Saturday, May 26, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 43

Our 5th grade promotion ceremony at Moore is coming up, just two weeks away, in fact. I decided that I wanted to give an opportunity for the fifth-grade students to decide who they would want to represent their class up on stage to make a speech during the ceremony. We had a vote and they selected outstanding students who truly represent the character and work-ethic that we promote.

I met with this group of students this week to begin composing their speeches. I discovered quickly that their memories at Moore and the topics they wanted to write about all had a common theme: people. Not surprisingly, their fondest memories involved a favorite teacher or a group of friends. The remembered both the good and bad moments, but the memories always had those who touched them. Most frequently, it was moments in time that they discussed. "The time that ..." or "I remember when ..."

Even at a young age, these students are reflecting upon their life through those who impact them. You know what did not show up in any of their speeches? The worksheet that they had to finish or the video that they had to take notes on. It's relationships that mattered most to them. As educators, I think this speaks volumes to what we should be valuing in the classroom. A solid academic experience is vital, but it is the relationships that will be carried on with our students as they look back on their time in school.

As my district prepares to take their state assessments this coming week, I cringe thinking about how my school, staff and students, will be measured by a number. Sadly, many individuals will gauge the success of this year on a number. But, I promise you that number does not tell the relationships that exists in those classrooms, it does not tell the cultural changes we have done this year, and it does not tell you the moments and memories that students will carry with them. As my buddy Todd Nesloney frequently states, we are more than just a number!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 42

I have two sons: Ryder is six and a half and Maddox is three. Ryder has had a rough month at school. He has an amazing teacher and he is at a great school; he is simply not following directions. He's showing out at home as well with attitude and disrespect. My wife and I are working with him on making better choices and he's facing consequences for his actions. I'm not saying I am a great parent or that I am doing all the right things, but I accept that my child is not perfect and he is the one making these choices.

I explain all this because I sympathize. I sympathize with many of the parents who I meet with or call who also have children who are getting into trouble and not following directions at school or at home. I make calls daily to parents at my school and have to explain that their child got into trouble. The reactions vary, from complete denial that their child would do anything wrong to overwhelming apologies that their child disrupted the classroom. No matter where on the spectrum the parent lies, I definitely understand that it can be embarrassing, frustrating, or an inconvenience when these calls come through.

As a teacher, the challenge is being accountable for 20+ students when one or two are taking up 90% of your attention. As a parent, the challenge is needing your child to be in school so you can be at your job, but also ensuring that your child is not taking away the learning opportunities from all of the other students. And as an administrator, I want to ensure that students are in a safe, productive learning environment.

The reality is I don't have an answer on what to do. I am going to continue holding my child accountable for his actions, and I will continue holding my students accountable for their actions. At my school, we have made big pushes for restorative practices that aim to align consequences with actions. We also try our best to keep kids in the learning environment, since they can't learn the content if they're not in the classroom. As a staff, we've discussed classroom environments and tones of voice, options for discipline, and moving forward we'll be doing training on verbal de-escalation.

I will be spending this weekend with Ryder working on ways he can better respond in class and at home, and hopefully we can end May on a high note!


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 41

I found out that if my principal gig doesn't work out, I'm going to enter the grilling world. Not that I'm a great griller, but I really enjoy it. I got to spend a few hours on Friday grilling for my staff to wrap up Teacher Appreciation Week. It was a beautiful day and my assistant principal and I threw burgers, hot dogs, and chicken onto the grill and got coverage for our teachers to have duty free lunch outside. My teachers work so hard, and I ask so much of them, so I wanted to make sure there was some way to thank them for everything they do.

I spent the first part of the week in Non-violent Crisis Intervention (NCI) training. I had gone through this training over eight years ago when I taught in Charlotte, so it has definitely been a while, but it was an outstanding course. Yes, you do learn restraints for extreme situations, but the more intriguing part for me was the verbal de-escalation training, which truly makes you reflect upon your approach with children and how to approach contentious situations. It can be easy to let emotions drive decision-making or reactions to situations where the students are being irrational, and this training provided good techniques to make sound decisions in those situations.

Several puzzle pieces were able to get filled this week for next year as I was able to hire a magnet coordinator and instructional facilitator, two key leadership positions in the school, plus two amazing teachers for first and fourth grade. I also received the first shipment of resources for our new multiple intelligenes lab for next year. While there is still much to be done for this year, it's impossible not to get excited for what's to come next year.

We also had our Fashion Show to model next year's dress code changes. One of my kindergarten teachers organized the show and we had a huge turnout by parents as our scholars showed off their fashions. We showed that while there are standard items that need to be worn during the week, we are encouraging the individualization and fun that can be accessorized in celebration of the Houses.

Someone asked me the other day if I was stressed with all of the things that have to be done over the next few weeks, and I honestly replied "no." I love pressure situations, plus I have a great team of teachers and leaders around my school who will make sure that we get done what we need to get done.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Inside the Trenches of the Principal: Week 40

40 weeks!

Not that 40 has any specific significance, but it's round enough to be excited that I've completed 40 weeks of the principalship! In reality, we're in the final stretch, 25 more school days, and the big state test looms above us.

Maybe I am taking the ill-advised approach, but I am not stressing about the state test. As a teacher, I never stressed about it either. In my head, if I worked hard enough during the year, the kids were going to reflect the work that we did. Not every kid's score will reflect their true ability, but by and large, good teaching yields positive results. I am hoping that the same mentality comes to fruition with the school. If we have done our job this year, and we have taught the standards and engaged students in the learning process, the results will come.

This past week was full of celebrations in the district - 4 banquets - and it kept principals and district leaders busy! In between those events, however, I am learning what May feels like as a principal. It's stressful! My days are filled with EVAAS, teacher allotments, recruitment/hiring, student enrollment, staff evaluations, testing, parents concerns, student concerns, budgets/spending, end of year prep, and anything else that rolls across my plate. May feels a lot like September did in many regards. There is a sense of urgency in the air to get a lot of things completed and checked off by the deadlines.

I'll end on a lighter note this week with a solid "inside the trenches" story. I had a kindergarten student with me in the office who needed a snack toward the end of the day. I let him pick from my snack box and he chose Cheetos. Afterwards, his hands were orange and dirty, so I told him to go wash them in the bathroom. When he came back to me, I told him to hold out his hands so I could see them. The student holds out his hands in front of him and I bend down in order to examine if they were clean. Well as my head was near inches from him, the loudest, most colossal sneeze came from the boy. For those who know me, I am not a fan of germs, so I dove backwards faster than a speeding bullet. Naturally, those around the office at that time had quite a laugh, as did I, but it's moments like those that facilitate the laughs and memories (even if tremendously disgusting) that make this the best job in the world.