Monthly Archives: April 2014

Greenwood Greats

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 5-9, 2014 and we’re excited to partner with our school community to celebrate!

GWgreats pic

Note of Gratitude

All students, staff, parents, and community members are invited to join us in the fun.  Show your appreciation for a teacher that’s making a difference.  Share a story about something inspiring happening in a classroom.  “Raise the praise” for a para that’s showed extra patience and love.  Give a shout-out to a custodian or cook that is making a neat connection with your child.

There are two ways to participate:

  1. Download the “Note of gratitude” PDF above and e-mail your note or hand-deliver it to Mr. Gustafson in the Greenwood office.  We will be hanging up the notes in our main entryway all of next week.
  2. Share in a virtual celebration by sharing your memory or story with us via Twitter.  Use the hashtag #GWgreats to share a positive perspective or experience.  I’ll be posting some neat insights from our students to our school’s hashtag next week, so check back often!

I’m blessed to serve in a school that has a dedicated staff that is unswervingly committed to student success.  Our teachers are humble and typically prefer to put our students in the spotlight, but I feel like National Teacher Appreciation Week gives me a small excuse to shine the light on all the inspiring work our professionals do to make a difference.  Please let me know if you have any questions about this invitation to share a note of gratitude.  Thanks for your continued support of education!



The Positive Power of Social Media


Episode #4 Coming Soon!

Click the Image to view Student Podcast – Episode #4


Our students have been collaborating on cross-state podcast projects this school year.  Kids from Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York have created video podcasts in the TouchCastApp to become more connected learners.  We’re learning how Social Media can be utilized to inspire, connect, and share the amazing things happening in our schools.

Our next podcast will feature an exciting new interactive element…we’re inviting students EVERYWHERE to join us in a celebration of creativity based on a “Squiggle.” A Squiggle may appear like a simple wavy line…but using your imagination a Squiggle can turn into anything!

Squiggle Pic

Squiggle PDF for Connected Classrooms Project

Here’s how your classroom can participate:

Watch our podcast about what a Squiggle is and see some examples from our creative kids. The podcast will air in May, 2014.

  1. Print the Squiggle PDF from the link above and encourage your students to flip, turn, color, and create using the Squiggle. The more creative their designs the better!
  2. Take a picture of each Squiggle masterpiece and Tweet it out using the hashtag #StuConnect
  3. Check back often to see what other creative kids and classrooms are doing…we’ll be selecting one random classroom to receive a classroom pack of new Crayola art supplies. Anyone that submits a Squiggle art drawing to our hashtag this school year is eligible for the art prize pack.
  4. Spread the word…we want our students to see the positive power of “connectivity” while simultaneously celebrating the creative genius in EVERY child!

Help us provide students an authentic audience for their work!  Be sure to use the hashtag #StuConnect when submitting your students’ Squiggle artwork.

Amplify Student Voice through Digital Project-Based Learning


Use the hashtag #GWinnovation to connect on Twitter.

Use the hashtag #GWinnovation on Twitter to connect with other classrooms involved.

I often tell people that being a principal is one of the most inspiring jobs in the world.  I get to visit classrooms each day and see phenomenal teachers helping their students do extraordinary things.  Some of the work our students are doing is mind-blowing…the creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, leadership, and global awareness being fostered is the epitome of what it means to prepare students for their future.  There are days when I literally do “fist-pumps” as I leave classrooms filled with excitement!

The past few months we’ve had a group of students collaborating on an innovative concept.  Their goal is to connect with other students and classrooms across the country and world through a shared “Project Based Learning” experience.  Their Innovation Station blog will serve as a global hub for these Project-Based Challenges.

Over the course of the planning and preparation our students were the drivers of the work.  They had a seat at the table as meetings were held to develop the concept, create permissions/forms, and launch the first video challenge.  There were meetings when I was giddy seeing our kids literally guide the conversation and direction of the project as their teacher, principal, and district technology leadership listened.  LOVE it!

We hope you’ll consider participating.  Each challenge will be presented in a digital format (video, podcast, etc.) that students create.  We’re inviting you to check-out their initial “Milk Carton Challenge” and can’t wait to see the creativity in YOUR students!  The submission deadline for the first challenge is May 23rd.  Connect with us on Twitter using the #GWinnovation hashtag.  All aboard!!

Story Savvy

What is it about storytelling that is so captivating?  I’ve always been impressed by the relative ease in which a master storyteller is able to connect with others.  I’ve also noticed that a good story always evokes a response.  If I’m being completely honest, there are times I’m envious of a great storyteller’s ability to deliver a message to a completely engaged audience.  I occasionally catch myself thinking, “If only I could deliver a story like she can…I’d probably do more public speaking if I had that kind of charisma.”

Kids don’t require master storytellers…they just need somebody savvy enough to pen a few lines or to speak on their behalf.  I’ve come to embrace the notion that our students are counting on us to tell their stories.  They are also counting on us to muddle through our own vulnerabilities to champion an important narrative.  Students need us to be “story savvy.”

Being savvy simply means that we understand or get the sense of something (, 2014).  It’s similar to a person that’s tech savvy.  An individual that’s regarded as tech savvy understands the problem-solving required to learn new technologies.  An educator that is story savvy understands the value of sharing students’ stories, and effectively communicates them in many ways…including conversation, social media, and other Web 2.0 tools.

Here are five steps to help you be a “Story Savvy” educator:

S  – omebody Else

Believe it or not, somebody else is probably already telling your school’s story!  It’s true…so you may as well share your authentic observations and professional reflections.  After all, who would you rather share important information about your students and school?  It’s important that our communities hear from us.  While you’re at it…share your school’s story with passion and transparency.  We are in classrooms on a daily basis and see the amazing work our students are doing firsthand; we have a reason to be excited!  Be sure to keep the stories you share positive and altruistic and let somebody else share those other kind.

A – cknowledge

Acknowledge the heroic efforts of staff and parent volunteers.  Sharing encouragement and affirming the teamwork it takes to make a school great is an important narrative.  We cannot do it alone, so why not give thanks to the people that make it all happen.  An attitude of gratitude is contagious…pass it on!  Acknowledge the difference our teachers are making in your stories.

V – oice

Student voice matters.  Be sure that your stories empower kids to develop their capacity to communicate, create, collaborate, and think critically.  Better yet…foster students’ leadership potential by passing them the microphone and providing an authentic audience.  Their voice is typically more impactful and interesting than ours anyways…let them speak and be sure to listen!

V – ision

Vision doesn’t talk but people do!  How many times have you been on the sidelines of a soccer game and overhear parents discussing your school’s vision?  (Insert cricket sound effect here.)

There is a better way to communicate your school’s vision with remarkable clarity and that’s through stories!  Highlight activities that exemplify your vision for a 21st century student learning experience.  Even better…let your students share the work they are doing that aligns with steps towards vision.  Your vision comes to life through the pictures of smiling students and emotions associated with their successes.

Our school community and tax payers have made a tremendous investment in our schools and we can be accountable through the results being achieved.  Share those stories!  Your stories can serve as a pathway to a better future and vision attainment.

Y – our Words

If a tree falls down in a forest does it make a sound?  If a principal types a newsletter that nobody reads is it a compelling story?  Your words matter, so why not share them in a relevant format?  Leverage social media, video podcasting, and innovative new mediums to connect your words to those you serve in a manner that they prefer.  People will tend to fill in the blanks if your words are absent.  Communicate with constituents so they are informed and able to support the important work being done for our students.


Leaving a Mark


Elbows planted firmly on the kitchen table and hands clasped contentedly around a cantaloupe rind….my four-year-old son was loving life! As his big blue eyes scanned the room the juice from the ripe orange melon that he was devouring meandered down both arms. I was taking in the scene and noted how similar his beautiful eyes were to his mother’s. I also noticed a bright green mark on his arm. Actually, it was borderline neon.  I quickly connected the dots.

Rewind 30 minutes:

The innocuous request my daughter had made just a half an hour before preparing lunch seemed like a great idea at the time.  I was wrapping up a school project and she volunteered to make lunch. She also asked if it would be ok to “be creative” while making the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. How could I refuse?! We occasionally add bananas and honey to our sandwiches, and when we really want to live on the edge we cut off the crust and make sandwich-shaped butterflies. I never saw the green food coloring and candy-colored baking sugars coming!  Never-the-less, when she surprised us with a platter of somewhat soggy green sandwiches coated in confectioner’s sprinkles we tried to embrace it. Much to my wife’s chagrin, one of my mantras is, “A mess is evidence of fun.”

Food Coloring

Back to the Cantaloupe:

As we enjoyed the remaining cantaloupe (green arms and all) I reflected on all the marks in our students’ lives. Some marks are “evidence of fun” like grass-stained jeans from an epic recess soccer game. Other marks are unseen and might be attributed to anxiety over a disagreement with a classmate or the heartbreak and fear connected to a variety of possible family circumstances.

In each of these situations the relationships that teachers have with their students serve as the underpinnings of healing, safety, and eventual learning.  The painful truth of the matter is that some marks aren’t bright green and they can’t be washed off. Nobody understands this better than the amazing professionals in our children’s classrooms. This is where hope and love enter the equation.

Just like my son’s bright green arms…there’s a story behind every mark. The most humbling thing about working in a school is that we also have the chance to leave marks on the hearts and minds of our students and co-workers each and every day. These are the kind of marks that have the powerful potential to overshadow some of the darker dilemmas that our students may encounter. Kindness continues to be one of the most powerful forces in the world, and one that cuts through the dark like a brilliant flame.

More vivid than green food coloring, the mark of encouragement, unswerving love, patience, and time can impact the very trajectory of a child’s life. In all you do…leave this kind of mark.

Image Credits: and

In Kids' Shoes

Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators

Reading By Example

Thoughts on Literacy & Leadership in Education

Adjusting Course

Responding to the Needs of the 21st Century Student

On The Leaders Edge

A Reflection of Life, Learning and Leadership

Digital Eyes

Looking at Education Through the Lens of 21st Century Skills

Shelley Burgess

Reflections of an educational learner and leader

The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.


True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?

Engaged and Relevant

Just another site

Pernille Ripp

Teacher. Author. Creator. Speaker. Mom.

The Thesis Whisperer

Just like the horse whisperer - but with more pages