Thursday, December 26, 2013

Using Informal Observations to Gather Teaching Data

In Ohio, many districts have adopted into their teacher contracts the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) developed by the Ohio Department of Education.  The evaluation system definitely has its positives and negatives depending on who you speak with.  In my opinion, one of the positives of the new system is the significance of informal observations (also known as a "walk-through").

At NLHS, Assistant Principal Jay Young and I try to get in as many informal observations per week as possible.  The number that the we accomplish fluctuates from week to week due to our daily schedules.    It is important to be visible and present in classrooms to see what students are learning, the different teaching methods that teachers are using, and to gain the pulse of the school environment.  During our informal observations, we use data collecting forms that enable the administration and teaching staff to see the different types of formative practices that are used, how often they are used, and any additional comments that we add for recommendations and/or encouragement.  The data is distributed at the end of each quarter and the staff can see how the building as a whole is doing regarding methods & strategies.

Before OTES, the informal observation was not applied to the teacher observation or evaluation process.  Now, OTES includes the informal observation process as another form of observing a teacher's body of work in the classroom.  An outsider may think this is a bad thing for a teacher; another chance for administrators to play a game of "gotcha!", but this is not the case.  It is a plus for teachers because it allows the administrator to see different types of teaching methods & strategies over a number of times during the evaluation cycle.  Teachers demonstrate to administrators their classroom abilities on a daily basis.

Some key aspects to include in order to have efficient, data retrieving informal observations:
1.  Create a schedule of whom you plan on visiting each week
This way, you are organized and can visit the teachers that you need to see for contract obligations.

2. Have access to mobile, wireless devices.
We use iPads for our informal observations, but you could use phones, laptops, etc.  It is important to have some type of device.  That give you the ability to supply immediate feedback to staff members.  This type of feedback is imperative for administrators.

3. Create a form for your data collection
Having a form to gather your teaching data (using surveymonkey, Google Forms) is important to figure out what is going well and what is not going well in your building or district.  Using a device and a form allows you to gather your evidence at the end of each quarter and deliver the data to the staff with feedback regarding practices.  We mirror our form with the OTES Informal Observation form.  This way, the staff knows what they are being evaluated on and how it will affect their evaluation.

4. Offer immediate feedback to staff
The staff loves to get feedback regarding their teaching methods and environment.  Even if your feedback is critical, many if not all teachers will use the feedback to get better.  That is the point of conducting informal observations.  Help teachers get better and give them encouragement, support, and recognition when they are doing things well.

5. Keep your observation time standard for all staff
We try and conduct our informal observations in 10 minute segments.  We remain in each room 10 minutes so we do not give preferential treatment (regarding time) to one teacher over another.

6. Make sure the staff knows what is expected of them in the classroom
If staff members are clear on their roles, they will know what is expected of them.  Having professional development on informal observations and the expectations of using different teaching methods & styles is extremely important.  At NLHS, we offered professional development to our staff on the OTES procedures, what is expected on teachers, and what we would be looking for during informal & formal observations.

Informal observations will offer you great insight into your classrooms.  Make time during each one of your days to get in the classroom and see what is going on.  It is an expectation of effective administrators.  Use the data that you accumulate during the observations to help your teachers and building grow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

School District nominated for Technology Awards

New Lexington City School District staff members and one of their schools have been nominated for the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC) #BestEdTech Awards.  The OETC awards recognize the work of schools, programs, teachers, administrators, and tech coordinators from around the state.  The awards are nominated by the Ohio education community for Ohio schools , staff, and programs.  Voting is available to anyone on social media channels.

New Lexington City School District technology director Tim Householder has been nominated for the Technology Coordinator Innovator Award.  Mr. Householder was nominated for his great work around the district including the 1:1 iPad initiative at the high school.   Tim is a countless worker who manages a variety of technological projects throughout the district.  He recently organized a successful district-wide technology professional development day where NLCSD staff members shared their technology practices with each other.

New Lexington High School teacher Mike Kunselman has been nominated for the Teacher Innovator Award by the OETC.  Mr. Kunselman has been recognized for his work with the Panther Fab Lab at NLHS.  The program has allowed students the opportunity to see how technology & business work together.  He is also the lead teacher in New Lexington’s Project Lead the Way engineering program and the Advisor to the high school robotic’s team.

New Lexington High School principal Bobby Dodd has been nominated for the Education Leader Innovator Award.  Mr. Dodd has modeled the use of devices by incorporating them in them in daily walk-throughs, shared Apps with students & staff, creating flipped faculty meetings, and digital newsletters for the students, parents, and community.   Mr. Dodd has also helped initiate the 1:1 iPad initiative at NLHS.

The 1:1 iPad initiative at NLHS has also been recognized as a finalist for the best 1:1 program.  Students are able to use the devices to collaborate with teachers & other students, using a number of different Apps to demonstrate mastery of content, and develop technological skills to prepare them for different careers and secondary schooling after high school.

Please take time to vote for the #BestEdTech Awards by clicking here and recognize the great things taking place in the New Lexington City School District.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Early College High School - Data Tracking

Earlier this week, the Rural Ohio College High School (ROCHS) administrative team held a meeting with the data team from the Muskingum Valley Education Service Center (MVESC).  The meeting was very beneficial for the ROCHS collaborative because we were able to take the first steps in collecting data for our students involved in Early College High School (ECHS).

We discussed ways that we can streamline the data process for our students and our ROCHS faculty. This includes the application process for students when they enroll in the ROCHS program, student data that has been accumulated from over the years (standardized test scores, attendance, etc.) transcripts that are produced when students complete ECHS classes in our schools, ROCHS faculty members teaching status with our partner colleges, and how we can track all of our students who have taken ECHS classes.

The MVESC staff did a great job of walking us through what we wanted our database to look like.  Being able to discuss what we were looking for to a group of people who have not seen our ROCHS program was actually more beneficial than if they were familiar with our program.  As an administrative team, we were able to fully explain what our program looks like, how things are perceived by our students & communities regarding ROCHS, and what we need it to look like so we can help our students and parents become more comfortable with ECHS and the benefits it can have for our students.

We are excited about the future of ROCHS and what it means to the students of our school districts.  Allowing students the opportunity to earn a great deal of college credits while they are in high school is a great way to transcend our school cultures.  We are not only preparing our students for college, but we are preparing them for life.  We are creating life-ready learners who are the future of our communities.  Having the data to help their transitions from grade school, middle school, and high schools will benefit the students as much as it will help the schools.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to create a video newsletter for your school

I recently began creating a video newsletter for our school.  I had seen a few people create video newsletters and post them on Twitter, so I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the NLHS newsletter.  We have done newsletters for years at the end of each quarter, but I am not sure how many people read the newsletters.  In order to save the district some funds, we began to post the newsletters on the school website for people to view.  Again, I was still not sure this had any impact on whether people read the newsletters or not.

We had a district professional development day on Monday, November 25th.  I had to present to staff members how to use videos in their classes.  As I was analyzing different apps, I found a few that I thought I would like to try and I thought these apps could help teachers & students in their classes.  At this point, I decided to create a video using the app Videolicious (@videolicious).  I thought I would make a short video to demonstrate to the teachers how the app works and how it could help them.  I created the video and posted it to Facebook & Twitter.  I got a great response from many community members.  As you can imagine, a lot more responses than I ever received regarding our printed newsletters.

When creating a video newsletter, there are some important topics to address before you create the video:

1. What do you want to convey to your viewers?
Figure out what you want your message to be.  Hopefully, you will be able to let everyone know about the great things going on in your building.  If you're in the classrooms as much as the administrative team is at NLHS, you will have a pretty good pulse of what each class is doing.  Highlight those activities, conduct interviews of students and teachers, take pictures and videos of projects to let parents and community members know what is going on in the building.

2. Why do you want to convey that message?
That should be pretty obvious: to let people know what is going on in our building.  Looking at this question more in-depth reveals something else.  Letting parents and community members see what is going on also allows you to educate your audience to learning techniques, methods, and strategies.  Your audience is able to see what the teaching methods and strategies look like in practice and not just read about them.

3. What medium will you use?
This is a great deal easier than it used to be.  Not long ago, you choices basically consisted of just YouTube.  Now, there are apps and software that allows you to video, edit, add music, and upload to Facebook and Twitter all in one application.  I enjoy using the paid version of Videolicious ($10/per month).  It allows me to take video on my iPhone and/or iPad, add music, edit my videos, and upload them to our school Twitter account and school district Facebook account.  There is no upload time with Videolicious as the videos are stored on their servers.  You could also use YouTube Capture as a video tool, but there is upload time involved with Capture.

4. Get students involved in the process.
We have a Media Club at NLHS where the students have the responsibility of capturing the footage and conducting most of the interviews.  The students enjoy practicing their speaking skills and technology skills and it lets the public see your students at work.  We are beginning to have meetings for the club to address all of the technology initiatives we have in the school.  The best part of the process is interviewing students.  It is surprising how nervous they get, but also how honest they are in their responses.

5. Have a plan in place.
It is a really good idea to have a script.  Set it up just like you would a short story or report.  Create an introduction, have transition pictures or slides, mix in different edited videos with music in the background, and end it with a closing.  It is a good idea to keep the videos relatively short and create the videos once a week or bi-weekly.  The idea is to create something that keeps people attention for a short period of time and at the same time, communicate your message to the viewer.

Creating video newsletters will help you communicate your message to a number of people.  Don't think of it as you would a traditional printed newsletter.  You can get a lot more insight into your school through video newsletters than the traditional newsletter.  Make sure you share the video in as many social media applications as possible to get your message out there.

Here is an example of what one of our newsletters looks like:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

What makes a good PD session?

We recently had a district professional development day at New Lexington that focused on incorporating technology in the classroom.  The day gave many district employees the opportunity to learn how to use a variety of tools & resources.  One of the best parts about the conference was that all of the presenters were employees of the school district.  When peers can share their insights, experiences, and knowledge inside of a school district, it makes the district stronger as a whole.

If you are planning on having a professional development day in your district and would like to have district employees present, there are key aspects you will need:

1. Technology-savy employees
  • Our Technology Director, Tim Householder, organized the conference for our district.  He asked district employees to sign up to present different topics.  Many teachers and administrators agreed to share their knowledge with the district and demonstrate how to operate different type of software, apps, and websites.  Employees who enjoy using technology effectively in the classroom to help students can make a professional development day truly beneficial for the district.
2. Technology resources available in the district
  • Our district has different technology resources in each building.  The high school is a 1:1 school with iPads, the elementary buildings use Smart Software with Brightlinks, the middle school has a mixture of iPads and laptops, and all teachers in the district have iPads.  Having a variety of resources means you will have a larger number of employees who are skilled using different types of technology in the classroom.  It really was incredible to see some of the things that were being offered during the number of sessions.  At one point during the day, there were sessions offered on BrightLinks, Remind 101, Google Docs, Educreations, Brain Pop, and Pebble Go all at the same time.  
3. District staff who are open-minded
  • Using technology to help students is great.  Changing the way instruction is delivered is sometimes scary process for teachers.   Develop a culture in your district and building of using new tools & resources to help students.  Creating that environment will enable teachers to maintain a positive attitude about learning new tools to help their students.
4. Give staff time to practice with app/websites/applications
  • Encourage staff members to take baby-steps with the new resources.  Have staff members try to use one resource a week to start out with (ex. if they are just learning Twitter, have them try to tweet once a week or join a chat once a week).  Allowing staff members time to work with the resources will keep them open minded to using more resources in the future.
5. Create sessions for all grade levels
  • Having sessions available for all grade levels gives everyone the opportunity to learn something they can use in their classroom when they return.  Don't create professional development sessions just to say you had them.  If staff members don't use a resource and have no intentions of using the resource, then don't offer it.  It is important to have the staff complete a survey prior to the conference setup to inform you what they want to learn about.  Use the data from the survey to create your sessions.
District PD that focuses on technology can help your district grow.  Saving money and sharing resources will enable your district staff to grow together and help all of the students and parents of the district.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to use Videos to Communicate your Message

Video can be a great communication tool in the classroom and in the community.  Some schools are moving towards video newsletters instead of the traditional typed, hard-copy newsletter.  I think many people are more inclined to watch the video than read the newsletter because you can get a better feel of what is exactly going on in the building by listening to responses, seeing pictures, and watching people interact.

Here is a Flowboard presentation that explains some applications that can be used by administrators, teachers, and counselors to use video as a means of communicating different things going on in schools.

Let me know of some other tools that you like to use to incorporate video into your school and/or classroom.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lunch with the Principal is not always that bad

On Friday, we held our second "Dinner with Dodd" during the 1st semester of the school year.  The dinner (which is actually lunch, but we needed a somewhat catchy name) is one of our Renaissance activities that recognizes students who have excelled in certain areas such as a lack of discipline referrals, great attendance, and good grades.  We also recognize students who have scored in the top 5 in their class in the ACT Explore test and the ACT PLAN test.

The students have the opportunity to eat lunch and visit with the Principal during their lunches and have "all you can eat" Pizza and slushies.  We also like to include students who have excelled on the Explore and PLAN tests because at New Lexington, our 8th graders take the Explore test and they are not eligible to receive Renaissance Gold cards until they are in high school.  It also allows the staff the opportunity to recognize our college & career ready students at an early age.

I am going to extend the "Dinner with Dodd" invitations in the Spring to students who have scored in the top five of their classes in the ACT and in the OGTs.  I am not a believer in the "carrot-stick" reward method, but I like to reward students for doing well in the standardized tests that our students are required to complete.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

1:1 schools: Why raw data doesn't tell the whole story

As a Principal in a 1:1 school with iPads, I often get asked questions about how the devices are working in the school and the data that we have collected that demonstrates successful implementation in the classroom.  From the perspective of people who are asking me these questions, I can see why this data would be useful.  Many schools are looking to implement some type of devices in their buildings.  The data would be a good thing to show stakeholders for the reasons to implement or not implement the initiative to purchase the devices.  While I may not produce a great deal of raw data for the people who inquire, what I am able to do is explain what we have learned at New Lexington while implementing new resources in the classroom.

1. Teacher practice and methods have improved.
Our teachers use the devices to teach their content.  They have had to rethink how they deliver their content to utilize all of the resources available to them and help students learn.  Rethinking content feeds right into reflection of teaching methods & strategies.  Reflection is an important part of being a teacher.  The rethinking approach encourages teachers to reflect on their methods of instruction and ways to improve the learning process for students. 

2. Teachers face different obstacles in their classroom than they did before.  Change is inevitable.
Our teachers are reflecting on their practices, and as mentioned before, changing their practices.  They are changing their practices because schooling is changing as a whole.  Students are now being asked to think critically and problem solve.  Having the resources available, like iPads, allows our teachers to incorporate new methods & strategies that encourage critical thinking in the classroom.  Not only is it the best learning situation for our students to succeed when they graduate from NLHS, but the state of Ohio and the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System encourages critical thinking instruction in the classroom.   

Teachers and students have to adapt and face change on a daily basis at NLHS.  It is a reality.  Whether it is learning how to use a new app, figuring out how to use new websites, or using different apps to collaborate in small group instruction, teachers and students come to school each day in a culture focused on change.  We always want to prepare our students for change, because in the society we live in, everyone has to be flexible.  Incorporating the latest technology resources in your district allows your teachers and students to embrace change.

3.  Creativity & Collaboration
Teachers and students are able to use resources to differentiate assessments.  Its not the same classroom as it was in years past.  Assessments are not just given out each Friday and we move on to the next lesson.  Students need to be able to demonstrate their knowledge and growth on content matter.  Whether it is creating a video over a topic, teaching the class to the their peers, or creating a blog to enrich a class discussion, students use the resources available to them to demonstrate their mastery.  

Teachers and students collaborate and share ideas using the resources available to them.  Teachers can explain topics and correct errors outside of the classroom.  Basically extending their office hours each day.  Students also help teachers utilize the tools and apps on the iPads as much as the teachers help the students.  Technology can help teachers and students work closer together and not create a divide in less personal interaction as some critics of school technology seem to think.

Increasing the technology resources in a district or building prepares students for success after graduation.  While the number-crunching data may not always point in one direction or the other, increasing growth potential for teachers and students should not always be tied to data.  It is imperative to use school and classroom resources to benefit our students and prepare them for the rest of their lives.  Sometimes you can’t put a number on something that important.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Adversity can shape a community

The question has been around for years: Do high schools place too much of an influence on athletics?  I think it is a valid question.  Many people outside of education place such a value on athletics that it seems at times they believe athletics are more important than academics.  To me, its not so much the athletics themselves, its what goes on while students are playing on teams and competing.  When the process of athletics and teams works correctly, the lesson that is learned from being involved in athletics is just as powerful as a lesson learned in the classroom.

On Friday night, our high school team played our archrival in football.  We got down early in the game and it seemed as if we were going to finish the season out and accept our fate.  That’s when the beauty of athletics kicked in.    

Adversity is defined as a difficult situation or condition.  When a group of kids and a coaching staff face adversity in contests, the reaction of the team and staff at times defines the school and community.  During our football game on Friday, our team faced adversity and met it square on.  The team and staff collected themselves, fought back, and eventually won the game.

Education is very similar to overcoming adversity.  Students faced difficulty in the classroom almost on a daily basis.  As educators, it is our duty to help these students through difficult circumstances or difficult academic situations.  We preach to our students to meet the challenges head on and work through the problems. 

Athletics have a place in our educational system.  How much of a place?  That depends on the students and adults involved.  If the right students and staff are in place, situations arise when both the students and staff have the opportunity to display their true character.  Being a school located in Appalachia Ohio, adversity is something that exists everyday for our students.  When you have a group of young men and/or women who are lead by a group of adults who help them overcome adversity, you have yourself a classroom outside of the school building.  The ability to over come adversity on the playing field can transform a school and community.  What I witnessed on Friday night was one of those transformations.  The team and community saw a group of people battle adversity and come out on top.  Let’s take these abilities to the classroom to continue our growth on the football field to the classroom.   It is what our school and community are all about. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Get Your Professional Development From the People in the Trenches

I remember as a teacher, there were times that the term “professional development” made me cringe.  The question I found myself asking a lot of times was, “Am I going to be able to use what I learn in the classroom?” Now as an administrator I have realized that, at times, professional development gets a bad rap.  At no time was that more apparent than Monday at NLHS.

We had a district Waiver Day for teachers on Monday, October 14th.  For those that don’t know, on Waiver Days the students do not have school and the teachers receive professional development to improve their craft.  School districts approach Waiver Days in different ways.  Some districts have professional development opportunities for all of the district employees, while some districts have the buildings design their own professional development.  The great thing about New Lexington, is that we do a little of both.  On Monday, the high school staff was able to see the power of both types.

Professional development sessions were available to the district employees such as Assessment Literacy and Project Based Learning.  During the Assessment Literacy training, the staff was able to learn more about creating assessments based on the content and depth of knowledge gained by the students during the class.   This way, assessments are developed based on what and how the students learned the material in class.  The Project Based Learning session gave staff insight on different types of projects that can be incorporated into the classroom setting to assist students in “learning by doing.”

Many of the high school staff participated in other sessions that were facilitated by the high school staff.  Some of the breakout sessions included:
  • ·      Differentiation methods for higher level students;
  • ·      Methods of collecting data and using assessment data;
  • ·      Using social media effectively in the classroom;
  • ·      Using Blogs to communicate your message;
  • ·      Creating effective learning matrices;
  • ·      Using effective FIP in the classroom;
  • ·      Using technology effectively & efficiently in the classroom;
  • ·      Effective methods of evidence to use for the OTES (Ohio Teacher Evaluation System);
  • ·      FIP you can use immediately in your classroom. 

These sessions were extremely beneficial for the entire staff.  Great conversations were had during these sessions.  At times, the presenters learned just as much as the audience.  Many different effective teaching and learning strategies were shared throughout the day.  Staff members received on the job training and instant feedback during the sessions. 

The best part of the day was the fact that the high school staff provided their own professional development.  There are few things that are more powerful than a group of people growing together and using their own methods to do it.  It sends a powerful message when staff members will volunteer their skills to help other members of the staff excel at their positions.  As a Principal, I could not have been prouder of my staff and their desire to help each other grow.

Sometimes being a Principal is like professional development, it gets a bad rap.  One of the best parts of my position is the fact that I get to see great people teach everyday.  I witness a variety of teaching methods, teaching styles, and routines that other staff members don’t have the chance to experience.  Professional development days allow the staff to learn from each other and see the same great teaching methods I get to experience on a daily basis.  If you are an administrator and you don’t have professional development days that are lead by your staff, you’re missing out on a great educational opportunity for your staff and your students.  Allow your staff to share their expertise so we can change the thought process behind professional development.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Plea to Parents - We can do this together.

The beginning of school is always a busy time of year for everyone.  Students, parents, teachers, and administrators are running around trying to be at two places at one time.  As a Principal of a high school with a family, I completely understand how strapped for time people are on a daily basis. 

Also at this time during the year, I sometimes hear comments from parents that they feel like they are “out of the loop” and there children don’t communicate anything to them about school.  As a parent of teenage students, I can also feel your pain.  It is a difficult task to communicate with teenagers about what went on at school during a school day.  Sometimes, you don’t always want to hear what they have to say.

I know you are busy and I know some of you may feel as if you don’t even know what you don’t know.  But we need to make time for our students and their future.  The reason I am writing is to ask for your assistance as parents of students at New Lexington High School.   I am asking that you take time out our your schedules to utilize the resources we have available at the high school.

Let me discuss some of the things we are offering at the high school.  We offer a College Knowledge Night each month at 6:00 pm at the high school.  During College Knowledge Nights, we discuss everything from applying to college to getting financial aid for college.  Anything you want to discuss regarding college, we will look at it.  We also discuss Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Enrollment courses and the value of these courses for students and parents.  We also discuss our Early College High School (ROCHS) classes that students can take advantage of to gain college credit while still taking high school classes.

We are preparing our students for the future after they graduate.  Some of you may have questions about this.  I don’t blame you.  We are always looking at ways to do things differently and provide for our students & community the best ways possible.  We have our juniors take the ACT test that we host at NLHS, and this year, we have some freshman and sophomores taking the test.  We are hoping to offer Microsoft certification to all of our students next year in the hopes of better preparing them for a career.  All of our students have iPads to use as resources and tools in the classrooms.  We are having Parent-Teacher Conferences in November for parents to learn more about their student’s classroom experiences.  Some of the things mentioned above are quite different than when we (as young adults) went to school.  If it’s scary to you or you are unsure about things that is natural.  Sometimes we don’t know, what we don’t know.  Let me and my staff walk you through any questions or uncertainties that you have.  That is why we are here.

The staff and I at New Lexington want to help you.  Please help us help you.  We can accommodate any schedule in order to help families.  If you can’t or do not want to meet at the high school, we can meet somewhere else.  If the time we have scheduled for something doesn’t fit your schedule, please let us know and we will set up something that does fit your schedule.  If you would like to discuss something other than college, let us know what it is and we can make time to discuss it.  You can email me, call me, ask me on Facebook (follow New Lexington City Schools), ask me on Twitter (@NLHSprincipal), ask me to meet you somewhere to discuss anything you want to discuss.

It is up to us as adults to help guide our students and children.  Please take advantage of the resources that you have in the school district.   Lets all be models for our students and children and use the resources that we have in our schools and communities to take our district to new heights.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Grit starts with believing in yourself

The current trend in education is to focus on grit.  If you haven’t heard of grit, many define it as the persistence over time to overcome challenges and accomplish goals.  Many of us who live in southeast Ohio are very familiar with it.  People who have lived in Appalachia Ohio are full of grit.  It is something that our region is known for.  We live in an area of blue-collar, hard workers who provide for their families as best as they can.  As adults, we want our children to be resilient and overcome obstacles that allow them to grow and succeed so they can be successful.

Having a trait like grit is a great thing for a child.  I have always thought that talking to students about grit and resiliency is easy as am educator.  A student can develop grit or have experiences in life that have allowed them to become resilient.  I think before a student can have grit, he or she must believe in themselves enough to know that they can overcome whatever comes their way.  Students have to believe in themselves in order to succeed.  The key is getting students to believe in themselves to give themselves a chance to overcome obstacles.

Sadly enough, there are a number of students in communities in Appalachia Ohio who don’t have grit.  As much we as educators try to get them to believe in themselves, there are factors that have contributed to lives that make it difficult for students to believe in themselves.  Things such as past experiences of failure, a lack of support from family and/or friends, and an overall lack of success in school are reasons why some students don’t believe in themselves.  As educators, we need to give the believers & potential believers a great deal of support.  Anytime an educator can give students support that encourages believing, it gives the student a chance to have a positive core of believing in themselves embedded in their daily lives.  Demonstrating to students compassion, respect, and encouragement can change a student’s life and create a mindset of positive beliefs.  Building positive and lasting relationships with students will create a mindset that people in believe in them and that they should believe in themselves, no matter what happens in their lives.

Educators need to positive and reinforce positive experiences for students.  Sometimes students will confront obstacles and failure.  Let students know that you believe in them, show students that you care about them, and never doubt their abilities.  If a staff can maintain a positive building culture that demonstrates to students that the staff believes in them, no matter where they live, who their parents are, and what they did in their previous classes, students will know that it is imperative to believe in themselves to maintain the positive building culture.  It may sound to good to be true, but a positive culture of belief in a building can do wonders.  

My message to students is clear cut: Believe in yourself enough to accept the idea that you can succeed no matter what your background and experiences may say to you.  Give yourself a chance to accomplish great things.  Grit and resilience will soon follow.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Passion + Great People = Great Schools

I recently attended an administrator “welcome back” breakfast hosted by a local educational service center.  The breakfast is a time to see friends in the educational field and recognize years of service to the educational service center.  It is also a time to recognize outstanding educators in our school districts. 

It was a great opportunity to see all of our local teachers who were there to receive awards for excellence in the classroom.  The superintendents would say a few words about the honored teacher from their respective district and then the teacher would say a few words about receiving the exemplary educator award.

Something that stuck out in my mind about all of the honored teachers is that they all have similar characteristics:  great work attendance, caring individuals, they love teaching our children, they know their craft, and they are truly great people, not just great teachers.   I don’t think that is too surprising.  I think we would all put those qualities in a list of what makes a great teacher.  But the one thing that every single one of these teachers has, and you can tell by how emotional everyone in the room would get when these teachers would speak about what they do each day, is passion.   Passion about their students, passion about their school districts, and passion about their communities.  It was clearly evident throughout the assembly.

It is amazing how people who have many different initiatives thrown at them from their administrators, the state education department, and have so many concerns for their students/parents can still have such passion for their occupation.  It makes you realize that our field is a little different than others.  Passion drives our business.  If you don’t have the passion to go to school every day and help kids, chances are your not using all of the tools that you have to help students, that goes for administrators and teachers.  The teachers honored at this assembly have that passion and use it to their advantage every day.  The great part about passion is that it flows from the teachers. The flow continues to the students and the parents & community.  I can guarantee that everyone in each of the communities that make up our educational service center know who the great teachers are because they have seen the effects of great teaching in their children.  That is what being passionate about helping kids can do for schools and communities.

I mentioned earlier how the teachers honored at this event were not only great teachers, but great people too.  I think sometimes that gets lost in our drive to be really good at what we do each day.  When you were growing up and going through school, how many great teachers did you have that were not also great people?  I bet not that many.  Being a caring person, loving your community, a role model for your profession, and being a great person to work with, go a long way in being a great staff member in any profession.  But I think in education, it goes a little farther.  Students and parents feed off of great people in education.  You can see it everyday in the classroom and at assemblies or events when parents are at school.  Great teachers are great people and everyone in the school district and community get to reap the benefits of that.

It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to attend the event mentioned above this week.  What a great event to prepare a room full of educators for the upcoming school year.  Being in a room with so many people who care about students and communities gets me ready for the road ahead.  The chance to listen to passionate people who care about others and care about what they do is rewarding in itself.  We all need to take our passion for helping people into our jobs each day to make our schools and communities the best places they can be.