April 12, 2016


I have a lot to say. I hope you're listening.
The Backwards Brain Bicycle - Smarter Every Day 133


Can you believe we only have 37 days of school left? HOW is that possible?! Our days are busy, & I see lots of learning going on, so THANK YOU for all that you do to keep our learners engaged & challenged at this busy time of year!

I appreciate the job you are doing with our enrichment clubs. Our PTA has a budget for club expenses, so if you have items that you need to be reimbursed for, please save your receipt & PTA will reimburse you.

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Important Information this week!

· Candice is launching Wi-Fi Wednesday beginning this week. It's an opportunity for teachers to request things that you have an interest in learning. If you have TEKS coming up that you would like to incorporate technology with, she will research some ideas of things you could use & show you how! On weeks that there are no requests, she will plan to share an app or site that might be useful.

For this week's Wi-Fi Wednesday, she plans to do something that would be useful for most grades. It's called QUIZZZ & is similar to Kahoot with a few great features added. No projector is necessary because players see questions & answer options on their own screens. The question order is randomized for each student before they continue to the next one. They do not all have to take the Quizzz at the same time...that way you can share I-pads & computers. You can even assign homework that kids will like! It is still game style like Kahoot, so there is the element of competition. If you want to learn how to incorporate Quizzz into your lessons, stop by Wed. at 3PM in the project lab. It won't take long, it's fun, & you will definitely find it as time well spent! We appreciate Candice making herself available - please capitalize on her technology expertise!

Pam has agreed to head up our Convocation committee to start planning t-shirt & song & theme – that way we will have a head start & won’t be scrambling in August. If you are willing to serve on the committee & help Pam, please let her know.

· I’m excited to announce that Lynnette Darden will be moving to second grade next year!

· We have recommended Kelley Rudd for a Kindergarten position at EME. Many of you already know Kelley & are excited about her joining the EME family.

· Please make sure you are picking up students from lunch on time.

· All formal PDAS observations have been completed.

· Here are some important upcoming dates that you need to have:

· Thursday, April 14….Teacher Self Report Sections II and III due; End of Teacher Observation window

· Friday, April 29…Summative Annual Report to Teacher

· Friday, May 6…Begin Summative Conference window

· Friday, May 13…End of Summative Conference window (FINAL Date)

· Enjoy your day off this Friday!

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4 Ways To “Lead Up”

By George Couros

As the world around us constantly shifts, many schools and districts feel stuck. This is often times a direct result of “formal leadership”, as fear, politics, or a lack of vision (amongst a myriad of other reasons) can hold the entire community back. Many educators become frustrated with this, as they are ready to move forward faster than their leadership, and can become frustrated, to a point of subversiveness or leaving altogether. In all honesty, sometimes leaving might be the best option but not feasible. People often quit bosses before they quit organizations,

This is why it is important to “lead up”.

What I mean by this term is not necessarily meaning to, as Michael Fullan has popularized, “leading from the middle“, where you can make an impact on so many others in your organization. True leadership is more about the influence to move others forward in a positive direction. But to “lead up”, is focused more on how to deal with those in authority above you to help them move forward, even when it is hard to do. As our organizations are run by people, it is important to understand that no matter the position, many of the same elements of great leadership apply to working with those above you ‘in a formal hierarchy, as it does with any other group.

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Here are four ideas that might help you with this process:

  • Start by asking, “We are here to do what is best for kids, right?” If you disagree with something and you believe that it is in the best interest of kids, start with the question suggested and wait for the obvious “yes” answer. Once you start from that point, it is now your job to prove why what you are asking for is in the best interest of kids. Prove your point like a lawyer. But if you can’t prove that what you are asking is best for kids, maybe your boss isn’t in the wrong? Always start from that point.

  • Ask questions more and make statements less. Covey’s notion of “seek first to understand” is crucial in all aspects of leadership. We may be bothered with a decision and why it is made, and it is easy to tell people all of the reasons are wrong, or that your way is right, but there are many times where there are things behind the scenes that you may not know or understand. What is crucial here is to help people explain their position and work backwards from there, as opposed to trying to bring them to your side. Something might be brought to your attention that you had no idea was happening, but a conversation is more likely to lead to positive change than two people simply stating their sides. You might find a middle ground that you didn’t know existed.

  • Pick your battles wisely. Although I encourage people to ask questions and try to understand, there are times when you need to be more adamant about your position. The key here is that your voice is heard. If you complain about every decision that is made in your organization, the voice becomes more like “noise” than anything. Sometimes we have to realize that there are some hills that we do not need to die on, in chase of a much bigger prize.

  • Show that you see value in your leaders. This one feels hard to write for me, but there is some truth to it. Statements like “that’s why you make the big bucks” are somewhat condescending to leaders, and create more division than cohesion. We have to realize that we are all connected as partners in education, and just because someone is in a formal position of leadership, does not mean that they do not need to feel valued. The higher you go up, the less you will hear compliments of your work. It is a reality of the work. What I am not saying is “suck up to your boss”. All people need to feel valued, and when we look for strengths and mentorship, we are more likely to create a bond built on trust, which is helpful for people to move forward in organizations, as opposed to distrust. Do what you hope is done for you, and ignore title or position.
  • People work better together when they all feel valued for their unique abilities and strengths.

    With all of this being said, the suggestions I have shared might not work. Egos often get in the way at every level, and decisions are sometimes made for the wrong reasons. Yet, if you are frustrated that you feel you, or your school, is not moving fast enough, it is crucial to try something different, than simply complaining. When schools work together, the speed in which we move forward in a positive manner can increase exponentially.

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    Monday – PLC’s meet, Let Beth know if you want a Science Night t-shirt

    Tuesday – Talent Show Dress Rehearsal this evening, School Supply Lists Revisions are due to Sandra, 7-11 is providing lunch for us today!

    Wednesday – No Faculty meeting but Candice hosts W-Fi Wednesday in the project lab from 3:00 - 3:15ish. (Optional) Tim's Mini-Rise presentation

    Thursday – Teacher Self Reports Part 2 & 3 due, Talent Show 6PM (Two acts)

    Friday – No school today!

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    Where to find the perfect virtual guest for your class

    By Matt Miller

    Explorers. Researchers. Archaeologists. Scientists. Lawmakers. Even celebrities and athletes.

    They’re the great guest speakers that many of us would love to invite to talk to our classes. But schedules, speaking fees, travel and other conflicts keep us from making them an in-person, face-to-face reality.

    Well, to be accurate, they make in-person contact a fantasy. However, they can be a face-to-face reality if we know where to look and are brave enough to ask. (Didn’t your parents ever say to you, “What’s the worst thing that could happen … they’d say ‘no’?”)

    Video chat tools like Skype, Google Hangouts and FaceTime (among others) have made face-to-face, voice-to-voice conversation a free, simple reality.

    They’ve connected soldiers to their families from thousands of miles away. They’ve connected like-minded people who have never met in real life. And they’ve definitely made classes around the globe more interesting by bringing quality guests to class.

    Are you looking for ways to leverage your technology to get maximum impact for your students? I think video chatting is one of the most powerful uses of technology in the classroom today.

    There’s a problem, though. It’s barely being used in the classroom because …

    • Teachers don’t see connections to their classes. (Every class has someone outside the classroom that can bring value.)
    • The think the technology is over their heads. (Creating an account and using video chat often as easy as setting up an email account.)
    • Or they just don’t think they have the time. (Once you’ve tried it, you’ll see how little work it takes.)

    Today, I’m going to make it even more accessible. The big question I’m always asked when I present at workshops or conferences is this: How do I find people to video chat with in my class?

    Plenty of resources are available for any educator of any grade level or specialization. Here are some examples:

    1. Check out the lessons on the Skype in the Classroom site (education.skype.com) —This is where I started when I was a video chat newbie wanting to get my classes connected. TheSkype in the Classroom site is a virtual bulletin board where teachers post lessons they’d like to create with others around the world. Museums and other organizations — as well as quality guest speakers — create lessons offering to connect with your classroom. It’s worth checking out to see if anything sparks your interest.

    2. Create a lesson on the Skype in the Classroom site — If you don’t see exactly what you want to do, post a lesson on the Skype in the Classroom site and recruit others. Describe the lesson, choose the audience you want and submit it. You may be surprised at who volunteers to join your lesson!

    3. Contact the creator of a Skype in the Classroom lesson — This is how I made my best video chat experience a reality. I found a lesson that was kind of what I wanted to do. Then, I asked the teacher if she would modify it to make it more like the experience I hoped for. She agreed and it was great! Use this great website not only as a virtual lesson plan enhancer but a list of contacts who can help you.

    4. Send a simple email — We’re all well versed in our content area. With a little brainstorming, we could generate a list of the kinds of people that could bring value to our students via Skype,Google Hangouts, FaceTime or others. It never hurts to do some Googling to find examples of those people and send a simple email. Here’s an example. Are you reading a book with your class? Is the author is alive? If so, it can’t hurt to reach out to the author for a video chat meet-up. Even if it’s a short one, it can be a very memorable (maybe life-changing!) experience for students.

    Here’s an example: A student in a fifth/sixth-grade school sent a letter to Shaquille O’Neal asking for a simple autograph. What he got was a letter from Shaq saying that he would Skype with the student’s school instead! His words of inspiration were certainly powerful to students in fifth and sixth grade. See the Skype call here:

    Skype with Shaq!!

    5. Ask friends, family and co-workers — The perfect virtual guest may be as easy to find as sending a quick email or social media message to people you know. They don’t have to be a perfect fit for your content area, either. Some creative thinking could come up with ties into your class content. Plus, the experience may be as worthwhile (or more!) than the content facts your students could learn.

    6. Utilize Google Plus communities — Lots of enthusiastic, globally-minded educators are part of communities on Google Plus. (Google Plus is a social media network … I think of it as Google’s version of Facebook.) Go to Google Plus (hint: If you have a Google account, you already have access to Google Plus!). Check out any of the following communities (or others!). Post a message and ask the community for what you’re looking for and see what you come up with. Post in multiple communities — it’s like putting multiple fishing lines in the water to maximize your chances of catching a fish.

    7. Twitter — If you’re not using Twitter professionally yet, what are you waiting for??? (Start with my page for getting started on Twitter.) By tweeting your requests and including the right Twitter users and hashtags, you can reach a large audience of the right kinds of people who want to help. Find the right hashtags (i.e. searchable categories) on this list of Twitter chats. Twitter accounts like Skype Classroom will often retweet your requests to its tens of thousands of Twitter followers!

    8. Nepris — This site connects teachers with industry experts virtually to bring curriculum topics to life and help mentor and evaluate student projects. Use their connections and expertise to find the right virtual guest for your classroom.

    9. Ask me! — I know a lot of smart people who have expertise in connecting with experts and other classrooms around the world. Between you and I, we should be able to find someone who can help. Shoot me an email or a message on Twitter and I’ll do my best!


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    · Let’s hear it for our Teacher of the Year – HOPE HOWELL! We are thrilled to see Hope receive this recognition, & Hope will represent EME extremely well at the district level. Hope also just learned this morning that she's going to New York this summer for the Writing Institute! Way to go & Congratulations Hope!

    · We’re also extremely proud of our other Teacher of the Year nominees: Danielle Adama, Dedra Jones, Candice Martin, Donna McBride, Beth Welch, & Cathy Wells! Each of these ladies is outstanding & all contribute to EME in significant ways! Congratulations to each of you for being nominated as our Teacher of the Year – we have the cream of the crop!

    · Huge Congratulations are in order for Shelly Couch who has been selected as the Texas Alpha Delta Kappa Excellence in Education award recipient. She will receive her award at the State Convention in June. Way to go Shelly!

    · Angela Cathey did a terrific job of placing our kids in their Clubs. Please let her know you appreciate her assistance in placing our kids.

    · Thanks also to Drew for his help with Clubs & for the wonderful job he did in organizing our Movie Night. Drew did a marvelous job Friday night with a huge crowd!

    Thanks also to Brook Williams for doing an incredible job of coordinating UIL. this year. We also appreciate very much our teachers who coached a club - Cindy Griggs - Storytelling, Sheryl Copeland - Spelling, Beth Welch & LaRae Witsaman - Oral Reading, Hope Howell - Ready Writing, & Christina Witta & Lisa Dunn- Maps, Graphs, & Charts, & Drew - Chess Puzzle. Kudos to our judges who helped either Tuesday or Saturday or both: Regina, Sophia, Sheryl, Bryan, Leslie, Madeline, Suzanne, Amber & Catherine Massie.

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