Friday, December 2, 2011

How About Better Parents!

On November 19th Thomas Freidman issued an op-ed article which hit a certain nerve. He was responding to the infinite number of op-ed's that ask the question "What about better teachers?" by asking the question "What about better parents?"

Needless to say from an educator's stand point.... a must read!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Greatest Action Movie Ever!

Ad Council Collaborates with KIDZ BOP & Twentieth Century Fox to Encourage Kids to “Bring Out the Action Hero in You”   

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 6, 2011 In a nationwide effort to combat the childhood obesity epidemic, McCann New York and the Ad Council are launching new public service advertisements (PSA) that promote physical activity and healthy eating among children, ages 6-12. The Greatest Action Movie Ever (G.A.M.E.) campaign was developed in collaboration with KIDZ BOP to encourage kids to “Bring Out The Action Hero in You” with cool moves and supercharged foods. All kids are now invited to become a part of the Action Hero Alliance by auditioning for a role in G.A.M.E., a new original short movie debuting in Spring 2012, by uploading a video to, the leading safe social network for kids and tweens 

“In the battle against childhood obesity, running a traditional TV campaign seems counterintuitive. After all, what good is a commercial if kids end up watching it on the sofa with a bag of chips on their lap?”  said, Jesse Potack, McCann New York Creative Director/Writer.  Added Benjamin Vendramin, Creative Director/Art Director, “Our challenge was how do you get 6-12-year olds up and moving? This idea takes something kids love—action movies—to get them doing something they usually resist—being active and eating right.”

The new television and digital PSAs drive to where educational information and recommendations for healthy eating and physical activities are provided. The website will also contain information about how children can submit their audition videos for G.A.M.E through    

“Despite an increased awareness of the childhood obesity crisis in America, a large number of children and their families are still not making healthy eating and fitness a lifelong priority,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “We are thrilled to collaborate with McCann New York and KIDZ BOP to engage children nationwide to become a part of a healthy movement through G.A.M.E.”

Lights!  Camera!  Action!  KIDZ BOP is holding a nationwide casting call for G.A.M.E. at, inviting kids to audition for an all-new short movie that puts real kids in the action!  Physical activity and eating well are key to the plot and through awesome moves and super charged food, kids can use their ultimate potential to be just like their favorite superheroes. Kids can now audition for the first three scenes, “Join the Alliance,” “Supersonic Hearing” and “High-Speed” Chase” by uploading a short video to The audition videos will be voted on by kids and the winners will receive prizes that promote healthy habits, such as Wii game consoles, bikes and athletic equipment. The best videos will also be selected by a panel of judges and have a starring role in the G.A.M.E. movie. G.A.M.E auditions from now through November 30, 2011 and the short movie will premiere in 2012. will also host special digital PSAs starring the KIDZ BOP Kids, which encourage kids get to moving and make healthier food choices.

“KIDZ BOP is thrilled to partner with McCann New York and the Ad Council to support G.A.M.E. and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative,” said Craig Balsam and Cliff Chenfeld, Co-Founders of KIDZ BOP.  “By enabling kids to create an audtion video and upload it to, kids will not only get an opportunity to have fun and express themselves, they’ll continue learn about the importance of an active lifestyle.” 

A complementary series of teen targeted PSAs was developed in collaboration with Twentieth Century Fox. The new television and digital ads feature X-MEN: FIRST CLASS characters performing energetic action moves that encourage audiences to "get energized, get outside, and get moving." These PSAs direct youth to visit where they can download X-Men themed activities and a monthly calendar to track their progress.

The PSAs will be distributed this week and per the Ad Council’s model they will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.

McCann Erickson
McCann Erickson New York is the flagship and largest office of McCann Erickson Worldwide, the world’s largest advertising agency network, with operations in more than 120 countries and a client roster that includes preeminent global marketers and many of the world’s most famous brands.  The agency is a unit of McCann Worldgroup, a leading global marketing solutions network, comprised of a collaborative roster of best-in-class agencies that emphasize creativity, innovation and performance.

The Advertising Council
The Ad Council ( is a private, non-profit organization that marshals talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to produce, distribute and promote public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies. The Ad Council addresses issue areas such as improving the quality of life for children, preventive health, education, community well-being, environmental preservation and strengthening families.

KIDZ BOP is the #1 music brand for kids ages 5-12 in the U.S., featuring today’s most popular songs, sung by kids for kids. KIDZ BOP celebrates the authentic voice of kids across the entire brand—through music, videos, live appearances, cosumer products and its popular website,,the leading safe social network and video sharing site for kids and tweens with one million registered members. The website provides a completely safe and moderated environment where kids can express themselves—as themselves—through unique online applications and proprietary functionality. The site’s popular “My Channel” feature lets members safely communicate with friends via our Safe Text Messaging System, which averages more than one million status updates per month. Kids can also safely produce their own Web shows, create and run their own “Super Contests,” upload videos and photos, and make music. To date, KIDZ BOP’s team of expert moderators have screened more than 23,000 hours of video content and nearly half a million photos before they were uploaded to

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC (TCFHE) is a recognized global industry leader and a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a News Corporation company. Representing 75 years of innovative and award-winning filmmaking from Twentieth Century Fox, TCFHE is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming, acquisitions and original productions on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Digital Copy, Video On Demand and Digital Download. The company also releases all products globally for MGM Home Entertainment. Each year TCFHE introduces hundreds of new and newly enhanced products, which it services to retail outlets from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce throughout the world.

Lisa Cullen
The Ad Council
McCann Erickson
Susan Irwin
McCann New York

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Working Out Writing Workshop

Although it has been made seem we should know Writing Workshop top to bottom, I think we all understand there is much still to "Workout!" Nancy Franklin has happened upon two blogs that might serve as good resources for those of you looking for some suggestions and strategies. I have included these links below. Please feel free to use the comments section of this blog to post question for all of to respond to.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I don't want you giving any more homework!

Do you check your student's homework? No, not check.... I mean give feedback on their homework. If you're not giving meaningful feedback on the work they've done and simply marking it as "done" than..... "I don't want you giving any more homework!"

The purpose behind homework is to give students the opportunity to try applying a skill that they've learned in school. For many this is a difficult task. So difficult that they often seek help from adults or peers. Many times the assistance they've received is unreliable compared to what you have done in the classroom.

....and now they bring their work back to school.

Some (few) students return with a confident understanding of what they learned and applied. The rest, without any feedback, haven't benefited from the activity. Without meaningful feedback (You know... the kind that goes beyond writing "good job" on the top of the paper) to add clarity..... the homework is pointless.

Your reaction?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Doodling about Education... A Perspective from Sir Ken Robinson

Please take a moment and watch this video created by Sir Ken Robinson. He details his opinion about the current state of our education system through a very unique and engaging presentation. My brain surely was jumpstarted by some of his comments.

I know he moved a bit quickly, but take a moment and reflect on any part of the video that may have resonated with you. You may comment below or send your comment via email. (if you comment below please make sure your name is included)

If you have trouble seeing this video please click the link below and watch directly from youtube.

Sir Ken Robinson

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lessons from a Dancing Guy.......

I have always found it amazing how we can derive meaning from sometimes the most simple moments in life. Take a moment to watch this 3 minute talk given by Derek Sivers on the topic of "How to Start a Movement." How can his apply to how you manage your classroom?

"How to Start a Movement" (Sorry for the commercial at the end....ignore it).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How you doin'?

As we look towards Spring and no doubt see Summer in the near future many of us have reached our threshold. Spring break often serves as a nice island of relaxation and recovery, which often carries us to the end of the year. Stress in our profession is unavoidable. Understandably, I am in part responsible for some of it (sorry!) and like arsenic building up in our system, there is no question that without a remedy we are bound to get hurt. Plan books, lesson plans, conferences, professional development, observations, curriculum, performances, school tours, faculty meetings, phone calls, incidents, duties, politics, blogs!....... How do you protect yourself from stress? What tricks do you have to manage your workload? Since we're all in the same boat I thought I would use this forum to check in and simply ask "How you Doin'?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Screaming Eggs!

When do we loose perspective? I was with my son the other night and I often allow him to search widely (under supervision) through youtube. Since he's only 3, you can imagine the wild tour we usually take. This particular night I was struck by a video that got me to reflect on something I had witnessed while at work. I saw a teacher yelling at a student to get a point across. I know I didn't like this approach when I was that student. So, now I don't do it as an educator. I try to be aware of each perspective that I need to interact with. Watch the video below by clicking on play.

Screaming Eggs

Now that you probably think I'm crazy, try to imagine when you were that student (egg). How did you view school, learning and your teachers. Now reflect on your role as a teacher. Is it important to use our experiences as students to guide how we teach and manage our class? Do you use your experience as a student to guide how you deal with your students? Or do you just cook eggs?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Flying Blind

Each morning before I go to work I look at myself in the mirror. I'm certain I'm not alone in this practice. Without admitting all of the vanity behind why each of us stands there, we can all agree that is is some form of assessment. After that moment, I have found, that we very seldomly evaluate ourselves. The remainder of our days' are on autopilot. Is there a danger in flying blind?

The practice of evaluating teachers was not originated as a punitive process aimed at firing ineffective teachers. It was designed as a system of feedback to better are practice. Yet many of fear the day we are asked to be under the administration's microscope. There is a discomfort in having someone critique what we do. Why? Do we feel something bad will come of it? Are we afraid of the truth (Which by the way for all of you pessimists doesn't mean anything is wrong)?

On the flip side, our students walk into class everyday under our microscope. We evaluate and provide feedback on everything they do right down to calling out without raising their hand (someone just popped into your head). Do we give them the same consideration we want or need during our evaluations? As a mentor to student teachers do you give the same type of considerations when providing feedback? Do you provide feedback (seriously)? Aren't we just trying to better their practice?

The Power of Teaching tool and the Montclair Teacher Evaluation Form are just two instruments designed to provide feedback for your classroom behaviors. Many of your comments defined them as "very different", which is true. While many suggested that the Power of Teaching tool was "better", I feel the true worth of an evaluation tool is how it is used. You can own a top of the line hammer, but if your using it to turn screws you're not going to maximize its potential. I do however, agree with your additional comments which described the Power of Teaching evaluation process as "more specific and objective." Furthermore, you stated that the "Montclair tool is general, while the Power of Teaching instrument clearly defines positive and negative behaviors." It is this quality of spelling out what is an effective teaching strategy and what is an ineffective teaching strategy that makes it a powerful tool. It provides a vocabulary and a language for us to discuss teaching and nothing gets lost in translation.

I guess my point here is that we shouldn't mind stepping in front of the mirror more often. An evaluation of our practice should be a constructive practice which is targeted at bettering ourselves. Coaching even the best of us is necessary for growth. After all isn't that the philosophy behind enrichment?

I have the privilege of evaluating teachers because of my position. It makes me better at what I do to watch all of you. In my opinion, one of the best tools out there for training new teachers is to watch teachers and to be able to provide feedback. Let's not be scared to take off the blindfolds and start the conversations. What do you think?

Monday, January 24, 2011


With tenure in the lime light I have to ask several questions. Please choose and respond to one (or all if you like).

1. What is the purpose of tenure?

2. If you have tenure, could you live without it?

3. Does tenure hurt our profession? How?

4. Governor Christie wants to abolish tenure and the unions want to make the tenure process more rigorous. Who's right?

Your thoughts are eagerly appreciated!

Monday, January 10, 2011

“Industry vs. Education” Are we just spinning our wheels?

Imagine you own a factory that produces radios. You receive parts from all over the country. You notice one day that productivity has slowed down to a point where profits are affected. In fact you are now considered to be below proficiency to sustain your business. Upon investigation you realize that all the parts you are receiving from your distributors were meant for many different types of radios. Your company only has the blueprint for the one type of radio you sell! Moreover, your workers have been working feverishly to try and assemble the radios anyway. This has caused the “gap” in proficiency.

Quick Quiz….Do You?

A. Quit

B. Fire the workers

C. Fire the distributors

I think the answer is clear. At first I’m sure the surmounting work that it will take to reform the problem, would make you want to choose “A” and quit. However, the easy choice here is “C” fire the distributors and find someone who is going to send you the exact parts you ordered. You need identical parts to fit the blueprints you have to produce identical, proficient radios.

Now imagine that your business is education and your trying to produce proficient learners based on standards provided by the Federal Government. The children who you have been told to turn into identical proficient learners have all been sent to you differently by their distributors….their parents.

Should we fire the parents?

Time and time again I constantly hear the echo of criticism that pins the blame of partial proficiency on the educators. Though not completely in the clear here, I think it is apparent in my example that we, in education, face a variable that will always affect the outcome of children.

My best reading teacher can spend hours upon hours with certain students but if they walk in the door at two completely different levels regardless of ability and the concepts and importance are not stressed or valued at home, the progress will be slow and sometimes could reverse itself.

The same can be seen through another analogy, childhood obesity. We, in schools, standardize the lunch program according to Health and Wellness regulations to produce healthier children. So, why do all of our students look different? Why is childhood obesity still and issue? The answer is simply because we cannot control what happens before they enter or when they leave our buildings.

Now I mentioned that we, the educators, are not out of the clear yet. In a true industry analogy, none of us would have tenure. The workers in my example above could just as easily been fired for not recognizing the dilemma of different radio parts. Maybe those workers became comfortable with their perceived job protection and lost sight of responsibility. The same has been said about teachers who have slid into the anti-progressive abyss of tenure. The repeated phrase that is spoken after the start of year number 4, “Phew…Now I can relax!”. Why? Why should anyone, in his or her profession, relax or loose the initiative to grow? How does this phenomenon affect student growth? Moreover, I think in education we do know that we are dealing with students who come to us much different than the next and like the workers in the radio factory, the pressure to keep our jobs makes work feverishly to make the standards fit regardless of if it makes sense.

What about the boss in my industry example? Should he quit or be fired? I was watching Lou Dobbs on CNN a while back. He was doing a story about the exurbanite drop out rate facing our high schools. His angle was that our schools are “failing a generation of children”. His solution was that he would fire all the principals of those schools that had the highest drop out rates and hold them responsible. Now according to the industry model that could hold some merit because a leader should know what’s going on in their organization. However, in industry a leader has the opportunity to deal with nonliving components that can be tailored to fit the desired blueprint. We are not in the business of machines. In education we are dealing with people, which comes with an ethical variable to difficult to control.

Should we be trying to run our schools more like industry? How can we do so when we are dealing with a human factor, which is out of our reach? Can we truly make change or are we just spinning our wheels?