Sunday, December 21, 2014

Yeah, I'm always smiling at school, and here are 10 reasons why

  • Smiling conveys positivity and optimism
  • Smiling is contagious
  • It takes far more effort to frown
  • “Peace begins with a smile" - Mother Teresa
  • Smiling helps build a positive culture
  • Great things are happening in our school
  • Smiling helps me keep everything in perspective
  • I enthusiastically chose this profession and am so happy to do it
  • Smiling makes me feel more productive
  • "I just like to smile, smiling's my favorite" - Buddy the Elf

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Teacher? Administrator? What’s the Difference?

This is the first post to my blog since transitioning from being a “teacher” to an “administrator”.  If you have read my blog in the past you probably know I often use this space to self reflect on my own learning.  This may explain the long gap between posts, I wanted to try my position on for size for a few weeks first.  I have only been in my new role for a month, but have already realized the two have a great deal in common.

10 Things I Learned as a Teacher that will Help me as an Administrator

  • Organization leads to productivity
  • Having a plan in place each day will help with achieving your goals
  • The importance of  greeting children by name everyday
  • Whether you are in a classroom or around the school, being visible helps students stay connected and engaged
  • Collaboration leads to problem solving
  • Establishing positive relationships with parents is always worth the extra effort
  • Knowing the curriculum will help improve student achievement
  • Modeling is always an effective way to get others to buy in
  • Communication and transparency will earn you trust
  • Culture plays a crucial role in a learning community

Friday, September 26, 2014

What Type Of Educator Are You?

If you have used any social media lately you no doubt have seen those quizzes.  You know, the ones that ask questions that somehow determine, “Which Star Wars character are you?” or “Which utensil are you?”  My “quiz” is structured a little differently in that you get to determine the answer first.  Furthermore, my quiz comes with a challenge.

Find a colleague that best exemplifies one of these traits and thank them for being a great role model

What Type Of Educator Are You?

  • Passionate
  • Optimistic
  • Dedicated
  • Collaborative
  • Flexible
  • Reflective
  • Compassionate 
  • Knowledgeable
  • Committed
  • Innovative

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thank You Highlander

10 Ways Highlander Institute has helped me become an Innovative Educator

Thanks to the Highlander Institute…

  • I have COLLABORATED with amazing educators
  • I have OBSERVED skilled teachers in action
  • I have been exposed to the latest TECHNOLOGY TOOLS
  • I have attended numerous CONFERENCES
  • I have been able to EMPOWER students and teachers
  • I have CONNECTED with hundreds colleagues using Twitter
  • I have improved my skills as a PRESENTER
  • I have been provided with many RESOURCES and TRAINING
  • I have been a part of many LEADERSHIP teams
  • I have LEARNED how to better integrate technology 

Visit the Highlander Institute for more information

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Biggest Little Chat on Twitter…#EdchatRI

If you are my age or older and from Rhode Island, you no doubt get the reference (see  With that tune now permanently stuck in my head for the next 48 hours, here are 10 reasons why #EdchatRI is the Biggest Little Chat on Twitter

  • Relevant Topics are discussed each week
  • Diversity of participants and opinions
  • Excellent resources are always shared
  • Enthusiastic educators that motivate and inspire
  • Healthy debate and dialogue
  • Notification of upcoming events
  • Thoughtful professionals with a sense of humor
  • It happens every Sunday night
  • Supportive colleagues to help navigate difficult situations
  • Chance to have your voice heard

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Teacher’s Back to School Checklist

Did I spend time doing what I love this summer?
As educators, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.

What are my professional goals?
Great teachers have been asking themselves this question long before it was part of any evaluation process.

What is my attitude like heading into the new school year?
Remind yourself of all the reasons why you chose this profession.

Do I know everything I need to know about my assignment?
Often times role and expectations can change. It is much easier to ask for clarification before the students arrive.

Have I received the most current information regarding initiatives, protocols, and procedures?
Things are constantly happening at the state and local levels, even in the summer, and it is important to stay up to date.

Do I have the materials and supplies needed to start the year?
Now is a great time to take inventory and look for those back to school sales.

Am I comfortable with the technology that is available to me and do I have all my passwords?
Have fun exploring what is out there and look for opportunities to learn from colleagues.

Do I have access to the information I need most?
Class and faculty lists, evacuation plans, case loads, email addresses…

Have I made the appropriate arrangements for the impending schedule changes?
With the start of the school year comes a new routine to adjust to.

Have I connected with colleagues lately?
Reach out to those you work closely with, they will be happy to hear from you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

10 Discoveries I Made During Two Years of Graduate School

  • I prefer writing essays to answering multiple choice questions
  • Deadlines inspire me to get things done
  • I value quality feedback on my work
  • Meeting colleagues from across the state is very cool
  • I am a risk taker
  • The importance of staying in touch with the national perspective on education
  • Philosophical debate helps to clarify one's own views
  • Developing routines can just happen
  • If an idea is important you will hear it over and over again
  • There are a lot of interesting books out there (and some boring ones too)

Monday, July 21, 2014

10 Direct Quotes From Kids About Technology

Some posts just write themselves.  Last week we hosted our 6th EdtechRI Unconference but with a new twist.  We invited experienced users, aka students from grades 1-9, to join us.  At the end of the session the students took questions from the audience.  Here are 10 direct quotes from our esteemed panel. 
  • You can build whatever you want in mine craft, I like to build floating houses
  • Slow internet drives me insane
  • I like Quizlet because when I'm on my way to school I can study on my phone
  • My Talking Tom is a cat you can say things and it can repeat it in weird voices and you need to feed it  and it can go to sleep
  • I like to play around and learn by myself because I think it makes it harder and more fun to discover different ways that someone teaching you didn't  even know
  • I enjoy random stuff with  technology I do not care what it is
  • I use Pinterest a lot because I am really obsessed with shoes
  • I learn how to use apps by reading the directions at the beginning but then I just figure it out my own 
  • My dad didn't want to hire a plumber to fix the garbage disposal so he took everything out from under the sink and put the ipad under there and watched a You Tube video on how to do it
  • Our teacher showed us a little about it,  just the main things, and then we just played around with it to try to figured out other things

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Things Weren't That Different Ten Years Ago, Were They?

Growing up in the 70s and 80's I can recollect with ease what I perceived to be monumental technological advances.  Back then when a new device, gadget, or electronic was introduced it was coupled with a sense of amazement. I can actually recall the details surrounding the circumstances.  Yes, I remember vividly getting a compact disc player (the first cd I purchased was Born To Run), a VCR (the first show I recorded was Days of our Lives, for my sister, I swear!) and a cordless telephone (the first person I called was my childhood crush who I dare not name because she is a teacher and may be reading this blog).

Perhaps it's because so much is coming at us so fast or maybe it is because I now experience the world as an adult, but the same cannot be said of the technological advances that I have experienced over the past decade.  Rather than announce their presence, the innovations I take for granted today have seeped into my life without fanfare and are not associated with any specific memory.

So, what does this have to do with learning in the 21st Century?

As educators we must recognize the profound difference between reaching the mind of a 10 year old who was in awe of a television remote control and a 10 year old who is carrying the world in the palm of his hand.

Although we are impressed, we are no longer surprised by the latest and greatest technological advances.  This has caused a fundamental shift in how learners view the world and more importantly how we view learning.

Ten Things I Did Today I Couldn't Have Imagined Doing 10 Years Ago

  • I used Google Hangout to talk to my son who is away for the week
  • I used Facebook to share information with relatives in Italy
  • I read Tweets from educators from around the world
  • I downloaded and began reading, VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave
  • I went on You Tube and watched the original MTV broadcast that was referenced in the book
  • I uploaded this post to my blog
  • I listened to music on my iPod
  • I used a GPS to get from Philadelphia to New York City
  • I uploaded dates on to my Google calendar
  • I paid bills and made a deposit online

Monday, June 23, 2014

10 Things I Learned on the Last Day of School

  • The relationships between students and teachers are special
  • It is a good day to reflect
  • It is also a good day to look ahead and set goals
  • No matter how old you are popsicles taste just a little sweeter
  • Most kids are sad the year is over and are counting the days until the first day of school (only 63)
  • The teacher’s room is filled with goodies
  • 180 school days really isn’t all that much
  • The more you give to your students the more you will get back
  • We sure use a lot of paper
  • We have the best job in the world

Friday, June 13, 2014

Everything is Awesome…When you are Part of a PLC

For those of you who know me or have followed my blog, you know that I recently spent two years out of the classroom as an Induction Coach for the Rhode Island Department of Education.  You may also know that I am finishing my first year back in my home district as a teacher in a K-3 school.  I wouldn't change a thing about my two years “on the road”, they were career defining and helped me to grow into the educator I am today.  However, as I reflect on an amazing year back in a school, I can’t help but appreciate the things that come with being part of a community.

10 Reasons Why Being Part of a Learning Community is Awesome

  • Relationships
  • Problem Solving
  • Support
  • Feedback
  • Shared Vision
  • Goal Setting
  • Collegiality
  • Professionalism
  • Multiple Viewpoints
  • Reflective Practices

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How to be the World’s Greatest Colleague

  • Take the time to really get to know the people you work with
  • Keep an open door and open mind
  • Contribute to conversations at all levels
  • Share what's working for you and what's not
  • Recognize the strengths of others 
  • Smile...a lot!
  • Be there for others when they need you
  • Stay calm when things get tense 
  • Hold yourself accountable and others will do the same
  • Be on time, be present, and respect the norms of meetings

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Different View of Teacher Appreciation

Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us and that means flowers, luncheons, cards, and goodies in the teacher’s room.   Students, parents, and administrators are happy to recognize the many hours of hard work and unwavering dedication of the teachers in their district.  Receiving these accolades is certainly a wonderful feeling, but I would like to use this space to share some of the things that I appreciate about the job I love doing each and every day.

Ten Things I Appreciate as a Teacher

əˌprēSHēˈāSHən noun
The recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.

  • Watching students give their best effort
  • Laughter
  • Supportive parents
  • Those aha light bulb moments
  • Contributing to the community
  • Witnessing friendships being formed
  • The questions (well, most of them anyway!)
  • Learning from amazing colleagues
  • Being a trusted adult for students
  • No two days are ever alike

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Good Luck, Good Bye, Bobby Jean

Since beginning this blog over a year ago, I have primarily used this space to share my thoughts and feelings about teaching and learning with others.  The motivation behind today's post is very different, and is deeply personal.  The other day, a long time colleague officially announced she would be retiring at the end of the year (her modesty prevents me from using her name).  For many, this news came as a shock because this is a teacher who is certainly not "burnt out" or on the "back nine".  In fact, I would argue she is as passionate and innovative as ever.   She toiled over the decision for months and ultimately came to the conclusion that it was time to walk away.  Although she will no longer be employed by our district, she will certainly continue to be a friend, mentor, and role model.

In 1983 during Bruce Springsteen's recording of Born in the USA, long time friend and guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt left the E Street band to pursue other opportunities.  Bruce wrote and added a song called Bobby Jean to what would be his biggest selling album ever.  The song is about saying farewell to someone you care for dearly, "I'm just calling one last time not to change your mind...good luck, good bye, Bobby Jean."

I could send this individual a card, call her up, or maybe I could even try writing a song for her.  For now I will just stick to what I'm most comfortable with, a top ten list!

10 Lessons Learned from my friend "Bobby Jean"

  • No idea is too crazy to try out
  • Teaching comes from the heart
  • There is no such thing as caring too much
  • Advocate for students no matter what
  • Never stop learning from others 
  • Give every lesson your all
  • To be a teacher is to love what you do
  • Relationships matter
  • It's never about what's best for the teacher
  • See the best in everyone around you

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Who are your students? Just look in the mirror

I don’t remember the exact context but I was recently involved in a Twitter chat and answered a question with the following statement, “As Teachers the one thing we can truly control every day is our attitude...Others will mirror what we portray-no student should be stressed.” Despite, or rather because of, the current climate filled with high stakes testing and accountability, I stand by that statement 100%. The more I thought about it the more examples of how our behavior and attitudes truly impact the development of a student’s outlook toward school and learning.

 10 Ways Your Attitude and Behavior Can Set the Tone for Learning 

  • If you’re stressed out, they’ll be stressed out 
  • Greeting students as they enter the room tells them you are happy to see them 
  • Introduce lessons with passion and excitement
  • If you use sarcasm, so will they 
  • Ask thought provoking questions 
  • Value quality work and effort
  • Smile whenever you can
  • When you stay calm in the face of adversity they will too 
  • Practice active listening with them and your colleagues 
  • Counting down until the end of the year devalues everything you do with the days you have left

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I Don't do Yoga and I am not Getting a Massage: 10 Ways to be Happier at School

Stress. Pressure.  Anxiety.  No job is completely void of these feelings and teaching is no exception. People find all sorts of ways to relax on their own time, but can anything be done to prevent feeling overwhelmed? Here are some things teachers can do within the context of the school day to keep a positive attitude.

  • Eat lunch sitting down at a table with other people
  • Technology is your friend and should make things easier
  • Make it a point to laugh everyday
  • Stay current by reading about what is going on in education
  • Focus on what needs to be done now
  • Become comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Think outside the four walls of your classroom
  • Observe and be observed by colleagues
  • Hold conversations with your students
  • End every day with a reminder of one thing that went really well

Monday, March 10, 2014

Look at me, I'm on the big screen!

I admit I am not a huge basketball fan but tonight I went to a Celtics game with my family and we had a wonderful time.  Sure, the Celtics don't have many wins this season; however we were happy to see a victory tonight.  It was the first time my sons, ages 14 and 10, attended an NBA game and for the most part they enjoyed the action and overall experience.   What struck me most interesting about the game was what happened every time play was interrupted by a time out, a foul, or the end of a quarter.  The camera scanned the crowd looking for fans to show on the big screen.  I am not sure who were funnier, the ones doing everything they could to get on, or the unsuspecting ones whose reactions played out for thousands to see in real time. Some danced and others looked away.  Most acted a little crazy (even me!) and some just smiled and waved.  It got me thinking about what happens when we put the spotlight on our students and their learning? How might they react?

How might students react when given the spotlight?What happens in your classroom and what it looked like on the big screen

Smile appreciatively 
(Shy wave)

Beg for the attention
(Hey cameraman, over here!)

Genuine surprise 
(Eyes popped open and hand over mouth)

Won’t even realize they are in the spotlight
(Just continuing to eat their nachos)

Bring out the best
(This young kid put on a dancing clinic, he was amazing!)

Bring out the worst
(Some big guy started to take off his shirt)

Become extremely uncomfortable
(Turning away and trying to get off the screen)

Get tired of being in the spotlight
(A nun was shown repeatedly, by about the fifth time during Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, she just shooed the camera away)

Give the attention to someone else
(The two handed point to the person sitting right next to them)

Do whatever it takes to get even more attention
(These people just got louder and their actions more exaggerated)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why I Never Blogged. Why I Blog. Why You Might Consider Blogging.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my blog.  I began blogging with very few expectations other than I wanted to give it a shot and see what would happen.  It has evolved into a rather important piece of my professional life.   Happy Birthday to Little Bits of Advice! 

         Why I Never Blogged
  • Ummm…I didn’t even know what “blogging” meant
  • Lack of confidence in my writing 
  • Fear of putting my beliefs out there
  • I had no time for that

    Why I Blog
  • It forces me to examine my beliefs and attitudes on all things education
  • Offers me the opportunity to meet (virtually) professionals from around the world
  • Getting feedback helps make me a better educator
  • I enjoy it

    Why You Might Consider Blogging
  • You have a lot to offer to others in our profession
  • It is a creative and meaningful way to reflect on your work

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Do You Want Fries With That...And Other Quick Decisions We Make

It is pretty startling when you think about all the decisions we are faced with daily.  I am not referring to decisions that will make a major impact on our lives per say, but rather the quick and on the spot choices we practically make without even thinking.  Which check-out line to get in?  Should I get paper or plastic bags?  Am I in the mood for hot or iced coffee?   Should I take this parking spot or that one?  Should I stop at the yellow light or go through it?

Very few professionals are put in the position to make more swift decisions than teachers are.   Even though the best teachers are well prepared, know their students, and have previous experience to draw upon, they too are often required to think on their feet and make split second decisions.

Here are 10 examples of choices teachers need to make every day while facilitating learning in their classrooms.  There are of course no incorrect answers, each situation is unique, but it is good to know that there are options available.

  • Small group or whole class
  • Confront the student or look the other way
  • Plow through or stop and regroup
  • Independently or cooperatively
  • Wrap it up or extend time
  • Explain it or let them wonder
  • Private or public feedback
  • Hide or show your emotions
  • Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation
  • Paper and pencil or something else

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The 10 Most Important People I Met at the #Edtechri Un-Conference

Another incredible day of learning, collaboration, and all capped off with reflection, on a Saturday no less!  What brings more than 60 educators from over 20 schools and institutions together on a weekend in January?  Are we offering credits? No.  Is there a give away? Nope. Is it mandated?  Absolutely not!  If you have ever been to an EdtechRI Un-Conference you might say it’s because of the people.  Here are the 10 most important individuals that made today and other events like it such a success.

  • The Gatherer – Hungry for as much information as one can handle.
  • The Cheerleader – Helping to encourage and facilitate new learning for everyone.
  • The Expert – Offering their expertise and knowledge for the cost of a smile.
  • The Old Friend – Reconnecting with those they may have lost touch with.
  • The New Friend – You wish you met this individual sooner and can’t wait to collaborate with them.
  • The Helper – Events like this need an “all hands on deck” approach, the helper is there to do whatever is needed.
  • The Connector – This person is responsible for introducing you to others and growing your professional network.
  • The Partner – Often able to communicate with no words and always offers honest feedback.
  • The Energizer – Their enthusiasm is contagious.
  • The Ponderer- Asking the difficult questions that challenge your thinking.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

10 Slogans Not Meant for Education - But Could Be

Like many other parents this Christmas, my children (ages 10 and 13) wished for and received “techie” gifts.  While shopping one day I stumbled upon a board game, yes they still make them, called the Logo Game.  I have seen both my sons play with a similar app on their devices so I thought it would be fun.  It turns out I was right, and playing it as a family has been a big hit.  The premise is pretty simply, there are questions that test your knowledge of well known products, logos, and slogans as you move your pieces around the board.  The more we played, the more I was reminded of memorable catchphrases of days gone by as well as those that have endured the test of time. 

Since I often have a hard time turning off my “inner teacher”, I began to think about what I value and what I try to promote both in myself and my students. With every question card I started to play a game within the game.  Which popular slogans could crossover and promote educational beliefs?  The result was this week’s top ten list.

  • Risk Taking -“Just do it!”
  • Creativity -“Imagination at work”
  • Growth Mindset -“Your potential, your passion”
  • Relationships -“Always there for you”
  • Data Informed -“Don’t leave home without it”
  • Self Reflection -“Try it, you’ll like it”
  • Problem Solving - “Think different”
  • Collaboration - “Let’s build something together”
  • Communication - “Can you hear me now?”
  • Feedback - “Quality never goes out of style”

Monday, January 13, 2014

How can you make self reflection part of your day? Like this...

I have written previous posts about the important role that self reflection plays in improving one’s own teaching practice.  I have given examples of questions that when contemplated thoughtfully might inspire action or lead to new ways of thinking (Reflective Questions for Consideration and Reflective Questions: Summer Edition). The focus of this entry however is on the process itself.   Self reflection can take on many shapes and forms but in order to truly make an impact, it has to happen consistently.  Here are 10 examples of self reflective practices I have seen teachers use.

  • Collaborative planning times or grade level meetings often end in what feels like a blink of an eye. Keeping the first or last 5 minutes sacred to capture a thought will add up to meaningful reflection over time.

  • Having a formal or informal reflection buddy offers many benefits. A professional relationship based on a mutual commitment to improving practice will have implications beyond the two participants.

  • In addition to modeling a lifelong learning skill, involving students in the reflection process provides you with more information when making future instructional decisions.

  • Twitter gives educators the opportunity to create a record of reflections 140 characters at a time.  Furthermore you will receive support and resources from other professionals who have had similar experiences.

  • A reflection jar placed on your desk is always there when you need it.  For more information on this strategy, visit

  • This blog is an example of a self reflective practice that only a year ago I wouldn't have even considered.  You might even want to try something like taking the Self Initiated Blogging Challenge.

  • Take advantage of whatever evaluation protocols your district has. Most models include self reflection as part of the process but even if they don't, make it part of your own.

  • Many teachers shudder at the idea of recording themselves teaching, but it is perhaps the most effective way to analyze what you and how you do it. 

  • Capture meaningful moments, student work, lessons, and ideas by taking quick pictures.  Go through them weekly and bring yourself back to that place and time.   

  • Ask a colleague to observe your classroom and follow it up with a frank discussion about the visit.  For more on this read Reasons to Observe a Colleague.

Friday, January 3, 2014

It's OK to laugh...and other acceptable behaviors

  • It’s OK to laugh with your students
  • It’s OK to say “I don’t know”
  • It’s OK to tweak your delivery of content
  • It’s OK to have high expectations
  • It’s OK to share resources with colleagues
  • It’s OK to tell your students you care about them
  • It’s OK to seek support from administration
  • It’s OK to say “no”
  • It’s OK to allow students to get to know you
  • It’s OK to be observed by colleagues