Embracing or Tolerating Technology

Over the course of this summer I have had the privilege of visiting a variety of schools across the country. As I visit campuses and have conversations with other educators, I always find it interesting to compare their procedures and practices to that of our own back home, including how technology is utilized. One site that I visited had the decal shown above posted in a variety of locations in their school as a reminder of their zero tolerance policy for cell phone use in the school. This really got me thinking about the mix messages that we must send our students on a daily basis. Schools across the country are pushing out large amounts of Chromebooks and other devices to classrooms and investing in the infrastructure and training to support the implementation. In addition, I believe you would be hard pressed to find an educator who believes that technology should have no place in a school; however, often seems that we (educators) want the technology on our own terms, which may not always reflect best practices.

Gary Vee is one of my favorite producers of online content, who is not an educator. He provides great insights into digital literacy and the influence that technology is having on our everyday lives. In the video above he is making a valid point in how we treat technology with students and often associate negative connotations. Many people believe that the access to content and information via a device can have adverse affects on our youth. The truth is that the current technology wave is too large to ignore and it is larger than anyone’s ideas or philosophies. It is here to stay and we much begin approaching technology in a different manner. As educators, we stand as the front line of educating students on how to properly utilize technology. However, we must ask ourselves if we are tolerating technology or are we embracing it? And the follow up question to that is, what is best for students? Taking emotion out of the equation, on either side, what is going to best set students up for success after they left our classroom? Are we better off to have less technology, more technology, or perhaps find a balance?

While I am a huge advocate for technology in schools, I understand that there is value in components of education that do not require technology. Educators should use the right tool for the job, which does not always mean that a Chromebook can be the panacea for all instructional needs. Ultimately we need to produce students that are well-rounded and ready for a career/life well after their educational career is over. While I do not believe that technology is the only answer, I believe it is a large piece to the puzzle and we (educators) need to prepare students to use it effectively and responsibly.

Joe McClung

Back-to-School Past, Present, & Future

With back-to-school just around the corner, week of 8/14 in Arkansas, I wanted to share some experiences that I have had over the past few weeks. There are often times that we can lose sight of the important aspects of why we entered the profession in the first place. I framed this post around a “ghost of Christmas” theme based on the interactions that I have had with past, present, and future students.

Back-to-School Present

This morning while I was sorting through lockers to determine which ones worked and which ones didn’t, probably one of my least glamorous duties, I discovered the note pictured above in an abandoned locker. It was a bottom locker and the note was tucked away on the very back wall towards the top. Two things stood out to me about this note, the first is that this student spent quite a bit of thought on this note and the second was that the note was only intended to be seen by the person that inherited this particular locker. Nothing over the top, nothing meant for the entire public, but rather intended to convey the particular experience and gratitude that one student experienced to another that is now standing in the same shoes. Furthermore, the cool thing about this note was that it is from a student that is not leaving our building, but rather moving from the 7th to the 8th grade. While the first half of her experience at our school was enjoyable, we hope that we continue to add to her perception of Woodland.

As we prepare for the back-to-school session, it is very easy to get bogged down in the amount of work that needs to be completed before students arrive, the stress that we experience in this time crunch, and other frustrations that we may experience. However, every once in a while you come across reminders of what motivates us to be educators. This note, along with other experiences over the past few weeks, have provided those reminders to me and help me put into perspective my role as an educator. This helps provide me with the necessary fuel to keep working for our students.

Back-to-School Past

Over the past few weeks I have had a series of run-ins with former students. I always feel like I get a lot out of these conversations that I have with students because I enjoy catching up and learning about their current endeavors. One particular interaction I had was with a former student that came to our schedule-up night with a younger family member. It had been about 7 years since I had last seen this student and needless to say that we have both changed over that time period…he had grown upward and I have grown outward. I recognized him right away, greeted him with a hug and started up a conversation. However, just a bit into the conversation he assumed that I didn’t know his name so he said “It’s Braden”, to which I replied “of course!” and replied by calling him by first and last name. His reaction really surprised me as he said “wow, thanks Mr. McClung, that means a lot”. This statement struck me as odd and awesome at the same time. He seemed very appreciative of the fact that he meant enough to me that I would remember his name. It really goes to show how much our connections with students matter, whether it is big or small. The interactions that we have with students may seem minor but they can have an impact that is hard to measure. No matter where I am at, when I encounter a former student, the smile that comes across my face is hard to contain. Whether it be at a car dealership, restaurant, airport, museum, in a pre-service program, sporting event, carnival, or even on vacation, it makes my day to spend time talking to students about where they are currently at in their journey in life. Taking the time to stop and listen to students is so important as an educator and can provide just as in return for the adults as it does for the kids. These are the interactions that are important to keep in mind as we prepare to make our first impressions on students for the 2017-2018 school year.

Back-to-School Future

To bring everything full circle, I will end where I started with the joys of preparing lockers for junior high students. For a task that is very menial, it was pretty amazing that it provided two great experiences for me in one day. Last night was our schedule pick-up night, which is one of my favorite nights of the school year. It is very much like the pre-season of any sporting league; everyone is excited after the off-season, there are new additions to the team, everyone has a new look (hair, clothes, growing up, etc.), and everyone has a chance to win the “big game” because each school year is a new beginning for everyone. One of the parts of the excitement, especially incoming 7th graders, is when students visit their newly assigned locker for the first time. However, there is the occasion when students are assigned a locker that doesn’t work properly or doesn’t quite meet their needs. The note below is from one of those particular families who needed a different locker. So this morning as I weeded through the requests for new lockers, I made the adjustments and notified parents. What I didn’t expect was to have such a positive response from the before mentioned menial task.

Mr. McClung,
Thank you! It may seem like a small thing, but I do believe you’ve worked a miracle in _____’s eyes. 🙂 Appreciate the prompt attention and the help! We are looking forward to an exciting new year in this next chapter for _____. As a parent, it’s always tough to face the reality of these kids growing up. I’m so thankful that the reality includes the environment that is FPS. 
This is the type of email that really makes you stop and take notice. It is a reminder of how even our smallest acts of giving can pay major dividends for those that are on the receiving end. As we enter in to the new school year it is important to focus on the aspect of the profession that matter the most, which is our service to students and their families. Our primary focus should always be service and providing the best experience, not just educational experience, for our families.This week has been just what I needed to get my mind right for the new school year. I hope you all have a great start to the year.
Joe McClung

Simplify Scheduling


One of the tasks that I often have to complete as an administrator is mass scheduling of events…such as basketball or football schedules for everyone in my administrative staff. Although Google Calendar is a very simple tool used for scheduling, when you are adding 20 basketball games to a calendar it can become a bit labor intensive. There is an add-on for Google Sheets called From Sheets to Calendar that can simplify this process. I’ve recorded a short demo of how to use the add-on above, feel free to check it out.

Mr. McClung

Leveraging Social Media as Leaders

When I first started using social media back in 2008 for my classroom, I didn’t really know what I was stepping off into. As a person that attended college during the inception of Facebook, I have had the opportunity to watch social media grow over the years and see all the tools that have been created that help people communicate more and more. I realized pretty early on that the use of blogs and Twitter accounts would be a great way to connect with other educators across the world. However, I have seen that it is a very powerful tool for communicating with parents and students within your own our community. Especially now in my role as an administrator I see that social media accounts are bridging the gap between home and school.

Over the past year, our school has really looked closely at how parents want to be communicated with. What I’ve noticed is that the typical flyer or newsletter format is becoming less desired among parents. From surveys and informal conversations, I’ve noticed that parents are looking for more of a “buffet style” form of communication. What we have found is that parents have varying preferences for receiving information in the modern age that challenge some of our traditional methods. Many of our parents use some type of combination of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and our website…which even our website is starting to get left behind compared to our other forms of communication.

Woodland Instagram Woodland Twitter

One of the first things I did when I moved to the junior high level as an administrator was I wanted to make social media a priority. A little of a year ago, both our Twitter and Instagram accounts had less than 100 followers apiece. Now our numbers have sky rocketed since I started at my current school last year. Often times, educators have a perception that only teenagers use social media on a daily basis, but so many of our parents connect to the world around them in this way too. These two platforms have become a standard tool of communication home and have had great success disseminating information in this way.

Untitled image (1)

Furthermore, this has become an excellent tool for use when it comes to public relations and building our community. The toughest thing about learning how to leverage social media to your advantage is finding what drives your followers. For instance, the post above was one of our most visited images on Instagram and Twitter as well. Not only did this image collect many “likes”, but it also pulled people in and got them to follow. Each time I post on our social media about athletics, which is a large sense of pride in our school (and many others), I usually gain anywhere from 5-10 new followers. That’s pretty powerful and make a huge impact in a number of ways in your school community.

Joe McClung

The Teachers Guild


The Teachers Guild is an interesting way for educators around the world to share and build new ideas and concepts in education. At the guild, 10 weeks projects are build using ideas from educators, gaining feedback from other educators, designing their concept or project, building prototypes, then experimenting with these in their instruction. This gives educators a platform to come up with innovative ways to find solutions for their everyone routines. The current project that is on display is, “How might we create rituals and routines that establish a culture of innovation in our classrooms and schools?” The “collaboration” that is and has taken place with this subject is extremely interesting and has helped me gain ideas and insights myself. I would highly suggest for everyone to stop by and check on the guild and contribute to the conversation.

Mr. McClung

Welcome Back

Photo Aug 18, 9 07 33 PMAfter a very long hiatus I’ve decided to return to my website…and at the right time of year seeing that our first day of school is today. As you can see, over the break I have really gotten into air guitar and stuff. Pretty cool I know. The real reason I’m playing my Air Fender Guitar is because of a district video that was shot to welcome everyone back for the new school year. Click here to check it out. Welcome back to school.

Mr. McClung

China Experience – Spring Break 2013

For spring break this year I took a trip to China with students from Woodland and FHS to China as apart of a group with Education First Tours. On our trip we were able to see three major cities in China: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. The trip was amazing and it was great to catch up with former students and get to experience international travel as a chaperone for those students. The pictures above are just a few of the shots that I took while I was in China.

Mr. McClung

 

Playing Catch-Up

After a long hiatus, I thought it was time to touch base on my website and give some quick updates…lessons learned style. Since the last time that I logged we have all become smarter. Some more than others, but specifically my kindergarten students have become smarter. On February 1st kindergarteners at Leverett celebrated the 100th day of school. This is a very exciting celebration that is very unique to elementary world. Teachers held parties in their classrooms to celebrate this occasion and students had a blast.

This past week we also celebrated our annual international festival. One of the great aspects of our school is the cultural diversity that we have at our school. Over 25 countries are representing in our school population and these students and their families help us during this by setting up booths kind of like an impromptu cultural lesson. Also in the time leading up the this festival students study a variety of cultures and listen to guest speakers from the University of Arkansas.

During international festival, our 5th grade students sold hand made goods in an effort to raise money for hurricane Sandy relief efforts. proceeds from the hand made goods went directly to a school district in New Jersey and gave our students a wonderful way to lend a helpful hand from so far away.

Lastly, back in January we celebrated Fun at Work Day…well, kinda. We had a cake made to celebrate this belated occasion, the day after, and just so happen to have a staff meeting that day. Which come to think of it, isn’t everyday a belated Fun at Work Day?

Mr. McClung

Public Appearances

Last week Leverett Elementary was invited to attend the monthly school district board meeting and lead the meeting in the pledge of allegiance. Accompany me to the board meeting was my 5th grade student council officers and representatives. It was a great a great privilege to be invited to lead the pledge and myself and the kiddos were extremely excited to get the opportunity.

Mr. McClung

Election Day

Finally the day has come.

Although I do complain about politics during the election season, I do enjoy the election itself and the teaching moments that it can provide in education…that’s the social studies teacher in me. Here at Leverett we have used this opportunity to introduce some election themed lessons/activities. The image above was from our 5th grade classes and shows their mock election results using the Studies Weekly website. Students in grades 3-5 used the website to cast their vote for who they believed should be our next president.

Last week we also held elections for our student council as well. Students in grades 3-5 got the opportunity to take part in the election process as they voted for president, vice president, secretary, and class representatives. Students that ran for these offices were asked to campaign for a week before the election and then perform a speech in front of their peers. The video above is of our student council president, Topher, giving his speech last Friday.

Mr. McClung

Wrapping Up The First Quarter

This last week marked the end to our first quarter of school…and it was quite a busy one at that. We started out on Monday by having visitors from the first department come to our school to discuss fire safety awareness month. Student get a chance to get up close with a fire truck and learn some basic safety skills along the way. I have to admit that it was pretty cool to watch the excitement in our kids when they had the opportunity to interact with our local fire fighters.

This past week was also a big week for health awareness for us as well. In the same day that the firefighters came to visit, we also had a visit from a local organization called Apple Seeds, Inc. The purpose for this visit was to provide a apple tasting for our students and give them the opportunity to try fruit that was grown locally in Northwest Arkansas. One day later, our PE coaches arranged a visit from Southwest Dairy Farms to come and discuss the importance of dairy to our diets. They also provided some cool information about the milking process as well as put on a show by giving us a demonstration of the milking process.

Lastly, I got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the classroom this week. If there is one negative to my new job as an administrator, that is that I do not get the chance to work with kids as closely as I did as a teacher. This week was very refreshing for me because it reminded me of what I got into this profession for. Being in the classroom in the classroom this week was just what I needed and put a nice bow on what has been an exciting first quarter of the school year.

Mr. McClung

Conversion Charter Schools


Education is going through some major changes as we speak and charter schools are an important component of those changes that are currently taking place. In the past few years charters have become more and more visible in communities and are becoming a poplar choice for parents to send their children.

Today I was presented with some information that really made me curious. I have been aware of charters for quite some time but the idea of a conversion charter school was presented to me for the first time today. Conversion charters operate in the same way normal charters do in the fact that they still use the same process to identify an end goal in mind and create a detailed plan of how their school will accomplish said goal. The school creates a plan and a set time line to accomplish the plan. If they do it’s a success and the school continues, if not the project/charter is done. However, the difference is that a conversion school would be a regular public school district taking on this task rather than a third party proposing the charter school and plan.

I was not quite sure what to make of this entire process, but I do have to admit that the idea of incorporating components of a charter school into the public school system sounds very cool. I like the fact that in this format of a conversion charter, the school has the ability to identify the goal (assessment) and create their own plan or frameworks…meaning that they are not held to the normal requirements of teaching all the state mandated standards. For me I see this as a possibility for my teachers to free up their focus on the tedious standards they normally teach and try to create a more creative manner to accomplish the same thing as the state standards.

I am still very new to this idea and am still doing my homework, but if you have any information or input on what conversion charters look like, please feel free to leave us a comment. Thanks.

Mr. McClung

Objectives…

Excellent example of objective writing…pulled from Diary of a Fifth Grade Teacher.

What’s the Point?

Personally, as a teacher I always struggled with lesson planning. Not that my lessons weren’t well thought out and aligned with the curriculum, but I never enjoyed trying to make my lessons fit into a template. When I was in college we were asked to use a method of lesson planning known as pathwise…which I hated more than anything at the time period. Our professors would require us to write a unit plan that would usually average around 8-10 pages in length. I found these to be very cumbersome and the end never justified the means. After having this experience I never felt the need to go into great detail in my written plans.

Now that I am older, and presumably wiser, I now understand that my hatred at lesson planning was displaced due to the fact that I learned how to write plans in a very unnecessary manner…I didn’t fully understand the point of writing up lesson plans at the time. The one thing that made me totally change my way of thinking towards this issue was moving justification of lesson planning to being student centered and not evaluator centered. For so many years I viewed lesson planning as tool to display my competency to my evaluator rather than a tool that guides the learning of my students…and it should be viewed as the latter.

For an upcoming professional development session I was asked to guide a session on lesson planning and how to shift the mind set. So I decided to take some time to reflect upon my own personal experiences and share some information that I found on writing lesson plans, and more specifically, objective writing.

Best Intentions

Writing objectives is typically a compliance issue. Many educators look at objective writing as a way to show that they are meeting their state standards and fulfilling the requirements of their district. Objective writing should never just be done just because an administrator tells someone that they need to do so. These items are written for the students and provide a logical pathway for the teacher to guide their instruction. I realize that this sounds a bit idealistic, but if it’s not being written for students to understand then why are we wasting our time? While someone may have good intentions when they write that objective on the board and slap a state standard beside it, we cannot assume that just because it’s on the board that students will automatically pay attention to it or fully understand. One thing that makes objective writing a meaningful practice is how often a teacher uses it in a given lesson. A objective should be referred to throughout a lesson and is not exclusive to being used in the opening of a lesson…plus it helps teachers remain their focus as to what the desired outcome should be.

Keep It Simple

When writing objectives to lessons, there is no need to be long winded and use vocabulary that has a high degree of difficulty. If objectives are meant to frame the lesson and meant to be communicated with the students then keep it in kid friendly terms. Use vocabulary that is common for your classroom and make sure to check for comprehension with your students. In addition, objectives do not have to be complicated in nature. A great objective is able to identify three things: what are we doing? why are we doing it? and how am I going to use it? These three questions can be consolidated into one statement, they can be bullet-pointed, or they can be spread throughout the lesson. If you are able to include this in your lessons then you have identified the lesson to the students, given the rationale, and provided a means for assessment. Lesson framed. This approach provides such a simplistic structure to a lesson without involving the painstaking steps that are involved with more complicated templates of lesson planing.

Give the Students Ownership

An effective approach to using objectives in your class is to give ownership to your students. Remember, the goal is to keep it simple and kid friendly because they are the audience. In the May 2011 edition of Educational Leadership, Robert Marzano outlines two effective approaches to objective writing that gives students ownership of their learning. The first is giving them the opportunity to translate the objective into their own words. Providing the opportunity to clarify the given objective helps clarify for students what the teacher expects them to know. Also Marzano points out that a lesson is not limited to only one objective. A great way to differentiate instruction is to provide objectives of varying levels of thinking. A student may not always obtain the high level objective but by providing students with lower level objectives you are ensuring that a certain amount of success is obtained by the student. The idea is that this approach will provide students with the scaffolding necessary to reach the high levels of thinking that are desired at the end of a lesson.

Mr. McClung

What I Accomplished This Summer

Somehow I missed summer…it literally seems like just yesterday I packing up for the summer and getting ready to slip into summer mode. Now I find myself staring at a calendar noticing that I have less than a week left until teachers report back to work. Upon coming to this realization I began to reflect on what I have actually accomplished this summer…or what I didn’t accomplish that was on my list.

I Heard You Got a Job…

So…I got a new job this summer. That is the line that I have repeated so many times this summer. The biggest development for me this summer has been the fact that I am leaving Woodland in order to become an assistant principal at Leverett Elementary School in Fayetteville. While I have enjoyed my time at Woodland so much, I am looking forward to becoming an assistant principal.

One thing that I have thought a lot about this summer was how am I going to move forward with my blog and how does my digital voice change now? While I still have not fully come to grasp with the answer to these questions I am sure that I want to make sure that I continue my blog in the future. I feel like have a platform to reflect on has made me a better educator and I can’t see myself moving into a new profession and not continuing to use the same tools that have made me successful in the first place.

Don Draper School of Business

I have a tendency to fixate on things and this summer that “thing” was the TV series Mad Men. This summer I have put together an amazing streak of watching the first 4 seasons of the series…and the only reason I only watched 4 was because that’s all Netflix had to offer. So needless to say, with all of this TV watching going on, I have spent many hours on the coaching watching Don Draper do work day in and day out. While the amount of TV I have watched this summer is borderline embarrassing, I have taken notice to how the business men and the show conduct themselves and have taken many mental notes on etiquette and dress…I’m sure this will come in handy.

Run

One of the biggest things that I have had to adjust to now that I am not longer a teacher or coach is how to get my runs in during the day. Usually I have a ton of XC kids who hold me accountable for such things, but now that I am no longer their coach I find myself running alone quite a bit. So this summer I have picked my miles up considerably and made sure that any spare time I have is devoted to running.

Mr. McClung

Adiós Woodland…

There is no way to mildly convey the message of this blog post, so I will just go head first into the matter…I will not be returning to Woodland Jr. High School next school year. I have accepted a job as an assistant principal at Leverett Elementary School in the Fayetteville School District. Working as a school administrator has been a goal of mine for quite some time now and I am very excited that I get the opportunity to pursue that goal and do so within the current school district that I already work in. However, I am going to miss Woodland so very much. I have been here now for 3 years and it has been a wonderful 3 years at that. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best students in the state of Arkansas and consider myself very lucky for that.

Woodland has become my home over the past few years but now I will make Leverett my new home. I plan to continue blogging as an administrator but I’m not sure yet in what manner. For the rest of the summer I plan on doing some research to find out how other administrators use their blog in order to discover how I will use my own blog in the future.

I am very sad to leave Woodland but I am also very excited about the new possibilities that this new position will hold. I would like to thank all of the parents and teachers that I have worked with over the years and most importantly I would like to thank the students. You all have made the past 3 years the best of my professional career. Thank you.

Mr. McClung

Tale of Two Centrals

Little-Rock-mainToday in class we are continuing to watch 50 Years Later, a documentary about the desegregation of Little Rock Central. As we watch the movie it becomes clear that although Little Rock Central is integrated it still remains segregated on many levels.

houseIn class we also talked about the neighborhoods that surround Central High School and how much of the community is now run down and in poverty. This part of the city use to be a very popular area to live and now it consist of run down and boarded up homes…which is quite a site considering that they stand across the street from a national monument.

gap_0004Lastly, we spent the most time discussing the achievement gap that exist between African Americans and Caucasian students and what factors lead to this disconnect. In class on Friday we will be finishing this documentary and putting the finishing touches on our discussions.

Mr. McClung

1950’s Home Economics

Yesterday in class we discussed civil rights in class and more specifically the advancement of women and African Americans. In class we talked about the cultural differences between the our current culture and the culture of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. In class I shared with my students a excerpt from a home economics book from 1961. In the article it becomes very clear how different a woman’s role was back then compare to today. This type of cultural difference is why it was such a radical change for women to enter the work force during war time.

Mr. McClung