Using Infographics in Our Schools


I love infographics. I make a point to share an interesting infographic to my PLN everyday. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a better way to share lots of information in a more concise and interesting display. Its robust and eye-catching.

Steven Weber, @curriculumblog, an active member of my PLN, shared this newly created infographic by his school district Chapel Hill-Carborro City Schools, @chccs. Instead of reading about this district’s information on fact sheet, you can get a great visual experience while reading over some of district’s essential details.They say presentation is everything – in this case, presentation keeps the reader engaged and more likely to retain some of the more pertinent information about this district. Years ago, Steven shared an infographic of similar design from the school he served as principal. It was a great visual and though it was years ago, I still remember my impression from the visual design.

Power of Infographics for School Branding

There is incredible opportunity for schools to use infographics to help promote the great things that happen in schools. When I read the CHCCS infographic, I immediately thought of some banners our school could [and will] create to share some cool, great things we have going on:

  • What middle school is about, strategies for successful transition, study habits
  • Achievement facts;
  • Explanation of the BYOD policy
  • Instead of sharing a stale pdf summary of school improvement goals, , get creative with an infographic;
  • Highlights sports achievements;
  • Explanation of electives, intramurals;
  • Showoff your student/staff of the month;
  • Profile your teachers during Teacher Appreciation Month;
  • Create some great visual on your school’s unique instructional goals i.e., 1:1, blended learning, PBL, focus on literacy, etc.

Promoting our positive school brand is a consistent part of our jobs as school leaders. In addition to committing to spreading the positive word, we have to make sure we are using the language, visuals and tools that help our stakeholders understand our message and take away the important details of our message. Infographics help mitigate the educational jargon, make the data more relatable, and add some essential personalization that our community will buy into.

“If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell a story.”


5 Infographics to Teach You How to Easily Make Infographics in Powerpoint

#edcampldr NC – Connecting and Learning to Improve Leading

Edcamp LeadershipJuly 10, 2015 promises to be a historic day of learning and connecting for North Carolina educators!

Friday July 10th, we are hosting the first ever Edcamp for School Leaders! Edcamps are not new to North Carolina – for years, dedicated educators have been coordinating and hosting these ‘unconferences’ across our great state. These edcamps have brought in educators from different school districts to share, connect and ultimately help others improve the learning and teaching in all our schools. Talk to any participants in these edcamps and they will tell you that these experiences have been incredibly valuable and significant to their personal/professional development.

Edcamp Leadership NC [held Friday July 10 at the @FridayInstitue] is the first of its kind in NC and we have some great reasons to be excited:

This is a first NC unconference targeted for school leaders across the state. Make no mistake, ALL are welcome to this great day of learning but we want to especially create an opportunity for school and district level leaders to start and participate in change discussions that will help their districts and schools;

  • Edcamp Leadership NC is one of many edcamp leaderships held across the nation! There will be many edcamps held that week on the same days, sharing and connecting virtually;
  • We are glad to announce that the esteemed Dr. June Atkinson, our State Superintendent, will join us for this event;
  • As always, there will be many great educators there, looking to connect, grow and learn.

Get Smart Resources:
– To learn more about what an edcamp is, check out this short video. It’s a great 90 seconds take on the value of this informal conference.
– Kristin Swanson, who’s credited for started edcamps, wrote a blogpost for Edutopia about the benefits and genius design of edcamps.


Read about Edcamp Leadership here and our efforts to impact edcators worldwide [yep, there is an edcamp leadership Santiago Chile] with this multi-site, same day event!

As a principal, I know its difficult to find conversations or trainings that will help make a difference for my students and teachers, particularly that will fit my specific needs. Edcamps are a great way to personalize your learning and development. Instead of picking your learning from a menu, you have the opportunity to design a talk special for you. What we often find is that there are others who share your specific questions, needs and thoughts. Come to Edcamp Leadership NC and start a conversation in a breakout session, continue it in the hallway, form a relationship with a colleague and take back some information or challenging discussions that well help us all build schools and classrooms our students need and that our teachers will be on fire to work and lead in!

Visit our site and register here!

Do Your Students Know?

I was struck by this message posted on one of my teacher’s whiteboard last week. There was a substitute in this teacher’s room and I was checking to make sure our class was on point. As I scanned the room, I saw this note posted at the top of her instructions to the class:

Love message

‘I love you class!’


This immediately reminded me about a presentation from Baruti Kafele at this year’s NAASP conference. He shared with his group that a message he had to develop and then consistently deliver to his kids was ‘I believe in you.’ [I immediately took this back to my school and shared at an awards banquet].

You would have to know Ms Mack to truly appreciate this message. First, no matter the many barriers she is working to overcome in her class [and she has several] Ms Mack always has a smile and she always has a hug. Second, she preaches high expectations. She plans lessons and engaging activities everyday and demands the most from her students [and she often gets it]. I was recently in her room and she was sharing with her students their benchmark results. Her talk was about how the class performed, the school performed and then she had one-on-one talks with students about what they can do. Her data talk was embedded in an activity on ‘ATTITUDE‘ and how it has a bearing on everything we do.  [I was blown away by this message]

This sign is what Ms Mack is about but it got me to thinking – is this my schools’ message? Is this MY message?

  • If I asked my students, would they say they knew their teachers loved them?
  • If I asked them, would they say they know I love them?
  • Do they believe it when we say it to them?
  • How do we show this?

Relationships are critical to what we do and being effective in what we do but I think this message goes beyond a relationship. A relationship will facilitate a student bringing a problem to you. A student knowing he/she is loved means you are the first [and sometimes only] person a student will call when there is a significant problem.

Do your kids know?

PLN Blogging Challenge

ChallengeThis is fun!

Earlier this week, Dwight Carter, PLN member and inspiration, forwarded me a fun challenge. Dwight has always been a great example of leadership and a great representative of the potential of our growing digital community. I’ve got mad respect for him as an #edleader and eagerly accepted this blogging challenge. This will be a great way to get to know the members of my PLN and have some fun at the same time.

The first part of the challenge is to share 11 random facts:

My 11 Random Facts

  1. I am the last of ten children. [I grew up on a farm and this was a great way to ensure continued farm help ; )]. Great history here, my parents had a simple mission – EVERY child will graduate high school and EVERY child will go to college [mission accomplished]
  2. I love comic books – LOVE THEM! DC and Marvel! Grew up reading them and still buy them [digital versions though – you should see my garage]
  3. My wife’s mom introduced us! My mother-in-law and I worked at an H & R Block in Savannah and she invited me to dinner – history was made!
  4. I eat my best when I’m at school – 1 serving of protein, lots of veggies at at least 2 liters a water. But this is at school – I come up short at home and the weekends!
  5. I was a break dancer growing up – Ozone and Turbo had nothing on me and my friends [let’s see who gets that reference]
  6. I’ve never lived close to any of my K-12 schools I’ve attended as a student [always at least 75 minute bus rides in the country] or worked in [for five years, I lived in Charlotte NC metro environment and worked in Montgomery County NC, very rural environment – I regard this as the best growth time in my life]
  7. Because I lived so far from school, I never had the opportunity to play sports or do after school activities until I could drive.
  8. I’ve studied Jiu Jitsu, American Freestyle Karate, and Muy Thai Kickboxing but I am dying to study and learn the ‘sweet science’ – boxing!
  9. One of my best friends in the world is Richard Greene. He and I took every class together K-8 and at least one class together 9-12. He is also a middle school principal
  10. As deep as I am on social media and began adopting early on, my wife only recently joined Facebook and Twitter, both late in 2012.
  11. I was a Political Science major in college but when I got chance to teach, I fell back to my one true love in K-16 – Math

My Answers to Dwight’s Questions

  1. What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year? ‘Fair Isn’t Always Equal’, Rick Wormeli, ‘The Will to Lead, The Skill to Teach’ Dr Anthony Muhammad, ‘Ten Minute Inservice’ Todd Whitaker and Annette Breaux  [Dude, I’m a co-moderator on #edfocuschat]
  2. What person in history would you want to have dinner with? W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T Washington. When I was in college I did a lot of reading on the two of them and their ‘philosophical’ differences. At the end, both stressed the advancement of African Americans through education but with slightly different purposes. I think hosting a dinner and discussion with the two of them on Google+ and having some conversation today would be a enlightening.
  3. What’s the one thing you care about the most? God and family
  4. Who is your all time favorite cartoon character? Mr Terrific – 3rd smartest man on the planet, 13 PhD’s, ‘a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes’ [like I said, comic book nerd]
  5. What was your favorite extracurricular activity in high school? Track and Field, 400 meter run. Like I said earlier, because of where we lived I didn’t have to opportunity to participate in a lot of extracurriculars. I ran track my last year and found a strength.
  6. Growing up, were you a nerd, jock, teacher’s pet, loner, or extravert?  Nerd! I embrace my nerdhood! I had a great time growing up because of my close friends though! They are great!
  7. What’s your dream vacation? At least 8 hours away by plane, incredible beach, world-class spa [for the wife], free wifi for catching up on some digital reading [DC and Marvel]
  8. What’s one thing you would invent that would positively change lives? – Two inventions for teachers, ‘Engage-ometor’ and the ‘Rigor-m0-rator’ [These are works in progress]
  9. If you weren’t an educator, what would do for a living? –  Upward Bound Director, this is an easy one. Upward Bound is a TRIO organization that is committed to helping first generation college students go to college! UB was a fundamental part of my life and a big reason I went to college. Being a UB Director is the one job I would give to serious consideration to leaving K-12 education. Fun, purposeful, incredible experience.
  10. If you were to give a TED Talk, what would be your topic? ‘It starts in the middle!’ [There won’t be TRUE EdReform until we really GET middle school education!]
  11. What’s your sentenceWe can always do a better!
Now I’m assigning homework to the following bloggers (hope they have not been tagged previously):
  1. John Bernia
  2. Sam Fancera
  3. Bill Burkhead
  4. Craig Smith
  5. John Robinson
  6. Robert Sigrist
  7. Justin Tarte
  8. Dr Sheron Brown
  9. Cornelius Minor
  10. Chris Hubbuch
  11. Anyone who wants to play along! (Just follow the guidelines below)

Here are your questions:

  1. What is one of your guilty pleasures?
  2. What is an awesome thing you do to get yourself motivated, really pysched up!
  3. What education movie really inspired you?
  4. What is the one thing you do that your close friends would say is unique to you?
  5. What would you different in the classroom today than when you first started?
  6. Favorite dessert?
  7. If we could get you a ticket to anywhere in the world to taste true, authentic cuisine, where would you go and what would you eat?
  8. What do you miss most about high school or college?
  9. Droid or iPhone?
  10. Why education?
  11. Best vacation with the family?
The Guidelines for your Homework…
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.
  6. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
  7. Post back here (in the comment section) with a link to your finished assignment. Go on, you have homework to do.

Can’t wait to hear from you guys!!

Making a Difference in Our Communities

This past month, we had the opportunity to participate in another great community event that really highlights the best of working in schools and serving kids.

When I first arrived at Spring Lake Middle, I was told about several strong, impactful, long standing community relationships that have made a difference in our school and community at large. For example, we have a great relationship with our Boys & Girls Club.We have a mutually beneficial agreement with them in sharing resources and supporting students. We can’t name all the ways this partnership benefits kids and families in our community.

Saturday, December 14th, Spring Lake Middle proudly hosted the T.I.G.A.P.A. Food Drive. We partner with T.I.G.A.P.A. to commit to being a service to our community. This partnership has proven to be an impactful vehicle in helping the needy families in our community.


I was proud and overwhelmed to see the community support we  received that day. One reason we do this is to give our students an opportunity to put in some community service hours. We had several students show up to gladly help with boxing up food packages and carrying out heavy boxes to family cars. Planning ahead, this is an opportunity for our school to promote a bigger community service opportunity for more students. We also received organizational support from several local groups, organized largely by our newly elected Alderman James O’Garra. Without his help and dedication, we would not have been able to help feed over 300 families that day.

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These events are important for educators. Being a part of this strong sense of community helps recharge battery and provide new focus for us. We normally plan for outside operations for these food drives and the community came out expected that. But given this day was cold with steady drizzle – just enough to make standing outside for a couple of hours a very miserable day. With a  simple decision to move the event inside and making more restrooms and seating available, we had more grateful people open up conversations about the community, families and what they can do serve our school. Support will look different for everyone but at the end we welcome all support!

I’m thankful for T.I.G.A.P.A. and this inspirational opportunity. School leaders at all levels can develop a pretty narrow view of what serving the community is – this is a great way to create needed new looks.

Awards Assembly/PBIS Kick Off

Friday, Feb 2nd our school took the opportunity to take a great practice and make it better.

Every nine weeks, at the end of the reporting period, we have hosted a grade level awards assembly recognizing student achievements. We invite parents and community members to the ceremony. Its been a great connecting piece and has always been a great one of the better ‘feel good’ events of the year.


From group discussion and conversations and dreaming, we came up with notion to change this from small, separate celebrations to a big school wide recognition. After some mass reorganization and planning, we put this new plan in motion and enjoyed a tremendous celebration.

The crowd was entertained by our orchestra playing as the crowd entered along with performances by the band and chorus

The Chorus starts off by sharing what they believe..,

Chorus gets them standing

One change we were particularly proud of the addition of guest speaker Val Jones. Ms Jones is a local radio celebrity, speaker and motivator. Her topic fit squarely with our theme of achievement and students striving to get better. Below is a clip of her getting the crowd motivated by showing pride in your name. Val had a great, inspiring message for students and parents alike.

From this great experience we have really learned the value of ceasing every possible moment to connect with, share and educate students and parents alike. This was a great day of smiles and excitement for every person who entered our doors on this day.

The Grey Area [Creating Options]

Several years ago, an assistant superintendent used this graphic in a talk with a room full of assistant principals to help explain some possible  motivations and actions in stakeholder decision making:

Her talk and this image made such an impression on me, I remember it vividly 10 years later.

The focus here is the grey area. The grey area represents many things. Pertinent to this talk, it represents the objectivity, point of view, and willingness of the involved parties to negotiate. When there is an issue on the table, school leaders are dealing with students and parents who want [or need] a particular outcome and that is the focus of the conversation. What can I do or say to get a particular outcome? What will it take to change from this outcome to another outcome?

The hierarchy in the graphic shows how perspectives typically change as the conversation moves up the ladder. Again, this is generally speaking. During this trainig, we were being instructed on a need to be willing to consider multiple options and not be limited to a few options. Increasing the number of options helps us with resolving conflicts.

Using this model can help us in our efforts in leading change in our schools. Change is difficult for some of our stakeholders and a ‘black/white’ viewpoint often accompanies a hesitance to change. Consider a recent conversation you may have had with a teacher about the need to change or adopt a different approach. Those conversations often involve not being able to see options or neither party really considering/creating different options. We’re more rigid when there are only two options ahead of us.

The school leader who can help the stakeholder realize that there are more options available that may be seen or discussed will be more successful in implementing change because he/she will do a better job with improving buy-in. We increase our buy-in and help build our vision more when others feel empowered to create choices.