Assistant Principal Corner #8 SEL Viewpoints

Ap Rocks

There are so many thoughts, ideas, and concerns regarding SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) in schools these days that many can feel very overwhelmed by it all. Many students are coming to school with an array of social and emotional issues and schools are trying very hard to meet their needs but it can be difficult. With tight budgets and soaring costs, many schools struggle to meet all the educational needs and provide their students will fully funded programs and staffs. I can honestly say with over 25 years in education, I have never seen so many students diagnosed with anxiety or depression. We always talk about providing quality interventions and SEL programs for our students which is very justified but what about the root cause of all these issues? I am certainly not an expert in SEL but Here are a few ideas that can possibly help.

  1. 10 Tips to help raise more resilient kids 
  2. A ink between too much cell phone use and teen anxiety
  3. Help kids with self-regulation
  4. Social and Emotional Learning Strategies for Parents-Edutopia
  5. Ensure kids are getting enough free play


I certainly hope these ideas from several experts are helpful and through comprehensive education and school-wide education, we can SEL learningstart to reduce the social emotional problems facing so many young students today.

Welcome Back New & Veteran Teachers

Teach Learn

With another school year upon us, I was thinking about all the great educators I have had the pleasure working with during my career and how much the teaching profession has changed. Certainly, the academia learned in our college/university education classes helps build a foundation, but in my opinion there is no substitute for full-time teaching experience and the ongoing interactions with faculty, students, and parents/guardians. Parents have always wanted the best for their kids and as educators we must deliver. I honestly believe a great teacher is worth their weight in gold and although it is a tough job, it is extremely rewarding.

I have been very fortunate to interact with many dynamic school administrators over the years and am fortunate so many were willing to help me provide both new and returning teachers with some good advice/tips for this upcoming school year. Thank you very much to all those listed below. Personally, I wish all new and returning teachers the very best and will share these two tips; Always model what you want to see from your students such as being a life-long learner and be fair and consistent with them. They really understand when the proverbial playing field is not level. 

William Burkhead- Principal Monomy Regional H.S. -“School’s should be places where we treat kids like they are our own.  A place where they are loved, disciplined, respected, trusted & challenged with high expectations.”

Sam Francera- Asst. Professor, Ed. Leadership, William Paterson University-“Getting better requires patience, persistence, and professionalism. Model these attributes in your daily interactions with students, parents, and colleagues to improve learning for all students.”

Eileen Donahue- Assistant Principal Auburn H.S.-“It all comes down to the 3 R’s: Relationships, Relationships,Relationships. Build them early and build them often. Build them with your students, with their parents, with community stake holders and with fellow faculty members and staff. They will pay dividends tenfold when the time comes to have difficult conversations. It is much easier to broach difficult topics when it is not the first time that you have ever really spoken to someone.”

George M. Farro-Assistant Superintendent Whitman-Hanson RSD-“Always be who you are bc the job of a teaching and loving students is hard enough.”

Ross Thibault-Principal Dartmouth High School-“Never lose track of the “why”—the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the lives of young people and always remember that success is a mindset!”

Lytania Mackey- Director of Technology Swampscott Public Schools-“Classroom management starts day one by building relationships and reinforcing expectations. If you don’t do this you’ll pay for it in December. Don’t worry about the content – worry about getting to know them and them know you.”

Brian McCann-Principal Case High School-Here are two of my mantras: 1. “Make decisions involving students like they were your own children.” 2. “You do not need anyone’s permission to be awesome today.”

Patrick Larkin-Assistant Superintendent Burlington Public Schools-“Have a self-care plan worked out prior to the start of school with attention to sleep and wellness time prioritized in your week. It’s like the analogy on the airplane, adults need to take the oxygen first or they will not be able to take care of the children. If you are not ensuring your own physical and mental health first then you won’t be able to fully support your students.”

Paul Vieira-Assistant Superintendent Ashland Public Schools-Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate, we ask our kids to do it, we want you to do it too. Your success and that of our kids rests on your ability to communicate when you need help or are unsure of things.”

Henry Turner- Principal Newton North High School-“Spend more time listening than talking. Get out of your office and be with people. Spend time with kids outside of the classroom…Go to the cafeteria and go on a field trip. Have fun.”

Joe Scozzaro- Assistant Principal Duxbury High School-“Be transparent with your students about what you don’t know and embrace the role of learner. Your job is to create and manage the conditions in which students learn—not to know everything about your content.”

Chris Jones- Principal Whitman Hanson Regional High School-“Education is not all about you teaching. It’s about students learning. Remember that learning is a personal experience so let students have that experience by offering relevant, engaging topics. Give choice and support student agency because standardized assessments and curriculum are not always a completely accurate measurement or creator of growth and learning.”

Bill Chaplin- Principal Shepard Hill Regional High School– “Always begins and end with relationships – with students, Fellow Staff,and community – Connect passion with content and mastery, and how this all connects to your students real world today.”

John Clements-Principal Nipmuc Regional High School-“Keep your focus on creating a culture of learning, not a culture of teaching. Although this may sound challenging, remember that little action steps have a huge impact. Simple ideas like tracking your talk time, trading a dominant teaching wall for a “wonder wall”, putting lessons “on-demand” so kids can choose the lesson they want/need, and creating formal ways for kids to give you feedback on your lessons are great starting points to create learning environments defined by reflection, growth, agency, and inquiry for all!”

Lucas Giguere- Assistant Superintendent Franklin Public Schools-“In my experience, the best classroom management strategies aren’t founded on strict rules but through establishing positive relationships between and among students, modeling high expectations for the respectful behavior you expect of your students and providing high-quality instruction that engages them in authentic tasks. The rest will take care of itself. My mentor told me to keep ”Next Year” notes in the form of a running log to capture the lessons learned and ideas to improve moving forward. It served me well. Best of luck!”

Kip Lewis- Assistant Principal King Phillip Regional High School-“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” ~Wilma Rudolph

What Makes An Effective Coach/Teacher

coaches as teachers

Recently, I had a few discussions with colleagues about what characteristics are needed to be an effective athletic coach as well as an effective classroom teacher. Many athletic coaches on the high school and collegiate levels come from strong educational backgrounds which seems to be a natural fit and in turn can provide student athletes with a structured, respectful, challenging, but also positive learning experience. Effective classroom teachers also have this same impact on their students. From my experience as a teacher, coach, athlete, and school administrator, I can honestly say I have seen a wide-range of teaching and coaching styles with most having a very positive impact on students. Unfortunately, I have also seen several ineffective practices that have caused some very poor learning opportunities for students. Being a teacher and athletic coach can be difficult but are also very rewarding jobs that can play a pivotal role in the growth and development of young men and women. I would argue that the traits needed to be an effective teacher and coach are the same and great athletic coaches are also great teachers. Becoming a great teacher and athletic coach takes a lot of time, dedication, patience, professional development, and reflection. We can’t expect new teachers or coaches to be perfect. They are sure to make mistakes and will need positive mentoring in order to reflect on those mistakes, make the necessary changes, and continually grow as a professional.

In my opinion, schools need to be more consistent in their review practices for both teachers and coaches. Should schools have a double standard of what they think is acceptable teaching practices vs athletic coaching practices? I don’t belive so. I believe students should see the same consistent professional behavior expected in classrooms as on playing fields. I am not suggesting they need to be 100 percent the same. Athletic coaches do sometimes need to raise their voice a bit more at the right time to help motivate athletes during particular situations or once in a while the head coach may need to respectfully challenge a referee’s call. I don’t belive anyone with extensive playing or coaching experience expects athletic coaches not to get heated once in a while but poor sportsmanship and repeatedly using vulgarity in front of kids should never be the norm. Kids watch and often emulate what is modeled for them. We can’t expect students to act one way if the adults are doing the opposite. Effective teachers and coaches walk-the-talk. I am not talking about wins or losses here or just test scores. Being effective means much more than that. It is helping develop productive men and women that learn values, responsibility, empathy, leadership, cooperation, problem solving skills, teamwork, sportsmanship, resiliency, conflict resolution, dealing with authority, time management, self-discipline. and communication skills. Employers are looking for many of these skills.

As stated earlier, teachers and athletic coaches both have rewarding but difficult jobs and often are under the microscope to constantly win games or improve standardized test scores. There also is more parental scrutiny these days which can sometimes lead to political decisions being made in an arena that shouldn’t have a place for politics if we are honestly making decisions in the best interest of kids. In my opinion, if a teacher or coach is working hard, demonstrates continuous growth, acts professionally, makes decisions in the best interest of students, communicates well with parents and with their supervisors (not saying always agrees with them), and is a positive role model, then schools should uniformly support them. When we let wins/losses or test scores sway our judgment and not look at the other components of effective teaching/coaching, I feel we are doing students a disservice. I believe one should hire a passionate teacher that also loves coaching vs. a passionate coach who happens to just need a teaching job. In my mind, effective coaches are also great teachers.

I want to thank my friends and colleagues for providing me with a quote from their experience on this topic. They are all very successful Massachusetts School Administrators that also have extensive athletic coaching and teaching experience. All of these excellent professionals continuously work to improve student outcomes through effective teaching practices, ongoing professional development, and community engagement. Their input is truly appreciated and are great resources.

Bill Burkhead- Principal Monomoy Regional High School– “I truly believe athletics in America is extremely vital to the growth of our children.  I do not think we should lessen the value we place on the importance of athletics and sports.  I do believe, however, that we should make a societal shift to place greater emphasis on the importance of academic success.” See Bill’s Blog onWhat can Academics learn from Athletics?

Maureen Cohen- Assistant Superintendent Mendon-Upton Regional School District-“Before I knew I wanted to be a teacher, I always knew I wanted to be a coach. Playing basketball and softball my entire childhood was truly a highlight and contributed greatly to the person I am today. When I entered teaching I quickly found out that the qualities of effective coaching were essential to my role as a teacher, but especially important for my students. When you are a coach, you view each player as if they have this immense potential of growth. You really get to know your players well. What if all teachers got to know their students as well as we do as coaches? As a coach, I know that a strategic mixture of modeling, practice, and targeted feedback can move a player’s skill immensely. As a coach, I fostered opportunities for student leadership of the team, choice, and collaboration. Additionally, as a coach my enthusiasm for the game, for the development of a positive team culture, and sometimes just having fun helped move us towards our team goals. Every one of those skills is transferable to the classroom as a teacher because every day is filled with coachable moments. Every student is filled with an immense potential for growth. There is no need to leave all the magic out on the courts or fields, because it can happen right in your classroom every day with passion, enthusiasm, growth mindset and sometimes a whistle can help.”

Marty Geoghegan- Principal of JT Nichols Middle School– “I believe that effective coaching and teaching are completely synonymous. A successful coach realizes and sees the greatness however small it might be in her players and the effective teacher does as well for her students. It is about trying to work with each child’s (student/player’s) weaknesses while building up his strengths. I always think about the lessons I have learned from being a coach in terms of how, as a teacher, you have to understand who your player is as a person to then know what will motivate him. You can’t just guess. It is a science and a balancing act to it. With both, it is building a relationship, gaining trust, and showing that you are 100% behind them to help them be successful. Teaching and coaching are definitely the same on this.”

Eileen Donahue- Assistant Principal Auburn High School–   “Coaching IS teaching, the difference being that in coaching all of your students are there because they WANT to be there. The delivery and strategies are intertwined-both teaching and coaching are vehicles used to build up, motivate and inspire. The end game for both is for the students to walk away with a life-long passion for the discipline, a great experience and a positive self-image.”

Aaron Polansky- Superintendent Old Colony RVTHS- “Great teachers and coaches need to be competent, passionate, and connect with students. The best teachers take their students from a place of doubt, to thinking about the possibilities. Once a student moves from doubt to think, motivation shifts from external to internal, and barriers are broken.”

Arthur Dulong- Asst Director MA School Admins’ Assn, Retired Principal Concord Carlisle H.S. -“A great coach has to inspire an athlete to be better, encourage an athlete to keep trying even through failure, correct an athlete’s technique and attitude, model the behavior and work ethic needed, and always emphasize the growth toward perfection understanding the journey is ongoing. If you substitute the title “teacher” for coach you have the truth that makes each great in the other role.”

Assistant Principal’s Corner #7

It has been a few years since I have posted an Assistant Principal Corner and believe  my perspective has changed a bit since first becoming an Assistant Principal. For those that want to switch from teaching to administration, it is a great career change but is not for everybody. Not everyone can be a great teacher and this goes for administration as well. From my experience and interactions with many colleagues, I would like to share a few thoughts on what I believe it takes to be an effective Assistant Principal. A very wise and seasoned veteran administrator once told me that if an AP tries to be liked by all, they probably will be ineffective and never be able to promote needed change and growth. My thoughts below are in no particular order.

  1. Be visible and support the kids. Saying you support students and actually being at their events are two separate things. Students are smart and know sincerity when they see it. Yes, this is a time commitment but is part of the job and is needed to build relationships.
  2. Be an instructional leader. The days of just dealing with operational issues within the building and discipline are long gone. How do you help your principal with his/her academic vision and how do you initiate new ideas/strategies to promote instructional growth?
  3. Model what you want to see in the building. If we expect students and staff to take educational risks and try new things, we must be willing to do it ourselves. We can’t expect growth if we are not willing to keep learning and sharing what we learn with others. Change is always difficult but necessary so students can be better prepared for an ever-changing global society. Be a transformational leader.
  4. Be transparent, have integrity, demonstrate professionalism, and be loyal. All of these leadership traits are extremely important. Loyalty must be given and also received. Leadership teams must be loyal to each other and not get caught up with school-wide politics.
  5. Your decisions must be made in the best interest of your students but support your teachers and staff. If they make mistakes, discuss it behind closed doors. Praise in public but criticize in private. Your decisions will not always be favorable and surely will alienate someone, but you can’t worry about trying to please everyone so just make the best decision according to the information at hand and from your experience. No two people look at things exactly through the same lens.

6. Constantly be in classrooms to observe teachers. Give honest and descriptive feedback to them. If you have any concerns, it is important to be able to give them steps to correct those areas not just give criticism. The majority of teachers work very hard to plan fun and engaging lessons and they put in many extra hours, so our feedback needs to be useful and relevant to help them continue to grow as professionals. We can always find at least one positive thing in a lesson even if it wasn’t a strong lesson that particular day. On the other hand, failing to address ineffective teaching is not fair to our students and does them an injustice

7. Constantly work on being an active listener. This is an important skill that some people are better at than others. I believe we can always improve in this area but it takes practice.  Certainly, an area I am still working on.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Developing a strong professional learning network (PLN) can provide innovative ideas to create new practices as well as support from colleagues that may have faced challenges that you are presently dealing with. Being a school administrator is not easy so seeking advice from others is a must if you want to be successful. Social media such as Twitter is an excellent resource but also face-to-face opportunities such as committees and conferences are very beneficial as well.


Vaping In Schools

No smoking No Vaping

As a school administrator, it’s important to not just help prevent unwanted and/or illegal substances from coming into and being used in your building but also to inform and educate students, parents, and your community about these various substances and the negative impact they can have on students. During my career, I have unfortunately had to deal with several young men and women trying various substances in school. It is difficult to stay ahead of new trends as students try new drugs and the various methods in which to take them.

In my opinion, students that willingly use drugs in school and/or are in possession of drug paraphernalia need consistent and firm consequences to send a message to others that school buildings will not be a place for this type of behavior. Schools need to be a professional environment where students learn the skills needed to be college/career ready and successful and productive citizens that demonstrate respect for themselves and for others.

From doing reasearch and speaking with several colleagues that are school administrators in other districts in Massachusetts and from my own experience, I would say that E-Cigarettes/Vapes are the latest trend that students are trying to use unwanted, harmful, or illicit substances in schools. These E-Cigarettes/Vapes really started coming on the school scene about 3-5 years ago even though they have been around the U.S market since around 2008. People first started trying these E-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking to help them eventually quit. The problem is that many kids who never smoked cigarettes use these E-cigarettes/Vapes with nicotine added to the propylene glycol and/or glycerin fluid. As science has proven, nicotine is very addictive and we don’t fully know the long-term health issues associated with Vaping the “e-liquid” or e-juice with or without the nicotine. The CDC reports that use among youth in the U.S. for these products has increased significantly. With the recent surge in use among our youth, more studies are being conducted to shed some light on the effects of these products such as mouth sores, possible gum disease, irritated trachea and lungs, a persistent cough, bronchitis, and possible carcinogens (cancer causing agents) such as formaldehyde (For-MAAL-de-hide) and acetaldehyde (Ass-et-AAL-de-hide) are being released into their bodies from the E-fluid being heated by metal coils.

Dripping- What is it?


Some users want to get a greater high from the E-fluid  with nicotine in it so they remove the cover to the E-cigarette/Vape and drop the oil directly onto the heated coils which creates more smoke to inhale and a greater hit to that person’s throat. With the increase in heat, greater level of toxins can also be released into the user’s body.

E-Cigarettes/Vapes used for Illegal Substances

Here is a news report on how these devices can be altered to use various drugs and synthetic substances. The most common illicit drug used in them is a sticky marijuana oil called Dabs which usually has higher levels of THC (primary intoxicant in marijuana and hash). Dabs-are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using solvents  like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in this sticky oil also commonly referred to as wax or butter.



Other drugs being smoked from E-cigarettes/Vapes

As if it wasn’t bad enough that marijuana and nicotine are being smoked through these devices, several other substances are being added to the fluids such as GHB, heroin, Special K (ketamine), cocaine, magic mushrooms, spices, peyote, percocet, hash oil, amphetamines, ritalin, LSD,MDMA Xanax, Lorazepam, Here is a video from CNN on the rise of synthetic drugs like Flakka.

Why should schools change their handbooks to include E-Cigarettes/Vapes as drug paraphernalia instead of being listed as a Nicotine/Tobacco infraction? Because students can possibly use a variety of chemicals/drugs in these E-fluids, we as administrators don’t have the ability to tell exactly what is in them and don’t have the resources to test for all the possible drugs. If students are brazen enough to bring these into our schools, in my opinion, the Vapes/E-Cigarettes need to be treated as drug paraphernalia. Would it be Ok for a student to be smoking hash oil in class and our teachers not be able to tell what it is because the Vape-fluids are scented? These devices are also becoming smaller and harder to detect. An example are JUUL’s (which look like a thumb drive and can be charged in USB drives in school and some.


A few links on the Dangers of Vape Battery explosions

Vape explosion in backpack

Teen burned by Vape

Vape explodes in Canadian teen’s face


Other pics of various Vapes/E Cigarettes

vapes diffgernces

Creating Educational Balance


What is educational balance? There certainly are different interpretations of this among cities and towns throughout the United States and in other countries. What should students know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready? The Wellness Model above is commonly displayed in wellness classes. It is divided into various components and basically illustrates a person should try to reach optimal levels in each area to attain optimal wellness. If someone concentrates too much in a few areas, the balance may be off and that individual may be deficient in other areas throughout their life.  An example is a person may be wealthy and physically fit but have poor social and emotional skills. Well-Rounded Students

As educators, we have a responsibility to help students reach their full potential as human beings not just academically. This is a monumental task that takes a collaborative effort between schools, parents/guardians, and communities. Getting everyone on the same page is a difficult task but it starts with a vision, having difficult conversations, and being open-minded. As an educator, I believe it is crucial for students to be well-rounded and learn real-life skills. If certain subjects are emphasized as being more important because of specific state required tests, we then begin the process of tipping the scales to create curriculum that reflects this. Shouldn’t a comprehensive curriculum also include character education, soft skills, financial literacy, the arts, and wellness? Time and Learning



So why are there so many more incidents of mental health problems in schools today? Declining Student Resiliency Could it be stress levels are higher, kids feel overwhelmed by mandates, excessive testing, and are less resilient? Do too many adults try to keep them from failing to prevent lower academic averages, being cut from a sports team,  or not chosen for a musical/play. I would argue these certainly play a role in the increase in mental health issues in school. Learning how to keep fighting and never quitting will help develop GRIT in students. Learning needs to also be about the process of learning and not just the grade. Grades need to be skill based and reflect specific standards. Class participation and high homework grades do not help prepare students for college. Inflated high school grades will negatively impact students taking more rigorous college courses. Punctuality, interpersonal skills, working hard, collaborative problem solving, and empathy are essential for future student success. Rise in Child Mental Disorders

As a former athlete, I truly understand the dedication needed to play competitive sports. This same dedication is also needed for other high school extra curricular such as band, drama, and a host of other clubs. Anything worth doing takes dedication and commitment. Students should be encouraged to participate in as many extra curricular activities as possible that they are able to handle (this varies greatly among kids). It is selfish to influence a student to just focus on one thing when they only get one chance at high school. Very few will play major college sports or get a scholarship. Supporting students to try various activities helps them learn more about what they like or dislike. Parents and educators need to support their curiosity and help facilitate their growth. Why are kids quitting sports?

How can we teach students how to balance all of these things? I believe teaching time management skills, emphasizing persistence, and setting realistic goals is paramount in handling stress and achieving incremental success. Also creating classrooms that are fun, engaging, student centered, and allows for personalized learning helps create more curious learners that are willing to take risks and expand their horizons. Skills Employers Want


job skills

Building Resiliency/GRIT in Kids



It is a fact that educators are hearing the words positive growth mindset, GRIT, and resiliency a lot these days but what does it all mean? I don’t remember these words being emphasized so much several years ago so why now? As a child, it was instilled in me that hard work leads to success, and I was accountable for my actions which were not always positive. A phone call home meant that I was in trouble not my teachers or school administrators. It was not acceptable coming to school or work late, not doing my homework, and not studying hard. I learned that it was my actions that led to consequences. As a typical teenager, I certainly disagreed with certain decisions based on my actions, but I owned them and the adults in my life did not allow me to project them on to others. I wasn’t rewarded for not living up to certain obligations and expectations. Parenting and teaching students isn’t easy, but we must educate them about character and perseverance when things go wrong.

Students may want the best grade with the least amount of effort but what are the long term consequences for this? It seems there is a definite disconnect between  high schools and colleges. Many high school graduates need to take remedial courses because of sub par reading and writing skills. Is this because they are being passed through the system so graduation rates look higher than the actual skill level of the students? We have many hard working and bright students in the U.S. that compete on a world-wide level but many students are not reaching their potential. So what do colleges say about declining student resiliency?

We also have a huge increase in mental health issues and according to the 2014 Pisa Study, students in the United States are below average in resiliency>>Study on resiliency-student input. The definition basically is one’s ability to recover quickly from misfortune without being totally overwhelmed. An example would be a student gets a C on a test that they studied hard for, discussed it with his/her teacher, listens to feedback, and then proceeds to work harder or smarter to do better on the next test. Poor resiliency would be blaming everyone for this grade, shutting down, making hurtful statements, and not working hard to make necessary changes. Teachers often complain they feel pressured not to  give poor or low grades. Some do this to avoid any meltdowns or calls from angry parents which only enables the poor effort. Sometimes the teachers are wrong in their grading practices and this can usually be discussed in a professional manner, but what does it teach the child if every time they complain, rant, rave, they get their way? Does this build resiliency? Will this be acceptable behavior in college, future jobs, or relationships?


What about GRIT and a positive growth mindset? Grit is essentially persistence and sticking with difficult tasks. A person with a positive growth mindset believes they can improve their abilities through hard work. Someone with a fixed mindset believes they are born with certain abilities and they are limited by these fixed attributes and can only improve minimally. Carol Dweck has written several publications on positive growth mindsets. Another excellent resource is this video from TED Talks GRIT. Angela Lee Duckworth explains “that IQ is not as important as hard work and educators need to learn more about student motivation.”

So how can educators Improve and cultivate resiliency? Students need to learn from an early age that the process of learning and trying is more important than the immediate outcome. Failure can lead to growth as long as one keeps on trying and refuses to settle for less. Think about people that have failed the LSAT, GRE, MTEL, or other exams but worked harder and finally passed them. Those that fail after several tries can be proud of their effort but then must pick themselves up and move in another direction. What other positive options do they have?

As a school administrator, one thing is clear to me, we all have to work together and be on the same page to improve student growth and outcomes. Teachers, students, parents, and administrators all have an important role to play and consistency and follow through is key. Work together and support each other to teach students resiliency and don’t give in and bend every time a student complains or doesn’t want to work hard. My parents, teachers, principals, and coaches sure didn’t make it easy for me, and I appreciate them very much for pushing and encouraging me while being there to help when I took a step back. Don’t we owe this to our students as well?

Granger Model


Some other Excellent Resources

 Healthy Coping

Colleges confront lack of Grit/Resiliency

MGH Resilient Youth Program


Technology to Improve Student Engagement

student tech pic

There are so many tools that are available to educators that can really help improve student engagement in their classes. As a school administrator, I have to wear many hats with one of them conducting frequent classroom observations. Although other job requirements can sometimes reduce the amount of time I spend in classes, watching fun and engaging lessons is my favorite part of my day. Observing well-prepared lessons that meet student learning needs and improves student achievement is paramount for school administrators. We are supposed to be instructional leaders within our buildings. To fully understand what a well-prepared and engaging lesson looks like, we first need to understand what engagement really means. George Couros discusses some areas to look for during observations in this article:

Technology is a great tool that helps make learning fun, helps differentiate and personalize learning, creates more student centered instruction, helps students communicate more, improves collaboration, and helps connect them to other students in other towns, cities, states, and countries. Technology plays an important role in accelerating pedagogy which will help transform education. Teachers can try incorporating a flipped model: 

School administrators need to model various technologies to teachers so they understand the relevance and use it as an important tool to improve teaching and learning. I am enclosing a Video Scribe and PowerPoint presentation on how school administrators can help model the use of technology to improve student engagement. This was presented to other school administrators at the MSSAA Summer Institute in Hyannis Massachusetts on July 30, 2015. I hope it is helpful to both teachers and administrators. I want to recognize and thank my principal Tara Bennett for introducing me to Kahoot and its excellent and fun formative assessment capabilities. There are several administrators I have learned from, but I really want to recognize and thank principal Bill Bulkhead for showing me how to create a blog and modeling the use of technology. One year later, I feel much more connected. To learn more about Video Scribe, please click the link above or email me at

MSSAASI Presentation 2015

Becoming A More Connected Educator


connected educator


My Definition of a Connected Educator

1. Being able to learn and share ideas with many other educators from various towns, cities, states, and countries.

2. A connected educator is as much a learner as they are a teacher. They practice and model lifelong learning.


It is important for every educator and administrator to continuously seek professional growth in order to best provide our students with the best education possible. We must model what we expect our students to be able to do and remain relevant in education by demonstrating our openness to change. To be transformational, school teachers and administrators must be change agents.

7 Ways to Become More Connected

1. Attend various professional developments each year and at different places.

2. Use more interdisciplinary units with colleagues in your school.

3. Be a reflective educator.

4. Be more open to explore, collaborate, and question current educational practices.

5. Learn more about Web 2.0 tools Ex: blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

6. Join a social network and create a PLN.

7. Slowly integrate more technology into classes and school: HoverCam, QR Codes, Vimeo, iMovie, Digital Newspaper, etc.


***See below and click link for full presentation given to Assistant Principals at MSSAA Conference on 4/6/15

Connected Educator Presentation

Good Read

Connect Book

Personalized Learning – Bring Out The Genius In Kids

genius 3

So what is Personalized Learning and how does it differ from Individualized Learning and Differentiated Learning? Differentiated instruction is adapting to the various learning styles of students, but the learning goal usually remains the same. Individualized instruction is explicitly designed to accommodate individual learning needs, but students are dependent on teachers to support their learning. Personalized learning allows the student to choose what they want to learn and the method in which they want to learn it. There can be some 1:1 help by the instructor if the student needs it but it is not required. These students learn according to their preferred method which helps improve engagement. All three instructional strategies have their place.

It’s no secret that engaged students tend to do better in school and have less attendance and discipline issues. Students that are not engaged tend to loath school and are more likely to become a drop out. This can significantly reduce their chance for success. This is a segue from my last article on blended learning which tends to be more student centered and thus more engaging. Teachers need to use multiple modalities including using technologies, PBL, flipped classrooms, and collaborative problem solving to reach a wide audience of students.

Google was one of the pioneers in creative thinking by creating a Genius Hour for its employees. Google dedicated 20% of the work time so employees could brainstorm, be curious, and develop new ideas which helped improve Google’s status as a technological giant. So what is a Genius Hour? This is an hour set aside during a class once a week where students can work on anything they are interested in. A couple of questions teachers have regarding using this strategy are; what about all the content I have to squeeze in, and how do I get ready for those standardized tests if I allow students to choose what they want to learn? Genius Hour can be used many different ways by teachers and students. The big question is “how do you engage more learners and make their education more authentic?” By using a Genius Hour, students can become experts in anything they want or are interested in. It allows them to explore their passions and helps them realize that failure is a part of learning. This helps develop true growth. Several schools have already implemented a Genius Hour into their curriculum. By no means am I suggesting this is the only relevant activity, but it definitely helps engage students and gives them a deeper connection to their learning. I believe balance, creativity, fun and defined expectations helps students stay engaged. Here are some excellent links if you want to learn more about implementing a Genius Hour.

genius 2