We have talking a lot about our “Next Gen” classrooms this year and specifically our Kindergarten and 1st Grade rooms. When reading a recent article in eSchool News titled, “10 things to ask when choosing ed tech for young children” I was reminded how important it is to be thoughtful in the approach to providing technology at this level. Throwing tech at students without being intentional about what are some of the desired outcomes is never a good idea, but I feel it’s even worse when it comes to young students.
Here is a quote from Karen Nemeth, co-founder of the Early Childhood Technology Network
“Don’t fall for iPad or ‘app mania’! Technology is not always the best choice,” said Nemeth. “Apps designed for kids aren’t always better than what you may already have, and that goes for mobile devices too! Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s better!”
After reading this and reflecting on our approach with Next Gen this year, I am reminded how thoughtful and intentional our technology, instructional and administrative staff have been with implementation.
It has been a tough few weeks for Saline Area Schools and it has nothing to do with test scores or teacher evaluations or budgets, etc. It doesn’t even have to do with snow days! The passing of David Jodway, recently retired and legendary welding teacher. The tragic and shocking passing of Jim Letcher. Then the loss of Andrew Kargel, Saline parent, a teacher and husband of our own Mrs. Kargel. All have sent shockwaves and sadness through our community.
As a community and an organization we have been in pain. Sadness and loss… We have lost three individuals that gave their lives to educating students.. they were fathers and husbands… they were good men who left those who came into contact with them better off for having known them.
Over the last few weeks I have been reminded that we are a community and a family. I am proud to be a member of this community. As I watched our staff, parents and students come together to honor those that we lost and comfort their families – I saw a caring community that knows that a school district is more that buildings, buses and budgets… it’s a family.
On March 6th, the Saline Area Schools Community suffered a tragic loss. Jim Letcher, a 20 year teacher in Saline and 30+ year teacher overall, passed away. He will be missed by his family, the students & families that he taught, and the staff of Saline Area Schools. While it is a cliche’ to say – it’s very true about Jim – there was no one that knew Jim that didn’t consider him a friend.
Celebration of Life
Thursday, March 20th 7 pm
Saline Middle School Auditorium
Jim graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette and was a proud Wildcat. He began his career teaching at the Tuscola Intermediate School District in the thumb of Michigan, where he taught severely mentally impaired students. He returned to the UP for a short period to teach at Palmer Intermediate School District. For the past twenty years he taught students in Special Education, Kindergarten and Reading Recovery in the Saline Area Schools(Union, Houghton, Harvest, Woodland Meadows and Saline Middle School). He used his unique charm and clever wit to ingratiate himself with staff and students alike. He was a compassionate leader, negotiator and staunch supporter of public education through his union work in the Saline Education Association, Washtenaw County Education Association and the Michigan Education Association.
Several comments on my previous blog post about snow days asked about adjusting the schedule to add days/time to the 2nd trimester at the high school vs. the end of the year. (The 2nd trimester currently ends on March 13th.) The idea behind it is to better balance the days between trimesters to allow for similar content to be covered in each trimester.
It is important to note, the original school calendar called for 58 days in the 1st trimester, 64 days in the 2nd trimester and 53 days in the 3rd trimester. With the 8 days gone from the middle trimester - it is now 58/56/53 – which is actually more balanced. If we add 2 make-up days at the end of school, it would be 58/56/55.
At this point, we are not planning to adjust the 2nd trimester schedule. We do understand that staff planning for 64 and adjusting to 56 is not easy and will likely mean the final course exam may be altered, however, adding a day or two will not solve that issue and will further shorten the 3rd trimester.
As some of you may recall, last year a group of students, teachers and administrators took the plunge in an ice cold pool of water on the 50 yard line at the University of Michigan Football Stadium. The event raised funds for the Special Olympics of Washtenaw County. The group is different this year with a larger group of students carrying the Saline Area Schools flag, along with several hearty staff members. This is a worthy cause that directly benefits our students.
The event will again be held in the stadium and takes place this Saturday, February 22nd (Hi 32/Low 12). I encourage you to consider donating to the 2014 participants by clicking here.
With the closing of school today, February 18th – we now have passed the allowable number of days that are waived by the State of Michigan. To put it simply, this one needs to be made up. With a good month of possible inclement weather including snow and ice, we will not make a formal announcement regarding our plan to make up the missed day(s). The State Board of Education issued a statement last week, advocating for making up days vs. adding time to the remaining days. It is unclear what our options will be at this point. There is pending legislation regarding the adding time option.
I do want to caution families and staff members, it is very likely that we will be going to school at least a part of the week of June 9th. For planning purposes, I would keep that week open until we know more.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the AASA National Conference on Education in Nashville. It was an excellent chance to learn from educational leaders from across the country. One of the sessions that I attended focused on the need to screen new staff candidates based on their “disposition” vs. a specific set of skills or experiences. This is not to say that skills and previous experiences are not important, however, skills can be taught and experiences gained. The presentation focused on the need for the disposition first, without it the potential staff member will not be able to effectively use their skills.
This reinforces what the book, How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything by Dov Seidman discusses as a key to organizational success. The author highlights the need for “In spite of” vs. “Because of” employees. Seeking employees that succeed “in spite of” challenges vs. those who struggle “because of” similar challenges can provide a great opportunity to model that disposition for our students. Mr. Seidman states:
“What matters is not the obstacle, but how you think about obstacles, how you approach them, and how you behave in the face of them. Leaders believe they will find a way in spite of the forces aligned against them. They never walk away because of a problem. Sometimes you won’t succeed in spite of your best efforts, but if you don’t start with an in spite of disposition, you will seldom win.”
The reminded me, that as a leader I need to model this attitude. At times it is easy to bemoan the limitations of reduced funding and misguided education policy. However, I need to guard against using these obstacles as barriers to success. In addition, with spring around the corner, we are starting to review potential openings at the faculty level for the 2014-2015, I plan to use some of the disposition assessment tools I learned about at the conference when screening candidates.