This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.  Prompt: Write a post about parents.

One of the best tips I ever got was to contact all of my students’ parents before I needed to.  This was no easy feat with almost 180 students, but it was well worth it.  I loved when one of my students would come into class with a goofy smile on his or her face and say “you called my house yesterday.”   I would ask them if they heard what I had said about them and they always knew I had called to say something positive.  If I ever had to call with a concern, I could hear the parent say “that nice Mrs. Wagner called today and she is concerned about _____.”  I rarely had parent push back because they knew I was genuinely concerned about their child and his or her progress.


Video Killed the Radio Star

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Prompt: Write a post about videos and/or that includes a video.

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, we had a wonderful long-time teacher retire.  She taught an exploratory class called Humanities.  Any opportunity to be in a class with this teacher was a great experience, but knowing she was retiring, and no one could possibly replace her, we looked to modernize this exploratory course.  Interestingly enough, after visiting a variety of other schools’ classes, the exploratory teachers decided to make changes to almost all of our exploratory classes to incorporate technology and increase student agency.

The course that replaced Humanities is called Digital Media.  Kids get experience writing their own stories and doing every step of the production.  Watching them work is amazing as they take it seriously, knowing they are using professional tools and that their final work will be shared with the world via YouTube.

Please watch as the sixth graders that wrote and produced this are tracking their hits and want to get to 10,000.

If you want more information on the course, check this out:

Many thanks to the Lake County schools that gladly shared their learning with us, including:  North Shore School District 112, Barrington District 200, Aptakisic Tripp District 102, Antioch District 34, Lincolnshire 103, Deerfield School District 109,  and many more!




Making the Most

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.  Prompt: Write a post about tips and tricks that help you get the most out of your days.

“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” Creighton Williams Abrams Jr., U.S. Army General

Image result for eating an elephant one bite at a timeSome days I am efficiency girl, a superintendent and wife superhero that is able to complete evaluations, strategic plans, cook dinner, do laundry and get a run in, all before falling into bed and doing it all over the next day.  Other days I struggle to find the best way to communicate information to the many district stakeholders and my pijamas call me to put them on and lay on the couch as soon as I come in the door.

I am a big believer that the more I have to get done, the more I do.  I use a list to keep track of what needs to be accomplished and I get a lot of enjoyment from scribbling items off the list when they are completed.  When I think to when I have been uber productive, I think back to working full time as an assistant principal and completing my dissertation.  I wanted to graduate in 99 so that I would not have 00 as my graduation year.  Back then I was a little afraid of he Y2K issues.  So, I counted back from the graduation date, including when I would defend and the time it would take to provide my committee with each chapter and our meetings.  Once that was done, I knew I had a lot of work and just under a year to do it.  My goal was to do one thing for the dissertation every day.  That could be as simple as reading an article or adding a resource to my bibliography, there were no online apps to help with that back then.  Other days I would read and takes notes from multiple books and articles or write significant parts of the chapter, but I allowed myself to celebrate and not stress out as long as I completed something for the process.  Little by little I hit each deadline and moved closer to the end, completing something each day.  I was able to eat that elephant in less than one year and boy was it delicious.


Take a Look, It’s in a Book

    • This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. We can go twice as high when we not only read but share what we’re reading with others. This week, we focus on books we love and want others to love as much.

      I LOVE TO READ!  Last year, tracking on Goodreads, I read over 2 books per week.  This year I have added blogging, so I am trying to make sure I write at least a little every week in addition to my reading.  The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

      The book covers you see on this page are all books I have read in 2017.  So many of them have been amazing and I have really enjoyed them all, but let me tell you about aThe Passage by Justin Cronin few.  First,  Self Help:  The Happiness Advantage and The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet have had a significant impact on my physical and mental state.  I have lost 35 pounds and most every day I am happy and try to make others that way.  Both offer practical, easy things to do to become happy and healthy.  Second, Fiction:  A Man Called Ove and The Passage are my two favorites so far this year.  If you haven’t read Ove, you will be so sLaunch by John Spencerurprised at how uplifting a story about a man who wants to A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backmankill himself can be.  The Passage is the best apocalyptic vampire book I have read and I have also read the two others in the series.  Finally, the nonfiction/work books:  Simplifying Response to Intervention and Launch are the top two of the list, with practical and theoretical information that will really have an impact on kids.

      The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet by Barbara J. RollsGot a favorite to recommend to me?

      #EdublogsClub[ [ [ Simplifying Response to Intervention by Austin Buffum

      The Orange Frog  by Shawn AchorDark Matter by Blake CrouchThe Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
    • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
    • Drop the Ball by Tiffany DufuCommonwealth by Ann Patchett
    • What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker
    • All Our Wrong Todays by Elan MastaiHillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  • The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

    The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy SchumerThe Underground Railroad by Colson WhiteheadThe Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

  • A Little Book of Inspiration by Simon Sinek
  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin
  • Personalizing 21st Century Education by Dan Domenech
  • The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
  • The End of College by Kevin  Carey
  • The Laws Of Our Fathers by Scott Turow
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica
  • The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle

Catch Up Week – Social Media

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.

This is a catch up week for #EdublogsClub so I thought I would go back to a topic from a week I missed.  Social media is a giant topic, but I wanted to thank a new member of my professional learning network, Jeff Zoul @Jeff_Zoul for coming to our book club meeting to help us wrap up our reading of What Connected Educators Do Differently.  This is a great read and a great book group read as there is a lot to discuss.  It gives you great steps to take so you don’t feel overwhelmed by having to take on the entire social media world at once.  This is one of my favorite parts of the book and I am hoping to carry it into other professional development.  At the end of each chapter it suggest that you Follow 5 (follow 5 people on Twitter and they give you suggestions) Find 5 (find great resources and they give you suggestions here as well) and Take 5 action steps (and you guessed it, they offer ideas).  I think this is a great way to enter into PD sessions where you are already thinking about meeting new people, learning about their ideas and taking steps to try them out.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. May 18th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. This week we are celebrating awarenessPrompt: Write a post about web accessibility to help with awareness.

This was a pretty exciting week.  Although this post is supposed to be about web accessibility, I have to write about accessibility in general due to yesterday’s event.

An old friend received an amazing Women In Space Science Award from the Adler Planetarium yesterday.  This incredible woman is Beth Moses and she can be found on Twitter @VGChiefTrainer as she is the astronaut trainer for Virgin Galactic.  At the celebration, there were two very different accessibility experiences.

First, I attended the event with another incredible woman, an educator, who is recovering from hip surgery and is using a wheelchair.  She couldn’t have been more patient with the hotel security, but due to the hotel being almost 100 years old, she had to ride two different scary (my word) chair lifts to get to the ballroom level.  Once we got to the ballroom level, we had to wait for an interview to finish so we could go through another room to get to the one location with a ramp into the actual ballroom.  Of course her assigned table was across the room which was already full of people, because it took a long time for the lifts and getting to the ramp.  This was a great experience for me to grow in my understanding of what a typical day can be like for someone who cannot walk up stairs – it isn’t easy.

Second, Beth Moses shared how space is the great equalizer.  She and her staff want to make sure that all of the civilian astronauts that travel with Virgin will be comfortable and get the experience they want.  Beth explained that if you are very tall, they will build you a tall seat to make sure you travel safely and in comfort.  She also talked about pre-existing conditions, and how they work through how people are differently able and make sure each and every one has the experience of a lifetime.  I will paraphrase what Beth said so well yesterday, that she will work tirelessly so that anyone who wants to can live that childhood dream of space travel.

Thanks to both of these strong women for inspiring me yesterday.  I know I will need to continue to help kids dream big and realize those dreams so that we all can live amazing lives, regardless of what life throws our way.




Tell a Story

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.  

Prompt: Write a post that tells a story. 

Tell a story about a time in your career as an educator that you want to share. It can be a positive memory, a time you wish you could change the outcome, a student you remember, or just a class lesson you want to share.

Once upon a time, there was a superintendent that loved learning.  She loved it so much that sometimes she overextended herself on both a personal and a professional level in order to provide learning opportunities for kids, teachers and herself.  She found herself at a time where she couldn’t possibly meet all of the obligations and expectations she had committed to.  She looked at her list and was able to delegate a few items.  There were even a few items she could push off a week, a month or indefinitely although she was sad about missing out on those opportunities.  Some of the obligations had an impact on others and those were must dos.  Some were just to good to pass up.

So what was the result?  This superintendent was stressed out at home and at work and she missed posting her blog for 2 weeks.  However, she learned and grew both from meeting the commitments and from learning that if she doesn’t say no, or not now, to some opportunities, she will be too stressed to enjoy the others.

Moral of the story – figure out what is most important, do those things, breathe.  Do I think she will overextend herself again?  You betcha, but hopefully not as often or as much.


A couple of ideas to help you determine what is most important:

Tiffany Dufu, in her 2017 book, Drop The Ball, shares an exercise where she asked her friends and colleagues to share a time when they remember her being her best self.  It helped her determine what she does best and what is most important to her.  Book is worth reading and although I haven’t tried this exercise, it is intriguing.

An exercise below from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that can also help.  “In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family… The second speaker is one of your friends… The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in service.

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?

What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?”


The Pendulum

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.

At the end of February, I was sitting in a workshop focused on Personalized Learning when I had a horrible flashback.  It was the late 1970s, and I was sitting in a very large classroom with no walls where two teachers wrangled forty or fifty stinky, prepubescent fifth graders into the then version of personalized learning.  This meant on Monday, each of us picked up an enormous stapled packet of dittos.  We were to work on them quietly while the teachers worked with small reading groups.  We all knew who was in the highest and the lowest group and the size of the packet was in direct correlation to the highest group.  Also, the amount of time you got to spend with the teacher in the reading group seemed inversely correlated, as the lowest groups got a lot more time.  On Friday we would turn in our packet with the excitement that we would get to do it again the next week!!

I remember the packet days as dreary and dull, watching the clock, writing notes to friends that I would drop on the way to the Kleenex box and waiting for recess.  Even the introvert that I am, I longed for a good discussion or group project to share ideas.  I don’t remember feeling like my teachers knew me or liked me – this was the first time in all of my elementary years.

Now I know that the current version of Personalized Learning is different from the version in the 70s, but how much so?  I have been reading a lot about it and looking for signs in my classrooms.  We have been doing many of the great instructional practices aligned with PL for a while, and we continue to refine them.  However, we have to be very careful that we don’t just turn our old packets into digital packets.

Ed Surge shares the five key elements of PL.  They include:  Learner Profiles, Student Agency, Flexible Learning Environments, Individual Mastery and Personal Learning Paths.  With the exception of Student Agency and Flexible Learning Environments, I am quite confident my fifth grade teachers believed they were hitting the other three.  Add in that we got to choose our own free reading books, and could read them in a variety of seating options, and we hit them all.  Scary.

Let’s not let the pendulum swing so far, that we throw out the good things that we are doing.  We have spent a lot of time cultivating student discussions where they really listen and respond to their peers based on prior learning and new insights.  Computers can give kids instruction and practice right where they need it, but it is the personal relationships that are one of the critical components in lasting learning.



Embed Something

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and edtech enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week.

Okay, not an epic fail, but definitely something I need to learn to do better.

Welcome to my Embed Something post.  I was pretty excited that I received this post after watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and seeing the Dancing Zebra video.  If you are not familiar with this, there are traffic zebras in La Paz, Bolivia that help make everyone happy and safe.

John Oliver shares that everything is better with zebras and I agree!

However, my great plan of embedding the zebra video in another video proved to be more time consuming than me consuming my yogurt at lunchtime.  So, the best I can do is include the video, plus a link and a picture.   Glass half full.

#EdublogsClub #JustAddZebras


Feedback – essential and delicate

Feeback is a great topic this week.  Just finished reading a simple but wonderful story by Simon Sinek called “Together is Better.”  On page 46 he says

When we are closed to ideas, what we hear is criticism.

When we are open to criticism, what we get it advice.

This is so simply and beautifully stated.  Although I do not have much of an opportunity to give feedback to students, I do frequently have this opportunity with adults.  This week we have been interviewing all over the district for teacher and coordinator positions.  For both internal and external candidates, I am left with the perplexing decision of how much feedback to give.  If it isn’t clear and direct, “it just isn’t a good fit,” there may as well not be any feedback.  However, if it is too direct, or someone is closed to ideas, I could really hurt someone’s feelings and not provide them with what they see as actionable advice.  I so want them to hear the advice, because it could mean they will get the next job.  I recently had a conversation with a superintendent friend who said “I hope I never get fired for the blunt feedback I give after interviews.”  I was a little jealous that he felt that comfortable saying exactly what he meant.  Curious, when I spoke with one of the recipients of that feedback, she heard something completely different from the superintendent’s message.  I will keep trying, if I come up with anything really good, I am definitely writing a book!

If you have any ideas, please share!