catch a kid not "trying hard enough", as if we can gauge that to begin with.

✓ How I Run Social Media for My School

Managing multiple social media accounts can be a tricky (and possibly expensive) endeavor. It is therefore imperative that you find a way to make it easier on yourself. I have a process that I use to post everything to all my social media pages for my school (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook). This needs to be an easy and intuitive way to interact with my stakeholders.

It All Starts with Instagram

Instagram is the hardest platform to get information into. For some reason, they don't allow you to post through anything other than the official app, which makes it difficult and annoying to post. If anybody does know how I can improve this workflow, please let me know.

I start with Instagram because everyone loves pictures (and videos), and they get the most interaction.

Whenever I think I want to share something with the community, it goes on instagram, with #KodiakMS somewhere in the text accompanying the picture (or video).

I use a school-issued iPad with the instagram app installed and signed into the school instagram account.

Then it is Automated

I set up recipes in IFTTT to make it easy to post to all the other social networks without any further interaction from. I use a school account for IFTTT.

Here is a handy flowchart to help make sense of it all.

Here are the recipes that I use, that you may use also.

IFTTT Recipe: If video posted to Instagram, link post to School Facebook Page. #edchat connects instagram to facebook-pages

This recipe is for videos posted to Instagram. It creates a link post on Facebook.

IFTTT Recipe: Link Post on Facebook to Twitter. #edchat connects facebook-pages to twitter

After that video link post is on Facebook, it will now post it to Twitter. This also makes sure that the school hashtag shows up.

IFTTT Recipe: Post on School Instagram goes to School Facebook Page connects instagram to facebook-pages

This recipe ensures that all photos on the school's Instagram end up on the school's Facebook page.

IFTTT Recipe: Photo posted to School's Facebook page also goes out to School's Twitter. connects facebook-pages to twitter

This recipe takes any pictures posted to Facebook and publishes them as an image tweet as well. Add your school's hashtag to this recipe. This will also post any other picture to the Twitter, in case you post directly to Facebook instead of through instagram.

IFTTT Recipe: Any School Facebook update goes to Twitter, too.  connects facebook-pages to twitter

Finally, this recipe just makes sure that all the admins post to your school Facebook page get sent out to Twitter, too.

IFTTT Recipe: If a tweet with a particular hashtag is tweeted, text me. #edchat connects twitter to sms

This final recipe is in my personal IFTTT account. It texts me everytime there is a use of #kodiakMS on Twitter. It serves as a way to make sure I know that things are working, and as a way to know if something inappropriate gets up there.

Here are some screen grabs to show you how it works:

It starts with Instagram. I take a picture there. 

It starts with Instagram. I take a picture there. 

Using IFTTT, the image is pushed to our School's Facebook page. 

Using IFTTT, the image is pushed to our School's Facebook page. 

Then, that picture ends up on Twitter. 

Then, that picture ends up on Twitter. 

Same post is then texted to me (circled), and then you can see that any post with #KodiakMS comes to me, even from a different user. 

Same post is then texted to me (circled), and then you can see that any post with #KodiakMS comes to me, even from a different user. 

So, that is how I manage Instagram, Facebook Pages, and Twitter for total Social Media domination! 


I hope it helps you. 


Have a Good Life.

One Simple Thing #KodiakMS

George Couros:

What if every teacher tweeted one thing a day that they did in their classroom to a school hashtag, and they took five minutes out of their day to read each other’s tweets?  What impact would that have on learning and school culture?

Seems like a pretty simple thing. Would probably do well to quell the tide of negativity towards public schools. Our school's hashtag is #KodiakMS.

✓ Measuring what Matters

I've attended a couple conferences the last month and there have been two things that really have been emphasized multiple times:

  • Culture eats structure for breakfast.
  • Measure what matters.

I'll save the topic of culture for another day. Today, I would like to talk about measuring what matters. Seth Godin recently discussed measuring on his blog.

Seth Godin:

It's not always easy to measure what matters. Sometimes, the thing that matters doesn't make it easy for you to measure it.

In education, we often spend a lot of time measuring test scores, attendance data, behavior data, etc. The real question is "What really matters in education?" Sammie Cervantez (@principalnheels) recently attended a conference where she was asked to dream big about what an ideal school would look like.

Sammie Cervantez:

And this is where I became disheartened.  Educator after educator focused on the “things” and the “structures” they wanted.  Fluid movement between classes, more student voice, service learning projects, more teacher collaboration time, on and on and on.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  All of those are great ideas.  Really, there is merit in each of them.  But are those really are “What ifs”? That’s as good as we get?

My “What if” was markedly different.  Mine was, “What if we created a place no one ever wanted to leave?” I second-guessed myself in a world full off a hundred or so educators who all thought so differently from me.  I stayed quiet because I thought maybe I was the crazy one or the one who really didn’t understand the question.

So, if our goal in education is to create a place where nobody ever wants to leave, how do we measure that? What indicator measures that great goal? What if we want to create students who are creative thinkers, who are problem solvers, who are fearless? How do we measure that? Anyone in education knows that we don't want to create students who are good test takers, but rather students who have an ability to share what they have learned. If we want to create students who are life-long learners, how do we measure this?

We measure the things we really care about by using stand-ins. In schools, that looks like test scores, mostly.

Seth Godin continues:

The problem with stand-ins is that they're almost always not quite right. The stand-in looks good at first, but then employees figure out how to game the system to make the stand-in number go up instead of the thing you're actually trying to change.

A good way to find out: If you had to choose between increasing the stand-in stat and increasing the thing you actually care about, which would you invest in?

Roses, chocolates and greeting cards are a stand-in for actual human emotions, a stand-in for caring and respect and love. But of course, it's way easier to make the expense on chocolate go up than it is to actually care more.

One of my teachers this week showed me a letter from a student that read something like this:

Dear teacher, you are a wonderful teacher that has changed my life and helped me love your subject area content.

That is the kind of thing that teachers usually need to wait years to experience. This teacher got that recognition in this student's first year at our school. That letter is not a stand-in.

In the absence of those types of letters, there are only stand-ins. Our go-to stand-ins typically are test scores.

But test scores are not always beneficial.

Reuters reports:

More than 500 school boards in Texas have passed resolutions demanding a reduced focus on high-stakes standardized tests. So have several big school districts in Florida, including Broward County, the sixth-largest district in the United States. Parents in northwest Washington state organized a boycott this spring and kept hundreds of children out of state exams.

And in New York City last week, several hundred parents and children rallied outside the offices of Pearson Education, a division of Pearson Plc, the nation's largest testing company. To the jaunty accompaniment of a marching band, the protesters chanted, "More teaching, less testing" and "One, two, three, four ... Kids are not a test score."

I'm all for assessing our students. Test scores are a stand-in for the real assessment that happens every single day in our classrooms. Teachers and principals see kids growing and learning every single day.

We are focused on measuring a stand-in for learning in education. We need to move away from that and measure the things that really matter.

I'll end with what Seth Godin asked:

If you had to choose between increasing the [test scores] and increasing [creativity, innovation, life-long learning, etc.], which would you invest in?

What would you invest in?

If it worked for Disney…


My “What if” was markedly different.  Mine was, “What if we created a place no one ever wanted to leave?” I second-guessed myself in a world full off a hundred or so educators who all thought so differently from me.  I stayed quiet because I thought maybe I was the crazy one or the one who really didn’t understand the question.

We too often don't dream big enough.