Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Typical Day

Regularly, I am asked, "What did you do at work, today?" Embarrassingly, I'm not always able to answer that question. And it isn't because the nature of my work is top-secret. Instead, there are more days than not that are so full that they are over before I've ever had a chance to come-up for air. Education is busy work.

That's is why I'm glad that Adam Welcome (@awelcome) posed the challenge - pick a day and blog, via a list, about everything that we (principals) do during a given day - to our #PrincipalsInAction Voxer group (check out Adam's blog on the topic, which will be released via Ed Week). This would be a good opportunity for me to try to slow down, reflect on what it is that I am doing, and think about how I spend my time in-order to best meet the needs of our staff, students, and other school community.

So, as a principal of a K-2 elementary school, what do I do all day? I should warn you, there is a lot here; this is a long post, much longer than I had initially imagined.

Anyways, here is a little bit of an insight as to what I do on a typical day (this typical day just happened to be on Monday, September 28th, 2015).

  • I arrived at school just before 8am, in-time for the mini-PD sessions that some of our Grant Wood Area Educational Agency consultants were leading for our teachers in the areas of Google Docs/Drive and Twitter. I participated in the Twitter session.
  • At the conclusion of our Twitter PD, I went outside to greet our students on the playground/on their way into the school. 
  • I then led the morning announcements over the intercom with the help of some of our second grade students.
  • After the announcements, our superintendent arrived; I joined him in my office as we visited with one of our tech consults who was sticking around for the day, making herself available to our teachers via a format similar to a college professor's office hours. She was explaining to us the items that she'd brought to demo - Bee Bot and Blue Bot, Dash and Dot, and a Sphero Ball (all programming robots), a Little Bits circuit set, a mini drone, and an Osmo. 
  • We took the drone out to the hallway where a kindergarten class was walking by on their way to the library. One student was struggling to follow along with his peers; fortunately flying the drone down the hallway serves as a pretty good motivator to get him to the library. 
  • Back in my office, our superintendent, our tech consultant, and myself had a conversation about technology in education.
  • Quickly I checked my voicemail, and returned a phone call.
  • I headed out of my office and into a classroom to grab a student who I've been trying really hard to connect with; I brought this student to my office to let him demo one of our programming robots.
  • I was called down to a classroom to assist with a student. That student and I had a conversation, and he went back to his class.
  • I had a conversation with our school counselor in regards to a student that we've both been spending quite a bit of time working with.
  • Stopped-in, quickly, to two of our second grade classrooms while I was down in that end of the hallway.
  • On my way back down the hallway, I checked-in with a student who had been sent-out of the classroom. We had a conversation, and with my support he re-entered the classroom.
  • I returned to my office, to have a brief conversation with our tech consultant about some follow-up to the Twitter PD that we'd done this morning/
  • A student was brought to my office as a result of him failing to stay on task and complete his work. Together, we went back to his classroom, and with my assistance, he completed his work requirements. 
  • A student had earned a break so he came to my office where he was able to experiment with Little Bits circuit set.
  • Again, I walked down the hallway seeking-out one of our special education teachers to discuss some recess options for one of her students.
  • Back in the office, I checked-in with our nurse, upon hearing of a multitude of students not feeling well throughout the building.
  • Back out in the hallway, I stopped into a classroom where students were reading to self. I sat with two students for a moment listening to them read and reading with them.
  • I went to find two students to check-in with. One of the two students was reading to self; I praised this student for doing such a good job of being on task. The other student needed some help getting started with a spelling/word work activity so I sat down and helped her get started.
  • Quickly, I glanced at my email noticing that there was an email needing a reply regarding confirmation of a meeting scheduled for later in the day. So I responded to that particular email, and I left the rest for later.
  • Again, I touched-base with our school counselor regarding the same student that we'd discussed earlier in the morning.
  • I was called to a classroom to assist with a student. I spent some time with this particular student waiting for him to calm-down to the point that he could have a conversation with me. Once he was ready, we role played a better way to respond when told that we have to wait to use the restroom.
  • Our tech consultant and I took our drone outside to the playground, but...the battery wasn't cooperating. It didn't fly.
  • I came back inside and checked in with a class/student.
  • Upon exiting that last classroom, I happened upon a student who wasn't willingly transitioning back to his classroom. I had a conversation with the student, and we went back into his classroom.
  • Again, I quickly checked my email to see if any emails needed an immediate response.
  • I found a student in the hallway who was working on finishing the writing prompt, "This weekend, I..." I sat with the student and helped him finish his writing. While working with this student, I showed him a picture of the work that my son had done at his school. The student remarked, "Where you proud of him?" I replied by saying, "I was! Just like I'm proud of you for finishing your work!" I thought that this was a really neat moment. I then helped transition this same student back into the classroom where I sat with him for five minutes.
  • I went back to my office where I attempted to make a positive phone call home in regards to one of our students. No answer. I shared the minor celebration via voice mail.
  • Back in the hallway, I walked a student down to the gym so that he could join the rest of his class for P.E.
  • Back in my office, while attempting to eat lunch, I had to prepare a CPI form to be sent home and to our administrative office.
  • I checked-in with our secretary to find-out what my crossing guard duties would be while I filled-in for one of our associates who was out for the day.
  • A second grade student, probably the biggest Green Bay Packers fan in our school, brought me a picture that he had drawn for me of the Chicago Bears (he knows that I am a big Chicago Bears fan).
  • I replied to a teacher's email where she was inviting me into her classroom to watch her students graph their progress; unfortunately, I had to decline the invitation (this time).
  • I left the office to do a couple of classroom walkthroughs.
  • I was told about a student struggling to come inside from recess so I headed to the playground and worked on getting him back inside and into his classroom.
  • Our tech consultant found me to tell me that the drone was charged so I got to fly it for a few minutes in the hallway.
  • Shortly before 2pm, I had to cross town to go to our district's other K-2 building to have a meeting regarding our School In Need of Assistance plan
  • At 3pm, I returned to school in-order to perform my crossing guard duties at dismissal.
  • After my crossing guard duty ended, we had a building leadership team meeting scheduled from 3:45 to 4:45.
  • My day wasn't done yet. For the next two hours I caught-up on email, had a cup of coffee, made copies, signed forms and requests, and sorted some papers.
  • At 7pm, I was present for our school board meeting.
  • After the board meeting, while driving home I was able to return a couple of phone calls and get caught up on some of my Voxer groups. 
  • A little before 8:30pm, I arrived home...just in time to read my son a book as he was getting ready for bed.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Everything Circles Back Around

When I first became a principal, my new principal mentor gave me the idea to read to classes. So I did. Each week I would go into some of our classrooms to read to the classes that asked me to visit. The teachers were responsible for selecting the books that I read. And it went okay. I think that the students really enjoyed it; it might have been more of a hassle for the teachers that participated.

Last spring, on his blog (linked), Adam Welcome (@awelcome) shared the model that he uses to read to classes. His process gave this much more purpose and structure. It was an idea that I planned to steal and implement.

Fast forward to the present. I've just finished reading The Dot to all of our classrooms. It went really well. I timed this to coincide with International Dot Day (September 15th-ish), and after I read our students had the opportunity to make their own marks and create their own dots.

But something happened as I sat down (not on the time #principalsinaction) to read The Dot to one of our first grade classes. The students knew that I was going to be reading to them, they seemed excited about this, and they began to share some things with me. Some of the students, proudly, began telling me how they could read. However, one little girl spoke up and said, " I can't read."

I corrected this little girl and told her that "She can't read, yet." I then went on to tell her how glad I was that she shared this information with me because this is exactly what The Dot is about. It's a book about not being able do something, yet, and then what happens when the right steps are taken.

I am convinced that everything circles back around to Carol Dweck's theories of mindset. I am also convinced that developing a growth mindset is crucial to all that we do. If we don't believe that we can accomplish something, then the writing is already on the wall in regards to how it is going to turn-out. Our actions, as educators, must model the belief that we can accomplish anything with the right amounts of effort, practice, and support. We must model this for kids. We must convince kids that they, too, can accomplish anything. If kids don't believe that they can do something, how will they ever do it?  We have to change their mindset. It is one of our most important jobs; to instill this growth mindset in our students. It is a game changer.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What Our Students Need

You can Google Brett Greenwood's story. It is rather remarkable.

Last night, after months and years of rehabilitation, he was able to lead the Iowa Hawkeyes football team (his former team) onto the field. Embedded, below, is the inspirational clip of that happening.

He is flanked by his former strengths & conditioning coach, Chris Doyle, and one of his former teammate's, Pat Angerer.

What I really LOVE about this clip is seeing the constant encouragement that Greenwood receives. For the 45+/- seconds while Greenwood is walking, Angerer and Doyle are constantly in his ear to give him words of encouragement; telling him how he can do this.

This is what our students need. Our students need someone, multiple people, constantly giving them that same level of encouragement. They need someone telling them that they can do it. They need someone praising them that they are doing it. And this needs to be happening all day long for our kids.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

We Can Be More ,We Can Be Much More

A couple of summers ago, at the annual School Administrators of Iowa conference, Angela Maiers shared the following video - "It's Time for TED" - TED2012 remixed

I LOVE this video.

Last month, I shared this video with our teachers at Starry Elementary School. As they watched the short video, I asked them to think about the implications that this video has regarding education.

These were the responses that staff shared as their exit slip that afternoon:
  • We can always do the impossible; we can always do more for the kids
  • When we are teaching students we need to accept other ways of thinking. We need to let students think differently. Our job is to facilitate knowledge. We didn't create it, and we shouldn't limit it.
  • Look towards the future, not the past. Focus on the child's future and where they are going, not where they have been. Look forward to tomorrow, don't dwell on the past.
  • Work together, think bigger, create, change the world, think of the problem differently, miracle of your mind is that you can see the future differently
  • Think outside the box, empower everyone, don't give up
  • Education is always changing for the better. Working together, we can make a positive impact on our students education and lives
  • We are all here for the kids and if we think BIG we can help them think outside the box to change the world.
  • We hopefully teach imagination to be someone or somewhere else, to put their minds to a place that is better than where they are now.
  • Believe in the impossible! Be creative!
  • The TED talk was inspiring us to look for the positives, be a believer, and that we need to use the miracle of our mind!
  • Makes me think about how important education and knowledge is to change our world into something different and awesome.
  • Teachers are not the key to this knowledge...we are the guide. The key is our students. How can we help them to make a difference? How can I make a difference for them?
  • Always believe in your students. Never doubt their abilities because they can always go beyond what you think.
  • We as teachers need to help kids to first dream big and second help lead them to their dreams through education.
  • In relation to using your mind to imagine the world as it isn't, our job is to inspire creativity and imagination just as much as we teach them facts
  • I will try my hardest to give the tools that each kids needs to be successful! I believe that every child can succeed; each child has a special gift to share!
  • We have the ability to see what students can become, the ability to help students be more than what they are now, the ability to change the future through how we teach and connect with our students.
  • Creativity is used around the world in every career and pursuit. It is needed for new ideas and ways of thinking. What better place to nurture this than the art room and the specials.
  • Believe in your students; they can imagine, invent, think big thoughts, and learn by tools we as teachers give them
  • Kids are able to imagine things without limitations we as adults place on our ideas. We all need to work together to change the world - or the lives of our students.
  • In relation to working together, I find that it is not only important for teachers to work together and share ideas and suggestions, but also getting kids to work together.
  • Imagine, ideas, and the drive to make a difference
  • We can be much more; we can be better learners; we can imagine a better future for our learners
  • Believe, the miracle of  your mind, ideas, think differently; be open to thinking differently and sharing ideas
  • This video helps us think about our goals and how to reach them. We should be open to new ideas to achieve our goal. We need to try new things to think of ways to reach all students.
  • Our students have lots of ideas. We as teachers need to use the tools we have to unlock their full potential of learning.
  • Teaching is a huge responsibility that you can't do alone. We are in it together and we must stay positive. We are building the future and we need to make all students, staff, parents, administrators, feel like they are important and that they are rock stars!
I LOVE these responses. All students deserve to go to schools where the educators think and act in a way that reflects what is captured above. Words can't express how excited and proud I am to be working with a group of educators that share these mindsets about students, learning, and teaching. We can be more, we can be much more.