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!

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.