I enjoyed the TED talk below. Rita Pierson talks about building effective relationships with students. I think this is critical - especially in middle schools. Sure, kids should be able to learn from anyone, but those in schools often know the reality.
How does this video go along with your thinking? How does it challenge your thinking?
The Onion certainly has some funny things! This video shows how quickly change occurs. Something simple like renting a video. It used to be simple - you would drive to the video store and that was that. When was the last time you did that? Do you even have a video store in your area? They use to be on every corner. Can this happen to our current model of education? Why or why not?
Ok, so it has been a long time. Almost 1 and a half years since my last post. When I started this blog way back I was able to post to it on a somewhat regular basis. Then of the posts started to trail off in frequency. I don’t know if I felt I ran out of things to say or if time just got away. However, I know twitter shares some of the blame. Once I became active on twitter my blogging seriously fell off. Where do I start to get going once again?
There are many topics I would love to write about. My last post was on social media and how we use it at our school. I think we really do a great job with this and I could post many of the things we do with it. I think we have really increased our home/school communication.
As you know from previous posts, I am a big fan of literacy. It is the true gateway skill and I have written on it in the past. I can spend some time on it again - and include all of the great new things we are doing at our school. It makes me smile when I think of how far we have come with our literacy pus. Then I immediately think what do we need to do next?
I am currently working on my dissertation. Topic? You guessed it - literacy. I am in the process of writing is so I think I want to focus on something different for now
We will be implementing a 1-1 iPad program next year. That is exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I really am excited for this opportunity for our school and our kids. We will always work to make technology a tool to further our learning goals. Never technology just to use technology. Stay tuned for more posts on our quest!
Oh yeah, I ran my first 5ka couple weeks ago. Somehow I can surely relate running to education
I will explain what got me back on the blog. Two of my colleagues are blogging. I had to join in the fun. When you have some time, be sure to check out these two great educators!
Chris McLean, Instructional Coach, I.B. Coordinator
Samantha McManus, Media Specialist
Well, I am making it a goal to post to my blog again. I think in the past I thought each post had to be something substantial. Maybe that is why I really enjoy twitter. @mwaiksnis However, I pledge to not feel overwhelmed each time I want to post something!
Wow, it has been some time since I have made it back to post! The last post mentioned taking control of your school’s PR. I think I have done a fairly decent job of that this year and continue to work on it each day. I think the time spent updating everything is well worth it. I feel like I am engaging my school community in a more authentic manner than in the past. Is it perfect? Not yet, but we are moving in the right direction.
I am happy to report all of the things mentioned in my last post are actually happening on a regular basis. We have also added one more - the student showcase website. It has student work samples and videos of what goes on at our school each day. I know as a parent, I would love to see what is going on in my kid’s school. It is just another tool in promoting our school and letting our parents feel more connected to their child’s school.
The next things I want to explore:
using text messaging to communicate with parents (which is simple enough to do, I just have to make the time to do it)
recording parent meetings and posting to website, so those who can’t attend can stay in touch
offering parents the opportunity to use Skype for conferences. Face to face is still the best, but this might work for some parents who can’t get in the building!
What am I missing in my social media communication plan?
I have made it a goal of mine to make sure I am getting the positive stories from my school to the public. There are just so many misconceptions out there about public education. I have a group of very talented teachers, but their hard work and dedication often gets buried in the negative perception of schools. Here are a few of the ways I use social media to tell our story:
Constant Contact - I just started using this service and it is great! It is an easy way to manage your email list and puts together your information in a professional looking package. It also allows you to see how many people open your email and what they click on. There is a cost, but it is cheap. I think we pay $10 a month.
Principal’s Blog - I use this site to post a regular update on all of the great things happening at our school. It gives us a way to highlight our student and teachers- and it is free! I use edublogs for this. When I send out the emails using constant contact, I give short snippets on the email with links to the full story on the blog.
Facebook - We set up our school facebook account up earlier this year. We have since converted to a business type page where people can “like” us. It has been very popular with both students and parents.
Twitter - Another way to help get the word out. I always use twitter to announce when an email goes out or the blog has been updated. I also use this for quick updates. It does not have as many followers as our facebook page, but I see it as another avenue for our communication.
News Media - We try to use them as much as possible. However, when they will not cover a story, we have the above electronic methods to share our story.
We have made an attempt to harness all of the tools available to share our story. I am sure there are many other ways to do this as well. We have been considering starting a school you tube channel, but have not pursued this yet. We are also looking at a school flick’r account.
How are you telling your story?
I am about to make several decisions that are the most important for principals. I am hiring several people over the next couple of weeks. I have just finished my third year as principal but I have only been able to hire a handful of people.
Hiring a teacher, in my opinion, is the single most important part of the job for a principal. I am very excited for this opportunity. What are some of the top questions you ask teacher candidates?
I always like to start with these:
What was the last thing you read?
What was the last thing you have learned?
These both let me gauge if they are true learners. I need teachers who are continually striving to learn.
What questions help you really develop a true picture of the candidate?
A couple of days ago, I posted a question on Twitter: What was your favorite professional book of the year?
I should have set up a google doc, but I was not expecting to get as many responses as I did. The results are posted below. One interesting thing that stood out to me was the type of books. There are many “balcony view” books as well as “dance floor view” books. I am actually glad it turned out that way. I try to keep in the conversation of both administrators and teachers. It is important to me to stay on top of more general school improvement type events as well as staying in touch with those interacting with students in a classroom every day!
Here is the list with the number of votes. I have included the author if it was submitted and the twitter names when submitted. After book #6, they are listed in the order received.
1. Book Whisper - Donalyn Miller @donalynbooks 7 votes
2. Readicide - Kelley Gallager, 7 votes
3. Drive - Daniel Pink, 6 votes
4. Education and the Cult of Efficiency - Raymond Callahan, 3 votes
5. Made to Stick, 2 votes
6. Reading Ladders - Teri Lesesne @professornana, 2 votes
7. In The Middle - Atwell
8. Teaching Children To Care - Ruth Sidney Charney
9. Real Education
10. Brain that Changes Itsself - Norman Doidge
11. Literacy 2.0
12. Strategies that Work
13. Miscue Analysis Made Easy
14. How To Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
15. Focal Point - Brian Tracy
16. Bit Literacy - Mark Hurst
17. The Element - Sir Ken Robinson
18. Be The Pack Leader - Cesar Milan
19. Instructional Rounds - Elmore
20. When Readers Struggle - Fountas and Pinnel
21. Critical Encounters
22. Results Now
23. Anything written by Gallager
24. Education Nation - Milton Chen
25. Why Do I Need a Teacher When I Have Google - Ian Gilbert
26. From Blogs to Bombs - Mark Pegrum
27. Teach Like A Champion
28. Digtal Writing Workshop
29. Measuring Implementation in Schools: The Stages of Concern Questionnaire
30. Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction
31. A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can be More Creative - Roger von Oech
32. Making Learning Whole
33. The Teaching Gap
34. Be Bold: Create a Career with Impact
35. The Global Achievement Gap - Tony Wagner
36. The Essential Conversation - Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
37. The Schools our Children Deserve
39. Beyond Discipline
40. Dumbing us Down - Hatton
41. Making Learning Whole
42. Reinventing Project Based Learning @suzieboss @janekrauss
43. Measuring Up - Koertz
44. Flat World - Darling Hammond
45. Learning on Other People’s Children - Barbara Veltri
46. Predictably Irrational
47. Shallows - Nicholas Carr
48. The Age of the Unthinkable
49. The First Days of School
50. Whats the Big Idea - @engliscomp
51. Because Digital Writing Matters
52. Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America - Collins and Halverson
53. The Third Teacher
54. Pyrotechnics on the Page - Fletcher
55. The Death and Life of the Great American School System
56. Reach - @jutecht
57. Tipping Point
I hope you consider leaving a comment to keep the conversation going. Why did you choose the book you did? Which ones will be added to your reading list?
I did not include my votes, but the most influential for me were - Mindset, The Book Whisperer and Readicide. I read a tremendous amount of books, but these three were the most influential of 2010. Mindset talks about, well, your mindset. It is a MUST read for everyone in education. It talks about the motivation behind success and how you can make your students want to do well in your school/class.
The Book Whisperer and Readicide were read from an administrator’s point of view. While they both offer great tips for immediate use in the classroom, they helped guide/reassure my deep convictions that literacy is the most important thing in education. As a practicing middle level principal, I see struggles with literacy each day. In my opinion, solid literacy skills either make or seriously hinders a student. Check these books out!
This is the obligatory post about resolutions as we approach the new year. At my school the focus has been on literacy pretty strong over the past two years. We are also working hard on our IB MYP as an authorized school. However, we have our evaluation coming up in the fall so we are eagerly awaiting the visit. Getting prepared for the visit has been great - it has kept us on track and we are getting some great work done towards implementation of the program. There is a large self assessment to be done and IB says that is probably the most worthy part of the entire evaluation. At this point, I would agree as it will force us to take a long, hard honest look of where we are and where we need to go.
What this all being said, here are my resolutions for the upcoming year, at least as far as school is concerned:
1. Stay the course with what we are doing. Again, our two biggest targets has been literacy development and effective implementation of our IB MYP program. These are somewhat specific, but wide enough to publish 19 books! They both provide us a framework for what we do at school.
The above can be hard with so many exciting things going on out there in education today. However, we need to stay focused. This does not mean we will do anything else other than the above. It does mean we will look at everything through these filters. If something new comes along, we will ask - does it get us closer to our stated goals?
What are your resolutions this year?
I have recenlty completed teaching a class to each student in my school (except for 2 make up classes after break). It has been a great experience and I am glad I dedicated the time necessary. All in all, I taught about 34 classes. Technically, I co-taught as I taught with the grade level assistant principal or instructional coach.
The lesson focused on the research by Carol Dweck and Mindset. It is a fascinating topic that I think is often overlooked by schools today. The theory talks about the proper way to praise and motivate learners, especially the ones who have been disenfranchised from the school experience. I am fascinated by the topic and I hope the lesson had some impact. The students seemed to be able to relate to the topic, but I did not design a formal assessment. The students did complete reflection slips, but I have not had the chance to read through all of them yet.
In addition to the actual lesson, there were several reasons for and benefits of me teaching this class. I was able to get back in the trenches. Being in a school all day is different than being in front of a class all day. This made me remember some of the issues that our teachers face each day. I really think all administrators should be in classes teaching each year.
It also allowed me to teach a model lesson. Now, I am not saying I am a better teacher than the teachers at my school. I am not that naive. They are the classroom experts. However, I hope they were able to pick up a thing or two by watching my lesson. I know when I watch something I can usually learn a thing or two. Finally, it gave me some “face time” with the students.
Our school has about 800 students. I do not know every student. I needed this opportunity to spend class time with each student. Again, this is something hard to actually measure, but I hope each child feels they know me a bit better now. There were multiple benefits of this project!
The main goal was to teach the content of the lesson to the students. However, I suspect I may have received more from the experience than anyone else. I do plan on continuing this each year. However, I may spread it out some more. This was a marathon stretch of 3 weeks of teaching. I was able to get it done but it put a strain on my other duties. However, I know this was more important than filling out paperwork and the other mundane tasks we often have to complete as principals.
As the new school year approaches, many of us are busy putting the final touches on our plans for the upcoming year. I truly believe in using data in education, as I am sure all of us do. Getting the data in hand is often the easy part, but the next step is the most crucial. What are you doing with your data?
At my school we get a wealth of data from NWEA as we take MAP. This gives our teachers a lot of info on their incoming students and allows them to see class wide trends. We also have a new state assessment and we are getting better info from that assessment.
What are some things you are doing in your class or your school to best utilize the data available to you? Are you really using it to drive instructional decisions? If so, how?