Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy Birthday! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in systems that people had that helped them get their "stuff" done--or what kept them from getting their stuff done. I have been in education for over 20 years, and am currently a school principal. During my career, I have managed to put together some a system and some strategies that I believe not only work for me, but can work for anyone who is interested in being more organized, experiencing less stress, and managing the limited amount of time available to us. Please visit often and enjoy.

That is what I wrote five years ago today. That was the very first post. Almost 450 posts later, it's still here, and the posts are more regular than they have ever been. During that time, this blog has explored many aspects of organization and time management. It has inspired the creation of blogs at every single school in my former school system. Through workshops on blogging, many others have created their own and are able to share their voices with the whole world, or at least the little corner of the world which chooses to tune in. In a post called Of Givers and Takers, I shared my own thoughts on the "whys" of blogging.

I have learned a great deal along the way. I have met some great folks in cyberspace and gained from their ideas. I hope they have gained from mine.

Thanks for stopping by. Whether this is your first visit or whether you are a regular, you are always welcome. I will do everything I can to make it worth your while.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The "Monet of Glass"

Almost a year ago, I posted this article and pictures about the work of my long-time friend Lisa Mote. Verge magazine is a publication originating in Augusta, Georgia. The cover of the August edition features Lisa's work. Her bio and a picture are included in the magazine.

The article states that she could be the "Monet of glass." I do not disagree. Among Lisa's accomplishments was being featured on HGTV in 2007.

How does a post about stained glass fit in a blog devoted to organization and time management? Three points come to mind:
  1. Lisa graduated from college in three years with a double major. Her work ethic was extremely strong since the time she was a teenager. It's that sort of work ethic we need now more than ever in our schools and in the work place.
  2. Over the last year or so, Lisa and I have exchanged e-mails about the vision for our respective futures. The focusing of vision that she talked about would cause most corporate executives to sit up and take notice.
  3. As we move through our busy lives, we cannot afford to ignore the beauty around us. It adds to the meaning and enjoyment of life.
You can see more of Lisa's work at

I have written often about the importance of the arts in our schools. If we are going to thrive in a global society, we are going to have to do more than produce students who can bubble correct answers on multiple-choice tests. Is there anyone out there that wants to comment on how their own experiences in the arts in school helped them in their adult life?

I study war and politics in order that my children may study science and mathematics, in order that their children may study art and music.

- John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lesson Plan--Cell Phones in the Classroom

The last several posts have centered around the potential positive impacts of cell phone use in the curriculum. Beth Glasgow is a resource teacher for Shelby County (Alabama) Schools and known for innovative uses of technology. She sent me this lesson plan which is right on point with the topic of these last several posts.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?

You must read the previous three posts for this one to make any sense, so if you have missed the last several installments of this blog, please take a moment to read those posts and then return to this one.

In Saturday's post, I spoke of three questions related to the use of technology that I asked of 614 Alabama principals in 1997. Those questions and the results are as follows:

Do you personally use:
  1. Voice mail? 15% Yes 85% No
  2. E-mail? 29% Yes 71% No
  3. Word processing program? 75% Yes 25% No
Today, the use of all three is practically universal, and the changes have occurred within 12 years. My question is, "What changes in the use of smart phones are we likely to see in the next decade?"

My next question is, "As the use of smart phones as productivity tools rises among teachers and administrators, are we likely to see a different attitude towards student use of smart phones?"

We have a choice:
  1. Hang on to the policies of the past.
  2. Look into the future and shape policies that will help our students meet the demands of a changing world.
As a starting point, I would strongly suggest reading the accounts of a teacher who understands the potential. The blog post by Vicki Davis can be found here.

P.S. Thanks to Dr. Henry Clark for causing me to ask the questions 12 years ago which seemed so insignificant at the time. The contrast between then and now gives us some idea of the change we can expect over the next decade.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Kids Than Teachers Own Smart Phones

The August issue of T.H.E. Journal contains statistics on smart phone ownership. Their findings include:
  • Teachers report less ownership of smart phones than both high school and middle school students. (High school was 28%, middle school 24%, and teachers 20%.)
  • Smart phone ownership among students in kindergarten through second grade is nearly equal to that of teachers.
  • Principals lead the pack with 30% ownership. But, if 30% have a smart phone, that means 70% do not.
To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Is there a relationship between these figures and the debate discussed in the last two posts? If the percentage of teachers and principals who own smart phones was higher, would we be taking a different attitude and a different approach towards student use of these handheld devices?

In 1997, I completed my dissertation, A Study of Time Management Practices of Alabama Principals. I sent surveys to 614 Alabama principals concerning their use of some 50 different time management practices. The return rate was over 70%!

At the suggestion of my mentor, Dr. Henry Clark (who I was fortunate enough to have as a member of my dissertation committee), three questions related to the use of technology were added to the survey:

Do you personally use:
  1. Voice mail?
  2. E-mail?
  3. Word processing program?

In this coming Monday's post, I will share the results for those three questions and the implications I feel they hold as we look a decade into the future.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cell Phones in Schools

Dave Sherman responded to my last post and asked my opinion. Rather than try to summarize it in a comment, I am devoting this post to it.

As Dave said in his comment, this issue is not going to go away. Cell phones are a part of our culture. Ten years ago, it was easy enough to say, "No cell phones for teachers." Try that today and see what happens. Schools spend inordinate amounts of time with policies to try and ban cell phones. Kids always find ways to get around them. Kids go the restroom and cell phones come out, as just on example.

I think the key is not banning the cell phones, but eliminating the interruptions that they can provide.(That would not be a bad idea for adults, either.) As Vicki said in her article, inappropriate use of a cell phone places it in "detention" for a week. To me, that seems a consequence that is reasonable, rational, and is not going to cause headache and heartache for the teacher.

The big picture to me, however, is not the distraction. It's the opportunity either seized upon or lost to teach kids how to use a common tool in a productive way. That's why I thinking reading Vicki's article is a must. It sheds a whole new light on what is possible for kids now. We are trying to teach them how to function in the 21st century, and we are going to have to use 21st century tools to do it.

As a next step, I am not saying everyone should allow students to use cell phones anytime, anywhere, or however they like. What I am saying is that as a next step, read Vicki's article. In light of her thoughts and the thoughts of others like her, begin the discussion of what is going to best help our students to be productive in the 21st century. Right now, it looks like using cell phones as a productivity tool is a pretty good component.

Cell Phones in Schools

Mention "cell phone" and "school" in the same sentence while in a room full of principals, and you get the same effect as fingernails on a chalkboard. The harder we try to devise ways to keep cell phones out of schools, the more ways kids find to bring them in. I don't think that one is likely to change.

Do cell phones have a place in schools? The quick answer for many is "no." After all, why do kids need to make phone calls while in school? And we all know that making a phone call is all a cell phone can do, right?

Vicki Davis is noted nationally for her creative work in technology education. This post from her blog is a must-read. She realizes that kids are going to have cell phones and makes the choice to teach them how to use them as productivity tools.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Managing School the Easy Way (Part V) Get Everything Ready the Night Before - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more Forgotten items, missed school buses, and frazzled nerves can so often be traced back to one simple problem—assuming Rome can be built between the time the alarm clock goes off and the school bus pulls up. Morning is a terrible time to do that last bit of homework, finish that poster, or get those papers signed. Without fail, that book we just knew was on the coffee table is nowhere to be found and it’s already time to pull out of the driveway. Get it all ready the night before and mornings become more peaceful.

Students can make the decision on what they will wear the next day and have it already laid out. They can pack the book bag before going to bed. They can gather anything else going to school and place it beside the book bag. In the morning, leaving the house is a simple matter of grabbing the book bag and whatever is around it, and heading out the door.
Therefore, the fifth step towards managing school the easy way is to get everything ready the night before.

I hope you have enjoyed this “Managing School the Easy Way” series. A little organization can go a long way towards making school (and life) more stress-free and enjoyable!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Managing School the Easy Way (Part IV) Learn to Deal With Papers - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more So much of the information exchanged between the home and the school happen through written communication. Report cards, weekly folders, notes from teachers, field trip permission forms, and newsletters are examples of information which comes via paper. Some students seem to have no problem getting papers home and back on time. Other students never seem to be able to get anything home. Papers get wadded up in pockets, stuck inside textbooks or notebooks, or placed inside desks. By the time the student gets home, where to find that paper is anybody’s guess (assuming she remembers she had a paper to delivery at all)! Having a simple plan puts an end to a great deal of unnecessary stress.

Students need a place at school to put the papers for Mom or Dad and put them there every time. Some classes may have a special folder which goes home each night. If not, sliding the papers in the planner right at this week’s page will work. When the student opens the planner at home, he is looking right at the papers, an instant reminder that they need to be handed off to Mom or Dad.

Students need a spot at home where papers for Mom or Dad will go. The last thing a parent needs when getting home from a busy day at work is to have a fistful of papers shoved at him. Nor does she need to go on a safari through the home looking for papers which may have been scattered in the most unlikely of places. Conducting an excavation inside a book bag is no fun either. Children don’t have it any easier. They don’t always know when parents are ready to focus on papers from school. Having one spot to put everything for Mom or Dad’s review at their convenience makes life easier for all concerned.

Therefore, the fourth step towards managing school the easy way is to learn to deal with papers

Friday, August 14, 2009

Managing School the Easy Way (Part III) Empty the Bookbag Every Night - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more For some students, the book bag is a big black hole into which papers go and are never seen again. When the student finally cleans out the book bag in May, one can only imagine what lurks at the bottom. That permission slip he never could find, the homework paper she was sure she did, and that half-eaten banana are among the treasures awaiting you at the bottom of the bag.

When you get home, empty your book bag totally. After all, everything in there is something you thought you would need when you got home. Put it in a pile and start working through it. If you brought home the math book in order to do your math assignment, go ahead and get the assignment knocked out. The math book can then go back in the bag. If you have papers for your parents, go ahead and move those papers to a spot you and your parents agree is a good place for papers which need their attention. We will talk more about this point next time.

The problem so many students face is that they put things in the bookbag which do not necessarily need to be taken home. They load the book bag down with every book in their desks whether they need them at home or not. Emptying the book bag and then handling every item in the pile quickly identifies anything which has gotten a free ride home.

Therefore, the third step towards managing school the easy way is to empty the book bag totally every night.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Welcome to "Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less"

This post is written for those attending "Your Own Blog in 10 Minutes or Less" sponsored by the University of Montevallo Regional In-Service Center.

These are the sample blog that we will view:
The site we will use to create customized title banners and other images is

For instructions on how to to remove the Blogger navigation bar, click here.

Do you know of other examples that would benefit teachers who are interested in using a blog in their classes? If you do, please leave a comment.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Managing School the Easy Way (Part II) Break Big Projects Down into Little Parts.

As adults, we remember fondly the English teacher who assigned the term paper (due 2 months hence), and then said, “I want you to turn in your topic this Friday, and outline the next Friday, a dozen note cards the next Friday...” That teacher knew that left to our own devices, we would put off the seemingly overwhelming task until the last minute and then throw something together. She made us break the big job into manageable parts. What are the big projects for our students? Perhaps making the Accelerated Reader “100 Club,” earning the badge in scouting, or making a sports team are a student’s goals. For each one, there is a very next step. When the little steps are defined and handled, the big projects fall into place.

A student planner is the perfect tool for project planning. Begin by turning to the date the big project is due. Put that due date in the planner. Now start working backwards from that date. Assign a date for each step along the way and write in the appropriate square in the planner. Before you know it, you will have working your way to the beginning of the project and have deadline for taking that first step. As the old saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Therefore, the second step towards managing school the easy way is to break big projects down into little parts.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Managing School the Easy Way (Part 1)

A number of years ago, I composed an article for a parent newsletter entitled "Managing School the Easy Way" when I was serving as principal at Graham Elementary School. Two years ago, I broke that article down into 5 relatively short posts. Over the next two weeks, I will be re-posting those hints for getting the school year off to a good start and keeping it going.

Managing School the Easy Way (Part I)

Experienced teachers will tell us that school success and intelligence do not always go hand-in-hand. Often, very bright young people don’t remember to do assignments, lose their work, and spend inordinate amounts of time frantically looking for things on a messy desk.

At the same time, other students breeze through school. They seem to make school look easy, but not because they are necessarily smarter than their peers. They have acquired some very easy, very teachable habits. Over the next several weeks, I will share some suggestions which make navigating school much easier.

The first of these tips is to write down the things you have to do as soon as they occur to you. Try to simply remember everything you have to do and you are headed for trouble. Even young people today have many activities on which you must focus your attention—homework, athletic practices, family activities, and chores are just some of the obligations you have. The easy thing to do is let pencil and paper do the remembering. 

Get it on paper and you can get it off your mind! A student planner is the perfect tool for this purpose. The big advantage of using such a book is that all commitments are in one place.

The planner should not just be for school assignments. It can and should be the one place which traps every responsibility you have. As you list athletic games and practices, after-school activities, school projects as well as day-to-day assignments, you begin to see the big picture and can begin to budget your time.

Therefore, the first step towards managing school the easy way is to write down things you have to do as soon as they occur to you.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Google Tools in Comic Form

Google has a great little online comic book which outlines the free tools available. Click here to take a look.

Welcome MEMSPA Participants

If you are visiting here as a result of yesterday's workshop, welcome! I hope you will check back often.

One of the afternoon topics was iGoogle, and I gave you a quick overview of the "gadgets" I have on my iGoogle page. Earlier in the summer, I devoted a post to those gadgets. With a click on each one, you will be taken to the page where you can select it to appear on your iGoogle page.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

MEMSPA 2009 Summer Leadership Institute

Thanks to Bob Howe for inviting me to present at the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association Summer Leadership Institute! I was met at the airport by Rachel Turner, a delightful first-year elementary principal. Talking with her reminds me of the challenges of leadership at the school level, especially the challenges of beginning leadership.

Time management is a challenge for any school leader, and that is the reason for my invitation. We will be conducting a full-day workshop. I have refined some points in the workshop and will going into more detail about the use of the BlackBerry as a time management tool. This should be fun experience for all of us, and I hope that it provides principals with some tools that will increase their productivity and decrease stress for years to come.

Folks must have known I was coming, because at check-in, I was given just-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. In my room was a tin of cookies and a nice note from Bob.

The hospitality is great, as evidenced by this gathering.

The accommodations are first-class, the Double Tree in Bay City.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

And a follow-up...

Dalton Sherman's message from a year ago has inspired a musical. The story appears here.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Do You Believe?

I certainly do...after watching this.

The speaker is Dalton Sherman, who at the time was a 5th grader. The audience consisted of 17,500 teachers and other employees of the Dallas Independent School District as they prepared to begin their school year a year ago.

As school systems around the country crank up again this year, there is no better time than now to review what this young man had to say.

Check back tomorrow for the text of Dalton Sherman's message.