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Showing posts from 2016

Using Movement to Increase Learning

Prior to becoming an administrator, I was introduced to an instructional strategy called total physical response or "TPR". The professional developer who used the strategy was a history teacher who, when he called out certain names or terms, had assigned individuals to stand up and say something about the person or term. It was a fun and riveting strategy and something I decided to adapt for my classroom. Being an AP Psychology teacher, I thought what more fun unit to do this in than the unit on the brain. I guess it worked because I got this message from a former student tonight:

I can't think of a teacher on the planet who doesn't love hearing that their efforts paid off, no matter how long it has been. Interested in learning more about why physical movement is good for learning and memory? Eric Jensen's work will always be a good reference. Read more here.
Want to know more about total physical response? Read more here.

Tales of a Rookie Principal, Lesson 4: Be the Loudest, Craziest Person in the Room

If you have known me for any amount of time you know that I am an introspective introvert who tries very hard in the school setting to be a school spirited extrovert. I became very intentional in this shift a little under a year ago while I was traveling with our volleyball team to the regional tournament in Abilene. Like the parents that were there, I was sad that we didn't have a student cheering section along with us to power our ladies to victory and knew that we needed to do something about it.

So what is a lone associate principal to do? Lead the cheering of course! Not having been a former cheerleader myself, my efforts consisted mostly of yelling chants that I know. I yelled so loud and so often over the course of two days that I lost my voice by the end of the weekend. The best part was, the volleyball moms joined me in the chants and we helped power our girls to a near-victory in the regional final. It was a fun, but new experience for me to be the loudest and craziest p…

Tales of a Rookie Principal, Lesson 3: Sometimes You Gotta Slow Your Roll

You know how they say that you shouldn't ask a question unless you want to hear the answer? I experienced this little reminder earlier this week when discussing a possible theme for my campus for this coming school year. I was pretty excited because I had identified a pop culture reference that I (mostly) understand and that I thought would be fun and relevant for learners. And maybe it's because I'm the new principal, but it also seemed that the facilitators I was working with could get behind it and they even contributed to fleshing out the catch phrase of "Gotta Reach 'Em All" (shout out to Brandy Osterberger for the particular word of reach). So feeling pretty proud of myself, I reached out to our counselor to get feedback from the learners on what they thought of the theme and how we could use it in the school.

And... the first piece of feedback I got completely devastated my theme. I'm gonna admit, I was pretty sad there for a minute. You never wan…

Tales of a Rookie Principal, Lesson 2: Listen

This afternoon, I was conducting some interviews with a panel of facilitators and learners. At the end of an interview process, I always like to incorporate the standard practice of asking candidates what they want to know from myself or others on the committee. Today, a whole three days into my adventure as a principal, I was asked what my priorities were in the coming school year and I realized that it really boiled down to one thing that would help set all other priorities for the year: I need to listen.

Part of joining any new school is learning about the climate and culture of the institution. Knowing what is important about the school to the learners, parents, facilitators, and the community is a vital first step to being able to do anything else. Of course, with it being only three days in, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of what this feedback looks like. When you also consider that it is mid-July, there are a number of these constituents that are out of town or tak…

Tales of a Rookie Principal, Lesson 1: Sometimes You Have to Laugh at Yourself

Yesterday was the BIG DAY; it was my official first day as a principal of my own campus. With it being the middle of the summer, I assumed that when I got to the school I would be rolling up into an empty parking lot and would have most of the day to myself to find things and prioritize my first tasks. However when I got to the school, I found a completely full parking lot due to a staff development. You know what I did? I laughed. I laughed because for a few seconds I was thinking that I might be a big deal. And even though it turns out there was a spot with a cone in it reserved just for me, I remembered in that moment that I don't matter as much as what we do and who we do it for. It was my first lesson and I think my most important one. I'm still laughing.


The Challenges of Being a Change Agent

The other night, I participated in my first #ASCDL2L chat over being a change agent. This is probably the largest live twitter chat that I have participated in and boy did it move fast. I was impressed by all of the thinking that people from around the country (and possibly world) brought to the very important topic. If you want to see more about this chat (highly recommend), please see the tweet below:


Here's the Storify of last night's #ASCDL2L chat: https://t.co/MRs7CNdy5f. You can still tell us what you think! pic.twitter.com/P37o64kSuK — ASCD (@ASCD) July 6, 2016 In all of the excitement in defining what a change agent is, how you can be one, and who lead you to be a change agent, there was an undercurrent of "yes, but". Anyone who has ever tried to initiate a change anywhere has probably run into this rather pernicious roadblock. I know that the "yes, buts" that I was picking up on came from real places of struggle and I do not what to trivialize the…

How Twitter Chats Act as Synapses

In a previous life that is closely connected to this current one, I was an AP Psychology teacher. Just bringing this fact up makes me want to preach the value that psychology has to anyone and everyone, but I'll set that one diatribe aside for now.

What I want to ponder now is the way that information is shared and leads to the overall edification of individuals as they participate in twitter chats. Tonight, as a part of my summer of professional learning, I decided to participate in a twitter chat that I had never been a part of before. I happened to see a Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented post on twitter for a chat they were leading tonight titled "Where's the 'Off' Button? Helping Parents of Young Gifted Children". You can see the chat here on storify.

As I was reflecting on the value that the chat had for me as an educator and as the mom of a preschool aged gifted child, I thought about how learning takes place and how twitter chats (and twitt…

Thoughts on School Safety After (Another) National Tragedy

Less than 3 months into being a brand new teacher, an emergency staff meeting was called and we were informed that there was an unsubstantiated bomb threat for the school to take place on the following day, Halloween. While police were involved and there was no belief that the threat was credible, we were still asked to treat the situation very seriously and to be alert. I remember walking back to my classroom and looking around to make sure there wasn't anything that didn't belong there. Almost 10 years later, I was in my second month of being an assistant principal and we were securing the building for a lockdown. A convict had managed to escape at a local Walmart and the police were going to be searching vacant buildings near the school. As I reflect on the end of my 13th year in education, I am thankful that a real threat hasn't come to my door.
There has not been a year that I was in the classroom that the issue of safety and security didn't come up. While I beli…

To Our Graduates on Graduation Day

Every August it seems like it could be the start of the longest year ever. And yet... here we are, a few hours away from the class of 2016 graduation ceremony. For me, it is a special graduation because the students who will walk across the stage today are the students who were freshmen when I became an assistant principal. As I reflect on this fact, I wanted to drop some last bits of knowledge:
1. Somebody in Grapevine, TX loves you Maybe we've cheered you on in athletics, academics, or the fine arts. Maybe we've had to administer a consequence for a moment where your judgement lapsed. Maybe we've been an ear to bend when you just needed to talk about something. Maybe we've pushed you to do better, be better, think better. Whatever we've done for you, we've done it with love because you deserve it.
2. We still want to keep in touch Someday you are going to accomplish something and you'll realize that part of it began in the halls of your high school. When…

Keeping a Pick-me-up Folder

It is miraculous, but for the first time in recent history I am getting to enjoy a four day weekend before we have our last few days of school. The Dallas-Ft. Worth area has had some ice and snow in recent years and that has meant that usually we don't get our bad weather makeup days off (today is one of those days and we have if off!!!). While I recharge this weekend, I also decided to do some tasks that I've been putting off. One of those tasks was cleaning out my embarrassingly large inbox. While cleaning my inbox I found a gem that I had long forgotten about; it was an email that a parent sent me the day that I announced to my students that I was leaving my teaching position mid-year to be an assistant principal at the other high school in my district. Here is part of what she wrote:


I imagine the reason I never deleted this is because I hadn't printed it off to put in my "Pick-me-up Folder". Teachers and other educators who have been in the business a while …

Celebrating Academics

Pictured here: 9 out of 10 of our National Merit Finalists (photo credit, David Denning)
This past week, my district held a district wide series of events to celebrate our college going culture. You can check out all of the excitement by looking up the following hashtag on twitter:

As a part of decision week, my campus decided to hold two brand new events: a National Merit signing day and an AVID signing day. These events were held in a fashion very similar to how we do our athletic signing days throughout the year. Usually, when we have a signing day the coach, student, and their team gather in the library with their parents to sign their athletic scholarships and to celebrate with cookies or cake. This year, we held the two academic signing days to show that we celebrate all of our students' successes in the high school experience.

Both National Merit Finalist status and AVID graduating senior status are the culmination of many years of hard work and prep…

What if Students Designed and Presented Staff Development?

Four years ago, a dear colleague of mine and I had an idea for a PBL in our AP Psychology classroom. There was a particularly large and very important unit called Cognition and Memory that we were looking to handle in a new way. When I think about all of the content that is taught in the AP Psychology course, some of it is more or less relevant to a student depending on their circumstances. What is relevant to ALL students is how they learn new information and remember that information into the future. Our idea, which I blogged about at the time here was to create a PBL where students would design for teachers a training on how memory and cognition works. Shortly after doing the PBL, I became an assistant principal at another high school and never did see the idea come to fruition.

I was reminded of this again today, when I came across this post from November Learning. What would happen if we included students in the design process of staff development? What would happen if students h…

How My Fitbit is Making Me a Better School Administrator

The day spring break started, I came home to the package I had been waiting for: my Fitbit. I had been wanting an activity tracker for a while and selected the one I have after research and fitting my needs and lifestyle. When you buy an activity tracker, your primary purpose is to use data to help you meet your fitness and wellness goals. What I didn't expect was that it would also help me meet my professional ones as well.
For context, this last week was a big one for me and will continue to be as we build our schedule for next year, have students arena schedule, and then make tweaks to that schedule as we hit our retiring/resignation season and do the hiring that requires. This can mean a lot of office time if I'm not strategic and on top of my game. In short, my to-do list gets big and it is easy to be overtaken by it. A recent Harvard Business School article explains this well.
So where does the Fitbit come in? I was surprised too. I found that if I was in the office tak…