Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Five

With teacher appreciation week coming up, I thought it fitting to give a shout out to some of my favorite teachers from my time as a student. Each day of Teacher Appreciation Week, I will be giving a shout out on Twitter to those teachers that had the greatest impact on my life, but I will combine all those stories and shout outs in this post. It was hard to narrow down my list as I feel that all educators are heroes, but these are the five that influenced me the most!

Mr. Reed - Grade 5: I've talked about Mr. Reed before and what a hero he was to me growing up. You can read the whole story in Do you Remember Your Favorite Teacher? In short, Mr. Reed was a mentor, a role model, and even a father figure to me. He helped support me and my family when my father was ill and he spent countless hours outside of the classroom working with students at the school musicals, building sets, and directing one or two shows a year. He lived for helping students and the outpouring from former students after his passing was a testament to his impact.

 Mr. Hankowitz - Grade 7: Mr. Hankowitz made learning fun in his classroom. He was the teacher that took our grade on an archaeological dig to find artifacts and create presentations on what we found and how people lived in the past. Amazingly, all the artifacts that we found were in the back yard of our school (It wasn't until years later, that I realized he had painstakingly planted all the artifacts that we would later dig up). It was what Dave Burgess would refer to as a LCL (Life Changing Lesson).

Mr. Horowski - Grade 8: Mr. H was the first "cool" teacher I had in middle school. Not much impressed me in 8th grade and to be honest, I had a pretty poor attitude about school at the time. Early in the year, Mr. H came into school wearing a Rush concert shirt.  We were amazed! We were even more amazed when we found out that he was a drummer in a band. He instantly became the idol of half our class. I'm not sure how much student performance went up that year, but I know that student attitude (at least mine) improved greatly, due to Mr. Horowski!

 Mr. Genter - Grades 11 and 12: I'd always liked history, so it was no surprise that I liked Mr. Genter's history courses. However, he didn't just expose me to history, he helped me make connections and realize my love for learning. It was in his classroom that I first thought about becoming a teacher. By the end of my senior year, I had made up my mind I was going to follow in Mr. Genter's footsteps and become a high school history teacher. It wasn't until my last year in college that I decided to switch to elementary education. I don't think I ever told Mr. Genter that it was his influence that helped drive my career choice.

Coach Stibitz - Wrestling Coach: While Mr. Stibitz was a teacher, he taught for a neighboring district. However, he had an enormous impact on my life as my wrestling coach. During my high school days, wrestling was much more important to me than my schoolwork (I can't believe I'm admitting that as an educator!). In addition to coaching a long season, spending every weekend with us at tournaments, and running weight lifting programs during the summer, he also took a group of us to Iowa for a week long wrestling camp. That week has some of the best memories of my high school years. He never made us feel like kids, but like young adults and he treated us like that. I would also follow in his footsteps as I coached wrestling during my teaching years.

I feel the older I got, the more I liked school. Maybe that had to do with maturity and finding my niche, but it also had to do with the great educators that I had. In addition to "The Five" I would give honorable mention to the following teachers: Mrs. Hansen, Mr. Spangler, Mrs. Lundquist, Mr. Fatka and Mr. Winkel. All of them made learning fun and made me feel special. As an educator, I have tried to do the same for every child in my classroom or school. Thank you to the educators I had as a child and thank you to all the educators that I have had the privilege to serve with!


"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." - Henry Adams

"Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, one teacher can change the world." - Malala Yousafzai

"I touch the future. I teach." - Christa McAuliffe 

Robin Williams at his best!


Rebecca Coda

Rick Jetter


Monday, May 1: Student of the Month Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, May 2: Building Tour for new family 1:30 pm
                           IEP (Nadon) 3:15 pm
Wednesday, May 3: REED (Bartnick) 8:20 am
                                4th Grade Grouping Meeting 3:15 pm
                                REED (Boggs) 3:15 pm 
Thursday, May 4: PD Hours Entry in the Computer Lab 8:05-8:50 am (If needed)
                             PTA Meeting (Officer Election) 6:30 pm 
                             Jon out of building for sister's wedding
Friday, May 5: Playground Committee (Denise, Joe, Michelle, Paula) 8:00 am
                         Kindergarten Round Up planning Meeting 8:20 am
                         Paula will be in the building all morning

Monday, May 8: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
                            Jon to "Popsicles on the Playground" at Buchanan 6:30 pm 
Tuesday, May 9: School Improvement Meeting with Paula 8:00 am
Thursday, May 11: Final CLT session 7:50-8:50 am
                               Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00 pm
                               LEA Negotiations 3:30 pm 
Friday, May 12: Jon out of building / Sandi Benson in office all day
                          F&P Data Due
                           Yearbooks go home

Monday, May 15: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, May 16: Data Dives in the LMC all day
Wednesday, May 17: LEA Negotiations 3:30 pm  
                                  Arts, Beats, Eats & Books 6:00-8:00 pm
Friday, May 19: Student Growth forms submitted 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Asking the right questions

Growing up, I had fond memories of watching the mystery show Columbo with my dad. We loved to see the disorganized and disheveled detective bumble his way through the show and always catch the murderer. As an adult, I had the wonderful opportunity to play the role made so famous by Peter Falk in the stage version of Prescription Murder. It was a dream come true to play Columbo on stage and I took pains to make sure my overcoat was properly wrinkled for every performance. If there is still any doubt of my level of fandom, my Saint Bernard is also named Columbo!

There were several techniques that the slovenly sleuth used to catch the criminals. One technique was to get them to underestimate him and his abilities. Another technique was to focus on small details or "loose ends" that would often elude other people. However, his most effective technique of all was his habit of relentlessly asking probing questions. His trademark line of "Oh, just one more thing..." was his way of persistently wearing the criminal down with a series of seemingly innocent questions. Through his continuous questioning, he was always able to piece together the murder and catch the guilty party.

As educators, we need to take a note from Columbo's book. No, we don't have to wear a wrinkled coat or smoke a cigar, but we do need to continuously ask probing questions of our students. We need to ask questions to find out their interests and dreams. We need to ask questions to find the depth of their knowledge and understanding. We need to ask questions to model the need for continuous growth and curiosity. Is this the right lesson for my students? Is this the best way to teach this lesson? Is this student understanding what is being taught? Dave Burgess talks a great deal about the importance of asking questions when planning lessons in his book, "Teach Like a Pirate". We need to start our lessons with questions and end with questions. If we can use the technique of continuous questioning, then like Columbo, we can find "just one more thing" to make our teaching better each and every day!

  • Bing Crosby was originally offered the role of Columbo. 
  • After two pilots, the first television episode of Columbo was directed by a young Steven Spielberg
  • William Shatner guest starred on the show twice (as two different killers)
  • Columbo's first name is never revealed in the show, nor is his wife's name. His basset hound is simply named "Dog". 
  • Peter Falk lost his right eye at the age of three to cancer and wore a glass eye his entire life. 


Sean Gaillard (The Inventor of Celebrate Monday!)


Monday, April 24: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, April 25: 2nd Grade Talking Zoo
                              LEA Negotiations 3:30 pm
                               YMAD Ceremony at Franklin High School 6:00-8:00 pm
Wednesday, April 26: REED (Benson) 8:20 am
                                  Administrative Professionals Day
Thursday, April 27: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                Training Day for the New Copiers
                               Schedule B Negotiations 4:00 pm
Saturday, April 29: Alena's Wedding!!

Monday, May 1: M-Step Testing Begins 
                           Student of the Month Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, May 2: Teacher Appreciation Day! 
Wednesday, May 3: REED (Bartnick) 8:20 am
                                Parent Meeting (Boggs) 3:15 am
                                District School Improvement Team 5:30-8:30 pm
Thursday, May 4: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                            PTA Meeting (Board Elections) 6:30 pm
                            Jon out for sister's wedding
Friday, May 5: Kindergarten Round Up planning meeting 8:20 am
                        Paula Kohler in building for the entire morning
                        Jon out for sister's wedding

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Birthday Gift

One of my favorite things about having a summer birthday is that I never have to work to on my special day. Even when summer events come up related to the school, I can often work around that time. Also, because it's close to a holiday, I often am traveling to northern Michigan where I can visit with friends and family during my birthday week. It's a time of relaxation, having fun, and celebration. I often get to dine at my favorite restaurant, see a movie that I've been waiting for, and the family (even two teenagers) do whatever dad wants. It's all about me for the day.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure to volunteer at the annual Rotary Easter Egg Hunt. As a Rotarian, it's one of my favorite events of the year. Nearly 1,000 children come from the surrounding area to play in the park, meet the Easter Bunny, and search for plastic eggs that are later redeemed for bags of candy. My family has been working this event for the past three years and it's such a kick to see the smiles and the excitement the event brings to families. This year, the event was coordinated and led by Rotarian Dave. I know Dave through Rotary, but he also is an Early Literacy Volunteer (or ELV) at my school. As coordinator, he arrived very early in the morning to set up the event. He went through the park and picked up stray branches and liter that had made its way onto the grounds. He designated food areas, registration tables, and set up informational booths for families to get involved in Rotary and community events. He coordinated the workers as they arrived and greeted families. When the time came, he helped distribute candy to the families. When the families had left, he cleaned up the area and put away all our items and signed service forms for high school students that had volunteered. He then proceeded to the Methodist Children's Home and gave the extra candy to the children there. It was a long day of service and making children happy. It also happened to be his birthday.

I often say that I get more than give when I volunteer at events. This weekend, I learned something from my friend Dave. He had spent his special day making others feel special. He had spent his day of celebration lifting others up. He had spent his day giving gifts rather than receiving them. And he was as happy as anyone I had ever seen on their birthday. I learned from his example that less of "all about me" and more of "all about others" is the way to true happiness. It was just another birthday gift that my friend Dave gave that day!

Dave and a friend at Rotary Park! 


"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Mahatma Gandhi

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." - Muhammad Ali 

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy." - Rabindranath Tagore



Monday, April 17: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am 
                             Secretary Interviews at Central Office 4:00-6:00 pm 
                             PTSA Meet the Board Event 6:30 pm 
Tuesday, April 18: Secretary Interviews at Central Office 4:00-6:00 pm 
Wednesday, April 19: Achievement Team with Kindergarten Team 8:20 am
                                  Jon to Buchanan for student visits (grades K&1) 8:30-11:00 am
                                  ABC Negotiations at Central Office 1:00 pm 
Thursday, April 20: Building PD session 7:50-8:50 am (5D Evaluations)
                              Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm 
                              Mother-Son Event at Zap Zone 6:00-9:00 pm

Monday, April 24: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, April 25: 2nd Grade Talking Zoo in the gym
                             YMAD Awards Assembly at Franklin High School 6:00-8:00 pm
Wednesday, April 26: REED (Benson) 8:20 am
Thursday, April 27: Staff Meeting 8:05 am

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Recharging the Batteries

This week, our #CompelledTribe of bloggers are focusing on Spring Break. Specifically, how we used that time to become better leaders. While I did read a book on leadership, Lead Like a Pirate (#LeadLAP) by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf, I spent most of my time doing nothing. Yes, nothing. I followed the adventures of many friends who posted pictures of tropical vacations on social media, I hosted several teenagers as my daughters both had sleepovers, I walked the dog when the weather was nice and did some small house projects. My calendar was left empty, my alarm turned off, and my days came and went without a schedule. I spent the time doing what I so rarely do... recharging the batteries. 

Interestingly, one of the final sections of Lead Like a Pirate was titled "Rest..Like a Pirate". Now, I don't traditionally think of (educational) pirates resting. I think of them in full action, swinging into battle to fight mediocrity, searching for the treasure of student success, and sailing  into uncharted seas through risk taking. I was reminded of the old saying, "we can't pour from an empty cup". This section really hit home to me as I rarely take time to do nothing. However, as I thought about it, I wasn't doing nothing. I was taking time to rest, spending time with family, and focusing on my well being. My friend, Dan Tricarico  (The Zen Teacher) would be proud!

As educators, we are usually spending our time helping others or planning how we can best help others. It's okay to give ourselves permission to take care of our needs too. When we are happy and healthy, it's easier to help others. When we are focused, it's easier to help others find their focus. When we are recharged and refreshed, it's easier to live out our passion of helping each child succeed. As someone who has a spouse who doesn't get a spring break, it makes me realize how fortunate we are as educators to have the gift of time to relax and recharge before the final push of the busy school year. Use your time wisely and don't ever feel guilty for focusing on your needs. Your students need you and they need you at your best! 

Photo Credit: USB Phone World

PEARLS OF WISDOM from "Lead Like a Pirate"

"Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others." - John Maxwell

"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten." - Anthony Robbins

"Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." - Roald Dahl

I've shared this before, but worth revisiting. (Never Give Up! - 3 minutes)


Shelley Burgess

Beth Houf


Monday, April 10: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, April 11: Jon to Buchanan for Cass student visits 8:30-11:30 am
                              Jon to Cass PTA 7:00 pm
Wednesday, April 12: Achievement Team Meeting 8:20 (Nadon/Fuller)
                                   Principal 5D Training at Central Office 8:00-10:30 am
                                   REED 3:15 pm (Boggs)
Thursday, April 13: Staff Meeting 8:05 am 
                                Elementary Principals to Riley for School Improvement 1:00-4:00 pm
                                Rosedale PTA Meeting 6:30 pm (Nominations)
Friday, April 14: No School

Monday, April 17: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Wednesday, April 19: Achievement Team (Kindergarten Team) 8:20 am
                                   Jon to Buchanan for Cass student visits 8:30-11:30 am
                                   ABC Negotiations 1:30 pm 
Thursday, April 20: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                 Elementary Principal Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm 

Tuesday, April 25: 2nd Grade Talking Zoo
                               Youth Making a Difference Ceremony at Franklin HS 6:00-8:00 pm

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Captain's Blog

Anyone who has watched Star Trek knows that the episodes usually begin with the captain's log. It's an audio journal from the captain explaining the current mission and the events that led up to it. Often throughout the episode, narration continues from the captain's log to share his thoughts, intuitions, and even mistakes during the mission. The logs are used to document the mission details, but also provides a way for the captain to reflect on what happened and learn from experiences. A captain's log is not an invention of Star Trek, but its use in the series provides a wonderful model for leaders who want to document their learning and growth and also share their learning with others. In many ways, my weekly blog is my version of the captain's log.

When I started my blogging journey a few years ago, it was to communicate with my staff in a more dynamic manner. Not long later, I began to feel more comfortable sharing what I've learned, what I believe, and even mistakes I've made. Sometime later, I was invited to join the #CompelledTribe of bloggers where I connected with educators from across the country. This group has pushed and challenged my thinking with their own blog posts. Most recently, my posts have helped me formulate ideas for presentations at conferences and training sessions.

Years ago, I shared some Leadership Lesson from Captain Kirk. In addition to his other leadership traits I could have added reflection through logging (or blogging). John Dewey made the observation that "We do not learn from experience...we learn from reflecting on experience." I believe this to be true and what better way to reflect than by blogging about experience. It's like a digital portfolio that we can record our growth with and share with others. Blogging is not for the faint of heart, but if you're ready to reflect, share, and grow with others, it can be a powerful tool. It's certainly helped me grow as an educator and even provides some humor if read in my very best Captain Kirk voice full of dramatic pauses! :)


"I changed the conditions of the test. I don't like to lose." - Captain James Kirk

"The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem." - Captain Jack Sparrow

"What would the world be like without Captain Hook?" - Captain James Hook

"Every Opportunity" (4 minutes)


Jon Harper

Jethro Jones


Monday, April 3 - Friday, April 7: Spring Break

Tuesday, April 11: Jon to Buchanan for 2nd & 3rd student visits from Cass 8:30-10:00 am
                               Jon to Cass for PTA Meeting 7:00 pm
Wednesday, April 12: Achievement Team (Nadon/Fuller) 8:20 am
                                    Principals to Board Office for 5D Training 8:00-10:30 am
                                    REED (Boggs) 3:15 pm 
Thursday, April 13: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                Elementary Principals Meeting at Riley 1:00-4:30 pm 
                                PTA Meeting (Nominations) 6:30 pm
Friday, April 14: No School

Wednesday, April 19: Achievement Team (K Retentions) 8:20 am
                                    Jon to Buchanan for K & 1st student visits from Cass 8:30-10:00 am
Thursday, April 20: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
                                PTA Mother/Son Night at Zap Zone
Tuesday, April 25: 2nd Grade Talking Zoo
                               Youth Making a Difference Ceremony at Franklin HS 6:00-8:00 pm