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Posted by on in Education Leadership

principals office door

For seven weeks, I was an interim, elementary principal in one of my district's elementary schools. It was an opportunity and experience that was invaluable. When I began I was nervous and full of anxiety, but when I ended, I had wonderful memories, great new relationships, and a very real and meaningful learning experience. 

So as I look back on my seven weeks as an elementary principal, and try to put things into perspective, these are my top ten things I have learned.  

Be Visible

From my very first day, I knew I had to be out of my office and in the halls, classrooms, cafeteria, and out on bus duty. I needed to show students, parents, teachers, and staff I was there for them. I could not do that from staying in my office trying to sort through all the emails and paperwork. While those needed attention, being visible was more important. 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

boys at recess

Teacher, "Recess time!"

Students, "Yeh!"

Teacher, "Let's play some football!"

Students, "I wanna be on your team!"

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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 Blended Learning

Twilight Zone 2002 logo

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone. 

 

I feel that opening part of the show The Twilight Zone directly relates to my school year this year. This is my second full year of running a blended learning classroom, and I feel as if in some way my sixth-grade students and I have crossed over into the Twilight Zone. Strange but wonderful things are happening in and out of my classroom, that I have not, unfortunately, witnessed before in my 15 years of teaching. Students are embracing the idea that learning can take place anywhere, anytime and that their voice matters to others, as they enter a whole other dimension in Google Classroom. They are seeing learning opportunities on their own outside of the school day and wanting to share their experiences with their classmates, because they know that not only am I listening but more importantly, so are their classmates.  

Enter The Twilight Zone

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

b2ap3_thumbnail_Snow-Day-Information.jpg

It is 5:30 AM on a weekday during the winter and the phone rings. That can only mean one thing, SNOW DAY! I have to admit, at that moment, I do not feel like the 15 year veteran, sixth grade teacher I am, but rather, I feel like one of my sixth grade students. I roll back over in bed and fall back asleep, only to get woken up by my wife as she gets up to get ready for work (seems like she is extra loud getting ready on snow days...nah, she wouldn't do that, would she?). I tell her to, "Keep it down. I'm trying to sleep. I've got a snow day." That goes over about as well as getting a snowball in the face.

Living in Pennsylvania, snow days are part of the school year and one of the great perks about being a teacher, unless you end up having too many of them. Then you have to make them up in the summer. Then they quickly become an inconvenience. They can also become an inconvenience with what you had planned for class those days. Inspired by Matt Miller's Ditch Summit session with Alice Keeler, I thought about what they shared and how I could use that to connect with my sixth grade students on snow days.

Now one thing I wanted to ensure, was that a snow day was still something to look forward to for my students. I knew whatever I created for them on a snow day, needed to be creative, collaborative, and fun. I wanted my students to be comfortable. I wanted them to be able to stay in their PJ's, drinking hot chocolate, sitting in their favorite chair, listening to their favorite music, all while in the comforts of their own home doing some math and finding relevance in it.

So I decided to use the power of Google Docs and create a Google Slides for a snow day. Below is simple breakdown of it, followed by a link to my Snow Day Class document. 

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