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!