And the Two Paths Diverge. .

How much would you say you’ve changed over the past five years? Professionally in that time, I’ve moved from the high school principal at Gowanda to the assistant superintendent there to my current position of superintendent at Randolph. Personally in five years, I’ve gone from being the mother of a high school daughter and a middle school son to an empty nester. That’s a fair amount of change.

My thinking has changed over those five years too and consequently, this blog has transformed. When I started writing in July of 2006, I was writing just for me. This blog, then entitled G-Town Talks, was a place for me to process my thinking, to get feedback from a few colleagues who were reading and responding, and to sometimes influence someone else’s thinking. It was fun! It was also professionally rewarding, cathartic on some days and an avenue into the online learning community. It’s through this blog that I began to grow my own professional learning network as I read the work of others who I met from following the bread crumbs of a trail when they left comments or when I noticed someone on another blog I was reading. My RSS feeds grew, my readership grew, the personal rewards I felt from writing every time someone commented grew.

And then it all began to dwindle when I left work I absolutely loved and became an assistant superintendent. It seems that with every step I took up the ladder, I had less to say on this blog. I felt I had to write more formally, as the “SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS”. This continued until the point I’m at now where it’s really like an on-line version of a newsletter. The only blog post that’s gotten my creative spirit going was one I did as a guest post for Scott McLeod, and that was good enough to get noticed by Jay Goldman to be published next month in AASA’s print magazine The School Administrator. Didn’t write it here though, did I?

Why? I stopped writing for me. I stopped processing my thinking here. I lost all of the rewards of writing. It became a chore. I have taxpayers and BOE members and students and parents in my head now where only ideas and reflection and learning should be. Instead of just letting my thoughts flow onto the blog, I started to second guess my every sentence and re-read my posts through the critical lens of someone else (who? I don’t know. Every person who’s ever called to complain about something?).  My work consumes me, I’m thinking about what all of those constituents need twelve hours per day. When I’m writing here, it’s not helpful.

I realized all of this over the weekend at Educon, as I got back to learning again and talked to colleagues like Ben Wilkoff, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson. I processed the whole conundrum through on the 7+ hour car rides there and back with my three poor colleagues who surely got sick of listening to me. (Thanks, btw!)

The result? I’m reclaiming this blog for ME. I’m taking it back for my own learning, as a place to process my thinking about education or whatever I want, and for whatever influence I may have out here in my big, fat digital footprint. I’m sticking my toes deeply into it all instead of tip-toeing about, worrying that I might say something that someone doesn’t like. What kind of a light weight, cowardly footprint was that ever going to leave anyway?

And what about continuing to communicate with our Randolph Central school community as the superintendent? That’s extremely important. I’ll continue to be linked on the school webpage as Randolph Central BlogPosts. Most people who read from Randolph probably won’t even notice the difference. But if you’ve been accessing the blog from back in the day, when I wrote with originality and passion and heart on G-Town Talks, I hope you’ll notice my return. Cause I’m just writing for me here. I’m owning Kimberly Moritz BlogPosts again.  I might even return to the name G-Town Talks, just to tip it back to center.

And the two paths diverge. . .

White Noise

Does it seem like everyone in your life has an opinion on how you do things? Sometimes (maybe most of the time) without any real insight into the details of your decisions or actions?

Isn’t it actually okay that we make different decisions when placed in similar situations? That’s our prerogative, our right, our freedom. Why does there seem to be such a general lack of acceptance of those decisions, even when they have no impact on others?

When we listen to or watch what others decide to do, do we always listen and look through our own clouded lens? I guess we do. Why is that lens so judgmental? I’m honestly asking. I don’t know the answer, but I’ve been reflecting on this topic for a while now. And how do we clear the lens? Can I just accept that your decision may be different than mine but it doesn’t make yours right and mine wrong? We’re just different, with differing ideas, feelings, motivations and priorities, right?

The differences can be about anything from at what age we buy our kids a cell phone or how you allow your students to walk in the hallway or what consequence your students get for lack of homework completion or how your administrator runs a faculty meeting. Those are not necessarily questions that have one clear cut answer. And what makes one person know better than another what’s best, what works?

I’m going to sincerely work on this in myself this year. Instead of jumping to, “she did what?!”, I’m going to try hard to listen and accept and respect the decisions and actions of others, without judgment. And I’m going to be grateful that I have the freedom, the ability, the power to make my own decisions too. Most of all, I’m going to work on not caring about the judgments of others when they don’t like my decisions or actions.  Just to be clear, I’m going to listen carefully to the ideas of others, but not the judgments.

I think this might be one of the best parts of getting older. ( And yes, turning a year older right after the new year seems to make me hyper reflective around now. ) I’m going to try hard to just take people as they are, hold my family and closest friends near and dear, and shut out the white noise of needless negativity in my life.

Using Technology in the Classrooms

About the use of technology in classrooms. . . sometimes there are lessons that are just quicker and more effective without technology. If you can accomplish your learning goal with a quick paper/pencil activity, go for it.

So when is it a good idea to use technology? When it affords students opportunities they can’t otherwise obtain, or when it allows them to create, collaborate, research, and communicate. Or when you recognize that the tech tools are often integral in students’ lives and you want the learning to meet them where they live and breathe.

And sometimes it’s also a completely cool and appropriate use of the technology when it looks like this. . . check out this video of two of our stupendous Kindergarten students learning in Lisa Burris’ class. One more option, one more way to connect. Now you tell me, are our two students excited about making words; are they learning with passion and innovation?

Cell Phones: A Benefit Missed

I’m just wondering for how long we’re going to ban cell phones and ignore the possibilities they provide? For every child who’s carrying an IPOD touch or a smart phone, that’s a powerful device that could be used and is used and WILL be used in the future as that child’s handheld computer. What are we waiting for? We’ve been talking about this for years. And those devices come at NO COST to the school district. And for every student without a smart phone or an IPOD, we have other devices available depending upon the learning opportunity.

Snow Days

Randolph was pummeled with snow during the past few days, reports of 41 to 48 inches in as many hours abound. We even made the national news! I want to first thank our own crew and the road crews that work tirelessly across the school district to clear the roads and to make driving as safe as possible for everyone. You do an amazing job, I’ve said it many times. Whenever my fair-weather relatives from Pittsburgh hear about the amount of snow that we receive and then my confidence that the roads will be clear, they’re astounded.

It’s a huge decision to cancel school, one I don’t take lightly. Several people here “on the ground” in the district are involved in providing me with information so that I can make the right call.  We have to think first and foremost of the safety of our students. I’m aware that no matter the decision, there will be criticism. That doesn’t honestly affect my decision, I’m paid to make the best decision possible, considering all of the information at hand despite the criticism that may follow. And frankly that’s on all counts, not just snow days. Again my thanks to our staff members who are driving the district roads and checking with the county and town road crews to find out what the conditions look like–your information is invaluable to me.

If school is closed for a snow day, it’s closed for the entire day. There are no evening activities or practices—no one has the authority to call students to school once it’s been cancelled for snow.

Kudos, Luck and Thanks to RCS Athletes and Coaches

We have some incredible Class D athletes in Randolph, don’t we? Play-off season is a busy one for us as our teams progress, hopefully leading to STATE level play. I loved watching our Boys Soccer team play at Southwestern, our Football team at Ralph Wilson, and our Girls Soccer team and Cross Country runners throughout the season. Just as impressive as our athletes are the fans we have present at every athletic event from little league to modified to JV and Varsity. It’s a privilege for me to be a part of the Randolph fan family and incredible school spirit, that spirit that’s kept alive by our beautiful cheerleaders.

Cross Country isn’t a sport that gets a lot of fame and attention. . . so let me take a moment to recognize two of our incredible runners who just competed at the State level this weekend. Meg Steward placed 23/113 and Hunter Lienhart placed 56/118–outstanding results in an extremely tough competition!

Girls VB 2010

And Girls’ Volleyball as the Far West Regional Champs! Can you say “poetry in motion”? Because that’s all I can think when I watch our girls play. My daughter and nephew attended the games at JCC with me and they were both amazed at the level of skill and competition. I was able to look at them and say “that’s the way it’s done in Randolph!”

I wish our girls all the luck, skill and fun they can muster at this weekend’s STATE competition,  the Final Four at Glens Falls Civic Center – Saturday, November 20 – 2:30 Opening Ceremonies with 3:30 as the first game according to the VB website ( Play your best and enjoy the experience Ladies. And rest assured there will be a huge contingency of Cardinals fans there with you!

One of Our Own Coming Home

A Guest Post from Tonia McAllister:

Hi. As some of you may know, my cousin Casey Craumer, who graduated from RCS in 2003, was injured in Afganistan a few weeks ago. He is thankfully doing well and will be coming home for a few days later this month.
We are planning a Welcome Home Parade (very short, like we do for the sports teams) on Saturday June 26th at 1pm. The fire trucks will meet at the fire hall and leave from there and do a loop up the school drive and back around the village.
We are hoping that we can get the word out, I know that the high schoolers are gone, but would like to maybe announce it a time or two if possible. We are hoping people will make up signs, and we are getting flags to wave and hopefully a banner or two.
I have attached a flyer, if you can open it and print it and hang it wherever that would be great.
Also knowing that school is out but hoping against hope that we may be able to get a few band members together to be playing downtown as they come thru would be awesome.
Also, can we get it added on the sign asap to get the word out, and then on that Saturday could the sign say something like “Welcome Home Casey”
I believe there will be news stations here as well.
If you have any questions please let me know, and just let me know if we can get any musicians down there please.
Thanks for your help. It’s pretty awesome to have a hometown hero to celebrate instead of mourn!!
Tonia McAllister
As some of you may know, my cousin Casey Craumer, who graduated from RCS in 2003, was injured in Afganistan a few weeks ago. He is thankfully doing well and will be coming home for a few days later this month.
We are planning a Welcome Home Parade (very short, like we do for the sports teams) on Saturday June 26th at 1pm. The fire trucks will meet at the fire hall and leave from there and do a loop up the school drive and back around the village.
We are hoping that we can get the word out so everyone comes out to welcome Casey home!  We are also hoping people will make up signs, and we are getting flags to wave and a banner or two. I believe there will be news stations here as well!
Thanks for your help. It’s pretty awesome to have a hometown hero to celebrate!!
Tonia McAllister

Randolph’s G.N. Chapman ES Moving Up

Business First continues to provide new rankings each day this week. Today brought us the elementary school rankings, tomorrow the middle school, Thursday the high school, and Friday the district rankings.

So how’d we do? In 2009, our elementary school ranked 199 out of 287 private and public elementary schools. In 2010? We moved up 26 spots to rank 173. Nice work Randolph!

Let’s keep asking “this is good, but how can we be better?”