Monday, January 23, 2012

EduCon Again

In a few days, I am going to EduCon in Philadelphia. I am excited to attend this gathering of educators for a weekend of discussion of education politics, pedagogy, distributed leadership, and where to have dinner (more on that later).

Last year, when I attended EduCon for the first time, I was in a strange place in my life (for more on this, see this post). I let myself get psyched out. I didn't engage in the discussions in the way that I usually like to. I'd been accepted to present at Hacienda, but dropped out a few days prior. Since I was in between, I had trouble enjoying the learning.

These are the sessions that I attended:
1. Reimagining Leadership
2. District, School and Classroom Structures to Support Learning
3. Diversifying Your Rolodex
4. A Call for Action. How do we get more "Connected Principals"
5. Rubric for School Innovation: Assessing Your 21C School (seemed like a commercial so I left)
5a. Ctrl+Alt+PD:Shifting School Culture with Technology and Collaborative Professional Development

The highlights last year were purely social. I drove down from Massachusetts and roomed with Dan C. I enjoyed talking to PLN folks that I’d met at other events. I enjoyed meeting many others for the first time. I always love talking to students so that was cool. The only social downside was letting George C. choose the restaurant on Friday night (Applebee's, really).

This year, my story is so very different. I am "back in the saddle" as a principal. I am more focused. I am flying from Vermont instead of driving. I am, again, rooming with Dan C.

I have only glanced at the schedule of conversations so I will have to choose at the last minute. I am eager to go. I am eager to have fun and learn tons. I am eager for EduCon again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

7 Top Things Teachers Want from Their Principal

At the first staff meeting in August, I asked the staff at my new school to write a notecard answer to the following question:

"What do you need from your principal?"

The answers ranged from very practical to very theoretical. When put all together, these needs represent a healthy school culture eager to get to know the new guy.

As my own nearly-mid-year review of these ideas, I decided to categorize the answers and self-assess as I go (more about that in a future post). Just like all categorization efforts, this one is highly subjective and open to much interpretation. In any case, I came up with seven main categories:

  • Practical support
  • Technology
  • Special Edcuation
  • Teacher Support
  • Feedback/Availability
  • Communication
  • Miscellaneous Leadership Qualities
I've included, under each category, the specific needs from the notecards. Some caveats: I split some cards as they included several different needs, I've left out several with identifying information, there were some notecards that had a variation of "I don't know."

So, here it is, the evidence that led me to create this top seven list.

Reeding Lessons CC
Practical Support
  • Help to find a pullout space for individual/small group instruction.
  • I need help ordering equipment. I need help getting permission for special events. 
  • Please help to get custodian to build the shelves that were promised & order teaching carts if not done already.
  • Larger budget.
  • Recess duties are shared equally among all paras.
  • Prep time with team teacher.

  • I need professional development opportunities to grow my understanding/use of technology. 
  • I have no computer. How would I integrate technology without technology? Only one day a week, I don't want to run around the building to find what I need: A computer & projector would save paper (photocopies).
  • I would like to have admin access to download some programs that I want to implement this year. Ex. Voicetalk, iTunes, animoto etc. I can get you a list of these sites if you wish. 
  • I'd love the use of 4 laptops each morning.
  • laptop, probably a bunch of techy stuff
  • I want patience with technology, I'm working on it all the time. 

Special Education
  • Strong LEA rep
  • I need support in getting teachers more invested in the special Ed process. Follow through on IEP timeliness on progress reports, setting parent meetings

Teacher Support
  • Support for my masters work and a consistent sub on the days I miss. 
  • I need continued support in my room for academic and behavioral (both at the same time :). 
  • Larry needs to be the point man on the administrative team and advocate for us.
  • Support for behavioral needs in my classroom.

  • I would like visits (could be informal) and feedback - constructive criticism.
  • I love to see walkthroughs during class time to just connect as to what I'm teaching the children! (certainly not weekly, when you can)
  • Need feedback on my teaching.
  • I need your availability to answer my questions
  • I need you to be available for small questions that can be seemingly unimportant on the larger scale, but can cause me from being able to move forward in my job.
  • In the past I have worked closely with the principal as social, emotional ok behavioral issues arise with our kids. It would be great to have a discussion on how you would like our collaboration to work.
  • Bridging a gap in regards to part-time communication. 
  • Open, clear communication - like the "Monday Memo."
  • Straight talk
  • You may hear me, but are you listening (not you personally, just anyone I talk to!)
  • I will do my best to check my email and I need face to face communication.

Miscellaneous Leadership Qualities
  • Flexibility, but stability
  • Leadership that is fair for all, keep your sense of humor and always remember the reason we are here - kids!
  • Humor, flexibility, patience
  • Open to suggestions
  • Ideas, time, direction
  • Respect, support
  • Be a leader.

 Sums it all up
  • I need from my principal: support, teaching job next year :) strong communication, respect and honesty

Teachers and staff: What would you add to this list? What do you want from your principal.

Principals: What's missing here? What have staff and teachers asked from you that I have not listed?

Please add your ideas to the comments.

cross posted to Connected Principals

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reading is Soooo Cute. A guest post.

My guest blogger, and favorite daughter, is back. This time she asked to write about reading. I typed and gave only the slightest prompting and editing.

I Love Reading by Maya Fliegelman
"I like to read. I am reading Maggie and Max, a fun book. It is Puppy Place book. It is my homework book from school. Mrs. ABC didn't tell me to read it over the weekend. I read it over the weekend because I wanted to. Rebecca is my friend. She is reading it also.

Maggie is a dog who has black and white fur. Max is a cat. He has black and white fur also. Maggie and Max stay together. When we first saw them, they were at the shelter. Later they were at Charles and Lizzie's house. Maggie got out of the box that they were in first. A little bit after that, Max got out. Max got stuck in Charles and Lizzie's Christmas tree. Maggie helped him get down. I am probably going to finish Maggie and Max soon.

Some other Puppy Place books that I have read are Max and Flash. Some Kitten Place books that I've read are Sky and Star. Star is soooo cute. Sky is very cute, too.

I love reading to myself if my brother, Manny, doesn't interrupt me."

Some day, I am sure, Mrs. ABC will have Maya branch out to other genres. For now, I should be happy that she is reading and loving it.

Oh, one more thing, I think that Maya is soooo cute.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Feasting and Dancing in Jerusalem

So I am not a teenage any longer. In fact, I haven't been one for quite a few years. Anyway, I realized a few months back that I still have teenage trait left in me (no, not my sense of humor as that is more like a 12 year old). I still have songs that define my life. In the last eighteen months, there are three songs that tell a lot about me.

This Year by The Mountain Goats
This Year is a song aimed squarely at a demographic more than 20-years my junior. I don't connect much with the whole teen angst thing. My teen years were not very angsty, and I am not so angsty now. Except...last year was pretty tough for me. (For most of that story, please read this post). Anyway, my connection to this song was really only with the last line and the chorus: 
Rocky Mountain Goats (Oreamnos americanus), Wa...
Image via Wikipedia
There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year
I am going to make it through this year if it kills me
I am going to make it through this year if it kills me
A powerful, hopeful mantra as I listened to that song about seven million times.

During the spring of 2011, things started to pick up for me. Sometime during the winter, I, along with 3 zillion other folks, watched a Texas high school lip dub of Firework by Katy Perry on YouTube. While not my usual style of music, I was hooked and added the song to my happy-songs playlist. Over the course of a few weeks in the spring, I drove from Massachusetts to and from and all over Vermont. As my interviewing confidence grew, I kept turning up the volume on Firework. Some of the lines I like best are:
"Cause baby you're a firework
Come on show them what you're worth"

Katy Perry dancing with others at the Buda Cas...
Image via Wikipedia
"If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow"

"Maybe you're the reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the prefect road"

"It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time to let it through" 

Catchy? Sure. Trite? Absolutely. Beneath an educated, professional? Definitely. Did I listen to this seven million times also? You bet.

Well time went on as it always does, and we moved to another town. Getting the principalship at Wolcott Elementary School, moving to Vermont, and finally selling our old house in Massachusetts has made for a great New Year.

Artwork for Illinois by Sufjan Stevens
Image via Wikipedia
During these past few months since the move north, I have listened frequently to Chicago by Sufjan Stevens. Once again, a song aimed at a very different audience, spoke to me. The hook was the beauty of the song, but the refrain at the end seems to sum up my learning of late:

we had our mindset
(I made a lot of mistakes)
all things know, all things know
(I made a lot of mistakes)
you had to find it
(I made a lot of mistakes)
all things go, all things go
(I made a lot of mistakes)

So, that is me in song (at least recently). Going forward who knows what I will listen to. Maybe more of the same, maybe a whole different genre (countrified rap here I come).

Over the last eighteen months, I have come a long way. Things are good. We are not in Jerusalem, but we are feasting and dancing this year.