How Visible Are You?

cc licensed Flickr image courtesy of jjlapierre's

It’s true that in school administration is not an easy gig.  The number of tasks required can be overwhelming some days, and then you look at your desk and realize that you did not accomplish anything YOU set out to do that day.  The workload can provide cause for one to hibernate and live in the office for much of the school day.

I am fortunate that I have always had this “urge” to get out of the office and go walk around the school.  I find I can only focus for a period of time at my desk and I need some kind of movement break.  It seems that I need this break more often as I get older.   However, I use these walks to accomplish a variety of other tasks, or to connect with a teacher or student.  In some way, I try to be visible in our school.  This is probably why I do extra-curricular and blog as well.

Granted, there are times when one has to knuckle down and if necessary, close the office door and get specific tasks done. If the door is open most of the time, then that resonates positively throughout the building.

How visible are you in your building?


Administrator Blog Lists

I was quite flattered a while back to be asked if I would submit my blog for the top 100 administrators blogs and name a few others.  It was much easier to submit the blogs of other administrators, rather than my own.  Especially since I have been taking rather than giving lately in the blog department!

This is a really good listing of many admin. blogs and they are all categorized.

The link is located here.


Making School Fun

One of the more enjoyable elements of being an educator are things like spirit days.  The images in this post depict our annual Halloween parade, where pre-school children, students and staff get to show off their costumes.  Each year our students look forward to this event as we all get a good laugh at each other and admire the creativity with some costumes.

As a school we try to take advantage of our K-12 configuration.  High school students are involved in this activity (and many others) throughout the school year with elementary aged students.   We try to establish leadership roles for our older students as well.  For example,  the grade 12’s escort the K-4 students to the gym and seat them for assemblies.  I have two students  who set up the PA an AV equipment each assembly as well.  In many cases, the student council runs the assembly and have some sort of fun activity for students to take part in.

My vice-principal and/or myself create slideshows for many assemblies.  We include images of recent events and random pics of students and set the show to music.   As I look over the student body, most seem to generally enjoy the slideshows.  I believe these help promote school unity and spirit.

Although we are a small school, I do believe we can take advantage of our configuration and create a unique experience for students.  I also believe these types of experiences are valuable for a students overall learning program – something that a provincial/state test cannot measure.   Yes we took “class time”: to run the assembly, but I do not believe we lose “instructional time” to do these events.  Spirit days, assemblies, etc. are a valuable part of any school experience.

ID Cards

I’d love to hear some comments about this article.  Very interesting, but I would have concerns.

Would you?

The Educator and Extra-Curricular

For all of my career, I have done my share of extra-curricular hours.  Some years, more than others, but the total in a year is usually significant.

Even before I started teaching, I began coaching sports – for enjoyment and the hope it could help me land a job.  Some 18 years later, I still am coaching,  doing other extra-curricular activities and yes, administrating  and teaching .  Even though I am more a football coach, I have coached volleyball, basketball, track and field and golf.  These experiences have educated me in many ways and have helped form lasting relationships with many students and fellow educators.  This is another reason educators should do extra-curricular.

Granted our first priority is teaching.  When teaching and coaching coincide, the days are very long and people get tired.  It does not matter if it’s sports or the arts.  However, educators need to support each other during the various seasons.  All too often I go to schools and see a coach running their tournament, coaching their team, supervising the halls, officiating games – basically doing everything.  They probably organized the canteen prior to this and had to find workers as well.  Sometimes teachers are coaching two sports because no one else will step up.  Throw in a conflict with a student and/or parent and this is when people burn out and may quit their specific activity.

What’s the solution?  Easy, support each other.  Efficient school’s have built-in support systems.  These include coaches supporting other coaches, by officiating, coaching or organizing officials. Also, other fellow teachers organizing the canteen or working it with students, supervising, etc.  Granted many times it is one or two staff members who set the standard for this, but administration can help this process as well.  Even though someone may not be experienced in a particular discipline, they can help out.  I am not a drama type person, but I can help at the event or with something prior to it.

So my basic message is this: All teaching staff and administration have a role in extra-curricular no matter the season.  The more educators support each other during the busy times, the less stressed people should be.   When people take on an individual responsibility, it helps the primary person in charge significantly.

Too often, many new teachers are not engaging in extra-curricular or quit an activity at the first sign of conflict.  This should not happen.  Continued involvement in extra-curricular pays dividends in future years. Sometimes, as individuals, we need top have ” thicker skin” but our support systems can be better too.

So stay the course.  Educators, involve yourself in extra-curricular in some way.  If you can’t coach, be an assistant, do the paperwork, supervise, etc.

You have a role and it will be appreciated!

The Principal, Teachers, Technology and PD.

Leading Your Staff cclicensed flickr image courtesy of Thorne Enterprises

A principal has an overwhelming amount of tasks to complete on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.   From discipline, facility and student needs, staffing and who knows how many others, the job can be exhausting at the best of times.  Over the past couple of years, I began to think more about teacher professional development and how I could help my staff.  Since I became a principal very early in my career, I did not put this aspect of administration at the forefront of my duties. Most likely because I was overwhelmed with the overall learning curve of school administration and all the associated tasks.  Then add-on a significant teaching load, where I had many new courses to deliver.  Lately though, I have thought a great deal about how I could help my teachers better themselves and in turn increase learning for our students.

Two of my more recent reads include What Great Principals and Great Teachers Do Differently, both books by Todd Whitaker.   One common theme denotes how principal’scannot choose their people entirely, so an administrator is left with two choices:

1.  Hire great teachers (when you get the opportunity) and

2. Make the ones you have better.

The second strategy is one I feel can be ignored for a variety of reasons.  It’s especially tough for younger administrators to feel comfortable helping more senior staff in the area of professional development, unless the admin. has a real comfort zone in a particular area.   While an administrator cannot be knowledgeable in every subject area or strategy, they can be great support people.  For this year, I have made it my admin. goal to help teachers get better.

How can an administrator then help teachers with meaningful PD?  I find the use of division based PD only scratches the surface and does not translate into the classroom very often.  I think our school division has taken notice of this and has really stepped up to provide meaningful PD for its teachers.  The alignment of sessions that promote division initiatives and teacher choice can translate for better learning opportunities for students in a significant way.

The use of growth plans (PPGP’s) are beneficial to both teachers and school administrators.   Here teacher choice (for growth) and alignment with a schools Learning Improvement Plan can translate into some wonderful learning opportunities for students.

How does one go about this?  Again the use of the growth plan is key with the administrator supporting the process.  This year our staff is using growth plans as stated below:

1.  Teachers pick one area for growth and set their goal.

2.  We have a common technology goal as a staff.

As principal, I meet with each teacher and discuss their plan, how they will achieve their goal and how I can support them.  In #2, we are using a common technology goal for two reasons:

1. To increase each staff members technological literacy level.

2.  To provide a framework for consistent PD in their choice area.

For #2, we started the year with teachers learning about Google Reader and Twitter.  My goal was to help them get a framework (Google Reader) so they could build a network (Twitter) and obtain resources to help them achieve their goals.  There is a great deal of follow-up with each staff member, but overall rewards can be significant.  My hope is that technology can help each staff member with their own personal goal in the PPGP, and that tech. will help them in future years as well.

Supports for PPGP’s and technology include division consultants and our TLT teacher .  I want to use them more this year in the area of teacher growth and find these people can be a valuable resource as well.

There  are many other methods one can use to help teachers become better educators, this is just my plan for this school year.  As administrators we encourage teachers to take risks, and we should follow suit.  The plan (for PPGP’s)  I have outlined here was also done in collaboration with my staff.  It is my job to keep communicating and supporting my teachers in any way possible.

As always I welcome your input.

I Like This Stuff

Fact or Urban Legend?

Today one of my teachers had his class investigate whether an egg could stand on end during the fall equinox.  The initial results were positive, but does it end with the winter solstice?

I like these kinds of lessons and I wish I could think of them more often!

Granted the premise is simple, but I believe the lesson can be expanded upon even more.  Is this the kind of experiment one uses to introduce the scientific method?  How can technology be integrated?  How/when do we move into the higher order thinking skills?  In the spirit of WCYDWT by Dan Meyer, I believe this simple experiment can lead to so much more.

I welcome your input.  Feel free to pass along as well.  maybe a good PD exercise for your staff.