It’s amazing what we find around us to inspire our thinking and our motivation to improve our life’s work.  Recently in a Voxer discussion with a Women in Educational Leadership to which I belong, we began discussion podcasting and vlogging. Both of these formats are new to me. Although I am an experienced, comfortable presenter, the thought of recording my words or videotaping myself was somewhat intimidating. However I successfully completed my first podcast.

Barnegat Pride Podcast

Here are the steps I utilized:

  1. First I downloaded the Opinion app from the app store. This was recommended to me by @AllysonApsey. She indicated it was easy to use and that I could upload music. I was excited to get started!
  2. In preparation to record, I wrote my speech first. I was nervous to “ad lib” and wanted to be sure that my word choice was varied and I could practice before recording. After writing my podcast, I was ready to record.
  3. Using the Opinion app was easy! This app allowed me to record audio directly from my phone, cut and edit clips easily, and add music! I recorded my audio twice because I wanted to make sure my vocal inflections on certain words helped convey the message I was sharing.
  4. I chose to add two different music clips. One as an introduction and one after I finished speaking. Adding clips was simple, but since I do not typically store music on my phone and I wanted certain music clips, I downloaded one additional song to add to my podcast. This step was my biggest challenge because I wanted the ability to fade music clips before I began speaking to improve transitions but was unable to do so. I am hoping to improve my podcasting, as this was my first attempt!
  5. After creating the podcast, it was easy to complete the prompts and post and share my first podcast.

The other reflection I wanted to share today is a something that I think I have known all along, not only about myself but about others as well.

Adobe Spark (8).jpg

I KNOW that when I can work with inspiration, clarity, focus, and positivity I am more productive. I inspire others and those around me feel the effects of joy and creative energy. This year I will strive each day to remain #hopeful so that I may inspire others and also that I remain open to the inspiration I receive each day from the #compelledtribe and other members of my PLN.



presenter_badge_2017This is a challenge for me. Anyone who knows me knows that brevity is not my strong point. In fact, sometimes it takes me much “talking out loud” to revise, change, or come to a final decision.

The #compelledtribe has challenged all of it’s members to find one word for 2017 that we can focus on. I need to identify the one word that will drive my actions, behaviors, decisions, and initiatives. For the last week or so, I was pretty determined that my one word would be “committment”.  I figured it fit everything that I needed in 2017.  It worked for committing to fitness, health, time with my children, time for me, my goals at work, and my other personal goals such as committing to blogging and being present on Twitter.

I feel like I was very present on Twitter from January 2016 through about May or June. Then I hit some obstacles and I was not participating in as many chats or reading blogs. But what I found was that (in early 2016) the more connected I was with my PLN, the more effective I was at work.  I was also more inspired, passionate, and positive.  Although I wear many hats at school, I truly feel that my role as “head cheerleader” is absolutely necessary.  It is imperative that teachers, aides, administrators, secretaries, custodians, and drivers know that I appreciate their efforts and that they matter to me immensely. Their efforts do not go unnoticed and I am always grateful for the people I work with.

#Committment was okay. But it didn’t speak to me.

My children have been watching this video on YouTube over and over again….

..and it’s no wonder.  With over 67 million views, it is truly inspirational. This duo appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2014.  As my children walked around the house singing this song over and over again….it struck me…

#OneWord2017 for me is #hopeful

Hopeful for so many reasons.  I’m thrilled that my #oneword was inspired by music and by teenagers. For me there is nothing more sacred than students who inspire and who have the strength and courage to do what they love.  Their story embodies what I truly believe education should be. We need to guide students and embrace them. We need to support teachers and encourage them. We need to be hopeful.

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” ~Brad Henry

So as we begin 2017, let’s ignite imagination, instill a love of learning, be hopeful to achieve all we set out to accomplish, and commit to each day’s challenges with dedication and kindness. We do this because teachers and students deserve our very best!

Happy New Year!






As a member of the #compelledtribe, we were charged with a theme.  That theme was unity.  True to form, I thought and thought and thought.  I drafted, then destroyed.  Then tonight, I was inspired!

There are so many things that tear us apart: thoughts, beliefs, emotions, politics, questions, opinions, feelings.  Those same things can unite us. But I realized tonight that unity comes through many opportunities.  For me and my two children, the unity came through music.

“Mom, do we have to go?”, Katie asked.

“Yeah, Mom.  I get it’s a concert but if it’s for old people and it’s old people music, we’re not gonna like it.”, Gavin added.

“How do you know what you like unless you try it?”, I asked.

Sighing, “Mom, you’re just saying that because this is something YOU want to do, not something WE want to do,” said my son.

“Well, we do plenty of things that you enjoy that I’m not particularly fond of.  The least you can do is go in with an open mind,” I said.

To my surprise, they did.


Part of that occurred because I put my “teacher hat” on. Everything became an inquiry. Where do you think the auditorium is? What do you think “will call” means? What kinds of music do you think they’ll play? Who can find row S, seats 2, 3, and 4? Do you think they will do other things besides play instruments? What kind of music do you like? What instruments do you think they’ll play?  (Whew!  Was I working it?!)

My kids were excited and for good reason. We attended a concert at a nearby high school but the performers were professional musicians. They were the Dallas Brass. Not only were they exceptional. They were also funny, involved the audience , and invited both middle school and high school students to join them on stage as well!

It started to dawn on me partway through the concert. Unity. Right before my very eyes. Band members breathing in unison, following the tip of the conductor’s baton as if they shared just one set of eyes, instruments in beautiful intonation, rhythms in sync with each other and an audience unified by the joy of music. There were times we were sang in unity (yes, the entire audience) and other times were danced, clapped, or cheered as the bang began swinging together!

My kids tease me because I get emotional.  I used to be a music teacher and can’t wait to do it again. Once you find something you love, it is truly a part of you.

If you run, there is unity in the way your body moves – the balance of your body, the length of your stride, the evenness of your breathing.

If you cook there is unity in the kitchen – measuring ingredients, chopping with precision, and finishing with beautiful details.

If you love DIY, there is unity in symmetry of design, detailed planning, and polish in finishing touches.

Pick an analogy. UNITY is everywhere…if we allow ourselves to see it, accept it and welcome it into our lives.

Life is too challenging to worry about the negative. Don’t do it.


“So what did you think?”, I asked.

“I loved it mom! It was awesome! Juan was my favorite! When can we do this again?”, my children said.

Ahhh…the joy in the unity of my family, whom I cherish. I couldn’t be more thankful for life’s small opportunities to celebrate our unity as mom, son, and daughter.

Validation…I Make a Difference!

It has been awhile since I have composed a blog.  I have no good reason why.  Yes, I have little time.  Yes, I am busy.  Yes, my job is challenging.  Welcome to the real world.  These are the constraints many of you work under each day.  I have no good excuses….but tonight something extraordinary happened!

During the public session of our Board of Education meeting, the administration does a presentation called the Barnegat Brag.  This is a curricular presentation that we have been doing every month for about two years to celebrate curricular initiatives, showcase student achievement, or introduce a new program.  Our public has seen everything from musical performances, to recognition of essay contest winners, to how the summer Jumpstart Algebra program helps struggling math students prepare for the year ahead.

Tonight was no different.  Our Barnegat Brag was about our Summer Professional Development Program.  These are presentations given BY teachers FOR teachers.  In short – turnkey professional development.  However it is done in a relaxed setting (summertime, casual dress) but not in a casual manner.  Teachers (and administrators) apply to present.  They must state their goals, learning objectives, and what participants will be able to do after attending the workshop.  This summer we had twenty-eight teachers present and four administrators (myself included).  The amazing news is that we had over FOUR HUNDRED registrations.  Some teachers registered for as many as fifteen workshops – all on their own time, all during the summer when they could be relaxing on one of our beautiful New Jersey beaches!  When the staff returned to school in September, I rewarded teachers who attended workshops with gift cards and even a “denim dress down day” for one entire school.

Then something REALLY special happened.  The Director of Curriculum and Instruction reminded the Board, public (and me) that I challenged him a few years ago to take on this task….the task of creating a Summer Professional Development program FOR teachers BY teachers.  It has grown tremendously! (I also recently challenged him to host an Ed Camp in our district.  THAT was amazing!  Maybe that’s another blog post…)

I often forget what I have inspired or motivated the staff to accomplish under my “vision”.

To have your vision validated is amazing. Validation – I Make a Difference!

Then, as the presentation was wrapping up, other staff members who were sitting in the audience said, “Don’t worry, Ms. Wood.  We’ll Tweet this and tag you.”  Six or seven months ago, teachers in our district would not have embraced Twitter or social media.  They didn’t even know what maker spaces were and how they could inspire students.  Only a few knew of genius hour and less than ten ever attended an Ed Camp.

How exciting!  These are things that I brought to Barnegat.  My vision was validated. Teachers and administrators are inspired by my innovation.(Wow!) They have also observed me fail publicly, get back up, and try again. I am humbled to work for the most amazing staff of educators.

The role of Superintendent is challenging.  It is often without thanks and with much criticism.  I realized tonight that the only thanks I need is seeing my vision embraced by teachers and enhanced by their talent and skill.




Haim G. Ginott said: 

I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.

As I read and reflect on this quote, I shamefully share the following story.

I am a member of the #compelledtribe.  We have been charged to share our “my bad” story as novice educators.  Though I am not proud of what I am going to share, it is important. If others can learn from my mistakes, perhaps I can spare the heartache of students with inexperienced teachers. I was once that inexperienced teacher who hadn’t quite learned to honor and respect the needs of her students.
I was a High School Band Director and it was time to audition for “chairs”.   First Chair of any section was a coveted position.  It meant recognition, solos, and leadership amongst fellow band members. As a novice teacher, I was proud of the way I was going to handle auditions.  I knew all there was to know about auditioning, after all.  I was a teacher and a performer. It was very equitable.  Students were assigned a student identification number per section as well as a musical selection and some scales they would be performing.  They also received a rubric with expectations and specific points awarded for each performance category.  I was READY to assess them and determine who would sit which chairs for the beginning of the school year.

In addition, students received solo or small group lessons prior to the audition. I wanted each student to have the opportunity to be successful.  I figured if they were willing to practice and work hard for first or second chair, they’d be willing to strive for their best this year and be invaluable members to the band’s overall performance.

The day of auditions arrived and students were nervous and excited.  I was too.  It was my opportunity to be organized and run a very fair and equitable audition process.  “Blind” auditions commenced. I listened to every student who was interested in auditioning for a chair.  There were many.  I was a new teacher and they wanted to impress me just like I hoped to impress them.  I used rubrics and rated what I heard.

When the tabulations were done, I began aligning student identification numbers to individual students.  As I finished, I discovered “Jennifer” who was a senior and, from what I understood, always sat first chair.   But according to my results, she was NOT ranked first. 

To this day I am embarrassed by my actions. I completed the tabulations and posted the chair rankings on the instrument closet door, throwing caution to the wind.  My thoughts were, “Oh well.  I know what I heard.”  When the students arrived, “Jennifer” was hysterical.

She lost first chair to a sophomore. 

This caused complete havoc in the band.  What I had hoped would unify the students and gain respect for me, completely backfired.  My “process” was not effective.  Students took sides. Parents were angry.  Administration was involved. 

There were several options I could have chosen.  For a true, appropriate audition process, another music teacher should have listened with me, or even a third.  We should have listened, discussed, reflected, and agreed on each chair candidate as they were auditioning.  This also would have assisted in defending my process.  With the way I did things it was “my ears” against student performances.  Imagine the criticism of the new music teacher – me!

If “Jennifer” truly did not get the top spot, a meeting with “Jennifer” and a call home to her parents before the rankings were posted surely would have been appropriate. 

I lost credibility that day.  But more importantly, I crushed a student.  It was awful. 

I share this story in the hopes that novice teachers will learn. Maybe this post will find its way to “Jennifer” and she will understand what a foolish, inexperienced teacher I was and forgive my careless act toward a talented young lady.

Go forth and be cautious in your teachings,  for you have the ability to shape a child forever.

Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.   ~ John Wooden

How Pat Summitt Changed My Life…


I never played basketball.  I am only 5’2′”.

I don’t watch professional sports and really never have. I root for all of the athletic programs and student athletes in the Barnegat School District where I am the Superintendent.  As a spectator, I am most proud of my own children.  During their sporting events, I am the screaming, excited, passionate, worried, on-the-edge-of-her-seat, proud mom.

I am not much of an athlete.  A few years ago I completed the Jersey Girl Triathlon, the Tough Mudder, the Color Run, and a bunch of 5K’s.  Exercise is essential for a healthy mind and body, yet lately, time is not on my side.

When I started my teaching career, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a High School Marching Band Director.  I know…crazy, right?  I was young and inexperienced but so incredibly passionate about music, teaching music, performing, listening, and working hard to provide rewarding musical experiences for my students.

(Don’t worry, this whole blog is not about music.  Hang in there…)

If you ask any Marching Band Director, musicianship (in all it’s beauty) is nearly impossible when the band’s instrumentation is spread over ten yards or more of a football field.  There are color guard flags and rifles impacting sound (and vision). Student musicians are trying desperately to hit their marks for the drill they have been working on since band camp.  It is still ninety degrees in late September. The band is wearing polyester uniforms. They are trying to keep in step with each other, watch and listen to the drum major, and their view is partially obstructed by a hat with a giant feather on it!   It’s kind of like trying to swim a 200 meter freestyle race with a blindfold on, one arm tied behind your head, and a five pound weight tied only around one ankle.

This, my friends, is what Marching Band is all about.

When I was a Band Director, there was another band director nearby.  Her name was Karen also.  Just like all the head football coaches knew each other, so did we.  The other Karen was amazing.  Her band placed in the top three bands for local, county, and state competitions year after year.  They were accomplished musicians.  Her students had mastered the “wall of sound.”  If you have never been to a marching band competition or a drum corps show, you have already stopped reading this blog.  The “wall of sound” blows your mind every time.  It is that moment in the show when the sound coming from that band in front of you simply lifts you out of your chair.  You can feel the music notes dappled across your face.  Your hair blows back and you can’t breathe.  This happens because it is LOUD but also because it is a moment of sheer beauty.  A moment of outstanding intonation…full, beautiful music.

The other Karen’s band also mastered amazing Latin rhythms, how to perform with character, when to play to the crowd, how to be amazing showman, and how to choose music that really showed off their talents.

The other Karen beat me every time.

So, I did what any coach would do.  I tried to emulate her.  She became my mentor and friend and she introduced me to Pat Summitt.  I never met the late, great coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers. But the other Karen told me to read, “Reach for the Summitt“.  It was the first book I read that motivated me, captured my attention, inspired me, and provided “coaching” strategies that I could apply to my work as a Marching Band Director.

The band’s performance improved.  I had an amazing mentor and friend in the other Karen.  But reading Coach Summitt’s book did something astounding for me.  It made me hungry to be led, a desire to be inspired, and drove me to improve my “coaching”. It gave me the courage to try and keep trying. Summitt’s book encouraged me to look within for strength, reach to others for support, and persevere even when I wanted to quit.

I believed in the things that Pat Summitt believed in and I still do today.  We are a team. Character Matters. Work together toward a common goal to achieve the best outcomes. MAKE CONNECTIONS WITH YOUR TEAM.

Pat Summitt said, “What I see are not the numbers.  I see their faces.”

As a teacher, I had the opportunity to see the faces of many, many students. Today I have the honor of seeing my former students as successful adults.  I see the current students in my district as amazing students with unyielding potential.

Pat Summitt was a hero to me and many others. As a woman, I was floored by her strength and her successes.

images summitt

In her memory, I will commit to what she believed in and reaffirm my beliefs in her teachings. Do everything with character and integrity. Your team is your family. Make connections.

Thanks, Coach.


Brave or Stupid?

Sometimes, in the quest for feedback we take action that can brave or stupid depending on the outcome.

Last week I created an anonymous survey that went to the entire staff.  It only had a few questions and allowed for complete anonynimity (except whether employees were administrators, teachers, secretaries, custodians, drivers, etc).  The survey also allowed for completely open ended responses.

I asked staff to provide feedback that I might grow from.  Areas for suggestions were in communication with staff and community, specific areas of strength, weakness, and areas in need of improvement.

Why would a Superintendent ask these questions of her staff?  The Superintendent evaluation is conducted by the Board of Education so what could this information possibly be used for?

There were two reasons I chose to ask the staff to provide feedback.

I read a blog about a teacher who invited student feedback from her classes.  It was remarkable and inspiring.  She asked students about content, projects, collaborating with classmates, assessments, and rapport with the teacher.  The student responses were amazing!  The teacher gained perspective, received valuable information, and grew through the process.  Who doesn’t seek growth so I thought, “Why not me?”

I wondered if I could do it…on a district level.

I also hoped to inspire the teachers in my district to do the same.  How can I expect them to ask for feedback from their students if I am afraid to ask it from them?

The second reason is what drives me every day.  It is the goal to improve my leadership so I may inspire teachers and educate students.  It is to persevere through challenging situations and find success from failure.  It is to strive for what is best in education even when it feels like the world is against me.

I am not sure what those survey results will reveal but I will read each comment, reflect, and apply the suggestions from a staff of educators I respect and honor. Brave or stupid?  Time will tell but I look forward with anticipation to becoming a better “me”.