The Beatdown & The Phoenix

On July 1, I officially finished my first year as a Superintendent. 

It was awesome.  It was amazing.  It was the beat-down of a lifetime.

To say that I got my butt kicked this year is putting it lightly. While I heavily relied on my teaching, Assistant Principal, and K-12 Supervisor experiences (and of course all of that schooling stuff), it was still a dim lit path with no answers being in stone.  

Now that we are in summer, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my year.  Here’s what I thought: I was doing great until state testing arrived.  After state testing, I made my mistake.  A big one.  I pushed. Hard.  Really hard.

Why is this a mistake? In my case, I pushed my teachers so hard this past year, and they went with it.  Most realized they were way behind the curve and saw a need for change.  They adapted, they worked so hard, and they tried.  After state testing, many were tired.  I saw it as an additional 24 days of school and saw some starting to slide and shut off.  Instead of targeting individuals, I went mass emails and tried to rally the troops and lead the charge.  It completely backfired, and I ended up having a semi-mutiny on my hands.  Even worse, those that were doing a modicum of work and were so lost to begin with began to stir the pot even more… and they went for the jugular.  If I wore the wrong shoes, I heard about it.  If I blinked the wrong way, I heard about it.  Granted, the completely useless just focus all of their energy on finding fault and deflecting people about looking at them, but I gave them free ammo.  Not cool.

So, the year ended, and I took two weeks off. BEST. IDEA. EVER.   I played video games. I watched awful TV. I got back to the gym.  I went for check-ups that I put off forever.  I played golf. I played with my puppy.  I lived like a normal human being.  It was needed.

Coming back refreshed, I had the time to digest and process all of the decision making, pitfalls, and pros that I went through.

The summer vibe in a school setting is a wonderful one.  It’s nice to reflect, recharge, and reorganize your thoughts for the following school year.  It’s a time for the educational phoenix to rise again and prepare for whatever come sour way.  I have grown, I have learned, and now it’s time to move onward. 

Twitter Chats 2.0

iSuperEit:

#Satchat 2.0 has arrived.

Originally posted on Evolving Educators:

An example of a Voxer Conversation  between the #satchat moderators.

An example of a Voxer Conversation between the #satchat moderators.

Since April 2012 #satchat has engaged educators from all over the world in a positive and progressive educational conversation on Saturday mornings. As one of many educational chats on Twitter, we try to make the hour of educational conversation engaging, practical and something that educators can use in their classroom or school office the next school day. But one of the issues that people have with Twitter chats is the limited characters available for a message. I addressed this concern in a February 2013 blog post called The Great 140 Character Debate. But there is some truth to this issue.

Many Twitter chats have so much information being provided, in such a short time, that educators want to look back at the conversation well after it has ended. #satchat archives the conversation and then tweets out the link to…

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How hungry are you for a job?

Last night, the Board of Education hired an ELA teacher to focus on writing for my middle school program.  After the meeting, I called her, formally offering her the job. Hearing tears in her voice, she was beyond excited; while we were chatting about being hired, she spoke about how each step in my interviewing was more serious and intense.  She spoke about being more invested in each round, and how more effort and energy was brought forth in each phase.  It had me thinking on my ride home… was my process that difficult? Was it that  stressful? After each thought… it came down to one simple thought - just how hungry are people to get a job that you want?

My hiring process is five steps: 

  • You apply
  • A series of essay questions via google form
  • An interview
  • A Demo Lesson
  • A meet-n-greet with the BOE Personnel Committee, with the BOE voting on a candidate at the regular meeting

Sure, I could jut meet you and I can hire you.  But why do that?  At this time of year, I have a fresh amount of college graduates along with other teachers looking to switch districts. I’ll get scads upon scads of applications, many of which are generic and have no investment in the District (those immediately head to the circular file).  

After you apply (electronic only), I collect all email addresses and send out a google form with a series of questions pertaining to the subject they want to teach.  If you’re hungry, you’ll answer the questions.  If you’re not that hungry, you’ll pass.  This is one of my favorite parts of the application process; it naturally weeds out applications because folks simply don’t want to put in the time.

Based on your responses, I call in about a half dozen for interviews with a committee.  The committee is composed of Administrators and Teachers.  I listen mostly to the teacher feedback and look for the dynamics of the interview.  My job is to be there for resources and help when needed, and other than that, I’m out of the way.  

Based on the committee responses, I recommend two or three for the finalist panel on the Board of Education personnel committee.  The committee also asks questions and wants to get to know who they may potentially hire.  We conference together and select a candidate.

Lastly, The candidate gets approved at the Board Meeting.

It’s certainly an investment for the candidate, but again I ask, how hungry are you?

 

 

Authentic Writing Across the Curriculum

iSuperEit:

Great for Reading / Writing / ELA Teachers for summer projects… or to jump out f the gate in September!

Originally posted on Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care:

By Brad Currie

Students using Chromebooks and Google Drive in class

Students using Chromebooks and Google Drive in class

Black River Middle School in Chester, New Jersey, takes great pride in the wide range of innovative learning experiences that students are exposed to on a daily basis. Focusing on digital literacy and building digital capacity are important aspects that we incorporate on a daily basis. Teachers and students take challenging risks utilizing various web based tools and mobile learning devices in order to better understand a particular concept. Digital literacy permeates the school setting and provides students with a relevant and engaging learning experience. The examples included in this blog post provide a glimpse of just a few best practices related to writing.

Performing Arts: Collaborative Script Writing

Script writing via Google Docs is an important unit of study in Mrs. Vespignani’s Performing Arts Class. Students work in groups to create a play and write a script using…

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PD + GHO = Awesome

Image

Recently, LAC School did a first. The school partook in a professional development workshop on co-teaching.  While that type of workshop was a first, we also did the entire workshop through google hangout.  I contacted Danielle Schwartz (@teacherschwartz) a superb teacher with years of co-teaching experience from northern NJ. I told her I wanted to try something new with our technology, and she obliged with no qualms, We mapped out a plan, tried GHO a few times, and were ready to go.  On the day of the  In GHO, we had four teams in four different parts of the building.  Materials (worksheets and a team building activity) were given out in advance.  Teachers reported to their respective classrooms, and for the most part, partook in a wonderful dialogue of what co-teaching is and the various models of it.  Like all things done for the first time, we had some missteps.  Here’s the breakdown below:

PROS:

  • Easily accessible.  We gave teachers the link; they clicked.
  • Easy for the presenter. Danielle did not have to drive two hours to get here.
  • Easy to understand and operate.  GHO can be a bit tricky, but after a few clicks, you can easily follow along.

 

PITFALLS:

  • Hard to gage if participants are truly engaging. Not having the person in the room may detract some from paying attention.
  • Tech savviness. I should have know that running GHO on your computers requires a few installs when it happens for the first time.  We had to do installs of all computers used.  It slowed us down by about 15 minutes.  Not killer, but it;s good to know for the next time.
  • Consistency. While everyone was getting the same content, some were on the document, some were watching the videos, and some were at the end of the presentation.  In workshops, I like to deliver the same message to all at the same time.

So many great lessons were learned from this workshop.  When’s the next one?

NJASA presentation: Effective, Educational, and FREE Apps & websites

If you attended the NJASA Spring Conference and are looking for the presentation that was used this afternoon, see below.

https://www.haikudeck.com/p/4nTOj53huW

Effective, Educational, and Free Apps & Websites Jay Eitner Natalie Franzi @iSuperEit@NatalieFranzi – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

When the Captain sinks the ship

School leaders are often related to boat Captains.  They are charged with navigating the waves of education and dealing with the trade-winds of change. While there will be a mix of rough and calm seas, the Captain typically ends up running a tight ship.

There are all kinds of Captains. There are the Captain Phillips’ and the Captain Quinn’s sailing around the educational seas. It always saddens me when I see a Captain Quinn.

In a matter of years, I’ve watched a Captain go from a Phillips to a Quinn in no time.  The Captain hit a rogue wave and was never able to recover.  After the wave, he tried to put on a new face, laugh things off, and surround himself with a superficial crew.  Epic Fail.  After a series of attempts to try to steer back and gain control, it just got worse and worse.  So sad.  How can central office stand behind such a failure? How can one go form ‘hero’ to ‘zero’ in just a couple of years?

Why? Simple.  Cloaking yourself in the shroud of “Old Boys Club” combined with a group of people a majority of the ship don’t like because of their clique / bully like attitudes and actions leads complete breaking of trust and respect.  The ship is still floating, but you have a crew and passengers that are there just to play school, and the leadership thinking all is OK because the inner circle keeps telling them it’s OK. Oh, and then there’s that whole tenure thing…

Tenure has served as the life preserver to keep those who sink their ship afloat.   So, time old question arises… what does one do with a Captain who sinks their ship? Moreover, what does one do with the crew and the passengers? How long can someone just sit there and let creativity perish?

IF YOU’RE A STUDENT:

I really feel bad for you when your school leader is completely out of touch, doesn’t even know your name, and you even know who he / she is (like you thought they were a sub or something).  The power rests with you; start with a simple petition expressing your concerns.  See the White House website… you can even register one there! Democracy has worked in magical ways…it’s to put what you learned in social studies class to the test. Speak with mom or dad too… they may be just as intrigued about your concerns and may launch actions of their own.  Let’s be clear here…you’re not going into Boston Tea Party mode and causing violence or damage. The pen is truly mightier than the sword.

IF YOU’RE A PARENT:

The best bet is to start by attending local BOE meetings and expressing concern. While the Superintendent will guard his / her own, getting on the official record and partaking in democracy is best.  Speaking to the press would not hurt, as long as you’re cool calm and collect. It is not recommended to go vigilante mode and start writing off-the-cuff comments online or submitting anything to press that would be “slanderous” – facts are facts.  Leave the opinions out; people will form them on their own. If the Captain is failing, state it, you don’t have to lace your opinions in there… everyone will see it.

IF YOU’RE A TEACHER:

You show leadership, and you keep doing your job, for two reasons: 1) you’re there for your students, and 2) you’re filling the void of true leadership, so an educator takes it on their shoulders.

Low and behold, the school will still stand regardless of who runs it.  BUT… since everyone knows the Captain is flawed and is useless the teachers, counselors, parents, and students take charge of their learning and move onward.

But hey, I’m just a Superintendent, what do I know?

 

 

 

Minecraft Club starts at LAC!

Minecraft Club starts at LAC!

Over 47 students, grades 1-8, eagerly awaited for the PM bell yesterday for the official roll-out of the LAC Minecraft Club. This would have never happened if it weren’t for two great members of my PLN; Kyle Calderwood and Kevin Jarrett. My barrage of questions, comments, and what-if’s got me to the picture above. We had a huge amount of technical problems yesterday, but that was expected. We learned quite a bit, and I can’t wait for next week! Onward!

I got nominated for a what?!?

As I was falling asleep last night, this happened…

I was speechless.  I was excited.  I was nominated for something that’s WAY out of my league after seeing who else is in the category. With all due respect, I am no where near the likes of Joe Sanfelippo, Scott Rocco, Tim Purnell, and everyone else that’s been nominated.

Thanks Chris; this means a lot. At the very least, I plan on heading down and celebrating with everyone come September (side-note: Tom & Gwen – I went to school in DC… albeit a while back, I am still familiar with Street names and venues.)


Jay Eitner has been nominated  for Honors in the Category of Superintendent of the Year  at THE 2014 Annual Bammy Awards.

Supporters can vote online to help recognize  the contributions to the education community that led to the selection of Jay for this prestigious education community honor at http://www.bammyawards.org.

Lower Alloways Creek, NJ: Jay Eitner announced today that he has been nominated for honors in the category of Superintendent of the Year at the 2014 Annual Bammy Awards.

Presented by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences, the Bammy Award is a cross-discipline award recognizing the contributions of educators from across the education field.

“All across the nation, nominees like Jay Eitner are doing some pretty amazing things to educate our children often under very difficult circumstances.  Students are not the only ones who need validation. More than ever before, educators need to be validated and the stories about what’s going right in American education need to be told,” said Errol St. Clair Smith, executive producer of the Bammy Awards. “We are delighted to be part of this collaborative, nationwide effort.”

Honorees will be announced on September 27th at a red-carpet event in Washington, D.C. The Bammy Awards are presented by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences, which includes leading educators, education professors, journalists, editors, researchers, commentators, advocates,  activists, visionaries and pioneers. The Academy is comprised of a board of governors, a council of peers and the executive committee.

About Jay Eitner:

Jay Eitner is a proud product of the New Jersey public schools.  A graduate from Union High School in 1997, Jay attended The American University in Washington DC with a BA in interdisciplinary studies. He began his teaching career in Roselle, NJ teaching a variety of subjects, including social studies, computers, and literacy. Known for being ‘outside of the box’ and for strong technology infusion, Eitner strived to make a learning environment that was both student centered and data driven.  Jay received his Masters Degree in 2004 and was hired to teach 8th grade social studies in the nationally recognized East Brunswick Public Schools. During his time in East Brunswick, Eitner has written & received over $140,000 in grants for his students.  Grants ranged from podcasting equipment to creating a fully-interactive gold-rush experience, where students dug for gold during their westward expansion unit. Jay obtained his supervisor, principal, and school administrator certificates from the NJPSA NJ-EXCEL program in 2009.   Administratively, Eitner has served as a middle school Assistant Principal, a K-12 Supervisor of Social Studies, and currently serves as a Superintendent for The Lower Alloways Creek School District.  He has presented a series of workshops on digital leadership, technology infusion, and student achievement for grades K-12.

Jay’s blog can be found at jayeitner.com and can be followed on Twitter under the name @iSuperEit.

About the Bammy Awards:

The Bammy Awards is a cross-discipline award that identifies and acknowledges the good work being done all across the education village. The Bammy Awards was created in response to the tremendous national pressure on educators and education leaders to improve student outcomes, the impact of high stakes accountability and the intense scrutiny that today’s educators face.

The awards aim to foster cross-discipline recognition of the collective contributions being made to educate children, encourage collaboration in and across the various domains, elevate education and education successes in the public eye, and raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field.

 The Bammy Awards is organized by BAM Radio Network, which produces education radio shows for the nation’s leading education associations.

I’d appreciate your vote if you have a minute to spare.  Onward!

You’re No Good If You’re Dead

There’s no easy way to start this off.  A friend of mine recently had a heart attack.  He’s 45.  45!!!

There were a number of reasons it happened, but a high amount of stress was the main factor.  He’s not the healthiest dude on the planet either, but his doctors came back and said it was ‘most likely stress induced.’

Which naturally got me thinking…

I have a pretty stressful job myself as a Superintendent.  The job certainly does not get any easier with experience, and with state testing around the corner, my stress levels will be going through the roof.

Which also got me thinking…

Stressing out over ‘the small stuff’ in life, along with stress form work on a daily basis, coupled with my not-so-hot eating habits and modicum of exercise is probably not the best thing for me… or anyone else for that matter.

Here are five ways I plan to manage my stress:

1.  Eating better. I drive an hour to work each way.  Passing a variety of eateries, the temptation is always there to stop and grab something quick.  No more.  Eating healthier will give you more energy and will make you feel better!

2. Exercising more consistently. While I try to get to the gym five times a week, life does get in the way. If you can’t make it to the gym, take a walk around your building.  I love visiting my schools… I get to see learning AND I get to exercise.  Win-Win!

3. Establishing “me time” in my calendar at work. Each day, I block out at least 30 minutes on my calendar for “me time”.  No meetings, no calls, nothing but me.  Call me selfish all you want; I call it helping a way to keep my sanity.

4. Taking the time to think out why something is ‘stressing’ me out.  Sometimes, I just let really minuscule things creep under my skin.  For what? Who cares?  Take a second and see if getting all fired up is really worth it.  A former boss always said, “There’s hills worth dying on; is THIS worth getting all wound up?”

5. Allocating time home to unplug. Yes, I love my technology, but I value time without it just as much.  Sometimes just leaving your phone / technology in another room for a bit allows me to not think about other work items.  My dog is a fan too :-)

Stress is apart of everyone’s life, but knowing how to manage it is paramount. Seriously,  you’re no good to anyone if you’re dead.

My friend is comfortably resting home, with a second chance at life, eating super healthy, walking every night, and is even looking to take a fitness class or two.

Here’s to better health, everyone. Onward.