Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year's Resolution

Prior to the beginning of  this school year, I started to use Voxer. And it has been great. I know that I've shared this sentiment before, but the benefit I've gained from this application that is downloaded onto my phone is worth repeating.

  • Connecting with principals, coast-to-coast, regarding a myriad of topics that principals encounter on a day-to-day basis
  • The convenience of these connections taking place on my terms, anywhere and anytime
  • The ideas that other principals share that I am able to tailor and make my own
  • The positivity that we inspire within each other.

Two groups that I am a part of have been especially motivating. Principals in Action is one of the two groups. The focus of this group is simple. Principals being out of their offices, and instead spending their time in classrooms working with kids. Work. Life. Balance. is the other group. This group focuses on helping us (principals) find a balance in life; we talk about how we (principals) can maintain a commitment to our job that allows us to be effective while at the same time making enough time for ourselves, our families, and our friends.

I wholeheartedly believe in the messages that both of these two Voxer groups communicate.

As a principal, I believe, that I need to be in classrooms and I need to be working with kids. That being said, a principal has many additional obligations. Like most jobs, there is never enough time to
do it all. This is an internal battle that I struggle with, daily. I want to be a great principal. But I don't want to let my work consume me. I want to be a great husband and a great father; I want to go home
and be able to comfortably disconnect for a few hours so that I can spend quality time with my wife and our young kids.

This brings me to a few school related New Year's resolution that I want to share.
  • I plan on recommitting to being-in classrooms in 2016. I felt good about how I was doing with this to begin the year. However, as the year has gone-on and things have come-up, I'm no longer where I want to be in this regard.
  • Something that I've never done, previously, but plan to start doing is taking my laptop (and/or iPhone) into classrooms and doing a little bit of my own work alongside students who are doing their work. This was an idea that was shared in our Work.Life.Balance. Voxer group (thanks!). This idea that became my primary New Year's resolution was the inspiration for this blog post, as I am hopeful that this resolution will help me find a better work-life-balance in 2016.
  • I still plan to talk with kids whenever I am in classrooms. 
    • Last year, I was at a school (that I'd been at for three years) with approximately 250 kids. I was very proud of the fact that I knew ALL of their names! This year I am at a new school. This year I am at a school with approximately 375 kids. I am embarrassed to admit that I do not know all of their names. I need to get into classrooms, more and increase the amount of students that I am able to refer to by their first name. This matters.
    •  Also, as a result of being in classrooms more often, I will be able to do a better job of sharing our school's day-to-day celebrations. It is my job to tell our school's story. If I am not doing this, someone else will. I want to be the one that frames our story. We have Facebook page and a hashtag (#StarryShines); I want to do a better job in 2016 of promoting ourselves through those platforms.
    What are your school related New Year's resolutions for 2016?

    Monday, December 21, 2015

    12 Days of a Starry Staff Christmas

    A big aspect of leadership is giving. Giving responsibility to others so that they can assume leadership roles; giving autonomy to others so that people can pursue their own curiosities, interests, and strengths; giving feedback in a way that will facilitate growth; giving trust so people are empowered to take risks, giving a listening ear to allow others to vent and reflect, giving advice and opinions when and where others are stuck and needing assistance, giving confidence to others by celebrating what is working well for them.
    I enjoy being able to give to others. 

    This year, during this holiday season, I have been giving the staff at Starry the following. It is not much, I know; and I wish that I had more to give, but I am hopeful that these small gestures can enhance moods and reduce stress just a little during this hectic time of year.

    And while some may applaud me for my creativity/originality, the idea was borrowed. I've seen it spread across my PLN from people like Jay Posick (@posickj) and Amber Teamann (@8Amber8) and others. They gave me the idea and the structure - thanks! I just tweaked it to make it work for me.

    Happy Holidays!

    Tuesday, December 15, 2015

    Second Grade Q&A

    Last week one of our second grade classroom's was working on writing questions as part of their Work on Writing station during their Daily 5 rotations. The students have been working hard to include capital letters and question marks, while making sure their questions make sense. Their teacher allowing them to ask me questions was an extension idea from our Journeys story for the week entitled Schools Around the World

    Upon hearing this, I asked their teacher if she would allow her students to email me their questions. I then took that email and published their questions along with my answers on my blog to give our students a larger and more authentic audience. 

    The students had a great time thinking of and generating questions, their teacher had a great time reading what they had come up with, and their principal (me) had a great time responding to them. We hope that you enjoy reading about our students' curiosities in regards to their principal.

    Andrew: Who is your favorite teacher? 
    Growing-up my favorite teacher that I had was in third grade, Mr. P

    Trinity: What's your favorite thing about being a principal? 
    I love being able to be around so many cool kids everyday.

    Kolby: Do you like Christmas? 
    Yes! It is one of my favorite times of the year.

    My two kids - Olivia and Ryne
    Jozie AND Lydia: Do you have any kids? 
    I have two. My son, Ryne is five and he is in pre-school, and my daughter, Olivia, is a year-and-a-half.

    Koven: When will you go to the Hawkeyes game? 
    We used to have season tickets to the Hawkeyes football games, but now we just go to one or two each year. My Dad has season tickets for the Hawkeyes basketball games so I go to some of those.

    Odyn: Where were you born? 
    Iowa City

    Raelynn: Will we build robots in art class? 
    That would be a good question for Mr. Thornton.

    Patrick: Do you like the Iowa Hawkeyes or Iowa State? 
    Iowa Hawkeyes! I do NOT like Iowa State.

    Devin: Do you like the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Seahawks? 
    I like the Iowa Hawkeyes! I'm not a Seattle Seahawks fan.

    Jordan: What kind of cookies do you like? 
    Chocolate chip

    Bryker: Do you have pets? 
    I've never had any pets

    Oliver: Have you ever been to another school? 
    I've worked in four different schools. I've visited a lot of different schools.

    Brooklyn: What did you eat TODAY? 
    I usually eat cereal or oatmeal for breakfast; I don't usually eat lunch during the school day, but I'll eat small snacks throughout the day, and for dinner I eat whatever my wife cooks - she's a great cook!

    Stella: How old are you? 
    16+16 = how old I am

    Delaney: What is your favorite holiday? 

    Evan: What is your favorite football team? 
    Iowa Hawkeyes and Chicago Bears

    Aubrey: Do you like pizza? 
    It is my favorite food

    Jayden: Did you have a job before you were a principal? 
    I used to be a teacher

    Jameson: Do you have a cousin? 
    I have quite a few cousins, but I don't see them very often

    Kaleb: Do you remember when I helped Skyler and Grady?
    I do remember that. It's one of my favorite memories from the year.

    Annie: Have you ever been a principal? 
    Yep, I was a principal for three years at a different school before I became the principal here at Starry.

    Skylar: Do you have a wife? 
    Yes. She is a first grade teacher in Solon
    Mrs. Dunne: Do you think the Cubs will win it all in 2016? 
    I hope!

    Mrs. Tank: Will you come into our classroom and share your answers with us since some of us don't have computers at home?
    How about if I come-in before I am scheduled to read aloud to your class this Wednesday?

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    Why I Became an Educator

    Let's face it. Despite the fact that this may be the most wonderful time of the year, it can be a pretty stressful time of the year, too.

    We must fight back, and attempt to reduce our stress. If we do nothing, stress will engulf us and stress will win.

    Recently I read a blog about things that educators can do to actively combat the stress that is associated with the holiday season.

    One of the suggestions was to reflect upon why you became an educator.

    Here I go.

    Growing-up, the thought of becoming an educator never once crossed my mind. I vividly remember dreaming of two possible professions upon entering adulthood. One, I wanted to be a professional athlete. And two, I wanted to be some sort of sports journalist and/or sports reporter.

    Like many, I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do once I finished college. In fact, I selected my college (Cornell College) because of the opportunities that I was presented in regards to
    playing football. I gave it a shot; I played football in college for one year, but it wasn't for me. As a result, I decided to transfer to the University of Iowa - still not knowing what I wanted to do after college.

    I started college at Cornell as a business major, for no particular reason. At Iowa, I started as a health, sports, and leisure studies major (or something along those lines). And as much as I loved taking courses that had to do with sports, I realized that this may not be the most marketable major for me to possess upon graduation. At the same time, since I was no longer playing football, I had taken up coaching youth (it was either third and fourth or fifth and sixth grade) football. I loved it. I loved working with kids. I loved being able to help kids. I loved the opportunity that I had to teach kids something that had been such a passion for me. I loved it so much that I decided that I wanted to get into coaching for the rest of my life. So...I figured that if I became a teacher, I would have many opportunities in the coaching field.

    I applied, and was accepted into the University of Iowa's College of Education. It was a great move - not only was it the start of a career that I love, but more importantly - the College of Education was how/where I met my future wife.

    Fast forward to graduating from college. I got a job! I was going to be a sixth grade language arts and literature teacher in Davenport, Iowa, I was also going to be coaching some high school football, and I was going to be coaching both the 7th and 8th grade junior high boys basketball teams. I loved it. I loved the competition. I loved working with the kids. I loved trying to teach kids some of the same values that sports had taught me. I loved being a positive role model for kids. I loved helping them become better both athletically and as people.

    I don't remember what exactly inspired me to pursue my administrative degree, but I did. I enrolled in St. Ambrose University's Master's of Educational Administration program (in fact, my testimony for their program is still live on their website; funny/interesting to look back at what I said, six plus years ago). I wanted to become a principal (the following is a quote that I found on the St. Ambrose website (linked, again) that explains my rational).
    "As a teacher, you can influence your class and those students, but as a principal, you can do it at a greater level. Instead of guiding 30 students, you can guide 30 different teachers with 30 kids each."
    Fast forward again, and I became an elementary school principal in the summer of 2012. And while it is busy, and at times it can be stressful (like any job), it is the best job in the world. I can't imagine doing any other job. I love my job. I get the opportunity to work with kids; I get the daily opportunity to have a positive impact on a child's life. I get to work with adults, too, to help them have that same impact. It is why I became an educator. It is why I remain an educator.