Saturday, December 16, 2017

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 22

The holidays are definitely upon us, which is both exciting and eye-opening at the same time as an administrator. There are definitely times of celebration around the school: we had our holiday performance this past week, parties in classrooms, teachers created innovative projects and activities that showed fantastic collaboration, and more. But I'm also seeing the tougher side of this time of the year. Family or neighborhood issues escalate and get carried into the school setting, students are threatened with phrases like "Santa isn't coming if you don't behave," and people are just straight up worn out! Consequently, you end up seeing behaviors from individuals that you had not seen previously. 

This is also a time of reflection for me. Four months into this job has brought much joy, excitement, and fulfillment. It's also brought much growth. One of the most important areas of growth for me has been not letting minute issues stick to me. As a teacher, I would often hold onto a negative interaction with a parent, a kid who had an outburst, or a bad lesson and let it bother me. As a principal, you don't have time for that. Literally, as soon as something happens, the next thing happens. 

This past week, I was in a meeting with a parent who was quite upset with something, and the second she left I had an AWESOME office visit come down. The highs and lows of the job are so quick and so frequent that the day doesn't allow for anything to really stick with you. So perhaps this area of growth has been de facto, but nevertheless it has been, I believe, the most important element of maintaining a positive attitude during the school day. 

As we enter the final week before the holiday break, I am admittedly holding my breath for what I hope is a smooth week. I have put a few things into place for this week that I hope will maintain the peace and help us avoid any last minute issues. Good luck to all the educators out there! 

On a final side note, I want to give a shout out to my friends Wade and Hope King on their new book, The Wild Card and my buddy Todd Nesloney on his new book, Stories from Webb. Abe Hege and I also have a new book coming out in the spring called The Limitless School. All these books are under the Dave Burgess Publishing company! 


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 21

Let it snow! It was quite a week, capped off by a larger-than-expected snowfall that left us scrambling to get kids home safely! I definitely learned a few things I need to change for situations like this that we'll be putting into place moving forward!

But it was an amazing week for sure! The staff rolled out our House System. I can't tell too much about it here right now because I have students who read this and it's still a secret to them, but I'll just say that the staff is already getting competitive!

I also had the honor of announcing our first Moore Amazing Shake winner: Venise! In a fun twist, however, I got the chance to invite BOTH of the finalists to the Ron Clark Academy's Amazing Shake National competition in February. I know Venise and Eliana will both represent Moore fantastically! 

I had many people over the week ask me how I set up my Amazing Shake. Here is a recap for those interested:

Friday, 12/1: Round 1 - All 93 5th graders participated in a "first impression" circuit, which included 30 second interactions with a panel of judges. Each student had 10 interactions. After each interaction, the student was evaluated on a rubric with 8 categories (handshake, eye contact, social grace, poise, engagement, confidence, je ne sais quoi, and sense of humor). The Top 8 were announced after this round.

Monday, 12/4: Round 2 - The Top 8 went to the Wake Forest University Department of Athletics and competed in a "working the room" contest, where students had 15 minutes to network with 12 student-athletes and athletic staffers. The Top 5 were announced after this round.

Monday, 12/4: Round 3 - The Top 5 had no idea that Round 3 would immediately start! These five students had to conduct a two minute interview with Wake Forest University Hall of Fame basketball player and former NBA player, Skip Brown. He selected the Top 3 from these interviews.

Wednesday, 12/6: Round 4 - The Top 3 traveled to Brenner Children's Hospital and had to present a 3 minute speech in front of a room full of pediatric residents and physicians on the topic "What do you believe is the most pressing health issue children face today?" The Top 2 were selected after this round.

Thursday, 12/7: Round 5 - The Top 2 joined our district superintendent as special guests at a luncheon banquet honoring teachers. They had to demonstrate table etiquette and were surprised with the chance to make an impromptu speech in front of the room thanking the teachers.

Friday, 12/8: At our weekly Friday Rally, I announced the winner and surprised them with the news about competing at the National competition.

It was an amazing seven days getting to go through the Amazing Shake with the students. It took an immense amount of planning and teamwork, and I am so thankful for my "magic makers" at Moore who made this all happen. The response to the event was overwhelmingly positive and I am proud of the efforts the students put into it! My biggest desire from here is that these students take the skills that we have been working on all year and implement them moving forward!

So as snow sits on the ground this morning, it is a symbol that we are nearing that mid-way point in the year. With 9 days until the winter break, there is going to be an expected mix of excitement, anticipation, and deep breathing on behalf of all!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 20

I have a steady history of getting a cold once a semester, and this week kept up the tradition! It hit me hard, but a steady flow of Red Bull and adrenaline for the week's events kept me moving just fine.

Friday held the highly anticipated (for me at least) first annual Moore Amazing Shake! This has been in the making for months now, and beyond that, it's been in my head for years as something I wanted to bring to a school as principal. It's an overwhelming experience to produce, so I have to give many thanks to the many Moore magic makers that helped make this a success! From making name tags to designing rubrics to cleaning and setting up the gym, my team came together to make this happen!

We had an extraordinary group of judges who came from many walks of life who helped narrow the 93 students down to the Top 8, who will compete next week in an intense series of challenges to get us to the eventual winner on Friday. I encourage you to check out the Moore Twitter and Facebook pages to see the pictures, stories, and videos from the event!

After the contest was over, I received an email from one of the judges who said that today changed her view of the potential within our students. While certainly some students today had more skills than others, each and every one of them tried and showed that any student is teachable with high expectations and support. Honestly, what we did at Moore today is replicable and feasible in ANY school in America.

Some other highlights of the week included:
- Attending a Silent Dinner with one of my deaf families at the mall. It includes dozens of members of the deaf and hard of hearing community. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but everyone there made me feel so welcome and was patient as I learned more signs. Additionally, I brought my younger son with me and he ended up being the new favorite kid in the deaf community!
-  Installing Ident-a-Kid at Moore! It was long overdue!
- Beginning tours of Moore for rising kindergartners.
- Finishing the roll-out plan for implementation of the House System.

It was a busy week for sure, but I honestly wouldn't want it any other way. I was talking to a friend at a luncheon I attended on Wednesday and said that there is nothing better than knowing that each day will bring a completely different day than the last, and that most of my day happens to me on the spot. The intensity, unpredictability, and pressure of it is truly what I enjoy most about the job.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 19

It was a short week because of Thanksgiving break, so in the spirit of the season, I want to share a few things that I am thankful for this year:

- I am thankful for my family that is supportive of this new role I have taken on. I am also thankful for my amazing babysitters who we could not do this without!

- I am thankful for being given an opportunity by Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools to be a principal. They are taking a chance on a guy with an untraditional path and giving him support to rethink what education can look like in public school.

- I am thankful for my staff and students at Moore, who have made these first few months so much fun.

- I am thankful for having the opportunity to publish a second book under Dave Burgess, co-written with my buddy Abe.

- I am thankful for my fellow principal PLN, who I call upon frequently to ask questions, advice, and brainstorm with!

- I am thankful for opportunities to still present around the country. I am not able to do what I once did now, but I appreciate the chance to still go out and share ideas with fellow educators!

- I am thankful for another year of good health. (knock on wood!)

- I am thankful that this blog has given me a chance to reflect and document this journey as a first year principal; it's been a lot of fun writing it each week.

A quick public service announcement to wrap up: This Friday is the Moore Amazing Shake! To say that I'm excited about it would be an understatement! We're going to be posting lots of pictures and videos (maybe even go LIVE as well), so check out our Twitter (@MooreMagnetES and @adamdovico) and Facebook pages to follow along! 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 18

We did an interesting exercise in our new principal meeting this week. It's an activity credited to President Eisenhower centered around Urgency and Importance. I've seen this activity before, but not since becoming a principal. Here is a version of the matrix below:

Anyhow, I found this exercise valuable in thinking about the hundreds of tasks that are presented each day and how I view their importance and or urgency. The next day, I had a meeting with my five beginning teachers before school, as I do each month. I decided to present this same activity to them, as they are in some ways in the same boat as me in a new role. We discussed how oftentimes dissension arises in matters when two parties do not see the same task with the same importance or urgency.

For example, when a parent calls upset about a grade on their child's test, this may not be "important" on the matrix, but that parent sees it as important and urgent. If you treat it otherwise, you come off as uncaring. Similarly, when a teacher calls a parent asking them to help their child with their homework because it's never turned in, to the teacher that might be important and urgent, but to a parent who might be struggling with just keeping the lights on in the house, it's probably not important or urgent.

I definitely reflected a lot on how I view my days with this activity and personally, I think the toughest thing I still face (as I always have) is the "delegate" box, where it's something urgent, but possibly not as important. These are deemed tasks that I can have someone help with, but I usually just try to do it myself. I was joking around with my PE teacher on Friday that the closet in the gym that was cluttered was all cleaned up finally. I heard that one of our Watch DOG dads took care of it for him. As I was messing around with him about it, he said I'm a good delegator. It was true, he knew that was a task that was urgent, but not necessarily important to him, so he was able to find a way to get it done by utilizing a resource we have in our school now. It was a really "a-ha" moment for me.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 17

This week I just want to talk about Thursday. It was a day that exemplified the highs and lows of this job. I had gotten to school about 6:30AM because I needed to get a couple things done before my 5th grade ambassadors got to school starting at 7:00 to do more training in preparation for an event at school that morning.

My school hosted the district magnet meeting that morning. As a part of the meeting, we would spend the first part of it doing a tour of the school, so principals, instructional facilitators, and magnet coordinators from the district could see pieces of the changes we've made to Moore, including Morning Choice, classroom greeters, and other aesthetic changes around the building. My eleven ambassadors (which include 5 brand new ones) nervously, yet excitedly greeted the district employees as they entered. They then got to bring the guests around the school and talk about what we are doing at Moore this year.

Afterwards, those at the meeting debriefed and shared observations and thoughts based on the tour. It was encouraging and touching to hear the comments being made because it affirmed that the work that has been put in this year is paying off. The pieces that these colleagues noticed were the exact focus areas that we've been working on since Day 1. Hearing that kind of feedback truly makes all of the work so worth it!

As I mentioned earlier, it was a high and low kind of day. Obviously, the morning was a great high! The afternoon was definitely tougher. As the day was ending, my assistant principal had to go to a training and my instructional facilitator was out sick. So it left me as the only administrator.

The day was almost done when a student got very sick, so we called EMS and had to take care of him (he's fine). That brought me right up to dismissal time and I was trying to finish paperwork for a behavior issue for a child before she left for the bus. While finishing that I got a call on the bus lot that a bus driver needed to talk to me immediately. As I was talking to the bus driver, a parent came and found me on the bus lot because she needed to talk to me about her child. I walked back inside with the parent to finish the conversation. While that conversation was ending, two things happened at once: I had to go back out to the bus lot to get students who couldn't ride the bus and wait with them while we got a parent to pick them up, and I got a text that PTA needed to have the building open later than 6:00 to distribute fundraiser items, but my custodians were leaving at 6:00 because of the holiday on Friday. That left me to close up the building. Then at around 4:45, I get notification that one of my students was dropped off at another school because there wasn't someone to meet him off the bus, so I was working with that other principal on getting in touch with the parent. I was about to get in my car to pick up the kid myself from the other school when I got notification that he was picked up. While all this is happening, I'm supposed to be at a Teacher of the Year dinner.

It was at that moment that I had a realization (and a huge headache). As an educator, there are hundreds of decisions that have to get made every day. As a principal, I'd say there are probably thousands. Not everyone will like the decisions that you make, but moreover, not everyone understands why those decisions were made. My school needed me that evening, and that is where I stayed. I ended up getting home sometime after 8:00PM after having been at school since 6:30AM. After having a day now to look back on Thursday, I'm happy that a) it's over and b) I survived!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 16

When I look back at the year come June and I reflect upon when things start "clicking" at Moore, I think I can mark this past week as one of those defining weeks.

A few of the "clicking" moments:

- My teachers who went to Ron Clark Academy and Get Your Teach On have been on fire implementing new cheers, chants, games, and so on. They are in the process of building stages, installing special lights, and rearranging their classrooms.
- I got a text from one of my teachers that said that when she met with parents throughout the week, they reported that their kids are loving coming to school.
- My 5th graders went on a field trip to Heritage Theater this week. After they got back, we got a call at our school from the Theater that said that they were completely blown away by the students, their behavior, manners, and focus. My 4th graders also went to Raleigh today and the teachers reported that they received compliments throughout the trip from tour guides and the general public. The students showed the Moore Four (tracking, respectful interactions, SPECIAL introductions, and standing up) while in the state's capital. One of my 4th grade teachers said that in her 20 years of teaching she's never heard those types of compliments.
- I had a number of guests visit the school this week and they were able to witness Morning Choice in full effect. The students were able to verbalize that they are excited about coming to school each day to get to their classroom.

Now that we are in the second quarter, in addition to our first quarter focus on building culture, we will be drilling down on rigor in all of our lessons. If we are to grow our students, we have got to make them critically think. I've charged my instructional facilitator with putting a heavy focus on higher order thinking during PLTs, and I just created a new walk through form for my leadership team that will allow us to collect data on the levels of rigor going on throughout the day across the school.

The second quarter is also bringing in special planning meetings for surprises that will be rolled out come the new year! And since I know there are Moore families that read this blog, it'll remain a secret until then!