Thursday, July 28, 2011

We can't afford to wait any longer...

We are losing the war. We are losing the war because we are being defeated in battles on all fronts. We are continually on the defensive, and because of our unwillingness to attack we are on the backs of our heels.

This war I speak of is the war of public relations....

Today I attended my first ever administrative meeting with all the central office administrators and building level administrators in the district. As one of the "new people," I spent a lot of time listening and observing. As I started to reflect on the 2 hour meeting, there were 2 different events that really stood out:

1 - Each administrator took a few moments to share something positive about his/her staff and/or students. I found this to be a very useful activity since it allowed each of us to hear some of the great things going on in the district. Additionally, it modeled an excellent activity that could be done at the building or even classroom level to share and celebrate some of the great things going on in our schools.

2 - My Superintendent made a point to highlight the importance of school public relations, and unfortunately as it currently stands we all have room for improvement here. His comment was simple and straight forward, "we need to do a better job of getting some of the great things we are doing in our schools out to parents and the community." He mentioned several ways to do this, and many of his suggestions are in one of my recent blog posts titled, "10 ways to build the community school."

I know posts like this aren't new to many Educators in the Twitterverse and blogosphere, but we have got to do a better job of working with teachers and building and central office administrators on ways to improve our public relations. We have got to take the fight to the public and scream as loud as we can about the many great things going on in our schools. We need our parents and community to be inundated by positive news. We need the great and positive stories to find our parents, rather than having them only hear the negative news. We need to go on the offensive and become our own public relations machine.

As we approach the start of the 2011-2012 school year, I challenge you and your colleagues to discuss and contemplate new and improved ways to share the awesome things taking place in your schools. Right now there is only one voice being heard by parents and the community, and unfortunately that voice is not coming from Educators. We can no longer afford for our parents and community to only hear one side of the story...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My new "10 picture tour"

Cale Birk (@birklearns) wrote a great post titled, "My 10 picture tour." The more I thought about this post, the more I realized what a great idea it was. So often we make connections with members of our PLN, but we really have no idea what their school or work environment looks like. I think this is an excellent way to help Educators really get to know each other, which in turn can only improve our sharing and collaboration.

I couldn't write this post without mentioning Katie Hellerman (@klhellerman). Katie has challenged us to take our "digital" relationships to the next level, and I believe this is definitely a step in the right direction!

Please enjoy my NEW 10 picture tour:

Welcome to Poplar Bluff Junior High School!
Our students of the month display
The newly renovated gym
The district's main football field is adjacent to the junior high
The trophy and award case!
1 of 2 flat screen TVs in the cafeteria :)
The sign for our Jr. Beta Club

My office
Thank you for the "tweet me" sign @cmcgee200
Our 4 eMINTS carts taking a breathier for the summer

Feel free to check out my first "10 picture tour."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Actions speak louder than words...

One week from today will be my first "official" working day as an assistant principal. In an effort to prepare for this new endeavor, I have been doing a lot of reflecting and thinking. Additionally, I have been trying to learn anything and everything I can that might help me to be successful in this position. Though I don't think it's common for an assistant principal to have a "school entry plan" or any formalized plans of action, I have spent the last month or so reflecting and figuring out ways to implement new programs.

- I was fortunate to have the opportunity to Skype with @dwight_carter 's administrative team and @l_hilt to gain great insights from experienced administrators. This is an excellent example of the power of PLNs.

- I spent time talking with & meeting local administrators as I contemplated "my 10 goals as a 1st year administrator." This allowed me to reflect, as well as get tons of great feedback & comments from experienced administrators on the upcoming year.

- I began designing a professional studies book club to help Educators at PBJHS grow both professionally and personally. It is my hope to use the book club as a way to enhance relationships and reinforce the concept of teamwork in an effort to improve student achievement at PBJHS.

- I sent this request to my Superintendent to allow us to use Facebook and Twitter as tools to enhance communication with parents, as well as to share the many great things going on at PBJHS. We were granted permission.

- I prepared a list for my Assistant Superintendent on the benefits of an iPad, and how this tool would help my building principal and I do our jobs more efficiently and effectively. We were successful and received the iPads within two days.

- I created a professional development blog for PBJHS teachers. It is my hope to have a centralized location of PD resources that are archived and accessible anywhere with internet access. My plan is to share my top 5 weekly resources in a blog post on the PD blog. Additionally, I hope to model effective blog use in an effort to get my fellow colleagues blogging.

- I designed a handout (which is not completely finished) for our 7th and 8th grade orientation nights. I really want to embrace transparency and share information about our school.

- Lastly, I refit this short motivational video for our first back to school faculty meeting. I hope this video inspires, motivates, and ignites the passion of learning and teaching in all my fellow colleagues at PBJHS.

I know there is no guarantee that any of these initiatives or programs will be successful or openly accepted, but I at least know that nobody will say I am all talk and no action. I honestly feel that each one of the before mentioned items can and will directly impact student achievement. Lastly, it is my hope to model lifelong learning and taking risks in an effort to improve education. Hopefully my actions are at least as loud as my words...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The islands of excellence...
Early this year I read The Learning Leader by Douglas B. Reeves as a part of my doctoral studies. I found the book to be extremely well written, as well as extremely valuable for anyone looking to gain a more in-depth understanding of school improvement.

As districts and schools look to both district and building leaders, it is difficult not to notice the "Islands of Excellence," as well as the islands of weakness within our districts and buildings. We all know where the "Islands of Excellence" are, and we all know which Educators are on the "Islands of Excellence." On the flip side, we also know where and who are on the islands of weakness. The difficult task as district and building leaders is to identify ways to expand the "Islands of Excellence," while simultaneously shrinking the islands of weakness.

When speaking with district and building leaders the most difficult part of expanding the "Islands of Excellence" always comes back to exposure. We all know that when we see great things happening, our first response is to share and spread the good word. This can have both positive and negative effects on a district and building staff. On the positive side, sharing and collaborating with other Educators is probably the most beneficial way to improve both a district and building. You would be hard pressed to find a more effective and powerful means to school improvement that does not center around sharing and collaboration.

On the negative side, when an "Island of Excellence" gets too much exposure and attention, there WILL be Educators who will form an alliance against this island purely because they feel threatened or left out. At times we have to resist the urge to share ALL the success stories of the "Islands of Excellence," even though we do this with the best intentions. District and building leaders have difficult jobs, and this is just one more example of the realities we see in our districts and buildings.
So, whether you are a teacher, a building level administrator, or a district level administrator...take some time to reflect upon how you treat and handle your "Islands of Excellence," and your weak islands. Additionally, think about which island you are on. If you are on an "Island of Excellence," then consider some ways to attract some new members who could increase the size of your island, or even perhaps start their own "Island of Excellence." 

I believe 100% in self-reflection, and consequently if you think you could possibly be a member of a not so excellent island, then perhaps it is time to take a swim, and expand your horizons. There is one thing I can guarantee...any "Island of Excellence" would be more than happy to accept you as its newest long as you show you are willing to turn from the dark side!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My best year yet...

I am not writing this post to gloat or toot my own horn, but I would like to celebrate the milestone of 100,000 pageviews on my blog. Though the number 100,000 seems like a logical milestone, I really would rather celebrate the journey of my personal and professional growth over the last 12 1/2 months. I know there are many much better Educators and bloggers out there, but this has been quite a year for me as an Educator.
I find it ironic, but as I looked at my first blog post on June 14th, 2010, the title jumped out at me, "A chance to grow." Though the blog post had nothing to do with blogging, I had no idea how much blogging would help me to grow and develop as an Educator.

I have written 118 blog posts (including this one) in a little more than a year. I have spent countless hours writing and reflecting on my educational experiences, and I don't regret it for one second. The journey and time spent have pushed me to new heights as a more well-rounded and knowledgeable Educator, which in turn has hopefully benefited my students and colleagues.

Something worth noting for any Educators contemplating starting a blog; during my first 6 months of blogging I only had 9,000 pageviews. The remaining 91,000 pageviews occurred during the last 6 months. I know many Educators who start blogging get frustrated when they feel nobody is reading their posts, and it only adds to the fire when they get very few if any comments from other Educators. By no means do I consider myself to be an expert on blogging, but I do know it takes time and patience.

Though I have only been in education for 6 years, I feel very confident that this past year was my best professionally. I won't give blogging all the credit, but it definitely played a huge role in helping to shape and evolve my thoughts as an Educator. Good luck and happy blogging!

I encourage you to check out some other posts I have written about blogging:

Is blogging really worth it?

I am an educational blogger

10 reasons to get Educators blogging

Top 5 blog posts of 2010

Where is the value added?