Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to School 2013

Share your stories of professional development and launching the new school year!


  1. The school year has gotten off to a great start at Bauxite Middle School. I actually was able to introduce some of the strategies from session 1 of MPI before school. The week after session 1 of MPI we had our 3 days of TESS training. During this session, I introduced my teachers to Norms. On the evaluation form for day 1 TESS training, we actually had a group ask "how do we keep other groups on task?" That night I made Norm Sticks and introduced them to teachers on day two. My staff loved the Norm Sticks. They really worked to help keep us all on task.

    For our back to school training we began with an icebreaker called "2 truths and 1 lie". In this activity, each person made two true statements and one false statement about themselves. The rest of the group was to determine which statement was false. This was a fun way to learn more about each other. I used this as a method to help build relationships among our teachers and staff.

    We then watched the video "Celebrating what is right in the world". We discussed how we often hear of the negative things happening and really there are a lot of great things happening at Bauxite Middle School.

    Last year we used "all on the wall" activity to identify what every 8th grader leaving Bauxite Middle School would look like. This year we used "all on the wall" to develop our shared core beliefs. I introduced table talk roles to my teachers and staff during this activity and the groups came up with their core beliefs that we used all on the wall to see all the groups ideas and condense them into categories. This is a very effective tool and easy to do.

    Susan Blockburger

    1. Hi Susan, I made "Norm" sticks too. :-) I was fortunate enough to find out prior to the meeting that some of my staff members are "too young" to know who "Norm" is; so I pulled up a clip from You Tube showing about 2-3 min of Norm's best entrance lines. Everyone was laughing and it was a great way to introduce Norm to those who didn't know him, as well as bring back lots of memories for those of us who did. Sharon Lewis

  2. My back to school meeting with my staff was very positive. They loved being treated like adult learners. First we established our norms. They agreed on a set of norms with no problems at all. We then did the exercise of our personalities from the Kiersey Temperments. The staff loved this exercise and enjoyed seeing which groups everyone belonged to. It was even more fun for us as a staff because we know each other. We then shared our core beliefs and used the All on the Wall activity to group them. The leadership team will work to bring them together and we will vote on consensus.

    I got lots of positive feedback from the teachers on how they enjoyed being treated as adult learners. They also enjoyed the positive start to the school year and the team building. The biggest roadblock was lack of time together due to lots of district time being pre-scheduled.

    Tammie Canada
    Taylor Elementary School
    White Hall, AR

  3. Well the start of the school year at Bauxite High School went very well. First we set our norms for this and all meetings knowing that we might have to adjust here and there. Then the faculty and staff worked on our core beliefs using the All On the Wall activity. It went great and they were amazed at how their beliefs were similar. Our leadership team is currently working on combining the beliefs and will present them to the faculty soon. The teachers enjoyed the "new start" to the school year as did I. Looking forward to a great year!

    Theresa Webb
    Bauxite High School
    Go Miners!

  4. Back-to-school time with my staff this year was more focused. Due to district demands, I only had 2 afternoons and one whole day for ACSIP, change, wellness, shared beliefs, vision, mission, data analysis - - that's in addition to the annual housekeeping expected this time of the school year. I included a deputy, pastor, two parents, and the mayor of our town in our shared beliefs and vision work. This was a first for all staff members at this school. Feedback was positive. One veteran teacher asked if she could sit apart from her group for a span of time. I must've had 'that look', because she went on to explain that she was 'overstimulated.' She has not been known for her willingness to change, and I am proud of the strides she's made thus far.

    Van-Cove Elementary School
    Cossatot River School District

  5. My back to school experience was WILD this year. I lost my mom the week before teachers returned. Needless to say, all the planning and thinking that took place in my ALA journal was put to good use, quick! We used lots of tools to strengthen our PLCs and have a more targeted focus on my leadership team. We did the 'bar bell' activity and it was great to lead us into the vision and mission. With the 'all on the wall' activity we were able to really some commonalities in our core believes and edited our mission statement. I wish I had that last year when we created our mission would have been much easier!!! I am surfacing now and am able to see the amazing things my leadership team is doing and the great feeling! I hope everyone is enjoying the fifth week of school! See you all soon.

    Jill Fletcher
    Eastside Elementary, Cabot Schools

    1. Jill, I am so sorry to hear about your Mom. I will keep you in my prayers. May God bless and keep you in his care.

    2. Hi Jill, I too am very sorry to hear about your Mom. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to handle it all. You are in my thoughts and prayers and I hope that things continue to go well for you at school! Sharon Lewis

  6. The start of the school year at Lafayette County High School went well. First, I informed the staff that I had been in training at the Master Principal Institute. I informed them that were we were going to do some things different. We started the first meeting with the introduction of staff using the “That’s Me” activity. I developed several questions that I knew would give each member the opportunity to stand up. The questions came from what I had learned from the staff while working with them and from what I had learned from new staff members during interviews. The staff enjoyed it! Before starting the main part of the PD, we set group norms and agreed to use them in all meetings. During the rest of the week the norms were followed closely. We reviewed our vision/mission and the Leadership Team lead the staff in the development of the core beliefs using the “All on the Wall” activity. It was amazing to the staff to see that the majority of them had the same core beliefs. During our August board meeting, I presented the core beliefs to the board for adoption. Several good comments were made about the activities used.

    1. Hi Opal - I really like your idea of having your leadership team lead the staff members in identifying their core beliefs and revising your mission. We are going to be doing that in the spring and I will use your idea. See you in November! Go GEARS! :-) Sharon Lewis

  7. Over the summer, we made plans to grow our alternative program from 250 students to nearly 370 students. In order to make this possible, we remodeled our existing facility and added staff. Specifically, we added 10 classrooms and hired many new teachers. We also added over 100 students.

    Needless to say, this change brought a series of challenges. We had to purchase new technology, oversee construction, order resources, develop a new master schedule, continue to culture of change, etc.

    When I met with the faculty in August, I was excited to implement many of the ideas learned in the Master Principal Institute. These included reviewing our mission statement, utilizing the All on the Wall activity, looking at the methods of change (types of boats), etc. This was a wonderful way to set the tone for the new year.

    I must admit that I am blessed with a wonderful staff. Each teacher holds high expectations. As principal, I am blessed with the opportunity to support each teacher and help them become better at meeting the needs of our students.

    The beginning of the school year was challenging. However, as long as we remember our mission, it is worth it.

    Paul Griep

  8. This year we only had one day with our entire staff due to the summer TESS training and required trainings we have to do for our grant funding. I was able to make the most of that time by using several of the 'tools' from our time together in July. I utilized "That's Me" as a beginning to our meeting. This year's 'theme' is the FISH Philosophy. After learning about that, I introduced the "Railroad Tracks" emphasizing the importance of having both tracks of process and product. I also used the carousel reading to engage everyone in 'policy' information that had to be covered, but is limited in creative/interesting ways to share. We were able to get through a great deal of learning in a much shorter period of time. Everyone liked that they were all engaged and the discussions throughout the experience helped to identify some misconceptions that needed to be addressed. It has been a very busy year so far! I am looking forward to returning to the mountain in November! Sharon Lewis

  9. Back-to-school professional development was a very busy time for Perritt Primary School. With only 1 day to begin implementation, actually two half days, I had to determine what I thought would have the biggest impact. I began with the boat activity to set the stage for the upcoming change process. Then, we worked on our core beliefs and mission/vision. We still have so much to do, but I hope to accomplish some during our monthly faculty meetings. Overall, our experience was positive. The biggest hurdle was definitely TIME! Callie Hunley

  10. Back to school was fast and furious. This year felt a little more manageable having just left the mountain with a zillion ideas. We started the week by spending an entire day at the JBU ropes course. The team building experience at JBU was absolutely amazing and worth every penny. We continued in that vein for the rest of the week. I used every team building tool I could to help cement this group and build strong relationships. We also utilized the bar bell activity which led us in to discussing the mission/vision. Some revamp was made from our work on this topic last year but the biggest take away came from our time working on our core beliefs. Having the staff work together and agree on our core beliefs has not only shaped our conversations but it has absolutely changed the way we do business. Everything revolves around our core beliefs. Teachers are being asked to change the way they view instruction and evaluations but those difficult changes have become more palatable by asking the simple question of "what do our core beliefs say?" See you guys soon! Amy

  11. This year our PD was pretty much dominated by TESS. However, to encourage professionalism, cooperation, and productivity I led the faculty with the creation of NORMS. We did the group activity using the colored paper, etc. We had some great conversations about why NORMS are needed. We also tied it to TESS. I have the NORMS posted in the conference room and they guide every PLC meeting. I also bring them into the media center when we have our faculty meetings. It set the right tone for the year and continues to guide us as we work together to improve our school.

  12. Our back to school building professional development day this year was quite different than what we had planned and experienced as a staff in the years past. Our Building Leadership Team met two weeks before our back to school day to review data, outline important dates for the school year, and develop a plan for the afternoon of our back to school PD. Building Leadership team members worked collaboratively on how they wanted to facilitate the afternoon with our staff - this was new for them. Additionally, the week before our building PD day, staff members were asked to bring in a picture of a child that was important to them when they came to the building to pick up their keys.

    When staff members gathered in the library media center for the morning, the pictures of the children they had brought were pinned to the board at the front of the room. We kicked off our celebration by having staff members introduce and welcome new MMJ staff members. We then moved into a discussion regarding Norms, the purpose of Norms, and we were able to agree on five Norms we would adhere to during our staff meetings. Next, we had staff members determine their table talk roles for the day. In order to get the staff up and talking, we then utilized the clock partner activity with sentence stems. In the beginning, the sentence stems were just conversation starters. As they progressed around the clock to their last partner, they were asked to finish the following statement: “When I think about teaching and learning, I believe… “. The staff then watched a video of Rita Pierson - “Every Kid needs a Champion.” Staff members were given time to reflect on what Rita Pierson’s beliefs were as well as their own. The Organizational Energy diagram was projected on the screen, and staff members were asked to share their thoughts when thinking about teaching and learning in relation to the diagram. Each table had a spokesman share their group’s thoughts. They then used the talking sticks to share their beliefs regarding the following question: “When you think about teaching and learning, what do you want for the child in the picture you brought that is on the board?” The discussions became much more personal and heartfelt when they were looking at the pictures. After much discussion, the All on the Wall activity allowed tables to collaborate and reach a table consensus followed by a building consensus. The staff truly did a fabulous job having meaningful conversations about what they felt our core beliefs were here at MMJ. We were then able to have a discussion about the alignment of our core beliefs with our vision and mission using the Hourglass diagram.

    For the afternoon, the Leadership Team used the core beliefs for our building to lead a discussion regarding behavior expectations for students and staff. As a building, they were able to come up with a school wide behavior clip system that they have implemented for the 2013-2014 school year. In addition, staff members had time to put together their clip chart and begin to research ways to tie the clip system back to their student leadership notebooks. The overall feedback from the staff was extremely positive; they were thankful for the discussions they had as a staff and the time they had to work together which gave them the opportunity to feel like we were all on the same page. This day of learning really set the tone for the school year. I hope everyone has had a wonderful start to the school year and I'm looking forward to seeing you soon! Ashley Williams

  13. 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. Various people from the coop came in and led. By having different teachers, it afforded me to see various teaching styles when it came to adult learning. On the fourth day of training no one could come from the coop in the afternoon. So I had to present 4D myself. I spent all morning going through the stuff from the state department's website. I really think that the material on the website is thorough, and is extremely helpful. With that help, I was able to just present myself. When I was finished a number of the staff said that they enjoyed my presentation much more than the coop ladies presentations. I did have a single meltdown by one teacher. I can't imagine being them. They have not had stability in a while. I look forward to affording that for them.
    William T. Fortson II

  14. Back to school and the first quarter was fast and furious. We had all 60 hours of PD held on campus this year. We had two days of curriculum mapping / planning in which the teachers looked over their TLI pacing guides and made adjustments where necessary. Other content area teachers created their own pacing guides. We also jumped into the ACSIP. Until this year, the staff has had limited input. We as a leadership team assigned every teacher to a group (Math, literacy, wellness) and had each team meet and review their respective parts of the plan. Old items or things that were not a current practice was removed and new action steps and plans were developed.
    Discussions were held and plans were made on how to proceed with teacher evaluations and how to use that data. Discussion and plans made on how to best use our TLI data, student achievement data walls, and TLI forecast. We are monitoring things early and often this year as well as comparing our TLI module results to the grade distribution on report cards. Discussion were held with the individual teachers and their TLI results / grades; action plans developed and implemented. Biweekly math department meetings are being held as math was our only AMO we did not achieve. Co-op specialist in math, literacy, and science are on the ground once a month working with the teachers and providing support in weak areas. We are also participating in LDC / MDC. Through this, teachers are learning exactly how to develop lessons, questions, and have a critical focus on research and reading. Also, teachers in science and social studies are participating and learning how to incorporate literacy in all they do.
    Teacher support and accountability are a main focus this year. We have a new superintendent and are adjusting to having the support needed to make the necessary gains. He is behind our efforts 100%.
    Thomas Garner, Augusta School District

  15. Back to school professional development days in August were busy, busy, busy! We began the year with three PD days that were cram-packed with professional development, both district and school level. At the school level, I began the first session with "Five Minutes of Fun" where I had met with our para-professionals to practice the Cupid Shuffle so we could surprise the rest of the teachers and staff with a little fun to start the day. Once all the teachers and staff were signed in and eating breakfast, the dancing para-professionals entered to the Cupid Slide, and led everyone in the dance for a few minutes. This got everyone laughing and in a good mood!

    We have a minister on staff, so he opened the session with prayer - something that we have done for several years - no one is forced to participate, so hopefully, it is legal!

    We then worked together to establish norms for the day, based on the examples from Leadership Academy, and I also passed out the table top jobs tents and talked about each job. Teachers and staff then selected someone at their table for each job. As the day proceeded, these two items really kept side conversations and other distractions down, and increased participation in the activities and work.

    For the last several years, we had worked on our vision and mission, but never completed that process. We had worked on it extensively last spring, so I was determined to finish this at the beginning of this year! With all the tools and strategies that I learned at Leadership Academy, I felt better prepared to complete this process this year. First, I lead teachers in the Four Square activity for the purpose of school. It was interesting to see the results of this activity, and there was lot of great discussion generated by this. The overwhelming majority of our teachers and staff chose the purpose of school as that of being child-centered. I guess that is pretty typical of elementary teachers.

    Next, I led teachers in a review of our past work on the vision and mission, including our core beliefs. I had used STEM sentences to complete that process last year. We had also divided into six small groups to write sample vision and mission statements at the end of last year, but had never found the time to finish that work. This year, I took the six sample vision and mission statements and put them on large chart paper. We jigsawed around the room in small groups to read and critique each vision and mission statement. After everyone had a chance to read over all the vision and mission statements, I gave everyone two dots to vote for their choice of vision and mission. The vision and mission that were chosen by the group was the overwhelming choice, so that really made it easy to come to a consensus. It has been a tradition to have a pledge and motto, so we kept those the same.

    At the end of the morning session with my teachers and staff, I gave them the Keirsey Temperament Sorter as homework for the next day. The next day, everyone shared what area was their strongest. I had the group divide up by the areas, and it was interesting to see that the largest group was Guardian Providers.

    The afternoon PD sessions were led by our Math and Literacy Facilitators, who focused on the student test data, looking at weak areas in the curriculum and identifying students who will need interventions. They also shared instructional strategies and worked with teachers on the TLI pacing guides and the Common Core State Standards.

    Attending the Leadership Academy was very beneficial in that it provided many tools and strategies for my use. Some of the things I used during those three days include:

    1. All on the Wall
    2. Table top roles
    3. Norms
    4. Keirsey Temperament Sorter
    5. Purpose of School quadrants
    6. Voting with dots

    Look forward to seeing everyone Tuesday!
    Trudy Jackson, Principal
    Drew Central Elementary School
    Monticello, Arkansas

  16. This was the best first week back I have ever experienced. The educational staff developed core beliefs as a district and in our individual PLCs. We also did the hand shape exercise, developed mascots, team names and created banners for our PLCs. That was SOOOO much fun.

    The second day we had together we did the human scattergram, did core beliefs for individual PLCs and did “All on the Wall” for district core beliefs. We did not complete this due to time issues but do have them arranged in common themes. Our final activity was for each PLC to make iMovies based on the 5 common words that they identified as representing them as a group from the hand shape activity. IT WAS FABULOUS!!

    For the next district PLC, we will continue with the process of developing core beliefs for the district.

    One struggle that I had was the accountability piece for the group norms for the district. We worked as a group to develop them (I loved what one of you mentioned at the academy and went so far as to make a “Norm” sign-from Cheers- just to give them a laugh and make them think). I had the teachers and paras work with clock partners to identify 2 ways they would like to be approached if not following the norms. We popcorned out ideas to help others and listed some ways that felt respectful to everyone.

    It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong..I just felt like I was the only one having to remind others to follow the norms. It was especially challenging and frustrating because a couple of my peers (in the district leadership team) were not following the norms and I was getting a little cranky, lol. It will get better. I just keep reminding myself change doesn’t happen overnight.

    Can't wait for Session 2!
    Lonya Robertson, Arkansas School for the Deaf

  17. Back to School

    Back to school was a little different this year. This year we had a retreat to start our school year. We took the staff to Red Apple Inn at Heber Springs. We started on a Sunday night and finished on Tuesday at noon. We worked on team building, data analysis, vision and mission, and getting to know one another on a personal basis.
    75% of teachers attended and commented that they felt that it was helpful for them to get deep into what they need to do as a team of teachers and friends. I used several of the tools that I got from the leadership conference. We did all on the wall, we developed skits of our learning, we did posters to demonstrate characteristics of good teachers.

  18. Back to school was absolutely amazing. As a first year principal, I was a little apprehensive about PD but it was truly wonderful. At Cherokee Elementary School our theme was Teach Like a Pirate. Arrrrr! We based our theme on Dave Burgess's book Teach Like a Pirate. I dressed up the first day as a pirate and the tables were all decorated with pirate "stuff"! The entire week was one that established a culture of being positive and having a passion for teaching. Throughout the four days we worked on data analysis, rigor, mission and vision, adult learning and collaboration. We reestablished our Professional Learning Communities as well as having our Leadership Teams meeting monthly with me. I was able to use many of the tools from the summer institute. Having come to Principal's Academy was such a powerful professional development for me before going back to school and jumping in as principal. It has been the best year ever and I could not be happier. I am excited about all I will learn that I can take back with me as I continue leading and helping to support my teachers! Meg Barnes


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