Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's the little things

Over the last five school days, and because of some reflection time during Thanksgiving and hanging out on twitter, I realized that it's the little things that we do in education that really matter.  I realize in watching these little things just how much education has changed since when I was in school.  I watch as students assist and collaborate with one another in classrooms.  Students assisting and collaborating used to be considered cheating.  Now it's just the way we do education.  I watch staff interact with students and each other in a cooperative way.  There is still some work to do, especially in providing more time to collaborate to make this cooperation more a part of the every day workings of a school.  It used to be so much more competitive but we're moving more toward "coopetition", the combining of cooperation and competition, because who doesn't want to be the best?  Cooperation will allow all of us, staff and students alike, to be more successful.  These two items are pretty big, but here are the little things I have seen in the last few school days.

  • Staff greeting students and each other in the hallways, at the classroom door, and in the cafeteria.
  • Two new students being accepted for who they are and other students befriending them with no hidden agendas.
  • Staff stopping in the cafeteria to speak with the students about nothing really related to school.
  • Students assisting one another when someone has dropped their books or their lunch tray.
  • A former student coming in to share information about his high school marketing class, and every teacher allowing him to spend time in the classroom.
  • Coaches putting in hours of preparation before and after school to provide better opportunities for success.
  • Staff attending meetings before and after school to make the school an even better place to learn.
  • Anonymous donors providing funds for expanding technology access.
  • A former superintendent sharing his volunteer work in Sudan with all of our students.
  • Parents coming in to cheer on their child during basketball games.
  • Behind the scenes technology work to get the entire school on board with google apps for education.
  • Conversations with staff about the difficulties in school with a change in the topic to what is good in school.
  • Watching a back channel chat in a social studies classroom, and seeing everyone engaged in the discussion.
  • Learning with a student how to use a color Nook for the first time.
  • Having pie, an example of a treat, in the teachers' lounge.
I'm sure that I'll see many more things over the next few days that would make this list even longer and more impressive.  Sometimes it's just the little things that can make your day, like having lunch with a group of 4th graders or joining a kickball game or seeing a smile on a student's face when you say hello and call them by name.  Well, it's time for a great recess with the kids, another little thing I really enjoy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Captain of the team

Over the last two months of school, I've been reflecting upon the leadership in our school.  There are many leaders in our building who are a part of teams or committees, but oftentimes their leadership stops there.  These leaders often don't extend beyond these specific groups.  I've begun to wonder how I can facilitate theses leaders so that they can see that they are a bigger part of our school team.  Everyone in a school has specific responsibilities and adding leadership to these responsibilities should not be seen as an extra duty.  It's a part of our jobs as educators to lead within our classrooms, our grade levels or content areas, our school, and our district.  Having one leader who is the only "go to" person, in my opinion, isn't practical.  We are all educational leaders whether we have a title or not.
I had a great discussion about this with one of my teachers the other day and came up with an analogy that rang true for us as we have both coached basketball.  We discussed the difference between a coach and a captain.  I equated a coach to the way that principals used to be perceived in schools.  They were in charge of any and every decision.  We felt that principals now play more of the role of a captain.  The captain on the basketball team knows what every player is supposed to be doing and directs them while they are on the court.  They don't tell everyone what to do, but they do expect the players to know their job and to do it to the best of their ability.  They also cannot play everyone's position, either due to height, quickness, court vision, or a variety of other reasons.  The captain knows a good basketball play when they see one.
The principal in a school is like the captain of a basketball team in the same regard.  He or she expects the teachers to do their job to the best of their ability.  They can't teach every class or content area but they know a good teacher when they see one.
I struggle from time to time when the teachers who work with me call me boss.  For some reason the term boss has a negative connotation for me.  I always remind our staff that I am a co-worker.  I'm responsible for everything that goes on in our school but I also rely upon each one of the teachers and staff members I work with every day.  We all have to work together to be successful, just like the players on a basketball team.  If everyone on a basketball team plays to the best of their ability, the team has a much better chance of being successful.  The captain is there to make sure that the team is all going in the same direction.
The same is true of a school.  Everyone has a role to play in our school and they all do their best.  I am there to make sure that the teachers are all  working toward the same goal of educating every child, just like the captain on a basketball team.  I am hopeful that the staff I work with considers me more of a basketball captain than an old time basketball coach.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What took so long?

It's been quite a while since I wrote my last blog post.  It took being at the the AWSA Principals' Conference and the Midwest Google Summit to remind me of what I had been missing. I was missing the chance to reflect on what I do as a principal and what I am as a principal.  What you do and what you are can be two very different things.  I sure hope that I do what I am as a principal.  Now a bit about the conference and the summit.

At the AWSA conference I was a co-presenter with two incredible Wisconsin principals, Curt Rees and Jessica Johnson, on the benefits of twitter for administrators.  They were actually the presenters and I was more of a lurker, adding points once in a while and helping out those new to twitter.  It was a great experience and came about due to the connection I made with Curt and Jessica on twitter.  I had met Curt before the conference but Jessica and I met face to face the day before our presentation.  It was a bit scary but those who attended the session came away excited about the connections they began making on twitter during the last half our of our session.  My PLN has grown because of this great opportunity.

At the Google Summit, I had a chance to learn about google, obviously, but also to make connections with the staff who attended with me and other educators in Wisconsin and many other states.  Although some of the sessions were more "techy" than I understand, I came away with some great things to share with my staff.  More importantly, the staff has come away with great things to share with their colleagues.  That is the expectation.  In a future blog I'll let you know how that goes.  The Google Summit showed me the possibilities of all things google in our school.  I can't wait to see how it works out.