Faculty DEAR Time 2015


Each week I am fortunate to have time allocated to sit with each of my grade level teams to discuss our students, programs, and ideas for the future.  This week we used this collective time for our own enjoyment, learning, and sharing.  Instead of the normal agenda of topics which I raise and the questions which each team brings to share with me, I gathered a selection of articles/blogs from a diverse group of education sources and topics (jointly curated by myself and by recommendations of my team throughout the year), laid out sweets and snacks, and we all spent time in DEAR (drop everything and read) time.  Each teacher chose the articles (as many as they wanted) that interested them and we spent 20 silent minutes reading.  After this we engaged in a discussion about the items and the points the resonated with us.  While the meetings were tied together by the common titles shared, the organic discussions were unique to each grade level.  Further, that the reading and conversations evoked not only professional learning and sharing, but in a number of instances also inspired some personal sharing, benefited our community by creating a space and time where we could grow closer to each other as a result of such sharing. The discussions have been fabulous, and there have been many requests for more opportunities to repeat this process in the future.

Thank you to the amazing educators who share their passion with me regularly through their writings, and helped make this learning experience so positive for all of our teachers.


  1. 5 Ways to Lay the Foundation for Innovation #InnovatorsMindset by @gcouros
  2.  6 Truths about Technology in Education by @ajjuliani
  3.  10 myths undermining #education… by @justintarte
  4.  10 Questions We Should Ask Ourselves about Homework by @LitCoachLady
  5.  (Digital) Identity in a World that No Longer Forgets by @courosa & @kbhildebrandt
  6.  For Students, the Importance of Doing Work That Matters by @willrich45
  7.  Manifesto 15 Evolving Learning by @manifesto_15
  8.  Social Consequences of Food Allergy by @creativitypost
  9.  The 4 Properties of Powerful Teachers by @chronicle
  10.  The Gutenberg Pause is almost over by @prmurphy
  11.  The Open Door Isn’t Always Open by @chrislehmann
  12.  The Opportunities for Empathy in the Classroom by @terryheick
  13.  Want to keep your new middle-schooler out of trouble? Then let them take risks by @michelleicard
  14. When Schools Overlook Introverts by @TheMrGodsey
  15. Write, Erase, Do It Over: On Failure, Risk and Writing Outside Yourself by @MsToniMorrison

Is the key device of innovation MATTER?


I had the great privilege of spending last week with a group of my EDU-heroes at the Georgia Educational Technology Conference.   As the conference title would imply there were a myriad of excellent sessions on google classroom, learning management systems, app-smashing, and fantastic curricular, collaborative, and creative website and technological tools.   As I reflect on the learning takeaways from these three great days of learning, however, I am left with a much more profound question: Is the key device of innovation MATTER?



Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) – “Every human being needs to know that they are noticed, valued and essential.”

Leslie Fisher (@lesliefisher) – “My words, your words matter. Use your superpowers for good!”


Erin Klein (@KleinErin) – “I strive to be the teacher that I want my own kids to have.”

Ge-Anne Bolhuis (@gabolhuis) – “Your heart is your power source to build up others.”


Will Richardson (@willrich45)  – “The tech conversation doesn’t matter if you haven’t had the learning conversation first.

Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera)  – “Is school educating the curiosity and inquisitiveness out of our students?”


I love the irony at the heart of a tech conference evoking the following lasting questions for me. 

How do I actively support a culture in which all participants are valued, where relationships are invested in and developed, and where all learners are engaged in work that matters to them and to the world?




In Mark’s powerful TEDTalk, A Life Lesson from a Volunteer Firefighter, he states, “Not every day is going to give us the chance to save somebody’s life, but every day gives us the opportunity to affect one”.

This message is the basis for this year’s Davis Middle School theme, #EVERYDAY.

EVERYDAY presents the opportunity to share kindness with a friend.

EVERYDAY presents the opportunity to stretch ourselves and learn something new.

EVERYDAY presents the opportunity to take pride in yourself and your surroundings by taking care of both.


6th Grade – EVERYDAY Explore

Explore yourself and your passions.  The Davis Academy Middle School offers a myriad of outlets for self-exploration.  Whether you shine on the stage, thrive on the soccer field, dig deep into the works of ancient and current literature, or create amazing digital and tactile art, make sure that EVERYDAY you explore.  In a few short weeks, we will board kayaks with friends to journey in Charleston’s harbor and in a blink of an eye we will be boarding rafts with your brothers and sisters to raft down the Jordan River.  EVERYDAY Explore.

7th Grade – EVERYDAY Commit

Commit to yourself.  Seventh grade is a year of higher expectations both spiritually and academically.  In Judaism, for most, this will be the year of the Bnai Mitzvot.  Seventh graders will make a commitment to the Jewish people to embody the history, values, and lessons of the Torah.  This is a year of commitment to school as well.  A commitment to higher expectations and higher stakes, as this year will help shape both high school decisions and acceptances.  EVERYDAY Commit to being the best you.

8th Grade – EVERYDAY Cherish

Cherish the last lap in the journey.  Whether this is year two or year ten at The Davis Academy, cherish the relationships that have been created between friends, teachers, and with oneself.  Cherish the opportunity to be leaders, both at The Davis Academy and in the larger community.  Cherish the memories that have been made and the unbelievable ones ahead as we experience our Kehillah on Kallah at Coleman, through community service with our Marist peers, and in our homeland. EVERYDAY Cherish.


EVERYDAY be and become the person you can be.


EVERYDAY know that I and the amazing team of teachers are here to nurture and support these achievements.



#EduLS #Oneword #blogamonth – Lions, and Tigers, and Bears OH MY!!!


As the New Year begins and the students return to school there is amazing energy and enthusiasm for the learning, growing and possibilities to come. So too are the professional growth possibilities that I find in my inbox, twitter stream, feedly list, voxer…etc.  While I am thrilled and eager to dive right in to this learning, I am cautious and conscious of the struggle I had the last few months to maintain the pace and engagement level in all of these learning spaces.   I am not planning on vacating any of these learning spaces, but I am aware that I need to find the right balance between the wind sprints of learning that occur at the start of a new idea and the marathon that is a lifetime of professional and personal growth.

I am thrilled to see that Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd) has brought the #summerls learning series back in the form of a year round learning series #eduLS. Moreover, I am thankful to the many members of my 2014 #blogamonth PLN and to those that reached out and asked us to continue it into 2015.  And thus I set out on 2015 with my first post responding to both of these great learning communities.

My one word for 2015 is FUEL.

  1. Fuel to empower my thirst for learning and growing.
  2. Fuel to encourage the amazing team I work with to reach for (and sometimes fail) in their own growth, secure in the knowledge of my support.
  3. Fuel to inspire students to become what they can be and not settle for “good enough”.
  4. And most importantly, fuel to be the best husband and father I can be.

To all who will be learning with me in 2015, I thank you for contributing Fuel to my learning and growth and I hope to be able to return the gesture in kind.

Faculty DEAR Time



5 People by Dennis Schug @DJrSchug

5 Things Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the New American Dream by AJ Juliani @ajjuliani

A Soft Answer by Terry Dobson

And I Keep Going by Krissy Venosdale @venspired

Channeling Springsteen: Teachers As Performers by Gabrielle Emanuel @nprnews

Growing up gifted with ADHD by Dana Olney-Bell @greatschools

Identity, Love, and Catfishing by Alec Couros @courosa

It’s Us, Not Them: How Student Failure May Reflect You by @ValeriaBrownEdu

My 10 Dreams for My Son’s Education by Justin Tarte @justintarte

No One Prepared Me for This by Amanda Kruysman @coachhkay

Patience for Learning by George Couros @gcouros

Schools Should be Like Netflix, Not Blockbuster by AJ Juliani @ajjuliani

Snags and Jagged Edges by Traci Logue @Fearless_Teach


Keeping the Fire Blazing!!!



How do we maintain enthusiasm and engagement that is inherent in the beginning of the year throughout the first few months?  How do we prolong first-week excitement?  How do we sustain wonder once newness starts to lose its shiny sheen?   How do we sustain our own energy as we become cognizant of the marathon rather than the sprint that we are engaged in?  These questions are at the heart of our September #blogamonth topic.


To start a fire we must have spark.  The flint in a learning community is passion.  Passionate teachers who are dedicated to not only their students learning but their continued growth and development.  At the beginning of the year, enthusiasm for the year ahead may masquerades as passion, but the spark that this enthusiasm offers is often short lived and time constrained.   True passion, is a near constant source of spark that can be called again and tapped into again and again throughout the year.


Even with a great fire starting tool and successful ignition sparks, there will be no fire without tinder.  The quality of your fire is at least equally reliant if not more reliant on the quality and fire receptivity of the tinder you have as it is to the igniter.  In our setting, the tinder is the learning culture.  How receptive are the students, teachers, administrators, and parents to the great passions presented by other stakeholders?  How quickly are we ignited by the power of a wonderful idea or conversely how quickly are these passionate sparks extinguished?


Oxygen is the life source of fire.  Deprive the fire from “breathing” and its light and heat will smolder.   For schools, the community must serve as the oxygen by which the passions are fed, maintained and spread.

How do we keep the fire going, growing, and creating a new?

Similar to a fire we must combine all three components to keep the engagement and investment in our schools.

Flint – We must offer opportunities for all members of the school community to have opportunities to share their passion and have the voice heard.

Tinder – We must create and maintain collaborative cultures of learning in which individual teacher’s passions are supported, appreciated, and received by others in the community.

Oxygen – We must support the great passions of our stakeholders by community investment.  This investment is not inherently one of finances, though it can be, rather it is an implication that we must honor the passions of our stakeholders by moving from idea to action as a community.

The intersection of these three components enables a school to maintain the first week excitement throughout the year; affords all stakeholders the opportunity to learn, grow, and dream with support; provides for a dynamic and engaging student experience; and always provides a source for a good roasted marshmallow.


Life, Learning, and Laughter Enthusiast

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