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

Friday, January 1, 2016

One Word - Relentless

At this time of year everyone is making New Year's Resolutions and trying to find ways to become
better as people and in their work. We all know how hard it is to follow through on these resolutions, although by being disciplined and focused on our goals, we can make the changes necessary to be better.

I have always struggled with the idea of a New Year's Resolution because I feel that if you want to change your life or you want to do something different then you (as Nike says) Just Do It!  Why wait for the New Year?  If you need a resolution or a date on a calendar to change your life then there is a good chance that you won't be able to follow through on your promises.  As Pablo Picasso once said, "I am always doing things that I can't do. That is how I get to do them."  When I want something, I don't wait to do it. I just do it.

One thing that I have recently seen more of on Twitter is the notion of ONE WORD.  This comes
from the book by Jon Gordon, One Word That Will Change Your Life.  The idea is simple and helps you to simplify and focus your energy using this one word in every aspect of your work and life.  I really like this concept because of it's simplicity and because the "One Word" will hopefully, help me to transform and focus my energies. 

My One Word for 2016 is RELENTLESS!  Some who know me might say that this has always been my One Word but hopefully I can use this word to continue to focus my energies for my school and in my life in order to continue to grow and improve.