An Honest Posting

A century ago, an explorer named Shackleton set out to explore the continent of Antarctica. The team would brave some of the harshest conditions on the planet and face insurmountable odds to survive. After their ship was crushed by the surrounding ice, the crew was stranded on a barren, frozen island. Shackleton mounted a rescue mission by using a lifeboat to sail over 800 miles to a whaling post to get help for his stranded crew. After months of brutal conditions the crew was eventually rescued without the loss of one single life. How was the crew able to survive and work together in such harsh conditions? Perhaps it was the ability of Shackleton to pull together a team of resilient thrill seekers through his non-traditional and honest posting for the crew:

“Men wanted for Hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”

This posting help assure Shackleton that all the men who answered his call would not only be willing to endure hardships, they would thrive on them. His honesty helped him create a team that would not panic during difficulties, but would support one another and strive toward success in the face of danger. This got me thinking of what a realistic posting for educators would look like. My first thought was something like this:

“Brave men and women wanted for difficult job. No opportunities for fame or fortune. Constant struggles and public scrutiny. Will make a difference in the lives of children and help shape the future if successful.”

I’ve often said that being an educator is a calling. No one goes into teaching for the money and those who stay are driven by a desire to help others. It can be grueling, frustrating, and stressful, but it is worth every struggle when we see the smile on a student’s face. I’m not one for sugarcoating education. Yes, I love my job and couldn’t dream of doing anything else, but it’s not for everyone. It’s for those with big hearts, tough skin, and open minds. What would your honest posting for education look like?



“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.” – Ernest Shackleton

“Never interupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” – Amelia Earhart

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.” – Daniel Boone

Books worth Reading

Arina Bokas


  • Monday, February 19: No School for President’s Day
  • Tuesday, February 20: Achievement Team/REED for KP (Kurtjian) 8:15 AM, iReady & Illuminate Window Closes
  • Wednesday, February 21: Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM, Founder’s Day Banquet at Schoolcraft-Doors open at 5:30 Dinner at 6:00 PM
  • Thursday, February 22: Short Staff Meeting at 8:30 in LMC to discuss Mileage Club  (Jon, Kristen, Nan, Katie, Shayna to iReady training at Hayes) 8:30-11:30 AM, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM


  • Monday, February 26: Student of the Month Assembly 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, February 27: Achievement Team 8:15 AM, Parent Meeting (Williams) 2:30 PM, District School Improvement 5:30-7:30 PM
  • Wednesday, February 28: Students dismissed at 12:10 PM / Building PD 1:00-4:00 PM
  • Thursday, March 1: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM, Mileage Club begins!
  • Friday, March 2: Jon in Lansing for MEMSPA Board Meeting


  • Wednesday, March 7: Kindergarten Parent Information Night 6:00 PM
  • Thursday, March 8: Tornado Drill 3:30 PM
  • Friday, March 9: Students dismissed at 12:10 PM / Teacher Work Day in building 1:00-4:00 PM
  • Saturday, March 10: PTA Pancake Breakfast and Book Fair Kick Off 9:00-12:00
  • Week of March 12: Scholastic Book Fair in the East Commons
  • Thursday, March 15: CLT 7:50-8:50 AM
  • Thursday, March 22: Battle of the Books! (Lunch in Classrooms), PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
  • Tuesday, March 27: Wild About Reading All School Assembly 1:30-2:30 PM
  • Friday, March 30: No School – Spring Break Begins!


Technology vs Innovation

Recently, I was flipping through the channels and I came across one of my favorite childhood movies, TRON. Now when Disney released this movie in 1982, it was groundbreaking with its special effects and computer animation. Watching it now, it looked cartoonish and the computer animation was more simple than spectacular. For me, it still held some magic from my nostalgia, but for my daughters watching it, they couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. It was a great example of what is cutting edge for one generation, becomes childish and simple for the next, due to the constant improvements in technology.  However, even though the technology was no longer jaw dropping, the innovation involved in the making of the film remained impressive.

In the classroom, we are constantly utilizing the latest technology for our students. I still remember the arrival of a laser disc player at my high school and hearing how it would revolutionize learning. Today, many schools have one to one devices for students or allow students to bring their own devices for learning activities. As author George Couros points out, the technology that your students have today is the worst level of technology they will ever know.  When we think of technology like that, it can feel defeating as we try to keep up with the latest technology. Luckily for us, it’s not about the technology we use, it’s about the innovation we use. If we are replacing paper worksheets with electronic worksheets, we are simply swapping out one form of busy work with another. If we use technology to connect students, provide them with new tools to research, and offer new ways to demonstrate their knowledge, then we are giving students voice and choice and moving from engagement to empowerment.

One thing is certain, the technology our students have access to will continue to improve and advance. As educators, we need to focus more on being innovative with our tools and less on what tools we are using. The special effects from TRON may have faded into mediocrity, but the innovation that went into creating it continues to be a model for movie makers today. The tools you use with your students may be outdated in the future, but the innovation you use when designing lessons and activities will continue to motivate them as they become life-long learners. Always remember, it’s about the innovation and not the technology!



“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” – Brene Brown

“Art begins in imitation and ends in innovation.” – Mason Cooley




  • Monday, February 12: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, February 13: IEP (Kaufman) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, February 14: Happy Valentine’s Day!!
  • Thursday, February 15: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM (Presentation by Jen Cory), Jon to ABC Negotiations 1:00 PM
  • Friday, February 16: Lock Down at 10:00 AM, Celebration of 100th Day of School, iReady Testing Ends


  • Monday, February 19: No School for President’s Day
  • Tuesday, February 20: Achievement Team 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, February 21: Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM, Founders Day Banquet– Doors Open at 5:30, dinner starts at 6:00 PM
  • Thursday, February 22: No Staff Meeting, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM


  • Monday, February 26: Student of the Month Assembly (Integrity) 9:05 AM
  • Wednesday, February 28: Students dismissed at 12:10 PM, Building PD 1:00-4:00 PM
  • Wednesday, March 7: Kindergarten Parent Information Night 6:00 – 7:00 PM
  • Thursday, March 8: Tornado Drill 3:30 PM
  • Friday, March 9: Students dismissed at 12:10 PM / Teacher Work Day in Building
  • Saturday, March 10: Pancakes with PTA (Kick off to Book Fair) 9:00-12:00
  • Week of March 12: Scholastic Book Fair in the East Commons
  • Tuesday, March 13: Grades due in by midnight
  • Friday, March 16: Report Cards go home
  • Thursday, March 22: Battle of the Books! (lunch in classrooms)
  • Tuesday, March 27: Wild About Books Assembly 1:30-2:30 PM All School
  • Friday, March 30: No School – Spring Break Begins!
Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios


Evaluations: For many educators, the word elicits feelings of tension, foreboding and even dread. Even those who have had positive experiences with evaluations can feel a sense of anxiety when going through the process. The sad thing about all these negative connotations is that evaluations are meant to help people improve, reach their goals, and spark authentic and productive conversations. So where have we gone wrong?

To begin with, I believe we (educators) have misused the evaluation process. Instead of creating a system that focuses on the positives and assumes best intentions, we have often used evaluations as a tool to target poor behaviors and document the need for teacher removal when necessary. It’s a completely upside down system that doesn’t help struggling teachers and makes great teachers feel mediocre. I don’t believe the problem lies with the various tools used for evaluations, but rather how they are implemented. Having identified the problem, here are some of my thoughts for solutions.

Assume Best Intentions: I believe with all my heart that teachers want to be great. They went into this profession to make a positive difference. They may be struggling due to a lack of skill in a particular area or they may be feeling burned out or not valued. These are not bad educators, they are good educators waiting for help or motivation. What if evaluations helped address areas of need AND offered plans for support and guidance?

Get Into The Classrooms: I really don’t care for the traditional “dog and pony show” evaluation model, where a teacher submits a plan, showcases a lesson, and is done for the year. Research shows that the average teachers facilitates 900 lessons a year and we are basing observations on 3 or 4 visits? While I do feel that there needs to be documented visits into the classrooms, I believe that the key is being in rooms often. Even walkthroughs are beneficial to get a feel for the room atmosphere and see how routines are handles as well as catching glimpses of innovation and if students are engaged and empowered.

Ask Don’t Tell: We are moving away from the classroom model where the teacher talks and the students listen. Instead, teachers are becoming facilitators of discussion by asking quality open-ended questions designed to help students develop higher order thinking skills. We need to do the same with evaluations. Instead of telling teachers what they should be doing, we need to ask better questions! What are you really good at? What skills do you want to develop? What would you differently if you repeated that lesson? How can I support you in your role? In the evaluation discussion, the teacher should be doing most of the talking.

As educators, we know that evaluations are a part of what we do. However, how we use them is up to us. I support using evaluations to build up rather than tear down, to celebrate rather than penalize, and to help improve rather than a means to remove. We all have room to grow and we need effective feedback, quality questions, and ongoing support to reach our best potential. Let’s stop using evaluations as a heavy stick and start using them as they were intended…a means to grow!

Outstanding Evaluation


“In evaluating ourselves, we tend to be long on our weaknesses and short on our strengths.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Evaluate and assess your life on a daily basis.” – Sunday Adelaja

“For teachers, as for students, the most effective evaluation comes from someone who sits beside us and helps us grow.” – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Books worth Reading

      Simon Sinek


  • Monday, February 5: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, PTA Board 2:30 PM
  • Tuesday, February 6: Achievement Team for R.M. (Pisko & Banter) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, February 7: Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, February 8: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50-8:50 AM


  • Monday, February 12: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, February 13: IEP (Kaufman) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, February 14: HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!
  • Thursday, February 15: Staff Meeting (Led by Jen Cory) 8:05 AM, Jon to ABC Negotiations 1:00 PM
  • Friday, February 16: Lock Down 10:00 AM, 100th Day Celebration, iReady Testing Window Closes


  • Monday, February 19: No School for President’s Day!

Leadership Lessons from Led Zeppelin

Even if you aren’t a fan of Led Zeppelin, you have to admit they are one of the most enduring rock bands of all time. From the unique voice and folksy style of Robert Plant to the Bluesy guitar rifts of Jimmy Page, the bass rhythm of John Paul Jones to the crashing cymbals and drums of John Bonham, the band was a conglomeration of talent and seemingly incompatible styles. Legend has it that Keith Moon, the drummer from the rock back, The Who, gave the band it’s name when he joked that the band would go over like a Lead Zeppelin (or blimp).

In truth, the band was not an instant success. Here are some excerpts from Rolling Stone magazine when they reviewed their debut album: Jimmy Page is “a very limited producer and a writer of weak, unimaginative songs“. Robert Plant’s singing was described as “strained and unconvincing shouting” and his stage presence as “foppish as Rod Steward, but nowhere near so exciting“. I’m not sure what foppish is, but you get the gist. Despite the critics, the band created a style of music all their own and through an outpouring of creativity in the studio and in concerts, they reached the status of music legends. Fifty years after they were written, their songs are still played throughout the world from high school dances to soundtracks for movies. Having recently revisited the music of Led Zeppelin, here are some of the lessons that stood out to me:

Be true to yourself: If they had listened to the critics and the logic of the day, they would have probably “blended” their talents a little more. In many of their songs, their is no lead to follow. Robert Plant is singing in his high pitched wail that only he can do, Jimmy Page is alternating from classical guitar to hard rocking jams, and John Bonham’s drums are pounding away like a jackhammer. Everyone is focused on their part and yet, it all works together. It’s a level of synergy that most groups never achieve.

Be original: As stated before, I would be hard pressed to label their style of music. Read any review of their work and it is almost always is a blend of various music styles and compositions. Blues and Heavy Metal, Folk and Classical, whimsical and profound. It’s all over the place and just like the creators, very unique.

Be brave: I shared one bad review from Rolling Stone magazine, but there were many! Keith Moon was right in his prediction of the Lead Zeppelin effect. Bad reviews and controlling record companies didn’t detour them from following their creative vision for the band. In fact, in an effort to make things a little difficult for the record companies and music reviewers, they decided not to name their fourth album. It’s usually referred to as Led Zeppelin 4, but like the Beatles had done several years before with the “White Albums” they never bestowed a name on what would become to many, their greatest album.

Now I’m not saying that being true to yourself, being original, and being brave will assure that you succeed in making your dreams a reality. But I can assure you that not doing these things will keep you from greatness and worse yet, keep you from reaching your dreams. So if you need some inspiration to be a little different, do what I do and put on some Led Zeppelin!




“Led Zeppelin was an affair of the heart. Each of the members were important to the sum total of what we were.” – Jimmy Page

“I would like to find a way to embrace what Led Zeppelin did, in film making.” – Nicholas Cage

“Led Zeppelin isn’t done yet, because every year since 1968 there’s been new fans.” 



  • Monday, January 29: Student of the Month Assembly (Confidence) 9:05 AM, iReady Window Opens
  • Tuesday, January 30: REED for MB (Ringler) 8:15 AM, REED for homebound student 9:30 AM
  • Wednesday, January 31: Jon out in AM for Leadership Presentation in Detroit
  • Thursday, February 1: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM (Katie Taylor presenting on Differentiated Instruction) Emily A. (first grade student) will be “Principal for the Day” & help me with my duties throughout the day!
  • Friday, February 2: VIP Dance at Riley Upper Elementary 6:30-8:30 PM


  • Monday, February 5: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, PTA Board Meeting 2:30 PM
  • Tuesday, February 6: Achievement Team Meeting 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, February 7: Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, February 8: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50-8:50 AM


Who’s Packing Your Parachute?

Last year at the annual MEMSPA (Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association) conference, Paul Liabenow, the executive director, shared the following story. I don’t think there is anything I can add to the story to make it better, so I will just share the story as is. I hope it’s as powerful for you as it was for me.

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane as destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“ I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”

Plumb thought of the man hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?” Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory-he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called
on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.

As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachute.




“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Teddy Roosevelt

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” – Ronald Reagan

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot





  • Monday, January 22: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, Skate Night at Riverside Arena 6:00-8:00 PM, Dave & Busters Dine Out 5:00-8:00 PM
  • Tuesday, January 23: IEP (Trantham) 8:15 AM, Achievement Team Meeting (Kaufman) 10:00 AM, District OSS Meeting 1:00-4:00 PM
  • Wednesday, January 24: Battle of the Books Committee Meeting to create teams 8:20 AM, Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, January 25: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM (Kristen presenting on RAZ Kids), All students participating in Battle of the Books meet in gym to choose T-Shirt colors 2:35 PM, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
  • Friday, January 26: Kindergarten Team Meeting with Jon & Sydnie 8:30 AM


  • Monday, January 29: Student of the Month Assembly (Confidence) 9:05 AM, iReady Window opens for K-6
  • Tuesday, January 30: REED (Ringler) 8:15 AM, REED (Homebound Student) 9:30 AM
  • Thursday, February 1: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM (Katie presenting on differentiated instruction)
  • Friday, February 2: VIP Dance at Riley Upper Elementary 6:30-8:30 PM

Principals Playlist

This week, I have the privilege to lead the twitter chat for the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association (#MEMSPAchat). Inspired by my friend Allyson Apsey, who chose to create a playlist for 2018 instead of making resolutions or choosing One Word, I decided to focus our chat on creating a playlist to help keep educators motivated during different situations throughout the year. Here is the list of my questions for the chat with my selected songs.

What is your theme song for 2018? Since my #OneWord for 2018 is Patience, it made sense to select the song “Patience” by Guns and Roses. It will be my reminder to slow down and make time for myself and for those around me.

What is your song for Risk Taking?Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA will be my risk taking soundtrack this year.

What is your song for dealing with failures? It’s an oldie, but the message is still relevant today. “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder.

What is your song for motivating yourself and others? My motivation song is the theme song for Rocky. The song doesn’t have any words, but the title of “Gonna Fly Now” sums up the energy the song radiates!

What is your song for dealing with difficult people or situations?  No song list is complete without at least one entry from The Beatles. Paul gives us the memorable words of wisdom, “Let It Be“. We can’t always fix things, but there will always be an answer and sometimes it’s just to carry on. This song will be my reminder of that.

What is your song for Gratitude? A classic song by a classic band. “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin will be my reminder to show gratitude to those around me.

What is your song for your students and/or staff? Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. I want all students and staff to truly believe they can accomplish anything they set their minds to and are willing to work for and that I will be there to support them and believe in them!

What is your theme song for MEMSPA? Since I have so many friends in this organization that make me feel supported and inspired, I chose the song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Randy Newman.

I’m looking forward to hearing from educators across the state and around the country  to find out what songs will be their motivation for the new year. What songs will inspire YOU this year and lift you up during the rough times and keep you on track through every situation?



“Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Andersen

“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” – Lao Tzu

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” – Ludwig van Beethoven


  • Monday, January 15: No School for MLK Jr. Day!
  • Tuesday, January 16: IEP (Trantham) 8:15 AM, All Administrative Meeting 3:00 PM
  • Thursday, January 18: Building PD (EPIC presented by Nan / MEL presented by Heather) 7:50-8:50 PM, Jon to ABC negotiations 1:30 PM
  • Friday, January 19: School Improvement Committee meeting 8:15 AM


  • Monday, January 22: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, Skate Night at Riverside Arena 6:00-800 PM
  • Tuesday, January 23: IEP (Trantham) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, January 24: Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM, PTSA 6:00 PM
  • Thursday, January 25: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM (RAZ Kids presented by Kristen), PTA Meeting 7:00 PM



One Word: Patience

For the past several years, I have followed the lead of many great educators from across the nation and given up resolutions and instead used #OneWord to narrow my focus and guide my actions for the upcoming year. I’ve used words like Inspiration, Gratitude, and Kindness as my targets for each new year. While all of these words are powerful and something that I continue to strive toward, they all have one thing in common. In some way, shape, or form, I have been doing them or am very comfortable with them. They are part of who I try to be and feel natural. This year, I decided to pick a word that I am not good at and that does NOT come naturally to me. In fact, it’s something that I fail daily at and so has become my focus for 2018…Patience!

Those who know me best, know that I am not a patient person, especially with myself. I like things done quickly and efficiently and I’m terrible at waiting. I often set goals for myself and then struggle when I don’t achieve them as quickly as I would like. I want to fix problems at home and at school and not give the time to just listen and empower others to come up with solutions. I like to “walk and talk” and check things off my list at the end of the day. I constantly check my phone to see what new messages are there and try to respond immediately to every request, question, or comment. I have a hard time shutting down my brain after work, because I’m thinking of what needs to be done the following day. I could go on and on about my shortcomings, but I think you get the idea that patience is something that I truly struggle with.

Part of the problem with Patience is that I have often been rewarded for not having it! Moving a mile a minute, always being available, “fixing” issues, are the things that helped promote me from participant to facilitator, from teacher to principal, from MEMSPA member to Board Member. Unfortunately, the lack of patience ultimately ends up being self-defeating. Nothing is ever quick enough or good enough and the art of just listening and being present is pushed aside.

Not this year! In 2018, I will try to relax more, listen more, and let go more. Not everything needs to be fixed and I certainly don’t need to do all the fixing. Instead of “walking and talking” I want to tell people to come back and sit with me when we are both free so we can have an actual discussion. I want to power down my phone and empower my staff. I want to stop checking off lists and start checking in more with my family. I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist. I know I will fail at this goal many times this year, but I will keep my focus on my word word and make sure to keep trying and show myself plenty of Patience!



“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy

Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” – Joyce Meyer

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Books worth Reading





                     Jimmy Casas






  • Monday, January 8: Celebrate Monday Assembly (Confidence) 9:05 AM, Battle of the Books Informational Meeting for Grades 3/4 immediately following the assembly.
  • Tuesday, January 9: Achievement Team REED (Kaufman) 8:15 AM, DATA DIVE MEETINGS in the Conference Room to discuss Intervention Blocks & Progress Monitoring
  • Wednesday, January 10: Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM, PTA Board Meeting 2:30 PM in Conference Room
  • Thursday, January 11: Staff Meeting at 8:05 AM with Cindy Scott & Phil Francis
  • Friday, January 12: IRIPs go home with Progress Monitoring Updates


  • Monday, January 15: No School for MLK Jr. Day!
  • Tuesday, January 16: IEP for LJ (Trantham) 8:15 AM
  • Thursday, January 18: Building PD 7:50-8:50 AM (bring your yellow card), Jon to ABC Negotiations at 1:30 PM