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Showing posts from 2017

Wishing You Warm Memories

One of my fondest memories from childhood could have been one of my worst. I can't tell you how cold it was outside but I remember that there was a lot of snow on the ground (memorable because it is North Texas) and that the propane tank had run low. Since our heating came from that propane, it meant that my parents had to find another way to keep us warm. I imagine it was a really stressful time for my parents but it ended up a fun time for us kids. To help us all stay warm, we all piled into the living room where my parents started a fire in the fireplace and we layered up in clothes and blankets. I don't remember much else about that time, but what I remember is that it was a lot of fun and silliness in that living room until we could get a refill on the tank. Our bodies were warm enough because of the efforts my parents went through to make sure that was the case. More importantly though, we were a family, building warm memories despite the hard time. 

I can't experienc…

Fun Staff Holiday Idea: Up-Cycled School Shirts

This post is a bit of a departure from my usual musings, but I hope you'll find reading the content to be as fun as it was to live it!!

A week before the Thanksgiving break, I was sitting in the cafeteria with a couple of coworkers and our minds began to wander to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas break. Well, once that started to happen, it wasn't long before we were talking about ways to make that time fun since it would otherwise be filled with end of semester projects, exams, and grades. From that conversation, was the birth of the idea to up-cycle some of our old school t-shirts. 

The rules of the staff shirt up-cycle game:

use an old staff or school shirtdecorate it for the holidaysbest decorated shirt wins a prize (and honestly, it was so much fun I am bringing everyone something on Monday who participated)When you throw something like this out, you never know who will participate. Some educators received a little (cough) help. Some decorated their shirts on thei…

You Know, We Really Like You This Year

This past week, I was sitting in a classroom at night working on a paper for my doctoral program so I could be on hand while the school's Haunted House was taking place. During that work, a learner walked in and asked to talk. We chatted about a few things and at the end, she gave me one of the greatest compliments that I have had all year. She said, "You know Ms. Batik, we really like you this year." I of course laughed because it is a pretty blunt statement, but also because it is a funny and true one. The learner felt the need to explain immediately, but to me the explanation wasn't necessary. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

It can be really difficult to follow a leader who was well-loved by her school community. This is true for anything: a band program, an athletics program, a theater program, and yes- even a school. The hardest group to win over in a situation like that are the upperclass-persons because they are the ones who have been around the lon…

Drinking Water From A Firehose

One of our favorite phrases in education is that new things are, "like drinking water from a firehose." I think the analogy is a favorite because there are a lot of instances where an educator steps into a situation and faces demands that are not only instant but high in quantity. Are you a teacher in a building with a new principal? Give them time, it's like drinking water from a firehose right now. Got a new superintendent? It's like drinking water from a firehose. Maybe you are the new principal or the new superintendent. Believe me, as someone who was a new principal last year... it's like drinking water from a firehose!
While the analogy is a good one and can apply to so many situations, it can be just as overwhelming to hear that. The question is, how do we turn the constant stream into something that is usable? I'm no firefighter (and my thoughts and prayers go out to the ones in California right now who are battling blazes), but I imagine that the way …

The Secret to Leading a School: Stay in Love

I had a moment this past week where I was walking around campus and things were just clicking. I was so in love with what I saw, that I went back to my post in the media center (where I prefer to spend my time instead of the office) and grabbed my cell phone so that I could take some pictures. The reason I felt so in love at that particular moment was that we were able to turn a schedule design challenge into something that would directly benefit our learners; and I was seeing the benefits to our learners in action! Our design issues was around the movement of our campus to a modified block bell schedule AND still trying to make time for our cross-grade level advisories that we call Networking. The result of that was the development of flexible days where learners sing up to go to particular classes as needed (or as required). 
What I saw on my walk of the building was the idealization of our goal to provide flexible scheduling to meet needs. There were learners who were having one on…

School Administration: It's a Calling Too!

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an article posted on Facebook that was titled "Increasing Salaries So Teachers Don't Have To Become Principals" by Lee Hale. The point of the article wasn't to downplay the role of principals per se and really had more to do with how we show our value to the profession. That said, it did stick in my craw a little bit that if you are a good teacher, it is somehow "lesser" to have to become a principal. 
Anyone who becomes a principal will tell you that the thing they miss most is being able to make the kind of connection with a learner that you make by having them in your classroom every day. To put my cards completely on the table, I miss that too. That's why this next year, I am bringing AP Psychology to my campus so that I can help co-design and teach the course with one of my facilitators. I miss that feeling of being in the classroom and getting to make that level of connection with my learners. 
Classroom teaching is valu…

Tales of a Rookie Principal: When Graduation is Over

Sometime in the last week of school, one of the seniors jokingly asked me if I was ready to be done with the school year. For context, we happened to be standing next to the class of 2017's senior wall where paint had already been rubbed into the carpet, music was playing, and seniors were clearly DONE.

I imagine that from the outside, it could look like a pretty stressful time of the year for school administrators, probably because it is. At the end of the school year, a high school admin has a lot to be focused on: graduation, final exams, staffing for the next year, schedule for the next year, closing out things with current year students, staff, and families. At moments, more is added to the to-do list than is taken off of it.

Even with all of this going on though, my response to the senior was an honest and sincere one: no, I wasn't ready for the school year to be over. There's still more work to be done!

The saddest day for me is the day after all of the learners lea…

The Heart of a Teacher

I spent part of my day at a job fair, along with various others from my district, in hopes of finding the next great educators to join our team. Hiring season is always an interesting time and it causes administrators like myself to really reflect on those qualities that make for quality educators, mentors, and leaders. The comical part of the day was that I spent my time with another administrator talking about how much we miss the classroom. Administration work is not always the "fun" work and we don't always get the opportunities to build relationships with learners like we did when we saw them every day (or every other day on a block). We both miss teaching so much that my colleague confessed to me her plans to go back to the classroom eventually and I confessed to her my plans to hopefully find a way to team teach one of my favorite classes of all time, AP Psychology. You know what they say: you can take the teacher out of the classroom...
It takes a lot to be an edu…

Part 4: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development (Knows and Need to Knows List)

In the last couple of posts in this series, I outlined some of the opportunities that our campus is going to have next year and outlined what the task was that our staff will be accomplishing. Now that we know that our work is going to be geared toward redesigning and reimagining instruction for a modified block schedule with "workshop days", the focus then turned to a really pivotal part of the PBL process: identifying Knows and Need to Knows (K/NTK). For any staff that is undergoing major structural changes like the change in a schedule, there are always a lot of questions that can cause a certain amount of uncertainty. The key is to make sure that the questions lead ultimately to answers and not to fear, anxiety, or frustration. Not an easy thing to do when you area having to change long-held practices! Fortunately, the K/NTK process provided a really great structure for my staff and I to get out in the air all of the questions that people have about our new schedule and …

Want Secondary Inspiration? Visit an Elementary School

As I have mentioned before, I am very fortunate to straddle two districts: I work in one high performing district and I live in and send my kids to school in another high performing district. Both districts share similar values and provide amazing learning opportunities for their learners. That said, I have spent the majority of my time in education as a high school person and have only recently spent a little bit of time at the elementary level as a parent (and as one half of a touring duo where educators from other districts visit both my campus and an elementary campus as a part of one tour experience).

There are lots of reasons to consider the elementary and secondary worlds as being different. First, you have the age of the learners, which means that different things will be developmentally appropriate to different groups. Second, you also have differences in understanding, experience, and attention span; all very real things that classroom teachers from across the school system w…

After Action Review: Learning From Failure and Building Success

This post is slightly out of order in my series on using PBL as a basis for Designing PD, but I wanted to share a success that our staff had this week in using a new (to us, but definitely not new) protocol to evaluate the success of our efforts to design what we are calling Workshop Wednesdays. The reason I call the use of the protocol a success is because it helped us to: evaluate the successes and failures of our pilot projectgave everyone an opportunity to give feedbackinvigorated the staff by providing an avenue to celebrate their own workempowered the staff to push beyond the ok and to imagine greatI promise I will get back to the original series next week to explain the steps that led up to this point!

On Wednesday, March 22nd, our campus engaged in the 2nd pilot of our "Workshop Wednesday" plan. To catch you up if you haven't been reading the blog, the "Workshop Wednesday" is a day in our schedule where facilitators set up a schedule for the day that cou…

Part 3: Determining the Culminating Event: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development

In my previous two posts, we established what our learning target is and how to frame it as a problem statement for our staff to address. Since I am not really comfortable with the phrase "problem statement" (at least in the case of when we are talking about doing what is best for our learners), I am going to go with the simple reframing of an "opportunity statement".

Now that we have outlined the goal of our faculty learning, the question of "how do we design an authentic learning experience for our educators?", is answered in the very real world of their practice as educators. Some questions we considered as we were designing that authentic experience are:
What culminating event would demonstrate that our educators are able to take advantage of this opportunity? In very real terms, what product by virtue of its creation, would accurately convey the learning of the educator? How will the new learning affect instructional practice?

Considering these question…

Part 2: Leading by Doing: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development

Identifying the Learning Objective
Recently, I shared the reasons why I am using Project Based Learning as a design model for our professional learning as a campus. This week, I would like to describe the early steps of that process.
I was hired in early July to be the principal of New Tech High @ Coppell. Any time you enter a new system (I was hired from outside the district) and especially a new campus, it can take some time to review the data, make observations, and develop a plan. The goal is to make sure that the plan that is created is not just driven by the traditions of the school or by the proclivities of the new leader, but by the current and future needs of the campus.
The first step in designing a lesson, project, etc. is understanding what standards, objectives, or essential questions that need to be obtained. When designing professional learning, the process begins just the same, the only difference is the question must be answered for adult learners. As a project based cam…

Leading by Doing: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development

When I was first introduced to Project Based Learning it was as an offshoot to a much larger training that was provided to teachers in my (previous) district. I was in a group of classroom teachers who sought out the challenge of being a 1-to-1 iPad classroom in a school system that had previously not had this level of technology integration. The training was offered in such a way that the primary mechanism for teacher behavior change was through sparking interest and curiosity among educators. The goal being that we would feel comfortable stepping out on a limb and taking risks if we saw that there were other ways of doing things. The introduction went like a lot of professional development in a lot of places: As you can imagine there were a lot of people who were excited to try out Project Based Learning (PBL) and I was definitely one of them. Not long before leaving the classroom, I even launched my own nascent project that I fully regret not staying in the classroom a little longer…

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