Monday, December 27, 2010

Forget Value Added Assessment of Teachers - Just Use Snow

I was talking with my wife this morning about, what else, the Blizzard of 2010. (See more snowpocalypse2010 photos). My sister in California mentioned that her youngest daughter, who is five, had never touched snow. OMG! We live in New England; our children were born in snow drifts (or something like that).

My wife then remembered a high school student of hers from a few years ago. The girl was new to New England, and one day it started snowing while she was in math class. Somehow the word got out the girl had never seen or touched real snow. The whole class was amazed. The teacher only said, "Well, go outside now." Right in the middle of class, he sent her outside just to touch snow. Right away, I knew...

"He was a pretty good teacher," my wife added. I knew he was a pretty good teacher. You see being a good high school math teacher surely includes understanding trigonometry and calculus. It definitely includes skilled use of pedagogy and mastery of classroom management. To be a pretty good teacher you need one more ingredient.

The math teacher listened to his students. He cared about them as people, not just numbers. He even took their needs into account. Follow me here: at that moment, gone was the high school teenager; in her place was really just an excited child thinking about playing in snow. The teacher could easily have gotten the class back to math. Instead, he honored what she needed and told her to go see the snow.

So, from that one incident, I know that the math teacher added value to his students' lives. He taught them math, but, more importantly, he treated them with respect and cared about them as people. They learned.

So, instead of a multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble test, just let it snow and you will know who are the pretty good teachers.

cross posted to Connected Principals
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Librarian and the Rules, Girls and Boys

Last week, I started a Book project at the local elementary school. Due to concerts and conferences, I worked only with Mrs. Smith's class (names changed for privacy). Today, I returned to meet with that group again.

I figured we would complete a set of story maps as a pre-writing activity. First the group brainstormed library subtopics. I explained how to use a story map to organize ideas before writing. As we filled in the group Story Map, it became clear that there would be considerable overlap when the students got down to writing. Ok, overlap it is, then. My next step was to have each student fill in her own story map but focused only on one subtopic.

The final group Story Map with real names redacted.
Once we looked at the Story Map we'de created, I asked each student to pick a first and second choice to write about. All four girls wanted to write about Mrs. Books, the librarian. Both boys wanted to write about the Rules. Hmmm.
Using some number guessing, the assignments worked out like this:
  • Organization of the Library - Sally
  • Books 1 - Mary
  • Books 2 - Susan
  • Coming to the Library - John
  • Librarian - Jane
  • Rules of the library - Danny
  • Fun in the library - Steve, by default

  • Steve was absent.
  • Danny and John acted like good friends. Last week, John only seemed interested in goofing around and impressing Steve.
  • Mary and Susan were nearly inseparable - until I separated them.
  • Jane was totally charged hat she got to write about the librarian. She was like a different girl this week.
  • Danny took on the role of group clown this week by offering the library subtopic of toast and jam repeatedly.
  • Sally seemed surprised that her topic could be so concrete. She began to over think her topic.

Question to Ponder
  • Is there anything to the fact that all the girls wanted to write about Mrs. Books and all the boys wanted to write about rules?
  • Would each student be able to write enough to make the book interesting?

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dogs or the Library: Let 1st Graders Decide! (retitled)

Last week I started a writing project in a first grade class at the local school. Since I am home these days, I am doing this as a volunteer. I had been going 3-4 times each week during writing time to get to know the kids in all three first grade classes, but this was the beginning of the project.

Mrs. Smith picked the seven best writers in her class to be in the first group with me (all names have been changed to protect the innocent). The plan was that the group would follow a basic writer's workshop approach and end with the publication of the book. Although Mrs. Smith and I did not speak of technology (other than typing), I am hoping to find a way to digitize the final product.

Anyway, back to last week's session. The eight of us went to the Rug in the library and sat in a circle. The students were literally bouncing as we began. I asked each student to write a few ideas for topics for a non-fiction* book that we would publish together (in order mentioned). The we shared the ideas:
  • Getting a puppy
  • Rules of 1st Grade (to give to kindergarten students)
  • Books in the library
  • Dogs
  • Snowboarding
  • Whales
  • Dolphins
  • DisneyWorld
  • Plants and animals
  • Time and spacee
  • Snowmen and the person who would be making one
  • A mouse that scared a girl

It was at this point that I focused the discussion and asked the students to narrow down the list. We ended up with four finalists:
  • Rules of 1st Grade (to give to kindergarten students)
  • Books in the library
  • Dogs
  • Snowmen and the person who would be making one

The Library won a vote of four to two with one abstention. Mrs. Books, the librarian, was thrilled!

Some notes about the students in the group (again, all names have been changed).
  • John was barely focused, needed constant redirection.
  • Jane was quiet, sat slightly out of the circle, seemed to give the most thought to her comments.
  • Steve was boisterous and offered suggestions that we completely personal to him (snowboarding and getting a puupy)
  • Mary really disliked one of the topics suggested and could not let it go - even when it was not chosen she continued.
  • Sally began to take charge and got bossy with John for a while.
  • Susan had the most trouble writing down her ideas. Clearly smart, but the weakest skills in the group.
  • Danny sat outside of the circle - a place I think he often sits. Deep ideas (time and space), low skills so far.
My plan for future sessions includes the students completing some pre-writing, drafting, editing, typing, drawing, and compiling. We'll see how it goes.

* Grant Wiggins had not yet written his blog post, Ban Fiction From the Curriculum, about banning fiction. It's just that the teacher and I agreed that non-fiction would be an easier way to keep the students focused.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can't you just follow your passions on the weekend?

Velvety Passion FlowerVelvety Passion Flower. Image via Wikipedia"Can't you just follow your passions on the weekend?"

I overheard this comment from two women talking about a slacker husband. Really? Does she really want her husband to have passion only two days each week? Doesn't she see that life would be so much better if her husband lived passionately every day? Of course, I am sure there is more to the story (I only heard a little of the conversation, fortunately), but educators have always known that when students are passionate about their activities, there can be no stopping them.

This talk of passion reminds me of an awesome event that illustrates what passion can do for teaching. I was attending a curriculum breakfast to hear the chief data guy from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education speak about the new growth model for looking at student achievement (politics aside for a minute as this post is about Passion, not Ed Reform). With this topic, there was little chance that I would be anything but bored.

Then, the guy started going through the powerpoint slides. He get very excited as he presented. He fidgeted like a little kid who wants us to "watch me, daddy." He even giggled at least once. As I watched and listened, I realized that I was getting sucked in to this man's passion for data. What he lacked in presentation skills, he more than compensated for by letting his passion fly. By the end of his talk, I actually felt excited for the statistical work that the data guy had done to make the growth model something useful. I understood the growth model (at least I was well on my way to understanding it).

Thank goodness the DESE data guy didn't follow his passion on the weekend only.

Now, go make sure you are following your passions every day.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Rhymes with P and That Stands For...PLN

The Music Man (2003 film)Image via Wikipedia

Shortly after EdCamp NYC, Hadley wrote a great recap of the day on her blog post, Saturdays for Learning. Towards the end of the post, Hadley described the event this way:
Each new session was filled with teachers and administrators who wanted to grow, who wanted to share their best practices and find solutions to their doldrums. These were teachers who willingly gave up their off-duty time to come together. They were often people who considered the others there part of their PLN, their Personal or Professional or Passionate Learning Network. 

In the comments, I wrote:
I love the idea of changing my P in PLN...  Thank you for posting your thoughts about a great day.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What are You Going to Do?!

I just submitted an application or Encienda EduCon called "What are You Going to Do?!"

Whine and moan. Easy, yes. Useful, no. Ed Reform in the US is way off and needs us to get it back on track. So, stop complaining and do something. Motivation and ideas for affecting Ed Reform that is good for kids.

So, if you are in Philly at the end of January, I expect you to listen to me and be inspired to act (assuming they take me, anyone have influence over Chris Lehmann?)

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Share Your Successes for Better Ed Reform

Andrew Jacksonphoto © 2004 dbking | more info (via: Wylio)
Earlier George Couros wrote a great blog post urging educators to celebrate their successes and not just learn from their failures (the first link in the related articles below).

I could not agree more. In fact, several things that George wrote are applicable to a bigger picture than just the classroom. There is the very strong feeling in the USA that our education system is broken. It is not broken (not working perfectly either, lots to work on). There is much written these days about how to fix the problems, but most of what our government (Barak Obama, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey) thinks is good reform ignores the voices of actual educators (notice how many teachers I included in the last parenthetical list). It is time to listen to the educators.

Only one problem, most educators are not sharing what works often enough or loudly enough. George writes well about the great education that is not being shared:
The way I see it, there are a TON of great things happening in our classrooms right now, that have never failed.  They were awesome from the start.
Those good ideas that you have already implemented in your classroom will only steamroll and help build momentum to effective change for our students.  Share those successes with others to inspire them as well.
Sharing this success may feel like bragging, but if you share it, it will probably work for someone else as well.
Dean Shareski also urges us to share what we do well. Check out his video keynote about the Moral Imperative to Share from the K12 Online Conference. At EdCamps KC & NYC, I led discussions about getting involved. Please see my resources from those events.

If we want to influence the education debate, we have to share.

We have to share what works well in Public Education. We have to share it now. We have to share it loud.

I just said during #edchat:
DO not wait until you KNOW how to make change. Start now. Fail and try again. Do not wait.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

EdCamp NYC, Fliegs' Index*

edcampnycImage by SpecialKRB via Flickr
Yesterday, I attended EdCampNYC with a couple hundred passionate educators mostly from the metropolitan New York area. Since I used to read Harper's Magazine and loved the Index most of all, I thought this would be an awesome (or lazy, you decide) way to fill you all in.

The Fliegs' Index

Miles Driven: ~500
Hours away from home: 34
Members of my PLN I met face to face for the first time: 9 **
Members of my PLN I met face-to-face for the second time: 1 ***
Cool people I met who were not going to EdCamp: 1 ****
New people added to my PLN: at least 15
Hours spent with Dan Callahan: 33 (including time asleep)
Hours sleeping: 4.5
Hours talking education: 27 ʶ
Glasses of wine consumed at the Club602Camp pre-gathering: classified °
Things to think about: 30 hundred ʶʶ
Intriguing ideas added to my file for future reference: 31 hundred
Sessions attended as participant: 2 ⁺
Sessions planned before arriving in NYC: 1 ⁺⁺
Sessions planned during the 20 minutes prior to the session: 1 ⁺⁺⁺
Number of beer runs completed by thenerdyteacher during lunch: 1
Number of people who shared thenerdyteacher's beer: 6
Number of people who shared thenerdyteacher's oxtail: 0

* with apologies to Harper's Magazine
**** Kate
ʶ Really
° Lisa is an amazing host. Thank you.
ʶʶ Number provided by 5-year old daughter
⁺ Standards-Based Grading: A Better System w/ @arosey@fnoschese@21stcenturychem and Things that Suck w/ Dan Callahan 
⁺ Ed Reform: A Call to Action
⁺⁺⁺ Talk Back to Administrators! w/ Lyn Hilt
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hold a Wake for School Change

The Grieving Parentsphoto © 2008 Nick | more info (via: Wylio)

Earlier today, I tweeted this:
Since change is so tough and often compared to grieving, why not hold a wake for the old program/idea when we take our next step?
OK. So comparing the change process in schools to the grieving process is not my idea. I can't think of where I first heard about it, but a simple google search turned up many hits including scholarly articles and blog posts. Last week, George Couros posted on his blog about change and there was a deep conversation in the comments. In my comment, I said,
So, when we attempt to help teachers internalize the need for change, we must also help them work through some complex emotions. There is much literature about the change process following a pattern similar to that of grieving. Convincing facts and large amounts of data are not enough." 
I got thinking that there must be ways to actually do this.

Since reacting to change is like reacting to grief for some folks, why not use some of the grieving rituals to help with the process. Why not hold a wake; come together to mourn the loss of the old program or the way we used to do things. If we give folks time to grieve with one another we will be further on the way to smoothing the transition.

The "wake" would be relatively simple (and, unlike some traditions, there will be no drinking). Anyone who wants to would write something they will miss once the change happens. Put all of these ideas together in a box (better not make the box too much like a coffin). Then, with a tiny bit of ceremony, bury the box (literally, if that works for you).

Once the old idea/program/practice is buried, move on to welcoming the new idea/program/practice. Be explicit about both steps and be transparent about the "wake" and why you are doing this.

Those who are not looking forward to the change or who are still upset that the old way will be gone, will appreciate that you have at least acknowledged their point of view. And, it ought to be clear that the change is going to happen.

While this idea might seem a bit morbid, making changes in schools without finding a way to bring along the reluctant ones will be downright deadly.

cross posted to Connected Principals

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Now that EdCamp Kansas City has passed by with sufficient time for some thinking, I hereby present my initial thoughts and my ten day later reflections (I will not identify which thoughts are which category). While this sounds rather high-brow, the real reason that I waited is that the cold that had me nearly voiceless in Kansas City turned into a nasty sinus infection that has totally drained me. I am only just now getting my energy back (very slowly). So, here it goes...

Like so many others I've read, this post will begin with how cool it was to meet some of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) F2F (face-to-face) or, as one woman I met put it, IRL (In Real Life).

During the Friday night tweetup, the person I was sitting with asked me why I thought people came to EdCampKC. My answer was immediate and emphatic: this kind of conference is really for meeting and talking with people rather than the content or skills acquired. Chris wrote a fantastic post about this conversation. Read it now. I'll wait...

I was floored when I read his comments. I knew that we'd connected during the day on Saturday (even he was "that guy in the back"); I knew that we had a great time with a group of EdCampers at dinner on Saturday night.  I had no idea that I said something to change his thinking. If for no other reason, EdCampKC was a resounding success for me by making this strong connection with Chris. After all, as one of my core values states, It's All About Relationships. Don't get me wrong there was an enormous amount of learning going on. It's just that everything taught there could likely be learned online or something. No, there is great power in coming together. Someone reminded us that we are genetically programed to be together, to be social. EdCampKC was really just an extension of our genetic programming.

EdCampKC was also great for meeting all sorts of new folks. I met a bunch of the extended PLN and folded them into my PLN. I also met educators new to the online PLN game. One such person is Leslie Joyce. I was sitting next to Leslie during a session and we got to talking about twitter. She said something about how she meant to sign up for twitter and someone at school would show her how. Oh, no no no, said I. Right then and there I turned my laptop in her direction and got her started. So, please show Leslie the power of twitter for educators and follow her. Hopefully, she'll get the bug soon.

I had planned on blogging about all of the cool things that I learned at EdCamp. I still might in the near future. For now suffice it to say:
EdCamp KC is my >>>>>> PLN F2F/IRL
EdCamp is my Personal Learning Network Face to Face and In Real Life 

For more information about EdCamps all over the country, visit the wiki.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My EdCampKC Resources

I led a session at the awesomely fantastic EdCampKC on November 6, 2010.

I think it is worthwhile to share the resources I created for the day.

This first link will lead to them all:

If you would rather go individually, here they are:
  • Prezi presentation to start the conversation
  • Web site with links to resources and people mentioned
  • Google Doc of our first draft of a letter to the editor. We talked so much together that we didn't complete the letter. Totally worth it because the conversation was intense.
I am very thankful to all the participants for engaging in such strong conversation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

S.W.I.G. to Combat Churn

That's S.W.I.G. - no, not a gulp or a programming language - This is the Student Welcome and Induction Group. Well, it will be someday after the plan is refined, honed, and actually implemented.

A Draft Plan for Welcoming New Students During the School Year

I've been giving thought recently to one of the problems that many struggling schools face: high student mobility rates or churn during the school year. You see, in many state testing regimes, every student sitting in your school on the day of the test counts towards your scores. That's true even if the student arrived at your school for the first time that very morning. So, we might be responsible for the performance without having had the chance to educate the child.

However, let's put testing aside and instead focus on the children. Children move. A lot. Schools will always have new students during the school year. In our unending quest to do what is best for students, we need to make sure that our new students in October or March have the right welcome. If you believe, as I do, that a student who feels welcome in school will learn more, then we need to provide the right welcome.

The right welcome is one in which the child and the parents feel like we are glad they are with us. The right welcome is also evident when the whole staff is prepared for new students. In addition, the right welcome includes a large volume of information swirling about. Finally, the right welcome must go beyond the first two days.

Now for the Draft Plan. During the S.W.I.G. planning meetings, the S.W.I.G. would have decided on a list of protocols to be followed when a new student arrives and the timing for such. Surely, the S.W.I.G. would take into account how comfortable a new student is and the timing of each step. In any case the core of the Draft Plan is as follows:
  • Greet
  • Screen
  • Inform
  • Remediate (?)
So, you get the word that a new student is arriving. The school secretary calls the S.W.I.G. into action. S.W.I.G. members include the secretary, counselor, teacher/curriculum specialist, and the principal (and/or assistant principal).

The secretary pulls out a New Student/Family Kit (hopefully prepared by a volunteer in advance). This kit would include items such as:
  • Small welcome gift for the student (school swag or a pencil) and a lunch ticket for first day(s).
  • Important documents for the parent (Handbook, Newsletter, Curriculum Brochures, PTO information, Free/Reduced Lunch application, School-Home Communication Brochure, other?)
  • Registration and Health Forms/Emergency Card - TO BE COLLECTED ASAP
  • Parent Assignment: Tell about your child in a Million words or less (essay or form version)
The secretary then notifies the teacher who will be receiving the student and the principal. Teacher, principal, and a student buddy then come to greet the new arrivals. The key is to make the child and the parent feel welcome and comfortable as soon as possible.

Once the secretary and others have done the greeting, it is time for Screening. We need to know what this student can do. We need to know if our assessments match with whatever school records we've already received. Depending on the teacher's wishes and needs, any one of the S.W.I.G. members might be involved in the screening. The idea here is to get a baseline of data about the student just like the teacher or S.W.A.T.* would have done in the fall.

A small but important part of welcoming a new student is the process of informing those who need to know. I would define that to include, but not limit to, the following:
  • All staff notification - with the barest of personal information - maybe in weekly memo?
  • HR teacher - with records, photo, screening data
  • specialists - basic biographical information and IEP/504
  • library - basic biographical information and IEP/504
  • kitchen - only name and class just to be prepared
  • nurse - all health info (some families will require a meeting with the nurse. So be it.)
Once the child first goes to class, the teacher will handle introducing and integrating in the class.

A final step for the new student is to Remediate if needed. This could take several different forms depending on the needs of the child. We might choose intensive remediation during first few days in order to catchup fast. Another choice would be to assign the student to pre-existing intervention groups or create a new group to fit the needs. The teacher, the various intervention staff, and the principal will need to design the right program rather quickly. Early success would be a great way to welcome a new student.

Please leave a comment with your experience welcoming new students or combatting the deleterious effects of high student turnover. 

Some notes
  • Throughout all of this, everyone has to smile and be nice to the new family.
  • The homeroom teacher and others must have some notice whenever possible. Some can pull off not looking surprised and a little put out, but why put the teacher into that position (when I taught, I learned of new students when they walked into my roon.)
  • Make sure there is enough furniture for the new student. The custodian might be a big help.
  • S.W.I.G. should review the plan periodically.
  • *S.W.A.T. = System Wide Assessment Team

Cross posted to Connected Principals
Welcome image from CC flickr user mckaysavage:
India - Sights & Culture - 027 - Chalk & flower welcome drawings
An intricate floor design done in coloured chalk and accented with flower petals welcoming us into a school near Kanchipuram,Tamil Nadu. Called rangoli (sandpainting) intricate decorative designs are drawn by the women front of their hut, house or apartment block every morning anew. The designs can be simple or very large and intricate. They are drawn to invoke prosperity, invitation and welcome of guests.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Essential in a High Poverty School

Recently, I was preparing for an interview at a school with relatively high rate of low income families (75%). Since my administrative experience is with middle class and wealthy communities, I asked my PLN for some info. Two administrators came to the rescue: Mike Roberts whose answers are in blue and Doug Green whose answers are in green (bios for Mike and Doug are at the end of this post).

  • What are some successful ways you involve parents?
Parent E-mail- I get parents email address at meetings and Open House. I then email the whole school as a whole on Sunday afternoon's with the upcoming week's events. For example: picture day, Masquerade Ball, Field Trips, etc. I think another good way is to take a personal interest in all the kids, but especially your at-risk students. I set down with them one on one and make goals. If they reach their goals, I put a post card in the mail telling their parents that I am proud of their achievements.

Even poor parents come to school if their kids are on stage performing or if you have some kind of event that features free food. We had a carnival in the spring and various dances with teachers as DJ’s and myself monitoring the dance floor.

  • Do you have successful alternatives to the standard Principal/Parent Coffee at 9 am?
Most parents are working. I do reading and math nights with minimal turn out. Again email is powerful. I email myself and bcc my parents. This way they don't know each others' email address in case they ever want to grind an axe.

Make home visits. Get out in the hood. Ride a bus and see who is at the bus stops. Give kids rides home who are sick or who miss the bus or who misbehave. Be fair and try to get to a point where the kid tells the parent what he did wrong. That is when you can get the parent working with you. Otherwise you will get an endless version of “why you pickin on my kid.” Remind the parent not to beat the kid. Go out of your way for black and hispanic parents. If you do, the word will get out that you are not a racist. Parents will play the race card so you just have to be better and earn their respect.

  • Do you have any ways to counteract the parents' own bad experiences in school?
Just try and have the most positive school you can have for kids. If their kid gets out of bed wanting to come to school, it will make the parents happy.

See 1 and 2.

  • What, besides money-related items, is the biggest challenge in working with poor students?
Instilling a sense of hope in some of them. They must see that education is the key to breaking this cycle of poverty. 2 weeks ago I started taking my upper grades students to visit college campuses. Just took my 5th grade to Georgia Tech. My 4th grade visits Jacksonville State University next week. Instill Hope.

Parents don’t generally have the academic background to help with learning and they aren’t able to take kids places for various kinds of enrichment. (Museums, libraries, or even trips out of the neighborhood.) Homes have TV but little or no reading material. This is why poor kids seem to go backwards during the summer and rich kids don’t.

  • How do you welcome or induct a new student - assuming your school has a high turnover or churn rate? 
Video Morning Announcements are huge. We do these on closed circuit every morning. We recognize students accomplishments, birthdays, new students, etc. We want the whole school clapping when this occurs.

I had about 37% a year. It was vital that I greeted the parents when they registered the kids and started to get to know them. Where you from? What brings you here? What can you tell me about junior. Act happy to see them and don’t act even a little superior. Act interested in what they have to say. Be empathetic. Even poor parents can smell distain a mile away.

  • When you first started at a high poverty school, what were some surprises?
None really. Kids are kids. Poor kids appreciate the things you do for them more than wealthy students. They appreciate the field trips and AR parties. It really means a lot to them. I love being their principal. I'm making a difference.

Kids came to school with emotional problems that steamed from events at home and in the neighborhood. Mommy’s new boy friend was a big negative as it took attention away from the child and he wasn’t dad. The number one abuser was the boy friend. There were always surprises due to unique and crazy situations that came up. It required a lot of problem solving and an excellent sense of humor.

  • Finally, any sage advice that I should know?
Read: "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire" and "There are No Shortcuts" by Rafe Esquith. You have to make it your personal mission statement that the quality of your students' lives are going improve because they were at your school. Don't worry about pleasing the central office crowd. Stay totally focused on making a difference. You will find it very rewarding.

Keep your ego out of situations. If a kid or a parent calls you an m f’er, step back, think, and ask what you can do to help. Don’t yell back or show emotion. This will only throw gas on the fire. If a parent comes into your school yelling, let them know they can yell all they want in your office with the door closed. Otherwise they need to leave. You also need to be fearless. Watch some old Clint Eastwood movies and try to walk like he did with the same expression on your face. Don’t dress like a dork. You don’t need to dress in expensive suits. Just pay attention. If apparel isn’t your strong suit, let your wife dress you. I did. After she died from ALS last year I was proud that she knew that I would be able to dress myself. Kids would tell me, “hey Dr. Green, you look cool.” It wasn’t an accident.

It is interesting, but not at all surprising, to see that so much of what both of these gentlemen had to say centered on showing genuine respect.

What have you done to include/engage parents in schools with high levels of poverty? Please leave comments below.

Cross posted at
Image from flickr user Fabio Ikezaki CC

Our Guest Answerers

Mike Roberts

West Georgia Principal,devoted father,husband,Christian. Seize the day!

Douglas Green

Endicott, New York Blogger DrDougGreen.Com - Retired Principal - Former caregiver for wife with Lou Gehrig's disease

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

Was Aesop a school principal? Who knows? (See Wikipedia for mythical bio of Aesop.) Whatever the truth about him may be, he certainly has something to teach us.
I found proof that he knew something of what it means to be a principal. During one of our typically bizarre dinner conversations, my wife mentioned this fable to prove her point. Since I didn’t know the fable and my wife is always right, I looked it up. I can no longer remember the discussion that night, but this simple story has a tough lesson for all of us principals.
You can see a great performance of this fable: Mendota 2nd Graders on YouTube

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey, from Aesop’s Fables
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said:
“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them,
Please all, and you will please none.”
Please all, and you will please none. Many principals that I know really like to please; they really like to make people happy. Many principals I know fell into a trap at the beginning of their admin career of trying to avoid confrontation and keep people happy. Sounds like a good idea except that it isn’t.
Principals often have to make decisions that have multiple, opposing factors to weigh. We make some really tough decisions that we know will make some people unhappy. Principals are not there to make everyone happy.
In the end, most principals that I know fall back on what they value most whether it pleases everyone or not: we do what is best for the children. If that does not please some folks, so be it.
If only the Man knew what he valued most.
Originally posted at Connected Principals.