Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oh, that actually has a name?

This afternoon I was scrolling through my RSS reader, and one feed caught my eye: Are we doing anything today?
Every year my students read All Quiet on the Western Front. I force them through the process of a Quaker Read then into developing a poem from lines culled from the chapter. It takes a couple of days of work, but looking at the poems and listening to their comments makes the effort worthwhile.
A Quaker Read?

Perhaps I've been out of the classroom too long, but I had no idea what a Quaker Read is.

From a webpage at Seattle University, Reading Response and Discussion Strategies, we learn,
Quaker Read
Readers fist select a significant passage, line, or phrase from the reading. Then, seated in a circle giving no explanation or rationale, one student reads his/her selection aloud. In no particular order, another reader adds his/her selection, and on and on. The key is to listen and consider how your selected passage connects to (or even contrasts with) the passage read. Remind students that lulls, pauses, and repeated passages are fine.
Oh, it has a name...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'm not worth 6 Round Trip Tickets?

Shri Diwa International School
Originally uploaded by Mun Mun
Well, okay, that's not quite true.

I applied to The Haidho American School in Sarkhan; they'd advertised a need for a counselor and an English teacher. (And, yes, Haidho is the fictional capital of the fictional country Sarkhan in The Ugly American. I've changed the names to protect the innocent; as I'm the guilty one here, we will not bothering adopting a fictional pose and personna.)

Here's what I received back from my initial e-mail:
Dear Peter:

I have just spent some time reading through your website, enjoying reading about your career and your many accomplishments. In so many ways, you are the kind of person I'm looking for to join the staff of Haidho American School but I have to be quite honest with you that it would be a real strain for us to hire a faculty member with a spouse and four children, delightful as I'm sure they are. Finances are a big part of it, I'm afraid, since we would be committing ourselves to six RT air fares every year plus a much larger apartment (probably 4 bedrooms) than we normally use for faculty (apartments here in Haidho are going for about $1,500-1,800/month for 2-or 3-bedroom flats).

In virtually every other aspect, HAS meets what you're looking for in an independent school and more and, like I said, you meet what I'm looking for for this vibrant school.

With every best wish for you and your family for the New Year.


Bill Clinton
Haidho American School
A couple of days later, and I'm still not sure how to respond. Frankly, in a country like Sarkhan, I might end up as a geo-bachelor, as Jennifer isn't really intrigued with the idea of living in a third-world nation. Well, that and the fact it's actually 7 roundtrip tickets as we have another child in the oven.

I've done this to myself, but that is a totally different post on a totally different blog.

I'm tempted to right back that while I understand that finances does come into play at some point, it ought not be the starting point. Finances is merely one component of all that makes up a deal and is negotiated.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another "alternate" sport: Extreme Sledding

Originally uploaded by wme91988
Who'd have thought? Sledding. To the extreme.

We could have races, long and short courses.

And hang out by 55-gallon drums with fire inside; and drink hot chocolate.

And race. With clocks. The real deal.

We wouldn't call it "Extreme Sledding." No, a name like that could bring too much focus and attention. Just call it sledding and join the National Interscholastic Sled Racing Association, or NISRA, and show everyone pictures of snow sledding in Vermont.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More fun with Ask Vox

What is Peter Stinson looking for in a school community?

Blogging from "an undisclosed location"

Dissertation Run
@ University of Sussex. By rokou.
While I ought to be working on the dissertation. I ought to be wrapping up the literature review and methodology chapters this weekend. It's not going as well I has I had hoped.

As such, I've decided to create systems to hold myself accountable. The first step in making me accountable is to post my work online; let people see were I am and how much I've done and the like. I'm writing in Google Documents and have enabled publication allowing the most-recently-saved version of my ongoing work will be available for everyong to see. In progress.

To honor completion of my dissertation, rather than run naked through the streets, I'll cut my hair and trim my beard... or maybe even go back to looking like a bowling ball. {{Sidebar: When I went through the Coast Guard's Search & Rescue School, I received an award: "Most Looks Like a Bowling Ball."}}

If you'd like to see my up-to-the-minute work and progress, join me. Read, critique, and comment here on this post.

Crossposted at Tidewater Musings.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A little fun on the Internet

Well, are you?
Originally uploaded by windbourne
Slip over to Ask Vox, and ask it who I am. Type "Who is Peter Stinson?"

What do you think?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

When does the compromising start?

Abandoned bikes
Originally uploaded by oliva732000
I've been tracking the jobs posted at the NAIS job site. When something looks of interest, I then look to see if the school meets my criteria. Today I decided that even if a school doesn't meet the criteria, I'll not automatically trash thoughts of serving there.

Next, I'll be nuking the thought of having any criteria...

Quidditch, Dodgeball, and Ultimate Frisbee: Coming to a campus near you

Starting Line
Originally uploaded by plagueoftruth
I recently read about the Muggles Quidditch, sponsored by the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association, at several New England colleges. I thought, "How cool is that?" And then, today, I discovered that dodgeball is actually a sport with a national association; not the American Dodgeball Association of America but the National Amateur Dodgeball Association; or try the National Dodgeball Association.

Why do I mention this here? Well, I'm thinking that these non-traditional sports (and the more I think about it, these really do qualify as athletics) -- which would also include Ultimate Frisbee, Frisbee golf, and Footbag (which, in my day, we called "hacky sack" -- are actually sports which are life-long sports and which don't need a tremendous outlay for equipment. I think we often don't give non-traditional activities much in the way of real look.

I suspect their are other areas we give short shrift to also because they are not traditional. Would a school that was not willing to try alternative sports also be less likely to try and teach to all learning styles? Or, perhaps the school would be less likely to teach to the whole person?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Another presence on the Web

New Credentials Page
Originally uploaded by Tidewater Muse
After consideration, I have nixed my wiki-based credentials package and built a cleaner package using Google pages.

Any thoughts or feedback from the blogosphere?

Monday, November 19, 2007

The call continues: New answers to an old call

Here in SE Virginia, the days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler, and the holiday rush is right around the corner. Yes, it has been quite a while since I posted here at A School to Call Home. I've been busy with various projects, including working on my dissertation (although, until it is accepted, I'll not have put enough time into it) and keeping up with a semi-work-related blog, An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog. In the back of my mind, however, the thought of returning to a school community has never been far away. My daily list of RSS reads includes Dana Huff and California Teacher Guy. They couldn't be more different, but they have one thing in common: they both have a passion for the classroom and for students and for teaching.

I want to fuel my own passion for the classroom, students, and teaching.

While I'd thought that my personal situation would make it nearly impossible to keep seeking a school position this year and next, I've carefully evaluated things, and sought out the opinions of my wife, sons, and former spouse, and have decided to not only continue looking but to open the search from just indendent boarding schools to include day schools (and even public schools).

As has been true, I still have a list of criteria to screen possibilities. Here's the criteria for this season's search. The first set of criteria is for all schools. Then there's a set of criteria for boarding schools; the third set of criteria is for day schools and boarding schools which don't meet the boarding criteria. In short, I'll still consider boarding schools which don't meet the boarding school criteria, but they must meet the day school criteria.

Selection Criteria for all schools
  • Non-profit
  • College prep or college bound
  • Maintain similar standard of living as current
  • Co-ed or all boys
Additional Selection Criteria for boarding schools
  • 325 students, max
  • 35% day students, max
  • 1:9 faculty:student ratio, max
  • 25% international students, max
Additional Selection Criteria for day schools and day/boarding schools
  • 400 students max (upper school)
  • Casual dress
  • Follows Coalition of Essential Schools or other progressive program
  • If private school, must be an "independent" school
  • Maximum faculty/student ratio 1:11
I've also decided that I'm not adverse to using head hunters, as by adding day schools and public schools to the mix, I'm increasing the number of possible schools a hundred-fold.

The working copy of my criteria for a school community can be found at my listography profile.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

The competition

I know I ought not, but sometimes I look to see who a school has hired. I'm wondering who filled the role; what chopped liver pate am I? I likely ought not to do this, because in truth it doesn't matter and comparisons like this are evil... but I do it anyway.

A year ago, I looked to see who filled an English teaching job at a boarding school I'd thought I had a good interview with. They hired a young woman who had just finished a master's degree in the teaching of English from William & Mary.

Today, I looked to see who was filling the role of counselor at another school I'd had what I thought were good interviews. He holds a bachelor's and master's degrees from schools in southern Mississippi; he most recently served as a behavior specialist in a rural school district in Mississippi. And, he lists his athletic background as "wilderness activities, mountain climbing, rock climbing, body building, dirt bike racing." And I doubt he's a day over 30...

Oh, it's that time of the year again?

St Swithins
Originally uploaded by MrGiles
Can we hope that the third time's a charm?

Robert Kennedy at About: Private Schools posted today:
You know the sinking feeling you had first week of school. Things have changed for the worse at St. Swithin's as far as you are concerned. You just aren't happy there any more. After five years it's time to move on. So, just how marketable are you anyway? Ponder this question as you read How Marketable Are You?

The window for finding a new job is a narrow one. It runs from Now through February 15 or thereabouts. If you are thinking about a move, you'd better get moving now!
I'm off and running, and clearly this is a marathon and not a sprint.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

This is what I crave

The Almighty Punahou School
Originally uploaded by SandyRat
Over at Throughlines, Bruce Schauble recently wrote
Once upon a time I thought that if I stayed at something long enough, it would eventually get easier. That has turned out to be true in some cases. I can, for example, after three years of practice, now play a C major scale on the piano with both hands without screwing it up too badly. I can throw together a salad in five minutes before dinner, without injuring myself, whereas once it was even money if I could get it done without breaking into the Band-Aid box.

But this is my 38th year of teaching, and I've gotta tell ya, whatever else it is, it isn't easier. The teaching part is always interesting and always challenging in a good way. It's the stuff that's going on around the edges just keeps getting more complex.
I want to work in a community of thoughtful people; I want to work with people who believe, like Mr. Schauble, that teaching is "always interesting and always challenging in a good way."

Perhaps as I expand my search to day schools, I'll add Mr. Schauble's Punahou School.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Talk like a Pirate Day!

Talk like a Pirate Day!
Originally uploaded by aromig52
Oh, to have a classroom where we could all talk like a pirate for the day! Don't let the 19th slip past without embracing your inner pirate.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My school is currently looking for a headmaster. Would you consider that type of job?

Originally uploaded by Tidewater Muse

There's a slew of "howevers" however.

Several weeks ago, my son Richard asked me if I won the lotto, would I build a boarding school? Interesting question, and it does get at the root of the question: What do I truly want to do?

My answer to this question is shifting slightly. What's shifting? I think the main thing that is shifting is I want to put my leadership skills to work.

That's all for now... and, yes, I realize that's not a complete answer or a complete thought. Off to Richard's school for a meeting with his teachers... More to follow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Internet is an amazing thing

Cathedral in the Forest
Originally uploaded by algo
I am amazed at what the Internet does and can do. I've met fantastic people using the tools of the Internet; I've had some great times with people I've met using the tools of the Internet; I've reconnected with friends and colleagues lost through time using the Internet. And today, as I'm discounting even the possibility of teaching this year and gearing up for a busy fall at work and completion of my dissertation, I receive an email with the subject line of "English Teacher."
Hi, I am the Director of Studies at St. Swithins School in Middle of Everywhere, New England. My wife found your blog while doing web searches for our school. Are you still looking for a position?
Okay, I've changed the name to my default St. Swithins, but even so, amazing. Even if nothing comes of this, I'll chalk even the possibility up to the power of the Internet.

And, as I'm still reading the NAIS job board, I guess I am "still looking."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dissertation Progress

Dissertation Run 4
Originally uploaded by rokou
Forgot to mention... received the following email yesterday:

Congratulations! You have an approved Concept Paper. Now it's on to your Proposal. Review the Power Point and the Dissertation Guide on the ARC website before you start. If you have any questions just ask.

Good Luck with your job search.

Take care.

Dr. Regina
For anyone who wants to suffer through my concept paper (which will become Chapter 1 of the final dissertation), you can find the work posted here.

The academic year begins to swing

August is two-thirds of the way past, and across the US of A, teachers are gearing up to return to the classroom. Anticipation. Excitement. Fear. Hope.

As we all know, I'll not be in a classroom. Yesterday, at a farewell party for a family leaving our church for a new assignment in Bath, Maine, someone asked me about my job search. That I was standing there this late in August spoke more volumes than I could have actually uttered.

Scanning the headlines, I learned that my high school alma mater has new faculty and staff. Not surprising. What did surprise me was the age of the two faculty profiled. I'm getting old. The article profiled the new athletic director and assistant athletic director at the school. The new AD graduated from Yale in 1998; she spent the last five years coaching and teaching at Saint Mark's School in Southborough, MA. The assistant AD graduated from Baylor in 2004. Okay, that makes them something like 32 and 25.

Perhaps I'm too old to be even have considered getting back into the boarding school biz. I remember when I was a college senior looking for a boarding school position, I was told I was too young. I earned a master's degree and landed a job. Now, at the age of 45, I seem to be too old. Some how, I slept through the prime time to land a job.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

August spins to a close

the birth of a better Day
Originally uploaded by COWsignal
Well, here we are in the middle of August, and the month is now full-tilt spinning to a close. Pretty much all bets are off for my candidacy to an independent boarding school. I do have one recently submitted application, but in general all is quiet and no options remain open.

I'm at peace with the situation. Very much so.

Certainly, I still have the burning desire, but I am now working on ways that I can quench, if not fulfill, the desire, one component at a time.

This week, I'm teaching at a conference for officer trainees in the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative. It's nice to be helping provide for the success of these young Coasties.

Last week I met several representatives of colleges and universities who serve military members, and they encouraged me to consider adjunct faculty positions. I will, as I think it will help provide me a venue to make a difference in the lives of those around me.

So, at the moment, I'm looking forward to new venues to teach, coach, and counsel.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Defense Against the Dark Arts

My lovely bride has suggested that I apply to Hogwarts for the Defense Against the Dark Arts faculty position... at least I'd get a year's worth of work, and it would be exciting...

Perhaps it is time for me to move to Springfield

Came home from church today to find an interesting email waiting for me in the in-tray:
Sincerely hope your job hunt progressing. I came across your site researching schools for my son, and since you are so sharp and open and love teaching (as do I), I'm wondering if I might impose on you for the kind of straight answers about admissions and financial aid that are tough to come by.
Sharp. Open. And love teaching. We forgot to mention seemingly without an answer to my calling...

Yes I did respond, albeit I don't know enough about financial aid to have been much help in that department.

I find it very interesting who has found me on the web. We can do things today that were unthinkable fifteen years ago. What will things be like in another decade? I can't even imagine.

As to the status of my current search, no joy. The latest note I received from a head of school was short and to the point.
Peter, many complications to this hiring and I believe we have just concluded the search. Thank you for thinking of us....
Er. Ah. You're welcome.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Why boarding schools? Immersion.

Immersion II
Originally uploaded by sharply_done
Yesterday, Mr. B-G asked, "Why is it that you only want to teach at an independent boarding school?"

This would be the question of the hour.

The short answer is simple: Immersion.

I want to immerse myself in a school and the life of a school. I want to be a part of the school in every waking moment.

Okay, that's a slightly flippant answer, but it is accurate as far as it goes.

First, let me be clear about the type of school I seek: independent; secondary; college-prep; small; boarding. Not just any boarding school; not just any independent school; not just any secondary school. Independent. Secondary. College-preparatory. Small. Boarding.

Yes, the selection is small; my count is fewer than a hundred schools, probably closer to 70 schools.

Why not settle for something else? There are plenty of schools that meet some, but not all, of my criteria which would likely be thrilled to have me as a faculty candidate. I think the answer is that I have a darn good gig where I am, and I'll give it up for my ideal but nothing else.

So, let me go through my list and be positive about what I seek.

Independent: My sense, based on my experience, is that in independent schools faculty members have a fair amount of freedom in the classroom and in choosing what to teach and how to teach it. With my former spouse and her husband teaching in local public schools, and my own older sons attending public schools, I am disturbed at what I see, particularly with regard to the Commonwealth's standards of learning. I know; I know; this is a bit of rash generalization. The other item is a bit more pragmatic: I'm not certified.

Secondary: Years ago I would visit schools for fun during spring vacation. I usually spent one week of the two weeks touring schools, spending a day in a school. In talking to teachers, I never found a middle school teacher who didn't love their job. I can't say the same for the elementary school teachers I met or the secondary school teachers I met. That being said, I enjoy high school students as they have, on the whole, developed intellectually so that they can actually function in a world of ideas. I like ideas.

College prep: I want to work with students who are at least considering college. In the world of independent boarding schools, there are schools which are therapeutic in nature. While I do have a degree in counseling, I don't want to work in a school which has an entire student body in need of therapeutic interventions.

Small: Small is good. Small is, I believe, better than big. For me, small means fewer than 300 students, and that would actually be on the large side. Ideally, the max would be about 220 or so. And, that's the max. In my studies of small communities and small organizations, I came across one author who noted that when an organization is less than 300, it's possible to actually know everyone. Once the organization has grown beyond that point, it's not possible to know everyone... and people fall through the cracks. I seek a small school.

Boarding: And, finally, boarding. I'm looking for the 24 by 7 experience, something that demands immersion.

For more on my beliefs about schools, see this essay.

Lastly, if I don't land a teaching job, I'll be able to concentrate on finishing my dissertation, and finishing the dissertation is a high priority. I don't want to be ABD forever.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Originally from LOlandeseVolante
My thanks to Mr. Guy. Yes, you're right, it does sound desperate.

And, sadly, it's too late. The letter already went.

And I've heard... nothing.

The note was one that was written hurriedly and passionately; I probably should have given it time to ferment, like a fine wine.

Interestingly, I don't actually consider myself desperate. Resigned, perhaps, but not desperate. Resigned that I'll not be working in a boarding school come this September.

But I've got this great idea for a community sailing center to build right out my front door...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What do I teach?

Originally uploaded by solarnu
Recently, I came across a job description that sounded very interesting:
Candidates should hold a B.A. or B.S. (field flexible), be self-directed, and have the flexibility to work with many different kinds of people. Interest in and experience with methods of multi-modal or differentiated instruction are important, as are familiarity with and interest in a cross-platform environment (Macintosh and PC). Finally, candidates should be realistic and excited about the challenges and rewards of teaching and living in a boarding school.
Interestingly, while in the past I'd seen myself capable of many roles, usually within teaching I only seriously considered English and history positions. I could see myself in nearly any administrative position at the dean or associate dean level, but teaching only held two disciplines.

I think I was wrong: that's a position I could definitively see not only doing, but excelling.

So I wrote to the academic dean. This is one of the schools which has already interviewed me... and reviewed my package for at least half-a-dozen positions over the last two years. Here's what I wrote:
Dear Ken,

I saw recently that you may have experienced a late departure and are now looking for a "field-flexible" technology teacher.  I am most interested in this position at Saint Swithins.

As you know from reading my blog and perusing of my wiki, I may not have previously considered myself a technology teacher, but rather a teacher who uses and understands technology.  I'd like a swing at the role to teach technology so that my use of technology could be seen (and copied) by colleagues.

As you know, technology is merely a tool to help with some bit of learning.  I picture students using technology to further other disciplines.  I see students creating a wiki about the biology of the campus; I see students keeping semi-official blogs about life as a student; I see outreach offices, such as alumni and development, using Web 2.0 tools to get the message about Saint Swithins to the widest constituency as possible.

In terms of formal educational preparation for this position, I have none.  In terms of informal study and hands-on use of the technology tools, I have plenty.  I'm not "bleeding edge," but I'm definitely "cutting edge" when it comes to trying and using new technology, particularly Web 2.0 tools.  I have a more than passing familiarity with a variety of computer operating systems, including Windows, MacOS, Linux, and VMS.

Please do consider me for the role, Ken.  I think you'll more than agree I'm a good fit for the job, and you know my desire to be on a resident faculty is tremendously strong.  As you know, you can find my candidacy package online.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Reading over it, I come off too forcefully. Sorry, Kenneth.

And that, right there, is part of what is so interesting about blogging in the open. It's all out there.

So, dear readers, I have a question for you to consider, if you'd be so kind. Well, actually, I have two questions.

1. Do you think, after looking over this blog and my credentials package, I'd be able to compete well for the appointment, do the job, and also excel in the role?

2. Do you think my letter was too strong & over-the-top?

Please do let me know what you think; post in the Comments section below.

Monday, July 16, 2007

My thanks to all of you...

More Crayons
Originally uploaded by angieu
... who have taken the time to check out my credentials package and provide feedback. And a special thanks to Mr. California Teacher Guy who posted a link, no, rather an entire post, to my plea for assistance.

And the feedback has been most helpful. It's forced me to tweak and re-tweak and think and re-think. I know it's not possible to please everyone, but the critical eye from everyone has been helpful in forcing me to at least articulate in my mind certain decisions. Certainly, more review and comments is welcome.

Current status: Continuing to hold. I have a couple of open applications, and more unanswered applications than I care to think about.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Soliciting counsel

Gentle reader, I beseech you to check out my new credentials package and provide feedback, if you would. Thanks.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Why teach? Why this calling?

With the lag of progress on my search, I've thought a bit about this call. Is it truly a call, or is it something I invented? Am I doing this for those I'd serve, or am I doing this for me?

It is real.

I am doing this as service, not for myself.

Over at The Daily Grind (h/t to Dana Huff at huffenglish... and how I didn't catch it myself as I have The Daily Grind on my reader), Mr. McNamar proposes the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teachers, with apologies to Dr. Steven Covey.
  1. Desire

  2. Be Yourself

  3. Prepare

  4. Don't Move on until the Concept is Understood

  5. It's about the students

  6. Go with what works

  7. Don't Give Up
These speak to me; they speak to me louder than most of what I have read the last several weeks.

Okay, that's not saying much, perhaps, but they have spoken to me. Habits 1, 2, 5, and 7 resonate with me in my current situation.

My call is sure. My skills are honed. My passion is aflame.

I am ready to serve.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Online Poll here at "A School to Call Home"

survey 1
Originally uploaded by Dasha_K
I'm using Blogger's new draft interface, and there's a cool polling tool. I've placed a poll in the sidebar; please respond. If you read A School to Call Home in an RSS reader, please swing on by to answer the poll.


And if you want to leave a comment, please do so on this post.

Still circling; still holding

Schools Out For Summer
Originally uploaded by arodphoto
I've decided to stop holding my breath.

Scott Elliott notes, "a few years ago, we were worrying about an impending teacher shortage here. Now with the economy in the dumps, districts are cutting teachers left and right."

While he's referring to public school districts, I'm not sure the independent school teacher market is any better.

Nothing. Nada. No joy.

The academic dean who visited last week never got in touch with me; I can only assume no interview is likely. The admissions dean out west looking for an associate dean has not responded to two, short, carefully-crafted emails expressing interest (these followed kind words by the head of school).

Perhaps this isn't going to be my year to end up back at a small boarding school. At least I still have a job.

A quiz for you... History teachers might find this of interest

Over at my Tidewater Musings, I've posted a speech with a challenge: Identify the speaker. Give it whirl and see how you do.

Friday, July 06, 2007

I've been Simpsonized

I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad at this gift from my wife...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

CMC, are you there?

Mentee & Mentor
Originally uploaded by Tidewater Muse
A note to CMC, who posted a comment below... If you're out there, could you get in touch with me? I didn't see an email addy, and I'd like to pick your brain. Thanks.

Where we stand

Originally uploaded by gravity0069
Holding. One. Two. Three.

Here we are, the day before the July 4th holiday. I'm in the office, still employed as a performance consultant, still called to a small boarding school, and still waiting.

I was gladdened to see that one of my recent visitors to my blog is from a school which is looking for an English teacher. The academic dean told me that he'd be narrowing the field this week to create a short-list for interviewing. While I haven't heard if I've made the cut, I'm pretty sure he visited yesterday.

And that is good news. Why? Well, frankly, there's been a dearth of school leaders from small boarding schools who are conducting active faculty searches actually stopping by A School to Call Home. And this lack of visits sort'a puts the question of anonymity vs. transparency fairly moot. If nobody visits, it really doesn't matter if the blog is open and transparent.

So, I sign off today, the day before this mid-week holiday, hopeful that by Thursday I'll get a call to come up for an interview.

In the mean time, perhaps I’ll take the boys to the beach tomorrow.

I wish you all a relaxing holiday tomorrow, and a chance to enjoy the freedoms and liberties so hard fought by Americans throughout the years.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A change in blogging strategy?

Approaching the Altar
Originally uploaded by Stuck in Customs
First, let me share an email discussion with you:
Peter (me): Do the leaders of the schools you're applying to know you have a blog and, if yes, have they dropped by to visit

California Teacher Guy: Why do you ask about administrators visiting my blog? To my knowledge, no one knows about it--and I'd like to keep it that way!

Me: I asked because my blog is written in the clear, and I'm wondering if I'm losing interviews and/or offers because of my online presence, both at A School to Call Home and my other blogging/writing endeavors. Not sure if it is a plus or a minus.

California Teacher Guy: Honestly, Peter, I have heard so many horror stories about teachers being reprimanded (or worse) by administrators for blogging openly that I think it's the height of wisdom to maintain anonymity. I read probably three dozen teacher blogs a day, and only ONE of them (well, TWO, with yours) is not anonymous. You might, IMHO, want to rethink your blogging strategy, especially for A School to Call Home.
I'm interested in Mr. Guy's response as it touches on two important issues.

First, it assumes that I have, or need, a blogging strategy. This isn't just writing; this is automatic publishing to the world and available in nearly every home and office in America, if the residents of those homes and the workers in the offices decide they want to read what I've written.

I do have a strategy, mind you... more on that to follow.

The second issue is somewhat more problamatic, albeit just as important. What's the issue? The issue is the question of anonymity.

Actually, I think the first issue and the second issue are tied together. The question of being anonymous or not is a strategic question.

There is a third important issue which raises its ugly form in Mr. Guy's notes: Do I really want to work at a place where my blogging -- my comments and commentary on the world around me -- are going to be a problem?

The issue of anonymity has been a large one in the Virginia political blogosphere.

While I'm going to address some of these issues over the next several days, I'd be interested to hear some readers' thoughts. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday ramblings from a seeker

Christchurch Prep School
Originally uploaded by Florence3
I'm about to violate a cardinal rule about blogging: Focus your post on one thing only. This post, at least in my mind's eye, is shaping up to be all over the map.

About my current employment situation: Unlike some teachers still in the hunt for a job, I'm not about to be unemployed. I have a federal civil servant job at a mid-grade (albeit a senior mid-grade) level. My job is, flat out, the bomb. Phat, totally. I'm an organizational performance consultant with the Coast Guard. Basically, I do leadership & management consulting, teaching, and facilitating. I choose my own clients. I choose my own work. I choose my travel. I choose my work hours. In many ways, it is the perfect job.

"Why leave, then?" you ask. Simple. The thrill is gone; I'm not making a difference; I'm not excited about the work. However, that being said, if I don't get an offer that fits the bill, I'm not going hungry and I'm not loosing my home. Would I rather be at an independent school? Yes. Am I going to retire-on-duty as a civil servant; not on your life. I'm a professional, and happiness is a choice.

About my job search: Several people have either commented on the blog or sent me email to provide counsel about how to conduct an independent school search. Said one person:
I have been reading your blog for awhile. I have worked at 3 independent boarding schools. I got all my jobs through Educational Resources Group or Carney Sandoe. I know many schools use those organizations to "filter" candidates.
Another person wrote,
I'm happy to add you to my network. If you are looking for a faculty position, you should contact Carney Sandoe. For a Dean of Faculty/Students position Independent Thinking is a great bet.
Career services are great, but in my experience they don't want to deal with me. I'm only looking at small, boarding schools. The entire population of schools I'd consider number less than a hundred schools. I've made contact with most of them. Services, at least from what they have told me, can't really help me. Although, yes, that information is slightly old.

About the current situation: I have two active prospects, figuring that if I haven't heard from someone in two weeks, the prospect isn't really active.

Prospect #1 is looking for an English teacher who can coach crew and lacrosse. I visited this school last year for an interview. When I saw the opening posted, I wrote the dean:
I do hope the summer is going well for you. I saw on the NAIS job site that your are still, or perhaps again, looking for an English teacher. I'm still engaged in my search and would welcome being considered.

As you know, I have 9 years of lacrosse coaching experience, and I'd love to get back in the coach's box to help young men learn lacrosse and practice sportsmanship. As to crew, I never rowed, but I (a) went to Trinity College and (b) know my way around boats. Sadly, I've never spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express.

Anyway, I'm still interested in being a part of the St. Swithins' team and would love to be considered for the English faculty position.

May you have the time to enjoy summer along the Big River.
Okay, the thing about the Holiday Inn Express probably didn't do me any favors, nor did the misspelling in the second sentence.

Prospect #2 is looking for an assistant dean of admissions. The reply I received back today:
I enjoyed reading your resume, story, anecdotes, etc. When is a convenient time for you to talk further regarding your interest in our Admissions position at West Saint Swithins?

Let me know when you are able.
24 by 7; 24 by 7.

About settling for something else: I don't need to. I guess that's the bottom line. I am very keen on what I am looking for in terms of a school community. If I can't land a place in a small, boarding school community, where I am is plenty good. I don't think that taking a job at a school that doesn't meet my criteria would help me in the long run any more than staying as an internal consultant will. In many respects, I'm in the driver's seat.

However, contrary to reports, I'm not being courted like the prettiest girl at the ball. I may be in the driver's seat, but the engine has fallen to the ground and this car isn't going anywhere right now.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

So now what?

final exam
Originally uploaded by dcJohn
June is almost spent-out. I'm anxious. If I'm going to be on an independent school campus this coming fall, I'd likely have an offer-in-hand already. I don't have an offer-in-hand.

And I am without understanding. I can teach. I'm bright. I'm personable. I'm educated. What's keeping me from landing something?

Am I not focused enough in terms of a specific job or discipline?

Am I too old to be getting back into the classroom?

Do I have too large a family?

Do school leaders think I'm going to be too expensive?

In desperation, I've written to the head of a school for counsel. I've never met the head I've written to, but I am a habitual reader of his blog, and I like his style. And I'm hoping that he'll give me some solid feedback.

Here's what I wrote:
Dear Malcom,

I am an avid RSS reader of your blog. Great stuff; I don't understand why every head doesn't blog.

Anyway, I'm wondering if you could do a huge favor. I am looking to return to an independent school faculty. This is my second go-round, and I have no offer. I was wondering if you might review my candidacy package and critique it. I'm thinking there's something that is submarining my candidacy; likely, there are several. But I can't see them, and need an outside, professional eye. Since your school is not hiring at the moment, I thought you could give it a no-holds-barred review.

I'll attach below my usual "broadcast letter." When I'm applying for an advertised job, I tweak it for the specific position. Overall, however, the bulk of the letter is the same.

Any thoughts, insight, or counsel you could provide would be most helpful.

If you don't have time, think this is bogus, or are just overtaken by events, I'll understand. I'm shooting blind here.


/s/ Peter
The broadcast letter was basically the same one I posted here many months ago.

Dear reader, what counsel can you provide?

Perhaps I need to start honing my rejection letter to reject rejection letters.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thoughts about institutional use of Web 2.0 tools

LOGO2.0 part I
Originally uploaded by Stabilo Boss
I've seen plenty of posts in the blogosphere about using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. But, I've never seen anything about how schools can use Web 2.0 tools outside the classroom; how can we harness the Web 2.0 tools for institutional advantage.

I've been thinking a fair amount recently, particularly since the jobs which will generally be open over the next several months are admissions or development positions. It is the admissions, and development, and alumni offices which have the most involvement with external stakeholders; Web 2.0 offers a slew of opportunities for involvement of external stakeholders.

Student Blogs: Colleges are using student bloggers to provide an unvarnished perspective about colleges. Back in April, Marcella Bombardieri of the Boston Globe wrote an article, College blogs tell it like it is: Schools ask students to give applicants a real account of campus life, about this phenomenon:
Eager to forge stronger connections with prospective students and parents, MIT and other universities in the last two years have been starting blogs and recruiting undergraduate bloggers. Blogging has become one of the hottest trends in college admissions.
There's no reason this couldn't work at an independent school, too. Ms. Bombardieri notes,
The message from student bloggers isn't always pretty, yet college officials say the blogs are worth the risk. High school students can get unvarnished views of any colleges from Facebook, MySpace, or unsanctioned student blogs. They may be more inclined to trust a school they think is willing to show them real campus life, officials say. Plus, the technology gives colleges another tool to help applicants make the best decision, especially if they cannot afford to fly in for an overnight stay.
School leaders would have to choose the student bloggers carefully and provide a reasonable set of guidelines.

Administrator/Leader Blogs: Similar to the idea of students blogging, another idea is to get administrators blogging. This example is from higher education, but I think it's a good example that you don't even need to be the senior person responsible for a particular area. Chris D'Orso, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Stony Brook University publishes "an inside look at the Stony Brook University undergraduate admissions process and the transition into the first year of college."

Malcolm Gauld at the Hyde Schools blogs regularly. Mr. Gauld's blog, Malcolm's Blog, is even available through an RSS feed. The school has made it easy to get information out through a variety of means. Mr. Gauld writes about a variety of topics including popular culture, parenting, the Hyde Schools, alumni and student successes.

Web Cams: No, I'm not talking about the advertised "co-ed house cams." No, rather, I mean having one or more web cams at various venues on campus. A school could have a webcam shot of their front view; a military school could have the webcam pointed toward the parade deck. A school could webcam the gym or a field house (having it on during games only, or at least not during official team practices; no need to give the opponents an easy way to scout players and teams). Ideally, a school would think about what makes them special and put that on a webcam. Christchurch might focus on their waterfront along the Rappahannock River; Blue Ridge might point their webcam on the climbing tower; Millbrook would have wild animals from their own zoo fill the picture. A school could even sign on with Weather Underground and participate in their Weather Web WunderCam program.

Photosharing tools, such as flickr: I know there are some schools which already use some tools, but they are usually clunky and are a profit center for the school. Parents love to have pictures of their children. But, I haven't seen anything as graceful as flickr, and I haven't seen any schools with "official" photostreams. But I have seen a couple of "official" institutional photostreams. The best stream? The United States Army. That's right, the U.S. Army uses Yahoo's flickr. If it's good enough for the Army, it's definitely good enough for a school.

Many independent schools have entries in Wikipedia. I'd wager that most of them are started by alumni or students or parents. My alma mater has an entry; I started it, but it was just a stub. The entry is much fuller now, and I had nothing to do with it. I did write to the development office and suggest they have someone work on the entry.

One reason to be involved in the creation, development, and maintenance of the Wikepedia is that sometimes the entry will be changed or vandalized. Last year, I interviewed at a school in the mid-west whose Wikipedia entry said something like "the school was founded as a place of education for wayward girls and delinquent boys." If that's true, great, but in this case it was just someone mucking about. I figured it was a current or previous student.

MySpace and other social network sites: While some schools have banned MySpace and other social network sites (I know one school that forbids students from even having an account), I think -- in terms of connections with alumni, parents, faculty (current, past, future) -- the use of these network sites would be a huge boon.

Issue of "push" vs. "pull": I know there are schools that post frequent e-newsletters. I saw a school recently that had weekly e-newsletters for each grade-level and another that had a weekly dean of students e-newsletter. One issue I have with these is that they are generally pull vs. push. What do I mean? An RSS feed is push (the content is "pushed" to the customer); a website or blog is pull (the reader has to go to the specific site and "pull" the information off the Internet. Schools need to have push & pull technology for all information, particularly information that changes frequently. The other issue I have is that there is a host of free tools available that a school can use. Many school web sites which are all-in-one are clunky and school. The Army was able to latch on to flickr as a photo distribution center; they're a "pro" user so the total cost is only $25. That's a bargain. I could see the federal government spending hundreds of thousands of dollars building a photo distribution center software... and having it not work on deployment.

Seeing the future: I think it's possible to see the future: look around. The future is here. Now. Institutions, including independent schools, can either embrace the tools or be left in the dust of change.

With any luck, in the fall, I'll be practicing what I preach.

More questions to ask as a candidate during an interview

I don't think it's going to happen. I know. I know. That's negative talk, and it doesn't do anyone any good. However, the fact is that Little School on the Prairie is looking for a director of studies and an admissions director... both new people to start in less than two weeks. If I'd made the cut for an interview, I'd at least have had a phone interview by now.

If I'd had an interview, in addition to the questions I outlined below, I'd offer up a few of these in order to get a sense of the school, at least from an organizational leadership & management position:
  • What is your competitive position?

  • How does the school conduct its strategic planning?

  • What are the school's key strategic objectives and timetable for accomplishing them?

  • How do you identify the student and market segments your educational programs will address?

  • How do you build relationships to attract and retain students, to enhance student performance, to satisfy stakeholders, and to foster new & continuing interactions & positive referrals?

  • How do you determine student and stakeholder satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and loyalty?

  • How do you select, collect, align, and integrate data and information for tracking daily operations and for tracking overall organizational performance?

  • How do you review organizational performance and capabilities?

  • How do you make needed data and information available? How do you make them accessible to your workforce, students, stakeholders, suppliers, partners, and collaborators, as appropriate?

  • How do you foster an organizational culture conducive to high performance and a motivated workforce?

  • How do you manage and organize your workforce to accomplish the work of your organization?

  • How do you ensure and improve workplace health, safety, and security?

  • What are your organization's core competencies and how do they relate to your mission, competitive environment, and action plans?

  • How do you ensure work system and workplace preparedness for disasters or emergencies? How does your disaster and emergency preparedness system consider prevention, management, continuity of operations, and recover?

  • What are your current levels and trends in key measures or indicators of student learning and improvement in student learning?

  • What are your current levels and trends in key measures or indicators of students' and stakeholders' satisfaction and dissatisfaction?

  • What are your current levels and trends in key measures or indicators of student- and stakeholder-perceived value, student persistence, positive referral, and other aspects of building relationships?

  • What are your current levels and trends in key measures or indicators of budgetary and financial performance, including measures of cost containment and financial viability.

  • What are your current levels and trends in key measures of workforce capability and capacity, including staffing levels, retention, and appropriate skills?

  • What are your results for key measures or indicators of accomplishment or your organizational strategy and action plans?
And, if those all sound somewhat familiar, they ought to.

Sadly, it doesn't look like I'll even have the chance to ask some of these questions.

Your thoughts?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Unintended consequences

When I teach Coast Guard personnel about organizational measurement, I always tell the story of "chicken efficiency" and the possibility of unintended consequences.

What is chicken efficiency? Years ago, a national fast-food chicken restaurant was losing money due to waste. You know how when you go into a fast-food restaurant, there's food in the bin under heat lamps. That food is there so that the restaurant provides fast food. If the food is already cooked, it can be given to customers quickly.

Food in the bin can't stay there forever. Most restaurants, particularly national chains, have rules on how long food can stay under the heat lamps. The chicken restaurant might have a 30-minute limit for fried chicken under the lamps. After 30-minutes, the food is supposed to be thrown away, rather than sold.

Make too much food, and the food ends up getting tossed. And that's waste.

So, the chain-in-question implemented a "chicken efficiency" measure; store managers were rated on, and given bonuses on, their chicken efficiency. The message: reduce the amount of chicken tossed out.

That's easy: Cook to order.

If I cook to order, then I will have 100% chicken efficiency.

So, now we have the following situation. Josephine Customer walks in for a bucket of extra-crispy chicken and a couple of sides. She places her order, pays her money, and the cashier yells back, "Drop a crispy bucket, please." And twenty-five minutes later Ms. Customer walks out of the restaurant with her bucket o'chicken. And, yes, she's not happy.

Josephine is so not happy that she tells everyone about her negative experience and doesn't return, taking her quest for a chicken fix elsewhere.

Unintended consequence: customer satisfaction sinks; repeat business goes in the toilet; sales plummet; profits deflate.

What's this have to do with my search for a job? Not sure, but it does have something to do with education and teaching.

From Debra Viadero at Education Week we learn Teachers Say NCLB Has Changed Classroom Practice. While some of the news is good, with teachers
making positive changes in the classroom by focusing on their states’ academic standards or searching for better teaching methods,
other news is not so good:
sizable percentages of educators are also spending more time teaching test-taking strategies, focusing more narrowly on the topics covered on state tests, and tailoring teaching to the “bubble kids”—the students who fall just below the proficiency cutoffs on state tests.
I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unintended consequences with the federal No Child Left Behind initiative.

Thankfully, the schools I'm interested in, including the Little School on the Prairie, don't follow NCLB. This is more in line with my beliefs and practice:
Our classes focus on helping students develop the knowledge, values, and skills that they will need to be successful in all areas of life... We help students learn strategies for test taking in a low-stakes environment throughout their years at Little School on the Prairie. While we do not place much emphasis on the tests for ninth and tenth graders, it is important for students to become familiar with the format of standardized tests since they do not encounter such bubble tests in their Little School on the Prairie classes. Ninth and tenth graders take a grade-appropriate test designed by ACT to help them see areas in which they may want to focus their efforts as they begin to think about college admission tests. Throughout this process we stress to students that while these tests are important for the college admissions process and that they should therefore work on the necessary strategies and level of comfort that will help them perform to the best of their ability, these tests do not measure their intelligence or worth. Instead, the ACT and/or SAT will provide only one element of their college application and will be supplemented by their essays, activities, teacher recommendations, and transcript.
I guess the factory-style public schools can't take this tack; too bad. And too bad that NCLB is like a chicken efficiency measure: well intended, but with too many unintended consequences.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Football? Nope, I can't help you there.

Originally uploaded by Tommyboy74
I'd mentioned about the school that was looking for a football coach who could teach history. I didn't share the note I received from the head of school. It's worth sharing:
Thank you for your fascinating email. Your web site is also very interesting. I applaud your passion for teaching.

We are currently searching for a history faculty who can coach football.

Still, I will pass on your resume to our Dean of Studies and our Associate Head of School.

Good luck in your search.
Well, that was a nice & uplifting email, nonetheless.

I responded back with this:
Thanks for the note back. I'd seen one posting that listed both football and history, as well as another on the NAIS site that had just history. I was hoping you were looking for two history teachers. ;-)

Alas, football is not my strong suite. I could serve as an assistant, but it would likely be a season or two until I'm competent for more than taping ankles and making sure the ball bag makes it to practice. If that's what you seek for this fall, I'm your man... but I suspect you're looking for someone a bit more qualified.

Best of luck filling the position. I'm reminded of the school which, by this point in the year had filled all but one faculty position... and found themselves looking for a Latin teacher who could coach wrestling and track and advise the photography club.

If your needs change and you think I might be a fit, please get in touch with me.

I wish you a wonderful and rejuvenating summer.

Okay, the story about the school looking for a Latin teacher who could coach wrestling is apocryphal, but true nonetheless. Independent schools, particularly boarding schools, find themselves at the tail end of the season with odd needs, sometimes.

Now I just need to find the school that needs an English & history teacher who can coach lacrosse and direct theatre while serving as the director of admissions and the director of studies while living in the boys' dorm.

Okay, right: not all of those. And, frankly, it's not that odd.

But football? Nope; can't help there.

I have a cheering squad

My daddy is great!
Originally uploaded by Tidewater Muse
Well, actually, Elliot doesn't care one way or the other. I asked him if he was willing to move to the prairie; he said, "Okay."

I spoke with one of my colleagues today; she was at a conference last week and heard Richard Bolles, long-time author of the infamous What Color is Your Parachute, speak. I asked her what counsel she had for me with my search. What tidbits did she pick up from the master?

1. The Internet isn't all it's cracked up to be. Don't rely on it.

2. Know yourself. Write 7 stories, and then underline all the verbs. Use these stories, and highlighted verbs, to help figure out talents and skills.

Meanwhile, my wife says I need to lay low until Friday about the most recent opportunity. If they don't call by Friday, she said I can get back in touch with them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Could this be it?

Perhaps this is the school to call home? I'm ever hopeful, but it is still very early in the search process for this position. My bride tells me I need to cool my jets.

I've been thinking that I need to focus on less about my experience, and more about how my skills and experiences can help the school. I need to state what I think is the obvious.

Now I just need to come up with that list... Instead of daydreaming...

In the mean time, I know they hope to have someone in place by the first of July. Unless they already have someone in mind, and I somehow doubt it since the job advert is all over the place, they're going to be moving quickly. And silence from them to me doesn't bode well. "Patience," the little man on my shoulder says. "Patience."

Good counsel. I've played my hand; now I wait.

Copyright: The image with this post is a screenshot from Google Maps, my favorite online mapping product and tool. The image is copyrighted by Google and is used here for educational, and non-profit, purposes. Google and/or its licensors retain all ownership rights to the imagery.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Any school still looking... might be challenged to find what they're looking for.

Originally uploaded by laurencehorton
I'm still available...

On Friday I saw a new posting from a school I hadn't yet had any contact with. I looked back at the stats for the school, and am wondering why I didn't send them a letter earlier. Whatever. The school is looking for a director of admissions. I went to their website and discovered they're also looking for a director of studies.

I'm thinking that's a double... and perhaps I can hit one home.

I sent my letter in this morning. By this afternoon, I'd heard back that they would consider my candidacy.

That's better news than the response I received from a letter to a different school: turns out they're looking for a football coach who can teach history.

Academics first?

My dear wife tells me that I shouldn't yet get excited, but I've already started planning out my questions for the interview and thoughts on my first six months in job.

Perhaps I'm jumping the gun here.

Anyway, I've been thinking about the possibility of the interview. Invariably, I don't have decent questions to ask at an interview. That's not going to be the case if this time I get called for an interview.

** What is the ideal number of students?
** What is the ideal mix of day students and boarding students?
** What sets the school apart from other schools, including other schools sponsored by the same religious denomination?
** What is the school's strategy or strategic initiatives? Goals? Objectives?
** What are the current strategies, etc., for the admissions office?

** What are the school's current and projected marketing initiatives?
** What of public affairs initiatives?

** What is the school's overall budget? What is the income breakdown (tuition, annual fund, endowment, business profits, other)
** Is the budget balanced? For how many years has the budget been balanced?
** How much is the school's endowment?

** What is the current admissions picture for this coming academic year?
** What is the projected count for the student body? How many of those will be returning students?

** What is the school's target for retention of students?
** Who is has programmatic oversight of retention?
** Who on the staff handles financial aid?
** What sort of financial aid is offered at the school? How much financial aid in grants is offered each year?
** How much are the grants each year? (high, low, mean, mode, median amounts)

** Is there a target or cap for non-native English speakers?
** What countries are represented in the student body?
** What is the school's ESL program?

** What associations does the school belong to? Which is the school active in?

** Has the school used Web 2.0 tools either in the classroom or for admissions or marketing?
** What results has the school seen with Web 2.0 tools?

** Is there a school leadership team? Who's a part of it?
** How are decisions made and business conducted within the school?

** Who makes admissions decisions?
** How much is the annual admissions office budget (less salaries)?
** What is the current admissions process?
** What is the usual travel for the admissions staff?
** What are the feeder schools, institutions, and neighborhoods?
** What is the profile of the "typical" student?

I'm certainly not lacking in questions... Now, if they'd just call for an interview.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Job Descriptions: To Tell the Truth...

... or not.

Isn't it nice when a job description actually tells it like it is? I've been reading plenty of job descriptions at the NAIS Career Center website, and I suspect not all of them are being totally frank.

I read recently about a firm in England looking for someone to "trample on willing men." That's right; they're looking for a dominatrix, someone to
earn £100 a day for "wearing leather and stomping on S&M fetishists who enjoy being trodden on".
Tom Stern at Fast Company has a few job descriptions he thinks would tell-it-like-it-is. Here's one that fits, perhaps, with the independent school world:
Must be able to work long hours; proficiency at showing resentment about same will help you blend in with our staff of embittered, power-hungry people all of whom think they have the one right answer. An early awareness of the fact that non-profits are often not mellow at all, but microcosms of competitiveness and dysfunction to rival your average Hollywood studio is helpful. Experience shopping at Whole Foods essential.
My favorite job description I've read recently was from the Motley Fool. They were looking for an Office Jester (I kid you not). The job seems easy enough at first blush:
The ideal individual will embrace our core value of Joyful Optimism, bringing humor, entertainment, and amusement to all employees and visitors of Fool Global HQ. This is not a new position but it offers great flexibility in execution.
But once I read the primary responsibilities, core competencies, preferred qualities, and educational requirements, I realized there was no way this was really my job.

Current on all reality TV? Nope. Pop Culture expert, able to postulate about Season 3 of Lost? Well, pop culture, perhaps, but Lost; no way. Always at the ready with a quip or comeback? Sure, but do they have to be painless? Equally comfortable in a jester cap and bear suit? Okay, finally something I can handle. Proven game room skills as a formidable adversary in Halo, Ms. Pacman and Bubble Hockey; ability to convincingly let management win on occasion? Management will definately win since I don't do arcade games. Crazy hair? Hey, come on; I'm bald, darn it! That's just not fair. And, as to educational experience, albeit I have a fine pedigree, it just doesn't measure up to the Fool's requirements: Clown college, Improv school, Brown, or equivalent experience.

Here's my ideal: Teach, coach, counsel, and lead in a small, independent, secondary, boarding school. Bring it on, please.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What creates excellence?

Originally uploaded by Tidewater Muse.
Many schools claim to be about excellence. Many schools claim to seek excellence. The cynic in me suspects many of these claims are mere hype, mere words on the wind, mere comments to assauge key stakeholders and confuse the masses.

Some schools actually do what they preach.

Dave Sherman asked earlier this month, "What Makes the “Best” the Best?" Indeed, what does make the best the best?

Mr. Sherman offers suggestions on what makes an excellent school and what makes an excellent teacher. Perhaps there's nothing earth-shattering, but he a series of worthwhile suggestions. From his "What makes a teacher successful?"
They ask thought-provoking, higher-level questions. Remember Bloom’s Taxonomy? If you have not looked at this research in a while, it might be time to pull this out and re-read it. I have seen teachers make flip charts with questioning prompts based on Bloom’s six levels of questioning (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation). They use specific verbs that engage their students in critical thinking. They require their students to answer higher-level questions orally and in writing.
See Mr. Sherman's full post about excellence, and consider how you can ratchet up your own performance and the performance of your own school.

I know I'm thinking about it and considering what I can do starting next year when I'm back in the classroom...

Now, if I just knew where I'd be in the classroom...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nothing to update

Lecture Hall
Originally uploaded by aNNa Munandar.
Here it is, better than half way through May, and I have nothing to report.

Last week, I applied for a dean of students position at a midwest school; today I received this in response:
Thank you for your interest in working for the School. Your application materials have been received and forwarded on to the hiring manager for the position to which you were applying. Due to the high volume of resumes that our organization receives, you may not receive a response if we choose not to interview you. You can assume that if you have not heard from us in one month's time that your application is no longer being considered. A full listing of our current job ads can be found on our website.
Oh, that's just cheery.

The flip side is that this school has, at least, set expectations. I have yet to hear anything from either Saint Swithins-Nestled-in-the-Appalachians or Saint Swithins-Along-the-Big-River. I'm feeling feeling the love.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Or, perhaps, ever hopeful

Found this 45 in the attic


Too much time on my hands this Sunday afternoon?

Another Parent/Teacher Conference Tale

Originally uploaded by italPASTA.
Another story from IB a Math Teacher:
Another math teacher had a kid at the end of the last quarter ask for a D- instead of his F because it was "so close". This particular teacher lets kids makeup exams in his Algebra 1 classes (something I won't do) but it was after the deadline. But he gives the kid three quizzes and tells him to go take them at home and bring them back in the morning. He figures that the kid was really close to a D-, so if he can teach himself something during the evening, then he can get a D-.

So the kid comes back the next day and gives the teacher the quizzes. One, (one!), is clearly not in his handwriting. The teacher points this out to the kid and he denies it. Time to call the mom, who is an assistant principal at another school.

Mom tells the teacher that her son is ADHD, and sometimes this causes his handwriting to be different from day to day! Wow! But she says that she'll come in after school to talk with the teacher about her son. Teacher is nervous....if a parent - who is a principal - is using ADHD as an excuse for her son's cheating, it isn't going to be a pretty meeting.

The meeting does happen, the parent looks at the quizzes, and immediately says so her son, "This isn't your paper. This meeting is over. Thank you, Mr. [Teacher] for your time" She then tells the kid to go out into the hallway for further scolding mentioning on the way that he'll be in school over the summer to make up the credit.
Oh, it had all the makings for an ugly session, didn't it? And, then, poof.