Friday, September 26, 2008

When Your Past Meets The Present

I knew this day would come. The day when a student from my past would come walking into my present. Would I recognize them all grown up? I've taught one class of third grade and years of Kindergarten - a lot changes between 8 and 22. The answer is yes. I did recognize her and remember her name. I was instantly transported to the very special place she and her classmates have always had in my heart.

They were my first. As a young teacher I excitedly (and nervously) walked into Room 80 on November 22, 1993 and my life was changed forever. I learned more about life and teaching during that year than I ever did during college. Looking back I didn't have a clue - but I was passionate and eager to do the right things. I was so happy to have a job and they were so happy to finally have a permanent teacher. It was a special class, and a very special year.

On Tuesday a young teacher excitedly (and nervously) walked in to my conference room and interviewed for a job. She was smart and thoughtful, posed and eloquent, gracious and gifted - just the way I remember her from the third grade. I was also reminded that as educators everything we do, say and teach walks out and into a future that eventually turns into our past. Make the most of every moment knowing that one day that past will intersect with the present.

By the way, she's standing right beside me on the second row! And yes, that REALLY is me!

Friday, September 19, 2008

How to Shop for Public Education

When we grew up, going to a public school was pretty much a given. It was in the neighborhood, it was what our parents did and they turned out ok, there weren't a lot of alternatives, and most importantly it was free. Boy have the times changed! There are many choices for parents. In our city alone there are over 130 private schools - almost as many as there are public. Even in the public schools you have choice, like the magnets we have in Duval. The times may have changed - but largely and unfortunately - public schools have not. Given the number of students lost each year to private or to magnets, regular old public schools had better figure out how to meet the needs of a ever changing, ever growing and ever more demanding community.

Information abounds. Beyond what you can find on the state or local webpage there are whole companies like Great Schools and School Matters devoted to comparing schools and providing potential consumers with more than enough info, including testimonials, to help them make up their minds. Parents are smarter about what they want, or more importantly don't want, for their kids. Just this past week I was emailed by a prospective parent who basically interviewed me to see if our school was right, and good enough, for her child. Bravo to her for advocating for something different and special for her child - after all aren't our children the most important asset we have as parents, and as educators dedicated to making the world a better place. How would YOU answer the following questions?

1. What are the school policies on music, art, recess and pe (how much are they alloted each week? is exclusion from these programs used as a discipline method?)

2. In regards to classroom discipline, is there a schoolwide policy, or do teachers select their own classroom discipline method. For example: Great Expectations, Canter Method, Pulling Cards...etc.)

3. What curriculum has the school adopted in math, reading/phonics?

4. What amount of emphasis is placed in the areas of science and social studies?

5. For your school, what is the predominant theory of education that is being used, progressivist, social reconstructivist...etc.

6. Classroom instruction...(would you consider it to be more constructivist or traditional)

7. How heavily do the teachers rely on textbooks?

8. What is the policy in regards to the use of worksheets?

9. What is the school's policy in regards to assigning homework?

10. In your opinion, outside of test scores, why is Chet's Creek an A+ school?

I love our school and I believe in public education with all my heart. It has been critical throughout my entire career to educate them all - even the toughest ones. If public education is to survive we all need to be prepared to answer questions like those above and more. Our answers shouldn't look like they would have 100 years, 50 years, 25 years, 10 years or even a year ago. I proudly answered each question about our school - there were no yes or no answers either. This parent wanted to know, really know, what we were about and she deserved more than the standard answer. By the way, we're hired! This family will be moving to the area in a month and buying a house in our attendance area. Her precious, valuable and deserving 5 year old will become a Creeker because WE offer more than the standard answer inside our classrooms each and every day.


Friday, September 12, 2008

When The Principal's Away...

I remember when I was teaching how stressful it could be to miss a day of school. The planning and then worrying about what was happening while you were out almost made missing the day more trouble than it was worth. It really is no different when you're the principal except than the span of control is a lot bigger. You have to be confident that those left behind in charge can handle anything. The really great thing about Chets is that there is always someone ready and willing to step up and help out when a team member is missing. Experience has shown me over the years that our school operates no differently when I'm not there. At least I know that's true for the teaching and learning in classrooms. Our teachers feel slighted to only get 180 days out of a school year! I always wondered though, what happened in the front office with the people running the place. This past Friday I was out and deployed a spy to collect some snapshots of the day.

Something tells me they discovered the spy and hijacked the camera! I sure do love and appreciate the people I work with. I never worry for a second when I am gone - even when the bookkeeper is asleep on my desk.

Risk...Care...Dream...Expect...and LAUGH!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Affirmation Leads to Performance

The Leadership Team is currently involved in a book study of School Leadership that Works by Robert Marzano, Timothy Waters and Brian McNulty. This book delves into the mountains of research that has been done to link leadership to student performance. There are 21 behaviors or responsibilities that are defined as being those of a successful school leadership. Affirmation is #1. It has long been tradition at Chets to recognize or affirm those who have done outstanding work in the classroom and this year is no different.

Last year two of our teachers had the idea to start a program called Pixie Pointers whereby two teachers would be chosen each week to answer a question asked from the previous recipient about any topic. The questions and answers were passed among the faculty in two journals and the honored teachers wore a Tinkerbell necklace to signify their status for the week. About midway through the year one of our coaches, dayle timmons, decided to catalog these tips and strategies in a blog so that everyone could have access to this extremely valuable resource.

This year we have turned the spotlight on recognition of the cool technology initiatives that teachers are embracing and have transformed the affirmation into a two week period for teachers to blog about the way they incorporated the use of technology into their classrooms. Geeks from the Creek is born! In addition to the blogging experience these techies wil give a brief demonstration of their initiative at our next early release professional development training.