Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why I am Adding My Twitter Handle and my Blog Domain to My Resume and Business Cards

After much thought and consideration, I believe the next logical step for my resume is to add both my Twitter handle and my blog domain names to it. The reason I am strongly considering this is simple, I want potential employers to see that my passion for education extends beyond the four walls of my respective institution. 




I want them to know that...



  1. the person I am on paper is simply a portion of who I am in total.  
  2. I hold both myself to the same standards I expect of those I am charged with leading to meet.
  3. my passion for learning and growing as an educator is not limited to an occasional district or regional office training and has nothing to do with meeting the often low requirements of my state's recertification process. 
  4. my growth as an educator is a daily adventure that I have placed a high priority upon.  
  5. as a result, I have had the distinct privilege of connecting with other learners from around the world who not only share my passion for learning but challenge me to grow beyond that which I am comfortable. 

And if the reasons given above are not great reasons to add these taglines to your resume, then consider this, most evaluation instruments from Danielson to Marzano to my state's Performance Standards for School Leaders have an area set aside to rate one's contribution to the profession. Which means, there is an expectation that we are contributing to the conversation on some level, and it has been my experience that excellence and or distinguished is something that only awaits those who make this a regular and consistent practice. 

So for those of you who are not yet comfortable with this approach, I do understand. As my decision to share this part of myself with those considering me for employment could backfire. Especially, if they find after reading a few of my post or Tweets, that our philosophy of education does not mesh. Even so, I will not let this stop me from doing what I believe is the next step for me in the development of a more accurate and progressive resume and business card. 


Until next time....

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Open Agenda Staff Meeting



This year I have tried something I have always wanted to do, but just didn't have the right ingredient, okay people, to do so. But this year, for some reason I am truly unaware of, I do. This year I have been blessed to work with a group of educators who take full advantage of my open agenda staff meetings. 

So what exactly is an open agenda staff meeting?

Notepad, Pen, Notebook, Business

It is a meeting where I, the principal, do not have full control over what is discussed in our staff meetings. In fact, every person on my team has the right and freedom to add a topic of discussion to the agenda. And to my surprise, a majority of the topics submitted have been geared toward improving teaching and learning. Some of the topics that have been presented thus far include data review, staff socials, RTI, Special Education and how to effectively maintain records regarding accommodations and modifications, etc. Any topic that can be answered before the meeting is done so write on the agenda. 

When I say that our staff meetings are well attended, that is an understatement. My teachers actually look forward to our staff meetings and look forward to the sometimes candid conversations we find ourselves having. My teachers know that it is perfectly okay to disagree with me and they do not fear retribution for having done so. 

Do I work in a utopia? Absolutely not! We still have a lot of work to do and I am so happy that were are eager to get it done. 

So exactly where did I learn this open meeting agenda idea?

From my Superintendent! He is definitely a man who practices what he preaches. He believes in shared leadership and encourages everyone from admin to teachers to find their niche and run with it. In fact, if you were to visit one of our district's committee meetings you would not be able to identify the admin from the teachers. At the table, all voices are equal, even when it comes to making financial decisions about what we as a district are going to invest in. I will never forget the day when the teacher's at our last district RTI (Response to Intervention - yes we are still catching up) meeting expressed their disdain for a particular program we purchased the year before. I won't forget this meeting because it was at this meeting where my Superintendent said, "I knew this all along, but I had to let you come to this conclusion. So now what do we do?"

Some might find this kind of leadership troubling and that's okay. For I have learned after 16 years in this field, that what floats my boat, won't always float yours and vice versa. But for those of you interested in exploring this concept further, let's chat and see how we might sharpen each other's skills and make school a better place for all parties involved. 

Until next time...



Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Exodus - The Real Reason Teachers are Leaving the Profession

Earlier this week I found myself engrossed in a Facebook post about teachers who quit in the middle of the school year. The range of emotions expressed by colleagues who worked alongside these teachers varied. Some expressed compassion for the teacher who had quit, while others expressed anger and resentment. 


There were even those who had resigned chiming in on the post. Individuals who decided that it was in their best interest and the kids they served to sever the relationship earlier rather than later.




While the reasons for leaving, the kids and the administration, do not come as a surprise; I am amazed by the immediacy of these decisions. I say this because I remember wanting to quit at the end of my first year of teaching. I remember feeling defeated for having thought about quitting. I even remember the reasons I wanted to quit. But unlike my contemporaries, I just could not bring myself to walk out, to cut my ties right away, even though I was miserable.



Looking back, I am glad I decided to stay; and I am especially grateful for the people who were divinely placed in my life to talk me off the ledge. Individuals who knew first hand what I was going through and who made a decision to check on me regularly despite their own battles. Individuals who reminded me often why I chose to become a teacher and why quitting was not the answer. I truly believe that had it not been for them, I'd be working outside the field of education today.




And to my colleagues whose experience has led them down a different path, I say, stay strong. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of strength to throw in the towel and choose your well-being and peace of mind over your career. It takes willpower to ignore the voices around you. Voices that will surely criticize you and make you feel like the worst person in the world for quitting.

One teacher's thought on how quickly vacancies are filled when teachers do leave. 
While I am not 100% sure how I feel about the above post. I do understand why this person and so many others feel this way. Not only is education run like a business, it is one. When people leave, they are replaced, but for reasons unlike the one above. To put it plainly, teachers are replaced. And they are replaced because we have classrooms filled with students that need teachers.  




While I have not had 1000 teachers resign, I agree with the picture above. Education is in a crisis. Our colleagues are leaving and they are leaving the profession now rather than later. And those of us who have decided to look further find that the answer to this crisis is an obscure and complicated one. One that cannot be effectively handled in this post and one that will not be adequately addressed until we admit that we have neglected to handle with care the hearts of our teachers.

Until next time...










Sunday, November 27, 2016

Why Listening to Your Student Body Pays Off

When teachers flooded my email regarding the need to intervene and stop students from participating in the latest Internet challenge I had no idea what they were talking about. Not only had I never heard of this challenge, I had not come across any students talking about a challenge either. So like my contemporaries, I opened my Internet browser and Googled what my teachers were calling the Mannequin Challenge. 

The funny thing is after watching several videos, instead of being repulsed by this newest and latest challenge, I was actually intrigued. I saw the potential to give my students what they wanted and to create a sense of calm in my teachers. I saw the educational value of these videos and how I could use them to teach inferencing in the ELA classroom. I saw them as an opportunity to discuss and help students engage in healthy conversations around the current hot-button issues of the day.


So what exactly did I do?


I started with a short but very firm conversation with the student body. I shared with them what I was hearing and how I believed we could make their desire to do the Mannequin Challenge in a more controlled way so no one would be hurt or in need of discipline.  I politely asked them to delay their Mannequin Challenge and I invited them to speak to me about their idea. 

It did not take long for a group of 6th-grade students to request a moment of my time. They expressed their desire to do the challenge and they were asking me for my permission to do so. 

The idea of having 400 adolescents complete this challenge without teacher guidance or direction unnerved me. So rather than saying no, I asked for more time. I asked them for the opportunity to bring this request to the staff and get back to them later that week.

Later that night, I did a little more research and came across a video that would lead to our school's Anti-Bullying Mannequin Challenge. This video, unlike others I had seen, had a storyline. A story that was clear and easy to understand. 

Equipped with this new information, I pitched the idea to my teachers, who loved the idea and the order that such a controlled opportunity would afford them. Shortly after, I notified the students of the challenge and I gave them exactly one week to get it done. But this would not be the end of our challenge after the students had their chance to vote, the top three videos would be placed on our district's Facebook page and our school community at large would be given the opportunity to vote. The class with the most votes would receive a pizza party.


So what's the lesson here?


Giving students a voice in what happens at school, not only empowers them but also lets them know you care and value what they think. This is the most important lesson I learned from this experience. And this is a lesson I plan to carry with me for the rest of my life.

"Education is not a passive process." President Barack Obama


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

School Uniforms and the Prison Mentality

Had a brief conversation with a colleague regarding school uniforms. Although the conversation was not planned, the realization of how far apart our thinking was on the whole issue is the reason for this post. You see, I am a firm believer that uniforms in the public school setting prepares our children not for work and career but for prison. I believe  this because the semblance of order that many proponents of the school uniform movement say occurs after their adoption is never really achieved. 

  • Students still find a way to pick on those who are less fortunate or different than they are.  
  • Class disruption remains the number one discipline issue today. 

Why? Because uniforms don't hide those who have not from those who do. And more importantly, these policies don't create equity or draw students attention from those "less important" aspects of school like socialization. 

Were uniforms easy for me to manage as the parent, absolutely. But even that is not a good enough reason to mandate them. And let's not forget that a majority of these policies are in effect in geographical areas where the SES is at or below the poverty level and their is a high minority demographic. 

 

Ladies and gentleman, let's not ignore the obvious and let's call a spade a spade. Our schools today look more and more like minimum security prisons than schools. And we are to blame. We've allowed this monstrosity and we have convinced ourselves and the public we serve that this is right for kids. Are kids any safer today with their uniforms than they were yesterday? Are students more focused on their studies than their peers? No, they are not! And for this reason something has to change and that change needs to happen now. 

The picture chosen for this post was not haphazardly selected. I just want to know if you see what I see?

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Out of the Box, Where True Success Lives

Some time ago I wrote a post about the power of a PLN. My post talked about how individuals I have never met are helping me grow and learn in ways I never thought possible and it was my attempt at encouraging others to join and utilize this new and exciting resource. Today, I saw yet again the power of my PLN. I saw how one simple post resulted in some many new ideas and ways of seeing and knowing. Today, I received guidance from administrators both near and far. People who took time away from their already busy schedules to help me effectively resolve an issue that could not and should be resolved alone. 

So what exactly did they help me with?

They helped me find a lifeline for my dying PTO. They helped me see why it wasn't time to throw in the hat. Why moving beyond the box experience and tradition had placed me in could result in greater parent participation and involvement. 

So what exactly did members from Facebook's BSA suggest?



They suggested that I...




  • Invite students to perform
  • Handout student acknowledgments: Character Counts, Academic Awards, etc.
  • Host short meetings during the football and basketball halftime shows
  • Provide food


  • While I realize that this list does not contain all the many great things I am sure other schools are doing to get their parents involved, this list is a start. And as a result of this fresh wind, I am even more motivated today than I was in the past to breathe life into our school's PTO. 

    Thank you BSA, for your continued support! It is because of great administrators like you, that I am forever a work in progress!

    Until next time...

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    Unpacking the Teacher Evaluation Process

    Today I found myself participating in a very dynamic exchange of words around our district's teacher evaluation process and the need to provide evidence of practice. Some sitting at the table believe that simply saying you do something is enough to warrant a satisfactory rating, while I and a few others did not. Whether my strong insistence upon the need to have this evidence is rooted in being penalized for not having it, I do not know. But what I do know is this, it's a less arduous experience when you have the evidence expected and you allow it to speak for you. 


    So whose responsibility is it to know what evidence is needed? 


    Great question, yours; and if you have not made this a priority, you need to start today. Truth be told, having a thorough understanding of how you will be evaluated can mean the difference between a contract renewal and a pink slip. 

    I know what you are thinking, I did not go into teaching for this. Like most of us, you entered the profession with hopes of changing the world one child at a time. And finding the time needed to unpack the Framework in your already busy schedule is next to impossible. You simply can't see how this can be done. 



    So how do you began to eat the Framework elephant? 


    You focus on the Domains in which you have the most control, Domains 1 and 4. The reason why they have been identified as such is because the work identified in these two domains are those which cannot be directly observed. Your principal is not with you when you write your plans, but saving a copy of these plans on your drive says that you do. Your principal is not with you when you come across a really great article related to education, but your a reflective journal entry says you did and may even offer evidence as to how the information learned was used to enhance or modify your practice. Maybe you were really pleased with a lesson, but you decided to modify it to meet the needs of your another class. Simply noting these changes in your plans would provide evidence of a consistent habit of reflecting on teaching.


    Now, what?


    While I could go on and on about why you need evidence and the type of evidence you could use, that is not the purpose of today's piece. My reason for writing tonight is to simply impress upon those in my profession to take ownership of their evaluation process. I encourage this regardless of what role you find yourself in, administrator or teacher. Know what's expected of you and what you can do to get it done! 

    And, remember, the evaluation process does not have to be something that happens to you, it can be used to make something happen for you. The answers to the test or printed on the rubric. Read it, know it and make it happen!

    Until next time...