Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Misstep Two-Step (#14inFeb #5)

I recently included the following in the Monday Memo for the staff at my school. In a future blog post, I will discuss how the informal principal survey at staff are completing fits into this picture. For now, suffice it to say that I have recently been made aware of some of my own missteps.

One of the toughest aspects of a small group of adults working together is how we deal with our inevitable missteps. Over time, good friends are able to say to one another something like, 'Hey, you messed up. Fix it.' Longtime co-workers often reach this stage without any planning or structure. What about other folks? What do we do when someone new to the community or someone who doesn't have the close relationships messes up? Do we have a structure in place for how to approach the person who missteps?

It is often easier to ignore the mistake, to 'sweep it under the rug,' to avoid confrontation and accept the unliked behavior. It's almost always scary to approach someone to discuss their actions, and sometimes the impact of the misstep is minor enough that, if ignored, the situation will right itself.
In more cases, ignoring the misstep leads to bigger problems quickly. People begin to resent, dislike, fear, or worse the person who missteps. The uncorrected/unchallenged missteps can lead to a difficult place to work or, more ominously, a place where kids can't learn.

It was clear from day one that the staff here cares tremendously for the children, the school, and each other. However, I know that some staff perceive missteps and do nothing about them. I know that other staff confront the person who missteps. I urge you all to screw up enough courage (or whatever emotion is needed) and confront the misstepper (hopefully in non-confrontational ways).

I should be clear at this point - the missteps that I have been thinking and writing about are mine. I make some mistakes. Sometimes, I recognize the problem quickly and can fix it. More often than not, without direct feedback, I do not realize there is a problem, and I do not fix it. During the in-service week, I asked you all to keep me honest - tell me when I misstep so that I can fix the problem. Some of you have come to me to tell me about my missteps. Most of you have not.

So, again, I ask that you challenge my missteps. For the good of the school, for the benefit of the students, for your own well being and mine, come speak to me when you have something on your mind.

So, what do you when you misstep? Is there a process in place among the staff at your school to deal with the inevitable? Are staff members comfortable coming to the principal or to each other to talk these things out?

image from Flickr user Andy.d CC

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Love Art (#14inFeb #4)

I am proud to say that my guest blogger has returned for at least one post during the 14 in February Challenge.

Without further ado, here are more words from Maya.


I Love Art 

by Maya Fliegelman

I love art because I have a really nice teacher. My teacher's name is Mrs. LeCours. She is fun.

I really like the projects that we do. They are really fun!!!! We made clay owls, but only their heads! We also made paper owls to wear around our necks. We can also hang them up. 

We also drew self-portraits. Mrs. LeCours taught us a drawing technique: sketch, outline, color-in. Sketch means use a light pencil. Outline means to draw with a darker line on the sketch. For the color-in, we can use paint, markers, or crayons to draw in the inside of our picture.

I really, really, really, really really, really, really like art!


Profound, eh?

Hopefully, I can get Maya to tell us more about school in a future post.

Thanks for reading.

image: Original art by Maya

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Digital Learning Day (#14inFeb #3)

On February 1, my school and hundreds of others around the country celebrated Digital Learning Day, a nationwide celebration of…you guessed it…digital learning.

Here at Wolcott Elementary School, most of the teachers have only integrated technology to a small degree so far. Well that has begun to change with a new principal and a new technology integrationist. For a little background let me tell you about the equipment in the building. For about ten years, there have been three desktops in each classroom - all are still deployed; only a few work. There is also a cart of ancient Acer laptops - not one battery is any good; several of these laptops dont work at all. There is an old server with an even older backup server. Just last spring, the new machines were purchased with grant money. Every teacher has a laptop now. There is a new cart with twelve additional new laptops. Seven (of eight) classrooms now have installed projectors and an Elmo document camera. One classroom has a Smartboard (this was teacher choice). We just upgraded the wireless network. Our district made the leap to google apps just before the December break.

Anyway, I asked every teacher to do something new with technology on DLD. We'd previously set integrating technology into existing units as one of our goals, so this seemed the perfect push. I shared the DLD website and resources with the staff and offered support.

To a small degree of accountability, I told the teachers that they would be sharing a few words about their digital learning at that day's afterschool faculty meeting.

Here is the list of projects that they shared (with names and some details altered for anonymity):

    • Math games from Investigations
    • Pairs worked on the program
    • Kids were able to extend due to overestimating
    • Continuing to work this Friday.
    • Signed up for regular computer use



    • Mobile computer lab in class for whole group
    • Started word processing
    • Turned desks around so screens faced front
    • 30 minutes to type spelling sentences, then hand write what is left.
    • Students tend to write short sentences, taught to write longer sentences.
    • Four kids will become peer coaches for the four students who were out for intervention
    • Signed up for mobile lab every week


    • Prezi presentations by the kids about Africa w/ Ethel
    • Also glogster to create posters about a novel


    • Weekly reader article with videos from the digital edition
    • Then Prezi with Doris.


    • skits to video, story boards first
    • PowerPoints on Egypt


    • New: from the DLD toolkit, jognog.com video game format, disappointing


    • Signed up for the mobile lab for the first time this year
    • Students to interactive biology websites
    • SmartBoard lesson taught by older students


    • No tech today
    • Next will hook up to Elmo to have kids do stuff
    • Took video of sliding
    • Will present at Monday Morning Meeting


    • Using iPad with math groups counting and identifying coins


    • Laptops brought into class

Absolutely fantastic! While some of these efforts may seem minor, this was a sign of great growth for many of the teachers. I was especially excited about the two teachers who had, during the day, signed up to have the mobile lab every week.

I was totally impressed by the huge effort that the technology integrationist put into helping certain teachers in the days leading up to DLD.

Well, DLD was fun and invigorating (technologically speaking). Now the real challenge will be maintaining momentum. Here we go!

Monday, February 6, 2012

14 in February Blogging Challenge 2012 Edition (#14inFeb)

It is February again. I returned from Educon last week (not sure that is relevant this time) where I met Maureen who claims that last year's challenges got her blogging. I guess if it worked last year, why not try again this year.

So, time for a little repeat. This is what I posted last year:

So, I got back from Educon last night, and I started thinking that I need to rev up my blogging engine again.

You see, while at Educon, the topic of blogging came up in at least two of the sessions that I attended. In both cases folks were talking about how to get more administrators to blog and be involved in online education discussions.

I mentioned that I have drafts of many blog posts already started, but that I am waiting for more fully formed writing before I publish. The consensus in the rooms was that I, and others, should publish now and not worry about our outdated print publication standards. Blog. Blog now and often the teachers and administrators were saying. Blog to share ideas; blog to develop ideas; blog to communicate vision, blog to engage the community. Blog.

So, I remembered back to June 2010 and the Spilling Ink Challenge. I have now created the
14 in February Blogging Challenge 
for any educator (or really anyone who might read this).

Since February 14 is an easily remembered day (except for at least half the men I know), I figure that number will do.

Create and share 14 Blog Posts in February. Write about your school/classroom, education reform, cool resources you've used, neato gadgets you have or covet, or whatever is on your mind. When you do, send out a tweet with the hashtag #14inFeb and add a comment here with a link to your blog.

I am especially challenging Melinda Miller and Jessica Johnson to blog with me again like we did in June.

And for crying out loud, help all the men in your life to remember the number 14 in February.
I hear-by challenge you all to meet or beat 14 blog posts in February. Come on, you can do it. I'm going to.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

All Hands on Deck!

In the days of yore, the captain of a ship would have the Boatswain (or Bosun) use his pipe to make the "All Hands" call when he wanted the entire crew up on deck and ready for action. Everyone, no matter what their role, no matter when their last duty shift, no matter how busy on another project, were expected to stop what they were doing, assemble on deck and, presumably, focus on the crisis at hand.

Now you might think that I am going all naval again like last year's post featuring the OODA Loop. I am not. Instead, I want to gloat. You see, I became principal at Wolcott Elementary School this year, and I noticed that the teachers here understand what it means when the principal (or other staff members) call "All Hands" on our proverbial Boatswain's Pipe.

A number of times this year, one of us has come to the Educational Support Team (EST) with a student crisis. Sometimes it's been very low achievement; other times we've had a student in personal crisis. In December, I called "All Hands" in order to prevent the total meltdown of several at-risk students (this was somewhat successful, but we plan to do much more next year).

Each time, the response from every staff member has been fantastic: what do we need to do? what can I do? I never had to ask "What are you going to do?"

The great thing is that this is the culture here! It's embedded deeply in the staff. I could fill a whole separate blog post just listing all of the ways that Wolcott Elementary School staff get together on deck for the good of the students. I am lucky to work here.

If you want to hear the All Hands call on a Boatswain's Call/Pipe, take a listen.

Image: CC 3.0 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bootsmannpfeife.jpg

Cross posted to Connected Principals