About inceb2207

Passion educator who wants to inspire others to make a difference in the world.

Do Not Forget To Take The Time To Recognize All The Proud Moments

 

 An interesting moment occurred during our interviews yesterday—to conclude the interview a candidate asked all of us-

What we were most proud of at Central?

I was the closest person to the candidate, but I quickly told our counselor she could answer first. I must admit, it was not because I was being polite, it was because I needed some time to reflect on this rarely asked question. So, often, I tend to look at the data, evidence, facts, etc. and primarily concentrate on our areas that need improvement that I sometimes forget about the aspects of our school to celebrate. For this blog post,  I would like to take that time to share what I am most proud of.

I am proud…

  • of the teacher who courageously walked back through our doors after experiencing a life altering event to continue making a difference in her students’ lives.
  • f the teacher who questioned her ability as an educator when all these changes were happening and found that as long as she used her passion for students, she could do anything!
  • of the teacher who recently received unfortunate news, but found a way to put a smile on her face because she knew her students depended on that.
  • of the quiet teacher who has such a big heart for all the women in his department that he will do whatever it takes to protect them.
  • of the teacher who goes out of her way to build relationships with students and families.
  • of the teacher who has put countless hours into her classroom to help improve student learning and her AR results are proof that it is working!
  • of the teacher who knows how to bring laughter, energy, and compassion to her classroom and school.
  • of our special education department for being so compassionate and determined to advocate for the underdog.
  • for the teacher who understands the value in relationships, especially with our most troubled kids.
  • of the teacher who wants all kids to become proficient readers and goes out her way to support the teachers.
  • of the counselor who has made such a profound impact on our students.
  • of the teacher who returned after many illnesses with a new appreciation for teaching.
  • of the teacher who tries so hard to improve on her insecurities as a teacher—even if that means trying 30 different ideas to reach 1 challenging student.
  • of the teacher who has put in many years and will leave a legacy here at Central, she will truly be missed.
  • of the teacher who tries different ways to motivate our students and who will always be the best joke teller.
  • of the secretaries who do so much more than secretarial work; they positively impact all that enter the office.
  • of the teacher who advocates for the non English speaking student.
  • of the interpreter who has helped us build relationships with diverse families.
  • of the Speech Pathologist who wears many hats and wants to do what is best for our students.
  • of the paraprofessionals who are so underpaid for all that they do!
  • of the most dedicated school nurse who takes great pride in keeping our kids healthy.
  • of a librarian who takes care of us all and instills a love for literacy in all!
  • of the world’s best custodians that help keep our school clean and safe!
  • of the recess monitors who go through more than we can even imagine.
  • of all the teachers who have been frustrated, but still continue to show up for our kids.
  • of the Art Teacher who does more than just teach art; she is a champion for all kids.
  • of the Music teacher who is always willing to try new things and who always has a smile or funny remark to make.
  • of the PE teacher who brightens up the office every morning with his greeting or sense of humor.
  • of the Band teacher who instills her passion for music in all her kids.
  • of a cafeteria manager and cooks who work so hard in preparing healthy meals for our students.
  • of our students who deal with so much adversity, but show up each and every day.
  • of our students who show improvement in behavior and academics.
  • I am proud to be part of Central Intermediate!

If many of you were like me and became so consumed in what you need to improve and failed to take the time to celebrate, take some time to reflect on what you are proud of because it is an important part of the journey!  Image

 

 

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Fab 5 on Friday

Building relationships has always been an important part of being a teacher and coach.  Now, as the principal of Central Intermediate, it continues to be a top priority.  I started the year, greeting families as they came to register their child for school.  I introduced myself, shook their hand, and told them if there is anything we can do to make sure that your child has a successful year, do not hesitate to ask.  The mother, responded with, as long as we don’t receive any phone calls from you, the principal, it should be a successful year.  I responded with, well, I hope to make my interaction with students and families a positive one.  After saying this, I knew I had to keep my word.  Although I knew I would be making phone calls to families regarding situations that might not be positive, I wanted to make sure that these were not the only calls I made.  

 Ironically, that week, I came across a blog from @rggillespie, Reed Gillespie on Twitter, called “Friday Five”.  In his blog, he states how he calls five random families to seek their input on how their school is doing and what they can do to improve.  I decided to take his idea and implement it at Central.  To keep my word to that particular family that associated a principal’s call home as negative, I made some changes to Reed’s Friday Five.  Every Friday, I find 5 students who do something positive whether it is from a simple greeting, helping another student or staff, following PBIS expectations, or doing something that impacts others in a positive way.  During my first Fab 5 on Friday calls, I had one parent go silent when I said, Hi, this is the principal from Central Intermediate…and then when I said, calling to let you know how proud I am of your child for representing Central in a positive way.  Usually, a big sigh of relief, laughter, or even tears of joy follow my statement. After sharing the great news about their child, I ask them if there are any concerns or areas we could improve on so their child has a great year.  Most of the time, the parents are very complimentary of the staff and school.  If they provide suggestions, it is usually related to the needs of their child or some even ask for volunteer opportunities.  

When I first started this, I was concerned with the commitment I made to calling five families every Friday. I wonder if I would find the time to do this every Friday.   However, after observing the students on Monday after I recognized them in front of the student body and hearing some of them talk about how happy their families were, I knew I had to keep this commitment.  What transpired after the first few weeks of Fab 5 on Friday was incredible!  Students became much more eager to visit with me.  I had students even volunteer to pick up trash. Although this was not my intent for Fab 5, I believe anytime we can encourage students to choose positive behavior, it is time well spent and worth it!   No matter what kind of week I have, ending my week with positive phone calls is a great reminder why I became an educator.  Through these phone calls I have recognized how building relationships with families can truly help create a strong partnership with home and school.  I have had to call some of the same families for poor choices their child made and their reaction is much more understanding and supportive.  The positive phone call let the family know I care about their child whether they are making good choices or poor choices.  We are a team and we all have a role in helping create great character in our students!  

I strongly encourage any administrator or teacher to find ways to make positive phone calls home or some type of positive interaction with families because it has created something that has become contagious in my building.  Positive attitudes are contagious!  

So far, I have kept my word, that phone calls from the principal will not just be ones that are considered negative.  Phone calls on Friday will continue to highlight all the great actions our students are doing in our building!   60 students have been recognized this year as Fab 5 students!  

CHOOSE EXCELLENCE EVERY DAY!  

Does Homework Encourage Cheating? #SAVMP

‘The pathway to educational excellence lies within each school.’ Terrance Deal

 For the second time this year, a teacher was certain two students had cheated on their homework.  After viewing the worksheets, it was obvious the teacher was right, students at our school had copied the same letters down for the matching exercise and had written identical short response answers.  I agree with the teacher that we need to turn this into a teachable moment for our students and have a conversation for all our students about academic dishonesty.  My fear is that could this be a lifelong habit our students are developing?  Please understand as you read this post,  I am in no means excusing the students in this circumstance.  What they did was dishonest and I will using this situation as a valuable learning experience. Yet, due to all the twitter chats I have participated in pertaining to Homework my philosophy has changed.  When I looked at these two worksheets,   it made me question, could this situation have been avoided? Are there some assignments that are more cheat-proof than others?   Does the homework we assign, encourage cheating?  To help me answer this question here are few facts to know about our school. 

 In my building homework is graded.  Like many of us we can relate to homework that is graded. Traditionally, this is what took place. And if you were like me completing homework assignments  became more important than learning because if we did not complete the assignment, we were punished somehow.  In my building that is what happens.  Students either stay in for recess to complete the assignment or receive a 0 in the gradebook. I agree with the teacher that we need our students to understand the severity of academic dishonesty, but I also believe we as educators must evaluate and even change our homework practices. Through my #sbgchats, here are some aspects I believe need to occur: 

  • Move toward Mastery: With the implementation of CCSS, we must help our students see that the goal is not completion, but mastery.  We want students to understand that cheating prevents our teachers from supporting them as they try to accomplish the standards. With a standards based movement, it is perfect opportunity to make the shift from grades to learning.  Each time they cheat, the students  rob themselves from an opportunity to demonstrate their true understanding.  Without the content and skills from the previous year, the students will greatly struggle the following year and into their future. We must make our students see this.  We must make our students see the value in our assignments by making them self-assess, and charting their progress.  Using formative assessments will be critical as we move our students toward mastery.  
  • Provide Feedback not Points to Homework:  At a staff meeting, I asked my teachers to define homework.  Most of them stated that homework was used for practice. However, they still grade homework using points and many students grades are impacted due to homework.  I believe we must provide feedback for students so that they understand what they know and do not know. Homework or classwork is an opportunity for us to check for understanding. As teachers our role is to make sure students are learning and should “practice” be the time we are holding our students accountable for mastery or should we be using homework to see where our students are in their understanding? Similar to basketball practice when an athlete is shooting 62% at practice, a coach will provide feedback to the athlete, and even other drills to do,  but the athlete is not responsible for the 62% until game time.  Students that struggle on homework or pratice are demonstrating they might need interventions to learn the material.  Assessments like “game-time” will be the moment when our students demonstrate what they have learned through core instruction, guided and independent practice, and any other interventions that were implemented.   
  • Make the Homework Meaningful: If we can provide homework that is meaningful for students, cheating is less likely.  The more I read about #geniushour, the more I think this is what we have to provide for our students.  Giving them a chance to explore their passions.  Through these assignments they are still learning content and skills.  Unless they have similar passions, these type of assignments do not encourage cheating.  We need to find ways to make learning challenging and fun, and help the students see the relevance behind the assignment.   
  • Be a part of the Homework Process: Teachers need to monitor students often and provide instant feedback so that incompletion doesn’t snowball into an opportunity to cheat. Many of my PLN stated that homework is now called practice, which encourages the teacher to be involved in the process. Although I believe homework does not need to occur for students to be successful, I believe that if we do assign homework we still MUST be a part of the process.  Students should not come the next day and turn that assignment in without getting immediate feedback.  
  • Provide Rigor for All: Regardless of abilities, socioeconomic status, or cultural background, all students can be equally involved in the assignment and the class discussion that follows. As the fear of “one right answer” dissipates, all students will begin to contribute and may become respected in new ways by their peers. (Alleman 2010) A math teacher in my building used a socratic seminar in her classroom.  She was amazed to see how her struggling students shined in this type of environment.  It made her see how we can’t have a fixed mindset because this will influence us not to provide rigorous opportunities for all. All our students deserve a high quality curriculum and instruction! Image

 As a school we need to carefully and purposefully consider the role of homework in our students’ lives.  The  implementation of the Common Core State Standards provides a great opportunity for us to reexamine our homework practices. It is time for us to shift our thinking on how we can discourage cheating through our homework assignments! 

EXCUSES CANNOT EXIST WHEN CHOOSING EXCELLENCE #SAVMP

      One of the most dangerous things to happen to any educator, at any level, is complacency.  Complacency is dangerous in any walk of life.  Complacency is usually a feeling that you have when you already achieved enough and do not need to work hard anymore. Complacency usually means you are in your comfort zone. I feel your comfort zone can be your biggest enemy.  My college basketball coach used to say one of the most important ingredients to success is your ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable.  I am so grateful that my coaches and parents challenged me to step outside my comfort zone because I believe it allowed me to reap many benefits.  Their constant push challenged me to work harder, and more importantly it inspired me to eventually push my students in the classroom, athletes on the court, and currently my teachers at Central.  However, I must admit it has been one of the most difficult parts of my job as a principal.  For me it was easy to step outside my comfort zone because I wanted to be the best, and I also watched my two older brothers reach their goals by working hard and overcoming adversity. I never wanted regrets, but it has been much more difficult inspiring others to choose the road that requires us to work harder, the road that might make us uncomfortable, and the road that might cause us to even fail.   But, inspiring my teachers to “Choose Excellence”  instead of settling for mediocrity has been a priority.      

 “Temporary discomfort leads to permanent improvement”

       Based on my staff’s knowledge in the implementation of CCSS, I will need to become the kind of “coach” who challenges them to step away from their comfort zone.  Change is needed to grow as educators so our students have a high quality education.  However, it will be my job to offer support for my staff as they embrace these needed changes.  For our professional development, I make sure that our staff meetings are focused on how we can ensure student learning.  The staff meetings where the principal gives information that can be handle electronically will no longer happen.  This was very different for them.   Many questions that have been asked make me realize change is difficult.  One of the most common questions that I have been asked; Why are the staff meetings like mini School Improvement Days? No longer is the principal just a manager, but they also must be an instructional leader.  Many of the staff wanted to know why I am giving little assignments to them and I had to explain the importance of reflection for continuous improvement.  These questions made me realize sometimes the expectations teachers have of their students are not the same they have for themselves.  We must raise the bar if we want our students to raise the bar.    

 “If we do always do what we always done, we will get what we have always got”

       As a former coach and teacher, one of the statements I said quite often was, “No More Excuses”.  Throughout my career as a teacher and coach, I knew the excuses I made distracted me from my goals and success.  Excuses do not move us forward, but rather encourage complacency. Although it is easy to make excuses in education today, they still do not move us in the direction we need to go. Here, at Central excuses were quite evident, and I knew I had to make a strong statement that “we are done making excuses”.  We want to model for our students that it takes perseverance and determination to become successful.  If we are constantly making excuses, we will teach our students to make excuses.  Our teachers at Central will work hard to have a No Excuse Mentality. We will focus on the process and results not the excuses that get in our way.  Our students deserve educators that are willing to step outside their comfort zone to create a learning environment that is engaging and ensures student learning. 

 We still have a lot of work to do, but together we can accomplish great things!  I encourage all my staff to become connected educators by using Twitter.  I owe my improvement as an educator and now a leader to my PLN.  My PLN inspires me to stay the course!  Every day I  get on twitter, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be an educator! 

“Problems don’t exist. Challenges do. Take pride in finding the solution.

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A Time to Reflect

We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.
― John Dewey

The past eight weeks has been quite the whirl wind for me as an educator.  On July 9th, I was appointed the elementary principal of Central Intermediate.  Although thrilled, to begin a new journey in my life, the thought of leaving my comfort zone caused some uneasiness.  This opportunity meant giving up a teaching and coaching profession of ten years that was an important part of my life.  Ironically, a student of mine gave me  a piece of artwork at the end of the year with a quote:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I knew I had to take a step toward my dream of becoming an educational leader. I am grateful I had the courage to take the first step. Now, my challenge is to keep taking steps forward regardless of the obstacles that stand in my way.

Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain. -Unknown

The many challenges I have encountered as a principal taught me that I had to stop trying to get  to the top of the mountain (my long term vision) after week 1; and instead concentrate on the pebbles- or in other words my day-to-day commitments that help create a culture of excellence.  I must thank my parents,  former teachers, coaches, and all the people who taught me that with the right mindset and perseverance success can be attained.  Perseverance has been the trait I have needed the most as a first year principal. Whether it was having a critical conversation with a staff member, issuing consequences for student behavior, dealing with an upset parent, changing the school culture, or getting a stray dog off our school property, perseverance was the key in handling these endeavors.  Were all these endeavors successful?  No, but the perseverance helped remind me that this job is a marathon, not a sprint, and it gave me the energy I needed to take the next step forward.

The next step forward has allowed me to experience some great moments at Central thus far:

Friday 5: Every Friday, I contact five families to share positive news about their child.  The positive news could relate to observations from the playground, lunchroom, morning assembly, classroom, or any behavior that represents good character.  Many times when parents know it is a call from the principal, they assume it is something negative.  The sound of joy in the parent or guardian’s voice is the perfect way to end the week.  Last week, our students had a rough day with playground behavior.  At 4:30, I was mentally drained and ready to call it a day.  But, I remembered how much this means to our students, families, and me!  The students look forward to it, and I know the parents appreciate hearing the positives. The Friday Five has been a reminder to me that all our children have something to offer, we just have to pay attention and focus on the positives!

Instructional Shifts: For our first staff meeting, I gave my staff an assignment to read about the instructional shifts taking place due to Common Core.  During our first staff meeting, the teachers watched videos demonstrating these shifts, and discussed the challenges and opportunities.  The conversations taking place made me realize I have a staff that is willing to embrace change if it means more success for our students’ futures.  I was pleased the following week when I observed many of these changes taking place in the classroom.

Building Relationships: As a former coach, my favorite part of my job was creating a team culture that fostered relationships.  I have learned the same culture has to be developed in a school.  Because of the demands that are placed on teachers today, it is imperative that I work on building relationships by supporting them during the challenging times and celebrating their successes.  If I want to make a difference in our students’ lives, it is critical that I build a relationships that empower them to not only be great students but also great citizens.  If I want our school to be successful, then I have to build partnerships with families, so our students see the powerful connection between home and school.  Although being a first year principal is overwhelming, the relationships I have made with students, staff, and parents is the fuel I need to persevere during the challenges.

I know I will have many more highlights to share at the end of the first quarter.  I must admit, I have a new level of respect for all the administrators out there.  The statement, before you criticize and choose, walk a mile in my shoes–is so true for this profession!

I will continue to “Choose Excellence Every Day for our staff, students, and families of Central Intermediate.

Accepting The Challenge #SAVMP

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

Like many Illinois schools, our latest Illinois Standards Achievement Tests have been delivered and viewed.  With the adoption of the New Cut Scores, these scores are cause for, at the very least, discussion.  Just as our state raised the bar in 2010 by adopting more rigorous learning standards, the state also raised the bar on the ISAT performance expectations.  As a leader, I must inspire our staff “stay the course.” The scores do not mean that our students knew less than the year before, but rather serve as an indication of where students perform in terms of college and career readiness.  When the ISAT was compared to the PSAE,which includes the ACT, it showed that the ISAT did not determine whether the students were college and career ready.  Therefore, all students in grade 3-12 are measured against the same bar.

So, what does this mean for our school, staff, and students?  It means we must work hard every day to prepare our children for these, new, higher expectations for learning.   I still remember being a coach preparing for a team that was much more talented than our team.  I remember reading the newspaper articles that claimed we had no chance to win.  I remember seeing doubt on my student-athlete’s faces.  But, it was these games I enjoyed the most.  It was these games that caused me to study game film longer, provide more detailed scouting reports, and most importantly find ways to make my athletes believe they could win.  Did we always win these games? No! But, the preparation before the game always allowed my teams to compete and have a fighting chance. The greatest compliment I ever received as a coach was when an athlete 10 years later said, “Coach, it was those long, intense practices, and your never satisfied personality that helped me in college and life. And that is why I coached, and now that is why I lead. I compare my coaching experiences to these new performance expectations.  As educators it is our responsibility to prepare our students for these more rigorous learning standards because not only will it help them on these achievement tests, but the preparation will provide them with the hard work, resiliency, and belief needed to become successful in life.

My staff, understandably so, was disappointed in the results on the ISAT test. However, my staff understands that we do not have time to make excuses, we must create a plan to align our curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, shift our instructional practices, and provide meaningful and relevant assessments.  One of the dynamic leaders that is in my PLN, Shelley Burgess, says, “If we understand and talk about that at the heart of Common Core is helping our students thrive as strategic, thoughtful, thinking-intensive readers, writers, speakers and listeners, we may be able to build more commitment to the shifts.”

As a former ELA teacher, I was fortunate enough to work side-by side with another teacher through the trial and error of Common Core Implementation.   We strived to create a classroom environment that valued learning and progress.   Our classroom instruction changed from being teacher-led discussions to student led socratic seminars.  Our students became deeper readers through close reading strategies, and thought-provoking writers through real-world experiences.  By the end of the year, our students were asking other students to prove their answers by showing evidence. It was definitely a challenging process, but the student enthusiasm and results that transpired made all the hard work and long nights worth it!  Through the changes that were made,  I realize the importance of collaboration and how every teacher has a responsibility in preparing our students for their future.

I must admit, it was much easier to make these curricular and instructional changes myself than to influence others to make these changes. Yet, as a leader it is my responsibility to provide systems of support for my teachers.  I am excited for the journey we will take this year as a staff, and I am even more excited about the impact we will have on our students at Central Intermediate.

HOLD THE ROPE #SAVMP

HOLD THE ROPE

With the talk of trust this week on #SAVMP, I came across this inspirational story that became the motto for our basketball team a few years ago during our quest for a Regional Championship!  I think it can apply to schools especially as we try to foster trust and resiliency.

Every year a professional football team wins the championship. Every year a college football team wins the NCAA title. Every year the best high school team in Division A on down wins the state crown. All these teams have one thing in common: No matter how tough it became throughout their season, they did one thing — they held the rope!

What is “holding the rope?” Imagine that you are hanging from the edge of a cliff with a drop of twenty thousand feet. The only thing between you and a fall to your death is a rope, with the person of your choice on the other end. Who do you know that has the guts to pull you to safety?

Who will hold the rope?

Who do you know that is going to let that rope burn their hand and not let go? How many people that you know are going to withstand the burning pain to hold the rope for you?

If you can name two people, that’s not good enough, because those two people might not be around. Our entire staff needs to be trusted to hold the rope if we ever want to help each child reach its fullest potential.

The next time your team is together, look around and ask yourself, “Who could I trust to hold the rope?

When you can look at every member on your team and say to yourself that they all would hold the rope, you are destined for success.

It will be my job as principal to inspire trust.  I want to foster a trusting environment where all members hold the rope for each other because it is then we will know we are all committed to student achievement.

Don’t let go of the rope…Hold on to it…for yourself, your staff, and your students.

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INSPIRING TRUST AT CENTRAL INTERMEDIATE #SAVMP

To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.” — Edward R. Murrow

As a classroom teacher and coach, I took pride in building relationships because I witnessed how important these relationships were to our classroom or team’s success. Anytime we can take a group of people to work towards a common vision, great things can occur and will occur.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision; the ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Andrew Carnegie.  On day one, I shared with my staff that our vision for this year would be “Choose Excellence Every Day’!  This vision will take hard work and commitment.

As a principal, it will be imperative to build and strengthen relationships with individuals who are involved at some level with our school.  Trust will be an integral part in building these relationships.  Without trust, there is no relationship.  In my new role, as principal, I must walk the talk to inspire trust. I must be visible in the classrooms and hallways, the cafeteria and the playground, at the bus stop and student events, meetings with community groups and parent meetings because accomplished principals build and manage a complex network of relationships.  Being a principal is not about shutting my door and dedicating long stretches of time to my daily to do list, or answering emails all day long. Being a principal is visiting classrooms every day, eating lunch with students, supervising recess, leading professional development, communicating with parents and community members, collaborating with district colleagues, analyzing student data, and anything else that is vital to our students’ success.  I do believe that a principal has to be an effective manager, but even more importantly a principal must be an instructional leader who promotes curriculum, ensures student learning, and supports professional growth.  At our school instructional leadership will be a priority.

Trust is also developed by showing the staff I trust in them by providing opportunities for them to lead.  My coaching experiences helped me realize how important itis to make full use of the individuals skills and talents of its members.  A collective effort will help our staff accomplish extraordinary things that no one person can accomplish by himself or herself.  Our after school dismissal proves this to be true.  I decided to have all members of our staff have a role in after school dismissal.  Each grade level supervises a different area of the school, and our P.E. teacher and music teacher took the challenging role of bus duty.  I am so thankful they did because they understood the system better than I did! Some of the situations that occurred would not have been handled as effectively without each member having a role.  I also have recognized strong leadership skills in several of my staff members that might have gone unnoticed without this opportunity.  Because of their collective efforts, we are showing the students and community that the safety of our students is a top priority.

I believe modeling effective communication is critical in building trust.  Being a new principal, I have recognized the importance of listening.  By listening, I have learned the needs of our staff and how I can best support them.   Through my classroom walkthroughs I am asking reflective questions to promote professional growth and to build an open dialogue between me and the teacher. The parents and community deserve to know what is occurring in our building, so I am using Twitter, Facebook, and newsletters to help highlight our events and showcase student talents.  To express value in dissenting views, I have created and Edmodo blog with different questions that give staff an opportunity to express their opinions in a professional way.  Our conversations allow teachers to feel more secure in providing honest input and participate meaningfully in school decision-making.

I became a principal because I wanted to positively influence an entire learning community.  Building and strengthening relationships will help improve teaching, learning, and student achievement, and because of this, I will do whatever it takes to build trusting relationships.

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Central Staff and Students Choosing Excellence During the Week 1 #SAVMP

Although my job changed from teacher/coach to elementary principal, my responsibility to motivate others to reach excellence remained the same.  Our first staff meeting  started with some of my favorite educational quotes, and Rita Pierson’s powerful message, “that every kid deserves a champion.” I wanted my staff to realize that building relationships will be critical to our success as a school.  Every day we will strive to connect with our students through our positive interactions,  meaningful curriculum, and parent communication.  

After the motivational video, we, then, had a discussion on what it means to be a professional. We discussed the role our professional dress plays in creating an environment that displays excellence.  As the principal of Central Intermediate, I believe everything we do, and everything we model is important. For this reason, I asked my teachers to model excellence in their attire.  After a discussion, the staff agreed to raise their level of dress and thus far have done a wonderful job.  

We ended the meeting watching, Dalton’s Sherman’s, keynote speech, on the importance of believing in every student.  His speech reminded all of us that if we ever want students to reach their potential, we must believe in them.  At Central we will take pride in having a growth mindset, a mindset that truly believes that every student can succeed.  Dalton’s Sherman brought tears to our eyes as he encouraged us never to give  up on the students because sometimes teachers are all they have. “You are the ones who feed us, who wipe our tears, who hold our hand, who hug us, and love us when it feels like no one else does” (Sherman 2008).  At one time in our teaching career, we have witnessed what Dalton says.  To show our students we believe in them, we will raise the bar for all our students, and do whatever it takes to help them reach success.  

The tone had been set for the 2013-2014 school year, and the teachers were ready to inspire our students to Choose Excellence.  On the first day of student attendance, the students rotated through stations to learn behavior expectations of PBIS.  Students were engaged and modeled the appropriate behavior all week.  We went through the student handbook using multimedia and an interactive discussion.  Students were encouraged to reach excellence through a positive attitude, a strong commitment, and a great effort.  So far the students of Central are showing they are making the choice to CHOOSE EXCELLENCE EVERY DAY!  

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Central Students at Morning Assembly

If the first week is an indicator of how the year goes, we are going to have an outstanding year!   

My Vision for Education #SAVMP

ImageIf we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” ~John Dewey

As a first year principal, I anticipate a job of challenges, possibilities, and results.  In order to overcome the challenges, make things possible, and achieve results, a vision must be created.  During my leadership experiences, I recognize the power of working together to reach a common goal.  When all members are invested, their enthusiasm, energy,  and drive are enhanced making the school environment positive and resilient.  I want to develop a shared vision with my staff that demonstrates an unparalleled commitment to excellence.  We will not only model excellence in our building, but we will inspire our students to pursue excellence. As a staff we will model excellence, and encourage our students to choose excellence every day!

“If we don’t stand for excellence, who will? We are the keepers of the educational beacon of light!” ~Diana Williams

Our school environment will foster the type of learning that will prepare students for the future-a future that requires different abilities, different skills,  and different habits of mind. We are the architects for our school, and we must build a school that inspires learning and frees the innovative spirit. To accomplish this I must create opportunities for professional growth.  I will show how I am invested in teaching and learning in my conversations with teachers, classroom visits, student interactions, and home connections. Every interaction serves as an opportunity to demonstrate the vision.

Often, we hear educators complaining about the lack of motivation students have today.  Yet, who is motivated by control, worksheets, fill in the bubble tests, and other paper and pencil activities?  How do these activities foster creativity, curiosity, individuality, and self-motivation?  What would happen if students were allowed the freedom to unleash their creativity, to use equipment that promotes their digital minds, and to become passionate learners that change the world?  Which one sounds more motivating for not only students, but also teachers?  I want our building to be recognized for its laughter, passion, chaos, enthusiasm, inquiry, and values. Our curriculum must be one of integration, based on relevant issues, and meaning for our students. Most importantly, passionate teachers must teach this curriculum in ways that inspires our students.  Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess reminded me how important passion is for student learning.

As a principal, my vision will be to create an environment that is conducive to learning, has high expectations for all, demonstrates commitment to student achievement, and creates strong community and parent partnerships.  Our school will make decisions based on what is best for students.

Shared leadership… is less like a an orchestra, where the conductor is always in charge, and more like a jazz band, where leadership is passed around … depending on what the music demands at the moment and who feels most moved by the spirit to express the music.’ Schlechy 2001

By “Choosing Excellence Every Day, we will challenge ALL students to reach high levels of success.