Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School 2012-13

Share how your "back to school" staff meetings or professional development went and what results you achieved. Hope is was better than ever!


  1. My first day back with teachers was awesome! We began the day with the "all on the wall" activity developing our mission/vision which was something I had neglected for 3 years. It was neat to see how we all had silimar goals and I was easily able to develop them into mission and vision statements. We also did skits acting out the managerial expectations I have for them. They were really funny! We also spent time looking at our test scores in camparison to other schools, and I had them reflect on what they thought they had done last year to make them so strong and what they were going to focus on this year to keep them improving. We even had a time for celebration of our efforts last year. In the afternoon session, we spent time on 2 areas that we have been working on: personality assessment and PLC's/teamwork. We did the "carpet activity" with a shower curtain, masking tape, and a buzzer app on my ipad. We also did the "boat" personality assessment and spent time discussing how the results compared to other assessments we had done. We then set up roles in their grade level PLC's. I got lots of great feedback, including personal visits, emails, and cards about how much they enjoyed the day. I had NEVER had that before!! I really was a great day!--Stephanie Vernon, Pangburn Elementary (wouldn't let me use my google account!)

  2. I felt that our in-service was better than it has been in the past. I was able to use some of the activities that I was exposed to in our first round of meetings from the Leadership Academy that I attended in July. Unfortuantely, so much of my time had to be committed to formal PLC training, parental involvement, Scholastic Audit findings and Focus School designation. The most beneficial activity that I used was focused on core beliefs and I followed the ALA model. My teachers truly appreciated this. There were some areas where we could not come to consensus and left those off the list. From that data we revisited our school mission statement and revised it as needed. They truly appreciated the opportunity to discuss this as a staff. It was very interesting to go through this process.

    Most of the feedback was positive, but some of it was geared towards improvement. I need to allow more time for "teams" or PLC's to get together during PD to discuss and plan what we are covering. Also, it was suggested that I NOT put so much on the agenda. I had to cover a lot this time due to circumstances associated with being a focus school and the need to discuss the flexibility waiver as it is related to our school imporvement status. They apprecitated the electronic interactive agenda that was provided in addition to the ALA template. They requested that it be made more interactive for them.

    We will have another day of PD in January, 2013. My goal is to do more team building activities at that time and use more of the interactive strategies that I learned in July through the ALA. This should be more manageable since I will hopefully have less required content to cover.

    Todd Sellers, Bryant

  3. With only two days to work with the teachers before school started, I had to utilize every minute to the fullest. As a district, the teachers participated in the “In-Basket” activity. This allowed time for the teachers to work together in communication techniques. When we divided into our school level meetings, the teachers enjoyed participating in the “Purpose of School” activity. It was amazing to see how the teacher’s perception changed with the different scenarios.

    The “All on the Wall,” “Railroad,” “Organizational Energy,” and the “A Personal Vision” activity opened up a lot of discussion about what the vision of the school should be. The teachers were actively engaged in the activities, and took ownership in creating the vision. As we discussed the future expectations of the curriculum, the “Implementation Dip” was introduced. The teachers were actually relieved to know that when implementing a change, it is not uncommon for the results to “dip” before improving. The teachers were presented with a journal to keep their reflections in. The teachers were more acceptable to the journal than I thought they would be. They shared their thoughts throughout the days. The information that I learned at the July meeting, allowed me to be better prepared to lead the teachers in developing strategies for the school year.

    1. We're using the reflective journals more this year than last. Are you using them during team meetings, also, or is it just up to teachers on when they reflect on paper? Just looking for new ideas and how others are using journals with their teachers.

  4. I only had one and a half days to spend with my staff prior to the school year starting. I am thrilled to say that due to a lot of the ALA learning and especially the template for the agenda, I feel that the smaller amount of time was probably more valuable then having extra days like in the past. Planning the agenda with materials and intended outcomes really focused me and the teachers during the sessions! The teachers' evaluations were very positive. Many of them enjoyed the way we worked together in different teams and that some of the tasks that were normally done in the same group and the same way each year were mixed up and active exercises, not sitting and listening.

    After study and reflection on the mountain, it became clear that my staff needed to re-visit their core values of school, teaching, and learning. We accomplished this using "All on the Wall." Teachers were put in vertical teams to come to consensus on their non-negotiable and other thoughts. I was pleasantly surprised that the non-negotiables were the big ideas and the other values fit under them perfectly. We found that there was a lot of commonality throughout our school. At this time, we are using the values to pen the vision/mission statements.

    We reviewed our data from the spring assessment and discussed the implications of being a Focus School. I had grade level teams work together to put ideas or actions on charts to improve learning and achievement. The charts were posted on the wall and using the "Carousel" we walked around to read them and add to them. In the final activity, I gave each teacher three dots to put on the actions that they felt would best improve the school's performance. They were very excited that through this work they had actually come up with some of the actions for the ACSIP instead of pouring over the document in ACSIP teams adding and deleting, etc.

    We finished our time together working on the functions of the PLC school-wide and in grade level teams. We used the "Railroad" to discuss teaching styles and "Give me a Hand" to identify team strengths. They had time to work together in their teams and create a framework for their school year and then begin lesson planning.

    I believe that my first experience with the Master Principal Program has already made a positive impact on my school and I'm looking forward to learning and growing as we meet every few months. Can't wait to see you all on the mountain!
    Kim Starr-North Little Rock

  5. I had 3 1/2 days to work with my staff. I had my In-service agenda already planned before I came to the ALA. When I got home, I trashed it to insert all of the ideas I gained from our week together.
    I just got my surveys back telling me that this was one of the most positive and helpful in-services my staff could remember. We started off by a little meet and greet to fill out our clock buddy partners. They loved that and most have used that in their own rooms.
    I tried my own version of the carpet activity and ended up forgetting my own pattern. Amazingly, it actually turned out better by me messing up to prove another point to my staff. My partner school heard about the carpet activity and asked me to come over and take his staff through it. The loved it.
    One main thing that I took time to do this year was allow my staff to have that valuable time to do their own reflection on their learning. I got them up and moving and out of their comfort zone. They are trying some of the same ideas with their students. We realized that we needed to spend some quality time on our vision for our building. I needed to know that we were all coming to this year with the same vision in our mind for our students. We were able to watch a "preview" of the video you showed on CElebrating what is right with the world. Nobody whispered or did anything but watch and learn.
    One of the most meaningful activities that we did together was the craft activity. It gave so many colleagueas glimpses into each other and how we tackle change. I am looking forward to returning in November to see what I can bring home to our staff and students to make our school the best it can be.
    Holly Dewey, Lonoke Elementary

  6. The “Visioning Day” at Collegeville Elementary was a focus for me this year. As I planned to take our Professional Learning Communities to the next level, I knew that this day was vital to a successful start to the year. After attending the PLC training with the DeFours this summer, I was thrilled to step directly into the ALA training. I felt confident as a facilitator and the feedback from my faculty was extremely positive. Teachers were placed in their “PLC home teams” and also spent time collaborating with co-workers outside of their teams. I utilized several ALA tools while covering content: Team Names, Clock buddies, Handy to have around, The Big 8, Critical Friends, All on the Wall, and the Jigsaw activity. Teachers stated on their evaluations that the All on the Wall which addressed our Shared Core Beliefs was very beneficial. I consider this day a success and enjoyed celebrating and learning with my teachers!

    Katie Thomas
    Collegeville Elementary

    1. I love the "Visioning Day" idea! Can't wait to hear more about it.

  7. Our focus this year was on "digging deeper". Our first day included working in collaborative teams with our professional development consultant on writing strategies and conferencing with students. My welcome and opening was the tool sentence stems. The teachers began with comfortable stems and built to the stem of “My biggest challenge in the area of writing is_________”. The activity was effective in bringing focus to our objective for the day and opening the door to conversation. Teachers also spent time in collaborative groups with support staff to plan for student learning and the common core standards.
    The second day was focused on building collaborative teams and understanding differentiation. We implemented the Barbell activity. What a great activity! The circles were intense in finding a solution and leaders came out quickly. The relationship to the change process, leadership needs, and giving each faculty member a voice were highlighted. I have 5 new faculty members this year that were hired 5 days before this in-service. The barbell activity helped everyone to see that just as their children need practice, reinforcement, and collaboration, our faculty does as well.
    Last year was my first year as the building administrator for my school. I have a mature faculty that has not had administrative leadership in their building for a few years. We began the change process slowly. In the spring we began to write our core beliefs and compare them to the beliefs that were present in the fall. A change was seen in including more stakeholders and understanding assessment. After the summer training at the ALA I brought my leadership team together to review the core beliefs. We used the All on the Wall activity to bring out the common language and vision among collaborative groups that had written the statements. The team loved the activity and used it to write our belief statements and our vision statement. In our September faculty and parent meetings the statements will be reviewed and open for comments and consideration.
    Our evaluations indicate that the faculty and staff felt the professional development was effective in preparing for the 2012-2013 school year. We are preparing for an Advanced Ed visit that coupled with my training with ALA gives me confidence that we will continue to build a cohesive program that is focused on student learning.

    Debbie Jones
    Sheridan Elementary

  8. We have added several new staff members over the last two years and we had the need to build relationships to unify our building. We used several tools from ALA like stem startes and clock buddies to interact on our first day back together. We moved right into working on our core beliefs, vision and mission statement using the method of All on the Wall as modeled by ALA. We developed our we believe statements from our core beliefs. This proved to be one of the best thing we have done as a staff in a long time. We recieved a great deal of positive feedback from each other that it reminded us why we entered the teaching profession.

    At our second open house, we shared the work that our staff did with our core beliefs, vision, and mission. Our school cafeteria walls were covered with butcher paper, construction paper, and chart paper with our work for our parents to see. We gave them the opportunity to read the statements. We then extended the oportunity for our parents to add to what we as a staff had developed. Each table had stick notes and pencils for our parents to make comments. As our parents left the cafeteria their exit ticket was a written comment that they had written that we stapled on a bulletin board right outside our cafeteria. We are continuing the work as we fine tune our vision and mission by including as many stakeholders as we can in this process.

    Even with all the changes with Common Core, these activities have helped to set a positive climate in our building for our students, parents and our teachers. We will have our AdvancEd visit in January and I believe the work that I am doing with ALA has better prepared us for that visit. We are off to a great school year!

    Deborah Mooney

    Sheridan Intermediate School

  9. I only had 1 1/2 days with my staff in the building before school started, but it was the best 1 1/2 days of PD that I've had as a principal. We started the day off talking about personality types and how we function together as a team. We then went to the computer lab and the staff took the Jung Typology Test. We all shared our results and talked about the different characteristics of each personality types. We had a great discussion and the feedback from that activity was very good. We then extended this activity to how we manage a classroom of students. I encouraged teachers to identify the different personalities of the students in their classrooms and how they can use that to better understand their students. After the personality activity, we developed group NORMES and the importance of respecting them when we are all together and in our PLC groups. We also developed our "non-negotiables" and focused them on expectations of teachers in the classroom.

    The second half of our PD together was developing vertical teams using the results of our personality tests. We then developed team NORMES within vertical teams and shared them out. In our vertical teams we reviewed test data and identified strengths and weaknesses and determined specific focus areas.

    During the first two weeks of school, PLC teams met during their planning times and developed three SMART goals. I believe all of the activities that I learned during the summer leadership academy have helped me to align my building and identify areas of growth across all grade levels.

    Stephanie Pinkerton
    Folsom Elementary - Farmington

  10. My first day back was a great day. My staff and I used the "All on the Wall" to discover what our Mission and Vision were for this school year. It couldn't have gone any better if I had scripted out what everyone should say. I have combined two campuses this year into one school and added over 1/3 new staff to the district. Overall, I am working with a staff made up of 70% new members to me. This allowed me the flexibility and opportunity to begin building a cohesive group with a shared mission and vision. The collaboration during the discussion for our Mission/Vision Statements was very enlightening. The air felt elctrified and ideas were springing from staff members that in the past had been quiet. A family was being formed and ideas were allowed and encouraged in a risk free setting.
    When we saw the commonalities among the answers and desires of the staff it was easy to write our statements. The best part for me is I see them being used and guiding our school daily. Everything is not perfect, but it is the first time in my career that I was included in building a mission/vision statement. My staff feels empowered and believes we can accomplish our goals.
    My challenge is to continue to maintain this level of passion. I must continue to provide my staff what they need to be their best everyday.
    Stefanie Smithey
    Principal, Carroll Elementary School

  11. Our district often plans for opening of the school year professional development together. Much of the professional development had been planned ahead of time. Our district curriculum coordinator had already contacted presenters that had been providing professional development on strategies for strugglinig readers, which has been very good professional development. This was one day of the beginning of professional development and another day we had formal training on professional learning communities. I had half a day in which our we utilized sentence stems that lead us to the review of our vision/mission statement in order to decide if it that was still true for our school. We deveoped this statemet last year. The collaboration with the faculty was great. Everyone agreed to keep the statement. During the session, we utilized the Learning Buddy Clock. We did take time to celebrate what was right with our benchmark scores.

    Margie Parker
    Sheridan School District

  12. We had a great first day back. I had two days to work with my staff. With about 10 new classroom teachers and a new assistant principal, we did many teambuilding activities. We used Kagan's books as resources to find neat ways to build a team, and I encouraged teachers to use these ideas with building teams in their classrooms. We had developed our core beliefs the year before, but needed to revisit them with so many new people. I wrote each core belief on chart paper and teams listed what that belief "looks like" in the classroom. Afterwards, we had a discussion about each one and did Fist to Five to determine whether or not we still felt like each was a core belief of our staff. I've seen teachers use Fist to Five in the classroom since this meeting! We also used the vision activities that we did this summer (i.e. what will a successful graduate look like in 2015, etc.) Then we did a carousel with each group's activity.

    I'm very interested in Spencer Kagan's work on cooperative learning so used lots of his structures throughout the day to pair staff members. We used a jigsaw to read articles about cooperative learning, and each group was assigned to present their information in a creative way (kind of like our talent show at MPI). They really enjoyed this and felt like it was a fun and engaging way to learn!

    Overall, it was a great couple of days. We are still revisiting our core beliefs at staff meetings to make sure we are allowing these to guide our decisions this year, particularly with common core.

    Stacy Donaghy
    Pulaski County Special School District
    Crystal Hill Elementary Magnet School

  13. My school’s three day pd centered on our yearly theme of “Essential Pieces.” Although we had determined this theme prior to my MP summer session, it seemed to fit perfectly with the big idea of PLC. We communicated that every agenda item (data, SMART goals, community involvement, ACSIP, reflection, ethics) was a vital piece of the puzzle to furthering our PLC. The first half of the first day was dedicated to district pd, so I had two and a half days with my staff.

    Our biggest “a-ha” came quite unexpectedly. The evening of our first day, we lost one of our students in a fatal ATV/car accident. Needless to say, the next two days did not go exactly as planned. It did, though, give us a humbling reminder of our true priority and focus: our kids. The grieving and personal reflections were perhaps some of the most powerful times of relationship building we have had. The agenda was followed to the best degree possible during day 2 and day 3, and the majority agreed that our PLC was further developed. Our mission statement was written by teachers when the school opened five years ago, but this was the first time that the idea of Core Beliefs was introduced. Through All on the Wall, we developed our Core Beliefs that are now posted in our team meeting room and reviewed on a regular basis. My teachers collaborated well in deciding which were the most important similarities of teaching and learning in our school, which were vital enough to be presented as Core Beliefs, regardless if in a 5th grade math class, 3rd grade music, or 1st grade reading group. Through this year, we've used the yearly pd theme, as mentioned above, to "tie" everyone together during that school year. A huge success of this pd is that we now have Core Beliefs that will "tie" us all together year after year after year.

    Several of our mandated pd sessions were on the agenda (ethics, HIPPA/FERPA, etc), but this year we took the approach of using a “tool” to present the required info. Because we approached these “checklist” items in this manner, my teachers took back several new ideas to use in their classroom, and have specifically noted their use of line continuums, clock partners, developing norms, table roles, question in a cup, etc. Perhaps the best statement from the teacher survey to sum up the effectiveness was “I loved using different strategies in our pd that we can use in our classroom. I felt like we were getting a two for one deal!” I introduced the Railroad Track model during this pd, referring back to the visual throughout these days and having teachers determine which “side of the track” was being “ran” with each activity. We had great discussion on how the model also ties directly to what takes place within each classroom, and several of my more experienced teachers quickly reflected on how the Railroad Track especially correlates to the research on teaching students of poverty. We’ve done well revisiting our norms and Core Beliefs during our weekly PLC/team meetings, but I need to do a better job at revisiting the Railroad Track as well. We run both sides all of the time, but I need to remind my teachers that we are doing this and why we are doing this, to reach our vision of doing whatever it takes for students.

    We ended Day 3 by reading aloud the letter to a new teacher in a well-developed PLC from DuFour’s Revisiting PLCs That Work. Each staff member wrote their initials and one personal strength on a puzzle piece, indicating which “piece” to our Wooster PLC puzzle they would be. Staff shirts with a puzzle piece logo were also presented, which we like to think helped develop the right side of the railroad track by lifting teachers’ spirits with a treat. To encourage my staff to continue reflection on how well we are developing our PLC, I am using a blurb from DuFour’s book/teacher letter each week to begin my daily email announcements to staff, and am selecting a blurb that correlates to a vital “piece” taking place in the school.

    Kelli McGaha-Martin
    Wooster Elementary School

  14. Our theme this year is "Lights, Camera, Action...Directing Educational Excellence." The building was decorated in movie themes. We are fortunate to have a training room to use throughout the year for professional development.

    This year, I moved several teachers to different grade levels, and I hired three new teachers. Because of this, I thought it was necessary to integrate team-building activities into the inservice days.

    The first day was spent revisiting PLCs. We reviewed and revised core beliefs. Afterwards, we watched the video, "What's Right With the World?" The video lead us into writing our personal visions. Personal visions were then used to inform the MES vision. Throughout the entire day, we used many MPI tools provided during our summer training (i.e., clock buddies, norm-setting, reflective journals, etc.) The teachers really enjoyed the video. I was very glad to have selected these activities for the first day back. The teachers were very motivated.

    During the summer, I attended the ASCD summer conference. While I was there, I heard former teacher and author, Stacy Bess. She wrote the book, "Beyond the Blackboard." The book was made into a Hallmark movie this past year. I was very inspired to purchase her book and video in order to make it part of our back to school training. I used it on day three of training as part of our requirement for parent involvement. One of the focuses of the book was societal apathy. The activities we did with the book/movie naturally lead us into the Eight Sectors activity. This was very enlightening, even for me, the principal.

    One of our other days was spent reviewing data. I began this day by sharing our ESEA report. We discussed the implications of the new accountability system for us. Naturally, this lead into review of additional measures of data--demographic, achievement, and perceptual. In teams, we analyzed each type of data, concluding trends for ACSIP purposes. We moved into a discussion of our school goals and how full implementation of CCSS would affect us. I integrated the boat activity as a way to further discuss change and the implementation dip. Teachers really enjoyed this activity.

    Overall, I thought our back to school days were very productive. We've continued our work on our vision and mission during PLCs. It's been very helpful to have the MPI tools provided in dropbox!

    Candie Watts, Principal
    Mayflower Elementary School

  15. For the first days of school I tried to increase the amount of collaborative work at our school. At first I used a couple of hours to create a vision statement for my school. I did the "all on the wall" activity with my faculty and I though it went very well to create a common vision statement for our school. The remainder of the morning I set areas of focus for my school's faculty to collaborate on and then I gave prompting questions for each of those focus areas. The areas of focus were looking at authentic literacy, summative and formative assessments, common core curriculum,implementation, relevance of lesson planning, project-based learning,etc. We did a carousel activity and then had each group report their thoughts.

    That afternoon I asked each faculty member to join in a content area professional learning community activity. Each PLC in their initial meeting were to create norms and discuss how they were going to address authentic literacy in the classroom during the 1st semester.

    I thought the first day of my PD went very well. The second day I implemented a new lesson plan template for my faculty to use. It didn't go well. Many of my teachers were resistant to the template due the level of detail these daily lesson plans required. I had very frank discussions with key faculty leaders as the first weeks ensued and eventually decided to back off the template and create a "lesson plan committee" the create ownership by faculty members. I learned a very valuable lesson about creating change in a school from this experience.

  16. Normally, we have only a half day with our campus staff. This year we were very fortunate to have a full day.

    Our Vision and Mission statements were established many years before most of us who are presently campus members were even in the district. It was time to revisit the statements and beliefs in light of the changes in curriculum, instruction, students, and personnel.

    We began with team assignments and identified the purpose of the day's training. We established our "Clock Buddies" and used them throughout the day. We then established our Table Talk roles and group norms. The next item was our Star-Up Packet. Usually this takes a half day to cover, but in order to have more time for team building and mission and vision statement development, we put it into a packet with directions and gave it to everyone. This was a much better way to cover routine information.

    Before we established our Vision statement, we discussed our Core Beliefs. Once we established our Vision statemnt we did a learning styles activity. This activity was a real "eye-opener" for everyone. We divided into groups by our learning styles and discussed why it was important to know this information. We then finished this session by doing group processing sheets and then each person present completed a reflection sheet.

    I used the agenda format that was used in our Master Principal's notebook. I did a seperate little "agenda" or list with the steps in each activity spelled out.

    We received very positive feedback. In fact, our teachers were so excited about the change in format, the time given to work in teams, and the collaborative environment that they made sure the told the teachers at the middle school and the high school how much they enjoyed the day's activities.

    As a result of this excitement and "buy-in", we've used this same format for other meetings and trainings. We've even begun using a similar format at the district level. We have a new superintendent this year and there is a much stronger collaborative effort being made throughout our district. The elementary staff is a critical component to this collaboration because it is something they have been wanting. The climate on our campus is so very positive this year. It has a great feel to it when you walk in our doors.

    We feel that the change in how we developed our initial trainings and meetings this year set the stage for permanent changes. We have continued using collaborative formats for all of our meetings. This has been a success for the elementary campus.

    Brenda Boardman,
    Principal, Mount Ida Elementary

  17. My staff and I spend a significant amount of time in August establishing our mission, vision, and core beliefs. This was time well spent, and the core beliefs will aid us in our decision making process in the future. After our initial meeting, we printed and posted our core beliefs in each classroom. This serves as a constant reminder of our beliefs and helps us to make classroom, grade level, and school wide decisions on these central beliefs. Also, during our in-service, we began to use our reflection journals for the first time. Teachers reflected on their own goals for the school year. We are using the journals periodically during PLC meetings to think about our goals, strengths, weaknesses, concerns, and other things. Cindy Holt
    Eureka Springs Middle School

  18. We started out our Back to School with a "Welcome Back That's Me" activity. I then presented each faculty member and intern with a Reflective Journal, tied with a ribbon and a pen. We discussed the importance of reflection in our profession and where reflection can lead us. On the inside cover of each journal we printed a label with the 3 questions on the back of our leadership journals, "What do I want to think about more?, What action do I want to take?, and Who else needs to know what I've just learned? Along with the three qeustions, we also found this quote, "Your life is what your thoughts make it." ~ Marcus Aurelius.

    This led into the video "Celebrate What's Right with the World". There was a consensus to watch the video again, which we did. Faculty utilized their journals for reflection during the video.

    Our back to school Book Study was "How to Survive and Thrive in the First Three Weeks of school" by Elaine McEwan. The staff was divided into the number of groups of chapters in the book. Each group taught the important concepts of chapter.

    We worked together as a staff to create our core beliefs with the "All on the Wall" activity. This process took a lot longer than I had anticipated. During this activity, I thought of stopping and picking back up at a later time but I am glad we continued the process and did not give up. In the end, the deep conversations that occured were very benficial to our faculty as a whole and the all important community building.

    Data disaggregation, Flexibility/Wavier, and Common Core implementation were major parts of our Grade Level/PLC work during our Back to School week.

    Kim Simco
    T. G. Smith Elementary School

  19. I'm not going to share the number of attempts I have made to become a blogger. At Harp, we are "Teaming Up for Success". With a focus on implementing structured professional learning communities and every team having at least one new face, an emphasis needed to be placed on recognizing different communication styles and improving communication skills. Each in-service had communication-oriented activities integrated within the content. These activities included Zebras & Elephants, Reverse the Tarp, PVC & Marbles, etc., along with reflective journaling including, think time, write time,and talk time. Focus on improved communication skills continues to be integrated within our faculty meetings, PLCs, and in-services, etc. This read a lot better about 10x ago.

    Allison Strange
    Harp Elementary School

  20. I had eight professional development days with teachers before the first day of school. When I left the institute, I could not wait to get back to create the carpet activity. I had several annoying buzzing sounds that me and the assistant principal would make for each wrong move. Remember the eight days I mentioned…I never got around to the carpet…it’s still on my To Do list ;-). The activity we used most in the eight days to get things done was Carousel Brainstorming. It got the teachers moving around and thinking. We are doing new and improved things this year because everyone got a chance to respond (not just Mrs. Take Over). The surprising favorite of them all….…Ask Me. Ask me is done at the beginning of a meeting. Teachers grab a name tag as they arrive (Ask Me is already written on it) and write a question others will ask them as they mingle around the room. Sometimes I have the questions written in advance. For example at our first meeting I wrote ask me about my summer break and something I’m doing different this year. I try to use questions to guide conversation based on the topic of the meeting…like, ask me how my kids behave after recess…before the meeting where we assigned different recess supervision.

    Mona Moore

  21. My professional development was already planned before I attended master principal. I did implement a few of the new ideas I had learned while attending the summer institute. I began first by having my staff establish norms for whenever we met together as a staff. At first the were a bit hesistant. But once the first person spoke out then others joined in the conversation. They esrablished very positive norms to keep the team on task.
    I also used the buddy learning clock. This event allowed staff members to reflect with other team members they might not have shared with otherwise. The teachers enjoyed being able to move around and collaborate with other staff members.
    We also did the "how people accept change" matrix. We did this activity on paper. This really helped to build that trust and respect issue by not having my staff respond in a public setting. This actvity really helped me identify how my staff felt they were on the matrix.
    My sraff felt that the buddy learning clock was a great addition to Pd. It made them leave their comfort zone. They really benefited by being able to reflect with other staff members.
    I am now excited to plan for staff Pd. I will be able to implement other activities to engage my staff.

    Monica Wilhelm
    Pike Elementary

  22. Our initial back to school meeting is traditionally called 'Grade Group Meeting'. I am working on a new name that is more inspiring. Despite the name, my teachers came back in exciting anticipation of a new school year. We began our meeting with a Sentence Stem activity of "the best thing about my summer was...." All were eager to share the highlight of their summer break. It was a time to welcome faces they hadn't seen for a while. We have a very close-knit staff who share personal friendships. Following this, we began the task of going through our 'Teacher Packet', which is actually a staff handbook with essential guidelines on procedure, charts on personnel placement during specific periods of time, master schedule, grade level schedules, and duty schedules. I had anticipated an uncomfortable air as we all realized we would be working with smaller staff due to retirement and individuals leaving to pursue other job opportunities. This was due to the condition of over-staffing that existed on our campus. In addition, some individuals had been re-assigned to new positions. My intention was to focus only on positive aspects of business on that day. Surprisingly enough, the summer had allowed for personal adjustment to the changes. All seemed prepared to let the past lie and begin anew. In addition, I found the best path to follow was complete honesty in all questions. The final business was that of classroom roster distribution and discussion of our back to school letters. All went well! The year has progressed well for me and I am so thankful for the insight and preparation the MPP has given me. We are all extremely busy but stay in touch through weekly PLCs, bi-monthly faculty meetings, classroom visits, and email.
    Tanya Mullen
    H.L.Lubker Elementary
    Bald Knob, Arkansas

  23. The school year started off with a very pleasant feel to it. After attending the Institute during the summer, I was revved up and ready to go. I had so many ideas and tools to choose from. I had to stop myself at one point and say “focus on one or two things” you can’t use all of these wonderful tools in one setting”. So I did. We always choose a theme for the year. This year it is “Beebe Elementary is Setting the World on Fire”. I incorporated the theme in the welcome back letters, the bulletin boards, the staff and student t-shirts and the beginning of the year power points. I tried to keep everything very positive. I contacted several of my teachers and asked them to present part of the PD that was required by our district. They were thrilled to be asked to share areas of expertise and it made my job so much easier. All of the feedback that I received after our year began was very up-beat and positive. Having a great year!!!

    Cathy Payne
    Beebe Elementary School
    Beebe, AR

  24. I revisited the professional development plan that I had created prior to coming to the institute in July, and while I kept the content intact, I made many changes in methods of delivery and activities planned.

    I had many new teachers, teachers in new positions, and teachers who were brand new to education, so I used the first day to facilitate activities that would let them get to know each other and who we are as the "MIS Family". Activities included "All on the Wall", the boat activity, and additional activities that focused on our mission, vision, and core beliefs. I believe the day went extremely well, and the teachers were visibly more relaxed the next day.

    I incorporated large amounts of collaborative team time for PLC and grade level teams in the following two days. I planned teaming activities for both types of teams, but I also gave them time to collaborate independently on some specific topics.

    Feedback was positive for all three days in general. The teachers indicated that they were extremely appreciateive of the way that they were able to ease into the first of the year with collaborative time and activties that helped them regain focus. I had two recommendations for improvement on the makeup of PLC teams. Two teachers said that they were uncomfortable working with others outside their grade level and preferred to stick with "their own".

    In reflection, the changes I made to my originally planned activities made all the difference for the start of this new year, and I am so glad I had the tools from the July meetings. Overall, I am already seeing evidence of stronger PLC teams.

  25. Everything went well going back to school. I had the coop ladies come and help with the TESS material. I did this because I have not been trained in the TESS model completely yet. It went great. On the fourth day of training no one could come from the coop in the afternoon. So I had to present 4D myself. When I was finished a number of the staff said that they enjoyed my presentation much more than the coop ladies presentations. So there ya go.


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