Can we do this better?

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If I had to say what it was that sums up what I am laser focused on as an elementary principal, my answer would be “Can we do this better?”.

I’ve written many posts over the past three years about my drive to re-imagine the elementary learning experience. We have dreamed together, involved parents, students, and teachers in steering us onto a path where this kind of transformation can take place if we are brave enough to try.

We’ve identified many things that we think get us stuck like schedules, state expectations — mostly things I like to call “whataboutisms”. But the thing I think will get us permanently stuck is finding something in our pedagogy that works today, or that has worked in the past, and then keeping our pedagogy the same because it worked really well for that one lesson, that one unit, or for that one class the entire year.

However, we need to remember that the variables in our field are the children we serve. No group of kids I have experienced or supported has been the same as any other group of kids.

Ever.

Think back 10 years ago to the way you delivered the learning experience for students.

How much has that has dramatically changed since then?

Now ask yourself if that dramatic change was more out of choice due to a desire to get better or if it were more out of pressure from an initiative.

I ask that question because the best of the best that I have learned from and have seen teach are relentless in their pursuit to get better. It seems that they didn’t wait around to be told to change; it seems instead that they told themselves, “I need to get better at this.”

So the challenge I pose to each and everyone of us, myself included, is to ask ourselves, “Can we do this better?”

And then I challenge us to be brave enough to honestly answer that question.

Check out this great article on the power and importance of being self-reflection (and honest with yourself): “The Necessity Of Self-Criticism In Education” https://www.teachthought.com/technology/desperate-need-self-criticism-education/

 

Be brave!

– Herb

Here’s the Staff Update for this week.

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What could be can be

“Every great leader and organization sees the world not as it is, but as it could be.”

My wife shared these words from “The Carpenter” by Jon Gordon with me over dinner recently and they have stayed with me.

We often get caught in the trap of trying to fix the multitude of problems we spend most of our time identifying – Things and events we feel that are stopping us from accomplishing our goals or keeping us from being happy or satisfied.

When we shift our focus away from principles and enduring beliefs to the negative complaints about situations, we box ourselves in a place where change for the better is not likely to happen. Gordon is reminding us to stay focused on what grounds us. What grounds me is moving education in a direction that better prepares our children for an ever-changing world. What grounds me is working to make our school culture a strong one that focuses on growing as a learner and taking responsibility for your response to events.

Sure, there are times when I get caught up in a small moment, but I do my best not to linger in that moment. Small moments aren’t everlasting, but the setbacks to the progress of our goals end up being everlasting if any of us shift away from what grounds us could be everlasting.

Let’s commit to staying focused on seeing what could be for our kids!

Have a great week!

Herb

Here’s the Staff Update for this week!

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Mid-October in schools is stressful. Conferences, kids are challenging our norms because they are feeling comfortable with school, staff fatigue — All are these are ingredients for a tough day or week. It’s also the time of year when we start to lose focus because we are too busy worrying about everything that is going on around us.

These are the times, however, where gratitude and focusing on what is working can help us get out of a “slump”. So what’s working? I know we could come up with hundreds of items, events, learning successes, professional successes, and small moments we could celebrate.  So, that’s what I want you to do: Celebrate everything that has gone well.

And gratitude? Gratitude is important because, as I have learned from Sharon Esswein, you can’t be grateful and unhappy at the same time. What are you thankful for? What is it that at the end of the day you can think about and truly be grateful for having in your life.

So, you have homework this weekend:

  • Keep the main thing the main thing. 
  • Celebrate what is working.
  • Seek out a personal sources of gratitude. 

 

Have a GREAT week next week!

Here’s the Staff Update for Oct 23-27.

Reflective Learners: Better Teachers?

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Late last week, I had the opportunity to guest teach in a 3rd grade classroom for a math lesson. The students’ task was to work on a situation-based problem where the students needed to be flexible with their thinking to solve a problem that did not involve simply finding the sum or difference between two numbers.

The kids paired up and began working through the problem. I asked them to check in with me if they got stuck or when they had the answer. Now, my goal in all of this was to ask the right question to support the students’ work. I knew that during this activity, there would be kids who:

  • Got the answer fast, but wouldn’t have anything that documented their thinking;
  • Worked hard on the problem but would need reassurance they were on the right track;
  • Would need to be extended because they were able to quickly solve the problem;
  • Were clueless as to what to do.

Anticipating how to support kids took me a long time to fine tune as a classroom teacher and, if I were still in the classroom, it would be something I would like to keep fine-tuning. One thing that helps me to continue to work on this is taking the time to reflect about how I take on new challenges and how I react to new learning situations. My hope is that this makes me a more empathetic teacher when it comes to supporting students.

I believe educators need to put themselves in situations where they are having to learn something new or where they need to apply a skill to a new situation. Having a self-awareness about what the learning experience feels like can help us support students. I also believe that being learners ourselves helps us anticipate how our students will tackle a learning situation. When this happens, we ask better questions that lead students to new understandings.

Hope you get to learn something new this week!

Herb

Worth Checking Out

‪10 Tips for Creating a Fertile Environment for Kids’ Creativity and Growth https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2017/10/03/10-tips-for-creating-a-fertile-environment-for-kids-creativity-and-growth/‬

How To Work Smarter – Not Harder – As A Teacher  https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/work-smarter-not-harder-teacher/

 

Upcoming Dates

October

9 – PTO Meeting, 7pm
10 – School Improvement Team Meeting, 8:15am
11 – ADE Staff Meeting, 8:30am
12 – ADE Fall Tailgate, 6:30-7:30pm
17 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out
18 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out
20 – COI Day, No School
23 – Yearbook Cover Contest (through November 3)
26 – State of the Schools, 6pm Makoy Center
31 – Halloween

November

2 – Admin mtg, Herb out AM
6 – School Community Meeting, 10:45am; Student Picture Makeup Date
7 – PD Waiver Day, No School for Students
8 – District Leadership Institute – Herb out all day
10 – Veterans Day observed; End of 1st Trimester

 

“Thin ice can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” – Seth Godin

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“Thin ice can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” — Seth Godin

This line from one of Seth Godin’s recent blog posts has stuck with me for a while.

The focus of his post was about always feeling like you are on thin ice and how that affects your behavior and your performance.  Deep down we all know Godin is right — “All that panic doesn’t pay off”.  When we spin our wheels in the wrong direction, we end up creating more work for ourselves.

The trick is to play the long game.  We need to act with the thought, This, or something like it, will probably happen again, so that means I need to learn from this, get better, and be willing to help others when they experience this too.

Managing my energy is always a challenge, but it’s been tougher to manage lately.  I knew I had to stop and think about what was different — I was spending too much time thinking about school, staying plugged in, and dwelling on what had happened rather than what is happening.

I started to make a change recently that is helping. I turned off my email and Twitter notifications, deleted the Facebook app from my devices, and started taking longer walks with the dogs in the morning.  It probably doesn’t sound like much, but these little tweaks have upset the negative habits I had and just enough to help me start to reduce my stress, calm my mind, and be more present.  The sleep thing, well…I’m being patient while that part gets better too.

The battle to be more balanced is not with others, it’s really with myself.

How often are we feeling we are battling what’s going on in our classroom, at our school or in our district?  How often are we putting ourselves on thin ice when we could be thinking about how to stay grounded and to have the patience to play the long game?  The last thing we need is more work for ourselves, so consider the habits that might be blocking you from staying away from the feeling of being on thin ice. Keep the main thing the main thing.  Stay true to your vision and to your purpose – This will go a long way in staying balanced.

Have a GREAT week!

Herb

 

Articles Worth Reading

How thin is your ice? http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2017/04/how-thin-is-your-ice.html

6 Essentials of a High-Quality Classroom Library http://www.booksourcebanter.com/2017/03/07/6-essentials-of-a-high-quality-classroom-library/

 

Upcoming Dates

 

17 – 4th grade field trip to Supreme Court & Statehouse

18 – 5th grade Math test; Fire Drill, 1:40 pm

19 – 4th grade Math Test; Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30; PTO Spirit Day at Firehous Subs, 10:30 am – 9:00 pm

20 – Principal’s meeting (Herb, AM); 3rd grade Math Test; Garden/Compost Club, 3:35 – 4:30

21 – 2nd grade field trip to Art Museum; Tornado Drill, 9:35 am

22- Hilliard’s Earth Day Celebration, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

24-28 – Book Fair, open til 5:00 on 25th; open during Art Show on 27th; open 8:00-9:05 am on 28th

24 – Gifted model parent meeting, 6:00; Vidic’s Medicine Safety Presentation (4th=1:00 – 1:40, 5th=1:45-2:30)

25 – 5th grade Science Test; 4th grade Social Studies Test; Vidic’s Medicine Safety Presentation (2nd=1:00-1:30; 3rd=1:40-2:10; 1st=2:15-2:45)

26 – Staff meeting, 3:40; Walk-A-Thon, 9:00 am – 2:30 pm; Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30

27 – Elementary Transfer meeting, 8:30; Staff Book Talk, 8:00 am; Compost/Garden Club, 3:35 – 4:30; Art Show, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

28 – BAC meeting, 8:00; fruit & veggies (grapes & snow peas); clean office lounge

 

May

1 – Bus Driver Appreciation Day; 3rd grade Music Performance, time TBD; School Community Meeting – “Make a Difference”, 10:45am;

2 – No School for Students (Waiver Day)

3 – Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30

4 – Admin. Meeting (Herb AM); Staff Book Talk, 8:00 am; PTO Flower Sale Pick Up, 4:00-7:00; PTO Spirit Night at Chick-Fil-A, 5:00 – 9:00 pm

8 – Kona Ice Truck here; PTO Meeting, 7:00; Spirit Week (daily themes TBD)

9 – BIT meeting, 8:00; KG/1st Data Teams; Retirement Party, 3:45

10 – 2nd/3rd Data Teams; SLSP field trip to Dare Equestrian; 5th grade field trip to Art Museum; Lambright’s Math Mindset Parent Night, 6:30 – 7:30; last day for Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30

11 – 4th/5th Data Teams; Staff Book Talk, 8:00 am

12 – 4th grade field trip to Art Museum; 5th grade Growth & Development, 1:30 – 2:30

14 – Mother’s Day

15 – Field Day, 8:30 – 11:30 am and 12:30 – 3:30 pm

16 – Focus fieldtrip to Falling Waters, 5:30 am – 9:15 pm

18 – Principal’s Meeting (Herb AM); Staff Book Talk, 8:00 am; See Kids Dream 5th grade field trip to Riffe Center

19 – Last day at preschool; 4th grade field trip to Zoo

22 – PTO Spirit Night at Dave & Buster’s, 4:30 – 7:30 pm

23 – 3rd grade field trip to Art Museum; PTO Family Luau, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

24 – 1st grade field trip to Art Museum

25 – Mental Health & Wellness meeting, 8:00

26 – Last Day of School!

Stuck in the mud

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When you’re driving for 9 hours in a car alone, you tend to have an ample amount of time to think.

So on my way back from my daughter’s cheer competition in Virginia Beach on Sunday, I got to do a lot of thinking about life, my career, my kids and my family, which is probably way too much time for me to be alone with my own thoughts.

I was listening to the audiobook version of 1776 by David McCullough, who has this rich voice that goes so well with storytelling.  I was inspired to revisit stories from our country’s past as we drove to Virginia Beach, passing such places as the Shenandoah Valley, Yorktown, Richmond and other sites made famous by battle.

McCullough’s storytelling included a humanizing of people like Washington and revealed some of their shortcomings as leaders.  The shortcomings revealed at times just how much luck played in the success of the Revolution, which was led by minimal military knowledge and supported by a ragtag army of men and boys of all colors, backgrounds and ages.

One story from the Battle of Brooklyn stood out to me the most.  Washington was retreating his men through a marshy part of the East River to try and escape back to Manhattan.  Those who got stuck or who couldn’t swim were captured while the rest were able to escape later on that evening by ship during a wild summer storm.  None of this had to happen either.  Washington had made a miscalculation and split his troops when basic military strategy says to not split your force when facing the enemy head-on (or so I learned from the audiobook).

So many times, the Americans were close to losing it all due to blunders or lack of foresight.  Yet, they seemed to come out in the end to fight another day in that all-important year of 1776. 

The one aspect that seemed to hold throughout the Revolution was the resolve of the people.  Change was in their heart.  It drove them to continue fighting for what was right.  Their resolve, what was in their heart, was what helped our Founders find success.

I am not trying to compare the work we do in education to fighting a revolution or going into battle, but there are some takeaways for me that I thought about as I drove home.

  • Change will happen not matter what.  Some of it will be small and manageable and much of it will be monumental and unforeseen.  Change is a predictable Event in education.  Our Response is key.  We get to learn from change and from our missteps in response to it.

 

  • Let your heart lead the way.  When in doubt, listen to your heart.  Sometimes we all know what must be done, but no one wants to say what needs to be done or even wants to act on it.  Leading from the heart is a powerful force — It could be what gave our country its freedom.  But it also is my driving force as an educator.  The relationships we build and the connection we have to kids will endure and outlast most of the knowledge we tried to impart onto them.  As George Couros says, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection the mind.

 

  • Dig deep and find the determination to keep moving forward.  This one has been a thought I’ve swirled on a lot this year.  I’ve been off my game a lot this year.  That’s not to say we haven’t accomplished many wonderful things for kids.  It’s more of a personal reflection. I’ve dropped habits that have helped me to keep moving forward and to stay idealistic.  I’ve stayed neutral in conversations when I should have pressed more.  I’ve not stayed as committed to lifting up our campus project like I have for the past two years.  And it sucks.  I’ve felt stuck in the mud at times. I hate feeling that way because this moment that I have as principal is it — There is nothing else for me to wait for.

It’s time to get unstuck!

Have a GREAT week!

  • Herb

Worth Reading!

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. – Life in Focus

These fifth-graders turned a class assignment into a massive service project – The Washington Post

These high school journalists investigated a new principal’s credentials. Days later, she resigned. – The Washington Post

It’s Time to Rethink How We Are Educating Our Children

Act Like You’re New – The Principal of Change

Completely Satisfied – Teacher At Heart

Upcoming Dates

10 – Preschool IEP meetings (Herb/Brian H), throughout day; PTO Meeting, 7:00

12 – Staff Meeting – Progress check on Data Team goal; KG ELL testing; SLSP Fieldtrip to Steak N Shake (morning); Urban Zen, 3:45 – 4:45; Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30; Lambright’s Math Mindset Parent Night, 6:30 – 7:30; Full moon!

13 – Mental Health and Wellness Team meeting, 8am; One2One Principal meeting, 10am; KG fieldtrip to Franklin Park Conservatory; 2nd grade Wax Museum; Last day to submit requisitions; Staff Luncheon; Garden/Compost Club, 3:35 – 4:30; Interims go home, as needed

14 – Holiday, No School

17 – 4th grade fieldtrip to Supreme Court & Statehouse

18 – 5th grade Math test

19 – 4th grade Math Test; Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30; PTO Spirit Day at Firehous Subs, 10:30 am – 9:00 pm

20 – Principal’s meeting (Herb, AM); 3rd grade Math Test; Garden/Compost Club, 3:35 – 4:30

21 – 2nd grade fieldtrip to Art Museum

22- Hilliard’s Earth Day Celebration, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

24-28 – Book Fair, open til 5:00 on 25th; open during Art Show on 27th; open 8:00-9:05 am on 28th

24 – Gifted model parent meeting, 6:00; Vidic’s Medicine Safety Presentation (5th=1:30 – 2:15, 4th=2:15-3:00)

25 – 5th grade Science Test; 4th grade Social Studies Test; Vidic’s Medicine Safety Presentation (2nd=1:00-1:35; 3rd=1:40-2:15; 1st=2:20-2:55)

26 – Staff meeting, 3:40; Walk-A-Thon, 9:00 am – 2:30 pm; Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30

27 – Elementary Transfer meeting, 8:30; Art Show, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

28 – BAC meeting, 8:00; fruit & veggies (grapes & snow peas); clean office lounge

May

1 – Bus Driver Appreciation Day; 3rd grade music performance, time TBD; School Community Meeting – “Make a Difference”, 10:45am;

2 – No School for Students (Waiver Day)

3 – Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30

4 – Admin. Meeting (Herb AM); PTO Flower Sale Pick Up, 4:00-7:00; PTO Spirit Night at Chic-Fil-A, 5:00 – 9:00 pm

8 – PTO Meeting, 7:00

9 – BIT meeting, 8:00; KG/1st Data Teams

10 – 2nd/3rd Data Teams; SLSP fieldtrip to Dare Equestrian; 5th grade fieldtrip to Art Museum; Lambright’s Math Mindset Parent Night, 6:30 – 7:30; last day for Get Fit Girls, 3:35 – 4:30; Full Moon!!

11 – 4th/5th Data Teams

“Being a _______ is messy…”

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“parent”

“child”

We could all take turns filling in the blank to complete that statement.  All of our words would work too because life is a guaranteed complication.

Being a church is messy…

This is what our pastor said to a member who just openly shared his story of addiction with the congregation.  Her words were honest and sort of comforting at the same time because she then reminded us that we are all probably dealing with something too. We also need to remember that we have each other to get through it all as long as we have empathy and compassion for each other.

Today made me think about how the words and lesson shared by the pastor applies to so many parts of our lives.

Being a teacher is messy.  We all work hard and do the best we know how to do. We are our own worst critic and often overthink to solve problems that have solutions sitting right in front of us.

Being a principal is messy.  Packing up your emotions and feeling like you have to have the answer right away is more exhausting than it sounds.

Being a school is messy.  So many things have to work right in order to have success and it seems like it’s more often than not that one of the pieces falls apart or goes missing.

Learning is messy.

Change is messy.

Life is messy.

But it’s all good.

All of it.

The bad things that happen make us stronger so that we can some day help someone get through the same struggle.

The good things in life are all around us — It’s the people, our community, our students and our colleagues.  It’s in the joy of making someone’s day through a kind act.

So don’t fear the mess — Embrace it!  This is how we learn more about ourselves and each other and this is how we get better.

Have a GREAT, messy week!

😉

– Herb

Worth Checking Out —

 

10 Benefits Of Inquiry-Based Learning http://www.teachthought.com/?p=35672 via @teachthought

Learning Places: Shifting from School Change to Fostering a Culture of Growth by Irene Fountas  https://lesleyuniversitycrrlc.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/learning-places-by-irene-fountas/

Upcoming Dates —

Weds, Feb 8 — ADE Staff Meeting, 8am — Serves as Literacy Data Team meeting: Focus will be on results/analysis of recent On-Demand Writing Assessment

Weds Feb 8 — RTI Team Meeting, 3:30

Thurs, Feb 9 — Building Improvement Team meeting, 8am

Feb. 13-16 — Parent/Teacher Conference Week

Mon., Feb. 13 — PTO Meeting, 7:00 p.m.

Weds., Feb. 15 — Band & Orchestra Demonstrations to 5th Grade, during school day; Spec Ed Team Meeting, Noon; ADE Parent Teacher Conference Night, 3:30-8pm

Fri., Feb. 17 — No School – P/T Conference Comp Day

Mon., Feb. 20 — No School – President’s Day

Weds, Feb 22 — ADE Staff Meeting, 3:45

Thrs, Feb 23 — Mental Health and Wellness Team meeting, 8am

Fri, Feb 24 — BAC meeting, 8am

IMPACT — K-2 Math PD Dates:

2/9/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

3/14/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg

4/5/2017

8:30 AM-3:30 PM

 

CO-COA ConfRmLg 

PLC/Data Team Half-Day PD Days:

Feb 14 — 2nd Grade (AM), 1st Grade (PM)

Feb 15 — KG (AM), 3rd Grade (PM)

Feb 21 — 4th Grade (AM), 5th Grade (PM)