Thursday, September 3, 2015

2015-16 is underway! Share your experiences, new ideas and resources here.


  1. "Calm Resolve." That was my Superintendent's shared matra for this school year. "Calm Resolve," he shared "...will carry us through in those moments when we feel like things are falling apart. When we feel like we can not take one more step or when there is not hope, calm resolve with lift the clouds, center our mind and will give us the ability to press forward....Calm Resolve."

    As we prepared for the start of the school year, I continued to say in my head and heart "Calm Resolve." I also prepared for teachers, paras, parents, bus drivers, custodians, food service....etc.... Calm resolve after all does not mean that one does not plan. (Hope is not a plan right?)

    August 10th kicked off the start of the our Professional Development/Inservice week and with it, a shift in thinking and acting. For the first time ever, ALL staff were included in our meetings. Time was built into our week to share and reflect, to ask hard questions and then to sit.... often minutes in silence for someone to speak, to share, to comment. It was hard and eye opening...but I could see the first steps being made in bringing us together as a team....a whole team. Who would have thought in a school setting listing shared beliefs could be so difficult.... (I am guessing our esteemed ALA Leaders.)

    I wish I could say that we came to a final a great conculsion of what our purpose was... but we didn't. We extended our conversations to our Google PLC page and it is on-going as of today.

    August 17 brought the first day of school and over and over again I heard.... "Things seem so calm..." "It's never ran this smoothly before..." "Everyone seems to know what they are doing." Students had schedules and knew where to go. (I learned that two years ago Jrs. and Srs. sat in the gym for the first two weeks of school becuase they did not have a master schedule.) Teachers were in their classrooms and leading students.

    "Calm Resolve."

    I can not wait to share the experiential learning activities that I lead my staff through with my team. (Shout out to the Naturals!!) I truly think that they impacted our thinking and set in motion something great...something we will be proud of as a school family. I think that the conversations we shared and continue to share are what is making a difference in what we do daily and how we choose to serve students and each other.

    Don't get me wrong.... as a Jet Ski, Rationalist (I was the only Rational in my staff of 60 people, who took the test...which may explain a lot!) ... I am ready to set in two weeks ago.

    "Calm Resolve".... Then again, results have been seen...conversations are actually occuring and people are reflecting.

  2. Labor Day has come and gone and now it is time to reflect! After attending ALA Master Principal in July, I felt much more focused on what I needed to do to effectively start a new school year. I focused on the Performance Strands, starting with Setting a clear and compelling direction. Immediately I knew I had to make sure that our school mission and vision was something we all believed and lived each day. We basically adopted what was already in existence but how could we live something that this staff had not even agreed to? We started at our first meeting on day 1 developing group norms and went straight into what our core beliefs are. I put chart paper around the room and left a prompt asking, "What are your CORE beliefs about teaching, learning, students, and this school?" We did a carousel, giving everyone time to respond. This gave ua a clear picture of what we believed. We revisited our Mission and Vision and even tweeked it to fit our building now. VERY positive start! Later one day one we discussed PLC's at CMSN and how this was a vital piece of the success of our school. I listed each group or PLC and then as a group, we discussed and listed what we called Essential Questions to use during PLC meetings. Again, very positive!!! A few other things we did ot used during the week included a Staff photo, PLC's met to plan common assessments, read the article "We Are Teachers" in small groups as they carousel, sidewalk messages for our students, a close look at increasing Rigor in our lesson planning, and the Partner Clock for discussion.
    After five days of meeting, planning, and working together, I felt that the week was very focused. Using the tool I learned at MP helped me to stay focused to and engage our staff in a meaningful way.
    I had a couple of teachers email me saying that they gained so much from our pre-school meetings, love the activities rather than just sit-and-get, and one even mentioned the positive atmosphere. I definitely felt that we started off with a vision and mission, as well as a strong plan of action.
    Hope all is going well for everyone!
    Dawn Peeples
    Cabot Middle North Principal

  3. I really enjoy reading the posts from Justin Tarte, It gives me some great professional topics to discuss with my leadership teams at my school.

  4. I would also recommend

  5. It's hard to believe that we are in week four. Even harder to believe is what has been accomplished, experienced, and celebrated in that opening time span.
    We had 9 teacher openings to fill this summer due largely in part to the collective retirement of much of our SPED department, whom were giants in their field and pinnacles of expertise not only for our building but also our district for years. We knew heading into the summer that the task would be difficult to find folks who not only had a knowledge base to provide the same services but also to fit the culture we want students to experience daily. Couple that with a 100 student increase over the summer, and we grew by a few more FTE's. Hiring continued up until the Sunday before students arrived in our building. I would be lying if I said that experience didn't make me nervous- but I found a sense of what Wanda described above as "calm resolve" in knowing that the first priority for our staff when we were all back together in August was learning about who we were as individuals and who that made us collectively through tools like the Kiersey Temperament Sorter and the Human Sattergram. It allowed us to enter into the conversation about core beliefs far more aware of the people in our PLC's and departments than we had ever been before and the results were a set of three components that the FJHS Teacher Wolf Pack has dedicated themselves to:
    Learning at Fulbright Junior High is successful when...
    it occurs in relationships (teacher to teacher, teacher to student, student to student, and school to community)
    it occurs in authentic, passion-driven, real-world applicable ways
    it develops a person beyond intellect (socially, emotionally, physically, inquisitively)

    We got to live out that mentality when on the first day we started our year with an All-Wolves kickoff celebration hosted by and run by our 8th graders. They took on the responsibility of setting a tone of connectedness and excitement for learning for the year- sharing their best Wolf Wisdom with their new 7th grade peers, playing interactive get-to-know-you games, and making commitments to the Pack.
    While I think we were doing good things as a school prior to this year, it certainly wasn't as focused as it is now following our all-on-the-wall core beliefs about learning work. One teacher who joined us from a neighboring district this year in a speech pathology position called it "The most meaningful work" of her 17 year career. I wanted to cry.
    But now is the hard part- the progress monitoring part- making sure we are living up to those beliefs daily. It was great to have them posted on the board behind me as we conducted interviews that Sunday before students returned. After we got through content-based questions, the question was, "How can you help us understand if these are beliefs you hold and how they are lived out in your classroom and professional work?" Our candidates were equally convicted but also excited to share the ways those core beliefs intersected their own lives.
    I’m excited about the weeks and months to come, to continue the journey we started in a coordinated and collaborative way. It promises to continue as some of the most meaningful work of my career certainly and the others in this building and others as well.

  6. Just wanted to share a great resource that has a plethora of protocols that are beneficial for just about any situation!

    1. I appreciate you looking out for other administrators!

  7. I encourage you to join the Saturday Twitter chat @ #leadupchat at 8:30 am. Powerful PD your way! Also check out the website Both resources have been a real game changer for my own professional growth and the expansion of my professional learning network. If you have never participated in a Twitter chat, check out this video

    Happy Tweeting!

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  9. [Part two] I closed out the week with the reflective video, "Celebrate What's Right with the World." Each team member had a school logo drinking glass filled with chocolate with, "Celebrate What's Right" inscribed in a decorative tag tied with a ribbon to each. Little reflection was allowed at the conclusion of the video. I wanted the staff to leave with the provoking thoughts that I left ALA with.
    The district that I work for uses a four question assessment. The ratings I received for each question of all the sessions combined were:
    My understanding of the concepts presented was enhanced
    Advanced 29
    Proficient 11
    Basic 12
    Below Basic 1
    Please rate to what degree you plan to use these concepts in your classroom
    Advanced 26
    Proficient 12
    Basic 11
    The workshop organization was
    Advanced 24
    Proficient 13
    Basic 6
    Below Basic 3
    My overall rating of the workshop
    Advanced 25
    Proficient 19
    Basic 4
    Below Basic 1
    The training received at ALA is enabling me to progress in performance strands. Although I did not have an unanimous advanced rating in all four areas assess, I knew that I am improving compared to where I was at in my first year as principal!

    1. Part one is not appearing after posting, this second part post will not make sense standing alone. I will have to recover the first part at a later time.

    2. Part One - Compared to my opening year professional development before MPI this year was leaps and bounds better. MPI provided me a clear direction of where to start with my teachers. The activities that I chose to use were "That's Me, Sentence Stems, Implementation Dip Diagram. Celebrate What's Right WIth The World, and PLC Roles Worksheet. These activities provided a variety of levels of engagement for the adult learners. Confirmation of how the week went came in the form of one of my row boat staff telling me this was the best PD in his 18 years of teaching, that was a feather in the cap for me. Unfortunately due to the amount of pre-selected district topics I was not able to get into exploration of mission and vision. Since these time constraints existed prior to MPI I decided to imbed the mission and vision work into the PLC agendas throughout the year. I told the PLC's that their work was going to be purposefully explored at the start of next year's PD. Knowing that their efforts are useful and will be applied to school improvement with a purpose made this year's PD sessions awesome!

  10. When I became the Principal at Mayflower High School I was the seventh Principal in six years. I inherited a fantastic core group of teachers that are passionate about our students and their craft. They are surrounded by a great group of people that have been part of a slowly closing revolving door of faculty. One of the significant things missing with the changes in leadership was consistency in mission and vision. After attending MPI in July I decided that our focus needed to be refined. Our district’s mission and vision is good, but does not reflect the issues that we have as a high school and it does not reflect where we want our teachers and students to achieve and aspire to.
    Over the four days of professional development we spent a significant amount of time on a mission and vision that is focused on MHS. I chose to use several of the tools learned in July. I used sentence stems, the Kiersey Personality Test, and the Human Scatogram. What I found most interesting were the “in the moment” reflections and observations of my core teachers. They were having fun and seemed challenged through the extended conversations that resulted from the activities. I had several comments after each session from experienced and inexperienced alike that were positive about the results and introspection about their own thoughts and beliefs. We also had guest speakers from UCA that focused on high level thinking questions and the capacity of student’s to development these types of questions.
    I believe that using the form and thought process about learned in July created a more focused, cohesive, intentional professional development experience for the faculty and as well as myself.

  11. I began planning our back to school PD by writing a list of all of the information that needed to be shared with the staff. That list quickly became very overwhelming to accomplish in the amount of time that I had with the whole staff. I then met with my AP and we chose the most important things that we needed to cover before school started and assigned the other things to team meetings and/or a faculty meeting that could take place early in the year. This made the important things much more doable and provided the time necessary for the things that we felt were most important.

    One activity that I did use in our first faculty meeting to discuss the handbook was the strip activity. I wrote 25 important questions and answers on strips and passed them out randomly to the staff. I began the activity with a simple question that someone had the answer to in the group. From there the activity flowed. After it was over, I gave each staff member a copy of all questions and answers along with the page numbers of where that answer can be found in our handbook. The feedback from our faculty was very good. The veterans were appreciative of the fun yet short review of the policies and the new people felt that it answered some of the basic questions and highlighted the important policies that are important. They also appreciated the handout with page numbers.

    I think it was a successful activity. It was an interesting way to cover a typically boring topic but one that MUST be done.

  12. Hi all, hope everyone has gotten off to a great start. As I am reading several of the above posts, I have started to truly realize the similarities between some of the schools. Bradley discussed having to hire so many new teachers right up to the time school started. We had just the opposite. We had three teachers that left in the last two weeks before school started and our administration decided not to refill those positions. Two of them being upper level math teachers and two being head football and basketball coaches. Once school started, we had a GT teacher quit and because of a decline in student numbers, moved one of our regular education teachers into that position. We were still making changes to our schedule during parent/teacher conferences in September.
    Just when you think you have things running smoothly, we had a teacher put on bed rest due to pregnancy difficulties, another teacher have a retina tear twice and may have to take early retirement and one more teacher who is primary care giver to her mom announce that she will not make it the entire year after her mother broke her hip last Friday.
    Wow, what a way to start the school year.
    With that being said, the before school meeting with staff was very upbeat and positive. We looked at where we were, where we are, and where we want to be. No one is happy where we are and all staff members, even the ones that struggle with change, realize the need for us to move in a different direction. One motto that comes from the district’s mission is “We’re all in it for the kids,” and that statement stands even truer now.
    Over the past three years, my school district has seen a total of 5 principals and will get a new superintendent at the end of this school year. Change has been upon us, and with a focused direction we will move to the future.
    At the before school PD in August, we talked about the need to focus on our planning and use data to drive instruction. Staff members were asked to reflect on their teaching strategies and encouraged to develop more hands-on activities, project based learning and become the facilitators of their classrooms. Ongoing training through PLCs, after school meetings, and leadership meetings is needed for our teachers. The focus of these trainings is how to design lesson plans and develop learning objectives to fit the needs of our students.
    Without the resources that I gathered at the ALA Institute in July, I am not sure that I would have been able to help our teachers move forward with all of the change that we have had at the start of the year.
    I look forward to the next meeting in November.

  13. The focus of our five day back to school meetings centered on team building and putting systems in place to ensure the success of every learner. Tools used to guide our work on the first day included Learning Partner Clocks, Sentence Stems, the Kiersey Temperament Sorter, Table Talk Roles, Establishing Norms, Team Banners, Painting with a Twist, and Reflection Journals. Exit slips from the first day indicated that teachers really enjoyed the team building activities and felt that they could incorporate many of the ideas into their own classrooms. The Sentence Stems was most definitely a favorite tool!

    On our second day of professional development, we assembled together with teachers and staff throughout our district and were welcomed back by our superintendent and central office staff. Then we all divided into groups and loaded buses to take a tour of our district, see where our students live, and learn a little Arkansas history.

    Our third day was spent back on our campus examining the needs of our students and learning about systems and structures that we could put in place to better address and meet their needs. Our specific work focused on boy learners, cooperative learning structures, and Response to Intervention. To ensure that additional time is set aside to support the needs of our students, daily intervention time has been incorporated into our grade level schedules. Throughout the year we will continue to focus on learning and implementing effective strategies for engaging our boy learners.

    On our fourth day, we all met back together for a Technology Summit. Sessions were designed for beginning, emerging, and advanced users. Many of the sessions focused on learning how to use Google tools.

    Our final day together was back on our campus. The first half of the day was spent addressing the Panic Button, TESS Updates, Teen Suicide Prevention, and Dealing with Asthma, Diabetes, and Epilepsy in the School Setting. During the afternoon a guest speaker and parent focused on Classroom Management Strategies. Our day ended with recapping our learning experiences and time for personal reflection. Each staff member then shared how they planned to immediately implement something they learned from our time together into their classroom instruction for the upcoming year.

    Sarah Hogg
    Sheridan School District

  14. The first day of in-service began with district-wide ALICE training. For those of you who may not know...this is an active shooter training. Talk about an eyeopening experience to begin our first day back! After that, thankfully, we were able to spend the afternoon in our own building. I had asked the staff earlier in the summer to email me questions that they may have or that a new teacher may have about our school. I typed them up and did the questioning activity we learned at ALA. What a fun way to get everyone's questions answered!! And what made it even better was how the teachers put their own spin on the questions and answers. Lots of fun and laughter during a great learning time. We also had summer share and core beliefs discussion. We created a chart to continue working on our school vision - we decided as a staff to not take this lightly and to make this a focus and goal for this school year.

    The second day was a more formal p.d. day focused on Six Traits Writing training.

    The third day was a favorite of everyone (according to the survey). I started the day with a questioning of the staff that required them to move according to their level of poverty when they were a child. It was amazing to see the diversity of our own staff - from those who had to struggle growing up, to those who were more privileged. I then shared information from Donna Beegle's Poverty Institute and many discussions ensued spurring stories and ideas. Many tears and lots of laughter were shared. We then boarded the bus and took a tour of our district. The teachers were able to see for themselves how diverse our school really is. Again, you could hear the sighs and "oh my goodness" being shared among them all. We ate lunch at a local restaurant and ended the afternoon with SpEd and Gifted training.

    The fourth day was another district-led training. We were only together for lunch during which the teachers were asking for another day like yesterday!

    The final day was a district day with our superintendent's welcome. We were also treated to a motivational improv group "Wavelengths" where I made my debut as J-Lo in an American Idol spoof...I don't think I'll ever live that one down! The afternoon was spent in team collaboration time to prepare for the first day of school. I would highly recommend the bus tour, the questioning strategy and any chance to use Donna Beegle's Poverty training.

    I'm looking forward to seeing you all soon!
    Mandy Barrett
    Gravette Upper Elementary

  15. This past year, our staff submitted and voted unanimously to become an Arkansas A+ school. We were accepted into the program and began the process of implementing the Arkansas A+ eight essentials into our practice. We spent 5 days this past summer together in Professional Development, team building and learning about embedding the arts into our practice. We had so much fun, laughing and learning. This began the new process of how we did business, changing the plate of our priorities so to speak. I knew during the summer PD sessions that coming back would be the perfect opportunity to establish our identity, determine our new mission and vision together, with full buy-in and ownership. Arkansas Leadership Academy provided me the tools to do just that. To do what I knew we were ready to do but I was unsure how to lead my staff through that process effectively. Not with just a bunch of activities but with thinking, processing, reflecting and debriefing. After attending Session 1, I came back fully ready to build on what we had learned in Arkansas A+ training and set the ground for where we would be going together as a team.
    Day 1 We started with 5 minutes of fun- we used the Learning Partner Clocks and sentence stems to get to know staff members. We quickly debriefed and talked about how they could use this in the classroom. We reviewed our norms, agreed with them and broke down any specifics with them. We discussed how A+has changed our thinking in the classroom and our building and as a school decided we needed to revisit our Vision and Mission. So we used The Purpose of School activity to target our core beliefs about school and debriefed the activity. We discussed the hourglass model and moved to the All on the Wall activity. After lunch, we used the statements on the wall to recreate our Vision and Mission. The rest of the afternoon was spent reviewing TESS.
    Day 2 We reviewed our norms and went right into the the Barbell Activity. We discussed and culture in the building and what a strong culture looks like. We watched a short motivational video on teaching by the Kid President about what we celebrate. Then we did the Boat Activity. They were given time to reflect and discuss at their table then whole group . After lunch we went to Maumelle High were we had a feeder pattern meeting led and welcomed by the Superintendent and Asst. Superintendent of PCSSD. Day 3 we covered the District Discipline Management Plan, Crisis Management Plan, and Teacher Handbook the first half of the day and Teachers worked in their classroom the 2nd half and all of day 4.

  16. This year I decided to really focus on building relationships among staff members. When I was at MPI in the summer, Karen Norton helped me create a digital scavenger hunt for my faculty. With Karen's help, I created clues and then hung the clues around town in various locations. I divided the staff into groups. I purchased selfie sticks for each group. As the groups found clues, they had to take a picture with and object from that location. I also decided that I would create conversation starters that could be utilized between clues. This gave teachers the opportunity to get to know each other on a personal level. Our final destination---the music teacher's house. I served them lunch. It was a great way to build relationships!

    Big shout out to Karen Norton for her help! You Rock!

    See you all soon!

    1. You are TOO kind Kim Wilkerson!

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  17. The focus for this year's professional development is, "What Unites us at Reagan?" The goal of our first PD session was to reestablish culture while experiencing ways to strengthen classroom culture. We began the morning by greeting staff at the door, asking specific question or making comments related to the individual. We gave each an index card and had prompts on the screen. On the card, staff would write something we may not know about them, something they are most proud of, key accomplishments, favorite subject in school... As this was occurring, upbeat music was playing in the background creating a festive, exciting environment. After teachers shared something from their card, we asked teachers finished the sentence, "If Reagan was a color, it would be _______ because..." and added illustrations to represent their thinking. This was an excellent representation of the mindset of our teachers. Colors chosen were bright and comments and illustrations were most positive. At this time, I talked about the amazing honors and accomplishments from the previous year and offered a motivating overview of the year to come. Then we showed a short, but funny video,, showing a penguin and a polar bear and asked teacher to which one they related. This was a humorous way to set the tone for the year and teachers had a lot of fun with it.

    Another focus in our building is developing communication skills in our students. To give teachers practice and immediate application for classroom use, we took them through a series of activities to determine our core values through determining the “Perfect Graduate.” At the same time, we were strengthening culture. While doing this, we developed communication skills through the use of Think Tank, Shoulder Partners, Table Talk (Buzz). To determine the foundation of our core values, we used a process similar to that used in our first Master Principal session where each person wrote down ideas, shared it with a group, and then analyzed results with the entire faculty. By the end of the week, all staff members committed to using the common language and practice of the above communication ideas, while building classroom culture through the use of several of the ideas presented in our PD.

    The remaining 6 hours of our 12 hours of building PD was spent on data analysis and establishing PLCs. Teachers gained great insight into the premise behind PLCs lead by our team that attended the institute this summer. We began implementing PLCs last year, but were met with some resistance. After the presentation and experience provided by this team, teacher were much more open to the idea. Much of John Hattie's work was shared and helped our staff realize the need and benefits of sharing responsibility for ALL students. I am excited to see if we can ride this wave of excitement throughout the year.

  18. Can you believe Session two is here and I am so far behind. The state take over, the superintendent and so much uncertainty about what is going to be done. We started the year with a new community partner that brought us breakfast, coffee and so much excitement because this had not happened in years. Breakfast was great. They also provided hotdogs and water for registration and the parents loved it. Kudos to our new partner

    My opening speech I limited to ten minutes and everyone knows that can be hard fro me once I get going. We set the table for our weeks activities noting we had to take care of mandatory items first and then move on to the real crux of our work. So the first 3 hours was school expectations, district expectations and the How our school will work starting quickly on day one. Items covered included Evaluations, lesson planning, cleanliness, professional attire, and a focus on building relationships with our students and amongst ourselves. The positives from the previous year were rewarded with praise and small tokens.

    The 6 hour PD session the next day covered things that Would help us focus on the mission of the year ahead of us. Topics included Tiered teaching, Professional growth plans, Discipline in literacy and we ended the day taking the Kiersey personality test and seeing where we all stood in our staff. So many guardians. A report we ran showed that 69% of our incoming freshman scored basic or below basic on last EOC math test and 63.7 on their last Literacy exam.

    That is why the leadership team elected the Discipline literacy, which is to focus on the vocabulary inside our classrooms, building that vocabulary by making sure our students use an understand the terms they will be using during testing. Students are being required to respond always using the vocabulary for that subject. Specialized and follow up training in this area has occurred three times for each core subject to date. It is now be worked with twice a month in PLC's by district trainers.

    Another new item is our change of schedule. We went to a 7 period day instead of block. Block scheduling can demonstrate poor planning and poor classroom management skills. 52 minute periods can assist in limiting the damage in these areas. More importantly though, this allowed us to build in a daily collaboration period for all of our subject areas. Using the 4 corollary questions as a guide, What do we want our students to learn, How do we know they learned it, What are we doing for those who did not learn, and finally, what to do for those who did learn it. Each team has a folder that these teams must turn in with those questions answered every Friday. It also allows for data analysis, creating common formative assessments, breaking down grades and scoring by strands to determine where the students are actually getting it or not getting it.

    Our leadership focus has been on holding people responsible for their role in changing the culture of Hall High School. That can be a very difficult job when the three main middle schools that feed you students are the three lowest performing middle schools in the district academically and have the three highest rates of discipline issues in the district.

    Our last big hurdle was a building that was not prepared. We had our plumbing being updated, our restrooms were torn apart, we couldn't clean the floors through all the dust in three different buildings, and a new floor was being installed in another building and we had to get furniture returned to that building still. It was all accomplished through many, many hours of hard work.

    So much more to say, Hope you are not bored!

  19. Our back to school sessions with teachers were limited this year due to an EdCamp day and a presenter who spoke. We had two half days dedicated to spending with our teachers on vision and team building aspects of the school year. After some reflection on my learning during my first week of the MPP, and after talking with my assistant principal about how to begin the year with staff and faculty, I decided to spend much of our time on stress management and personality profiles. My school has a strong family unit. They take care of each other personally, and always provide love and support during times of crisis or hurt. They love to socialize and spend time together. What I see missing is the professional learning community aspect of our school family. We do not tap into the strengths of others enough. There is so much knowledge under our roof, and everyone has something to contribute. My goal is for all of us to gain perspective on where each is coming from, what drives them, what makes them crazy, and what is nonnegotiable. By doing personality tests and profiles, studying the results, and discussing individual and group aspects of personalities, we will grow stronger as a learning community.

    We all took the linear and global personality assessments, and divided into groups within our setting. The results were eye opening! Many spoke out about their frustrations within the building during particular situations, and how some personality types add to their stress. I saw a tremendous amount of empathy build within our group, because we all began to understand more about each other and where we are all coming from regarding perspective. This activity shifted us forward together as a group.

    Stress management was also on our back to school agenda. I was very transparent about my failure to manage personal and professional sides. As a staff, we discussed how we deal with stress, and how we can tell others our experiencing bouts of stress. Again, this forced us to reflect on others and gain perspective on how we view and address others regarding personalities and stress management.

    Feedback from the time we spent learning about each other has been overwhelmingly positive. I regret not doing this sooner, but this is my second year leading this school, so we are still learning all about each other and how we can individually contribute to the school culture. We will work throughout this school year to grow professionally as a learning community and become a model for our kids. It will require vulnerability and transparency. My hope for the second semester is to implement peer observations so we can have more of an open door environment among staff.

  20. Larry, I’m like you – I can’t believe it is already time for session two! Time has flown!!! While at session one, I vowed to start the year differently and came back with the intention of having my first day with staff be like no other. Since all of my PD had already been scheduled and assigned before coming to MPI, I only had one day with staff – a mandatory principal’s meeting day – where this could happen.
    I used several techniques we were given at MPI – grown up tables and chairs, candy on the table, I carefully considered how to assign staff into groups for the day, i.e. personality, staff role, etc…, I used an ice breaker – sentence stems, we created norms and assigned table roles, we had individual brain storming time, small group discussions, whole group discussions, and a motivational video. I used all of my administrative team to facilitate different parts of the day and we even had a guest speaker that talked about creating life-long learners that are not afraid to try new things (this was a district guest that visited everyone, Debbie Silver author of Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8 – Teaching Kids to Succeed. A great author & speaker if you haven’t heard of her). But my main objective for the day was for us to look at where we were and where we wanted to be.
    Last year, I attended the Institute with a district level team and we were taught how to do a S.W.O.T. analysis. We did one as an administrative team with all the principals and central office staff at that time but I also wanted to do this my staff. We started with individuals writing down what they thought were the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats at our school. Those were shared at the table and then the tables narrowed all the individual responses down to the top 3 for each for each table. These were posted on the wall on a large chart and discussed as a whole staff group. This was all we learned at Institute and all we did as a district administrative team; however I wanted us to take it one step farther. We hung a quote that said “A dream without a goal is a wish. A goal without a plan is just a dream.” ~ Unknown. Because of only having the one day with staff, we weren’t able to get into this part as much as I would have liked but we were able to discuss that it takes more than wishing to get to where we want to be and I’ve been able to use that in our PLCs since school has started for us to start writing and implementing SMART goals that move us in the right direction. We have also started looking at our current vision and mission and have agreed that we need a new one – what we have currently is a requirement on the wall, we are not living it. It’s been a slower process than I hoped while I was at MPI 1. I thought I would have that as well as a lot of other things marked off as done by this point but as we all know things have a tendency to get in the way when we return to the “Real World!” I can’t wait to be back for session 2, I feel like it will recharge my battery and that is something I desperately need right now!

  21. The CES 2015/16 Back to School Kick-off began with a "Vision Retreat". As a team, we read The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon prior to the retreat. The team was polled in May to gather a consensus on a "School wide back to school theme. We choose "Great Things are Happening here...Join Our Journey!" Our retreat was planned by the CES Leadership Team and was held on July 31, 2015 at a local church. The day was broken into segments that included team building, vision building, fellowship, planning and decision making. Our intended result was to leave at the end of the day with a basic understand of our vision so that we could pass that on to our Leadership Team to wordsmith. This would be a "back and forth" approach until the Vision Proclamation was exactly what we wanted as a team. We used the platform Padlet to have the "conversation" digitally before meeting again face to face. We used several of the tools from MPI including All on the Wall, the "Boat Activity" and the clock partners. The one day I had my team for the August back to school PD was spent in an Edcamp style where CES team members stepped into the role of presenter. I heard many positive remarks about the back to school PD including, "This has been the best professional development yet!" I believe that to be true as I am still seeing what we talked about, learned about and shared being implemented on a daily basis.

  22. I had a day and a half to work with my teachers at the beginning of the year. We had not revisited our mission in the time I had been in this building. This is my twelfth year in this building. I was a teacher/coach for the majority of the time. I learned the importance of developing a mission at MPI. So, I wanted to start the year off with determining our core beliefs and developing a mission to guide our school. We used the "all on the wall" activity to do this. I was really surprised at the differences of beliefs in my staff members. We did not do the boat activity, but I was able to figure out which boat each person was by their discussions about the mission. We came up with six indicators to use as the focus for our mission statement. We then worked in grade-level groups to think of ways under each indicator that we could put the plan into action. We have accomplished some of them, but we're still working on some as well. I have never lead PD this way before. They usually spend much more time working in their rooms. I let them know in advance that there would not be much time to work in their room, so they needed to have them ready ahead of time. I still had quite a bit of grumbling about the PD being a "waste of time" and they just needed to work in their room. I did have several say they felt it was beneficial and had learned a lot. We're making small steps, but at least they're steps in the right direction.

  23. Where did the first nine weeks go!? I am truly excited to see everyone this week, but am in shock of how fast this school year is flying.
    This was my 4 time to start a new school year at Central Park yet in many ways it felt like my first. I am physically in great shape after battling cancer for the past 3 years (I'm cancer free!!) and it has given me a new outlook and energy for life that I share with my school. We used the 'All on the Wall' during opening meetings to take a deep look at our vision and mission. Our school has had a mission statement, though no one could tell you what it was, for years and after our summer meeting, I knew it was time for us to take a look at our core beliefs and put what we felt into words and actions. We have gone through the baby steps of creating our vision and mission. It is now something that we refer back to and ask ourselves if what we do every day and every hour lives up to our mission.

  24. Nine weeks...yes, they went fast! They went so fast that my last post disappeared as I hit preview...oops!

    The back to school tools I used were Brainstorm Carousel and Operational language. I had wanted to use more at the time but the PD plans we changed to where I had limited time with the staff. The two tools were welcomed and didn't feel artificial and met the needs for the group.

    I also had an opportunity to use those two plus All on the Wall with a social media summit at our school before school started. This summit had police, parents, students and staff present. The three tools helped us craft three directional statements concerning social media at Holt. Those were shared with the tech teachers and then with the team for a finished first product.

  25. Just like everyone else, I am in shock about how quickly this year has progressed already! This year has been a challenge to say the least, but with those challenges there have also been some encouraging results as well as areas to continue work. At the beginning of the year, beyond the district mandated inservice, we focused upon living up to our vision, mission, and core beliefs. Over the past two years we have worked consistently to revise these ideas, and find ways that these statements are more than just words on a page. While we will always continue to revisit those ideas, the focus this year has been living them. We completed a SWOT to identify areas of mutual concern and opportunity. Throughout the year from there, we continue to discuss and take an honest look at whether our actions and efforts are in keeping with what the school as a community created for our core beliefs. Additionally, with the large number of new staff at my school this year, it has been important to include our new teachers on what the school as a community views as its goals and guiding vision.

  26. Pursuing Excellence… One Hero At A Time.

    The Mission HMS:

    Instill character and rigorous personalized learning to ensure all students succeed in education, career, and life.

    All of this will be accomplished by creating:
    Safe and healthy learning environments.
    Mutual trust, respect and cooperation.
    Classrooms where all learning styles are addressed.
    Parent, student, teacher partnerships.
    Technology-rich classrooms.
    Higher order thinking skills/problem solving activities.
    Opportunities to interact with role-models.
    Activities, clubs, and organizations which spotlight student abilities.

    Evidence of a shared purpose involves teachers, students, parents, and administration alike. Evidence of this begins with the development of a shared mission, vision, and beliefs. Realization comes from involvement of all parties in developing; through process gaining valuable input from all representative groups. At HMS this was done by conducting a series of meetings involving all stakeholders, asking for descriptions of what we can accomplish each year; asking for articulation of the future; and then the beliefs that will ensure our realization of our vision/mission. All compiled into the HMS vision, mission, and beliefs. Our groups involved teachers, parents, secretarial, custodial and cafeteria staff along with administrative input.

    Development of the HMS strategic plan is provided foundation by our vision, mission, and beliefs. Next, teachers and students set goals based on all students on grade level in math, language arts, and science. Students who are below grade level in math, language arts, or science are expected to grow by 5 points; students on grade level in math, language arts, and science are expected to grow by 3 points as measured by MAP data. Our efforts to accomplish these goals are through 1. Focused Instruction-guided by common assessments, MAP data, class work, and teacher input 2. Interventions- Development of school RTI-class interventions, team interventions, school interventions. Assessment of progress for each student will be made weekly by students, teachers, teams & departments, tri-annually by individual teachers, students, teams & departments, and administration--culminating in the spring 2016 with spring MAP data used to determine growth of students from fall to spring as measured by the NWEA MAP language, reading, and math test.

    The process has provided us focus with a measurable outcome. Our teachers and students all know our goals and are working toward achievement. The question remains how our efforts will manifest themselves in our state assessments and how well our efforts to improve grade level status of students in reading, language, and math equivocate with Arkansas State Standards. We also have work to do in addressing our achievement gap which needs to be a focus especially in relation to ELL (long-term) and Low SES kids.

    Accomplished Through
    Team/Department Meetings Weekly
    Team Leader Meetings
    Establishment of Synergy
    Norms/Guiding Questions in PLC
    Goals-School, Team, Teacher
    Plans to achieve goals
    Instructional Faculty Meetings
    Student PLP’s
    Intervention-School and Teacher

  27. One of the better books we were required to read for my Doctoral course work is "The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team" by Lencioni. Lencioni explains the major breakdowns that keeps groups from becoming teams. He also illustrates for the reader what happens when those breakdowns occur. We did this as a book study last year. I believe it has helped us to create our norms and to hold one another accountable.

  28. We have spent last year and this year developing Project-based learning activities for our students in Science and social studies. We have been guided by the book from Buck Institute "PBL in the elementary grades". It has really allowed our journey to be successful and the students and teachers are loving it. It has also been hard work, but we have stayed the course and now have a great path to teach the new social studies and science standards without having to be handicapped to a textbook or particular curriculum. We have also been doing the book study "Teach Like A Pirate", which really cheers on the PBL movement! Our teachers have been working hard to put the fun back into the teaching and learning by using some of Dave Burgess's practical application hooks. I would recommend both resources very highly!

  29. As the first semester of school has ended, I am looking forward to Session 2 coming up. It's time to re-charge and refocus the mindset, get new ideas, visit and collaborate with colleagues, and take all the learning back to my school.

  30. Not sure if I'm posting on the correct blog but....

    Resources to share:
    -Anything by SolutionTree: they are the official GURU'S of PLC's! They also have some excellent resources on setting norms within teams and data collection tools. Why reinvent the wheel?

    -Google Classroom: Is your staff using this? We have adopted a schoolwide initiative of using Google Classroom as an online platform for going digital. After extensive training and professional development, I have required that each teacher choose just one class to transfer into Google Classroom. They are using Google Forms for formative assessments, and Flubaru for grading them! We are absolutely loving Google Classroom, and so are our students.

    -Complex Change Matrix: This was shared with us at the last session. My leadership was engaged in a heated dialogue about something we were trying to implement schoolwide. I got up from the table, pulled up this matrix from our Google Drive MPP folder, and brought it back with me to the table. I set it down in the middle and together, our leadership team was able to problem solve each of the issues we were having. Loving this tool, and I keep it posted by my computer.

    -Google Sites: My MPP2 coach shared this resource with me last quarter (thanks Lori!) She informed me that her school uses a google site for disseminating their information whole-staff! Her “Help Desk” site has tabs for organizing their school’s information…everything from school improvement documents, PLC information and agendas, links, faculty handbook information, and (upon request from her staff) a place for staff to even upload and share recipes. I have created a help desk site of my own, but it is still skeletal. I hope to get this up and running this quarter.

  31. We began our year with Teach Like a Pirate and have continued to incorporate hooks into weekly newsletters! Dave Burgess on Twitter is also an excellent resource with many others!

    We are beginning to explore Google Classroom and incorporate more STEM lessons in our third and fourth grades.

  32. At our district wide PD session, a resource was shared that is great for any student that needs language support. Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learners is by Pauline Gibbons. This book has many user-friendly ideas that are ready to be implemented in classrooms.

  33. One of my favorite things that I do with my students and staff is one-on-one data meetings. I meet with every student and their core teachers. We talk to the students about test scores and goals.

    1. Other Helpful Things:
      Monday Morning PD
      Teacher Rewards
      Community Partnerships
      Community Service

  34. At our last session of MPI2 we discussed our action research. After looking at the data from our digital math intervention, Dream Box, we have decided to conduct action research within our action research. Are both catch up growth and annual growth possible when you go above and beyond the amount of time required for fidelity of the program? We intend to find out. Are there other districts using Dream Box? If so, what are your findings?

  35. Shantelle EdwardsApril 17, 2016 at 1:00 PM

    One of my interventionists found a great site that would be helpful for others. It is called School Digger. It has a TON of data on schools all over the United States. The information dates back several years, so it would be great for grant writing or getting to know the history of a school. The website is You can click on a state and then narrow to various districts then schools OR you can just search a school and find it from there.

  36. Just recently finished the book "Sync or Swim." Good book, easy read. Helps you to look at your teams differently and how you might shift people to allow for better team work and synergy.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion.

  37. This summer, Manny Scott is speaking as the AAEA Conference. I heard him speak in Atlanta at the ASCD Conference and he reminded me why I get up each day and work to improve the future for students. Please consider reading, "Turning the Page" by Manny Scott. Sometime we just need a little reminder.


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