5 things to do at #EdCampNJ on Saturday

This Saturday marks the third EdCampNJ at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, NJ. Almost 700 educators from around New Jersey and surrounding states will convene on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Think about that. Giving up a Saturday during the holidays to go… Learn!!! If this your first EdCamp — here are five things to go check out while you’re here:

1. Get some free breakfast and partake in a live #satchat . The three founders of #satchat (Scott Rocco – @scottrrocco Billy Krakower  - @wkrakower & Brad Currie – @bradmcurrie) are in the flesh (and naturally are jersey boys) and will host an interactive dialogue while tweeting. Many “tweeps” will be in attendance as well. It’s always nice to put the names to the faces as well.

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2. Show what you know and offer a session on the board. There are scads of opportunities to be had, ranging from the simplistic to really deep conversations. If you have that passion about something and don’t see it up on the board, go for it! You deserve to shine.

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3. Check out the makerspace table. Meredith Martin (@geekyteach) will be showing all how taking simplistic parts and turning it into an arena of learning. It’s fun, it’s super cheap to pull off in any space, and you learn all about how tinkering invigorates the mind.

4. Eat some free pizza with new people and strike up a conversation. With so many people bringing something awesome to the table, why not gain new insight and make new friends at the same time?

image credit: Tyler Varsell

image credit: Tyler Varsell

5. Stick it out to the end and leave with an arsenal of resources. In addition to learning a hideous amount at the smack down, you can win a bunch of cool stuff. AND – you can get some high-fives from folks in black polo shirts!

Whatever you end up doing, make it s great day. Grow, learn, and move onward in your educational lives.

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FREE = ME (for schools)

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The GSA Resource Cetner

Free is the favorite F word in education. For real!

The Government Services Administration sent an email out about a month ago stating one of their distribution centers would be closing at the end of the year. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the GSA, they are / were the staples / office max / amazon for the government. From toilet paper to pens, if you needed, you contacted the GSA, and they shipped the supplies out from either the NJ location or the CA location. The NJ distribution center housed approximately 88 million dollars worth of merchandise for our federal government offices and military branches, ranging from dog food for canine MPs to toothpicks.

The GSA notified all federal branches of the liquidation, and they had first dibs on the surplus. Afterwards, under the Constitution, public schools are entitled to any excess. You would think there would be nothing left, but the amount left was staggering.

For my District, I acquired seven pallets of items, with a retail value around $11,000.00 Everything from toner cartridges for library printers to pillows & sheets for the Nurse’s office. Chairs, office supplies, new flags, janitorial supplies… you name it, we acquired it. It was like the Mall at 4AM on Black Friday, only with men running around in silence tagging items.

We are truly appreciative to be given this opportunity. I would hope all leaders keeps their ears to the ground then such great opportunities happen. Spread the word too – telling others about opportunities such as this will give you brownie points for life.

Onward.

#ThankYouGSA

On A Slow Boat to China

I’m a huge jazz and big band fan.  One of the people I wish I could have seen and met: Ella Fitzgerald. One of my favorite albums compilations is “Twelve Nights in Hollywood”

China has been on my mind as of late.  For the wrong reasons.

Over the summer, I received an email for an offer to go to China as a part of a learning opportunity with the goal of hopefully infusing some type of Chinese program or at least starting the conversation of exploring ways to infuse the Chinese culture in my District.  The trip was all inclusive, minus $600.00 for airfare.  Pretty cool. I applied and was accepted.  I then began looking at my calendar, and because of all of the conferences and Superintendent duties I have in October, I decided it wasn’t the best time for me to go.  I offered the trip to a someone else, a teacher who typically would not get an offering such as this.  The teacher has no affiliation with my District, but since I applied and was accepted to go, I thought perhaps I could be ‘represented’ and come back with some pertinent information. I even wrote an email saying how wonderful the person is and how they could represent me, etc.  The person was accepted and went.

I’m not one for thank-you’s or praise, but wouldn’t you think some kind of acknowledgement or thank you would be appropriate? Regardless if the person is public or private, I  thought some kind of thank you would have been nice.  Instead, the person lied and said it was a program offered from a university and made no mentioning on how they discovered it.   Is the person that ashamed to say they got hooked up to others? People, especially connected educators, hook each other up all of the time. Yea, it was a trip offered to administrators (not even teachers); yea, it was mostly paid for by a college, but let’s be real here – the person wouldn’t have gone, let alone even known about it had I not mentioned it. Maybe many of my fellow Superintendents and I are being too persnickety about this, but this wasn’t just some dinner, domestic trip, or putting in a good word.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip! Telling everyone that you got it through a college and not telling everyone how you really  got to go is, well, kinda shady. I’m not looking for a huge thank-you; just honesty.  When it comes back to you through the grapevine, you expect to really hear how they got the offer, not some fabrication.

The saddest part? The person is normally a genuine, thoughtful person.  Upon return from another educational trip, a thank you letter was shared via social media and the person even set up a Twitter account for them on the same day to acknowledge appreciation, support, and thankfulness for being a great leader. That’s the epitome of thankfulness. You would think a China trip that will have life-long ramifications would bring some kind of acknowledgement.

I was taught to say thank you when people do things for you.  As a Superintendent, I say thank you multiple times a day, and once a month, I thank a myriad of stakeholders at each meeting for all of the wonderful contributions.  I’ll even thank a person for opening and closing the door, because that’s the right thing to do. Personally, I don’t think I can say thank you enough to my amazing staff and everything they do.

So, with all that, I hope the person has enjoyed China. I hope lessons have been learned, and I hope that perhaps some Chinese culture, specifically the virtue of gratitude, has rubbed off on them as well.

Oh, and you’re welcome :-)

Onward.

Don’t be “That Guy” and rain on a parade!

I’ll be the first to admit it — I can certainly be “that guy” sometimes.  You know, “that guy” who knows everything (I was a history teacher, so I am a fountain of useless information) and offers his two cents on almost anything.  While normally reserved, I had some friends going to New Orleans for a weekend, and, being “that guy” I made “that list” of things to do and avoid.

They got it – and did what was best – ignored it. Most of it. And for good reason.

Who am I to say go here and go there?  Who am I to say avoid this tourist trap, especially to people who are going for the first time? I’ve been to NOLA over a dozen times, even spending the summer after Katrina down rebuilding houses with Habitat for Humanity in Jefferson Parish. I re-read what I sent them, it it was almost pompous. As an Ex use to text me … “SMH” (shaking my head for us old 35 year olds).

I found out from some organizers of the trip that there was a parade planned, and I quipped, “It’s NOLA – who doesn’t get a parade?” While I wasn’t trying to make the group feel belittled, I sounded like a jerk. I felt like I was raining on their parade.

Granted, my comments didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings… I am just a speck of sand on the beach of life, after all.  But, in the age of reflection, I thought about how this relates to my actions in my leadership role as a Superintendent.  While I like to check titles at the door for the most part (except for that oh-so-important dinner reservation), I am a school Superintendent, and my actions and my words often have echoing ramifications.  They echo even further, thanks to my PLN.

In PLN’s, workshops, observations, interactions, or even public board meetings, we as leaders can’t be “that guy” and push our knowledge down those throats that don’t want it.  Furthermore, we need to be cognizant that what we say and how we act have ramifications.  Opinions needs not to be shared and advice should not be given unless people ask for it. Coming off doling scads of facts does nothing but make you look arrogant.

It’s hard for me sometimes to differentiate in between being helpful and giving advice or opinion when not asked for & being ‘that guy’.

Lesson learned, I hope. If not – call me out on it, please.

Onward.

140 characters = $15,000

I know, I am preaching to the choir, but tell me again that Twitter isn’t effective for educators?!?

A few weeks ago, I had a problem.  Back in June, I ordered a new reading series from a national company.  The order was for around $50,000.  While we were patient though July and mid-August, teachers were getting panicked being that we had no new reading materials for this fall.  I also given the go-ahead to discard previous materials.

The first week of school comes around, and we still don’t have our reading materials.  My BA and purchasing staff made numerous phone calls to no avail.  We finally made a breakthrough, and found out that the entire order was sitting in a shipping warehouse amid a label error and was on its way.  We received the items the following Friday, two weeks into the school year.

Upon unpacking the order, we found out that what was shipped and what was ordered was way off.  WAY off.  We came up with a missing list and called the company.  And called again. And again. And again. We were getting nowhere for weeks, and my teachers and students did not have the proper tools to implement their program.

Then the lightbulb went off.

In a mere 140 characters, taking around 30 seconds, I tweeted this:

Within 40 minutes, I got this:

I was put in touch with one of the regional vice presidents of the company. We spoke on the phone and pinpointed what was missing form our order.  It was also followed up with multiple apologies, an offering of in-person professional development, and a partial refund.

All of this was accomplished through the publishing of 140 characters.

A couple days later, when everything was finalized, this happened:

So, let the uneducated keep telling us that Twitter is a giant educator love-fest laced with unicorns, puppies, and rainbows. Those will be the same folks who will be sitting on the phone for hours, not getting anything done.

Onward.

I finally made a Symbaloo!

Symbaloo is a visual bookmarking tool that makes it simple and fun to organize the best of the web. You have all your favorite websites at your fingertips. With an account you can access your bookmarks from everywhere with any device and share your online resources with others.
Create your personal startpage for your District / School / Classes and connect your social media, read RSS feeds.  Mine below has all of my resources I use daily:

https://www.symbaloo.com/embed/21stcenturysupts?