ARTICLES

Author: Andy Jacks

Education does not have to be miserable. All of those things we complain about in the great system of education can be improved. It starts with us. With our thinking, planning, and effort. Recently, two or our 4th grade teachers, Mrs. Clevenger and Mrs. Milleson took basic math decimals practice to a new level of engagement, fun, and efficiency. They called it the Decimal Diner. 

Using new technology just because it looks cool or because it makes you feel innovative is not enough. Culture, instruction, and the needs of students come first, technology comes after. At Ashland Elementary, we have worked tirelessly to research and try new technologies but to also quickly re-assess usage for students. I talk every day with my superstar Instructional Technology Coach Mr. Benware and the rest of our staff about what is best for students and teachers. Many times we discuss what we will not do along with what we will do next. Our educational philosophies drive our implementation of technology. We believe in our shared school vision of Kind, Creative, Hard-working, Safe, and Fun. We believe that ALL students should have access and learn through the best technology available and that it shouldn’t be dependent on if we feel like doing it or not. We believe that technology should give students a voice and build confidence. We believe that students and teachers should be supported emotionally and physically when taking …

What, Why, & How of Instructional Technology: Our School’s Story Read More »

Are you happy in life? Are you happy in your job? Do you even know the things that should make you happy? As a renewal of motivation in our school, I met with all of my school teams recently to discuss this very thing. To be effective with students, I have come to realize that teachers and administrators need to be happy at school! Not giddy, but truly happy in our work. If we want our students to be happy and want to be in school, then we must make sure we are doing things that make ourselves happy and want to be in school as well!

Virginia Tech security just taught me a life lesson this week, but probably not the one you would expect!

For many, dyslexia is a mysterious and strange word of a disorder that sounds like it is really difficult to support in school. The reality is much different. Parents have been bringing this concern for their child to our schools for years and finally we are addressing it in a more systematic and educated manner.

Usually, I’m looking for any excuse I can find to dress up and act like a nut for our students at school. If you follow anything of mine, you’ve probably seen that already, dressing up like Thor, the Elf on the Shelf, Mustafa, you name it. But today, as we were getting ready to come to school, and my own kids were getting dressed in their costumes for “Powered by Kindness” day of our #GreatKindnessChallenge, it hit me. If my son and so many of my students were going to be Batman today, it’s only fitting that I should be Alfred.

When inspiration, reflection, and engagement comes together with your staff, this is an example of what you can accomplish. At our 1st staff meeting in January, we asked teachers to write what they believed for their students and then show it on video. The twist is that we played the video back in reverse! This was quick to make and didn’t take much time in the staff meeting, but the visuals are powerful.

The easy. The obvious. Why are we spending so much time coming up with complicated plans and strategies when the best ways to connect are so simple? Before winter break, I asked all of our staff members to write a postcard note to one of their students. We mailed these out over the break so that during that time away, our students still would know that we care about them. (Shout out to Mrs. Stovall @cfstovall43, one of our awesome 5th grade teachers for the idea!)

My #OneWord2017 is focus! If you know me at all, you wouldn’t be surprised that this is my one word for the year. You may be muttering under your breath, “…it’s about time…”  or “…that should have been your one word last year…” As I’m typing this, I have eight tabs open in my web browser and had to stop midway through this to start another post because I was getting off topic. It’s not that I’m exactly unfocused, but it’s that I want to do it all, and I try to do it all at the same time.

Sometimes inspiration for writing comes at the oddest times. As we were putting together a puzzle as a family for the holidays, I was struck with how much this was a powerful metaphor for life, leadership, and education. Forrest Gump so famously said, “Life is like a box of choc-o-lates” but I think he had it wrong. I think life is like a box of puz-zles pie-ces. (you can fill in the Forrest Gump accent on your own, don’t pretend like you weren’t already)