Day 3 – Switzerland to Italy

Well, we’re not in “Kansas” anymore. We are in a typical hotel in Italy. The entire bathroom becomes the shower, with no division between the two. Goodness knows what our kids will do with those bidets.  The rooms are sparse and our kids have to stick tight to us here. The pickpockets are generally worse in Italy. Someone asked me why I worry so much. I don’t worry as much as  I’m vigilant in watching those around us, reminding the kids to keep their passports\money secure and to pay attention. We are watching each other’s backs and it’s a good learning experience for them.

We traveled through the gorgeous Swiss alps into Italy today. The views from the bus were like nothing I’ve ever seen. We were immersed in Italian at the lunch stop which was cafeteria style. Some students did better with jumping in there and ordering than others did.

A two hour visit to Verona, Italy included Juliet’s balcony and a statue of her in the courtyard carries the legend that Frank Fonti demonstrates in this picture.  (Picture removed as requested by Gowanda Superintendent) Obviously we had a lot of fun here.  This was a dream come true for our Ms. Geist, who teaches Romeo and Juliet.

I have to say how much I’m enjoying the adults we have with us on this tour. They are open minded, fun, and helpful at every turn. Our eleven adults are enjoying euchre and I’m happy to report that Kris John and I are cleaning house.

Tomorrow is a huge day in Venice including a gondola ride. Until then, buona notte from Italia.

Special note to Julie and Linda–have delivered your information, no worries. Please know that students can always stay with the chaperones on free time if they like.

Day 2 – Switzerland

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day in Switzerland. It’s an interesting way for us to start the trip because in many ways it’s not much different from Western New York. Most, if not all, people that we encounter speak English and so our students haven’t learned yet that we can’t be arrogant Americans who just expect everyone else to speak our language, particularly when we’re guests in their countries. Tomorrow we travel to Venice Italy and I think they will learn more and more about the differences in the world. Still, it’s important to know that we’re more alike than we are different.

There’s a fascinating thing that happens on a trip like this one. As each day progresses, we see the confidence level of our students increase exponentially with each experience. There are opportunities each day to go off in small groups, have lunch, do some shopping. We give the kids an area in which to explore, we’re also in the same area, and a time/place to meet us. The only rules are that they have to be with at least one other student, preferably two, and they have to be on time.

Yesterday, a group of about five kids never left my side, went to lunch with me, and let me handle everything. Today on our lunch break, they sought me out and came along but ate at a different cafe and then went off on their own. I predict that by day five the last thing they’ll be thinking about during free time is where I am.

It’s something that strengthens every one of them, if they know it or not. It’s a gift you’ve given them without realizing it. When they return and they’re faced with unfamiliar situations in the future, they can each think, “I’ve got this. I navigated my way through the streets and cafes of Switzerland (or Italy or France) and managed to order my own meal, pay and find my way back to the meeting place.” Pretty cool, huh?

And the visit to Mount Pilatus? Indescribably incredible. Breathtaking. I am so blessed to have stood at the top of a mountain in Switzerland today. Every day of my life I feel blessed by all that I have, my family and profession, but today I was grateful just to be alive, to be strong and healthy and capable to enjoy these extraordinary moments. Life is good.

Ode to Tech Support

I want to publicly thank Mike Frame for being the most phenomenal tech support person on the planet. I set up my cell phone for an international plan to access work email and to post to the blog while on our trip. It was all set to be activated for the two weeks for just $16 more. Well it appears that Verizon dropped the ball and I had absolutely no service today. I managed to borrow Mrs. Dempsey’s phone, calling Mike at home. Within twenty minutes Mike solved my international calling problem from Randolph! I asked every Swiss person I saw all day and tried everything I could think of only to realize that I needed to call Mike–our problem solver extraordinnaire! Thank you Mike. This was an important one for the parents of thirty six kids waiting to hear about our safe arrival. You saved the day again Mike, thank you from this whole traveling team :-)>

Day 1 – Switzerland

After traveling since 4:30 am on Friday and touring Switzerland all day today I have to say that the hot shower I just took may be the best thing about Switzerland!

The first day is always the hardest, with touring after a night of travel and everyone running on empty. The hotel is quaint and beautiful in the country. Dinner was good and we are doing bed checks in 35 minutes. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and we are moving closer to God as we ride the air gondola to the top of Mount Pilatus. Up 7000 feet!

Your children are safe, sticking tight and enthusiastic despite their exhaustion. We had some trouble with cell phone service but I should be able to blog now.

Hope you are all safe at home, Happy Easter from Europe!

Arrival in Switzerland

Here we are in Switzerland!

The flights went really well and all of our first time travelers did terrific. We are with our tour guide and preparing to see Zurich. No worries, we are all here and well.

One of the best things about going away is realizing how much you love everyone at home. Miss you already but prepared to see all this part of the world has to show us!

Meet the BOE Candidates Night

On Wednesday, April 22, 2009, at 6:00, Randolph community members will have the opportunity to meet the board of education candidates in this year’s BOE election. The three year terms for BOE President Carol Luce and BOE Member David Adams are ending. Both incumbents are running. Our preliminary information shows at least two other candidates are running.  All candidates are invited to participate. The deadline to file petitions is Monday, April 20, 2009.

Our PTA is sponsoring the event and will act as the moderator. Please consider joining us for this opportunity to find out where the Board of Education candidates stand on issues concerning our district. All questions must be submitted in writing prior to the program (written questions will be collected at the door) and will be presented by the moderator and addressed by the candidates. Candidates’ answers will be timed and questions from the floor will not be entertained. This is a great opportunity for taxpayers to be well informed–hope to see you there!

Student Discipline

Our high school principal was out today and our middle school principal was scheduled for the elementary building. That means I got to handle any problems with students today and can I just say one more time how much I love that work?

I was sitting in my office analyzing data and preparing a report when the secretary ran in to tell me we had a problem outside of a teacher’s room.  I got to work with the two girls who were involved in the physical altercation, talk to their parents, handle the subsequent suspension—all duties I knew well as a high school principal. I’m obviously not happy that the girls resolved their problems in this way, but I got to spend time listening to them and talking about what happened. It’s extremely rewarding work and I just find it very interesting to talk to kids. Another student walked out of class and he and I spent time together before he went to the spend the rest of his day in ISS. I got to listen to him, to hear his story, to know and understand him just a tiny bit. It’s working one on one with students like this that I miss the most.

Principals who tire of that work because it’s often overwhelming and endless should stop and realize what a huge difference they can make. The challenge comes when they feel like they’re having the same conversations over and over with the same kids. But for one day, it’s still the best part of the job!

RCS Recycling-A Small Step in the Right Direction

The Impact Group of students who meets in our school asked if I had any ideas for them for service projects. Every day when I throw my newspaper away, I’m conscious of the fact that we’re not doing enough to recycle. Thanks to Wendy Sanfillipo from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, we’re on our way.

Abitibi will give us two boxes for paper recycling. We’re a bit beyond their target area, so it was through Wendy that we got the boxes. These are the big green and yellow boxes you may have seen at other schools or churches? As long as we fill both of them each month they will continue to come out and pick up our recyclables.

Where do the student leaders of the Impact Group come in? They are planning to organize the effort, helping to educate our school community on what’s allowed in the boxes and what isn’t, collecting the recycling boxes from the classrooms and offices and filling the dumpsters. I’m hoping they can work with some of our super sixth graders to get a similar effort going in the elementary building. The Abitibi company pays us a small amount (approximately $20 per month depending on how much they collect) for the pounds of paper they pick up. The Impact Group is going to receive this money to turn around and do additional service projects in our community. We all get to do something good, something that’s right for our environment, and the students of the Impact Group get to maximize the effort by turning around and helping others.

The best part? Every student and adult in our community can contribute every time they make the choice to put the right items in the recycling box instead of in the trash. And our community members can bring their recyclables to the school and put them into our Abitibi paper receptacles too. Watch for more information on this blog about how to participate–a guest blog post from our Impact Group leaders coming soon!

Say What?

Here’s a blog I never miss by author Seth Godwin. You may have read his most recent book, Tribes. His post Personal Branding in the age of Google is something every student, teacher, administrator, and/or parent needs to think about when building an on-line presence (whether you’re doing it deliberately or not, if you’re posting, you have a “tail”).

I particularly agree with Seth when he says,

The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.

The point is to play it smart, use this flat world to your advantage, and pay attention. When I started this blog several years ago, I remember thinking, “some day I’ll be interviewing for a superintendency and those in the new school will be able to read all of my previous posts.” It’s about transparency and audience and as Don Miguel Ruiz says in his book, The Four Agreements,

“Be Impeccable with Your Word.”

That’s wise advice when we share our words in person and on-line. Let’s make sure we’re teaching our kids about this in our classes, not just how to blog, but how to blog smart.