Martin R. Geoghegan
John T. Nichols, Jr. Middle Schools
What is the one thing you are really passionate about?
I am most passionate about student learning. I am always trying to find new ways to get our students greater achievement. I want our students to be engaged with their learning. I want them to see that education is the key to their success. In doing so, we as a school community have endeavored to make the John T. Nichols, Jr. Middle School a place students want to be. We have tried, piloted, and advanced many different ideas in order to catch our kids’ interests in their education. We are into our second year of piloting an English Language Arts curriculum based on 21st Century skills. We wanted to see our students collaborating, communicating, critically thinking, and creating more, and through ELA we saw the best entrance. In sixth grade, we discerned that further emphasis on reading was needed, writing skills in seventh, and presenting with evidence in eighth, and so we changed how we were delivering our ELA curriculum. These changes take buy-in by the teachers, parents, community, and students; and we did it. We worked together to show that our vision for where our students need to be was based on these skills. We empowered our teachers to work collaboratively and change the curriculum to fit these needs. In sixth grade, we are individualizing our instruction in helping to close the gaps with our students’ deficiencies in reading. In seventh, we see our students writing for authentic audiences as they blog for the world. In eighth grade, students are choosing a personal, community support-based project to research and present in keystone presentations at the end of the year. Three years of learning build to this moment. Teachers have had the autonomy to design these classes and make them their own as they work with their students. Going hand-in-hand with all of these changes has been our utilization of technology. This past school year we became a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment. Students are bringing in tablets, laptops, smart phones, and even iPods to use in their classes. We have purchased classroom sets of tablets to be shared amongst grades and teams for all to take advantage of the technology we have. We see our students not leaving the “real world” behind as they enter our doors as we do a better job incorporating school with the lives our students live. As you can tell, I get pretty passionate when I speak of changing how “we do school” to better equip our students for their future.
What are you 2/3 favorite apps or tools?
At the Nichols, we are trying to utilize being a Google school more. We have our students, teachers, and administrators using the Google Drive to communicate and collaborate more. I love using my Chrome book as my “go-to” technology tool. It is durable, easy to use, and designed well. We are developing our abilities to use Google Apps better. Students are working and collaborating with partners and teachers on their writings. Teachers are working with their students and giving them feedback quicker than they ever could with Google Drive and Google Docs. I have been so impressed with how our teachers have taken to these advancements and we see the effectiveness in using them. Keeping in the Google family, I love using my Blogger to blog for my families and students. I highlight special events we have in school as well as feature the achievements we are working on in the building. Parents at the middle school level cannot always depend on their child to bring home communication from school. This is where my blog comes in. It tells them what’s happening, what’s going on, and where we hope to be. There is also a school Twitter feed on the site to give parents updates on school announcements as well. We at Nichols are definitely a Google School.
What is your current project?
Working simultaneously with my last answer, our current project at school is getting more efficient and effective with using the Google Applications for Education (GAFE). All of our students have Google email addresses and have started using the Google suite to communicate and collaborate with their peers and their teachers. Teachers have also begun to use app Google Classroom. Our Tech Department has run trainings and our teachers are jumping on to this technology advancement. We continue to try to purchase more tablets for the students to be able to use in school. We use these tablet carts to supplement for those students who do not have a device to bring in on their own. We hope to eventually be a one-to-one environment, but we know how difficult that is. If we continue to put our efforts into supplementing for those students who do not have the means we are going to continue to soar. All of this works together. We are attempting to make school more like the world our students are going to live in in the future.
Who do you admire most? Why?
I am impressed on a daily basis by those people around me. Whether it’s the phenomenal educators in my PLN (Professional Learning Network), in my district, across the Commonwealth or throughout the United States and the world; there are so many to admire. I am so impressed with what people are doing and sharing in their own educational environments. I am also so impressed with the teachers in my building; you have to admire them. With all that is going on in education right now, they are still willing to take risks and do whatever they can to help our students achieve. And finally, I can’t stop admiring our students. Whether I am walking through our classrooms and seeing them use their devices, work in our Google Drive, or just asking us, “Can we do it this way instead?” they are ones we are doing all this for, so their input is so important.
How do you stay current on trends and new technology?
What I use to stay current on trends and new technology is Twitter. I love it for my own professional development, for articles, and to be in touch with my PLN. Twitter is such a phenomenal place to stay up-to-date on recent advances in education. I founded and moderate the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association (MSSAA) monthly chat, #MSSAAchat, on the second Tuesday of each month. During this chat, educators across the state as well as all over the country add in their input to questions and share how they are dealing with certain situations. It is, in my opinion, the best Professional Development out there. I follow educators from everywhere in the world and get answers to questions that I am dealing with in my middle school in Massachusetts. It is quick, easy, and efficient. If you don’t have a Twitter account yet, #GetOneNow is the only thing I have to say to you. Seriously, take a look at it and if you need any help, reach out to me or anyone else; we want to see as many educators as we can on Twitter. The more educators on Twitter will only help all of us get to where we need to be as engaged educators.