Monday, December 29, 2014

When to Favorite, and When to Reply

Everyone loves a good list. Though I had been on Twitter for a few years, I didn’t become a regular at “Tweeting” until this past year. It was a New Year’s resolution to do so, and I did a pretty good job of sticking with it. One of the things I had to get the hang of has to do with favoriting things. I have over 1200 favorites on my Twitter feed, and I don’t know why I favorite half of them. Upon reflection, I have actually been able to put my Tweets into three categories
  • “Thank You” Favorites – For those times when I clicked on that star as an acknowledgement of a comment or a mention.
  •  “Great Point” Favorites – Given when someone made a great comment or point.
  • “Purposeful” Favorites – Given when I came across a Tweet that contained an awesome quote, picture, or link. Something I would want to save for later.

That being said, I would like to share five of my favorites for this year. To see all of my favorites, follow me @JaimeStacy.

#5 – Quote by Rick Dufour. While I feel it is absolutely essential for educators to believe that all students can learn, I believe it is important for teachers to build and sustain a toolbox they can draw from to work with students who aren’t learning. https://twitter.com/edunators/status/306820940120088576/photo/1
"Don't tell me you believe all students can learn. Tell me what you do when they don't." Rick DuFour

#4 – A Quote by Sir Ken Robinson "If you sit kids down doing low grade clerical work, don't be surprised if they fidget a bit."
                  If you haven’t seen his “Schools Kill Creativity” TED Talk, you need to. I still see too many worksheets being used where a different activity could be substituted.

#3 – A great representation of the theory of innovation for educators. I especially like the part about the “wood”.
http://theasideblog.blogspot.com/2014/08/resource-roundup-pencil-metaphor-point.html

These came out near the end of the school year, right at a time when I was giving year-end evals. There were some great suggestions here.

#1 – “Be More Dog” Video – This is a great video to show when you want to encourage people to get out of their comfort zone. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMzgl0nFj3s&sns=tw


Now that I’ve gotten the hang of Tweeting, I am going to be a little more discriminating with that little gold star. I will only favorite something that I truly want to save. Basically, that means I will only save my "Purposeful" favorites. However, that does NOT mean I’m going to stop acknowledging the “Thank You” or “Great Point” favorites. Instead, I plan on replying to that individual to acknowledge their comment. After all, if someone took the time to think about something I said or posted, I owe it to them to respond in kind. Of course, I may have to rethink that if I get a zillion replies!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Holidays Aren't Always Happy

I remember working with a student who was having behavioral difficulties, and was often falling asleep in class. Getting to know him and his mom, I learned that they lived in a motel room off the highway. Mom worked in a fast food restaurant. Most of the time, she worked the closing shift, meaning she did not get home until close to midnight. This meant her son was alone in a motel room in a sketchy part of town from the time he arrived home from school until mom got home from work. This also meant he had to wait until close to midnight to get supper. Supper by the way, was the leftovers from the fast food restaurant.

Each year around this time, I wonder what ever happened to them. I wonder how happy their holiday season was. I wonder how that child felt when winter break began for him? He wouldn't be getting school breakfast or lunch, just whatever mom would be bringing home from work late at night? I wonder what that stuff tasted like the next day? I can only imagine what it was like being in a drafty motel room day in and day out for two weeks while mom worked. Were there presents? Was there a proper Christmas dinner? I know they had no other family, and that must have been lonely. The student eventually ended up living in a home for boys somewhere in the southwestern part of the state, and mom vacated the hotel room. I'm not exactly sure where she ended up.

I bring this up because it is important for us as educators to remember that the holiday season is different for everyone. While I'm happily bounding out the door on the day winter break begins, I know there are others who aren't looking forward to these coming weeks. Do they get to go home to heat, light, good food, and a safe place to call home? Not always.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives this season, whether we are thriving or surviving. In the coming weeks, be mindful of those you work with. While these can be times of joy, excitement, and wonder; they can also be times of stress, sadness and despair. Even those of us with a roof over our heads and plenty to eat can feel down this time of year. This may be due to the recent loss of a loved one, or financial stress from a recent layoff or pay cuts so easy to get wrapped up in our own. In your actions and conversations, keep in mind the reason for the season. Be sure to model and celebrate those things we call can learn and grow from: compassion, kindness, and, thankfulness.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Thankful Administrator

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday. My transition from 11-month employee to 12-month employee has made it so that I don't get the day before Thanksgiving off anymore. However, it DOES ensure I get to host Thanksgiving dinner this year. Yay! I'm actually saddened by the fact that Christmas commercials are already dominating the airways so soon. Thanksgiving deserves its rightful place, and I feel lucky to be the one cooking that most important feast for my family.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I have had the privilege of working in and studying in my fair share of schools, and in each school, I've had something to be thankful for.

  • As a student, I went to a high school that was so old, the first person to walk into homeroom every morning was responsible for reaching their hand in a boiling hot radiator to flip a switch that would turn on a blower to get the classroom warm. Equipment was old, floors were creaky, and there was always this musty smell... However, I was thankful for the experiences I had as a student there. I never really thought about the environment so much as I thought of the teachers who helped to shape who I am. They accomplished so much in spite of their environment.
  • I chose to spend my college years in an urban university in a southern state. Having grown up up in a sleepy New England suburb, it was certainly an eye-opening and life-changing experience for me. It is an experience I am thankful for because it has allowed me to look at the world from a variety of different lenses. 
  • As a teacher, I was thankful to have a classroom that was well equipped with a supportive administrative team. I never had to teach "a la cart" and I rarely had to give up my instructional time in lieu of assemblies, testing, or extra remediation time. I'm also thankful for the incredibly knowledgable and supportive mentors who have helped me become the educator I am today. 
  • As an administrator, I am thankful for the diverse learning environments I have had the privilege of working in. I have learned just as much working in a school that serves an affluent community as I've leaned working in an at risk community. Every single staff member I've worked alongside has been amazing in their own way, and I've learned from every one of them. Bottom line? Every school has its challenges, and they all provide opportunities to learn and grow. 
As time progresses, the craft of teaching and learning has not become easier, and it is not going to. We as educators did not enter this profession because it was going to be easy. We chose this profession to make a difference. In this season of giving, be sure to take some time to reflect on all that you are thankful for. Being thankful can actually be a pretty empowering experience...if you let it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ten People To Follow

A New Year's resolution of mine this past year was to see what all of the buzz was about on Twitter. That one thought was a complete game changer for me. Using Twitter has opened up a whole new world of professional development possibilities for me. 

In addition, those possibilities are not limited to the field of education. Several people I have followed are passionate about leadership in general, and I've learned so much from them because of their passion for leadership an what they have accomplished as a result of that passion. 

Below are ten individuals I have followed this past year. They are only 10 out of over 700, but they are 10 who have helped to put my own thoughts on leadership and education into perspective. I also chose these people for three key reasons: They are passionate about their craft, are willing to share, and follow some pretty amazing people themselves! By the way, this list is in NO particular order. 

Scott McLeod @mcleod - This is the guy who writes the Dangerously Irrelevant blog. He is a regular on several Twitter education chats. He promotes innovation and change in education, and has some great ideas on how to make that change happen. He's actually one of the first people I followed. 

Rick Wormelli @RickWormelli - Rick Wormelli's thoughts on standards-based learning really helped me to explain the process of sandards-based learning and standards-based grading to the staff I worked alongside last year as we were all wrapping our heads around this SUPER IMPORTANT concept. In my opinion, his thoughts can be an absolute game changer for any school or school system that is willing to adopt them. 

Donalyn Miller @donalynbooks - This woman knows kids, and she knows reading. I wish I had enough money to have her come visit my school for a month. I am truly fearful that fewer and fewer students are avid readers. Donalyn Miller is passionate about reading, and is equally passionate about getting kids to love reading. She is the reason why I ask in an an interview, "What are you reading?".

Wade Stanford @wadestanford - Wade is one of the reasons I took such an interest in Twitter to begin with. Not only does he have some great ideas, but he follows some pretty fabulous people as well!

John Michel @JohnEMichel - USAF, and a good solid mindset on how modern leadership should look. He has some wonderful thoughts, and shares some pretty awesome articles and pictures, too. I've shred some of his articles with my fellow staff members.

Pam Moran @pammoran - You should always follow educational leaders within your region. I enjoy Pam because she is someone I aspire to be. One can tell that she always thinks with the best interests of kids in mind.

Wicked Decent Learning @wickeddecent - OK, I know I said I was featuring individuals, but this dynamic duo are fellow New Englanders, have a great point of view on the purpose of developing a PLN, and also post some great infographics.

Dan Forbes @DanVForbes - This guy is the reason I stepped outside the educational boundary of Twitter, and began to explore thoughts from leaders outside the field of education. He is also the founder of one of my favorite chats, #LeadWithGiants, what takes place every Monday night at 7:00 Eastern time. It is really fast-paced - 10 questions in an hour!

Tiawana Giles @TiawanaG - Tiawana is the founder of #TheTitleOneChat. She is an incredibly passionate leader and learner. She has a lot of great thoughts on building relationships within the school community.

Daniel Buhr @Cybuhr - Daniel Buhr is not an educator. He is, however, passionate about the realm of leadership, and has a lot of relevant thoughts on the topic. In addition, if you are lucky enough, he will respond to one of your tweets during a discussion with a follow-up question that really makes you think!

As I said before. This is definitely not the be-all and end-all of people to follow on Twitter. However they are people I have enjoyed following, and if you are of a similar mindset, should enjoy following as well. If you have any thoughts on other people I should follow, please comment!

By the way, you can follow me at @JaimeStacy T








Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Grass Isn't Greener

So, the school I currently serve has a completely different structure regarding exceptional education students than I'm used to. I've always been fortunate to work with an individual who is in charge of all things exceptional education. It is all they do. That person, known as a coordinator for special education would review IEPs, host eligibility and triennial meetings, and would also be the individual who one could rely on as the expert on all things exceptional education.

Here, I work with a department chair for exceptional education, but otherwise, I'm it... I've had seven years supervising exceptional education departments in middle schools, but there has always been someone to monitor all things exceptional education, and they did a good job of it! I felt comfortable making decisions with them to guide me. Now, if I have a question, my answers are a phone call away, but its just not the same.

Something I've learned about transitioning from one school system to another is that the grass isn't greener on the other side...its just a different variety of grass, and that's OK.

I have accumulated quite a few stories like this over the past few weeks. Does that make me any less happy that I made the decision to work in a different school system? DEFINITELY NOT!!! I now have the opportunity to gain a whole new skillset; which is exactly why I decided to go for a position like this to begin with.

That being said, make sure your expectations regarding a new position are aligned with what your desires truly are. Because there will be other "unintended consequences" you will face as a result of your decision. Bottom line,  make sure you enter a new position with an open mind, and a desire to learn!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Keeping a Step Ahead Regarding Social Media

Today, we had a member of the Attorneys General office visit our students to talk with them about the precautions that must be taken when using social media. He gave some excellent advice to our students, and even took time to paint a picture of just how easy it is to get hold of your personal information, or even find out where you live or go to school.

When he asked if the students had Facebook accounts, I counted fewer than 15 students who raised their hands...these were 6th graders, by the way. Average age of eleven this time of year. When he asked if they had Instagram accounts, I could probably count no fewer than 15 students who didn't raise their hands. In case you were wondering, the minimum age to set up either of these accounts is 13. Hmmmm...

I think about my niece who had two Facebook accounts...one her family knew about, and one her family didn't know about.

Of course, Facebook is passé...if you are a tween or teen. I still like it. But I'm not 12. Its great for keeping up with people I knew in high school; and let's get serious for a moment...Where else would I post pictures of my cat???

Twitter is still pretty popular for tweens. But there are other platforms out there which allow them a little more anonymity. Snapchat, Kik, YikYak and Ask.fm are just a few of what are out there. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, sites like Ask.fm and Snapchat are not based in the United States, and obtaining information from them isn't the easiest. In fact, Ask.fm is based in Latvia, and has been linked to several suicides. You can read more about it by clicking here.

When working with middle school students, or any student or child for that matter, it is in your best interest to keep up with the latest trends in social media. The more knowledge you have about social media trends, the easier it is to handle a situation when it arises. You may also want to take a look at this Socialnomics video which showcases the state of social media this past year.

I'm glad that I didn't attend middle or high school in this age. I know I mentioned this in previous postings, but I was bullied something terribly when I was younger. I can only imagine how it would have been in the age of social media. Kids have a lot of advantages with growing up today. However, with those advantages comes a significant responsibility.

When working with kids, keep those thoughts in mind. I'm not going to say they have a lot more to handle than we ever did; but they have a different kind of burden to carry. It is a generational burden. They are going to stumble along the way, and they are going to need help recovering from their bumps and bruises. Most importantly, they are going to need help navigating this terrain. Keep this in mind when you work with students who get in a sticky social media situation. Be sure to keep yourself educated and informed so that you yourself may educate and inform them. Its more important than ever to be a lifelong learner. Take what you learn, and use it wisely.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

So Much Data!

Data driven instruction is where its at. You give the assessment, analyze the data, find the strengths and weaknesses, and reteach/remediate based on your findings. It's a cyclical process.

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with the math department chair, and we were discussing this process as we were laying the groundwork to help guide teachers in their development of growth goals for the coming school year. The process for this practice has traditionally been to look at the previous years' assessment data for last years students to determine the instructional focus for this year.

This process, however, has a flaw. What about results pertaining to the students you have this year? What about the progress those students made last year? What about what they are missing? Is that data important? Of course it is!

I did some serious thinking on the topic, and came up with this:

  • Year-end assessment data is valuable. It's probably more valuable for teachers though. However, full state assessment data isn't usually available until mid July, and by that time, teachers are well into their summer vacation. In most cases, they don't even see this data until August when they are stressing about a new batch of students and getting their classrooms ready. If teachers are provided with this data before they left of the summer, they could develop a plan to address their own instructional weaknesses during the summer.  
  • Pre-assessment data is also valuable. It's a valuable tool to help teachers determine what the students don't know. If teachers don't know their own weaknesses, however, how do they know if they are adequately prepared to reach this new group of students? 
  • It is still relatively difficult to access and pull apart assessment data. For example, I spent a good deal of my Sunday afternoon trying to figure out what our exceptional education students were struggling with on our state assessment tests. I could easily find out what our entire school was struggling with, but that doesn't help me when I need to focus on specific subgroups or classes. What's up with that?
I feel pretty comfortable with saying that we are in a better pace with instructional data than we were even a few years ago, but there is still a long way to go. Why should we have to wait until mid July to obtain data that would help teachers grow as professionals. In addition, the data we are using should also be able to tell us a little bit more than it currently does. I think of data I encounter in everyday life: my credit card statement, the gauges on my car, all those infographics I find on the Internet, and even my Starbucks app...they are all easier than what the majority of us are asking teachers to make sense of.

I've said this before, it is my responsibility as an administrator to make sure the teachers I work with have the tools the need to be successful. This includes providing access to data that doesn't take hours to unpack and understand. Until the data comes to us in a more straightforward format, I need to make sure it gets that way before it gets in the hands of the teachers. This way, they will have more time to create meaningful and impactful lessons based on what that data tells them.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Day, New building, New Perspective

For the first time in 16 years, I travelled to a different school system to go to work this week. To say it was surreal would be an understatement.

Day one was a whirlwind of new names, faces, procedures, routines, and expectations. I really put my "Lifelong Learner" persona to the test! There were meetings, introductions, trainings, and lunch duty...yes, lunch duty!  I'm so glad I took the time to get my office set up during the weekend. I'm also grateful for the staff members who took the time to make sure I felt at home!

What a Welcome!!! :-)
On day two, things calmed down a little...well, about as calm as a middle school gets. I got to visit classes on an absolutely amazing day. It was peer observation day. Like the school I just left, my new school also provides students with a 1:1 learning environment. Teachers who had something really cool to share with their peers placed a green card outside their door. I had an opportunity to visit some of these "green card" classrooms in the afternoon, and it was AMAZING! I saw collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, and infusion of technology at its finest.

On day three, before teachers and students came in, I had time to sit in m office for a minute and assess my surroundings. With my new office, I got half of my wish. I got a window! After nearly ten yeas of working in an office without a window, I finally have one. I'll admit I was a little disappointed that the window didn't have an outside view. However, it does gives me a GREAT view of the 8th grade hallway. What it also allows me to see is the reflection of a beautiful golden sunrise streaming in from the HUGE windows in the main stairway. It allows me to see the teachers arriving every morning, and I can say hi to the kids who walk by my office throughout the day.

While I haven't gotten everything I wanted yet (an outside view, for example), I have gained a new perspective on things, which is exactly what I was hoping for in this endeavor. Is this new journey going to be easy? No way! Is it going to be worth it? It already is.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Making a Transition

At this point, most of my colleagues know that I am about to make a transition. I am moving from an 11-month position to a 12-month position. I'm also moving to another school system. I'll admit that I'm both excited and nervous at the same time. While I have worked in three schools prior to my move, they have all been in the same school system. In the weeks to come, I will be putting my "lifelong learner" mindset to the test. While adjusting to a new organizational structure will take a little time, I know that my time in the coming weeks will be best spent learning as much about the culture and norms of the school community that I possibly can. I can't wait to see the kids!

I start my new position tomorrow. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to get into the building during the weekend and get my office set up. I spent time moving around furniture, hanging pictures, and unpacking boxes. I wanted that space to be a welcoming environment for anyone who visits my office from day one. I also wanted to make a statement: I'm here to stay. What does your work space say about you?

When I interviewed for this position, I told the panel that I felt I had a lot to offer. I also said that I had a lot to learn. I'm looking forward to putting that statement to the test!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Who Inspires You?

From http://edutopia.com
On Twitter, you have a little bit of space to say something about yourself on your homepage. Mine reads "Always a teacher first". There is so much I owe to the profession of teaching and learning. Teachers helped to make me who I am.

Edutopia has had some FABULOUS stuff on Pinterest recently. Last week's "pin of the week" really spoke to me. When I think about hiring teachers, I look beyond their academic skillset. I look for their passion, their creativity, their ability to inspire.

Once a teacher is hired, it is important to remind them why they got the job. It wasn't just because they were knowledgable of their content area. There was something in that interview that made them stand out from those around them. There was a spark. I am also of firm belief that it is our responsibility to tell our new hires that there are some within the building who unfortunately, are not going to be great role models for them. Those who are more seasoned will likely pick up on those toxic personalities, and stay away from them. Others may get sucked into that toxicity...misery loves company, remember? Keep in mind that it is not at all inappropriate to introduce your new hires to those on your staff who you think they could learn the most from.

I love this quote by Robert John Meehan because I truly believe that its simply not good enough to just be a lifelong learner. I've always considered myself to be a lifelong learner; but as I climb higher in my career, I have discovered the importance of surrounding myself with people who are uplifting and inspiring. Though I am kind of an introvert, I consider myself to be so fortunate to have an amazing group of friends, family, and colleagues who support and inspire me. They have helped me to become who I am. As time has gone on, I have become more cognizant of the fact that it is my responsibility to help those in the same way that others have helped me. It is my responsibility to be an uplifting presence in my building; no matter what I may be feeling inside.

The next time you are having a crummy day, be sure to remember that there are others in your building who are looking up to you. Though you are just one person, you matter a whole lot to those you work alongside. Don't let them down.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My First "No Office" Day

In my "Personal Professional Goals" post, I mentioned one of my goals this year was to maintain weekly "no office" days. What I mean by this is that I try to spend the entire workday outside my office. Yesterday, I tried my first. Overall, I would consider it to be a success!
from www.connectedprincipals.com

Was it easy? No.

Was it worth it? Definitely!

Here are some things that made this experience completely worth it:

  • I got into 22 classrooms! It was AWESOME! The kids were like, "Dr. Stacy, I saw you in tons of my classes today!" I also got a lot of "thank-yous" from the teachers. I had some tell me they  never had anyone come in to visit their class that early. 
  • I got some GREAT data to share! As I visited each class, I filled out a brief walkthrough observation form. It allowed me to indicate whether or not I saw an agenda or objectives, and state that agenda. It also allowed me to check off the types of instruction I saw: whole class or small group. In addition, I looked for things like use of questioning strategies, type of learning activity taking place, and the learning environment. At the end of the day, I made a copy of each form, and put them in the teachers' mailboxes. I plan on sharing an overview of my observations with the grade level during our next PLC meeting. 
  • All sorts of fabulousness was observed! Since I am new to the grade level I'm working with; and since we have a LOT of new electives teachers in our building (5 to be exact), I visited my grade level and the electives teachers who are new to the building. I got to see some great instructional techniques in action. I saw a great example of student folders in Google Drive being managed, excellent use of Class Dojo, and some really creative problem solving in our STEM class. I'm going to ask these teachers to share their strategies with their PLC during "Teacher showcase" time in the coming weeks. 
While there is LOADS more to share, I like to keep these posts fairly short. We are, after all, busy people!

Here are some things that made this "No Office Day" more manageable:
  • I come to work early. I get to work about an hour before I need to be there. I use that time to answer emails, organize my plan for the day, and work on any "desk projects" (data gathering and analysis, scheduling, project research). 
  • I have a plan on how I want to spend the day. Do I want to see a specific grade level or subject area? Am I looking for a particular skill? Do I need to see how certain students are doing? These are all things I have ironed out before I begin my day. 
  • I carry my laptop. Just because I'm not in my office doesn't mean I have to be completely cut off. I use it for taking notes, looking up something online, and yes, checking email. 
Did I spend the entire day out of my office? Pretty much. I did have to go to my office to handle a student discipline issue, and I also had to call a parent. Once I finished those tasks, I was quick to leave and continue visiting classes. 

Can I do this every week? I'm going to try. I can see where I will make plans for a "no office" day only to have them thwarted by a issue beyond my control. However, I can also see this practice being something that will put me an a position to be more proactive rather than reactive when situations arise; and when I can be proactive, I feel more productive. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Power of Failure

We are implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) this year. One of the foci of PBIS includes the re-wording of procedures and routines of your building into positive ones. For example: Change "stop talking" into "raise your hand if you have something to say". I love the concept, and it WORKS when you have buy-in among stakeholders. I've seen it myself. Often, it can take time to acquire buy-in from stakeholders, and the results aren't always want you may want in the first go-around. For example: perceptions on the concept of failure are pretty broad at this point.

Here are some obstacles pertaining to the concept of failure:


Failure results in punishment
  • Ever sit in a parent conference and have the parent share with you that their child was grounded for the F they received in your class? Why would they feel OK with failure again? 
Failure is portrayed as something bad
  • See above. I posted in the past about the concept of stress hindering creativity. If a student is afraid to fail, one could ascertain that failure could lead to stress, thus hindering creativity. 
Failure is Finite
  • Have you ever seen a child crushed by a failing grade? It takes a certain degree of strength to cover from that; and its not always a degree a child possesses! 
Notice that I didn't ask why children are afraid of failure. Most children aren't readily afraid of failure. If they were, they would never learn how to grasp, to crawl, to walk, to talk...see where I'm going with this? Children involved in sports, music, dance, the arts, and gaming, for example, are used to seeing failure as part of the learning process. No one expects a child to hit a home run their first time at bat.

However, in the realm of education, we are often quick to assign a failing grade to a student's attempt at learning. What does that F result in? What could we as educators do differently to make that F more meaningful? I need to give credit to Robert Schuller for the quote, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" As I continue to learn and grow, I often wonder of the damage I caused by giving a student an F. If I have provided a good amount of feedback and an opportunity to improve, I feel pretty good about it. If I stopped my feedback at the letter, I have not only failed that student or individual, but I also have failed as a teacher. 


Monday, September 1, 2014

What Do Your Students Need?

Image from http://www.21stcentech.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/maslow.jpg
Most students are back to school at this point. If not, they will be going back to school sometime in the next few days. There is an excitement that goes along with getting back to school. Seeing friends, experiencing a new grade level or teacher, and participating in sports or extra-curricular activities are just a few of the reasons students are excited about getting back to school. However, there are students who may be excited about getting back to school for other reasons. 

As your students walk through the doors of your building or classroom, take a moment to consider other reasons for their back-to-school excitement. For the first time in months, some (or many) of your students may find that their needs are finally being met. 

This may mean that they finally have regular meals to eat and a safe, healthy environment to spend time in. If you look at the chart above (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid) you can see that these are the most basic of needs. If these needs aren't met, students aren't able to even think about forming meaningful relationships with others, or having a sense of accomplishment from the tasks they perform in class. In addition, they are far from exercising their creativity or achieving-self actualization. 

Though there are many strategies you can use to provide assistance to these students, the best thing you can do first (for both you and the student) is to recognize whether or not their basic needs are met, and work with support staff within your building to ensure they are being taken care of. Remember, one of the most important things we can do as educators is meeting students where they are at and helping them grow from there. While that statement often refers to instruction, it also refers to their basic needs; from getting them out of survival mode and into an environment where they can begin to thrive. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stressed About Your Packed Calendar? Try Changing Its Colors!

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at my Google Calendar, and feeling pretty stressed over the whole thing. Even though the school year hadn't begun, my personal and shared calendars were getting pretty packed with events. As I sat and stared at the calendar, I began to wonder what exactly was making me feel so agitated. It really wasn't any more jam packed than it had been in the past, but it was definitely irritating me.

Then I realized it wasn't the events that were stressing me out, it was actually the colors of the calendar that were stressful to me. Here is a snapshot of my calendar and shared calendars from this past week:

The colors used to represent everyone were hard on the eyes, and the colors didn't exactly scream serenity either. Because I really disliked my own color, I did some research on how to change it. You can find the directions for changing colors on the calendar by clicking here

I found a color I liked, but the color still didn't help enhance the scene. I then took a page right out of my art classes from middle school. I Googled hexadecimal color wheel images to determine colors which would compliment one another. After playing around a bit, I came up with a grouping of colors that was more pleasing to the eye:
These colors remind me of the flowers I have on my back deck in the fall; of calm, cool afternoons sitting outside with a good book. Perhaps when winter comes, I'll choose a different color palette. 

Could I have spent my time doing something else? Probably. However, I don't feel as stressed out when I look at my calendar anymore, and that makes a big difference in my perception of the day ahead. When I have a positive outlook on things, I'm more productive! A change in color can make all the difference in the world! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cool Videos to Show Teachers and Staff...And Maybe Students!

For as long as I could remember, the beginning of the school year has always been an exciting time. It seemed as if everyone returned to school with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. They were ready to be motivated and inspired.

When used properly, a motivational video can really work in your favor to emphasize a big idea, send a message, or put a grin on peoples' faces. While I've been exposed to quite a few of these over the years, here are some of the more recent ones you can use to enhance your next faculty, department or PLC Meting.


Be more doghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMzgl0nFj3s

  • I LOVE this video for two reasons. First, I'm a lover of animals. Second, I LOVE the message. Some of us are unwilling to try new things because of our attitude or demeanor. This video shows what happens when a cat casts aside the stereotype of being a cat and tries being "more dog"! 

Socialnomics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV-3ZgLRnAc&feature=youtu.be

  • Do you still have people on your staff who don't understand the impact of social media? Do you have people on your staff who completely understand the impact of social media. This video will certainly entertain and/or inform all staff members - no matter which end of the instructional technology curve they are on. 

Every Kid Needs a Champion: http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion

  • I came across this TED talk last year when I was researching information for our success class. Rita Pierson has been a teacher for over 40 years, and she has a very deep understanding of the importance of building relationships with students in order to help them succeed. 

My 12 Pairs of Legs - http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics?source=facebook#.U_knnrllW_l.facebook


  • Aimee Mullins is an athlete and a runway model. She also had both of her legs amputated when she was a baby. Instead of portraying her disability, she portrays the opportunities and adventures she's encountered as the result of using prosthetic limbs. 
There are so many more videos out there: Ken Robinson's "Schools Kill Creativity" Video, The "Herding Cats" commercial, the "212 Degrees" video, Kid President's "Message to Teachers"...I could go on and on! However, my goal in this post was to give you a few new videos that you or your staff would find inspirational and informative in the coming weeks; some of the most important weeks of the school year. 




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Brushing Up On Some SAMR

https://engage.intel.com/servlet/JiveServlet/showImage/2-125386-115051/SAMR-MODEL-TECHNOLOGY-INTEGRATION.png
image from ipadforschools.org
Every year, our school division requires teachers to attend a technology-driven staff development day a couple of weeks before teacher work week begins. With all of our middle school students getting Chromebooks, much of the workshop was centered around ensuring students received the best possible blended learning experience.

Teachers were shown how to navigate curriculum based websites, how to enter information into the new electronic gradebook, and were also given a mini lesson on the SAMR model.


As an FYI, Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything has some GREAT SAMR resources for teachers who are just getting their feet wet in SAMR land!

SAMR is an acronym for the following:
  • Substitution,
  • Augmentation,
  • Modification, and
  • Redefinition
Basically the premise is that the use of technology in education can be categorized into one of the above four methods. Let's take for example, the act of note taking.

In substitution, the technology is simply taking the place of a more traditional method - like using a word processor instead of a typewriter, or a piece of lined paper.
Through augmentation, the technology is basically a slight improvement on the traditional tool. For example, spell check and formatting tools make the process of note taking easier.  
The modification stage is where the real fun begins. The traditional notes become interactive. Students use the Internet to enrich their notes. Hyperlinks to interesting sites or video may be added. Images are added to the page. Students can utilize Google docs for sharing and peer editing.
Redefinition - The notebook turns into a blog that is published and shared with not only their classmates, but experts in the field. Questions and comments can be posted, leading to a deeper thought process. Students have an audience beyond their classroom.

As I observe classes this year, I would like to give some feedback based on the SAMR model. I want to ask teachers how they would rate their lesson. Would the lesson be more of an S, or more of an R?

I chose the topic of SAMR note taking because there is a debate in our school system right now. Even though students are going to be given Chromebooks, teachers want to be able to continue using paper notebooks because students retain more if they can cut and paste something into a notebook. Even as an administrator, I have found the best way to get my point across is by modeling my expectations. As I think about what this could look like, the idea of an "Interactive PLC Agenda" comes to mind. The agenda with videos, links, and pictures posted on our PLC site teachers can comment on and share. It's worth a shot. I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Personal Professional Goals

At the beginning of each school year, I have to write a professional growth plan based on the goals of our school and school division. In addition to these goals, I also choose some personal professional goals to reach.

I had made a resolution at the beginning of the new year to maintain a Personal Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter. Prior to that point, I had done very little with Twitter or Personal Learning Networks, and I knew I really needed to. In the months to come, a whole new world of FREE professional development opportunities opened up to me. In fact, my personal professional goals for this year come directly from ideas generated through my PLN.

Goal 1: Maintain Regular "No Office" Days.
I am sincerely worried about the amount of change we are asking of our teachers this year. In addition to working with a new student database system which includes a new electronic grade book and method for posting assignments, we are also giving each one of their students a Chromebook. One evening, a member of #cmsk12chat mentioned the concept of "no office" days. Basically, select days to work outside the office. I'm hoping that in doing this, I will have a better idea of what is going on in classrooms. I'm hoping that by spending more times with teachers and students, I will be better equipped to accomplish my second goal.

Goal 2: Make Sure Those I Work With Experience Personalized Learning
As our school division implements so many new initiatives this year, there will be teachers who will embrace them and instantly thrive in their new teaching environment. Others will need some guidance to be more successful. There will also be a group who will struggle, who will need intensive support and coaching. Using "no office" days will allow me to gain a greater understanding of what our teachers need. I can then seek out resources to help provide them with professional development or coaching that fits their individual needs. I'm willing to bet I could pair them up with a PLN that would help them grow like I have. I know there will also be some tough conversations that will take place as a result of what I see, and that is why my final goal is so important.

Goal 3: Maintain Authenticity
One of my absolute favorite chats, #leadwithgiants, takes place on Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. They discuss trends in leadership. Back in June the topic was centered around authenticity. Being new to a building last year, I was afraid that I had lost some of who I was trying to fit in with the culture there. What I ended up realizing is that in order to best serve those I work alongside, I need to be true to myself.  I am at my most confident when I am true to myself. The teachers, students, and staff members I work along side deserve the very best from me, and I need to be at my best in order to give my best.

As you reflect on your upcoming year, be sure sure that the goals you set help your school and your division. However, make sure to set some goals which help grow yourself as well; because If you stop learning, those you work alongside aren't going to learn very much either. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What is Your Most Productive Time of Day?

As long as I can remember, I have been a morning person. Sincerely, I can't remember many mornings when I have slept particularly late.

Sleeping late has rarely been an option for me. I took a job as soon as I could - age 11 or 12 delivering the Boston Globe before school. Later on, I worked at a bakery. The morning shift began at 5:30 for me on weekends and during the summer when I wasn't in school. This may have something to do with being an introvert. I energize by taking some time to myself. I may as well be productive during this time!

I was really glad that I was a morning person when it came time for me to attend college. One of the techniques for weeding out those who aren't particularly serious about becoming music majors is to make sure all required music classes begin at 8:00 a.m.

When I entered, the workforce, I quickly realized that not everyone is a morning person, and I used it to my advantage. Getting up at 5:30 in the morning allowed me to get at work earlier than most; and I got so much accomplished during those "wee hours" of the morning. People who arrived at work at the same time I did had a similar mindset. They were there to get stuff done.

I remember interviewing for a position, and the "time management" question came up. I responded by saying that as far as I'm concerned, time during the school day is not my own. It should be used to work directly with teachers, parents and students. Since my brain is basically fried at the end of the day, I actually put a daily task on the calendar that I refer to as "stuff" between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. This block of time is when I am at my best; and I save the most complex tasks for this time. Depending on the time of year, I may even come to work earlier. I rarely stay past 5:00 in the evening unless there is an evening event. That doesn't mean I don't pull out my computer to answer some emails or take a look at a project I'm working on.

As you begin this new school year, take a moment and consider how you manage your time. Are you taking advantage of your most productive time of day? If not, I recommend you do so. It could mean the difference from being good at your job, and being great at it!


Friday, July 25, 2014

People Are Buzzing About Grit

What is grit? Well, if you went to dictionary.com  you would get this definition:

  • Abrasive particles
  • A coarse-grained rock with sharp edges
  • Firmness of character, pluck
The concept of grit in education is being tossed around a lot lately. I"m pretty sure people aren't having discussions about rocks or particles, unless of course they are talking about something in the realm of science. Instead these discussions are centered around character, determination, perseverance. Is the concept of grit something that can be taught? That in itself is another topic being batted around. I had recently shown this TED talk given by Angela Lee Duckworth on this very same topic.

The purpose of showing the presentation to my students actually had nothing to do with the topic itself. I selected it because my students were getting ready to give oral presentations, and her TED talk is a great example of a good presentation. Really good. Dr. Duckworth gets her point across. She convinces her audience that this is a topic that definitely warrants further exploration!

If you Google Angela Lee Duckworth, you will actually find she has begun work on answering this question. You can even find out how much grit you have by taking an online quiz. By the way, I scored a 4.38 out a possible 5; meaning I have a fair amount of grit.

As you interact with students in the upcoming school year, ask yourself this question: "Are the students I am working with or observing being provided with opportunities to determine if they do have an amount of grit?" Are they being exposed to authentic and rigorous learning experiences on a daily basis? While we continue to debate whether or not this concept can be taught, we can most certainly continue to develop and implement lessons and programs that strengthen students' problem solving skills, their character, and their ability to persevere. Keep your eyes open. You just may be teaching grit without even knowing it! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I'm So Glad I Teach

Since I finished my doctorate, I was given the opportunity to fulfill one of my lifetime dreams: to teach at the college level. After spending eight years away from working as a classroom teacher, it felt good to get back in to it. What I didn't realize at the time was just how good this experience was for me. Besides the fact that I am so humbled to be working with while simultaneously learning from  such AMAZING students, I've become more reflective on my position as a building administrator. Having the ability to work as a teacher while serving as a building administrator has caused me to look at what I do from a completely different lens. Am I giving it my absolute best? Since it is summer, I think my reflections have been deeper than normal.

What Is My Purpose? 
I remember having a really bad day during my first year as an administrator. I was standing in my office, staring at the HUGE pile of stuff on my desk, and shifting my glance to my computer screen where 20 new "urgent" emails had popped up. While I was staring in disbelief at my computer, I could hear my name being called on the radio attached to my hip because the parent of the kid I had just suspended had arrived. By the way, I had missed my classroom observation because I was dealing with the kid I had to suspend. In addition, they really didn't need to call me because I could hear both mother and daughter arguing at the top of their lungs just outside my office.

In that moment, I asked myself, "Why on earth am I subjecting myself to this? I thought I was supposed to be an educational leader!" As quickly as I had those thoughts, I thought about the kids and the teachers. I was here because I wanted the very best for kids and teachers. I took a deep breath, straightened the pile on my desk, turned off the computer monitor, and went to greet the parent. I also made a mental note to apologize to the teacher and accepted the fact I would be staying late to address the pile on my desk and the mail in my in-box.

How Can I Improve? 
I think of that day as a turning point. I was kind of a know-it-all. I had a master's degree that told me as much, right? WRONG! I had never felt so overwhelmed in my position as I had that day. I made the mistake of making the series of unfortunate events all about me, and paid the price. Since then, I made my focus on improving upon myself so that I can give others my absolute best. Whenever I'm having a rough day, I take a moment to remember my purpose: to do whatever it takes to help students and teachers be successful. While it may not solve all my problems, it certainly puts things into perspective.

So, What Does This Have To Do With Teaching, You Say?
Working in education is a humbling experience for me. While I feel I have a lot to offer, there is also so much about this profession of teaching and learning that I still need to learn. Working with students of my own has provided me with a snapshot of what teachers are dealing with. In order to help students succeed, we all need to be able to rely on one another's talents to be successful in this rapidly changing profession.

Speaking of rapidly changing, if you think that education is changing now, just wait and see. Keep learning! It's the only way you will be able to thrive in this world we live in. Besides, we owe it to those we work with!




Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Book Are You Reading?

Tis the season to interview teachers,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Yup, its that time of year again. Time to sit in the conference room and interview prospective teachers. Individuals who are going to help drive the learning process of what could potentially be generations of students within your building. This is NOT a subject that should be taken lightly.

Having worked almost ten years as an administrator, I've seen it all when it comes to job interviews. I've also learned a lot, like which interview questions have the greatest impact. A couple of years ago, our school division administrators participated in a summer read of Donnalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. In that book she mentions job interviews and asking prospective teachers, "what book have you read recently"?

After reading her book, I tried this while interviewing a potential language arts teacher. Her response: "I haven't read anything recently. It's summer vacation!" Ironically, if she hadn't answered that single question in the way she had, she would have gotten the job.

To say the least, I now ask this simple question to every single person I interview for teaching positions. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, I do this to avoid hiring people who answer questions in the manner answered above. Second, I often learn something new. The answer to this question may give me insight to the person I'm about to hire. Frankly, I don't necessarily care what someone reads over the summer, as long as they are reading something, and they are passionate about what they share.

In addition, asking someone what they have read recently may also give me a lead on my own next summer read! From interviews, I've learned about Daniel Pink's Drive, about Tony Dungy's Uncommon and about Jim Knight's Instructional Coaching. The information I gained from these books have been worth so much to me.

The next time you are interviewing possible teacher candidates, ask this question. You may take away more from that question than you do from the entire interview!

By the way, I just finished up Janet Evanovich's Top Seceret Twenty-One and I enjoyed EVERY minute of it!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

How Creative Have You Been Lately?

I haven't blogged in awhile. I have several drafts with some really good content, but I've had some serious trouble bringing any of it to fruition...until now.

I was actually looking for some examples of journal article citations to share with my students when I came across an article on the concept of creativity. In the article, Sligte, deDreu, and Nijstad (2011) discuss power, hierarchy and creativity. The authors even go on to say that power and creativity can be closely related to stability in life.

I think about how unstable educators' lives are in the final weeks of the school year. Gone is the structure of the school day. At the end of the year, regular bell schedules and class periods give way to standardized testing, modified schedules, field days, yearbook signing parties, and awards assemblies. In addition, time must be spent on completing professional growth goals and performance evaluations.

The toll these final weeks take are not limited to the educator's state of mind. Laundry piles up, grocery lists get longer and longer, and weekends become extensions of the workweek. An even larger part of our existence gets engulfed by the profession we are so passionate about. At the end of the twelve, thirteen, or fourteen-hour frenzied days, there is very little room for creativity. Ironically, this tends to be the time of year we often ask teachers to be the most creative in their teaching and learning. 

Have you ever looked at Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" pyramid? Simply Psychology has a article which discusses Maslow in more detail in case you aren't familiar with the pyramid. There is even a picture of the pyramid. Basically, the concept of Maslow's Hierarchy is that you need to satisfy certain basic needs before you are able to even think about more complex things. By the way, according to the picture on the website, and to Sligte, deDreu, and Nijstad (2011), creativity is at the top of the pyramid. No wonder I haven't had the creative juices to blog! I haven't done a great job of meeting my own basic needs recently. 

This is the first evening in a LONG while when I have been able to sit down in my favorite chair with my cat in my lap, and write about something that I am passionate about. So, the next time you find yourself discouraged about the work your teachers or students are producing, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Are they truly in a position to be creative? If not, how can you foster that creativity that is so essential to promote good teaching and learning? 

Reference:
Sligte, D. (2011). Power, stability of power, and creativity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, (5), 891-897.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

There Will Always Be People Who Bully

For the past three years, I have been serving on our school division's "Promote Respect" taskforce. Formerly named the "anti-bullying" taskforce, our job is to help our schools develop a safe and supportive learning environment for our students. We have actually just finished developing four modules based on the Safe Supportive Learning website www.safesupportivelearning.ed.gov for parents, teachers, students, and trainers to help guide them through this process.

I am appreciative of the fact that we as a school system have recognized the need to shift from talking about eradicating bullies to promoting respect. I am also of a firm belief that getting rid of bullying altogether is a rather unrealistic goal. I for one would much rather focus on educating about kindness rather than cruelty anyways.

Bullying, disrespectful, and unkind behavior is not going to go away completely. I think about my own existence and the extremely wide variety of people I have come in contact with. There were bullies in my childhood, especially during my middle school years. There were a good two years when I felt really uncomfortable riding the bus home in the afternoon thanks to a particularly nasty group of "mean girls" in my neighborhood who loved to torment me. The best thing I did for myself, was to ignore them, to not let them get the satisfaction of knowing that they were getting to me. The worst thing I did, however, was to keep quiet or downplay what was going on. It's ironic. I've worked with a surprisingly large number of parents who knew their own child was suffering the wrath of unkind people, but didn't say anything, for fear it would get worse. In most cases, there comes a point when everyone has had enough, and the child or the parent storms into my office demanding the "bully's" head on a silver platter.

Of course, it's never that easy. I ask the parent to put themselves in the other parent's shoes. I say, "If your child was being unkind to another individual, wouldn't you want to know about it right away so you could take care of it before it gets out of hand?" In most cases, the parents agree and allow us as teachers, school counselors, and administrators to resolve the issue in a way that is of benefit to the person being unkind, and the person who was the recipient of the unkindness.

If you are in a similar situation as I am, and you are working to develop a plan to educate your stakeholders about promoting a safe and supportive learning environment, make sure you continue to teach strategies which help stakeholders respond to bullying or unkind behavior.  Think about your adult life. I am willing to bet you continue to come in contact with adults who bully, or who are unkind. They may be your co-workers, your neighbors, or even someone in your family. Sometimes these people end up being really successful in life. They say 'It Gets Better', and often it does; if not for any other reason but for the fact that you have more of a choice with whom you choose to associate. But don't ever think that this issue is going to go away completely.













Friday, April 18, 2014

Stressed?

Recently, there have been quite a few articles about the effects of stress on teachers and students. I'm beginning to wonder if people think this is a new phenomenon. I'm here to tell you that it is most definately NOT something new. That being said, I do think the issue is becoming more mainstream, as more and more teachers and students find themselves in higher stakes situations as the gradual shift in teaching and learning is taking place.

For example, I remember sitting with two other administrators in my division one afternoon. One worked in an at-risk school similar to my own, and the other worked in a building which served a more affluent community. The more affluent school administrator said to us, "Is it just me, or is everyone really stressed out this year?" My colleague from the at-risk school turned to me and said, "I can't remember the last time our teachers weren't stressed!"

I do not work in a Common Core state. Actually, there are times when I wish we followed the Common Core standards because from what I can tell, they allow opportunity to focus on a deeper understanding of the subject rather than just scraping the surface of a multitude of concepts. Regardless of where any of us work, the standardized tests we are administrating to our students have changed in the past couple of years. They require students to use critical thinking and problem solving skills in order to get the right answer. I remember stopping by a computer lab during which some of our honors level students were taking a practice version of the 6th grade reading test, and one of the students expressed frustration to me because she wasn't able to use the test taking strategies to find the answers. She said she actually had to read the entire passage! Read the entire passage? What a travesty! What strategies have we been teaching our students?

Long story short, a passing score is no longer a given, even in schools where teachers and students have taken passing scores for granted for so many years. Teachers are having to go beyond the content area if they are to ensure students are going to be successful with these tests. They have been amping up their questioning strategies, and are providing additional opportunities for students to collaborate, problem-solve, and think critically. Unfortunately, these strategies may not be inevery teacher's toolbox.

As much as we want them to sometimes, these standards aren't going away. In fact, they are going to become more complex as the push to prepare students to be successful in this century continues. It's up to us as administrators to acknowledge the stress our teachers are under, and provide them with opportunities to "upgrade" their toolbox through professional development sessions, peer observations, and, most importantly, guided conversations in grade level and content area PLC meetings.

So, the next time you are talking with your teachers, ask them how they are doing, and be prepared to listen to their concerns. While you may not be able to take away all of their stress, you may be able to help alleviate some of it with a few simple changes.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Another Fabulous Day!

A couple of months ago, I posted a blog titled "Best PLC Meeting Ever". Well, on Friday, some of the PLC members I work with gave me one of the BEST DAYS ever!

Friday was the last day of the marking period. The Success students I work with were working fast and furious catching up on any missing assignments, and my amazing teachers were right there with us helping them get caught up on anything they were missing.

A couple weeks prior to this, the Success students created 3-slide presentations they could show someone who would serve as a potential mentor for them. The presentations allowed the students to share a little about themselves...their likes, dislikes, and what exactly they needed help on. I took each of those presentations and added a fourth slide to them. That fourth slide had their grade from the first semester, and from the last marking period (the period they spent the success class in). I then took all of the presentations and loaded them onto a Google site that our teachers could access. The teachers were able to flip through the presentations, and if they felt so inclined, could use a Google form to select a student they wanted to mentor for the fourth marking period.

On Friday, the mentors came and visited their students. To say that these students were excited to find out that someone picked them would be an understatement. The teachers were also sincerely excited to meet these students who had come so far. They made plans to meet on a regular basis, and then left to allow the students to finish up their work for the marking period with the teachers who were helping them out. After the mentors had left, I took a minute to sit down with the students and told them to open up the presentation they created, and to take a look at the fourth slide I created for them. I had kids grinning from ear to ear, jumping up and down, and yelling "YES" when they saw the progress they had made. In some cases we weren't just talking about moving from an F to a D. Some of the students moved from a F to a C+. One moved from an F to a B! All were on the right track to passing the grade.

Now the really hard work begins for these students and their mentors. They are going to have to maintain these grades by applying the skills they used in the Success class. My job will be to make sure these students are beng monitored, and that they continue to receive the supports and materials they need to continue to be successful.

When all is said and done, there really isn't any secret formula to this program. It all comes down to establishing and maintaining relationships, and making sure they have everything they need to be successful. Does it take time and effort? Sure! It takes tons of time and effort. Is it worth it? Definately.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Different Way to Look At Remediation

We have a "watch list" of students established for our grade level PLC. This is a list we began construction on the very first week of school, and have added names to it every single marking period. This list is comprised of students who are of concerns to us based on their ABC's, their potential of becoming dropouts. What does ABC stand for?

A  is for Attendance

  • Is this student tardy to class? Tardy to a certain class? Tardy to school? Do they have frequent absences? How come? What have we done to support their coming to school on time? 


B is for Behavior
  • How does the student behave in class? Does their behavior have an effect on their academic performance, or of the academic performance of those around them? Have they been suspended from school for an extended period of time? What interventions have been put in place to help correct their behaviors? 
C is for Classwork
  • How is the student performing academically? Are they failing a subject? Are they failing more than one subject? What are we doing to provide academic assistance?
Throughout the year, we provide interventions for these students. Their school counselor works with them to determine the reason for their frequent attendance issues and puts interventions in place to try to assist these students and their families. Functional behavior assessments are performed to determine when where the most concerning behaviors are taking place, and a team meets to develop new ways to address their behavior to prevent them from being suspended out of school. Also, teachers meet with the families of these students, as well as one another to develop a plan to make sure they are receiving the proper academic supports. 

In many cases, these interventions are often enough to provide support to our students. However, in working with students, there are always extenuating circumstances. In these cases, an extra level of support is required. 

My teachers and I are in the process of a program for our students who haven't responded to our interventions so far. There may be an underlying reason why they are not responding that we may not have determined yet, or they may have fallen so far behind at this point, that they feel that they can't come back. 

Success! Class
This is where Success! class comes in. At the end of the 1st semester, our team had nine students who were in severe danger of failing the grade level, and it was clear that additional intervention would be needed. The solution, trade nine weeks of electives for a study skills class. In order for this to happen, several conversations had to take place
  • The conversation with the teachers: "I'll be willing to take the time to facilitate the class, but I will need your commitment to take a day or two of your time during the marking period to help me out." 
    • Their response? Whatever you need! I'll be happy to help!
  • The conversation with year-long electives teachers: "I understand I am taking them out of your elective for a marking period. How can they make up the time?"
    • Their response? We would be happy to work with these kids during after-school researsals and advisory periods, as long as I get them back after the nine weeks!
  • The conversation with parents: Your child is in danger of failing the 6th grade. I would like to place them in a study skills class for the next marking period.
    • Their response? Yes...all nine of them...yes! 
Parents may not always be too keen about their child starting the year with a study skills class, but when it's crunch time, they are usually pretty receptive. 

Was There Success? 
For the next marking period, these nine students came to me every other day. We worked in a computer lab so that they had access to Edmodo and Google Drive. They had folders with daily agendas and missing work in them. Special guest teachers came by each class period to work with them one-on-one and in small groups. We organized binders, organized lockers, checked grades, made sure they had supplies, and ensured that any completed missing work ended up in the teacher's mailbox for grading. The result? Well, there is still one more week of Success left, but of the nine students, only two have failing grades at this point, and we have a deeper understanding of the interventions that need to be in place for these students to be successful. 

What Happens Next? 
Students were asked to create a three-slide presentation about themselves: how they work, and what they feel they need to be successful. Our staff members are going to be given the oportunity to look at these presentations and select one student to check in on. Since we fave a staff of over one hundred, I feel pretty confident that a match will be made. 

What I Learned
Many of the things that we did to help these students weren't necessairly academically related. Instead they were more relationship driven. We made sure they were organized, had all their supplies and materials, and recognized them for their accmplishments. They were given opportunities to be successful, and took us up on that opportunity! I can't wait to see how the mentoring component works out!