Sunday, January 30, 2011

Its All About Relationships

A few weeks ago my wife and I were shopping in a craft store. As usual, I was sporting my school’s umbrella with logo showing proudly. We passed a young couple (the same age as us) in the aisle. They stopped and asked us about our school and we began a very pleasant conversation. It turned out we had lots of similarities as a couple. We talked for about 10 minutes there in the store.

We moved along to locate the items we needed, only to run into them again about 5 minutes later. In my head I am thinking, “Okay God, what do you want me to do. I never stop and talk to people in stores.” After talking for another 10 minutes, we exchanged phone numbers and had an understanding that we would get together sometime.

Photo by BurlapZack on DeviantArt
In my head I was thinking back to that Seinfeld episode where Jerry says that after a certain age you really don’t accept applications for new friendships. They don’t know the people, places, or things you like and it is like starting all over. Honestly I walked away from the store feeling like I had just been asked out on a date by a stranger…and said YES!

A few days passed and my wife and I discussed the options for the double date with our new “buddies”. We thought about lunch (not too formal, usually shorter). We thought about dinner and a movie (seems nicer, and you don’t have to talk too much in a movie if things go badly). We thought about just inviting them to our church, or going to theirs (something we had in common).

The time came when my new friend sent me a text message asking for a good time to call. So we set a time, and right on the stroke of 8:30 p.m. my phone rings. Cordial conversation begins, but only for about a minute. Right away this gentleman gets to the point. He said, “I know you said you work at a small private school and your wife stays home. So I thought I would share something with you that has worked for us. Have you ever heard of Amway?...”

Instant brain shutdown for me…This guy had the audacity to give me a huge sales pitch, over the phone, after talking to me for 20 minutes in a craft store. Where is the love? Where is the trust? Where is the relationship? It wasn’t there. What made him think I would bite on his pitch?

As educators (and administrators) we need to understand that we are trying to get students (and teachers) to buy into something. Each school has its own product. First off, our product must be quality and legitimate, that should be a no-brainer. Secondly, we must take time to develop the relationships (with students, parents, teachers, and admin) so that the heart and soul behind our product is visible when decision time comes. Without those relationships, we risk coming across like presumptuous, arrogant salesmen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Concept, Unlimited Possibilities

My school has announced that we will be "regrouping" our grade levels to cater more toward the students' developmental needs. Beginning in the fall, Elementary will be Kindergarten through 4th grade. Intermediate (this one is new) will be 5th & 6th grades. Middle School will be 7th & 8th. And High School will be 9th through 12th grade.

As the principal of the elementary, I will be charged with supervising the Intermediate school. I am so excited! The purpose of this change is to provide a more appropriate transition from the "structure" of elementary to the "freedom" of middle and then high school.

We have a clean slate in front of us. We are able to build an Intermediate program from the ground up. So I pose the question:

What programs, activities, or emphasis would you see as necessary in a 5th/6th grade setting? Please leave comments with your thoughts and ideas.

Photo courtesy of NASA

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why Do I Need Lesson Plans?

The title should read, "Why do I (the principal) need lesson plans?" Remember that I work at a small private school and as principal act as the instructional supervisor (among other things).

Chalk this question up to inexperience, naiveté, or ignorance. I am going to ask it anyway.

Would current teachers please comment on how their supervisors are effectively using lesson plans to help them improve as educators?

The way I see it, instructional supervision is a major part of my job. If I am doing that part of my job well, I would be in the classroom observing teachers implementing lessons. Isn't that infinitely better than reading lesson plans on paper? Anyone can write a pretty lesson plan. It takes a professional teacher to transform an effective lesson plan into an effective lesson and create an environment of learning.

The way I see it right now, collecting lesson plans from a teacher should be a way for me to help that teacher organize his thoughts to improve implementation. Think of my days teaching math. I had a few different types of students:
  1. The student who could do it correctly the first time (or even before) and I simply felt like a nag forcing him to show his work.
  2. The student who excels but shows his work so that he does not make silly errors.
  3. The student who must show his work in order to keep things together.
  4. The student who doesn't show his (or shows it ineffectively) and makes all sorts of errors.
By telling a student to show his work, I am simply trying to visually represent the connection between understanding and the externalization of understanding.

Now replace "student" with "teacher" and "shows his work" with "lesson plans". I know lesson planning is a trait of an excellent teacher (the format and function debate aside). I would expect a master teacher to plan out lessons, especially as he tries new ideas and methods.

Should teachers who "struggle" be the only ones "required" to turn in lesson plans?

Supervisors, please comment on what you believe you do well. Teachers, please share what your supervisors do to really help you.

PS - This is my first real post about a thought I have been formulating. Be kind =)

Graphic retrieved from

Thursday, January 13, 2011

7 Things You Don't Need to Know About Me

This post is part of the Teacher Challenge to kick-start my blog. I will do these in descending order, saving the juiciest tidbit for last!

7. I began as a USSF Soccer Referee when I was 15 years old and continue to this day. I would love to ref a World Cup Game one day...

6. I was addicted to World of Warcraft. My addiction lasted for about 2 years. It was only through the help and patience of my loving wife that I survived. Still to this day I cannot go near it without risking a relapse. Maybe this is why I relate to students so well =)

5. I have eaten chicken hearts and cow tongue...and liked it! In Brazil, this is a regular item on the barbecue.

4. My wife was born in Papua New Guinea (I guess that is about her more, but you know..."one flesh" counts). I have never been there but like to retell all of her stories and pretend like I grew up there myself. Her family was on the mission field with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

3. I played the bass trombone in the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble 1 (you can see me on the end in the middle row in the picture below). While I also picked up guitar, trombone was my first love. I soon found out that in order to be a trombone player, you must be crazy, poor, and unappreciated. While that sounded fun, I decided to become a teacher. Turns out teachers are crazy, poor, and unappreciated as well...

2. I was tested in the top one quarter of the top 1% of students in the United States for my graduating class. I participated in Duke University's Talent Identification Program. Of my 15 best friends from that program, I am only one of two that did not go to either Duke or an Ivy League school (the other is now a practicing physician). I received my first college scholarship offer in the 8th grade (from [The] Ohio State University...I won't link that because I am still bitter about their football championship against Miami).

1. I was a childhood actor/model. I started when I was a baby doing little commercials and print ads. I was as a Jordache kid. I was an Oshkosh B'gosh model. I was an extra in numerous movies.The crown jewels of my acting career were first, being the photo double for the main character in Problem Child 2. The only problem is photo doubles don't make the credits (only stunt doubles), so you'll have to take my word. My second big role was a co-host of a Fox TV show called "What About It" that aired on Saturday mornings. The prize of my career was my role in My Girl with Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Check out the link, you can find "TJ Collazo". My part was "Boy"...WOO HOO!

Thanks to Miss W. and her Smartboard for the inspiration and example on this post.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What I Believe

I did this off the top of my head. Please ask questions, I am sure there are areas I have forgotten. This is not intended to be my theological beliefs. Instead these are my core beliefs that influence education.
  • I believe students (and teachers) are created in the image of God. Because God creates each person with a specific and individual plan, each student has his (or her) own personality, gifts, talents, inclinations, learning styles, attention span, etc. Combined with their prior experiences, choices, and cultural influences, each student is a unique individual unlike anyone who ever was or will be again. Because God’s plan for each person is unique, each student must be taught how to think rather than what to think so that they can apply their mind to their specific situations. Yes, there is foundational knowledge, but teaching simply to that knowledge hinders the students from using knowledge beyond the scope of what they were shown.

  • I believe there is an absolute truth that is the person of Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made. The Truth has been revealed to us through the Holy Scripture which points us to the Designer, Creator, Organizer, and Sustainer of the universe. All truth is God’s truth. He created it to be in consort with Himself. Therefore, all knowledge should align with the Scripture. Any knowledge that is not in harmony with the Scripture is due to either misinterpretation of the earthly knowledge or misinterpretation of the Scripture. All truth claims not passing through the “filter” of God’s Word should be regarded as false claims.

  • I believe that we educate students in order that they may fulfill the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27). We, therefore, urge students to sharpen their minds not for their own selfish ambition, but out of love for God. This, obviously, shows that we should never stop learning. The minute we stop learning about God and His creation, we stop loving God with the mind He gave us. 

  • I believe all people are sinners and prone to rebellion against authority. I also believe all people are free agents, able to make conscious choices about their decisions. However, only after a person receives the Holy Spirit (through a saving faith in Jesus Christ) can a person choose to make decisions that are pleasing and glorifying to the Lord. This has major implications for the behavior and discipline of students. While external motivation may achieve desired outcomes for a time, those outcomes will only be present in conjunction with stimuli. That is why we have teachers who say, “My students behave for me but not other teachers.” The key to student motivation and discipline is a transformation of the heart. This transformation allows the students to self-govern their thoughts and actions and intrinsically motivate themselves to Godly choices and desires. “Discipline” should more appropriately be called “Discipleship”. It is through discipleship that a person becomes more Christ-like in their thoughts and actions.

  • I believe it is the duty of the parents to raise and educate their child. It is imperative, then, that parents find an educational institution that is in line with their family’s beliefs. Parents who send their children to a school that follows a different worldview will face increased difficulties in their child’s education. School is seen as a source of truth. Parents are naturally looked to as educators. Therefore when a child hears one truth claim at school and an opposite truth claim at home, the child will be forced to stop trusting either school or the parents and will develop a pluralistic and confused worldview. It is vital that a school works as a resource in partnership with the home and not as a replacement of the home. The school must be prepared to defer to the home on questionable or divisive issues.

All of this is with the understanding that we serve an infinite God who can never be fully understood. While his creation exists in the finite, we can never fully understand his reasoning or design.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Finished my Bio

One important aspect of goal-setting is celebrating accomplishments. So this post is to document that I have completed my biography page. You can find out Who I Am. It is probably more details than people want to know, but if education is all about relationships, I need to put myself out there...

Next up: What I believe...(which is a never-ending task).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In the beginning...

This is my first blog post. I first want to say thank you to all the amazing bloggers who have inspired me to start this. After months of lurking in the back row of Twitter, Google Reader, and various other PLN sites, I have decided to be a contributor. Hopefully my contributions are seen as valuable.

As with any new undertaking, I need a purpose and goals.

The purpose of this blog is to give me a forum to share my thoughts as well as receive input from the education community. At the title suggests, I am a young buck. Without writing an "About Me" section here, I graduated with my Master's in Administration/Supervision and was hired as a Principal when I was 25 years old. Although I am a product of the public school system, my professional experience has been in Christian Education (both in the U.S. and overseas). While my intention is not to compare public and Christian schools, I anticipate comments and conversations addressing those difference. I will come out and say that I am not against public education or its teachers.

My short-term goals for my blog are
  1. to create a biography page.
  2. to outline (probably in some depth) what I believe. Regardless of religion (you will find out that I don't like that word) or lack of religion, our actions are guided by what we believe. This is true both inside and outside of the classroom. In order for me to effectively frame my thoughts, I must clearly articulate what I believe.
  3. to research and implement additional features on this blog that will enhance a reader's experience. I have seen so many amazing blogs with great feature. I need to figure out what I can and cannot do.
  4. to create a simple way of sharing my favorite resources.
While there are some foundational differences, my long-term hope is that I can create a place where all educators, Christian and non-Christian alike, can come together for the for the sake of our students.

I appreciate any comments and encouragement as I undertake this ongoing project.