Feeling Grateful

Posted in Uncategorized on September 17th, 2017 by dkerr

So over the summer I read a wonderful book titled, The Gratitude Diaries, by Janice Kaplan, and it was a much needed reminder for me to always look on the bright side, and to positively reframe the experiences, challenges, and opportunities that I have in my day to day life. More than anything though, it has helped me to refocus my approach to each new day, and to see the world through a lens of gratitude, particularly as I enter into a new chapter here at ASP…so much to be grateful for indeed. It also reminded me of a blog post that I shared a couple of years ago, that I have re-worked here for you today, in hopes that you might find your own gratitude lens as we settle into a new school year. Here is a non-exhaustive list of what I am grateful for as I walk through the Lower School doors at the American School of Paris each and every day…I hope some of these resonate with you, and please know that at the top of this list is the gratefulness that I feel to be working with all of you this year…here we go.

The Noise – Have you ever taken a few minutes throughout the day to just stop and listen to the white noise of a school? If you haven’t then do it on Monday morning…it might just be the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear. It’s a constant hum of laughing and learning and failure and success, and teaching and determination and love. One of the best parts of my day is to walk down a hallway and to listen from outside the door to the sounds of kids engaged…or to stand off in the corner of the playground during recess time and listen to the shouts and squeals of happiness, as kids play and make new friends and learn how to fit in…it is definitely music to my ears, and without a doubt, the soundtrack to a beautiful day.

A Child’s Beauty – Children are the best teachers that any of us could possibly have, and the most beautiful creatures that exist in our world. It is next to impossible for someone to spend a day with a child and not come away inspired and changed for the better. If you really listen to what children say, and if you take the time to watch them interact with the world, your heart will fill with joy and your smile will stretch across your face. The way they notice the little things in life that we often take for granted, the way that they are constantly curious, the utter joy that spills from their bodies when they learn something new and find a little success, and their imagination, creativity, and willingness to fail and to try, try, try again…wow…there is nothing in our world like the beauty of a child.

Committed Educators – Teaching is the most noble, honorable and important profession that we have in society, and quality teachers are as close to true and living superheroes that we have in our world. Committed educators are change agents…they are sculptors…they are artists…they are mentors…they are role models, and they are oftentimes under appreciated. No professional works harder than a committed educator in my opinion, with the sole focus and responsibility of moulding their students into leaders for our world, and into empathetic, compassionate, critical thinking, and creative members of our communities. Quality teachers are truly amazing and deserve to be lauded for their tremendous efforts and contributions to the future of our planet.

The Opportunity – The opportunity that we have as educators is incredible, and the responsibility is immense. The opportunity to re-imagine education and to break free from traditional schooling is in our collective hands, and there is no more exciting time to be an educator than right now. We have the ability to transform how we teach our kids, and how we design and redesign learning spaces, and how we write and deliver curriculum, and how we prepare our students for a rapidly changing world…awesome! We have the opportunity to be courageous and innovative and transformational…let’s seize it!

The Struggle – Watching kids learn, and grow, and fail, and develop is a beautiful struggle, and one that I will never get tired of being a part of. Growing up is hard, and trying to find your way in this world is difficult at the best of times. I love this struggle, and I love each child’s journey into becoming who they will eventually become for our world. They all burn so bright, and their joy and pain is so open and honest and so on display. The struggle is incredible to watch, and it brings you back to that time in your life that shaped who you are. It’ll make you laugh and cry and get frustrated, and it will make you proud…but most importantly it will make you feel, and become a part of something truly special, which is each child’s journey into finding themselves, and their purpose…this struggle is at the core of what is beautiful about education.

The Constant Learning – Each and every day I learn (and re-learn) something new. Being in classrooms and interacting with students and teachers is a constant learning process that makes me a better person. I learn from my mistakes, I learn from the mistakes of others, and I learn about people and how to best support and challenge them. I learn about current educational trends and research, I learn about what’s being successful in other quality schools, I learn from our outstanding ASP leadership team, and like I said before, I learn from the best teachers that we have…our kids. They teach me everyday about the importance of being my best self for others, and to be humble and honest and a good listener. It’s staggering how much you can learn in the run of a school day if you just open yourself up to it.

The Unexpected – An educator’s day never goes as planned and I love it. The thing about school is that you never know from one second to the next what will come your way, and this uncertainty makes me love my job. There’s always an unexpected mini crisis or a student celebration or an issue with a parent or a teacher or a kid, and it keeps us on our toes in the best possible way. From one hour to the next you can be floored by a student accomplishment, you can be bewildered by a decision that a student or adult has made, you can have a belly laugh from something that a kid says to you, and you can be thrown into a situation that will break your heart…and it’s all good. An individual school day is just like a student…ever-changing, unpredictable, surprising, and always beautiful!

The Joy – If you’re like me then coming to ASP everyday brings you tremendous joy…how could it not? We get to hang out with our kids all day long, we get to spend time with our colleagues who are also our friends, we get to learn and feel and become better human beings because of our daily interactions with our students and each other, and we get to shape the future of our little (and not so little) kids. What other profession can offer such a joyful and purposeful existence? Just when you start to feel stressed or frustrated or overworked, you turn the corner and run into a beautiful little kid, with a huge smile on their face, and so much joy in their heart, and they run up to you and they give you a big hug and you just melt as their energy reminds you why you love school so much. I’m so grateful for what children bring to my life!

So there you have it…I’m sure I could go on and on but that’s a decent start I think. Moving forward, and as we inch closer to our Open House on Thursday, I want to challenge you to embrace everything in your life that you should be grateful for, and to let it spill out of you for all to appreciate…I’ll do the same. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be grateful for our lives and our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it –

William Arthur Ward

 

Related Websites – 

http://gratefulness.org/

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-ted-talks-videos/

https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/what_we_do/major_initiatives/expanding_gratitude

 


Inspiring Videos –

What Actually Feeds a Family

Students Discover the Power of Gratitude

Kid President – 25 Reasons to Feel Thankful

A Reminder to Care

Nature.Beauty.Gratitude

Tell Me a Story

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10th, 2017 by dkerr

So I spent some time last week pushing into a few classrooms to tell stories to our kids, and it was easily the best part of my week. I love telling stories and I love listening to stories (who doesn’t), and I’ve come to believe that engaging students through storytelling can be a powerful strategy that all educators should have in their toolbox. Since I began my teaching career all those years ago, telling stories has always been my favorite thing to do, and in my opinion it’s one of the best ways to get learning to “stick”. Think about your own experience with stories, whether it’s with a great book or movie, or even with a simple anecdote from a friend, storytelling engages not only our minds but our emotions as well, and that’s where learning really takes hold.

 

The great thing about telling stories is that they always find a way to access a personal connection or experience with the listener, which ultimately makes it partly their own. How may times have you read or told a story to someone and the immediate response is, “that reminds me of when”, or “I can relate to that”. I’ve been reading a lot about the science behind storytelling lately, and the research around how our brains become more active when we tell and listen to stories is really interesting. I think that we have an opportunity as educators to tap into the power of storytelling with our students even more than we already do, to better engage them in their learning. I know that teachers are already natural storytellers but I think we can be more purposeful in how we deliver our curriculum, and how we approach our lesson and unit planning with this in mind.

 

Stories I think, can truly help reshape knowledge into something personal and meaningful, and ultimately, stories can make kids really care about what they are learning and motivate them into doing. There’s a great example out there by Hans Rosling, of how information can be brought to life when it’s presented in the context of a story. Take a look. Anyway, I guess my challenge to you this week is to see if you can find more ways to engage our kids through storytelling. I also want to thank you in advance for allowing me to take a few minutes of your time to tell a story or two to our kids…it’s a great way to help them get to know me, and a great way to model this idea for them early on in the year.

 

If we take this idea even further, I want to empower you all to tell your own story with your students, and to find ways to get them to tell theirs. The story of who you are and where you’re going as a person and educator, and the story of your classroom and the journey that you’ll be on together this year. Like us, kids have incredible storytelling tools at their disposal these days, and so many opportunities to tell their learning story through digital tools. What a way to use technology as well to enhance student learning, and what a way to bring their learning and imagination to life.Telling our story as a division and as a school is also something that is very much on our radar, and together we can make our Lower School come alive even more than it already is…let’s start with our kids and watch our collective story unfold from there. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

The world is not made of atoms. It is made of stories – Muriel Ruykeser

 

Related Articles –

http://www.teachhub.com/storytelling-classroom-teaching-strategy
https://www.edutopia.org/blog/storytelling-in-the-classroom-matters-matthew-friday

https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/enhancement/starter-tools/learning-through-storytelling

http://www.consider-ed.org.uk/the-importance-of-storytelling/

https://teach.com/great-educational-resources-the-power-of-storytelling/

 

TED Talk – Andrew Stanton (Excuse the language at the beginning) –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxDwieKpawg

 

TED Talk – David JP Phillips –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj-hdQMa3uA

 

A Whiteboard History of Storytelling –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6E8jpFasR0

 

Visual Storytelling on the Web –

https://www.dtelepathy.com/blog/inspiration/30-compelling-examples-of-visual-storytelling-on-the-web

First Things First

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3rd, 2017 by dkerr

So we made it through the first three days of school, and what a first week it was! For me, there’s nothing more exciting and heart warming than watching our kids spill off of the buses on the first few days of school. They are excited, and nervous, and full of hopes and dreams for the upcoming year ahead. They are wondering what their teachers will be like and who their friends will be, and they are all desperately hoping that their experience will be everything that they are silently wishing for…If you’re like me, you can’t help but to love this time of the year.

 

Inevitably, the first few days of school always get me thinking about my own grade school experience, and all of those special memories that I still cling to all these years later. Funny enough, the memories that continuously pop up for me have very little to do with what I learned in any particular grade, but rather with the people that I met and the relationships that I developed over the years, which ultimately impacted me in very profound ways as I grew into an adult.

 

It’s no coincidence that my favorite years as an elementary school student were directly related to the relationship that I had with my teachers that year, and the effort that they made to get to know me as a young person. The years that I had those “relationship first” kind of teachers are the years that have stood the test of time for me, and funny enough, when I think back, also the years where I just happened to learn the most. It’s funny how when you feel safe as a child, and trusted, and loved, and appreciated, you actually end up tying harder and taking risks and opening yourself up to learning…In my opinion, there is nothing more important than the student-teacher relationship to inspire learning, and to get kids literally sprinting off those buses to get to class in the morning.

 

So, with all that said, I bet that if you think about the teachers that made the biggest impact in your own lives, it will be the ones who were at the time like second mothers and fathers to you…the ones who knew what you loved and how you best learned, and the ones who knew your strengths and your areas of growth that they helped you to identify and to work on…the ones who loved you and the ones who you loved back. The longer I remain in education, the more convinced I am that it’s the relationships that drive everything positive around student learning. If we can get these relationships right, then we can truly inspire our kids to exceed expectations, and to truly maximize their potential. I’m asking you all to take the time over the first couple of weeks of school to put relationships first. Get to know your kids, get them to know each other, and let them into your lives as well…I guarantee that it will pay tremendous dividends as the year moves forward. The curriculum is important I know, and we’re all excited to dive into that, but first things first…the relationships with your kids is your biggest priority.

 

So when thinking about the opportunity that we all have this year, to develop the kind of strong and lasting relationships with our kids that will be remembered for a lifetime, think about these lines from a beautiful James Russell Lowell poem…think about these when considering how you’ll spend the first few weeks of school with your kids and with your colleagues…giving a little bit of yourself positively impacts everyone around you, and it boosts your own spirits too!

 

It’s not what we give, but what we share-

For the gift without the giver is bare;

Who gives himself with his alms feeds three

Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.

 

Have a fantastic first full week of school everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the week…

Who the teacher is, is more important than what they teach 

– Karl A. Menninger

 

Related Articles – 

https://www.pridesurveys.com/index.php/blog/4-beneficial-effects-of-student-teacher-relationships/

http://www.evidencebasedteaching.org.au/crash-course-evidence-based-teaching/teacher-student-relationships/

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/importance-teaching-through-relationships-stacey-goodman

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/105124/chapters/Developing_Positive_Teacher-Student_Relations.aspx

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/genia-connell/10-ways-build-relationships-students-year-1/

 
Inspiring Videos –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=19&v=TXFCCWzlCkU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=50&v=tZ7Y1-0bNeQ
http://www.upworthy.com/this-teachers-thank-you-letter-to-her-students-went-viral-because-we-all-needed-it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM_smbQAYv4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZOy6w6UsMY

Everything to Win

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27th, 2017 by dkerr

So an educator friend of mine spent the better part of last year traveling around the world visiting schools, in the hopes of identifying the innovations, the pedagogical approaches, and the educational strategies that are truly engaging students and driving student learning forward in today’s ever changing world. As you can imagine, he was inspired by much of what he saw, and in many instances hopeful and optimistic about the future of education. He called it the best year of his professional life but interestingly enough, also the most depressing. You see, although he found many, many schools across the globe that are genuinely pushing innovation, and taking creative risks for their students, and empowering all kids to lead their own learning, he came back a little overwhelmed and saddened by the traditional and industrial models that still shape our global educational landscape. In a recent conversation with him earlier this month, he remarked that something drastic needs to happen in education because we have absolutely “nothing left to lose”…

 

I started thinking about that, and honestly, I’m not sure that I agree with him…I think we have plenty left to lose, particularly regarding the future of our young people, and I’d like to reframe that comment and suggest that it’s actually the opposite…we have “everything to win”. At the heart of his disappointment was not the lack of effort by schools to redesign their buildings and teaching spaces, there was plenty of that. Lots of open, futuristic, and collaborative building designs, new and inspiring maker spaces and purposeful incorporations to the natural world, and a tremendous amount of thought that went into shaking up the “look” of a traditional school. In that respect he was very, very encouraged. He came back discouraged however, because what he saw happening inside those school designs and spaces, in the classrooms, and at the heart of what matters in the day to day approaches to teaching and learning, was very much 1982.

 

Like Dylan Wiliam says, the hardest thing to do in education is to get teachers and leaders to change their day to day practice. We all know what the research says, and in most international schools we now have access to the resources and the spaces to engage and personalize for all of our kids, but often times when the door shuts and the day begins, it’s easy to revert back to what we’ve always done…what’s comfortable, and what we’ve gotten very good at. Schools and educators across the globe continue to do what they’ve always done because of habit, but it sure doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

 

On the heels of a fantastic weekend with Carol Ann Tomlinson here at ASP, and with the new school year staring us down, I want to encourage all of us to look critically at how we’re engaging our students, and how much of our approach is the same as it was a few years ago. How much “innovation” is actually making its way into our lesson and unit planning? What opportunities are we giving to our students to really and truly own their learning and to lead their own educational journey? How are we setting up our classroom spaces, and what opportunities are we giving students to showcase their learning…is it a one-size fits all or have we looked at our curricular approach and assessment through the lens of meeting all students where they are, and moving them forward as individual and unique learners?

 

I want us all to feel empowered to shake it up this year and to take some risks…to try out some new strategies that will push us out of our comfort zones and will make us feel a little uneasy. We have an opportunity this year to move past the traditional…the comfortable…the easy, and to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to stretch the limits of what’s possible with our kids. Then when we do, we have the moral imperative to share and to model and to collaborate so that we all can learn and stretch together…no more siloed approaches to education, we’re past that. Anyway, I want to wish you all a tremendous 2017-18 school year, and I truly hope it’s the best year of your professional lives. I guarantee that if we take some risks, shake things up, and truly make an effort to change some habits, then it will be a year that will be worthy of our kids. Like I said, it’s not that we have nothing to lose…we very much have everything to win! Have a fantastic opening week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

Curiosity is a delicate little plant that, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom

 

– Albert Einstein

 

Interesting and Useful Articles –

http://www.futurity.org/creativity-teachers-education-914562/

https://www.rubicon.com/risk-taking-in-the-classroom/
http://inservice.ascd.org/7-reasons-why-differentiated-instruction-works/

http://www.readingrockets.org/atoz/1123/all

http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/strategy/strategy042.shtml

 

Innovation in Schools –

http://www.businessinsider.fr/us/most-innovative-schools-in-the-world-2-2016-10/

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/2016/01/innovation_in_schools.html

http://www.designorate.com/creativity-innovation-in-education/

http://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/04/innovation-leadership-in-schools/
TED Talks Worth Watching –

https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_the_surprising_habits_of_original_thinkers

https://www.ted.com/talks/charles_leadbeater_on_innovation

 

Great Educational Podcasts –

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-01-11-16-education-podcasts-to-check-out-in-2017

Thank you Academia Cotopaxi

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12th, 2017 by dkerr
Well, here we are with only one week left of school…so crazy! I’m sitting here drinking coffee on this gorgeous Sunday morning in Quito, and I’m reflecting back on the last 3 years feeling very, very proud and a lot sad. There is so much that I’m going to miss about my time here, and to be honest I’ve never been to a more amazing, diverse, and stunningly beautiful country as Ecuador. This experience has been life changing for me and for my family, and it’s given us more than we could have possibly asked for. We’ve had such incredible adventures over the years, not only in Ecuador but all across South America, and we’re changed for the better in so many profound ways. Like I said, there is so much that I’m going to miss about my life here, but truthfully, there is one thing that I will miss more than all of the rest of it combined…and that’s you.
There is no way that I am going to be able to convey my gratitude appropriately in this post. I have said this before many times, and I’ll say it again now…I have never in my life worked with such an inspiring group of people and educators, and I’m sure that I’ll spend the rest of my career chasing what we’ve built here together as a faculty. Your commitment to kids, your passion for education, your thirst for adventure, and your work hard-play hard approach to life inspires me to no end. You have given me so much joy over the years, and you’ve filled my heart with so much love. I’ll never be able to re-pay you for all that you’ve given to me and to my family. You’ve embraced my two children, Max and Gabby, like they were your own, and you’ve given them the best 3 years of their lives…they’ve enjoyed every minute of this experience and like me, they don’t want Friday to come so quickly. I want to apologize in advance if I get too emotional as Friday speeds our way, but it’s hard to leave the people that you love, and it’s hard to say goodbye. That’s life though isn’t it…people come and go along this journey though life and all you can do is take what you can. You get inspired, you grow and learn, you fill up your heart, and you are changed for the better, always.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for making me better in every way. I’m a better leader, a better father, a better educator, and ultimately, I’m a better person because of you. Thank you for all that you continue to give to our students…they are becoming the people we want for our world because they have you in their lives. Thank you for your hard work and commitment to the journey that AC is on…you are giving our kids the school and the education that they truly deserve. Thank you for how good you are to each other, and how deeply you care about developing such strong and positive relationships. Thank you for your energy, and for your smiles, and for your trust…thank you for all of it!
I want to also wish you all a safe, fun, relaxing, and adventurous summer holiday…so well deserved. For those of you moving on to new schools or new careers or new chapters in your lives, all the best. I am sending you my love, and all of my positive thoughts and energy as you go through this transition. For those of you coming back for another year or more, please keep the momentum that we’ve created together here alive and well…we’ve accomplished so much as a team but as you know, there is work left to do. I will leave this place at the end of next week with nothing but love and gratitude, and with a true sense of a purpose fulfilled…who could possible ask for more than that.
Finally, It’s certainly not lost on me how special this group of people is that we have on faculty, and what an immense gift that I’ve been given to have had this opportunity to share this time with each of you. So, let’s make these last 4 and a half days our best so far, and please make sure that you find the time to say what you need to say to each other before we head off for the break. It’s been quite a year, and we need to celebrate this week with our kids and with each other…remember, there’s no such thing as too many hugs! Thank you Ecuador and thank you Academia Cotopaxi…you will be in my heart forever.
Love, Dan 🙂

Quote of the Week...
What do I want to take home from my summer vacation? Time. 
The wonderful luxury of being at rest. The days when you shut down 
the mental machinery that keeps life on track and let life simply wander. 
The days when you stop planning, analyzing, thinking and just are.
Summer is my period of grace.

 
Soul Pancake - Give of Yourself this Summer (Thank you for all that you'e given me)
https://youtu.be/7mhyRBiIp4Q?list=PLzvRx_johoA_Zhuo_pRsWSbARe2IZ2XZJ
 
A Something in a Summer's Day
By Emily Dickinson

A something in a summer's Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer's noon -
A depth - an Azure - a perfume -
Transcending ecstasy.

And still within a summer's night
A something so transporting bright
I clap my hands to see -

Then veil my too inspecting face
Lets such a subtle - shimmering grace
Flutter too far for me -

The wizard fingers never rest -
The purple brook within the breast
Still chafes it narrow bed -

Still rears the East her amber Flag -
Guides still the sun along the Crag
His Caravan of Red -

So looking on - the night - the morn
Conclude the wonder gay -
And I meet, coming thro' the dews
Another summer's Day!

Middle School – The Beautiful Struggle

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5th, 2017 by dkerr

So I’m down to the last two weeks of being a Middle School Principal, and as it draws to an end I find myself getting really, really sad…and feeling very, very grateful. It’s been an amazing seven year run for me, across two very different schools and communities, in two different countries and in two different continents, and if I’m being honest, it’s been the best seven years of my life so far. There’s something about the Middle School experience that is not for everyone. It’s challenging in many ways, and it takes a special kind of educator who can find their passion dealing with this age group of kids, but you know what, it’s so immeasurably rewarding and it changes your life for the better.

If I think of all the grade levels in a traditional school environment as a burning flame, I see the Middle School years as that bright blue part right smack in the center…the core…the place where it burns the hottest, the place that shapes and molds, and the place that transforms the overall identity of the fire. I like to call Middle School the beautiful struggle, because in many ways it is very much a struggle for kids, as they try to figure out life and their place in it…but with each struggle and with each stumble and eventually with each success, there is always incredible beauty!

From the sweet innocence of the 6th grade class, who come to Middle School so excited, and scared, and hopeful, and nervous, and who still think it’s okay to go on playdates and to cry when they get hurt, to the confusing and formative 7th Grade class who learn so much about their changing bodies, and hormones, and how to fit in and make friends, and about who they are starting to become as people, to the desperate to be adult 8th grade class who want so much to be given independence and autonomy, but still silently scream out for boundaries and guidance…how can you not love this beautiful struggle? All the awkwardness, all the mistakes, all the tears and heartache, and all the relentless hope, it truly makes my heart want to burst! Their search for themselves is so wide open and honest and pure, and it draws me in day after day after day…and it makes me smile.

The best part of my day is watching them all come off of the buses first thing in the morning ready to start again. They walk past me smiling, sleepy, and eager to learn about life, hoping to be noticed and inspired and validated by the ones who matter the most…their peers. I watch them, I joke with them, I try and set a good example for them, and I love them…I have grown to understand their struggle. If you ask anyone about their Middle School years you always get a passionate response. Some people loved Middle School and some people hated it, but everyone remembers it intensely. That first crush, the hopeful first kiss, all those risks that were taken that either fell flat or successfully catapulted you ahead with relief…constantly failing forward, and growing, and doing things you wish you hadn’t done…Middle School changes you, and it sets the tone for the rest of your life.

For some people these are the best years of their lives and for some these are the worst, and for me it’s beautiful to watch it all unfold. I love Middle School and I love Middle School kids, and I’m inviting you all this week to go out of your way to watch them, and to marvel at them, and to be inspired by what they’re going through. We need to praise them, and set high expectations for them, and embrace those daily (hourly) teachable moments, and we need to hold them accountable. We need to encourage them to take risks and to make mistakes and when they do, we need to take the time to watch them learn and learn and grow and grow.


Being a Middle School Principal has been one of the most inspiring experiences of my life because I got to live vicariously through them all, and I got to feel that burn that comes from being right at the center of the flame…everyday. Middle School kids make me feel alive, and I’m honored to have been such a major part of their journey over the past seven years. It’s a struggle for sure, but there’s no better place to be than right in that flaming blue core…where life burns the brightest.


Next year I begin a new chapter in my life as a Lower School Director, and I couldn’t be more excited. With this will come a very different kind of beauty, and days filled with constant joy, innocence, and belly laughs before the school day even begins. I’m absolutely thrilled to be going down this road, as I’ve felt the pull down to the lower grades for a few years now…it’s honestly where I now want to be. That said, there will always be something about the Middle School that has a huge piece of my heart, and as the final two weeks come to a roaring end, I want to say thank you. Thank you Middle School for all that you’ve given to me, and for all that I’ve become because of your burning flame. I’ve loved every moment of this beautiful struggle, and I’m all the better for it…in every possible way.
 
 
Quote of the Week…
It takes courage to grow up to become who you really are – E.E. Cummings
 

Let’s Celebrate!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28th, 2017 by dkerr

So here we are with only three weeks left of school, and I have to say that it’s easily one of my favorite times of the year. Not because summer is right around the corner and because the holiday season is in sight, but because it’s the time of the year when we get to celebrate all that we’ve accomplished as a school. The next few weeks are all about celebrations, and in my opinion it’s a beautiful thing to see…we celebrate our students at graduation and moving on ceremonies, we celebrate academic achievement at our academic award ceremonies, we have our athletic awards night and our major year-end award assembly where we celebrate kids in so many areas beyond athletics and academics, and we celebrate in smaller, more individual ways with year-end MAP scores, positive student directed feedback from teachers, and portfolio reflections around goal completion. So much goes into a successful year as you know, and I love that we are constantly looking for ways to celebrate our kids, and purposely sending them off on their holidays with a true sense and feeling of accomplishment…like I mentioned, it’s a great time of the year!

 

All that said, I know that for teachers these next three weeks can be stressful and overwhelming, and often times we can get so caught up in all that’s going on that we forget to slow down, reflect, and find time to celebrate ourselves. All of these student accomplishments don’t happen without dedicated, committed, and passionate educators, and as we speed toward that final Friday, I want to make sure that our teachers…YOU… are celebrated for all that you’ve given to our community. I know that we have a few upcoming celebrations planned to recognize years of service, departing teachers, and one final happy hour where we can toast each other to an amazing year completed, but before all of that I want to publicly say thank you to each and every one of you for your outstanding work here at AC. 

 

I see how you go above and beyond in so many ways…I see how many hours you put in beyond the regular school day to ensure that our kids are getting the education that they deserve…I see the tremendous effort that you put in to developing strong relationships with our students and with each other, and I see how our school has literally been transformed because of who you are as people…I want to celebrate you! I feel an immense sense of pride when I think about all that we’ve accomplished as a team, and how far we’ve come as a school because of your amazing contributions. I had a chance to reflect last week during a couple of long plane rides, and honestly, it’s staggering to think about how far we’ve come throughout my time here…it’s a fact that most, if not all of the transformative work across our school would not have been completed or successful if it wasn’t for who you are as educators…absolutely incredible. 

 

The biggest piece for me however, has been the unwavering positive attitude that you’ve come to school with each and every day. Throughout the good times and the struggles it has been your inspiring attitudes that have impressed me the most. You always frame every initiative, every decision, and every minute of the day around what is best for our students, and that for me is my biggest celebration of you…attitude is everything, and you’ve inspired me every day with yours…thank you. Here is one of my favorite poems, which speaks to who you are as a faculty…never giving up, always trying to make things better, and forever framing a situation through a positive lens. Enjoy the next three weeks everyone and please take the time to celebrate each other along the way…it’s been quite a year! 

 

The Greatest – By Don Schlitz

 

Little boy in a baseball hat,

Stands in the field with his ball and bat

Says, “I am the greatest player of them all”
Puts his bat on his shoulder and he tosses up his ball.
And the ball goes up and the ball comes down,
Swings his bat all the way around
the world so still you can hear the sound; the baseball falls to the ground.


Now the little boy doesn’t say a word, picks up his ball he is undeterred.
Says, “I am the greatest that there has ever been”
And he grits his teeth and he tries again.
And the ball goes up and the ball comes down,
Swings his bat all the way around
the world so still you can hear the sound; the baseball falls to the ground.


He makes no excuses he shows no fear
He just closes his eyes and listens to the cheers.
Little boy he adjusts his hat, picks up his ball, stares at his bat
Says, “I am the greatest when the game is on the line”
And he gives his all one last time.
And the ball goes up and the moon so bright
Swings his bat with all his might
the world’s as still as still can be, the baseball falls
and that’s strike three.


Now it’s suppertime and his momma calls,
little boy starts home with his bat and ball.
Says, “I am the greatest, that is a fact,
but even I didn’t know I could pitch like that!”

 

Quote of the Week…

Never suppress a generous thought – Camilla E. Kimball

 

TED Talks –

https://www.ted.com/talks/wendy_troxel_why_school_should_start_later_for_teens
https://www.ted.com/talks/ben_dunlap_talks_about_a_passionate_life?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2016-07-31&utm_campaign=newsletter_weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_content=talk_of_the_week_image

https://www.ted.com/talks/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success

 

Interesting Articles –

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin343_a.shtml
https://www.edutopia.org/student-accomplishment-part-one

http://www.theleaderinmeblog.org/celebration-the-internal-motivator-for-student-achievement/

http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/leaders-link/principals-must-celebrate-successes/

http://inservice.ascd.org/end-of-year-a-time-to-celebrate-and-set-goals/

Leaving Well

Posted in Uncategorized on May 15th, 2017 by dkerr

So I was going through the end of the year event calendar this morning over coffee, and I honestly can’t believe that we’re so close to the finish…how did the school year speed by so fast? I also can’t believe how much we still have left to do before we send the kids off to their summer holiday. The last month of the year is always tricky in my opinion, as we struggle to connect the excitement and promise of summer with the pressure and anxiety of finishing strong and leaving well. It’s hard when we see the finish line in the distance, to not get distracted or complacent as all of the emotions of the last five weeks begin to set in. I wrote a post several years ago that I like to send out every year around this time, as a challenge and reminder to all of us that the next four weeks might just be the most important weeks of the year. Tomorrow we officially begin the homestretch, and we all need to be at our best. Beginning today, we all need to commit to finishing strong and to leaving well. Here’s the message again, and please, please take it to heart…

As we stare down the last month of school, I want to challenge us all to re-commit to our students, their learning, and to each other, and to dig deep to finish what we started. I’m challenging us all to LEAVE WELL. You see, sometimes when schools and educators aren’t careful, there can be a tendency to take the foot off the gas so to speak when speeding toward the end of the year. It can become very easy to let complacency creep in, and to ease off on the work, the effort, and the attention to student learning. Losing focus and looking ahead to next year and to new adventures can quickly turn what has been a wonderful year into a disappointing end result simply because the finish wasn’t strong and the goals weren’t seen through to completion. In my opinion, we’ve put ourselves in a great position to end the year on a high, and to be able to look back on the year with an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment. It’s an exciting time of the year I know, and the kids are happy and smiling…we all have one eye focused on our summer adventures, and we can see the finish line on the horizon…I’m asking you however, to not lose sight of the importance of what’s still left to do.

Finally, I’m asking you all to pay careful attention to our beautiful kids over the next several weeks. Many of them are navigating the rough emotional road that leads to saying goodbye to their friends, saying goodbye to a school that they love, and saying goodbye to the identities that they’ve forged during their time with us here at AC. It’s also very easy for all our kids to get caught up in the promise of summertime fun, and to get distracted from the goal at hand, which is to work hard right up until the end, and to set themselves up to move on with confidence, pride, and with the right mindset. Talk to your kids…ask them how they are feeling…give them extra support if you see them veering off track, and be the amazing role models and mentors that they’ve come to expect. Don’t let them off the hook, and go above and beyond (even though you’re tired) to make the final four or five weeks their best of the year. Starting the year strong is so, so important as you all know, but it’s comparatively easy compared to the challenges of May and June. Finishing the year strong is where the rubber hits the road in my opinion, and it’s here that all master teachers and school wide leaders worth their salt show their mettle.

For those of us moving on to new adventures, like me, remember that we’re only ever as good as our last exit…….and for those of us returning, know that students remember the educators that we are in June…..so let’s make sure they remember the best of what we have to offer. The last few weeks are going to speed by everyone so please commit to making them count. Let’s all feel great about what we’ve accomplished so far this year…it’s been amazing…but we’re not done yet! Finish strong, leave well, and wrap up the year with a beautiful bow…Happy Mother’s day to all you amazing Mother’s out there as well…you certainly deserve more than just a day! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the week…

If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a brand new hello – Pablo Coelho

 

 

TED Talks to watch this week…Happy Mother’s Day!

https://www.ted.com/playlists/247/talks_by_fierce_moms
https://www.ted.com/talks/takaharu_tezuka_the_best_kindergarten_you_ve_ever_seen

https://www.ted.com/talks/karim_abouelnaga_a_summer_school_kids_actually_want_to_attend#t-328163

https://www.ted.com/talks/spencer_wells_is_building_a_family_tree_for_all_humanity

 

 

Leaving Well Articles – 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frederick-w-schmidt/on-retiring-and-changing-jobs-leaving-well-as-a_b_7442014.html

https://www.thindifference.com/2016/07/leaving-well/

http://teach4theheart.com/how-to-finish-the-school-year-strong/

http://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/05/finishing-the-school-year-strong-they-deserve-your-best/

http://www.teachhub.com/end-year-strong

Thanks for the Compliment

Posted in Uncategorized on May 8th, 2017 by dkerr

​So a couple of days ago I was welcoming the kids off of the school buses, like I always do to start the day, when a little girl walked up to me and gave me a beautiful and heartfelt compliment. She wasn’t fishing for one herself, and she wanted absolutely nothing in return, it was just an authentic gesture that was inspired by an experience that we had both shared together just a few days earlier…and you know what, it absolutely made my day! It made me instantly think of that great Mark Twain quote, “I can live for two months on a good compliment”, and to be honest, I haven’t stopped smiling since. It got me thinking about the power of compliments, and how if given with true sincerity and at the right moment in time, they can totally be day changing…maybe even life changing. 

 

I came across some interesting research out there which suggests that to our brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being given money. This journal article also suggests that using compliments is an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during any form of rehabilitation, and finally how compliments can actually be an integral component of cementing a person’s skill development. This is not surprising to me at all, as I’ve seen it first hand with my students and with my own two children. I also know the positive and immediate boost that I receive when someone compliments me on something.The thing is, it’s easy to go days or even weeks without either giving or receiving one, so I think it’s time that we all start making compliment giving a priority throughout our daily routines. 

 

We can all do a better job at not only finding opportunities to sincerely compliment the people that we come across each and every day, but also at how we receive a compliment when it’s given. It’s hard for some of us to take a compliment without becoming uncomfortable, uneasy, or even cynical about someone’s intent…it’s hard to just stand there and smile, accept it, and say a simple thank you, even if it is the best and most appropriate response. 

 

I found another interesting article by Eric M. Roberts, which lays out six important reasons why we should all begin to compliment more. Here they are…

  • Compliments encourage others who are struggling
  • A compliments can truly be all that stands between someone being successful or giving up
  • Compliments help people learn new tasks
  • Compliments strengthen and soften relationships
  • Compliments increase our circle of influence
  • Compliments help you become less cynical

 

Like me, Roberts recognizes that most people are pretty stingy with the giving of unsolicited compliments, even when we know that they are a powerful and positive experience for both parties. Anyway, I’m not sure that the compliment that I received from that little girl will last me for two months, but it’s going on four days now and I’m still thinking about it…that’s pretty darn powerful. I want to challenge us all over the next few weeks, as we speed toward the end of the year, to purposely look for opportunities to make someone’s day with a compliment. Be sincere, genuine, and authentic in your delivery, and be gracious and thankful if you happen to receive one for yourself, which I know you all deserve. I’ll be spreading them around as well, and I’m excited to see the smiles. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

 

 

Quote of the Week…

If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it! – Ruthie Lindsey

 

 

Great Articles –

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-gottsman/conscious-relationships_b_5062756.html

https://familyshare.com/3357/the-power-of-a-compliment

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200403/the-art-the-compliment

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/11/09/study-receiving-a-compliment-has-same-positive-effect-as-receiving-cash/#60bb01546007

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/compliments-activate-same-part-your-brain-does-receiving-singh

 

 

Inspiring Videos –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opMQxa1JkuM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vik-Dy3jrE

http://edition.cnn.com/videos/health/2016/01/22/your-brain-on-compliments-sanjay-gupta-orig.cnn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5yCOSHeYn4

http://www.upworthy.com/11-times-teachers-totally-blew-us-away-with-love-for-their-students

https://www.ted.com/talks/kio_stark_why_you_should_talk_to_strangers

Developing Entrepreneurs

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23rd, 2017 by dkerr

So this past Friday afternoon I felt honored to be one of the 5 judges in our own Middle School version of Shark Tank. This episode showcased many of our 7th grade students presenting their sustainable entrepreneurial projects to their classmates, as the culminating assessment for their most recent social studies/economics unit…and it was truly inspiring for all of us.

 

The unit was the brainchild of three of the most outstanding educators that I have ever had the privilege of working with (Justin Muenker, Nick Sprague, and Brian Voeller), who together looked to introduce our kids to the power and opportunity of entrepreneurship. They were also simultaneously searching for ways to help Ecuadorian families on the coast, who have continued to struggle over a year after the devastating earthquake which ravaged many of their communities.

 

The unit was a tremendous success, and the best part about it for me was seeing the students so engaged and passionate about finding ways impact positive social change for people in need. They were leading their own learning in very powerful ways, and collaborating not just with their Middle School teammates, but with their High School mentors and with local businesses and organizations as well. It was real world learning at it’s finest, and it was an excellent example of how young people can be empowered to change our world for the better when given the opportunity.

 

Entrepreneurship teaches our kids to think critically and ambitiously, and it builds the collaborative and communicative skills that they will need as they graduate from High School “Innovation Ready”. Pulitzer Prize winning author, Thomas Friedman, believes that entrepreneurship education benefits our young students because it teachers kids to think outside the box, and it nurtures unconventional talents and skills…and I totally agree. This unit has us all thinking about ways that we can continue to transform our traditional approach to curriculum writing, and to leverage our students’ creativity, ingenuity, and imagination. We want to put the learning in their hands, and be educational facilitators as they innovatively find ways to positively change our world.

 

I really enjoyed my role as judge at this event honestly, and as I looked out into the audience, and tweeted out the engaged looks on their faces, I was struck by how proud I am of our teachers…education is changing rapidly and so are we, and it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. Have a wonderful week ahead, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

The best way to predict the future is to create it! – Peter Drucker

 

Great TED Talks – Entrepreneurship 

https://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_herold_let_s_raise_kids_to_be_entrepreneurs

https://www.ted.com/talks/maya_penn_meet_a_young_entrepreneur_cartoonist_designer_activist
https://www.ted.com/talks/gary_vaynerchuk_do_what_you_love_no_excuses

https://www.ted.com/talks/gayle_tzemach_lemmon_women_entrepreneurs_example_not_exception

 

Interesting Articles – 

https://www.proposify.biz/blog/kids-entrepreneurship
http://www.investopedia.com/slide-show/young-entrepreneurs/

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245038

http://www.mikemichalowicz.com/the-37-greatest-business-ideas-for-young-entrepreneurs/

http://www.thesekidsmeanbusiness.org/educators_guide/additional_lesson_plans.php

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonma/2015/02/24/twelve-of-todays-most-impressive-young-entrepreneurs/#14bc77367560

 

Inspiring things – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFShW-qxPM4
https://www.upworthy.com/a-dad-took-his-2-year-olds-most-memorable-words-and-illustrated-them-beautifully?c=pop

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oXWPHFoFTg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emHZTnbN370