Sunday, April 29, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 39

I kept a close eye on the weather throughout the week in anticipation of our school's spring fling on Friday night! We planned to have it outdoors, which means rain could have easily ruined those plans. Luckily, the sun came out at just the right time and we had a successful event. I committed myself to the dunk booth, which equated to an hour and a half of getting submerged in ice cold water! Thankfully, one of the dads saw me shivering atop the tank and offered to relieve me for the final thirty minutes!

It was a quick turnaround from Spring Fling Friday night to Saturday morning, where we had our district job fair. Each of the 83 schools in our district had a table and perspective teachers and staff came around to share resumes and chat about what they were looking for in a school. I ended up with 78 resumes in my hand at the end of the morning, and a lot of conversations scrolling around in my head. After talking to so many people, it made me think about why certain people stood out to me. I wanted to share a few thoughts on good and bad strategies that stood out to me from people:

  • Good strategy: Approach with a great smile, firm handshake, good eye contact, and a greeting that shows you're enthusiastic about your life.
  • Bad strategy: Approach and start talking for three minutes without coming up for air. There's a difference between an elevator pitch and a stream of consciousness where I zone out and stop listening.
  • Good strategy: Seem interested in learning about the school. Behind me at the job fair we had a table that we set up with items like our dragon display, five large painted eggs in our House colors, a backdrop with our House crests, etc. I was far more impressed when people asked something like "Tell me about these eggs" or "Can you talk about your magnet program?"
  • Bad strategy: When a candidate is not comfortable having a conversation with my fifth grade student there, that's a bad sign! You're a teacher, you should be able to talk with kids!
  • Good strategy: Making yourself memorable! Be different! How do you stand out? For me, I am looking for people who can bring something to my school that makes it better. The fact that you've been teaching for 20 years or you have a masters doesn't make my school better. I want people who can bring something to the table that I don't already have.
Overall, meeting so many people in a short amount of time is challenging. I sit here today with a large stack of resumes I am going to start going through to see candidates I will contact for potential openings (since I don't have any currently). For those I invite to the next round, I will be requiring video submissions or live lessons so I can see the candidates teaching. It's important to see if a great resume matches great instruction!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 38

On Thursday we had our kindergarten screening. It went smoothly and I am so proud of my 5th grade Ambassadors who acted as guides for the families as they walked through the building. They made great first impressions!

The experience also opened up my eyes to something that I had already known, but to see it laid out in front of my so plainly in a short amount of time was quite surreal. My job during screening day was to review the results for the parents. The screening we used included letter and number recognition, one-to-one correspondence, writing their name, cutting, identifying colors, shapes, and so on. As I went through the packets with the parents, seeing the gap between students was simply astronomical. We talk about "the achievement gap" all the time in education, but seeing one student who is already reading sentences and the next who can't name a letter yet put this truly into perspective for me.

I assured parents that these screening activities are simply to help us as a school learn about their child, which they are, but they are also a blaring reality that there are great discrepancies in the 0-5 years of life. Again, this is likely not a secret to anyone, but for me, this was an eye-opening event due to the ability to see results back-to-back-to-back throughout the day. As a former 5th grade teacher, I typically saw the results of "the gap" after 5 years of schooling, but never truly thinking about how they got there. I had students reading novels in 5th grade and students still learning to decode words, never thinking that this "trajectory" really started well before they ever stepped into the school.

I'm not saying I have the answer or the fix, though I truly believe an increase in free Pre-K starting at 3 wouldn't hurt, but I had a personal learning experience this past week that I will continue to focus on as a principal and look for ways that we can increase early educational experiences for our families. But more importantly, making sure that we provide resources for those who need help the most early on when they enter my school doors.

Moore also had a great time with our visit from my dear friends Wade and Hope King this past week! My staff was treated to excellent model lessons, workshops, and conversation with these two great educators. I had a number of staff thank me afterwards for bringing the Kings to Moore, but I said the biggest thank you will be for you to bring the ideas back into your classroom! That's why it was great seeing one of my kindergarten classrooms this week transforming her classroom into a race track!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 37

It was our first week back from Spring Break this week and we got to surprise the kids with a beautiful new mural that a group of us worked on over break. I'm appreciative to have staff members talented and willing enough to come in and make "magic" happen over a break! The kids' faces and reactions on Monday made it all worth it! We have at least one hallway now that is that much brighter!

We had a great visit on Friday from my friend and presenting colleague, LaNesha Tabb, to Moore. She taught lessons in K, 2nd, and 5th grade, showing off her passion and talents in social studies. Culture was an overriding theme throughout each of the lessons, and she was able to show that through strong story-telling, research, and high expectations, we can make social studies relevant and prominent in elementary schools. Discussing culture, I believe, is more relevant than ever, and opening our students' eyes at a young age to different types of people is essential for a more successful future.

On Monday, Moore will be visited by two more of my good friends, Wade and Hope King, as we continue to push quality professional development and transform and rethink what our teaching can look like. My strategic plan for my first year as principal was to ensure that my staff was provided with opportunities to witness and experience professional development that pushed them. Throughout the year, I have tried my best to give anyone who has asked the chance to attend professional developments that will further their abilities to be a great teacher.  During my administrative license program I did a research project/paper on professional development, and to no surprise, it showed that schools that put an emphasis on quality, on-going professional development with a strategic focus yielded higher results in testing, retention, and working conditions.

The returns this year on PD have been noticeable: I have had teachers transform their rooms, add rigor to their lessons, include chants/cheers, music, debate, and more. As I move into next year, and have the ability to hire new staff to Moore, I'm looking for teachers who are excited about the change that we have going on at Moore and are "bought in" to what we are doing.