Wednesday, March 08, 2017

My First Teacher: My Mom #InternationalWomensDay

In honor of #InternationalWomensDay, I took some time to reflect on my first teacher: My Mom. A human being, a leader, a wife, a woman, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, a role model, a grandmother, a human, and a citizen all unto herself. She was my first teacher: she taught me kindness, empathy for others, pursuing dreams, resiliency, and a love of self. #HerVoiceIsMyVoice: be kind to oneself, be kind to others, give selflessly, have passion, love your family, love yourself, choose to be happy, and be thankful for all that we have been given in this life (because there is so very much). On this #InternationalWomensDay, I encourage you to take a minute to think about the women in your life who have helped mold you into who you are and what you do. My mom encouraged me to find myself as a person and as an educator, and is my biggest cheerleader. I am forever thankful for the love she provides me, day in and day out. It nourishes my soul so I can be person and educator that I am today.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Hi, Mr. G!"

In my new role as Director of Educational Technology, I now work in Central Office. To borrow a line from the wonderful Dr. Tony Sinanis, I am working to #redefinetherole! My position is newly created, and so I have the opportunity to be present in classrooms and schools, and truly be part of the fabric of learning and teaching that makes our schools come alive.

Luckily for me, my office is in a school, and so as I have meetings, I can hear the laughter of seven year olds in the hallway - and those voices remind me that our mission is, truly, about supporting the learning and teaching of our students and staff. As a central office administrator, I have felt removed from school and from students, and so I have made a concerted effort to be present in schools, even if it is being in the school library doing administrative tasks. I strive to be part of the fabric of our six schools, and slowly but surely, I am getting "hellos" as staff members recognize me.

As I work to #redefinetherole, one of the greatest professional moments of my fall occurred. I was running between my office and a leadership meeting for a forgotten Chromebook, and a line of first graders were walking to Art class. As I hurriedly powerwalked (so as to not model bad behavior of running in the hallway!), one boy yelled out, "Hi, Mr. G.!" I stopped in my tracks. Whatever it was that I needed to get was forgotten. I replied, "Hi, buddy!" and thought of the importance of connecting with students, with staff and that regardless of our position in a school district, it's all about the kids. That first grade student will never know the impact he had on me, but it has stuck with me as I traverse new challenges of a new position in a new district: it's all about the kids. Don't forget the importance of that hello you give to others - it can change everything for someone!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Integrating Technology and Problem-Solving in School: Our Obligation as Leaders

Integrating Technology and Problem-Solving in School: Our Obligation as Leaders

This July, I embark on a new role and new position, shifting from six years as a middle school building leader to a central office position dedicated to educational technology in the elementary setting. The opportunity is an incredible one, as I anticipate building vision, building consensus, leveraging technology and infusing critical thinking and problem solving across disciplines and classrooms - using high and low tech.  

Massachusetts is poised to be a national and international leader in technology integration, thanks to our economy based in technology and higher education. We have access to leaders and resources, and we should be preparing our future workers and thought leaders to tap into this rich resource.

As public educators and building leaders, we must take on this responsibility. Building level leaders must prepare our current students to be future leaders and workers - not just in Massachusetts, but nationally and internationally as well. We have an obligation to look to the future and lead the charge to ensure students are prepared with 21st century skills, resiliency, flexibility and technical skills. Leaders must lead by example, model what we want to see in teacher, classroom and student technology integration, and be the lifelong learners we expect others to be.

Think about this: students entering grades K-8 this fall were born between 2011-2003. What does this mean for their future? These students will graduate high school between 2021 and 2029: what does our world look like then? Will our world look like the Jetsons? Or Back to the Future? Or something else we cannot yet even envision? That’s what I’m banking on - the last option - because with the flattening of the technological and economical worlds in the information age, change happens incredibly rapidly. Just think about how different the world was when we entered the workforce and when new teachers are entering the workforce. In the last 15 years since I graduated from Hamilton College, the skill sets required are not just technical, but broader. Having just the technical skill is no longer enough - so school leaders must broader their definition of technology integration, and take the lead on promoting this future tech integration 2.0. We are, after all, preparing students to engage in jobs and a workforce that does not yet exist.

According to this report by Fast Company, there is an enormous gap in the expectation between what hiring managers are expecting and what new employees are able to produce in various skill sets. The biggest gap: critical thinking and problem solving.

Building leaders must model a focus on critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, communication and other 21st century skills. These skills must be embedded into our Massachusetts standards, and woven into the daily instruction that is delivered to students. Their future success depends on it: we are preparing our current students for their future jobs that may not yet exist...but will!

As instructional leaders, building leaders set the tone and set the priorities. Authentically and purposefully embedding technical skills (e.g. keyboarding) as well as critical thinking, problem solving and creativity into daily classroom instruction allows it to become second nature for students to start engaging in these much-needed skill sets, and at all grade levels. The younger we can ensure that students are thinking independently and critically, the better.

Administrators must model innovative thinking, creativity, risk-taking and ownership of personal learning - model this and expect this of our educators and teachers and students. Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  1. Model the strategies in which you would like to see staff engage. Take risks, be open about your uncertainty, and share it. It is not a sign of weakness, but strength, to be unsure and share that fact with others. Be creative in these ventures, and communicate it to staff.
  2. Use new tools. Try a podcast for your monthly newsletter, create a Smore newsletter, create a YouTube video or channel. Ask your digital learning specialist for suggestions and help!
  3. Be connected. Join a Voxer community. Participate in Twitter chats (here is the calendar of Twitter chats). Share your connection with staff. If you find an interesting tweet, email it to staff members. Demonstrate that you are investing time and energy in being connected and always learning - and share this with staff. Connected Educators is a fantastic resource, with a very comprehensive website that connects educators with one another:  
  4. Be the thought leader in your building. Being connected will allow you to be at the forefront of national and international trends. Join Voxer book studies and twitter chats. Bring this work to what you do with your staff and engage staff in professional dialogue around professional topics.
  5. Invest in teacher leaders. This can range from budget neutral (internships) to low-impact (stipends for leadership or work done outside of the school day) to bigger budget items, such as additional FTE for teachers, digital learning specialists or leadership staff dedicated to this mission (such as in my new position).
  6. Commit pre-existing time to commit to technology and problem-solving integration. Use pre-existing staff meeting time, team meeting time or be creative in your use of time (e.g. get subs for a several teachers to create  embedded work time) to provide opportunities for staff to explore and learn.
  7. Love your digital learning specialists and library media specialists! These folks are skilled, precious teachers. They understand education, classroom instruction and student learning. Meet with them, show them the love, show them that they matter, and partner with them to help promote technology integration as well as critical thinking, problem solving and creativity across all content and grade levels. Charge your DLS and LMS with ensuring that there are extension opportunities, real-world application and problem solving opportunities in every classroom, regardless of the content and grade level. And make sure that you support your DLS and LMS in their own professional learning as well.

Technology integration is no longer “Can students keyboard?” It’s about real world application, developing critical thinkers and lifelong learners. As public educators and leaders, we have an obligation to our students and families - and the future of Massachusetts - to help our students be prepared to be workers in the mid 2020s (!). Take the charge as the leader of your building, and showcase all that we are all that we want our students to become in the future!

Steve Guditus
Director of Educational Technology for Tri Town School Union, serving the elementary schools of Middleton, Topsfield and Boxford, Massachusetts

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Take A Risk: Being Connected #ce15

Today was a great day at work. I had the opportunity to work with a fellow educator, one of the most intelligent and thoughtful educators with whom I have ever worked. Through some supportive pressure and encouragement, he finally agreed to let me introduce Twitter as an educational tool. It was a risk to do so, and he trusted me enough to take a leap.

Before my wonderful colleague @DelEdTech and I jumped in to the nuts and bolts of Twitter, we paused – and talked about the why. Why bother to connect? Why bother to share our edu-thoughts through social media? We found ourselves getting increasingly excited with our colleague, discussing the why behind being a connected educator. As educators, we are so excited to continue learning, share our learning, reflect on our learning and discover new resources, it is important to stop to pause and think about the WHY behind being a connected educator.

What made today such a wonderful day at work is that I was reminded that we are all lifelong learners. Regardless of our experience level, our job title or our age, a willingness to be a lifelong learner defines a good educator.

I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to teach, to reflect, and be amongst others who are willing to grow. We are all better educators for being able to surround ourselves with those who continue have a desire to grow. In light of it being Connected Educator Month #ce15, I am reminded how meaningful it is to not only be connected, but also to have a willingness to be connected – and what it says about our growth mindset.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Educator Evaluation Process: It's About Growth and Reflection @sguditus

When I arrived at my school two years ago, I inherited an outdated and incomplete ed eval system, which included a negative culture and many assumptions around what the ed eval process could be, is and is not. As Massachusetts rolled out an updated and revised system over the past few years, I worked to form relationships with teachers and not just tell them, but show them, that the ed eval process can be a productive and effective tool – not something to be feared or to dread. Over the course of the last two years, I have worked to form relationships with teachers; I have worked to make a required process as positive and productive use of time as possible. Since this is something that needs to get done as per Massachusetts state law, why not make the best of it and use the time and tools to improve student learning and teacher instruction? This is, after all, a teacher's educator evaluation - so I find it imperative to engage educators in their evaluation process to ensure ownership of the process. This isn't something that should happen to teachers, but something that helps grow instruction and student learning.  

Over the course of the last several years, I have done a lot of reflection around the tone and culture I want to set in the ed eval process. I believe that all teachers deserve feedback at every level, not just the teachers who are doing particularly well or struggling. Would we only provide feedback to only students who are succeeding or struggling? No – as educators, we have an opportunity and a gift to help students maximize and expand their potential. As a a lead learner and evaluator, I belive it is similarly my job to ensure that the ed eval process is a productive, fair, and helpful tool. The Massachusetts DESE recently revised their vision on regarding the educator evaluation process, shifting from ev eval as an end goal to ed eval as a process to improve educator effectiveness. Words count, and I think this shift is an important one.

This year, I have about eight new staff members in my building. What an incredible opportunity I have to set
Focus on growth and reflection!
the tone and the culture with a large group of educators who are new to our learning community. I need to continue to not just tell, but show, teachers that they are an active participant in their evaluation – the keyword being their. The ed eval process is something that should not be done to teachers, but something in which they actively lead. It is about their growth and reflection, and about their path to continuing to improve. I am here to help inspire, encourage and suggest. I strive to regularly model making mistakes, taking risks, persevering, and trying again! Aren't these some of the characteristics that we want to develop in our students? 

Here are five steps that I tried to follow to develop a positive culture around the ed eval process: 

  1. Be clear about the spirit of the ed eval process. It is easy to get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of what is required in the ed eval process. Do not forget that ed eval is not an end goal, but a process that should be a tool to support educator growth. At our first kickoff staff meeting, I reminded educators that they are talented and awesome - and that the focus of this process is growth and reflection. I even provided some imagery and use this imagery on all the documents I use when discussing educator evaluation. Remember to remind staff that the goal and spirit of ed eval is _______. (For our school, it is growth and reflection.)
  2. You are not the smartest person in the room. If you think you are, you may be in big trouble. Just because you have a title after your name does not mean you know the most about education! When I
    meet with a room full of teachers at a team meeting, the collective years of experience and insight is overwhelming. Leaders are there to inspire, to encourage, and to help educators see the best in themselves – so do that, and let educators do what they do best! Encourage and inspire - but remember that educators are very smart people!
  3. Don't forget to be positive. This may seem like a simple one, but it is easy as an evaluator to provide feedback only on things you wish were different. In any given day, educators make hundreds and hundreds of decisions, and most do an amazing job with our students on a regular basis. Don't just assume that teachers know where you stand on their performance. Be clear, be honest, and provide positive feedback and encouragement where it is due.
  4. Be constructive. One of the most frustrating things for me when I was teaching students was receiving feedback without any recommendations or suggestions. Doing so consistently sends to the message that there are not additional areas for growth and opportunity. Remember the spirit of the ed eval process – for our school it's growth and reflection – so continue to not just tell, but show, support, provide resources, encouragement and praise.
  5. Spend time building your culture. In order for teachers to take a risk, they need to be able to trust you – and know that if something doesn't go as planned, you still have their back and support them. Spend the time to have a face to face conversations, follow up in person whenever possible, and work hard to develop a positive culture that supports both student and adult learning – on on going basis.

I have plenty more to learn, and wanted to share my insight and experience of implementing our ed eval process in my school. I view it as a tool to improve student learning and teacher effectiveness; what other suggestions do you have to do so?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Words Matter

Although I know it, I'm reminded: words matter. Especially when you are the leader of a building, words count, and words matter. How you use words, which words you use, how you share them, when you share them - it all matters.

Recently, I have made an effort to provide feedback to teachers after I have been in their classroom, even if it has only been for a few minutes. Some feedback I was getting from teachers included questions such as: Why didn't you give me any feedback? Was my lesson ok? Did I do something wrong? Was I on target? We are educators, and good or bad, we are usually rule followers, hard workers, and want to do our jobs well. I found that exiting a classroom without using any words, without providing any language was leaving staff without any understanding about how things were going.

I decided to turn to Voxer. Once I leave a classroom, it takes me literally 30 to 60 seconds to record my thoughts, which are fresh in my mind. Sure, students walk by me and think I am talking to myself in my phone, but I assure them it's for school purposes. Using Voxer, I am able to provide timely feedback to staff, without delay. Certainly, if there is a more sensitive topic, I would plan to have the conversation in person, but if I want to affirm to a teacher that they are on target and doing a good job, Voxer is an outstanding tool to use. One teacher thanked me for using Voxer, sharing with me that it helped her her the tone in my voice, and it was as though we were having a conversation - and helped clarify for her what my feedback was.

This week, I am reminded: words count and words matter. Use words, and use them wisely. Words carry power to help educators grow, reflect and improve. Our students' progress depends on it.

A big thanks to my PLNs, especially #muddleleaders and #principalsinaction to get me inspired and blogging!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Finishing Strong #BostonStrong #satchat #bfc530 (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

Today in Massachusetts, it is Patriots Day - the remembrance of the Battle of Lexington - known as the turning point of the American Revolution.  Many hearty Yankee souls out there hoof it at 4am to participate in the re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington, while thousands of others hoof it 26.2 miles.  Me, I went for for a 6 mile run, made dinner, and am thinking about finishing the school year strong.  Here are a few ways that I plan to do so, and perhaps you can as well:

  1. Get into the classroom: Make it a priority.  It is easy to get bogged down in state testing, meetings, and more meetings.  Let's be honest: the center of learning and teaching is occurring the classroom - so go see what's happening and ensure you are the instructional leader you were hired to be.
  2. Talk to students: In my opinion, the #1 place for this to happen is lunch.  Sit down, say hello, and get a pulse on the building.  Here's how it will go: 6th graders will be a bit scared to say hello; 7th graders will not stop talking; 8th graders will not likely say anything.  Regardless, be present, make sure students know you care and are interested in their learning and their experience, and be the lead learner not just from your office.
  3. Provide effective feedback: It's not about the evaluation system, but about constant growth, authentic conversation, and a willingness to discuss learning and teaching.  Make an effort to get into the classroom and provide feedback to educators.  Have professional conversations, discuss learning and teaching, and show your willingness to discuss how to move student learning forward.  Learning and teaching happens through the end of the school year.
  4. Take a risk: You've read books, you've read articles, you've talked others who have done it, and now is the time.  Implement that new idea you've been tossing around in your head.  If you need to call it a pilot, that's ok - but try it.
There, I feel better.  I have down on paper, and publicly, what I need to do.  I encourage educators to create your own list to finish the school year #BostonStrong.  What will your list include?  What did I miss?

Friday, April 03, 2015

Every Day: A Gift

You never know when the opportunity to make a difference will present itself. Yesterday, while I was prepping for the school day, a student popped into the office at 6:30 to ask if she could chew gum during our state assessment exam, which was being held later in the day. I answered her question and then asked her, "How are you feeling about it?"  She replied, "… kind of nervous, honestly." 

We took a few minutes and chatted about the fact that the day's test was just a snapshot in time, a way to help the adults know how much she has grown, for her to know how much she has grown, and that it is just one moment on the timeline of her educational career. It doesn't mean that she's a good or bad person, and that this is an opportunity to have fun and and and to be excited to tell a story (it was the composition exam). A little nervous is an ok thing, I told her - it might even help her - to try to use her feelings to help her. It was just a quick conversation – maybe only two minutes long. 

After the exam I saw her again and I said " did it go?" And she replied, "It went better than I thought it it would. I'm glad I talked to you this morning." I don't even know if she realized how impactful her words were when she told me that she was glad we had chatted – but it made me remember: whether it be a quick smile, a high-five, or a hello, educators impact students' lives. We may not always realize it - but we can make a student's day, inspire him or her, or even intervene when they needed a vote of confidence the most. As educators, we get a gift every day - to make a positive impact on our students' life. Let's make sure we take that opportunity every day to help our students. You never know when the opportunity might arise.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Once A Teacher, Always A Teacher

Recently, I had the opportunity to teach all the six graders in my school. We needed to roll out Google Apps for Education, and I was able to match up my schedule with the student schedule with the computer lab schedule – a feat in itself, for sure!

What a great two days I had spending time with middle school. I got to see students through another lens, and be reminded of how exciting and nerve-racking it can be to facilitate learning. It was a wonderful day for several reasons, but especially because I got to spend a lot of facetime with students, focused on teaching and learning. A close second, however, was a reminder of all of the pressures, stressors, excitements and decisions that educators have to make every day. Did I remember to restate the objective, every day and every period? Was I sure that I was accommodating for each student in the class needed something a little different? Was a meeting students needs who needed to get the scaffolding? Was I holding the students back were ready to keep on going? Don't forget to monitor the conflict between those two students...

Throughout the first day there were a series of different teachers who work in the classroom support students. At the end of the day, I sought them out and asked, "How did it go? What do you think? Any feedback? Is there a better way that I could do that tomorrow?" One teacher suggested it might be helpful to have a visual to go along with my verbal directions – of course! Why didn't I think of that before I started? So, the next morning on Day Two, I frantically typed up step-by-step directions. I went running out of the office, photocopies hanging on my arm and flying down the hallway, while the teacher was holding the class waiting for me.

A few lessons learned:
1. Be flexible.
2. We teach kids first - about content/skills.
3. Students have strengths and weaknesses in various areas - no one is all one way across the board.
4. Teachers have a really, really tough job.
5. Teachers have a really, really great job.
6. Asking for and receiving feedback is helpful.  It feels good to focus on growing and improving.
7. Reflection is key - be it formal or informal, always work to grow and improve.
8. Always have a Plan B.  (And C.)
9. The capacity and eagerness to learn is a beautiful thing.  Respect it.
10. Educators must take care of themselves to take care of others!  

Until the next time!

Saturday, January 03, 2015

One word for 2015: TRUST #oneword365

Instead of a giant list entitled, "All The Things That Steve Should Do To Improve in 2015," I followed the lead of my wonderful PLN, and chose one word on which to focus:


My 2015 is going to be the year of trust:

  • I will trust myself.
  • I will trust my instinct. (And back it up with facts.)
  • I will trust colleagues to do what's best for our students.
  • I will trust that others have the best of intentions.
  • I will trust that doing what's right for students may not always be easy.
Clyde Beatty taming a lion with four legs.
To kick it off, I have decided that I will trust that our new core values have importance in our school, that modeling reflective behavior is important, and that it is important as a community (one of our core values) to take the time to reflect on 2014, look ahead to 2015, and select one word to direct our attention for 2015.

The lesson that I created for our students is entitled "The Lion Tamer and One Word."  Clyde Beatty, the lion tamer who figured out that a four-legged stool would paralyze a lion due to indecision, is the main figure in illustrating that having too many foci will lead to indecision and as a result, inaction.  I'm going to trust that this is a meaningful exercise for students: recalling 2014, and looking forward to find their one word that will help them be their best in 2015.  

What will your one word be, that will help you be your best?

If you need some help getting started, consider these questions:

  • How was 2014?
  • What do I want to do this year?  
  • What do I want to be better at?
  • What do I need to continue to grow and improve as a student/educator or person?
  • What do I want to accomplish as a student/educator or person?
  • What word do I need to help me be my best?  
  • Is there another word not listed that will help me be my best for 2015?  
  • To what word can I commit for 2015?
  • How will this word help me focus and be my best in 2015?

If you would like to use the lesson I created for students to use, please go to: The Lion Tamer and One Word.

For some inspiration, you may want to consider some words from this wordle.
For more community support, you can "find your tribe" and post your one word at  Check it out.  Also, why don't you select your one word with your family, colleagues, students and kids?  

What will your one word be?  And how will it help you be your best in 2015?