I am not retiring.  I get asked quite often when I am retiring (including last Saturday at a friend’s 60th birthday party).  Maybe the problem is that my friends are having 60th birthday parties (…pondering).  The oddest place this year was on the night rising 7th grade students come over in February to walk around the school.  A parent that I did not know asked me when I was retiring; not sure how to take the question.

I love how my relationships with my children are changing.  Caitlin is on her own andFassold Family at Scher Wedding - June 2018 thriving as a nurse in the NICU at Riley Children’s Hospital.  She has settled into the adult world with her normal humor and sass.  She cares deeply about her work and empathizes with nervous parents and works hard to be a comfort during the family’s stay at Riley.  Ally enters her senior year at Ball State engaged to be married next June–you need to keep an eye on the boys that move across the street.  Ally was selected for a PAID (thank you) internship this summer at Kohl’s (her high school and college job).  It says a lot about her that her former store manager recommended her to apply.  As a family we laugh with, and at, each other, hang out, play games, go to movies; gone is the day-to-day parenting responsibilities, replaced by the results of all the hard work that Laurel and I put into our children.  Laurel and I still worry and wonder what their futures hold, but we love this stage.

Mike BeresfordMy friend and colleague Mike Beresford is moving to become the Superintendent at Carmel Schools.  Mike and I have been friends for 20 years.  We did life together through church, kids, and school.  One of the real genuine humans in my life.   Carmel is getting a great person that will build relationships and center each decision on what is best for kids, community and teachers; never what is best for him.  Devoid of self-aggrandizement.  This is the last nice thing that I will say about Carmel; I still do not like Carmel…rivalries live!

I wish we handled iPads like Noblesville schools.  Noblesville controls the apps andFortnite permission on every student device.  If the student has their own device, Noblesville will have them store their settings to the cloud and will wipe the personal device and put it under district control.  VPNs and Fortnite would disappear.  I like technology in the classroom, but the temptation is too great for my students…those pesky Snapface (Bill Belichick would be proud of my social media prowess) notifications.  Unfortunately, no matter the lesson my 12 and 13 year old kids cannot resist the temptation that social media and games represent.  Until the device can be focused and monitored it detracts more than it adds.  Now this may enrage the “put the kids in charge of their own education” crowd need to sit in a junior high cafeteria and watch them on their devices; the last thing that they are doing is furthering education; unless drawing in a sandbox, slaying rivals, and jumping objects is education.

MLK - Anybody Can ServeOur school-wide Day of Service was a wonderful experience for the entire school.  I feel blessed to teach at a school that embraces service and the whole school as learning platform.  The amount of work put in by the Day of Service committee and our very own “Father” Mike Jansen paid off.  I hope this becomes a yearly tradition and spreads to other schools.  Students talked about the day for days after the Day of Service.  Many asked if we were going to do it again next year.

I have been pondering HSE21.  As with most ponderings of mine there is a bias bestpracticesmodel_hse21_standalonegraphic_2017_05_24.jpgtowards my own beliefs.  It appears to me that there are a couple of programs that should be the shining examples of HSE21 that never really get mentioned nor recognized as such.  Liz Paternoster and Janet Chandler’s high school, Patrick Bradshaw’s junior high program at Fall Creek and my We the People class seem to check off every single part of the HSE21 and even addresses the idea of authentic audiences, performance pressure, RIGOR and the concept of grit.  The program is a lot work, but the rewards are untouched in the growth seen in students.  Of course, I recognize my bias.  I would offer there are other examples in the district (e.g, Mock Trial, Model UN, Speech Team’s Congress and Debate, Robotics club, etc.) that should be touted as paragons of 21st Century learning.

Einstein Statue with the Boys - May 2018

Tony Sturgeon and I have finished our 21st year of teaching together.  I have never known education without my educational partner in crime.  We push each other to be better every year.  This past year he took on a third prep as the English teacher for my We the People team.  He spent an entire summer resurrecting his History degree (English is his minor).  It was fun to watch him go from interested in government and politics to listening to the Supreme Court arguments like a fan-boy.  It is fun to watch him grow into an even better teacher after all these years.  He, Kevin Stumpf and Dave Broviak have been a backbone in the school.  I treasure our friendship.  Of course, in the Spring we found out a young teacher in our building refers to us as the “old men on the corner”.  I love reminding them of the label.

A interesting thought pranced (visualize me prancing) through my mind when reflecting on the things that make FJH special; one key is our Functional Academic Program led by the one-of-a-kind Andy Schomburg.  His program is fun, academic, interactive and a constant hive of activity; but that is not what makes it great by itself.  It is watching the student body make his kids part of our school.  Every passing period kids engage Andy’s kids.  There is a line to sign up to come during BEST to help and the Peer Tutor program is beyond popular.  The program is part of the life-blood and heart-beat of Fishers Junior High.

There is no more perfect food than Cool-Whip.

Open house season always reminds me of the importance of Camp Tecumseh.  Counselors make up a good percentage of the open houses that I attend.  At its core is the outdoor education opportunity for my 7th grade students  It stillTecumseh - Chasing Balloons - 2018 thrills me watching my 7th grade students run across the field chasing a tissue paper balloon…it is that moment when they are for probably the last time…a pure child.  The program has continued to evolve thanks to Deb Kletch our resident science geek.  We have worked hard to turn our academic portion of Camp into a model program that takes full advantage of the acreage.  Kletch has brought all kinds of new science lessons including my favorite which has the studentsTardigrades3-949x475 looking for Tardigrades…of as Sturgeon calls them “Water Bears”.  The kids scrape smalls amounts of tree moss and go to the nature center looking for these microscopic organisms.  The best part is when they find so many other things.  Beyond the lesson improvements Tecumseh’s core has been the leadership of high school counselors and relationships built between teachers and students in the Tecumseh classroom.  Watching teachers having fun with students humanizes the relationship.  It is fun to watch.  Lastly the most special part of Camp is the chance to reconnect with former students when they become counselors.  Watching them lead their groups warms my heart.  Normally Tecumseh - Counselors - 2018 - Session 2teachers never get to see their students once they move on from the school; I have always thought that would be the hardest part of teaching elementary school.  These kids represent the very best of today’s youth.  Saying goodbye at breakfast on the last time tears at my heart; it is worth it to see them excel in a one-of-a-kind leadership position.  There is no substitute for this program.  It amazes me that so many of our staff go and jump right into the action.  We don’t ask much other than “management by walking around” and interacting with kids during programs.  When I retire it will be tough to step away from Camp most of all.

I love when Sturgeon rages against the Star Wars fanatics who trash every new Star Wars movie.  I just like to listen.

This year’s 7th grade students caused me much reflection.  They are the iPad generation. That manifests in both positive and negative ways.  I had kids in every class that augmented every lesson by searching in real time information from my lessons and bringing the search information into the class discussion.  At the same time, other kids would check Snapchat for notifications at every turn.  This year proved John Hattie’s research that feedback was critical to student success; however, feedback has a cost; time.  Without the constant feedback a large percentage (about 30%) would just stop.  This resulted in an educational Sophie’s Choice of failing 30% or 5%.  While the choice seems easy there are ramifications to each.  I chose the 5%, but was nearly 2 months behind; this is not a big deal on some levels, but my kids missed some treasured experiences (e.g., Tang Dynasty Poetry project, Feudal Japan, etc.).

This summer I am merging concepts from the British’s Knowledge Organizers, a Little Harrybritain-1939-75-knowledge-organisers Wong, and John Hattie’s research into a series of brand-new lessons with the idea of tightening the lessons without losing what works.    My goal is to front end assignments with the knowledge literacy so that I can work towards the understanding, connections, and analysis of information.  The idea is to take the mystery out of the background information and focus on the application of information.  By aggregating the changes should allow me to continue to focus on metacognition and long term learning goals.


I waited to the end of the post to talk about my Weoples.  When looking at this past year there was no greater moment than watching my hard-working 8th graders standing on stage reciting Invictus after winning a national championship.  It is hard to explain to the lay person, because someone on the outside does not always see the work and struggle.  When watching my kids recite the poem Invictus from memory and knowing that they understood every message contained in the stanzas.  They pushed past the questions about last year’s team; they tackled hard Constitutional issues in a age of political turmoil with a gusto not normally seen in society.  They simplyAlchemis tackled every challenge; they reminded me of one of my favorite books given to me years ago by the Risinger family titled The Alchemist.  The book has a quote in it that sums up their journey.  Each time they suffered a setback they would come back stronger and more determined.  It defined the team.  They held on to the fear of failure and used that to push themselves to be better.  There were moments during the competition that are forever etched in my mind.  Day 3 competition was their best.  Every unit peaked.  I remember standing with Unit 4 after their performance; watching the smiles dominate their faces, because they knew.  They knew they crushed the round; all the hard work paid off.  They were champions on that day, because they took everything that was thrown at them and did not retreat.  I will miss these kids; they are fun to be around.  Their text messages have entertained my trivia group (for some reason they texted me Weople-questions on Thursdays).  They so desperately wanted to understand everything; not just for competition, but for their own worldview.  The class is filled with future leaders and world changers.  Better than anything these kids see the wonder of the world.  They are in my heart.

I have public thank yous to make, but I want to publish this blog before it becomes a book.