Sunday, August 13, 2017

It's Up To Us!

I saw this on social media this morning and decided that I needed to share my thoughts.

I'm not only saddened and disheartened by the events taking place in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, I'm disgusted! Although I'm usually the last one to see the news or espouse a political opinion, this is not politics. This hatred, racism and bigotry is something that everyone should be disgusted by. My staff and I work very hard teaching kindness and love in our school, not because the state says we are supposed to but because it's the right thing to do.  We teach that not one of us is better than another because of the color of our skin or how we were raised or our country of origin.  We believe this. We share this. Our school and community believe this and want this for our children. They trust that we are sharing these values with their kids.

As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently stated, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." YES! YES! YES!  This is all we want for all of our children. For them to have a chance based on who they really are!

Every single day, this is what we work for. Yes, we want our students to meet state standards on tests but our kids are so much more than that. They are kind to each other. They care about others and work hard to do their best. We want to give them the skills and knowledge to become good citizens and care about others.  We want to teach them work ethic and collaboration. We want them to care about their neighbors and friends. We want them to care about our country. This was the foundation of public schools from the start. We want to build good citizens in order that the freedoms that our forefathers fought for remain in place. When we say, "All men are created equal," we mean it for all people in our country, no matter their beliefs or skin color. This is the character that we desire. This is the world we want to live in.  What happened to those white supremacists and neo-Nazis in their homes and schools that made them that way? How could this happen in this day and age... in our country? How did we miss our mark in teaching them? This is our country. What went wrong?

As Senator John McCain stated, "Our Founders fought a revolution for the idea that all men are created equal. The heirs of that revolution fought a Civil War to save our nation, conceived of liberty and dedicated to that revolutionary proposition."“White supremacists and neo-Nazis are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism and the ideals that define us as a people and make our nation special.
Thank you Sean Thom for sharing this on Facebook

And so to my fellow educators, it's up to us! It's up to us to teach and share love and kindness. It's up to us to model these things that make our country special in order that our children respect and love each other and stand up against racism and bigotry. Our children need us. Our country needs us. Let's do our job and teach kindness, equality, freedom and character. Let's be that light. Let's share that kindness.  Let's stand up to hatred. IT'S UP TO US!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Making The Time To Write and Share

Wow!  I opened up my Blogger page and realized it's been 6 months since I've written anything (in this blog, at least).  So much has happened and so much time has passed.  It's not that I didn't have anything to say. People that know me know that, although I'm quiet, I always have an opinion and don't mind sharing and that I'm strong in my convictions.  The reason I haven't written is because I have been busy and it has moved down on my list of things to do.  I know I need to be better about it, but I just can't seem to "make" the time.

That's right, I said "MAKE" the time.  Because if it's not important, you can never "find" the time.  But if it's important, we can always "MAKE" the time. Maybe it's hasn't been important to me. Maybe I haven't really had anything significant to share.  Maybe, I've been a little lazy.  Who knows.  What I do know is, it's time to "MAKE" time to write and share.  I've begun reading Aaron Hogan's Shattering The Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths that Will Help You Thrive  . In his book, he talks about the value of connecting and sharing your thoughts and ideas. He discusses the importance of finding what you need to excel and connecting with those that will support and challenge you.  Although I've been active on Twitter, it's time to start writing more.

So here it is!  My first post in over 6 months.  What do I have to say and share?  Probably not much except that I'm excited to head to the National Principal's Conference this weekend and connect with so many great educators and thought leaders.  I'm excited to see Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf share their awesome leadership talents in their Lead Like A Pirate session. I look forward to finally meeting Julie Smith and seeing her in her Master The Media action.  I'm excited to meet up with old friends and connect with new friends and most of all, I'm excited to be inspired again to write and share.  Big conferences and small EdCamps always inspire me.  I look forward to learning new things and getting "jacked up" for the rest of the summer and next year.

Finally, I want to share something that Angela Watson shared during her #TCT17 keynote.  I think I've seen it before because Jon Spencer shared it over a year ago, but it reminds me to "Quit Wearing Busy Like A Badge of Honor".  Check it out!

 I will work to be better. Have a great summer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

You Know Who You Are!

I am lucky to have met many people in the field of education who are very smart, very inspirational, and, of course, visionary.  All of these people contribute to who I am because I learn from each and every one of them.  Each book I read and each conference or workshop I attend contributes to my personal and professional growth.  Twitter has opened up a world of learning and friendships that I could never have imagined a few years ago.  Each day, I enjoy reading tweets and blogs from the many great educators who share on social media.  Much of what is written, I steal and share with the staff at my school and my district.

Social media is amazing in that respect. We can learn and converse globally with educators who are inspirational and on the cutting edge of all that is happening in our field.

But this blog is about those people who I've been lucky enough to meet face to face. This blog is about those who inspire me daily. This blog is about the educators that I call my friends. This blog is about those who light up the room the moment they walk in because of their personality and positivity.  You know who you are! 

You're the ones who always have a smile on your face when you greet me and are genuinely happy to see me. You're the ones who seem to be able to dance without any music and sing without being worried about how you sound. You're the ones who say yes when I share an idea or thought and provide inspiration when I need it.  You're the ones that challenge me to be better. You're the ones who always have kids around you in the classroom and adults around you at conferences. You're the ones who bring laughter and joy everywhere you go. You're the ones who I know are in the room, even when I can't see you because there is are positive vibes everywhere. You're the ones that I want to hang around with, hoping some of what you have will rub off on me.

I want to thank each and every one of you for your inspiration and positive approach to life. I know you can't help it, it's just who you are...But for that, I'm grateful. I choose to be around you. I choose to be like you. I choose you! 

Keep doing what you're doing because it's amazing and we all need you.  Thank you!

....And for those of you who I haven't met yet who have this ability, I look forward to meeting you and being like you.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Let's Do This

Tuesday, November 8 was a big day for our country.  The election for President was taking place and this election was like no other that I could remember.

Let me start by saying that I am the principal of a PreK through grade 3 school.  Every election day we do a school election because we feel it is important that our students understand that they also have a voice and that their right to vote (even though it is years away) is an important right that no one should take lightly.  Each student was given one sheet of paper with the candidates names on it.  All they have to do is check off which candidate they would vote for.  Now we realize that 4-9 year-old students usually parrot their parent feelings and votes on many issues but we still like to help the students understand the voting process and responsibility.  As students walked into the gym for the morning assembly, they dropped their ballots into a box.  We did a short assembly celebrating our country and our rights and before sending the students off to class, we talked about being respectful, no matter how the vote turned out.

Later in the day, my school counselor, who ran the assembly and was counting the votes, came to me with a disturbing issue.  Not only did our student vote, but many of them felt motivated to write disparaging comments about the other candidates on the form.... words that students this age should not be saying or using in this context.  Things like, "(Candidate name) sucks" and other, less offensive things. From the mouths of babes....

These are the words of our children but the thoughts of our adults. We as parents and educators must do a better job of teaching kindness, not hatred. We must teach respect not intimidation and deceit. We must teach empathy so that our children can feel and understand.  We (families and educators) have the power to make the difference. None of us is perfect but we must teach our children that kindness and empathy are how they can make a difference.

What we've seen over the past several months has not been pretty. What our children have seen is not what I want for the world. It's not why I do what I do. We need to pay attention to our own behaviors and model what we want. There is still hope but it's our job as parents and teachers to make this
world a world we want to live in. Don't give in. Don't allow the negative to win. We have a voice and we need to use it. Our voice is our children. Teach kindness and respect. Teach responsibility. Teach character and forgiveness. And most of all, teach HOPE!

I'm calling on teachers and parents to pay attention to your children. Listen to what you say and be careful with your words. Your words will become their words. Your thoughts will become their thoughts.  Pay attention to what your children are watching on TV and pay attention to the video games they play. Check their phones and make sure they are being the positive people you hope that your raised.  Talk to children and have real discussions about real things in a way they can understand. Let them know your hopes and dreams for them and how kindness will win out.

It's up to us so LET'S DO THIS!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Working on that Epic Finish

Each week I send a brief newsletter called "What's Happening" at Slackwood School to my staff. This is an easy to read calendar of upcoming events and timeline details.   I also try to share inspirational quotes or brief thoughts on our school.  Believe me, it's nothing special, but it serves the purpose.  For the past two weeks I've used quotes about ending the year with the same fervor and excitement that we started the year with.  I realize this is hard with all of the deadlines and all of scheduled activities that are creeping into class time but I feel it's important, now, more than ever, that our teachers create those life-changing lessons and provide our students with experiences that make them excited to come to school.

It's Friday at 11:00 AM with one week of school remaining and I'm walking through the building. The rooms are not quiet as you might find in some schools. The students are everywhere working. Working, talking, collaborating.  There is excitement and fun. Each class I walk into students are excited to show me what they are working on. Excited to show me their superhero costumes or their writing assignments.

It's T- day in first grade so there are big classroom games of Tic-Tac-Toe going on.  One class in second grade is working on multiple projects which include a classroom movie and their Academy Awards of Books, complete with after-party (Student said, "Can we have an after-party?" As part of the planning for these book awards.  Teacher responds, "Why of course!"). This is all after this class finished skyping with another class in Massachusetts.  Another class is finishing a science unit and working on making a depiction of the solar system.  Students are excited to show me everything they are doing in every class I walk into.  I walk into a third grade class and the students are working in groups on their parts for reader's theater.  The same thing is going on right outside in the hallway with a second grade group of students practicing their parts and working (without knowing it's work) on their fluency.  In and out of every classroom and it's the same. Fun and exciting learning activities everywhere I turn.

Last year, I wrote a post about how the Slackwood Staff really had taken to Teaching Like Pirates.
I get to see teachers doing amazing things for our students on a daily basis. It hit me in the face today, just how lucky I am to work in a school where all of the people get it. A place where we always do what's best for kids and we always work to build a love of learning. One more week until summer break and I know that our students are excited about each and every day. It's not only going to be good, it's going to be EPIC!

Below is a copy of a quick email I sent out to staff to recognize their work.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Time to Recalculate

Leading Like A Pirate isn't easy. It's been a really tough week at school where it seemed that every plan that was made never came to fruition. Every time I thought I was going to get something done, something else came up that needed my attention. As my friend Beth Houf so aptly put it, "Drinking from the firehose," is the way I felt. Heck, I guess that is nothing new for most of us but it just seemed impossible to feel like I accomplished anything.  On top of that, student behaviors seemed to be escalating. In my five years here, I've always prided myself on having plans and solutions to help students get past their behavioral struggles and support positive outcomes for our most difficult students. I felt we had built a community where everyone respected our school, our building, and our staff.  This week, I felt at a loss for answers.

So what do you do when you have days, weeks, months like this?  What do you do when you get to that time of the year when paperwork, observations, testing, meetings, and "least preferred activities" seem to rule your thoughts and time?  I needed inspiration and I needed to recalculate.

This is what I did.  I opened my copy of Teach Like A Pirate and read back through the chapter on Transformation. This was so eye-opening and refreshing  and it reminded my of my "Why."  It reminded me of why I love my job so much and why I love my school. Now I'm ready to get back to action and create those experiences for our students that truly make them grow and learn.  It made made me look at my priorities and re-calculate.

This week's challenge is to re-calculate. To go back to your inspiration and your "Why."  Take a moment and re-read a part of any book, blog or article that provided you inspiration or guided you when you were excited and fresh. Read through the important parts and find that quote or sentence that resonates with you.  Take that quote and post it on the #LeadLAP hashtag.  If you have more than one... and I do, then post them all.  Finally, take that inspiration and live it.

This week I will be posting some of my favorite quotes that inspire me and then I will try to use them as inspiration each day.  I challenge you to do the same. Join me. Let's take a moment to share and inspire each other.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Principal For The Day - I'm the winner!

We often talk about giving up the classrooms to the students. We talk about student voice and choice. We know that empowered students learn better and that when we, the adults, talk less and allow our students to lead and explore, great things can happen. Maya Angelou said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."  Today, I tried to do better.  I was forced to do better.  I hope to keep doing better for a long time.

When my PTO asked us to come up with ideas for an auction to raise funds for our school, someone suggested we auction off the position of "Principal for the Day."  I agreed that it might be fun, so I went along with it.  On the night of the auction, it was one of the more popular items for our students to bid on (tickets put into a bag with one ticket pulled as the winner.)  I jokingly warned them, "It's probably not a job anyone wants." At the end of the auction, the winner was picked and an excited second grader came to claim her prize.  Little did I know that her win would be my great fortune.

Today was the day that my little second grader cashed in on her winning ticket. I made a schedule for her and sent out a reminder to her teacher and her parents.  Her mother and teacher told me she was excited. The schedule included all of the things I do on a regular day. Things like morning and afternoon bus duty.  Things such as lunch duty and visits to classrooms through the day. She even got to help with a Lock-Down drill.  Some of our district administrators agreed to come to meet with her, which was a bonus.  And...because I am still a teacher, I added time for her to write a reflection on her day. It was a full and busy day.  By the end of the day, I'm pretty sure she was tired and I know I was tired.

What I didn't know before the day started was how much I would learn from this second grader.  Her thoughtful and poignant comments on the teacher observation forms got me thinking about how I could do a better job of recognizing the things our teachers are doing that make their classes engaging and fun.  It also got me thinking that as teachers and administrators, we have to remember that student voice is powerful and very accurate.  Her discussions with the administrators were telling.  She gave them the student perspective on the curriculum, testing, and our programs.  I'm sure that her ideas will lead to changes in what we do.  Her thoughtful understanding of kindergarten behavior issues and suggestions for improvement made me proud. Most of all, I was reminded of how important it is that we listen to our students. Student voice is truly a powerful tool in building a better school.

Thank you Zoe Snellings for teaching me today.

Principal For The Day Schedule