Thursday, May 26, 2011

Parkview Author's Fair


Today first grade students at Parkview read selections from their writing portfolio to their parents and other special persons. A great writing experience.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Read and Be Well Celebration


The Chief Medical Officer of Providence Park Hospital accepts a donation of 190 books written by our K-6 grade students. These books are used throughout the hospital. A wonderful authentic writing activity that benefits students across our community.

Read and Be Well Celebration


Tonight at Novi Middle School our district celebrated authentic writing by our K-6 grade students. Our students wrote books that will be shared throughout the state.

Novi High School Senior Honors


Principal Carol Diglio welcomes parents and students to senior honors night. Over 83 percent of the class is going to a four year college. The class also earned over ten million dollars in scholarships. Congratulations Wildcats!

Turn Around Luncheon


Today at Novi Meadows students who have made significant turn arounds were honored today. Mr. Ascher introduces the program.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Becoming Better

As a parent I wanted my children's teachers to be at their best everyday.  My children deserved nothing less.

Yet is that realistic?

Atul Gawande in his book Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, writes:

In surgery, as in anything else, skill and confidence are learned through experience - haltingly and humiliatingly.  Like the tennis player and the oboist and the guy who fixes hard drives, we need to practice to get good at what we do.  There is one difference in medicine, though; it is people we practice on.  (p. 18)

I might add "in education" to his one area of difference.  Teachers or principals or Superintendents work not just with people but with children.  While I would like to believe that every teacher, principal, or Superintendent is excellent their first day on the job, I know know that is not true.

As I transition into the Novi Community School District, my hope is that I will do a wonderful job.  I know though that I will make mistakes.  My hope is that I can minimize the mistakes, learn from them when I do make them, and get better tomorrow than I am today.

Yet for parents or community members is that good enough?  As Gawande says, "it is people we practice upon."

Accepting work as a teacher or principal or Superintendent comes with certain risks.  I will be judged more quickly and more harshly for the mistakes that I make.  And I should.  After all, mistakes I make could potentially have a tremendous impact on the life of a child.

I need to minimize the mistakes while at the same time pressing to make us better. It is a delicate balance but unless I am willing to accept the responsibility I should not accept the job.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Novi Meadows


High school students perform their version of Little Red Riding Hood for students at Novi Meadows. A fairy tale with a twist.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What Can I Learn From Medicine

I read an interesting book last week.  In the book Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande, the author, at this point in his life a surgical resident, reflects on his training and his experiences.  He says at the beginning of the book (page 7):

There is a science in what we do, yes, but also habit, intuition, and sometimes plain old guessing.  The gap between what we know and what we aim for persists.  And this gap complicates everything we do.

As I read those words I thought about those in our society who expect educators to have all of the answers.  Our governor in Michigan talks about a year's growth in a year's time for all students.  In the last district that I was in one of the goals that I focused on was that very thing - a year's growth in a year's time.

Yet, education - like medicine - is complicated.  Clearly there is a science to what teachers do.  We know what good instructional practices are and we can identify when students are engaged in meaningful work.  Yet, what works for one group of students sometimes does not work nearly as well for the next group of students.

It has been awhile since I have been in the classroom, but I can still remember the feeling when a lesson went well.  The feeling was the same whether I was teaching college students or my middle school students.  When a lesson went well there was a sense of satisfaction; a sense that maybe I knew what I was doing after all.  A sense that the time my students and I had spent together was meaningful and somehow valuable.

When I experienced that feeling first hour, I couldn't wait for second hour.  I knew it would go just as well.  But there were times when it did not.

Why?  What happened?  What went wrong?

As Gawande says, There is science in what we do, yes, but . . . It is that "but" that keeps great teachers thinking, stewing, reflecting, searching for answers.  Good educators, good teachers, know what we are aiming for.  We understand the responsibility we have to ensure that every student learns everyday.  We feel responsible for the precious time that we have with students and know that we cannot waste minutes, hours, or days.

Those times when we sense that students are not learning, that time is being wasted, hurts us.  I often felt drained, almost sick, because I knew that the lesson that day - the time that I was given to help students learn - had been uninspiring, uneventful, and unproductive.

It was at those times that I struggled to find answers.

"Why did that strategy not work?"  

"What could I have done differently?"

"How can I be better tomorrow?"

I tried to find answers to those questions when I taught in my small middle school in hale Center, Texas, and when I taught my students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Finding answers to those questions is what drives me to this day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A new district

I start work in the Novi Community School District on May 9, 2011.  

On April 27, 2011, Governor Snyder, in a speech on education said, "Michigan’s future is absolutely dependent on making our education system a success for our students, our teachers, our parents and our economy. . . We need our best and brightest, in teaching, in Michigan. We should provide the highest-quality training that can ensure that every child is taught by a skilled professional who can help that child succeed."

On May 5, 2011, the Michigan House of Representatives cut funding to schools by $500 million dollars - the largest cut in Michigan history.  The proposal approved the state representatives cuts funding 3.5% for schools, on top of the $170 per student cut already in place because of the reduction of federal stimulus money.  The total cut will be between $426 - $470 per pupil.

Yes, it is an interesting time to be a Superintendent. The challenges are great.  But I believe in our mission - developing each student's potential with a world-class education.  

I look forward to working in the Novi Community School District.  I am excited to meet our staff, students, parents, and community.  

While the challenges are great, I have confidence that our school community will continue to make a positive difference for our students.