Batter Up!

@MrBrettClark 4 Comments

Before reading any further, take 55 seconds and watch the video below.

I don't know about you, but that video blows my mind!  This post was inspired by my friend Nick (@TheNerdyTeacher) and his latest post, #NothingButPositiveTweetsThisWeek.  In the post he encourages us to be positive this week and to only share the great things that are happening in our classrooms and education.  

These words of encouragement couldn't have come at a better time.  It's just that time of year that we all face in education.  It's that stretch of days from January to spring break where the weather is gloomy, there are very few days off, it's standardized test season, kids are tired, teachers are tired, and everyone is praying for a snow day.

I think many of us feel like the guy in the video above.  We have all of these things we are trying to keep in motion and as soon as we take care of one thing, here comes something else.  Let me just say, "It's going to be okay." 

Stay Focused

Stay Positive 

Have Fun

Keep Swinging

This is your time to shine.  This is your time to do what others see as impossible.  

Turn on your "walk-up" music and step up to the plate.

Batter Up!


Everybody Needs A Hero

@MrBrettClark 2 Comments

The word hero is defined as a person who is admired for courage or noble qualities.  I think everyone longs to have a hero in their life.  Sometimes that hero is a fictional character that embodies those qualities that we long to see in humanity.  Other times it's a famous person that accomplishes great feats that inspire us to be more than what we are.  A person can also be classified a hero by the position they hold, like a member of the military.

Then there are those people who are heros because of the personal effect they have on your life.  This week we are saying goodbye to my wonderful Grandma, Hannah Clark.  This amazing person has meant more to me then I could ever write down in words.

 The last few days in the hospital I tried to think about everything my grandma had lived through.  She's been through the great depression and wars.  She has farmed using horses and seen us put a man on the moon.  I couldn't even begin to imagine the number of inventions she saw become household items in her lifetime.

Grandma truly lived and her life set the tone for my entire family.  

Like any child, I loved going to Grandma's house.  I can remember being there in December decorating Christmas cookies with my brother. Did you know that Santa's workshop was in my grandparent's basement and not at the north pole?  It's true.  They would hide the presents in the basement and "Santa" would leave us notes on the door.  We would lay our heads on the vents and listen to the elves work in the basement.  

My elementary school was a walk across the 4H grounds from my grandma's house.  A few times I got permission to walk across the field to eat lunch with her.  I would sit at the small table in the kitchen with her and just talk.  I can't tell you one specific meal she fixed for me nor can I find the words that would adequately express the amount of love I felt on our lunch dates.  One thing that was there every time was a small windup music box.  She would wind it up and set it on the table as we ate.  The music player looked like a living room on Christmas morning with some furniture, a tree, and wrapped presents.  One year, on Christmas day, I was overjoyed when I opened a gift to find the music box I loved inside.

As a teenager my grandma's house became a great place for me and my friends to hang out.  All of my friends loved to go over there and my grandparents loved to have us.  There was always freshly baked cookies, plenty of ice cream, and a deck of cards.  My grandpa and I would take on grandma and my best friend Steve in a game of Euchre.

Grandma and Grandpa
When my grandpa passed away in 1998 I wondered how grandma would handle it.  In the end, it was grandma that lifted us up.  She had a way of lifting up your spirits and you always felt loved when you were around her.  She accepted everyone and her door was always open.  She was a great listener, but would also share her opinion on a matter if given the chance.  She was a strong lady but not hard.  She was loving but not a pushover.  She gave far more than she received.  She always put others ahead of herself.

As I walked around her house a few hours after she had passed away I was just overwhelmed with memories.  You can't go a few feet in grandma's house without seeing a picture.  There are pictures of family members, friends, and pets everywhere.  I looked at all of those pictures and began to think about  how each and everyone of the people in those pictures had my grandma's fingerprints in their lives.  I don't think I'll ever really know just how many people my grandma inspired over the years.

My grandma's pastor commented in the hospital room that it was very apparent that we have a loving family.  He talked about how much peace there was in the room and how it was beautiful to see a family be here for each other and love each other.  Yeah, grandma taught us that.

The word hero is defined as a person who is admired for courage or noble qualities.  She is somebody I admired for the courage and noble qualities she had in her life.  She was a beautiful lady and I will miss her greatly.

Everybody needs a hero.  We all need that person that shows us what it means to be a great person and inspires us to be better than what we are.  My grandma was that to me.  She makes me what to be better and to help others.  I want to take what she has taught me and pass it on to my children and to those around me.  Everybody needs a hero. I have one in my grandma.  

If you don't have a hero, find one, and if you're not a hero, become one.


Good Principal = Good Teacher?

@MrBrettClark 4 Comments

Yesterday I had a great conversation on twitter with two amazing educators, Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher) and Jason Bednar (@J_Bednar).  The conversation started off like this:
This conversation went on for several more tweets and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ) even joined in at the end.  I just thought it was a very interesting question and I thought I'd give all of you a chance to weigh in on it.  So, do you think that in order to be a good principal, you had to first be a good classroom teacher?

I personally think that most good principals were, at one time, good classroom teachers.  However, I also think different people have different gifts and I think it is possible to be a great principal and not a good classroom teacher.

What do you think?


Why the Flipped High School Works

@MrBrettClark 6 Comments

On February 2nd I got to visit Clintondale High School, aka The Flipped High School, with a good number of other educators.  Now, if you follow me on twitter or read this blog, you know how I feel about the flipped classroom.  However, even if you are not a fan of the flipped model, I think you would find yourself falling in love with the work of Greg Green, his staff, and the students if you ever had the chance to visit like I did.  Let me tell you why...

Greg Green Gets It

That's all I kept thinking as I listened to Greg explain to us why he flipped his school.  Simply put, Greg Green just gets it. He understands that you can sit around all you want and make excuses about why your school is failing.  You can complain about federal policy, lack of money, kids that don't care, parents who are absent, teachers who are burnt get the idea.  Or you can do something about it.  That's what Greg did.  He researched, discussed, planned, and acted.  Greg went to one of his veteran teachers and talked to him about piloting the program.  He tested his theory and looked at the results critically to make sure it would benefit his students.  In a educational world that seems quick to latch on to the flavor of the month, Greg made sure it was the right flavor for his students and staff.  That's what leaders do and that's what Greg is.

Teachers Were Empowered 

Greg couldn't bring the change himself, nor could he will his teachers to change.  One word I kept hearing throughout the day from everybody was "commitment".  The teachers, like their principal, were committed to change.  The teacher who piloted the program admitted to us that he enjoys lecturing and he is more comfortable being in front of the class.  However, he also admitted that his favorite style of teaching wasn't working and he needed to change.  Once the decision was made to flip the school, teachers were given opportunities to create the change needed in their classrooms.  Change isn't easy and it takes time.   One of the biggest complaints I here teachers make is there isn't enough time to implement change.  Well, these teachers were given the time they wanted and needed.  Subs were brought in so teachers could create videos.  Now, you might think that pulling teachers out of the classroom sounds counterproductive, but when you can't get much lower, what did he have to lose? Teachers were given the time to collaborate, plan, problem solve, and create the change.

Play to Everybody's Strength & Share the Load

*News Flash* If you are a teacher, there are some things you are great at teaching and some things you stink at teaching.  When Clintondale teachers started creating video lessons the department heads worked with the teachers in their department and split up the lessons based on people's strengths.  This does a variety of things.  It allows teachers to shine at what they are good at.  Something we all like to do.  It also takes the pressure off of teaching something you know you're not good at teaching. I spent one sad semester teaching high school geometry.  I apologize to anyone reading this blog that may have had me that semester.  I was terrible at it and thankfully only had to teach it for 18 weeks.  Sharing video creation also creates relationships between teachers and students, even when they don't have them in class.  I've had students ask me to see another math teacher.  When I've told them that I teach math, they've looked at me and said, "you teach math?" Because the students have had lessons from every teacher they feel comfortable working with any of them.  Finally, by sharing the load it helped teachers not feel overwhelmed with the change.  Change isn't easy and it's hard to do it alone.

There Are People Out There That Want to Help

Throughout the visit I could see the fingerprints of TechSmith all over the place.  TechSmith, if you don't know, is a software company that specializes in screen-casting.  They have jing, snagit, camtasia, and apps coach's eye and screenchomp.  Beyond great projects, they are a willing partner  They have a great staff that will answer questions, listen to your concerns, and customize to meet your needs at great prices.

I already knew the people of TechSmith before my visit, but I did not know about a man named Prasad Ram.  Prasad has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and used to work for Google and left Google to focus on Gooru, a search engine learning.  What began as a "20% project" has evolved in  I highly recommend you check it out, play around on the website, and provide feedback.  Clintondale H.S. and Prasad are working together to make this website a powerful tool for learning.  When I was complimenting Prasad on his passion for education he told me that simply wants to "honor the human right to education."  So do I Prasad, so do I.

I also met the Wolverine Tutors.  This is a group of students from Michigan University who started this tutoring group that aims to utilize technology to help at-risk students in the Detroit area.  Beyond providing online tutoring at, they also mentor the students at Clintondale.  There are people out there that want to help. Greg Green has found some, and has opened his school to those that have found him.

It's About Relationship

Finally, The Flipped High School works because, in the end, it's about building relationships.  The teachers know their students.  They spend time with each student, every day.  Like I said above, the students I talked to told me that they hear lessons from every teacher and feel comfortable talking to any of them.  The teachers I talked to said they get to know every student and are able to address needs, both academic and personal, far more quickly than they ever could before.  I don't care what teaching model you are using, if you don't have a relationship with your students, you won't truly succeed.

There's more...
Now I know I said "finally" in the paragraph above, but there is so much more that is helping this school turn things around.  Here's a list that I might elaborate in another blog:

  • They know they haven't solved all of their issues.  They could articulate other areas they needed to improve upon and are continuing to grow.
  • They focus on what's important.  Greg grew tired of fighting kids with cell phones.  It just wasted his time, the teachers' time, and the students' time.  So they embraced their use in the classroom and have taught the students how to use them responsibly.  They know that technology isn't the problem, it's behavior.
  • They know that it isn't just one thing that has turned their school around.  When you hear Greg and his staff speak, you'll hear researched based teaching.  You'll hear PBL, formative/summative assessments, common assessments, and so on.  It's about more than recording lessons and doing homework in class.
  • They evaluate teachers on their abilities to engage and instruct students.  Not on how well they can present a lesson.
  • Parents are happy because their students are getting the individual help they need and they can see exactly what their students are being taught.
  • They tailor to kids who don't have internet access at home by providing space and opportunity for students to view lessons at school.  Greg has even had students watch lessons at his desk.
Success can never be attributed to just one thing.  There are no silver bullets.  While Clintondale High School is very appropriately called The Flipped High School, that title, just like this blog, certainly doesn't tell the whole story.  


Flipped High School Visit

@MrBrettClark 2 Comments

This week I am going to be visiting the flipped high school in Detroit, MI.  If you are unfamiliar with this school, let me point you to a couple of things instead of me telling you about it.

I have watched the above video probably close to 30 times and it never gets old.  Now, like my friend, Brian Bennett, I don't think the flipped high school is a silver bullet but it is an ideology worth exploring and using if it works for your students and you.  You can also find information about Greg Green and his school in this recent interview with CNN and in this article where Greg answers your questions about the flipped high school.

*UPDATE* Thank you to those who responded.  Here is my blog about the visit:

Now is your chance to ask Greg Green, the teachers, and the students of the flipped high school!  Please fill out the form below and I will ask your questions when I visit the school this week and then blog about it later.  Thanks for checking out my blog and I hope you take a couple of minutes to fill out the form below.

Flipped High School Visit