Brand Loyalty

I started this blog when I was a classroom teacher trying to grow student engagement by opening a window into my classroom for parents and the world to see. High school parents often don’t get much response from their teenagers when they ask, “so what did you learn about in school today?” My blog was a way of letting parents see the tools we were using in class, read some of the discussions we were having and view the projects that students created. The response to the blog among parents was very warm.
Now that I’ve moved into the role of AP, I don’t have a single classroom. I view my new role more as a teacher of a larger classroom. It’s very exciting getting the chance to visit many classroom and witness the learning that is taking place.
I now think of this blog as a place to start discussions around big ideas that impact teaching and learning. While it is a challenge to write about issues of pedagogy that I witness inside the classroom that can be consumed and digested by a variety of stakeholders and not just teachers, I also like to write about my ideas for implementing new ideas in my current role.
I was just lurking in on a Sunday Twitter chat called #APchat and they were discussing the importance of getting parents and students connected to the brand. To build a strong school identity, the school’s story cannot only be authored by a single solitary individual. Lots of school leaders write about the happenings in their schools for the consumption of the community as a way to break to ice and allow stakeholders a view inside. This is a good place to start. But once stakeholders are used to reading the leader’s views of the school, they would benefit even more from hearing directly from students. School publications are great for this purpose. When our students act as ambassadors for the school by writing or speaking about the quality experiences they are having, the stakeholders who read or hear this can begin to feel a deeper connection to the school brand.
When students offer testimonials to the wonderful product that the school offers, parents, teachers and community members will take stock in the organization. As the testimonials roll in, especially from a wide cross-section of the school, stakeholders, realizing that the organization is working effectively, become loyal to the brand.
For this reason, I am working this year on a blog that tells the story of the student experience at our school, in the voice of our students. My goal is to invite a wide variety of students to become storytellers, writing about a transformative experience.
If you have any ideas about how I can get students involved in this blog as writers, I’d love to hear your comments.
If you are a student and you’d like to share a transformative experience that you’ve had at your own school, please add a comment with a link, if you have a blog.
If you don’t have a blog and would like to be a guest contributor here at teachingcontext, please leave me a message. I would love that!
If you are a student or a parent at NAHS and you would like to contribute a post to our new school blog that I’m building this year (called therocketsredglare), please email me and let me know what you’d like to write about.
We become loyal to the brands we love when we have good experiences with the product. When we speak out in praise of the brand, we can get others excited about the brand as well.
Schools too need to utilize the power of stakeholder testimonials.


Work-Life Balance

As we ease into Labor Day weekend, many educators, who have not started school this week, have already begun the mental preparations necessary for the start of the school year.  This is the weekend when we try to cram in all the fun activities that we enjoyed doing over the summer one last time!  As technology becomes more entrenched in our practice, we’ve already started using our devices to get school work done from home, often multitasking as we spend time with friends and family.  I myself have just said goodnight to my kids and as they drifted off to sleep, I logged into our school website to upload one or two docs that just got emailed to me from my teammates.  My instinct is to bang those things out now so I can relax later.  I have to be mindful of the trap that this thinking may set for myself.  Whenever we put off leisure time to tick off a few more lines of our to-do list, we are squandering precious time that could be devoted to being present with our loved ones, to enjoying a hobby that keeps us youthful, to exercising, or even to just having some much needed solitude.  While being effective at my job brings me great satisfaction, I must also keep in mind that my family, my tech hobbies like keeping this blog, my running, and my reading for pleasure bring me immeasurable satisfaction as well.  As we begin another school year, we educators must remember to “sharpen the saw,” that is, keep ourselves sharp by paying attention to the things that make us whole.  

When we are mindful of the need to detach from work after giving ourselves fully to it for the day, we will be better able to coach our students to adopt this mindset as well.  Many students struggle under the weight of expectations and have difficulty knowing when or how to shut off the working mind to save a little mental capacity for family, friends, hobbies, fun, exercise or even just alone time.  So as you mentally prepare yourself to re-enter the lives of students, and you spend some time polishing your syllabi this weekend, delineating your expectations for excellence for your students, remember to shut it off and dedicate yourself to the moments you have for yourself.  And when those students come through the doors next week, let them know that your high expectations include expecting them to forget about you as their teacher and your subject after a certain time each day.  Let them know that you encourage them to dedicate time each week to the art of keeping it all in balance.  They will appreciate you and and your class even more if you live by your own example. 




Vacation In Real Time

We are putting the final items into our suitcases, readying for the flight to Italy, which leaves in a few hours. The kids are excited and we are looking forward to seeing friends and a family and just relaxing.

I am committed to staying off social media for the entire time. We are bringing our devices, but mainly so the kids can play games and watch videos while in transit. I’m looking forward to living in the real world, fully enjoying the moments shared with my family.

I’m disconnecting from work and from my PLN, not because either of the two are disagreeable, but mainly just to enjoy old-school delights, like reading, conversation, and learning something new from the world in front of me.

I would love to hear what you are doing for vacation! Please post a comment or two below!


5 Ways to Reboot, Recharge & Reconnect over summer


Looking back at my last year in blogging, I notice that it was a challenge for me to post frequently. This was my first year in a new position so I was learning the ropes in the new school. I also went through a bit of an identity crisis as a blogger. My blog had been kind of an electronic journal of a teacher using tech tools in the classroom. Now that I’m an admin and not in my own classroom everyday, I’ve had to re-envision the blog to help keep me grounded in what I am passionate about: using technology to provide students with rich learning experiences.
Just as educators use summer to recharge their batteries, I’ve started the summer by recommitting to writing more frequent posts.
Today, I’m sharing the five things I’m doing to Reboot, Recharge & Reconnect this summer. I hope this helps you do the same!

1. Reboot the blog
I started by re-reading the tag line and asking myself if this states correctly the purpose of my blog. As I am not a classroom teacher anymore but I am still an educator of around 600 students on my caseload, I refreshed the language to better fit what I want to write about in my new position. I also snapped a selfie in summer attire and updated my gravitar and About page.

2. Sign up for an Edcamp or other PD activity. I live in Massachusetts and it just so happens that summer coincides with the yearly Edcamp Cape Cod.
Edcamps are known as “unconferences” because there is no pre-determined agenda. Just show up, mix and mingle with the creative folk who attend and attend any number of ad-hoc sessions that attendees decide to offer that day. It’s a great place to make face-to-face connections with some of the people in your PLN. If you don’t have a PLN, then it’s a great place to learn about the idea and begin building your own. Here’s a site where you can find an Edcamp near you:

3. Participate an a weekly Twitter chat that is new to you! I am a regular visitor to #satchat, which takes place most Saturdays from 7:30 AM – 8:30 AM EST on Twitter. I’m comfortable there as I am familiar with many of the moderators and participants. Over the summer, I try to explore other chats so that I can engage in discussions with new educators whom I can add to my PLN. It can be refreshing to follow people who are outside your immediate circles. I think it’s professionally sound to do so so that your thinking gets influenced by folks in different disciplines and levels. You can search for a new chat on this fantastic google doc put together by @cybraryman1 to help educators find one another in weekly chats.

4. Read a book. Does this need to be expanded upon? Stop making excuses! Just find a book–for personal preference, for professional edification, or just to escape into a fictional world–and set aside time to just read. You might like to check in with Twitter to see if there’s a book group to chat with about the cool, if that makes it more fun for you. I will recommend @edfocachat, if you are interested in Ed Leadership. The educators who moderate this chat are really smart and very welcoming.

5. Disconnect. At some point in the summer, I try to keep off the internet and social media for a week or so. It’s nice to recall that time in. Your life when you weren’t connected all day, every day. I’m traveling to Italy for two weeks with my family this month and while I tempted to want to document the experience on social media, to keep my friends and family updated or to document it for my kids, I’m committed to enjoying the time away from technology and the quest to keep up. I will use that time to enjoy life in real time with the people in my immediate vicinity. It’s important to remember how to do that! I can always post the photos when I get back! Remember when you’d go away on vacation with several rolls of film and not get to view time vacation photos until months later? We are too spoiled nowadays with the instant gratification that technology provides us. It’s good to get away from that for a little or long while. Just do it!

Collaboration in Cyberspace

In order to foster genuine collaboration in the classroom, a skilled teacher will focus on creating the right conditions in the class that will allow students to work together effectively.  Students have to know that they are accountable for doing or not doing their work.  They have to trust in the teacher by following the parameters of the project.  Students have to have adequate time to get to know their group-mates, so they get a sense of each other’s strengths that can help the group succeed, as well as how the group can help remedy or offset any weaknesses in any of the individual members.  To be able to get to this point, students have to let their guards down and trust each other.

The same is true on social media in cyberspace.

Some people will immediately dismiss this premise because they don’t believe that there can be any genuine collaboration among strangers on the internet.  They see the internet as a valuable source of information and they might even buy into being able to connect to people in a meaningful way, but more so as a way to facilitate real-world, face-to-face relationships.

As an educator who has worked in the classroom throughout the rise of the internet, I have noticed a clear evolution.  In classrooms of yesterday, we used the internet to access information and communicate with folks that we mainly had relationships with in our schools or communities.

Now, we can develop and maintain collaborative relationships with people we never meet with face-to-face.  These relationships can be just as beneficial and real as those we have with people we work with or go to school with.  In order to develop these kinds of relationships, we need time to get to know our collaborators in cyber-space.  That’s where social networks come in.  These are the spaces in which we can frequent our collaborators. We develop our own Personal Learning Networks, which are the equivalent of the small groups we work with in the classroom. We need time to get to know the strengths of our colleagues.  We can build teams in cyberspace the same way we build teams in the classroom and workplace.  In order for these teams to be “real,” each user must be “real.”  This is why I advocate using one’s full name in one’s Twitter handle.  When people Tweet on behalf of an institution or when they take on an alias, it hinders genuine collaboration because it prohibits your potential collaborators from knowing the real person behind the account.  It’s ok to protect one’s privacy, especially if the users are minors.  I am not in favor of requiring students to use their full names when social media is used in the classroom.  But as long everyone in the class knows each of the usernames, they will be able to get to know the person behind it.  When reaching out to others across the globe on social media, it is important to be yourself, even if you only use your first name.  This will help people connect to you.

So if you haven’t already figured it out, this is another push in support of joining and using social networks as spaces that foster collaboration with colleagues.  That’s what many educators are using blogs like this one for, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and G+ as well.

Please let me know what you think!


Chinese colleagues visit NAHS

Today we were lucky enough to host a small group of teachers from Beijing No. 35 High School.  Their trip was arranged by our partners at The Confucius Institute at Bryant University.  Special thanks to Geoff Burgess, Catherine Marcotte, Don Johnson, Jack Johnson, Alan Senecal, Erin McDavitt, Deirdre Healey, Laurie Henderson, Andrew Ferguson, Allison Jewell, Jen O’Brien, Carrie Rushlow, Alex Hatzberger,  Jeremy Thornton, Diane McKamy and Yvonne Levesque.

Agenda for Teachers from Beijing High School #35 visit to NAHS

Team 1: 1 Math  & 3 Science Teachers  (Mr. Burgess & Mrs. Marcotte Leaders)

Team 2:  6 English Teachers (Mr. Scozzaro Team Leader)

Team 3: 1 Geography & 3 Chinese Teachers (Mr. Don Johnson & Mr. Jack Johnson Leaders)

Day One:  Tuesday 1/21/14

7:30  Arrival & Welcome

7:35—7:45  Auditorium:  NAHS Movie

7:45—8:00 Brief Tour:  Gym, Main Office, Guidance, Cafeteria—Meet team leaders

8:05—8:42  Observation of period 2 classes (Team 1 to visit Science class; Team 2 to visit Spanish II class; Team 3 to visit English class)

8:46—9:23 Observation of period 3 classes (Team 1 to visit Math class; 1 team to visit French 2 class; Team 3 to visit History class)

*9:23—9:30 Coffee Break in café

9:30—10:08 Walkthroughs of period 4 classes (brief visits to a variety of classrooms) (Mr. Johnson & Mr. Burgess)

*10:12—10:49  Library: Question & Answer session with teachers, Department Heads, counselors, & students

11:00—11:15 Visit music room to observe rehearsals

*11:25—12:05 Lunch in the cafeteria with teachers and students

12:15 Departure  

Our colleagues from Beijing #35 High School were very impressed with the level of engagement, the curiosity, and the enthusiasm of all the students they observed in their visits to classrooms.  They were also in awe of discipline and the commitment to the creative process that they saw in Mr. Couture’s Concert Choir and Mr. Rizzo’s Symphonic Band.  In their discussions with teachers here, our visitors took note of just how heavy a full-time teaching load is here,  as well our inclusive approach to teaching all students.

If you would like an opportunity to meet our visitors, they will be returning on Thursday. Teachers and staff are welcome to attend any of the events on the agenda:

Day Two: Thursday, 1/23/14

9:00  Arrival & Greeting (Mr. Holcomb)

*9:15—10:00  Library: Presentations by Department/Discipline (North teachers present to visitors on HS curriculum & teaching & learning by discipline)

*10:00-10:30 Presentation by visiting teachers about High School #35

*10:30—10:45 Round table discussion (visitors , leadership team, & teachers)

*11:15—12:15 Lunch w Faculty & Staff offered by PTO in Teacher room

12:15 Departure

*All Teachers are invited to attend & participate

We are very proud of our teachers and our students here at North and grateful for the school culture that they help create!

In our discussions, Mr. Huang from Beijing HS #35 expressed an interest in building a relationship with North Attleboro High that would allow for eventual exchanges that would give students and teachers from North a chance to study/teach at Beijing HS #35.  We are grateful for our relationship with the Confucius classroom at Bryant University!

Mr. Kongli Liu, Mr. Peng Huang, Mr. Holcomb & Mr. Scozzaro

Mr. Kongli Liu, Mr. Peng Huang, Mr. Holcomb & Mr. Scozzaro

Chinese visit 2 Chinese visit 3


Twitter Mea Culpa

About a month ago, I wrote a post called “School-Family Partnership” in which I invited parents to take a survey to help me organize workshops that would help parents get set up using Twitter.

Many parents completed the survey within a few days of my email.  I thought I would give ample time for others to take the survey and then I planned on scheduling the workshops to take place in January.

What I didn’t plan for was how busy I would be in January!  As a first-year Assistant Principal, I’m learning a lot about prioritizing and time management!

So My first order of business is to apologize to the parents who responded to my first email and to let you know that I have not forgotten about you!

January has been a crazy month, so I have not been able to organize and offer the workshops as I had planned.  I’m going to do my best to plan at least one workshop in February, once the new term begins and things quiet down a bit.  Right now, I have no dates in mind.

A few of the respondents to the survey asked for a Twitter Beginner’s Guide to help get started.  I have chosen this beginner’s guide for its depth & breadth of information coupled with its ease to use.  I think parents will find it useful and even though it is geared towards educators, it is still relevant to parents, especially those looking to connect with their school and their kids’ teachers.

Please read the guide, follow the instructions, and get yourself set up on Twitter.  Once you do, follow me @JoeSco77 as well as our school’s Twitter feed, @NorthHigh1.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or tweet me directly.  I will be in touch soon once I organize the workshop.

Good luck and see you on Twitter.

How to receive tweets as text messages

Parents of teenagers have their hands full!  You constantly walk the line between giving your kid freedom and keeping an eye on him/her.  Many parents worry over whether to or how to monitor their kid’s usage of social media.  If your kid is using Twitter and you would like to monitor his/her tweets, you don’t have to be a registered user of Twitter to do so.

If you have a mobile phone, have a text messaging plan, and know your kid’s twitter handle or name, simply enter the following number as the recipient of your text: 40404.  That’s the short code for Twitter on all major wireless carriers in the US. Then type the word “Follow” and then their Twitter handle.  Hit send.  Here’s what it will look like if you are using an iPhone:

SMS Twitter Follow


Be ready for a flood of tweets!  If you quickly run up to your text messaging limit, you can text the “stop” and then when your new cycle starts, you can text the word “start” to resume monitoring tweets.

If you are reading this post and are not located in the US, you can visit this page to find your country short or long code to receive tweets as SMS.

By Joe Scozzaro Posted in How to

School-Family Partnership

It’s no secret that schools and parents have a vital interest in developing and maintaining a constructive relationship.  They both want the best outcome possible for the student.  Sometimes, though, we find ourselves in adversarial footings due to circumstances on the ground.  A school is an organization and as such has to keep policies in place to ensure that the place runs smoothly.  As educators, we have to enforce the policies, many of which we had no hand in creating, but nevertheless, they are a key component of our job descriptions.  When families come up on the wrong side of a school policy, difficult, sometimes charged, conversations result.  Sometimes, these conversations result in the school revising its policies, while at other times, these conversations result in the student changing his/her behavior.  When I’m having one of these difficult conversations with a parent, I try my best to keep my temper in check.  I do this by keeping in mind that the discussion is essentially about doing what’s right for the student.  In my experience, parents want to do this as well.

Another way to minimize the frequency of highly-charged conversations between schools and families is to proactively build relationships.  This is a challenge because there’s only so much time in a day and it’s physically possible to talk to each parents on a daily basis.  We may not be able to communicate daily, but we are committed to creating opportunities in which cordial discussions between school personnel and families can take place.

Social media provides us a relatively easy and cost-effective way to communicate often with families.  The challenge here is that many parents and educators feel like they have “missed the boat” on social media and don’t know how to get started.

My message here is that it is never too late!

If you take the first steps and get connected on Twitter, you will quickly find that there are many people who want to help.  But the best way to learn about Twitter is by using it.

My goal is to help parents, teachers, students, & community members get on board with Twitter.  I am organizing local workshops for members of the North Attleboro High School community that will take place when we return from the holiday break.  If you are a member of our school community and would like some help getting started with Twitter, please fill out this brief questionnaire.  I will set up workshops that will be held at school at times convenient to you.

I look forward to seeing you!