Sunday, September 25, 2011

Administrator to administrator...

My building principal and I will be leading an administrator training session this week for the administrators in my district. We will be covering some of the ways we are using technology, some of the ways we are being proactive about our building's image in the community, and some of the ways we are providing timely and relevant professional development opportunities for our staff.

Using iPads:

We created a walk-through form using Google Form to gather data on our building. Google Form allows us to use our iPads to conduct short informal walk-throughs while also compiling all of the data into usable charts. Here is the link to our walk-through form: PBJHS walk-through form.

Additionally, we have been using our iPads to take pictures while doing class walk-throughs to help archive and share some of the great things going on at PBJHS. We have also used iMovie on the iPad to create these two videos that we shared with our staff and community.

Public relations:

We also decided we wanted to be proactive when it comes to informing our community about things going on at PBJHS. Consequently, we created a Facebook page as an avenue for getting news and information out to our community. Additionally, we started a Twitter account that is linked to our Facebook page so any new Facebook posts go directly to our Twitter account as well.

Professional development for staff:

Lastly, we started a professional development blog to share links and useful information that could help our teachers. Each Tuesday we share 5 different blog posts on our PD blog. These posts cover anything and everything related to education. It is our hope to embrace a more collaborative culture that thrives on self-reflection and sharing among staff members.

Additionally, we started a professional studies book club that focuses on both professional and personal growth. We are meeting this Wednesday to discuss Jon Gordon's, "The Energy Bus," and up next we will be reading Tom Rath's, "How Full is your Bucket?" We are looking to read Kathleen Cushman's new book, "Fires in the Mind," and Daniel Pink's book "Drive" late this semester.

We also recently surveyed our staff and determined that many teachers would be interested in attending after school PD sessions that are led by both teachers and administrators. We are still in the process of developing this while aligning our focus with our building's needs.

As an administrator or teacher, how are you using technology to improve your school's image while also providing professional development for your staff? 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

5 inspirational leaders

As I continue my journey as a first year administrator, I continually find myself on the lookout for both great tweeps and great leadership blogs. Here are a few that I would like to share with you:

Jeff Delp (@azjd) - K-12 Principal: Jeff has been on fire lately when it comes to his blogging. The thing that most impresses me with Jeff's writing is that he is constantly writing about the real issues we are facing in education. He does not just write about the bigger philosophical approaches to education, but rather the real world scenarios we are facing in schools. Here are a few of my favorite most recent posts by Jeff: Chasing homeworkRe-engaging the disengaged: 5 strategies, and Challenge your assumptions.

Chris Wejr (@mrwejr) - Elementary Principal: Chris has been a major player in the "what motivates students" debate. Also, he has pushed the envelope when it comes to rewards and extrinsic motivators in schools. Lately, Chris has been bouncing around with this blog posts, but he has definitely been a huge influence on me and many others. In particular, I have really enjoyed these latest posts by Chris: One day events don't solve everyday problemsThey need teaching...not punishment, and Parent communication: TO vs. WITH.

Dan Rockwell (@leadershipfreak) - Leadership Guru: Dan writes a new post on leadership on an almost daily basis. Though his posts aren't specific to education, he does an excellent job of making his posts relevant across many professions. I also find a lot of relevancy to what he says when dealing with colleagues and even our students. Dan's posts are 300 words or less, and his blog most definitely deserves to be in your RSS feed as a daily dose of inspirational leadership. Here are a few of my favorite posts of late: Great leaders are great hatersThe leadership secret, and Polite meetings are a waste of time.

Aaron Biebert (@biebert) - Leadership Guru: Aaron like Dan does not write specifically for educators, but I find a lot of his posts to be quite inspirational and motivating nonetheless. I have been following Aaron for the shortest amount of time when comparing these 5 leaders, but I am constantly impressed and encouraged by his words. Here are 3 posts that have really got me interested in reading more of what Aaron has to write: The magic of user friendly leadership6 reasons why "conflicted" is good for your life and organization, and Leadership: Here there be dragons.

Krissy Venosdale (@KTVee) - 3-6 Gifted Teacher: Though Krissy might not blog or tweet directly about "leadership" trends or perspectives, she is without doubt a leader in her own right. Krissy provides a constant stream of great ideas and even better perspectives that both inspire and motivate me. If you are looking for a boost of inspiration or energy, then you need to look no further than Krissy. Here are 3 great posts Krissy has written of late: Letting go of rulesWhere are you going?, and Making mountains into molehills.

Check out a blog post I did back in May about 5 other educational leadership superstars: Educational superstars

Sunday, September 11, 2011

High expectations...

A conversation that has come up recently in several different places has really caused me to reflect. At my school, on Twitter, and in my Google Reader, it appears the discussion of "high expectations" is not quite as simple as it may seem...
I think most Educators have high expectations for themselves and for their students, but what I have really struggled with of late is if or whether we should personalize our expectations for our students. Should we "standardize" high expectations and expect all students to follow the same set of expectations, or should we "personalize" the expectations to meet our students at their own individual levels and abilities...?

Jeff Delp (@azjd) wrote a great post titled, "Achieving the impossible," where Jeff describes how some schools in economically depressed areas are still able to overcome their shortfalls and ultimately succeed. The first way to accomplish this feat is to have high expectations for all students. Perhaps I need to read the book that Jeff is referring to, but I really began to think about the impact on our students when we hold them to a high standardized set of expectations.

Imagine these two students:

Student A comes from a stable home with two educated parents who are able to provide 3 healthy meals a day, a nurturing academic environment to complete out of school assignments, and are vocal advocates for their child.

Student B comes from a broken home with one uneducated parent who is not able to provide 3 healthy meals a day, requires the child to babysit siblings while the parent works the night shift, and does not have the ability or knowledge to be a vocal advocate for their child.

- Is it fair to hold both these students to the same level of standardized high expectations, or should we personalize the expectations to meet the needs of each individual student at their current levels?

*If we personalize the expectations for each student, student B will get additional resources and leniencies that student A will not.

- If we do personalize the expectations, are we adding to and encouraging the achievement gap that exists while simultaneously performing an act of "soft bigotry?" Soft bigotry is defined as not holding disadvantaged children to the rigorous standards that other non-disadvantaged students are expected to do.

What are your thoughts...?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We all have voices...

Before school started I took the opportunity to ask some teachers and staff what they were looking forward to in the 2011-2012 school year. Here are 2 videos I made on my iPad using iMovie (which I highly recommend as a great app!)

I also took the opportunity to ask students what they liked about PBJHS so far this school year. Here is what they had to say...

I really enjoyed making both these videos, as well as having the opportunity to speak with so many teachers, staff members, and students about their thoughts on our school. What a fun experience!

This is also a great way to share and open up with our parents and community on our school Facebook page!

Monday, September 5, 2011

This I believe...

I was inspired to write this post as a part of the last class in my doctoral program. The assignment is to write a very personal and reflective piece on education based off of my beliefs and life experiences. Here is what I believe...

Over the course of a lifetime and career we all experience the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. So much of what we do in our lives comes back to our goals, expectations, hopes and dreams. The biggest difference between those who accomplish their goals and those who do not...are the paths they choose while developing their vision. 

As humans we all crave and need a certain kind of energy that fuels us toward our next task. I have no doubt that most humans have goals and dreams, what I am concerned with is their fortitude and their level of persistence to allow these dreams to come to fruition. For every goal and dream there is a path, and the larger the goal and dream the more difficult and complex the path. The most difficult part of any journey is making sure we have the perseverance, dedication, and focus to see the journey through...

Just like many things in life, it sounds pretty simple...but I can assure you, it is easier said than done. How can we make sure we have the required perseverance, dedication, and focus to reach our goals and dreams?  Through my own experiences and by talking with others I have come to the conclusion that it requires a vision. Each person must develop and refine his/her own vision, and if one is growing and developing, the vision will be in a constant state of flux and change. Since the vision will always be in a constant state of change, it continually provides us the needed fuel and drive to push on toward our goals and dreams. It is because of this pattern of growth and change that we are able to maintain a certain level of focus to keep us on target.

For me, I have concentrated on developing my philosophies of education (yes plural). While doing this I have constantly found myself searching and reaching into areas unknown to me. This has fueled my curiosity and dedication to improving as an educator, while giving me the opportunity to share and collaborate, thus refining my instructional leadership skills. By working to improve, refine, develop, share, and strengthen my vision, I have enabled myself to maintain the level of energy required to accomplish some of my initial goals and dreams. It is a long journey, however with a vision and the desire to grow alongside your vision, you too, can travel the road less traveled toward your goals and dreams. The road less traveled is not less traveled because people choose not to take it; it is less traveled because most people never reach it...

** Develop a vision...and go where others were unable **

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Seeing eye to eye...

Yesterday I had the opportunity to have a great discussion with one of the teachers at my school. We started this conversation during his conference period, and the discussion continued for about an hour after school ended.

Our discussion covered several different topics that are typically considered to be the "sacred cows" of educational discussions. Throughout this conversation we both brought up many good points, and the conversation definitely caused me to reflect and think about my educational beliefs and the way I approach my job as an Educator.
Perhaps the most important part of this experience was that there were a couple times when we did not agree. We had a philosophical difference in our beliefs based on past experiences and personal beliefs. Even more importantly, at no time did the conversation become personal for either of us. We talked as professionals and kept our focus on doing what we believe is best for students.

Though our perspectives are slightly different based on our current roles, we both were able to recognize the importance of having these difficult conversations that get Educators fired up. We both spoke passionately about what we believe and why we believe it, and in the end we shook hands and thanked each other for a great conversation.

I ended this conversation by saying that "if we aren't growing, we are falling behind." I truly believe that we need to have these difficult conversations that leave us vulnerable; conversations that are going to make us a little uncomfortable in an effort to grow and improve. It was a great end to a great week!

Here are a few questions to ponder as you get the 2011-2012 school year underway:

1) - Can you have conversations with your colleagues while making sure they don't become personal; can you keep the focus on doing what is best for students?
2) - If you are a teacher, can you have a candid and open conversation with the administrators in your building?
3) - If you are an administrator, can you have candid and open conversations with the teachers in your building?
4) - Do you see discomfort, disagreement and difficult conversations as a necessary route to growth and improvement?