Saturday, January 20, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 26

It was an interesting week for sure! I spent Monday and Tuesday presenting at Get Your Teach On in New Orleans. We had 900 excited educators from around the world! I was able to bring four of my own staff members to be a part of the magic as well. During the trip we got to celebrate my friends Hope and Wade King's new book The Wild Card with a rock star party at the House of Blues! If you haven't picked up your copy yet, do it now! And it's not too late to join us in Washington, DC in March for the next GYTO!

I was scheduled to fly home Tuesday evening, but Mother Nature had a different plan, as airports shut down everywhere and my teachers and I were stranded in New Orleans all the way until Thursday morning. It was adventure indeed! Then luck be have it, as I got home Thursday night, I came down with some nasty illness, and for the past 36 hours I've been cooped up in my bed.

Needless to say, it's been an unconventional week, but I think there were some solid takeaways from it:

1) Positivity trumps everything. Even with many flight delays and cancellations, being surrounded by many friends who had smiles on their faces definitely helped make it through the experience (shout out to Stranded Teachers crew).

2) My bosses rock. Long story short, I had a nightmare situation when I had to switch flights and extend hotel stays, which is not as easy when you're using school funds. But my boss and Title 1 director were superstars and helped me get through everything!

3) Sometimes you meet people for the first time and it's like you've known them forever. Our Get Your Teach On team grew this conference and our new team members are simply all amazing. They are such positive influences in education and had a huge impact on the educators in attendance.

Finally, a neat story that I wanted to share. On Sunday in New Orleans, during check-in for the conference, I met three ladies. They introduced themselves to me and then shared how they all came to this conference by themselves, but through social media, had discovered each other and had become great friends. They live in New Jersey, Arizona, and Australia. How often can three people from such different places connect like that for a common cause? Social media has a powerful reach, and I thought this was such a great story to show how connected we can become when we choose to be!

On a final, final note, my co-author, Abe, and I had a call with Dave Burgess this week about the release for our new book, The Limitless School! We are excited to share the release date very soon! Stay tuned for big news!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 25

It was a fun week kicking off the Houses in full force! As a school, Houses accumulating over 4,000 points just this week! That's a lot of positive recognition going on! I am hoping to find data moving forward that supports the Houses leading to a decrease in office referrals and discipline issues. On Friday at Rally, we revealed the House Wheel to the students, who also learned about how it will work. I had many questions about that this week on social media, so I'll do a brief explanation below. This game was obviously inspired from Ron Clark Academy, and thankfully having worked there for many years, I was able to recreate it with a few new twists and turns for my school!

First, each adult House Leader selected a student from their House who exhibited great character, excellent behavior, and stands for what we look for in a Moore scholar. One at a time, the student would come up and spin the wheel. On the first spin, the segments on the outer rung are what are used. If the wheel stops on a space that simply has a number, the game stops and student earns that amount of extra points for their House.

If the wheel stops on a space that has a number and a down arrow, the student may elect to keep the number of points, or spin again. If they spin again, you now look at the second rung to see where it lands. Again, the same rules apply here. A number space stops the game and earns the House that number of points and a down arrow gives the option. The third rung acts the same.

If a student manages (on a rare chance) to make it all the way to the fourth level, which is the center of the wheel, there is one spin that occurs. That spin can land the House 100 points if the wheel lands on the House's color, or 25 points if it lands on another House's color (it also earns the House in which it landed 25 points).

As you go onto rung two, three, and four, there is greater risk/reward present. There are spaces that give you 0 points, but also spaces that can give you 20, 25, 30, etc. There are also fun spaces like Double or Triple Up, which doubles or triples your final score; Double the High gives that House double the points that the highest score from that day earned; and Quick Stop, which has the spinner spin and then I stop the wheel at a random moment.

Another funny thing happened on Friday. As I walked around the school, I saw a large number of my teachers wearing their House colors. I didn't make it an official House color day, but I think that may end up being one of those organic things that blossom from this program. I would love it to because I am starting to build up my purple collection!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 24

It was certainly a unique way to come back to school this week after the winter break. And no, I don't mean the frigid temperatures that led to a two-hour delay each day. I mean our House Party to kick off our newly installed Houses!

The Houses has been a piece of my roll-out plan since I got this job, as it's been an integral part of my life since 2010 working at the Ron Clark Academy. But instead of bringing it on in August, I needed to have a group around me who could support this vision and be at the forefront of the creation. I had a dedicated group of teachers who committed to this effort who spent the better part of late October through December designing the House system and roll out to the staff. After a fun House day for teachers and staff in December, the plans began for the student party that we had this week.

In the end, it honestly wasn't anything complicated. Music, lights, and balloons (more on that later), coupled with dancing and big smiles made the kids excited for this new piece of the school. We unveiled the five House Crests (shout out to Ms. Wiles and Ms. Parker for making that happen!) and our new school nickname and mascot, voted upon by students. Then our students broke into their Houses and had their first House meeting where they learned their House's symbol, handshake, chant, cheer, and so on.

I definitely reflected upon a few things from this experience:

1) Kids buy in so much more when adults do.
2) Balloons with 600 kids is the worst idea ever. We had a balloon drop during the party and you would have thought I was dropping hundred dollar bills. No more balloon drops as a whole school.
3) When you have a group of dedicated adults leading a charge, you don't need to micromanage. Trust and belief goes a long way as a leader!

The Moore Magic is definitely an appropriate nickname for our school because in five short months, there has been nothing short of magic that has been going on! To make the amount of things occur that we have shows that I have a team of #MagicMakers. I have staff members open to putting in the extra hours to transform their classrooms, brighten the hallways, and create memorable lessons. Beyond the building, we are building an array of community #MagicMakers! I was able to unveil our new school wheel, created by the husband of one of my teachers and two of his friends. They volunteered their time and skills to make this happen for our kids!

I was also elated to have my good friend Todd Nesloney visit Moore this week. Todd is the author of Kids Deserve It and the principal of Webb Elementary in Texas. When I think of the things that we've been doing at Moore and the ridiculous amount of extra hours that my staff is putting in, I can only think that the most relevant rationale for it is because simply ... kids deserve it!

Our five House crests along with our new Moore Magic logo!

Todd Nesloney, author of Kids Deserve It
Thank you Bryan Timmons, Mike Bridges, & Chris Nixon for building the wheel and Ms. Wiles for painting it!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

18 for '18

Welcome to the 4th annual (even though I swore last year was my final one) new year's educator bucket list! I'm coming at it from a slightly different perspective this year being in the principal role, but the theme will stay the same. Check out 15 for '15, 16 for '16, and 17 for '17 as well! Here are now 18 ideas that you can try out in your classroom/school for the new year:

1) Ditch that worksheet: Save a tree or two. Raise engagement. Fuel that creativity deep inside! Ditch the drill sheet and challenge the students with something exciting!

2) Make a video: As smart phones get smarter, so are the apps. It is so easy to make and edit videos these days. One of the easiest apps I have found is iMovie for the iPhone. Use the videos that you record on your phone and bring them right into the app to easily edit into fun videos for your class.

3) Flipgrid: Probably my favorite app of the year. I just love how it allows individuals/groups to not only record their own products (videos), but you can share them on a common platform so others can see.

4) Chalkboard paint: The first thing I did when I got my new office was to paint a wall with blackboard paint. It opened this world of opportunity to create and celebrate. More on that next. If you get permission from your administrator, I totally encourage you to try it out! 

5) Celebrate the AWESOME: One of the primary uses of my chalkboard wall is to celebrate students being "AWESOME." It's so easy getting inundated with the bad behaviors that we forget how many kids are always doing the right things. I love when teachers send kids to my office for being AWESOME so they can sign the wall. But after they sign the wall ...

6) Make positive phone calls home: This simple phone call home to tell a parent that their child is being awesome has been a culture changer for me. Parents are always scared at first when I call since they think something is wrong, but you'll change their day if you just share that their kid is being awesome and you wanted to let them know.   

7) Pajama Day: Tell the kids it's pajama day tomorrow! Head over to Walmart. Find yourself the most ridiculous adult onsie you can find and wear it like a champ! You'll never have so much fun!

8) Ride the bus to school: Get some colleagues together and surprise the kids at the bus stop in the morning by riding the bus to school with them! It's a lot of fun and the kids are shocked! It helps to have someone drop the group off so there's not a car left behind.

9) Watch DOGS: One of my proudest installments as principal has been the implementation of the Watch DOGS program. It's a great way to bring positive male role models into the school. I've loved seeing our dads, uncles, grandpas, and community members take part in this program!  

10) Get an author to Skype with you: Authors are real people too. And most of them that I personally know are quite friendly. With technology so accessible these days, it's not hard for an author to Skype or Facetime in with your class after you read their book. Plus the kids think it's amazing. 

11) Get a classroom pet: Hamster, fish, gerbil, snake. It doesn't matter what kind of pet it is; the kids will flip out! Just make sure you check out for allergies first!

12) Bowtie Tuesdays: I'm definitely not the creator of this idea, but I've loved jumping on board with many other schools by wearing bowties on Tuesdays. Why Tuesday? Who knows. But it's a lot of fun and the kids get into it as well!

13) Social media goals: Set a goal with your social media outlets. Don't have Twitter? Create a profile. You have 100 followers? Aim for 150 by the end of the year. You post once a month? Set a goal to post once a week. Raise the bar wherever you are and join in on the social media fun and learning!

14) Visit another school: You can learn a lot just by seeing what others are doing. Ask your principal to visit a neighboring school, but also invite them to come watch you. 

15) Share your story: Everyone's got a story to tell. Use platforms like blogs or podcasts to share your story. You could even try to write it in a book. You'd be shocked how much people will love hearing about your life.

16) Rethink homework: This is mostly for elementary folks, but there's virtually no research support that shows homework in the primary grades has impact on learning. Consider ways to engage students in family tasks or social-emotional learning outside of school. It's a huge shift, for sure, but one that many have reported changed the dynamics of their classroom.

17) Recognize talent: As a principal now, I am always looking for ways to bring out the leadership potential of my staff. Whether it's art skills, social skills, organizational skills, the more distribution of leadership you have around you, the stronger my school will be. The same can be said for your students. The more opportunities you give to students to be leaders using their strengths, the stronger your classroom will be.

18) Check out The Limitless School: This last one is a more of a PSA, but my buddy Abe and I are excited to release our new book this spring, The Limitless School: Creative Ways to Solve the Culture Puzzle. We'd love for you to check it out!

Happy 2018!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 23 (last week before break!)

Not going to lie. I was secretly dreading this past week going into it. I knew how tired my teachers were and how excited everyone was for winter break. The potential for craziness was high. It was anything but though. We had a fantastic week, filled with food, a lot of food, no seriously, everyday had an enormous amount of food (maybe that's why everyone was happy?). I really enjoyed seeing my teachers do many creative lessons and activities. It was a fun final week of 2017 with my students and staff and we got to end it with a fun Polar Express Pajama Day!

As the calendar year comes to an end, I can look back and say that 2017 was quite a year! Writing a second book, transitioning into the principal role, and having my son start kindergarten has made it a memorable one for sure. I've enjoyed writing this blog each week, not only as a way to share this journey with others, but to reflect on this job and hopefully see growth along the way.

I had my mid-year evaluation with my boss on Thursday and she asked me "What my long-term goals were for here at Moore." I told her that I wanted to make sure I had the right people here. I want people to be here because they want to be, and they believe in what we're doing. I truly believe that you need to be happy where you work. Personally, I spend more time at school than I do at home most weeks, so I can't imagine going to a place where I was miserable each day.

So I have to ask myself, what makes me happy here at work? It makes me happy getting handshakes and hugs each morning at the car rider line. It makes me happy dressing up in ridiculous clothes and having the kids and adults smile and laugh. It makes me happy having a leadership team who supports the mission and vision of the school. It makes me happy having teachers who are pushing themselves more than ever before and trying innovative and engaging ideas. It makes me happy learning sign language and learning about the deaf community. It makes me happy getting to bring my teachers to the Ron Clark Academy and Get Your Teach On. It makes me happy working for a district that lets me try new things. And it makes me happy having fellow principals who I have been able to learn with and from.

There's not a day that goes by that doesn't have some tough moment - a kid misbehaving, a parent or teacher upset, a deadline for paperwork. But I have chosen to highlight the things that make me happy at the end of each day. I think that has helped make this job so much fun.

It's time to wrap up 2017. I'm excited to spend time with my kids, see my parents for Christmas, and maybe even be lazy for a few minutes. I'm looking forward to ringing in the new year here at Moore with a blow out party and lots of surprises on January 3rd!

Happy holidays and happy new year to everyone!


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!