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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Office of the principal

On January 23rd, my 15-year career as a classroom teacher changed dramatically, as I began a new role as interim principal in one of my district's elementary schools. Then on January 24th, my wife and I celebrated our third child being born. It was a week full of emotions but most of all excitement. 

Being a father of two, I knew what to expect with our third child. Late night feedings, sleepless nights, changing diapers (lots of diapers), and a return to the 5S's. But being a first-time principal, it was a lot like being a first-time parent. You could read all the books and get all the advice, but until you actually went through it, you couldn't really understand it

Much like bringing my first child home from the hospital after she was born, I had some, well a lot, of anxiety going into my first day as principal. I had scheduled a full faculty meeting to introduce myself, and while I was only an interim principal in another principal's building, I still had to be myself in order to find success. Prior to my first day as principal, I created a brief video of myself using the Screencastify extension, where I introduced myself to the students. At the full faculty meeting, I asked the teachers to play the link I emailed them in their homeroom, and explained that I would then be around throughout the day to formally introduce myself to the students. I did not want to interrupt the school day with a 15 minute whole-school assembly, that inevitably would turn into at least 30 minutes, just to introduce myself. By creating the video, I accomplished three things right away. First, I let my personality and passion be shown immediately. Second, I connected with the students in a way that is relevant to them. Third, I showed the teachers how much I valued their time by causing as little disruption to their day as possible. Things were off to a good start, but after that, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from my day.

As a teacher, I knew what I was going to do day to day due to my lesson plans. Yet, as far as I knew, principals didn't make lesson plans. So I wondered, "What was I going to do?" I quickly found out as soon as the full faculty meeting was over. My day immediately got filled up on its own, without me planning a thing. I don't think I was in the office for more than 10 minutes that entire day, and I don't think I had but a three minute lunch. And that was how I wanted it. I knew I needed to do what middle school principal Beth Houf (@BethHouf) said on Twitter, "Be real. Be visible. Be engaged. Be supportive." And I needed to do these things not just my first day but every day.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

snow layer

Last year a student approached me and said that he had a concern. His concern was that none of his classmates seem to know about what is happening in the world, no one followed current events. He asked if we could start a club to talk about current events.

His request intersected with a misgiving I'd been having about the frequency with which I had direct contact with my students in a teaching and learning context.  I spend a good deal of time with our kids in the hallways and in the cafeterias but I do not often enough engage with them as a teacher.  As a principal, it’s important to me that kids see me as a learner and as a teacher.  With this in mind,  along with the district curriculum associate for social studies,  we started a student-led current events forum at our school.  

The forum meets once a month and a dedicated group of kids faithfully attend to talk about topics in the news that grab their attention.  A core group of passionate and socially active students plan the meetings, publicize them, creates fliers, and identify articles and videos for the group to examine.  It is a terrific example of student voice in action.   

Recently Long Island experienced a heavy, snowy blizzard so we had a snow day. Everybody loves snow days!  After a huge breakfast of pancakes and bacon (a snow day tradition at our house) I decided we would have a digital version of the current events forum.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Counselors office

Last year, I had the privilege of presenting, along with the high school principals, to the Worthington City Schools Board of Education on the “State of the High School Programs”.  We spent time framing our work to consider the whole child as well as students with different backgrounds, interests, and levels in learning.  We shared about the partnerships with various organizations which extended learning beyond the walls of the schools, as well as creating a physically and emotionally safe environment for students to learn and explore.  After the presentation, we opened the time to questions that led to a great dialogue to showcase the hard work of our staff and students.

At the conclusion of the evening presentation, I continued to reflect on a statement from a Board Member immediately after the presentation portion of the evening – “It sounds like our School Counselors are doing a lot for our students.”

As I reflected on all of the slides about our programs, everything we talked about attached to the direct or indirect work and involvement of our school counselors.  While I have an incredible respect for our school counselors and what they do each day, I realized that I neglected to recognize them overtly.  I am so glad our Board Members were able to make this great connection of the work with our students to our school counselors.

With the increased and changing requirements on graduation requirements and state Image result for school counselorstesting, I am fortunate to work with such talented and committed school counselors.  The role of the counselor has changed.  In addition to managing college essays and counseling
students, they also create and monitor programs, in social-emotional learning, new student programs, suicide prevention, career development, intervention, and family issues.  In my role as a district administrator, they are on my direct dial for many of these efforts.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

differentiation

"Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential."

- Winston Churchill


In the Deerfield Public Schools, District 109, we have decided to make a change to mathematics program delivery models starting in the 2017-18 school year in the 6th grade. We are going to eliminate "regular math" and offer "accelerated math" for all.

We engaged in a comprehensive review of our own student performance (status, growth, standardized test results) data and decision making processes. We also consulted with our research analytics partners, the ECRA team, as well as board members, we are confident that the right steps moving forward involve changing the math delivery model in 6th grade. We also made this decision after speaking with district and building administrators and a comprehensive review of research and data.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

It still seems to be an accepted response continuing to receive a smile when someone makes a "drop the mic" comment in response to a profound activity, come-back, statement, or speech.  Although the phrase has recently gained popularity through its use by notable celebrities, the actual physical dropping of the mic started way back in 1980's by rappers and comedians.  

b2ap3_thumbnail_Barack_Obama_Mic_Drop_2016.jpg

There's got to be a high sense of accomplishment to say something so profound and definitive that it cannot be followed.  The ultimate show-stopper.  How could you not help but smile when you release the mic allowing gravity to do its thing?  There would be nothing left to do but walk off stage under the thunderous applause! 

But, what happens after the mic is dropped?

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