Monday, July 27, 2015

Staff Engagement...Again

Apparently, principals everywhere spend July thinking about how to make maximum impact on the first staff day in August. I keep stumbling upon blog posts and articles about how to have the best kickoff meeting. A post I read today makes perfect sense, yet challenged me. This middle school principal asked her teachers not to share any rules on the first day of school, and instead, to focus on preparing and teaching a lesson so engaging that students would lose track of time, and leave at the end of the day excited to return. Another blog elaborates a bit more on how classroom and school culture can be shifted by focusing first on engagement.
We all understand intuitively that the first day of school or teacher workdays is when you are most likely to have the attention and enthusiasm of students or staff, yet we often extinguish it as quickly as possible by boring them with a long list of limitations and constraints.  We want teachers and students to innovate and "think outside the box," but our first order of business is to describe every technical specification of the box and all the best strategies for remaining inside. I'm still refining what my most engaging lesson of the year will look like, but I'm hopeful that I can break out of the box and inspire my staff to do the same.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Staff Engagement

Since attending the DENSI Principal Summit earlier this month, I've been thinking a lot about how to ensure that professional development (PD) meets the needs of the learners.  I've long had a focus on differentiated PD within the schools I've led, but like just about anything in life, there's always room for improvement.  This post on Edutopia references students, but the principles apply adult learners as well. I want to keep these elements in mind as I plan for and support the learning process for our school staff.
I love that the last of the ten tips is to be human and remember to have fun.  When I consider how to create opportunities for fun while learning for staff, or even students, enjoying myself still takes a very low priority. While I take great pleasure in seeing others learn and grow, when I am functioning as the leader, I am often observing or managing the process(es) from the perimeter, rather than allowing myself to become fully immersed in the moment. I do think that incorporating more elements of an unconference format in our PD will actually provide me the opportunity be more in the moment and have fun.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Rules of Engagement?

I have been adjusting to "silent observers" of social media, particularly when we interact in person. I have had several instances of encountering someone who referenced content I had posted, but had never responded in any way I could see. The first time this happened, I stumbled upon a person who was in a Facebook running group where I post lots of pictures and comments.  As we talked, she repeatedly referenced different items I had posted, but when I asked if her profile name was different (because I didn't remember seeing any of her interactions with the content), she said, "Oh, I never say anything. I just watch." It makes sense to me that there are people who just watch others' conversations online, but I find it interesting that they later choose to "reveal" themselves and their viewing habits.
As one who really likes to keep the "social" in social media, I engage with other users by commenting, replying to tweets, etc. For me, the interaction around content is of greater value than the content itself. I learn the most when I understand others' diverse interpretations and experiences of the same information I have received.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rethinking Discipline

Of all the responsibilities I manage as a school leader, student discipline is one of the most challenging, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think. I've worked in a variety of schools and experienced some downright scary behavior incidents, but I have always felt good about the colleagues and families in my communities, and our ability to collaborate to implement processes and develop plans to minimize inappropriate behavior and promote positive behavior.
The difficulty comes in balancing what I have been taught about student discipline, what I know about human behavior, and what it takes to create systems in schools. This article highlights the research and methods of Dr. Ross Greene. As far as I can tell (until I read his books), his basic premise is that the focus of behavior management should be communication with the student to figure out the root cause of the inappropriate behavior and develop strategies to address the need(s). I imagine that many parents and educators agree, as do I. Once we put hundreds of young people, their needs, and their rights all together in one building, providing the time, personnel, patience (of others' loved ones) to consistently respond as Dr. Greene recommends becomes complicated.
We have a wonderful (and soon, expanding) student services team that provides students with opportunities to share the causes of their behaviors, and supports them in developing coping strategies. We also have codes that describe citizenship in our classrooms, our school, and in our district.  The codes include consequences, which those who abide by the code often want to see implemented for those who don't.
This tension between the needs and rights of the one who is still learning to model citizenship and the needs and rights of the many provides students, parents, and educators great opportunities for collaboration, problem-solving, and growth. I'm fortunate to have the support of a great PLN (that includes you) to help me continue to reflect upon and refine my practices.

Note: Please don't expect (or maybe dread) daily posting. I just wanted to reflect on the article after reading.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Always Learning

Having fun learning
new ideas for supporting
instruction at DENSI
 Principal Summit!
Last week, I attended the DENSI Principal Summit in Washington, D.C. with a great group of colleagues. I learned so much, I was motivated try my hand at blogging. In the past, I haven't found blogging to be a sustainable effort, but I'm now ready and have the tools available to minimize the time needed.
I'm beginning this blog because I have a super-simple platform and a great reason - expanding my school community and my own learning. My goal is to collaborate with Poe families and families who want to become a part of Poe, as well as educators around the world.  I want to share with everyone how wonderful Poe is, locate ideas for making our instruction even more powerful, and most importantly, model for my students that we never stop learning.
Thanks for joining me on this journey!