Archives for category: Leadership

I’ve survived my first two months as a school principal. To catch everyone up to speed, over the summer I applied for positions near Lexington, Kentucky. On July, 21 I interviewed for, and was offered the position of principal at Woodford County Middle School. Ten days later, my house and family were packed and moved to Versailles, KY. I started on August 1 (the students started on August 8).

Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Being the principal is vastly different to being the assistant principal of a school. While many of the duties and functions are the same, there is a different pressure to being the principal. As an AP, I didn’t stress as much about making a decision, there was always someone above to let me know if I needed to do something differently. I’m lucky to have two excellent APs to work with and bounce ideas off of, but ultimately the weight of each decision is on my shoulders.

My schedule is usually filled before I have a chance to complete my daily objectives. Getting into classrooms and sitting down with teachers is a top priority, but if not scheduled, these tasks are easily overlooked.

Overall, it’s been an extremely busy and rewarding role.

Connecting with the community is one of the greatest challenges of every school that I’ve worked in.  Too often, we settle for the excuse of “That’s just the way it is in (fill in any town in America)”.   I would argue that communities that are the most difficult to engage are the communities that most desperately need to be heard from in order to improve our schools.

In the coming school year, we will be using Celly to connect with parents.

Cell is a free service that allows users to create “Cells” or groups of users that can engaged in a text message dialogue.   Cells can be set up for classes, teams, clubs, PTO, or the entire school.

How it works;

Users create accounts, then sets up Cell.

Other users can set up an account using their cell phone, then join the cell that was created. Once they join, they will be able to participate in the text dialogue.

Celly can be used to deliver announcements to all group members such as;

“Report cards going home today, make sure you ask your child and celebrate their hard work!”.

It can also be used to poll participants to get feedback.  This will make for an easy way to get community feedback on school decisions.

For someone who doesn’t like the sound of his voice, Celly is a much preferred option.  When I record a message using our Alertnow system, I record and rerecord the message at least 4 times.  I would much rather send a text alert.

This will be a great resource for connecting with families and ensuring a two way dialogue.

Bullying is a problem in every school.  School leaders must take proactive measures to ensure the safety and comfort of every student in the building.  Students will not learn if they are not comfortable.

Picture taken from http://www.hopewellva.gov

As much as we encourage every student to come to administration with reports of wrongdoing, it doesn’t always happen.  After a meeting with my principal, we decided to add another resource to our fight against bullying.  We want students to be able to text message us directly to report anything that they would not be comfortable doing in person.

Using Google Voice, we were able to set up a free account.  This will allow students to report discipline violations through text messaging.  While we just established the service, I believe it will be a great resource to our school’s fight against bullying.
Google Voice is a free service that has a ton of great features.  If you’d like to learn more, be sure to visit their sight.  Our school district uses Google email services, but the feature of Google Voice was blocked.  I had to set up an alternate email address for our school.  This wasn’t a problem because I was able to forward all received texts to my work email.


I’m toying with the idea of using the website TeachersPayTeachers.com to inspire learning in my school.
Within the past few weeks, there have been many articles published on the success of Teachers Pay Teachers.  As a teacher, I came across the website many times while looking for ideas for my classroom.   I never could justify spending money on a lesson, but apparently others do.  To date, the site has processed over $7,000,000 in sales.  Most of that money goes directly to the teachers that produce the content.

I’d like teachers in my school to start using the site to sell their lessons.  If this were to happen, I believe, it would increase student achievement at my school.

Bad lessons don’t sell.  Not that any of my teachers create bad lessons, but there is always room to grow.  With the extra incentive of possibly earning revenue, teachers would put a little more effort into making original and content specific lessons.

Not only would money motivate, but if teachers have an audience outside of their students and administration, they might spend more time to perfect their product.
I know that it isn’t a guaranteed thing, but I think that it would challenge our teachers to spend more time in the planning stages of teaching, and possibly earn them extra income.

Educators spend so much time educating, we forget to get educated. Of all the efforts that schools put into increasing student achievement, professional development has one of the best return ratios. The problem that schools have, is that we don’t know how to choose and implement professional development very well. In this post, I examine how professional development impact students achievement, and what can we do to ensure professional development is working for our school.

Good teaching starts with good learning.

In 2007, the American Institute for Research found that teachers receiving at least 49 hours of professional development in a six to twelve month span could expect to increase student achievement by approximately 21 points. This is a staggering figure. There isn’t a school in this country that would not want to increase student achievement by 21 points. So, what is holding us back?

Below are some tips for making professional development work for your school.

1. Make learning part of the school culture. Professional growth should not be an afterthought. It should not be something that is done once a month to meet the district requirements. Every adult should be expected to, and desire to grow for the sake of helping the students. School leaders need to make this part of the vision of the school, it should be central to everything that happens on a daily basis.

2. Make it work for everyone. If we are to shoot for 49 hours, then we need to be proactive in helping teachers find the time. Schools would have to dedicate 1.36 hours per week (in a 36 week school year) to meet the 49 hour goal. One way that our school is creatively meeting the needs of our teachers is by moving our professional communities online. Using Edmodo, we have given our teachers the ability to use any available time to connect with others and grow.

3. Remove the obstacles. The time that teachers have with others is limited, don’t fill that time with mundane details. Use department and staff meetings to learn and grow together. When you have your staff together use the expertise in the room to help everyone grow. If you are standing in front of your staff giving information that could be sent via email, you are wasting a precious commodity, time together.

4. Make it relevant. Ask teachers what they need to become better. Then ask your teachers what training/expertise they can offer to the staff. Encourage teachers to try new things, become experts, then train others. The extra incentive/pressure of teaching others is a great motivator.

Collecting feedback from stakeholders is essential for the growth of your school.  Learning what you are doing well, and what you could be doing better is a great practice for any leader.

In January, my principal and I sat down with every teacher in the building and discussed four topics.  This was not an opportunity for the administration to give feedback, but rather to listen to what the teachers had to say.

The four questions we asked were;

-What is going well in your classroom?

-What is one area you want to focus on in your classroom?

-What is going well in the school?

-What do we need to focus on schoolwidel?

We listened and took notes of everything the teachers had to say.  Then using Wordle we created visualizations of the teacher feedback.

As a visual learner, I would much rather look at information than read it.  This also makes it easier to spot trends in what people are focused on.

In the future, I plan on using Google Forms to conduct the survey so that I can just cut and paste responses into Wordle.

Learning from our teachers provided great feedback as to what we need to focus our efforts on as we finish this year, and plan for the next.  The experience also helped build community and trust with teachers.

I write this post after sitting through three days of professional development.  The county that I work for asked that we send a team, thus we did. Prior to attending, I was looking forward to learning new methods of helping our students learn and grow. Unfortunately, I learned unintentional lessons from those presenting.  Here are a few pointers for myself and other professional development presenters.

1. You don’t need to prove your value, we trust you. You’ve already proven your value, which is why I’m taking time from my school and attending your seminar. You don’t need to give stories of your teaching career and how great you were. I’m attending your workshop, because I believe you can offer me tools, information, or strategies that will help me reach my students more effectively.

2. Use the best resources that you have. There were approximately 75 educators in the room, perfect for networking and sharing ideas.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.   Instructional leaders need to put the materials into the hands of those who will be using it. Then, let the professionals work together to plan implementation. This will give teachers comfort with using the new tools while providing support from the experts.

3. Practice what we preach. We ask our teachers to get away from standing at the board and lecturing. Yet, when we attend PD, that is typically what happens.  How are our teachers supposed to get away from lecturing, if we never expose them to anything else?  Use the format of the training as training itself. We can teach others about any number of topics in a format that will give them exposure to a new way of teaching.

4. Read your audience. It is appalling to look around and see a room full of disconnected, disengaged, distracted audience members.  I’m not disappointed by the audience’s behavior, but rather by the fact that the presenter continues as if everyone were paying attention.  As part of my teacher walk-through observations, I look at what percent of the students are engaged.  If a huge portion of the class is not engaged, I have to ask myself if the teacher is effectively engaging the students.

5. Don’t let them leave empty handed.  How many times have you gone to a workshop, and thought “I can’t wait to try that”?  Weeks and months go by, and you still haven’t put anything you learned into practice. At that point you’ve forgotten what it was that you wanted to try. Give the learners time to create a lesson, or plan a unit that incorporates one thing from your workshop.  Make them use their time to do something productive.  That will increase the odds that it will get used.  If you are really on top of it, you will have the participants record what they plan on using and their contact info.  In a few weeks you can send them an email asking them how it went in their classroom.

6. Respect the clock.  NEVER hold a group late.  If you are not finished, invite those that wish to continue the conversation to stay longer, but never require everyone to stay past a set time.  If anything, reward hard work with an early release.  The people will leave on a positive note, and remember your PD in a much better light.