Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Patrolling Our Beat

Last week, my grandfather in-law passed away. This week, I had plenty of time to reflect upon various topics during his visitation and funeral. He was a retired Davenport police officer. It 

A while back I was listening to a podcast. I forget who the host(s) were and what the episode was titled, but I remember the topic. The podcast talked about how as a result of events that have transpired throughout our country, post-Ferguson, there was a need for police work to be altered. It was time for the pendulum to swing back to the idea of beat cops.

As a school principal, I've listened to students compare me to a cop.

I'm okay with that, IF they are thinking of me as a beat cop.

According to urbandictionary.com, the definition of a beat cop is:
A beat cop is a police officer who walks, rides, cycles, or drives in a specific neighborhood, known as a "beat." Because the officer routinely patrols in the same area, he or she becomes well-known in the community, creating a positive relationship between law enforcement and the community.
I am not okay with that, IF they are thinking of me as a cop that catches bad guys. Unfortunately, this is sometimes people's perception of us as principals. You see, at our back-to-school night, I was introduced to a kindergarten student by his mom as the principal. I was the one who the "bad kids"  had to go see.
I quickly tried to explain to the incoming kindergartner and his mom that I didn't see "bad kids," but instead I saw kids that made bad choices.

This is an image that we, as principals, need to change.

As principals, we need to be instructional leaders. We need to be in classrooms. We need to be talking with teachers about what they are teaching, and with students about what they are learning. And then we need to celebrate all of the great things that are being accomplished in our schools that we see when we are patrolling our schools (our beat), thus creating positive relationships among our school community.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Other Side of the Table

As educators, for the last eight/nine years, my wife and I have always sat on one-side of the table for parent-teacher conferences. However, this past week, for our five-year-old son's first conference, we had the pleasure to sit on the other side for the first time.

It was a little strange. We didn't quite know what to expect.
Our son, Ryne, ready for school

We assumed that he'd do well in school. We knew that he liked school. We were confident regarding his academic progress. But we didn't know for certain. And as a parent, unfortunately, it seems be human nature to worry about your kid(s).

Ryne with his pre-school teacher on his birthday
That is why it was so nice to hear his teacher tell us how well he was doing. And I apologize, but I'm going to stray for a just moment to brag about the specific takeaways that we heard at his conference:

  1. His peers want to be friends with him because he is so caring
  2. Even when his peers are maybe not making the right choice, he is responsible enough not to follow suit
  3. Academically, he is at/or above what is expected at this time for a pre-school student
Previously, in my educator's role, I maybe failed to always see the significance of a parent-teacher conference for the parents whose student is doing fine. I'd like to think that I now have a better understanding for the magnitude of this event for all parents.

Kids spend a lot of time in schools. In fact, by my math, they spend approximately 6,300 hours in school each year. Parents want to know what is happening during that time. We want to know the bad. We want to know the good.

And I can't imagine that this gets old. I can't imagine no longer wanting to hear positive things about my child. I will still want to hear about the positive things that he does throughout his time as an elementary school student, and then as a middle school student, and eventually as a high school student. I will still want to hear about the positive things that he does when he is an adult (I know that my parents still enjoy hearing about my accomplishments as a professional).

As parents, we never get tired about hearing the positive things that our children do while they are at school.

As educators, we need to continue to point-out to our students ALL of the positive things that they do while they are at school and then we must share that information with their parents. That needs to be our obligation.

Monday, October 19, 2015

School Principals in Action: Getting Creative on Voxer

The following blog was originally written for and published by Voxer.
It can also be seen on Voxer's blog.

Adam Welcome: “Hey bro, are you on Voxer?!”

Me: “No...but I probably should be, huh?”

Adam Welcome: “My man, yes, like yesterday! Trust me! I’ll plug you in :)Sign up ASAP and send me a msg, will totally open up your PLN! awelcome”

That was the Twitter conversation that Adam Welcome and I had this past summer.

I proceeded to download Voxer, create an account, and began enhancing my connections with principals and educators across the country. These connections, which generally started on Twitter, are extended on Voxer on a much more personal level.

As I drive my daily 30-minute commute to and from work, I get the chance to get caught-up on my Voxes. Voxer allows me to reflect on my practices as a principal. It gives me the energy and motivation to push myself to be better and do more each day. It excites me to go to work and make a difference each day, and it rejuvenates me on the way home after what may have been a more difficult day.  After  hearing other principals share first hand on Voxer the celebrations and successes that they are having in their schools, Voxer has convinced me that I can do better that I can do more..

Voxer has been great! I owe a huge thanks to Adam for introducing me to Voxer, and I owe a huge thanks to Voxer for the continued passion that it has provided me towards my profession. It has made a positive impact on my practice as a school principal.

As a result of the Principals in Action Voxer group, the following are some of the things that I’ve been pushed to create and/or implement as a result of the Voxer conversations that I’ve been a part of include:

  • Birthday selfies - Justifiably, kids love celebrating their birthdays. In an effort to enhance and personalize the birthday celebrations for our students at school, I’m attempting to find them on their birthdays, and take ‘A Happy Birthday Selfie with Mr. Ewald’ that I share with Mom and/or Dad. The feedback that I have started to receive from these has been amazing.

  • Home visits - I’ve never done these before, now I have a couple on the horizon in an effort to improve the relationships that we have with some of the students that we struggle to connect with at school

  • School hashtag - I’ve been on Twitter for several years now. Each year my Twitter presence has grown. I’ve always wanted to have a school hashtag. Now we have one! #StarryShines

  • School podcasts - I haven’t done these yet, either. But I want to do them. After listening to other principals talk about their experience with school podcasts on Voxer, I, too, want to conduct podcasts by our students that would allow them to share some highlights from within our own school from a student’s perspective.

  • Some blog posts - The Principals in Action hashtag and Voxer group started as a challenge for each principal to complete over the course of a week. One challenge had to do with going into classes and reading to students; I blogged about this - Everything Circles Back Around. Another challenge had to do with blogging about all of the things that a principal does during the course of a random/typical day; linked is my blog on this topic - A Typical Day.

  • Twitter challenge - Like I mentioned, my Twitter presence has grown bit by bit the past couple of year. I’d like to think that my presence on Twitter has encouraged others to use Twitter as a learning tool. After a Twitter challenge (a task or tasks intended to increase someone’s Twitter presence) was shared in our Principals in Action Voxer group, I simulated something similar in my own school in an attempt to get more staff using Twitter as a communication/learning tool. The initial results of this seem to be very positive.

I plan to continue to use Voxer as a way to discuss issues with those in a similar position, motivate myself as well as others, and to share and replicate ideas. However, in an effort to become more efficient, I plan on starting to use Voxer to provide teachers with feedback after visiting their classrooms.

Traditionally, educators have operated in the isolation of their school and classroom. But Voxer has brought educators together, on our individual terms and time.