Sunday, January 30, 2011

Learning Styles: Do you know yours?

There has been a lot of talk about learning styles over the past decade. Simply put, learning styles are different approaches or ways of learning. Books, articles and now quizzes are available to help us determine our very own learning preference and multi-intelligence strength. Do you know yours? Here is a link to a brief quiz that will help you determine your learning style:

According to my quiz results, my highest rating was in the area of interpersonal intelligence and my skills include: seeing things from other perspectives (dual-perspective), listening, using empathy, understanding other people's moods and feelings, counseling, co-operating with groups, noticing people's moods, motivations and intentions, communicating both verbally and non-verbally, building trust, peaceful conflict resolution, establishing positive relations with other people.

To find out your learning style and multi-intelligence strength, take the quiz.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority - Joins Forces with WLMS!

This past Tuesday evening at WLMS, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Iota Lambda Omega Chapter signed an official partnership agreement with the Howard County Public School System. In addition to the many contributions this organization already provides for our county, they have launched an Emerging Young Leaders Program here at WLMS. This program has been designed to empower 6th, 7th and 8th girls to learn the skills necessary to be leaders today and in the future. The sorority's theme this year is "Global leadership through timeless service."

It was a wonderful evening and I appreciate all of the AKA sorority sisters who were able to attend this event to support our student leaders and the representatives from Capital One Bank who are so generously providing the funding for this leadership program.  I also want to thank Board of Education Members Dr. Siddiqui and Ms. Giles for attending this ceremony and signing this exciting partnership agreement. Finally, I want to thank Ms. Jean Lewis for helping to develop this program and coordinating it at our school.

I look forward to seeing this program prosper here at our school. For more information about the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in Columbia, Maryland, visit

Monday, January 24, 2011

WLMS Receives Replacement Computers

This past Thursday and Friday, WLMS received an infusion of new computer software and hardware thanks to our county's replacement plan. It was a very exciting time for us as we saw the new computers being rolled off the truck and to witness the teacher laptops being upgraded to the latest "Office" software and other applications our school system supports.

WLMS received two new Mac labs and two new netbook labs for student use. I am looking forward to watching our students use this new equipment in the coming weeks. I want to thank all of the people who helped us with this technology upgrade project.  I especially want to thank our extraordinary media specialist, Ms. McNeill-McBrien and our talented technology support teacher Mr. Spicher for coordinating our schools plan, as well as, Mr. Shaw, Ms. Barnett, Mr. Skillman, Ms. Middleton, Mr. Vissari and Ms. Blieler for helping to ensure that our equipment was installed correctly and functioning properly. You all ROCK!

Here are some pics:


I also want to thank Krissie Wisniewski, our instructional technology support resource teacher, for helping to train our staff on the use of this new equipment and software.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Foot's Forecast: Student Weather Forecasters Do An Awesome Job!

In the central Maryland region, I depend on the high school students from Foot's Forecast to predict the weather. They do a really great job making the science of weather easy to understand. Today, I am already looking forward to a possible "snow event" on Tuesday into Wednesday. In order to get detailed information about the weather that could cause a possible snow day,  I visit or their Facebook page.

About Foot's Weather Forecasting Team (Source: Foot's Forecast Website)
Seven years ago, Mr. Foot and several of his students started a website with an innovative idea to publish class weather predictions on the internet.

The idea started when Mr. Foot asked his class,
10th grade Earth Science students, to develop weather forecasts that could be useful for decision makers in the Baltimore County Public School system to read and utilize. That idea gave rise to "Foot's Forecast" in 2003-04, and then it took off: 4+ million site hits and 15 million+ facebook hits later, here we are about to embark on a national expansion.

Their forecasting has been there...through the ice storms of 2004 to the historic 2005 hurricane season, the "Valentine's Week" storms of February 2007 to the "beyond epic"  snowstorms of Winter present day. In January 2011, our team has 35 members in twelve states, has garnered regional and national media attention, and is a direct partner with the NOAA Weather Camp program. If you are interested in innovating your future, join our team and become the face of the place for weather in your state or county:
. Details on how to apply to our team are found on this application page.

Race to Nowhere - A film about the stress in today's schools

On Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the documentary Race to Nowhere at River Hill High School in Clarksville, Maryland. The film was created by a concerned mother, turned filmmaker, who takes aim with her camera at the high-stakes, high-pressure culture that has invaded our schools and our children’s lives, creating unhealthy, disengaged, unprepared and stressed-out youth.

Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens. In a grassroots sensation already feeding a groundswell for change, hundreds of theaters, schools and organizations nationwide are hosting community screenings during a six month campaign to screen the film nationwide. Tens of thousands of people are coming together, using the film as the centerpiece for raising awareness, radically changing the national dialogue on education and galvanizing change. (Source Race to Nowhere Website:

I would recommend that parents, educators and policy makers watch the film and begin to review our current practices and more importantly the way we measure student progress. In my opinion, an emphasis on innovation, creativity, problem-solving and effective interpersonal skills should be our focus. Unfortunately,  in this age of high stakes testing and accountability, we have a very narrow view of student progress and success.

While I don't agree with all aspects of the film, I do share the film makers concerns about the stress and burnout that a large number of students are feeling in our schools. As a result of the film, I plan to have a discussion with my staff about ways we can reduce stress for our students as we continue to have high expectations for achievement. I look forward to hearing their ideas.

Do you have any ideas on how to do this? 
Please leave me some comments...

I want to thank the Clarksville Middle School staff for allowing me to sit with them during this viewing and to my wife for getting me the ticket!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Explore Howard: Wilde Lake Middle students turn attention to Darfur

Seventh graders to donate to education project

By Sara Toth

When it comes to health care, the war in Iraq, global warming and animal rights, Howard County students have different ideas and passions. At an upcoming event, a group of middle school students will be working toward the same goal: providing education for refugee students in Darfur.

Fifteen seventh-graders at Wilde Lake Middle School will take part in the Voices of Youth event, Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m., at the school, in order to raise money for the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools project. This is the second time the school has hosted such an event but the first time that the proceeds will benefit Darfur refugees. The students, selected by their peers, will deliver original speeches on various issues facing this country.

While the school raised $550 last year for Animal Advocates of Howard County, this year the students shifted their attention to the genocide in Darfur and Sudan, said Jeanette Swank, an English teacher and seventh-grade team leader at Wilde Lake. At the beginning of the school year, Wilde Lake was partnered with a school at Camp Djabel in Chad and a specific student: a 15-year-old boy named Murtada.

Swank said the partnership came about as a result of lessons on the Holocaust. "We started learning about the Holocaust, and the students didn't know what it was," Swank said. "They were really upset that they couldn't do anything about that, and I wanted to give them something that was more of a present-day situation, and see what we could do to help, to reach out to people."
'How can we help?'

Thomas Saunders, principal of Wilde Lake Middle School, got involved when he co-taught a class with Swank about Darfur."We were looking at, do these issues take place in modern times, and unfortunately, they do," Saunders said. "The kids were very interested in what was going on, and how they could help. That's the great quality of middle-schoolers; they ask, 'What is going on?' and immediately jump to 'How can we help?' "

Through the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools project, and another non-profit, the Enough Project, the Wilde Lake students were able to communicate with Murtada, sharing photos, videos and messages online. Many of the students in the refugee camps have never been to school, Saunders said, and any money raised would go to buying books and school supplies, and keeping school buildings maintained.

Swank said that as a middle-schooler, she wished she had more opportunities to help the people and places she was learning about. This was that chance for the Wilde Lake seventh-graders."If they don't learn about these things, there's a chance that history can repeat itself," Swank said. "I really want them to start to think about what's going on in the world around them."

Swank said she hoped the school raised as much money as it did last year for the charity and continues the event, and the partnership with Camp Djabel, for as long as possible. "Kids need to be listened to more and heard more because they do have some amazing ideas," she said. "I hope the kids see now that they need to be involved in their community; they need to know what's going on in their area. They shouldn't be passive; they should be questioning things and speaking out."

Saunders expressed similar hopes. Many times, he said, young adults are not given the opportunity to speak their minds, and this event is a chance for them to do that, he said. "It's exciting to hear what they're actually interested in," he said. "It's exciting for kids to hear themselves speak, and hear their peers speak. It's a great glimpse into what our kids are thinking about, and gives audience members insight into the concerns middle-schoolers have.

"They are really thinking about issues, and someday they're going to be the people who are going to solve some problems."
Explore Howard: Wilde Lake Middle students turn attention to Darfur

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Helen on 86th Street - The Musical

Yesterday, Julie, Cassie and I had the unique opportunity to travel to New York City to see the first public reading of a new musical, about a middle school girl and her mom. It is probably headed to Broadway in the very near future. The musical is a full-length family production adapted from Wendi Kaufman’s short story of the same name (The New Yorker Magazine -1997, Scribners Best of the Fiction Workshops- 1998, Elements of Literature, Third Course), with book and lyrics by Nicole Kempskie and music by Robby Stamper. (Source:

Julie, Cassie and I were invited to the reading by Ms. Liu, who is the proud mother of Amanda Yuan. Amanda is one of the cast members of this production. My wife is Amanda's school counselor. Amanda is such a talented performer and she did such a great job yesterday. I want to thank Ms. Liu for inviting us to attend this reading and to see the beginning of something quite special!
I was so impressed and entertained by this delightful and thoughtful musical production about a middle school girl. The actors were incredibly talented and seemed to capture the magic of middle school that I have the privilege of seeing each and everyday. The humor, the awkwardness, the vulnerability, intelligence, honesty and the incredible potential of each child was on full display during this show. I especially thought that Vita, the lead character, did a wonderful job portraying the challenges of being an adolescent in the 21st Century and attempting to understand and deal with the many complex relationships that she has in her life. 

Below is a short video that provides a taste of some of the music in the show. This was taped during the first few weeks of the production. It is so amazing to have the opportunity to see a play coming together at the very beginning. I think this could be a huge hit with middle school educators, families and anyone who has been a 11-14 year old!

I look forward to buying tickets and attending this production when it makes its way to Broadway. Congratulations to Nicole Kempskie, Robby Stamper and the entire cast and supporters! For more information about this special show, click here:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Alyssa Shouse on MTV

The Seven - MTV Shows

Way to go Alyssa! 
(Former student of mine)

Attitude, Awareness and Authenticity: The 3 A's of Awesome

I came across this motivational video featuring Neil Pasricha who is the best selling author of The Book of Awesome.  He is also the winner of the 14th annual Webby Award for creating the best blog in the world for 2010.  Click here to see his motivational video:

and/or click here to visit his award winning blog:

Wilde Lake Middle School to get visit from slam poet

Columbia Flier: School Days
By Lauren Rosenberg
Posted 1/06/11
Gayle Danley only learned about slam poetry three weeks before winning a national competition in the art form some 16 years ago.

Now a well-known slam poet, Danley will be visiting Wilde Lake Middle School, in Columbia, as an artist in residence, thanks to an Artists-in-Education grant the school received from the Howard County Arts Council.
The program "places professional artists in residence at private and public K-12 schools to help students foster creative exploration," according to the Arts Council's website.

Danley learned about slam poetry in 1994 when she attended two shows of the Nuyorican Poets, who were performing in Atlanta, where she was living at the time.

Slam poetry is the competitive art of performance poetry and emphasizes both writing and performance, according to Poetry Slam Inc., the official nonprofit organization in charge of overseeing the international coalition of poetry slams.

To read more about this exciting program, please use this link: Explore Howard: Wilde Lake Middle School to get visit from slam poet

Maryland schools rank No. 1 in nation for third year in a row

Ed Week gives state a B+ and gives high marks to policies, preparation of youngest students and achievement

January 10, 2011|
By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun
For the third year in a row, Maryland's public schools have been ranked No. 1 in the nation by a leading education newspaper, which gives the state high marks for its policies, the preparation of its youngest children and overall achievement.

"What makes Maryland stand out is that it is on the one hand a strong achiever and has shown improvement, but it is also a real leader in terms of policy," said Christopher Swanson, vice president of editorial projects in education at Education Week, which produced the rankings. He said some states that have high student achievement have coasted, but Maryland has kept the pressure on schools to improve.
The rankings, which Gov. Martin O'Malley and other state leaders mentioned frequently in campaign speeches, give the state a B+ while the average grade across the nation was a C. New York and Massachusetts both ranked just below Maryland with a B average, while South Dakota, Nebraska and the District of Columbia had grades of D+.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Stop Doing List

Want to be more innovative? Stop doing all the stuff 

that is wasting time and sapping energy!

The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say "no" to almost everything.—Warren Buffet

We love lists. We love writing things down and checking them off. In our fast-paced lives, lists comfort us. They keep us on track. They confirm that we're actually accomplishing something. They allow us to stop thinking about one thing and start thinking about another. Right now, people all around the world are hunkering down to set strategy for the coming year. So we offer you a timely suggestion: Instead of making a "to-do" list, why not make a "stop-doing" list? In other words, focus on the essential, not the important.

What's the difference between the two? The essentials are emotional; the important is rational. The essentials go on a to-die-for list; the important you put on a to-do list. It's easy to spend your time on the important—for example, coming up with a new product to satisfy the sales force's desire to offer something new. But necessary as that is, doing so isn't really going to inspire anyone. In other words, it is not essential.

In contrast, creating a culture that celebrates failure—because if you don't take risks, you will never develop a game-changing product or service—is an essential belief that can shape everything your organization does.

The Art of Sacrifice
A classic example in Innovationland is using your best people to work solely on line extensions and other evolutionary products and services. Sure, they get it done, but only at the expense of the truly revolutionary initiatives that went untouched because they were busy doing less meaningful (and profitable) work. Line extensions: important. Game-changing products and services: essential.

The most seasoned leaders have come to recognize that what they are not going to have their people focus on is just as important as what they are going to have their teams focus on doing. (And so their best people only work on projects that are going to have the highest impact for the company.)Strategy and positioning have both been described as "the art of sacrifice." Therefore, to have either a powerful strategy or a true market position requires that leaders take the time to create a "stop-doing" list.

Smart leaders know which types of engagements, clients, and employees are a fit—and which should be avoided. A not-so-smart company takes on all kinds of engagements, clients, and employees. It spends more on marketing. It makes less money because it is constantly learning how to do new things, how to deliver on more and more commitments. When a company finally bites the bullet and lands on a tight positioning, it makes it far easier for its potential customers and employees to find them.

Create a Clearing
Entrepreneurial-minded idea people naturally avoid "stop-doing" lists. They want to solve all kinds of problems. They don't want to turn away either business or an opportunity. A "stop-doing" list means they have to agree not to engage with particular sets of challenges customers may have.

Creative types frenetically move from one problem to another, one important (but not essential) problem to another. Their energy and enthusiasm are contagious. Unknowingly they start small fires of distraction throughout an organization. It's like a handyman who is constantly running around your home fixing things (like a squeaky door) that are not broken. Meanwhile your furnace does not work, and it's 20 degrees outside. Your job is to point him toward the furnace and challenge him to fix it now (like no one else can).

The same holds true when it comes to setting strategy. Before you focus on what you need to do, you must create a clearing by identifying what you will no longer do. This type of instruction frees up your best thinkers to align on and execute what matters most to your organization.
Before you and your senior leadership team head off-site to plan your key initiatives for next year, ask all the members to come armed with two things. First, ask them to provide the name of an activity your company should halt because it saps energy and produces little real or perceived benefit. This can be any activity from any department. Some examples include "We should stop":
• Serving this type of customer
• Providing this type of service
• Orchestrating this type of company event
• Marketing in this way
• Using this type of process to achieve X
• Employing this HR practice
• Manufacturing X

Start your management meeting by discussing the things you are no longer going to do. Once you have determined what should go on the "stop-doing" list, you've created an opportunity to focus on the five or six core initiatives that really matter. Agree on those and assign accountability.

Old habits die hard, so it is now your job to check in with your team members quarterly to make sure they have not slipped back into the practices that you all agreed you should stop using. The best leaders have come to understand that the likelihood of market success is closely tied to how well they focus their teams' attentions. You don't want your big brains jumping from little challenge to little challenge. You want them laser-focused on the biggest challenges, the biggest opportunities, the most important company issues. When you can make this happen, you fulfill the promise of good leadership to your team. You also reward them with the efficiency and profits that make the business engine hum. You'll find innovation will come easier. We promise.

G. Michael Maddock is chief executive officer, and Raphael Louis Vitón is president of Maddock Douglas, an innovation consultancy that helps clients invent, brand, and launch new products, services, and business models.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Powerful Partnerships, Amazing Opportunities - Global & Cultural Awareness

Powerful Partnerships, Amazing Opportunities - Global & Cultural Awareness

Recently, I had the opportunity to appear, along with three other talented colleagues from our district, on the first episode of our school system's new Powerful Partnerships, Amazing Opportunities cable TV show. While I was nervous at first, it was a great experience for me to be to be able to share some of the valuable lessons I learned this past summer in Korea and to learn new information from my fellow panel members.

I am happy to report that when my daughter watched this video with me, she said, "Hey dad, you actually sound like you know what you are talking about!" In the tone and mannerisms that only an 11-year old can do so well. However, her review can't be completely trusted. She didn't make it through the entire video...about half-way through my TV debut, she decided to leave the room and finish her homework. I guess I won't quit my day job. ; )

I want to thank Terry Alban and Mary Schiller for inviting me to participate on this panel. I also want to thank Jennifer Johnson, Mike Dubbs and the entire HCPSS TV crew for making us all feel so comfortable during the taping of the show.