Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thinking Spring Differently

Feet up, and writing.
'Think Spring,' my old friend Jim Carter used to say when the high school baseball season drew close. Well, thinking Spring is a bit different for me this year.

Spring... and, well, Winter for that matter for the last 23 years have always contained a steady diet of training and mentoring players, and building high school programs in the great sport of baseball

So... I'm officially retiring from high school baseball as a head coach. I didn't coach this season, and won't return to the helm. It does still feel a bit odd after all these years to write that. 

It's actually my second high school baseball season off from the sport as last Spring I was on sabbatical. It's my first Spring "officially" retired.

I'm proud of the work we did at Burr and Burton in my six seasons there. And of last years' team too. 

Last year's team at Burr and Burton (where I used to coach and teach), was piloted very well by Tony Cirelli. It was a Senior heavy group and very skilled. The character of that team, and Tony's experience, were two of the many reasons I felt good about leaving on that sabbatical opportunity. The team was very successful and worked it's way to the finals, the programs third trip in the last four years.

BBA Playoff Pre-Game, 2010
I got to work with so many great kids and families over my six years there. Great coaches too like Chris Kunz, Chuck King, Ed Lewicki, Doug Crosier, and Tim Oliver. Players, coaches, parents and spectators have a lot of great stories to tell from it all.

My thanks to Kathi Bierwirth, Athletic Director at Burr and Burton, for her support, lobbying and patience. Baseball is a passionate sport for me, and I did have to ruffle some feathers along the way to increase commitments from the school and the town toward creating safe and quality playing facilities... and getting commitments to maintain them. Kathi was often 'the good cop' when I occasionally had to be the persistent and relentless one to move things forward.

Infield renovation at the Rec, 2009
In those six years we won the most games in school history over a six year period (so I'm told) and a league sportsmanship award. The latter is something I'm most proud of. We played the game well and respectfully year after year according to our competition, fans, and umpires. And those two trips to the finals in 2010 and 2011 were great too ; )

We made some dramatic improvements to the program via an indoor batting cage, l-screens, indoor pitching mounds, and training and playing equipment. We rebuilt the 'sand pit,' as the field used to be called, into a great playing facility. We ran six excellent (and fun) Summer baseball camps. We ran many, many lessons and coaching clinics. 

The youth leagues in town, through a ton of excellent community development have continued to build. Revamped little league facilities, a concession stand, tournament hosting... and most recently the 'chicken coop' dugouts were replaced at the large field and a rolling batting hatch was purchased too. BP, fortunately, will never be the same ; )

'Trench Gate' Recovery Team, 2011
With school, town, and community support there are still some great improvements to be make. There's some steady community support that's grown and much talent in the system to play competitive baseball for many years.

It was great fun to take a leadership role in it all. Of course my family, especially my wife Janice, was incredibly supportive and always involved. There's a great challenge in education, especially in teaching and coaching... the danger of spending more time with other people's kids than you do with your own. My family has always relished the opportunity to be involved in helping to build programs I've coached in. It was truly a family endeavor.

CVU Championship, 2003
As for building programs, it's the second time around. The first was a 15 year journey at Champlain Valley Union High School. With the help of many, we were able to build the CVU program to be consistently competitive, and rebuild it's development infrastructure and playing facility. I had the privilege to coach CVU to it's first baseball championship in 2003, and they've won two since under coach Tim Albertson's excellent leadership. It's been fun to watch. Tim's been very gracious over the years in recognizing the role my family and I played in program development there and I'm very thankful for it.

I'll miss being a head coach in many, many ways.

I won't miss the endless fundraising it takes to build excellent indoor and outdoor facilities. I won't miss drying out two or three buckets of baseballs in the living room under a fan on mats 15 or 20 times a season. I won't miss the back stress of throwing hundreds of rounds of BP, hitting infield sessions, or grinding on field work in each season. I actually won't miss school bus rides on those on long trips either ; )

There were a lot of web projects along the way too. The VT Metro Baseball League Website was my first, and also the first High School sports league website in the United States. It was built as an educational project for students to get real publishing experience while I worked at South Burlington School District. The site featured league stats by team (many schools actually sent in faxes back then), schedules, All-Star teams and game highlights. The site, when I moved on from the project in 2005, had informed and entertained well over 100,000 visitors. Not much by today's standards, but quite a few given the web back in the day. The CVU Baseball page became the second team sports site in Vermont (Steve Ferreira, former Essex high school coach, beat me to the punch there while I was working on the Metro League site). 

Soon thereafter I created a website for the VBCA. I rebuilt the VBCA site a few years after and passed it on to Bruce Bosley, the new Executive Director, who's done great work with it. 

All the baseball web projects were geared to help increase communication, give kids real publishing opportunities, and publicize our great sport, teams, and communities. I've been told by many folks along the way that those projects helped inspire them to create websites to do the same.

I'll be officially closing up the 643DP Foundation which I started back in 2002 to raise money to improve these two programs I worked in and others around the State as well.

My role in the Vermont Baseball Coaches Association will switch to an advisory role on the board for special projects and such. Clinics, All-Star games, Junior Showcase, and a solid championship venue are all clicking. The Association was established by many of my mentors in the game. I had the privilege to work with them and with so many of my friends over the years to help move things along. The Association is in good shape to promote baseball in the State for many years.

My thanks to the folks at the Burlington Free Press, Rutland Herald, Bennington Banner, and Manchester Journal who provide coverage for high school baseball and the projects I've worked on over the years. Of course there are other papers around the State, but these papers covered baseball in the regions I coached in. It's a difficult job covering so many teams in the State and it often goes under appreciated.

Free time in the Spring will take some getting used too. But... after two seasons off and plenty of rehabilitation my back is, at long last, almost fully healed. It took 12 years to do what doctors said was impossible. Spring vacations with my family will be, truly, a new experience. Some 30 hours a week reclaimed will be spent with my family and friends, seeing my own children play in games, inventing in education, ... and maybe catching a game or two around the State. Not to mention biking, hiking, traveling, and swimming.

And a note to my friend Peter... no, I won't be umpiring! Ok, maybe ONE game if I work the game with you.

Colchester Cannons Championship, 2011
I'll still resume my makeshift bench coach role with the Colchester Cannons this Summer as time allows. It will be my 10th year working with the great players and families helping out where I can. My friend Jeff Mongeon orchestrates a great show. It's a tremendous family and cast of characters, and it's been a privilege to be a part of it.

I've lent some thought to helping out with programs my son might play for in the future as well if the opportunity is there, if my family agrees and it makes sense.

It's been a great run. I wrap up my head coaching career (JV, Varsity and Summer baseball) at 464-204. Looking over the books I remember every name and every face. I've got many stories. It was truly a rich time in my life. Many thanks to the countless players and great folks who've helped me along the way, too numerous to mention, but always in my heart.

"... and that's the way it is," Tuesday April 22nd, 2014. On behalf of the Provost clan...

We win.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Set Your Action Higher

If things are easy... set your 'action' higher. It might sound better to you and many others when you do.

Common sense is often ignored in education. Strive to hear where things make sense. Sometimes all it takes is listening... especially to students

Sometimes we get used to looking at things one way...

Strive to see things differently. Some good shifts start happening when you do.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Project Ignite in Montpelier, VT

Many thanks to the folks who attended Project Ignite! in Montpelier, VT and to Charlie Wilson and Lucie deLaBruere for organizing the event. 

It was a privilege to be asked to speak to the group and share the rLab story.

Summing up all the layers of the rLab in less than 10 minutes is a challenge. 

Here's the (updated) PDF version of the presentation I gave. This one gives a better overview of how the course was built.

If you'd like to chat more about the rLab... I do all the time and would be happy to help. Some schools I've worked with are interested in adopting the whole construct and some others in incorporating bits and pieces of it into their existing courses. I'd be happy to share whatever pieces you're interested in. In it's glory, the course can be disruptive. That's a good thing. I've always thought rethinking educational practice, especially traditional ones, is healthy... especially for students. 

Examples of what folks have been interested in:

  • core elements of the lab: PBL, Student Proposals, Topic choice
  • PBL lab 'assignments' and the evolution of them
  • Framework for open topic choice
  • inquiry based topic exploration: identifying icons and then project mentors
  • collaboration guidelines outside school walls
  • student proposals to administration
  • having students design their project rubrics
  • disruptive (and sensible) shifts the course can generate
  • strategies I used to mentor all the different project threads over the years. With so many projects in so many diverse areas... I'll tell you I learned a lot.

Many folks also asked about the research I did on my sabbatical. I looked at innovative schools in seven countries primarily on:

  • inquiry based and PBL education
  • rethinking the school schedule
  • creating innovative student classes and / or programs
  • new learning environments
  • school architecture and designing learning spaces
  • innovative adult ( and student) PD programs / models
  • Leadership structures that foster (and prohibit) innovation

I'd be happy to talk about those anytime too. Just drop me a note.

Congratulations to all the Ignite! award winners. It was inspiring to see all the great work on display and hear the shared stories.

Time for some dinner! 

Keep moving forward...


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Guest post on Tarrant Institute of Education

I contribute to a List-Serv called School-IT. It's a great mix of educators in Vermont actively discussing technology. As part of that discussion thread there, I received a note from the Tarrant Institute of Education that they'd like to post a response I wrote

The invitation does remind me that I do have to reserve time to write again. I have many articles in queue that need finishing... School lunch programs, school schedule innovations, professional development in schools, interviews with innovative educators, and leadership traits that foster and inhibit innovation in schools... to name a few.

It's been a busy few months. Lots of innovative projects in motion.

Monday, January 20, 2014

"Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education."

"We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living." MLK

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Potential in the Hour of Code

It's 'Hour of Code' week, and there's quite a buzz about it.

Some tout 'Hour of Code' as a 'publicity stunt for politicians,' some others that it's a waste of time, and some still as the best thing since, well, (computer) code was invented... or something like that.

Of course, it's what you do with it after 'the hour.' Getting some hype and introducing things to youth (or adults) is a bonus. The hope is it's not a 'one hour and done' deal.

Start somewhere... and then keep the conversations going.

Grab whatever device you have access to use and give it a try, especially if you've never 'coded.'

The hope is that the hour can get people interested in thinking differently toward more experiments, peer grouping... and even shifts in 'computer' / 'technology' curriculum in schools. 

Combine coding with making... games, apps, machine to computer interface (Arduino, LilyPad Arduino, Makey Makey, Rasberry Pi, etc)... creative student exploration and projects? Now that's interesting.

"Hard fun"... Seymour Papert said that 30 years ago. Get kids involved in making things and solving tough problems.

Bring people with you and dive in.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tips for Crafting Presentations

Ever wonder how you can take better pictures?

Want to learn some visual design tips?

Need some ideas on how to conjure better presentations?

I've passed these tips on to many over the years... and here they are for you too.

Best way to view the presentation below? Click the icon to expand to 'Full screen' on the Google Drive toolbar below.