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.