Spring in Schools

Staying Clear during the Season of the Ides
Hello Friends! Another edition of the Friday Focus rolls around and as always many parts and pieces to mix together.

This is the time of the year when books can be written. Student find themselves a bit war torn as the funny behaviors of their friends become, not so funny anymore. Staff members can even begin to wear on each other. The days are a bit gloomy and the goals for the year seem oceans away.

I always call this time of the year the Ides of March. That notorius date (15th) when Julius Caesar was killed. The death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. So, jokingly I always say, beware of the Ides when we get to this time of the year.

Or, it can be the time of the year that becomes very opportunistic. You start to realize you aren’t going to achieve the goal you desired. What was working with one student isn’t working anymore. Routines are too routine. Don’t be afraid to reinvent this time of the year. Pilot a piece of a goal that you may want to put into play next year. Add a new catalyst to students to simply change things up if you feel and sense the need. It is a great time of renewal.

Non Graded/Authentic Assessment/Passion Driven-

celebrationprinciplesIn the mid to late 90’s I had an opportunity to be on opening faculty of Celebration School in Celebration, Florida.  This school was often referenced as “The Disney School”.  Disney had designed a cutting edge school with no grades (K-12), no grades (A-F), graduation by exhibition of culminating project, passion driven curriculum with no textbooks and a structure that resembled a family room more than a school.  As a teacher, one of our tenets in the high school was to offer a class if a student requested it.  I recall my teaching load of over 28 preps at one time.

This school was one of the most beautiful pieces of teaching and learning.  Stress was high for faculty and the feel was uncomfortable for parents, but the relational spokes of the wheel was simply a thing of beauty.  I recall many days when students simply did not want to go home.

With much discussion around inquiry, tech infusion, PBL and school structuress, I hope to rekindle some sparks from this time in my teaching career and share out on this blog.

Some may say this model failed. This school today is much more traditional for what I understand. In weeks and months ahead I hope to continue this conversation of what really worked and why.


ISTE Reflections 2015



Moments before the opening keynote



ISTE-The conference of “conferences” that allows innovators to meet the implementation leaders.  This was my first time attending and I was not disappointed.  ISTE will give one the feeling of always missing out and never quite hitting the mark.  This is due to the many conversations occurring during the multiple breakout sessions.  I felt this pulse of conversation in the air as I walked about many of the collaborative areas.  For me personally, it had the great college commons feel. There are so many things going on at one time that ISTE offers up a buffet of enriching and learning jump off points!


A few quick nuggets of reflection as I process the experience of the last few days.

Out time has arrived!

We live in the best time ever for teaching and learning.  Our work as educators has some of the most incredible tools to elevate engagement and expand the  ability of students to learn from others in the world.  Now is the time to learn from others more than ever!  We have known of the tools, but have we all taken the next step to fully harness the power that the tools give us.  Now is the time to reach out to others and learn from their successes.  For a long time we have all know of the tools of collaboration such as twitter.  I know of many folks who use this tool but it is very much on the surface and not in depth in enriching ways. They are not harnessing the power of the connected world.  I would include myself in this group.  By writing this blog post, I am putting myself out there by pushing myself to fully take the first step in hope of increasing my own professional learning network.  I have goals this year of digging deeper into looking at how space and structure determine learning opportunities  and thus impact outcomes.  Pictured below are some of the great folks I have recently connected or re-connected with at ISTE 2015.

ISTE 2015 Speaker on Learning Spaces

Lisa Domeier and Chad Smith discuss Transformational Design for Learning Spaces at the conclusion of her Monday interactive lecture at ISTE Philadelphia 2015.


George Couros and Chad Smith after his early session at ISTE 2015


SATCHAT host Brad Currie and I catch a quick minute

 We need to look different at implementation models

I have noted many speakers, myself included, stating the importance and need of educators using tools of collaboration and allowing students to fully utilize technology.  I have heard this same conversation in education for a few years.

We can learn a bit from history on how this may look for implementation models that have been whole school successful.  For example, email was at one time new to school.  But schools were able to move everyone over to regular use of email at the same time.  This was a whole school communication change.  Something for one to  ponder and learn from in regards to  implementation challenges.

Keep our eyes on the prize

There are many models of allowing kids to have a seemingly more personalized experience in their learning.  Just at this conference I hear of Project Based Learning, Genius Hours, Problem based learning, Inquiry Learning, and Customized experiences.  Many sessions and speakers talk about what the process of these models include.  As I reflect, we have to keep our eyes on the prize which is the student and walk in their shoes in this model.  The teacher-student relationship and the day to day building of experiences with high level rigor is the most important element. We can’t get caught up in the structure of PBL or am I doing  the Genius Hour correctly.

@danlayton2 and I celebrating a great of learning

@danlayton2 and I celebrating a great week of learning

Take the step

Some say be a risk taker, others may call it being brave.  We are talking about taking the next step in growing and learning  that harnessing the power of the tools of the day.  For me personally, this means being a disciplined writer (thus this blog).  We need to model writing for our kids.  It is my hope that someone will read this, comment or follow up and offer up ideas or discussion that grow me as a professional.  What an opportunity missed if I don’t try to take advantage of this!! We don’t know what we don’t know, right?

Take the step!

Be like the Best

Duke has a great basketball program that is the envy of many.  Let’s say you are running a major college basketball program.  You can never be Duke.  But, if you start to mimic and model successful principles from the Duke program, you start to become more like Duke each day.  So, in this effort, you become more like Duke.

I want to take this analogy and continue to mimic and model ideals from successful schools. One such is the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  

 Stay inspired!

I attended TEDx Indy last Fall.  It was so inspiring to hear the stories of folks have given back to make their world a better place.

Please add to discussion here at The Crossroads!!

TEDx Indy from October 2014

ISTE inspired me in similar ways.  I want to keep this momentum of inspiration going!  My PLN can help me with this, so your words of affirmation are needed.  As a father of five, school leader of 850 and working farmer of 20 acres with livestock, i’m busy!  But in writing I find the ability to celebrate the things that excite me most in life and who doesn’t want this! So, keep me inspired and please share your writing with me!

Special thank you to Pernille Ripp and Erin Klein for their great session on helping students find their voice.   It was great to connect with Ditch that Textbook author and blogger Matt Miller.  Lisa Domeier shared a simply riveting session on Design in Learning spaces.  This session gave me many great ideas to bring home.

Thank you #ISTE2015

June Thoughts

As June quickly comes to a close, I start to reflect on what was accomplished for building school for the upcoming year.  This was a month of mixed emotions as I watched great people depart our campus for new opportunities and at the same time welcome new and exciting members to our team.  Watching great people depart is always a cocktail of emotions–sadness and pure joy–sadness as we high five goodbye and joy as we watch them on take on new, bigger professional endeavors.

June also lends itself to drawing it the list of summer reads.  I have many books I want to conquer geared around school culture, innovation and creativity.  With a great desire to lead a school of tomorrow today, I find great joy in learning about where our students are heading.

It is also a time for restoration and fueling up for the new year ahead!

HECC Sharing

Greetings all!!  Thank you for attending my sessions on Leadership and Technology. I would like to personally thank you and every one of for attending, sharing and collaborating.  The workshop groups on Thursday were able to engage in collaboration on different issues.  Our Friday group received a fast paced share.  Please know my Prezi is yours to take and use in anyway you find resourceful.  Here is the link to this Prezi:

Technology Leadership from the Principal’s Desk:



Stay in touch!

Twitter: @chadsmithelearn

Email: chadsmithelearn@yahoo.com


Increase Your Circle!

Please allow me to share with you a bit in my simple world.  Growing up on a farm, we did not have every tool or implement needed.  Opportunities would always pop up in which we would tap our neighbor and borrow such items.  This was often followed with a quote , if you can’t use your neighbor, what good are they for (chuckle)?

The world has gotten much smaller and every person has a neighbor on their keyboard.  The key is to connect and celebrate this relationship.  With October being Connected Educator Month, I would like to celebrate a bit of this process of reaching out to others.

Being connected has become a daily need. Each morning, I find myself utlizing Twitter as a means to acquire news, sports, weather and the current conversation in education.  Most delightful is the fact that I choose the provider of said information.  I don’t have to listen to news that I do not wish to hear while I await the pertinent information to me.

Think of Collaboration more in the sense of partnering and supporting.  Educational Leaders can quickly feel isolated on an island full of dilemas.  This is never so in a connected world.  You have resources and support at your finger tips!

Where do I start?  What should I do?  Please take a test drive on this Prezi. Dan Layton, my partner in crime and assistant prinicipal and I have been collaborating together on opportunities to increase our circle of sharing with other.  This has led us to presenting at multiple conferences and schools.  Dan and I collaborate using Prezi with multiple editors as well as Google Docs and Touchcast.  Touchcast has proven to be wonderful tool to share with our school morning announcements.  This Prezi below is one of our productions.


Please visit Dan’s blog for more presentations at: educationspork.blogspot.com.  You can also follow him on twitter @Danlayton2.

We will be presenting as the upcoming CELL conference (University of Indianapolis) as well as the Indiana Association of School Principals and Assistant Principal Conference.  While it feels good to be invited to speak at a conference or share in front of others, we aknowledge these are just tools that are out there for everyone to use.  We have stolen ideas from other people to increase out own toolbox and make life more efficient.  Please feel free to steal from us!

In closing, if you are an advanced tweeter, don’t stop learning!  Check out this cool tool:  http://rebelmouse.com



Keep on learning!



He Died This Summer

He is not returning to school because he died this summer. The words still echo in some hollow chamber of my mind. I remember a lump in my throat and stiffness in my body as the news moved from reality to surreal. “Yep, seems he hot wired a truck and drove to Texas. The report said he traded off driving with a buddy who feel asleep. They hit a cement barrier and …..”

This was the news that hit me as I returned back to school over a decade ago. We will call his name Mike. Mike was a project of mine, someone who I always tried to look after and make smile each day. He had no dad and multiple siblings. Mom worked three jobs and seemed to give it her all.

Mike danced in and out of trouble as the hot seat always followed him around the school campus. He never truly crossed the line of being a “bad kid” but simply a fellow lacking guidance. There were times when he would be reported tardy to class and I would find him in the Lifeskills room reading to the kids in class or pushing them around in wheelchairs.

Mike was a project that I never got to finish. A life that ended way too soon. As you return to the routine of school, please carry this story of Mike with you as you hit the wall or look for energy to tackle the extra mile. You are in a very special business and it is life changing and life making. Also, please carry a sense of urgency. Tomorrow is unpromised to all and we need to give everything today. You probably have a “Mike” and he is in school. So for Mike’s sake, keep up the fight and follow your calling to help shape each life such as this.

Thanks for taking time to read my blog!

Why I Lead

It was a typical school day and I was a happy third grader. My principal had called me into his office. It was a place that no student wanted to go. His polyester brown suit merged with John Wayne cowboy boots in packaged figure that seemed to be a cross between the old Marlboro man and a traveling shoe salesman. I sat across his desk and he told me I was going to be an elementary principal some day.  I thought I was in trouble….!

Not sure why, but the story above is true. Today, I am just that, an elementary principal. As I pen this note, I find myself setting resolutions as tomorrow is our first day of school. Educators are truly blessed with two days to start new resolutions, New Year’s Eve and the First Day of School Eve–but I regress!

Leadership has always been a part of my inner core. I honestly dislike the word a bit because it sounds of arrogance–I will lead you. In fact, I find it essential to be just the opposite, I will serve you. Art Athens, fantastic leader from the US Naval Academy ethics department, states it best as the most significant determinant of leadership success is humility. And in the battlefield, an ego can cost lives. Every day I humble myself by reflection on just how lucky I am to be able to be called a leader.

Growing up, I always found myself a bit separate from the masses and peers. I was not necessarily on the outside looking in but rather more of an old soul. In recess, I would often use sticks and rocks and draw up plays in basketball that my peers would run. Growing up on a farm, I built a herd of sows (mother pigs) based on strong genetic pedigrees and my age 15 had over herd of over 40. I always found a great deal of compassion for the kid who never had a friend. I just could not stand the “loner” and still can’t today. And, I love people. I learn something from every soul I encounter.

Leadership kind of found me because of my passions in life. There is no greater feeling in knowing that you made someone’s life a little better. Typically, I get more out of helping that the receiver!

I would like to give a special shout out and thanks to George Couros for setting up the Virtual Mentor program. I met George this summer at an E Learning conference and know he has led great work for youth. Thanks George, you are a great Canadian friend!!

Also, thank you to the mentees that I am paired with! Guys, I have been busy getting school started this week. I am greatly excited about learning together in the near future.

Holly Berry (TX), Kyle Moore (WI), Edward Gallegos (TX),  Lauren Carter (GA), Michelle Meracis (AUS), Mandy Vasek (TX)


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