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✓ Home Visits!

On August 19th, 14 dedicated teachers, 3 super-star paraprofessionals, and a mental health clinician joined Assistant Principal Damon Hargraves and myself as we visited the homes of all 435 students in our school! We originally got this idea from the1199 and added our own Kodiak twist to it.

It was amazing.


We wanted to make sure that every student had a positive interaction with an adult before school started.

There was a little surprise and skepticism that we could actually pull it off, but I knew we had enough dedicated staff to be sure we would make it happen.

We delivered planners, a bookmark, and a ticket for a free smoothie on the first day of school if kids answered one of four questions.


Take a look at our facebook page to see some of the positive feedback we got. Students and parents alike were very happy to see us. Many people commented that they saw us out and about.


We let people know about it by creating a communication calendar. We used social media, a presentation to the board, and an all call to make sure the word got out. The school board supported the idea.

Coast Guard

Normal civilians are not allowed on the Coast Guard base without an escort. Thankfully, we had two teachers who are Coast Guard dependents who volunteered to be the escorts for me and Mr. Hargraves. We notified the CO of the Coast Guard early on to make sure we would be able to come visit, and they were very supportive of the visits.


Oh, man, this was crazy. We had to figure out how to visit 435 homes with limited staff and a largish geographical area, including a Coast Guard base.

We worked with our student information system managers to export a list (CSV) of students from the system which included:

  • Student name
  • Address
  • Zip code
  • Phone number
  • Dad name
  • Mom name

We added a couple checkboxes to the end to track if the student was home or not.

After the export was completed the information manager for the district found a way to place all the students’ names on a map on Google Earth. It was amazing. Sadly, the file got corrupted, and we had to start that process over. We used a web site called batchgeo to do the same thing. The free version is limited to 250 addresses, so we had to run two of them. When you download a map for Google Earth, you need to place a “kml” in the URL after the /map/, as seen in this support article. This was difficult to find, but eventually we figured it out. We just opened up that file, and it overlaid on the map in Google Earth.

There was a problem with the output file in that it didn’t have the addresses labeled on the map. What I mean is there weren’t student names visible on the map. To rectify this, I opened the KML file in TextWrangler and did a find for:


and replaced it with:


The only way I knew about that was because I compared the code between what the information manager had done with a non-corrupted KML file he had sent earlier said and what the one said that we downloaded from geobatch. #pointStyleMap for the win!

Once we had a map with marks for all their houses, and student names visible, we took screenshots of what we thought would be good routes and printed those out for our teachers to carry around with them.

After all the routes were printed out, we had to arrange the students. We went back to the spreadsheet and and added a column that designated route. Damon took the map, and typed the names into a Google Doc, while I had the Google Doc open behind the spreadsheet and searched for the student names, and added the correct route to the spreadsheet for that student. What? Are we crazy? Yes. Yes we are! At first Damon was reading the names to me, but it went much faster to have him type them and we could each go at our own speed. Each route took about 10 minutes to type up once we figured out the right way to do it!

When all the names had a route, we had a few that didn’t show up on the Google Earth screenshot. They didn’t show up because we didn’t know where the address was, or because they were overlapping. So, we just looked at those ~20 addresses and made a call for the route.

Then we sorted the spreadsheet by the route column and made sure every group had a manageable number of students to visit. I think 75 was our highest number of students on a route.

We gave everyone a map with student names on it, their list, and their goodies to hand out and sent them on their way.

Mission Accomplished

All in all, it took 18 adults from 9 am to 2:30 pm to visit all the homes in our district. Organization and effort on the part of Damon and me ensured that teachers got out of the school on time and were able to get to the houses quickly. A couple people finished before lunch, and the rest finished after lunch. The fact that we finished in less than a school day is pretty amazing.

Planning for the future

There are a couple things that would have made things easier. Here are lessons learned:

  • Plan earlier - we are going to do this again next year. And, knowing that, we can make some plans beforehand. Teachers will be able to go to kids they actually teach. We would also like to give students their schedules at this time.
  • Include more teachers - By planning earlier, we can help teachers know what will be happening before school starts. Many teachers wanted to do this, but were unable because of their travel plans.
  • Coast Guard Escorts - next time, we will ask the Coast Guard to supply escorts. They said they would, but I thought it would be easier with our Coast Guard dependent teachers. It worked, but there were a few places that people from the Coast Guard could have helped us find a little faster.
  • Provide more goodies/prestuff goodies - it would be nice to have some more fun things to give students, like school supplies, or something like that. It would be especially cool if we could give them some KMS Grizzly Gear. We will have to work on relationships with community organizations to make that happen, probably.

Some good things we did that we want to remember to do next year:

  • The day before New Teacher Orientation is a good way to get the new teachers to be able to join in on the fun. I’m glad we did it that day.
  • Wearing KMS shirts. All our staff wore KMS shirts and this let the community know that we were out in force!
  • Tell everyone. We told a lot of people what we were doing. There was a time that I wanted to forget about it and not do it, because it was hard. But, do you know what? We can do hard things.
  • Outreach. Reaching out to our students to say we love you is amazing. We are so glad that we did this. It was not only fun, but very rewarding. We built some great relationships. One student was waiting for us to get there, and was super excited to see us.


Want to see what we did? Here are some uploads:

On Changes in Education and Hurting Others' Feelings

Karl Fisch on why we don't pursue change in education, even when we know it is what is best for students:

The second concern is a bit more personal in the sense that we're worried about hurting someone's feelings. We're concerned that they will take our proposal for change as a personal attack, or as criticism that they aren't performing their job well. We generally like our colleagues, we know they care about our students and our community, and we know they work hard. So we don't want to cause them emotional pain, and we don't want to criticize or undermine their commitment and the hard work they are putting in.

This made me think of Seth Godin's post about Empathy a few days ago:

The useful answer is rarely, "because they're stupid." Or even, "because they're evil." In fact, most of the time, people with similar information, similar beliefs and similar apparent choices will choose similar actions. So if you want to know why someone does what they do, start with what they know, what they believe and where they came from.

We need to do a better job of trusting where people are coming from in education. There is too much suspicion of ulterior motives, rotten agendas, and self-preservation. The focus should be on the students, and making sure they are getting the best we have to offer.

Worthless College Degrees

Such nuances elude policymakers, who can’t shake the notion that tech-centered instruction is the only sure ticket to success. President Barack Obama has repeatedly called for more spending on tech-focused high schools.

I feel like we are constantly chasing the wrong thing in education. "We need more tech-qualified graduates, so let's focus on that." Meanwhile, what we really need is something else. What we really need is to educate students to make good decisions: for their health, for their finances, for their relationships, everything.

As much as we like to think we know what the future job market is for our students, we don't know. We guess. Some people may be good at it. But nobody ever knows what it is for one individual kid. And nobody ever will. So let's teach them how to make good, healthy, responsible choices.

Listening to ALL Voxes Without Unlocking Your Phone

Twitter Version: this little hack allows you to tap settings, then Members and listen to all your unheard Voxes.

I really like Voxer. It is a great app that allows you to communicate with anyone who has the app via voice and text. Sure, there are other ways to do that same thing, but this is a worthwhile different way to connect. I use it mostly for group chats, which can be super overwhelming, especially when you fall behind in your listening. What's worse, if you have a lot to listen to, and your screen locks, you have to unlock it and press a tiny little play button! It is annoying.

Today I stumbled on a fix!

If you are in a group, tap settings (top right) then tap members, and lock your phone, or use another app. Voxer will continue playing all the missed Voxes even though you aren't in the app anymore! This will make my phone dry while walking to work in the rain, and make me drive safer by not having to look at my phone.

As a bonus, I have a better chance of staying up to date!

If you would like to connect with me on Voxer, my username is jethrojones. Also, I am doing a book chat with the book "Influencers" right now. Let me know if you would like to join.

Leading and Changing

Schools like AHS tend to talk about "incremental changes," let's just tweak something here and there to get a little bit better. We're already good, let's just keep making small improvements, fine tune around the edges and we'll maintain the status we've achieved over the last 50 years and everyone will stay happy. But here's the problem, you can't go from good to great by making incremental changes. You can't leap a 20-foot chasm in two 10-foot jumps.

Teachers Bullying Teachers

The Principal's Pet: A Cautionary Tale | Cult of Pedagogy

But my hurt feelings have definitely evolved over time. Instead of seeing myself as some kind of victim in that situation, I see my role in all of it much more clearly: I didn’t value relationships with my colleagues. I didn’t put time, energy, or creativity into building bonds with other teachers. Instead, I poured everything I had into my students, into the quality of my own work, into the pursuit of pedagogical excellence. I didn’t realize how much happier my work life could have been if I had put even a fraction of that time into building better friendships with my peers.

Interesting read. Jennifer offers some suggestions to admins and teachers for preventing poor relationships, but she fails to identify the real issue, at least in my mind: she was being bullied, and that is just part of being a teacher.

That is baloney. Nobody should be bullied, no matter what. Her advice to go to the teachers lounge and be brave, even though you know what is happening there is educational terrorism (h/t to Rob Carroll) is not good advice.

I've been around this entitled baloney that goes on in schools and it makes me sick. No wonder our kids bully each other, our teachers teach them how to do it.

What I hear Jennifer saying here is basically, "I could have done better." While that is always true, her coworkers and principal could have done a lot better, too. Her coworkers shouldn't have bullied her. He principal should have been there to stop that. Perhaps he did some things that allowed those things to happen, but what should he have done instead, given all the good energy and efforts to the educational terrorists? I sure hope not!

Jennifer is right on the money that relationships matter, and that they are two way streets, but at the same time, at some point you have to establish some boundaries and say "This is not OK! And we will not act this way at our school." Yes, still be respectful. Yes still work on the relationships. Yes, still treat them as human beings. But, please, let's put a stop to educators bullying educators.

Ideas about Health/PE

The Fischbowl: Idea #5: At Least They've Still Got Their Health:

The healthcare system in the United States has lots of problems, but some of our biggest problems are self-induced. So-called "lifestyle diseases," such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease are threatening to actually lower the quality (and perhaps duration) of our students' lives. So why wouldn't wellness education be just as high a priority as subjects we deem as "core"?

Karl Fisch has been writing some great ideas about how to change the focus of the school. This idea about health, and some conversations at my school have really made me think.

Real Math

Graduation & What It Means To “Model With Mathematics” | dy/dan

I plotted the first ten names and modeled their times with a linear equation. (“Time v. names read” was my model, though commenter Josh thinks “time v. number of syllables read” would be more accurate.) The calculation for cousin Adarsh’s 157th name is 19 minutes. I would be foolish to rely on that calculation, however.

Ask your students to “Assume your answer is wrong, that something surprising actually happens. Anticipate that something and fix your mathematical answer.”

George Box: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

As an adult, this is the only math I ever do. Why shouldn't our school math be more like our real math?

@JimmyCasas on Staying

PASSION...PURPOSE...PRIDE: What Makes You Stay?

Regardless of the number of times you are tested in your daily work as a school leader, I hope you take the time in these moments to focus on abundance and blessings rather scarcity and frustrations.  I want my thoughts below to serve as an encouraging word from someone who lives your life every day and who can empathize with the feelings you experience on a daily basis, whether they be feelings of joy, sorrow, gratification, stresses, or even doubt.

It is easy for those of us who are connected to see only te best sides of each other, but there is always struggle and doubt when you are a leader. I think the key is finding a way to deal with it in a healthy way.