Ideas and successful practices from principals in the Master Principal Program.
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Over the past 30 days, I have learned the importance of reflection and communication. Five years ago, I was moved to a middle school that was in school improvement. I was unsure were to start. Over those five years, I was able to develop a collaborative staff that communicated with stakeholders. Last year, we moved that school to one of the top in the state. We scored an "A" on the school report card and received an award check from the state. I was so proud that the teachers, staff, students, and community felt success. The only problem is, we strived to grow kids. This becomes an issue when you max out the growth model. This year, we received one of the best ESEA reports ever, however, moved to a D on the school report card. We failed to close the achievement gap. We moved the non-tagg kids up but failed to move the tagg. What happen? We did not change our teaching to meet the rigor and relevance of the PARCC Exam. Why am I sharing this story....because a some point in your career, you are going to hit a breaking point and need a few resources. A few things to consider when you have done all you can do an don't know what else to do. 1. Reflect (write) This is taught by ALA but I did not understand this until I went through this valley. 2. Visit another school (Sometimes you find new things you can use.)3. Attend as ASCD Conference (Recharge your battery and ideas) 4. Take a hard look at what you are doing.5. Listen to your staff.6. Remember all the things that took place that are not measured by scores. (Community Service, Behavior Changes, .......) 7. Take sometime to enjoy your students. 8. Be honest with parents and staff. 9. Read "Turning the Page" by Manny Scott (One of the Freedom Writers) He will also be one of the keynotes this year at AAEA. 10. If alignment is an issue, attend UBD Training in person. 11. Hold a round table with parents and business leaders to find out what students really need to find success. 12. Know that it is not about beating another school in your district. 13. Always allow community service to be part of your mission and vision. 14. Take the time to speak and teach. 15. Remember that students are more than test scores. 16. See outside the box of scheduling. 17. Remember it is okay to cry and/or be mad. 18. Remember why you do it....FOR KIDS.
LeAnn Helms - almost this exact thing happened to us at Gravette Upper this year. We were so excited about the recognition of our growth on the benchmark exam and receiving the "A" on the state report card last year. Our bubbles were burst when the new grades were posted this year and we scored a "C". The most important thing I did as an instructional leader was to assure the staff that this only one measure. We see and celebrate successes every day - big or small. It is about teaching our students to be successful and we feel that we are doing just that. Thank you for sharing your resources, I certainly plan to use many of them!
We experienced the same thing, as well. We begin every faculty meeting and professional development session with Celebrations. It is critical to celebrate successes with students and staff! Thanks, LeAnn for the ideas!
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The end of year assigned task (#5) was meaningful to my colleagues and me. I noted in my journal about how this event marked an exit point in the striving for excellence highway we have been on as a team this school year. Comparably the meeting last year was just a closing point thanking the teachers for their work and sharing end of year ratings for TESS. This year the meeting had a purpose. We had something to celebrate. We had accomplishments to highlight! I was able to build on the glow with where we will continue to grow in the coming school year. The time allotted allowed for transitioning staff to be acknowledged. Although the time factor was not lengthy (the meeting lasted less than an hour) it did mark the continuance of change and improvements. It additionally marked how we are in this together for the greater good of our students. This end of year school culture activity will continue on and will get better each year.
We had an excellent end to the year, as well. This year, we have been on a path to redefine our vision and values in order to formulate goals for next year. Our end of year professional development session was amazing. We began the day with a team building activity where teachers played a game similar to Hungry, Hungry Hippo. The task was for each team to gather as many balloons as possible given certain restrictions. The gathering of the balloons was related to teaching children and the need for team support in order to reduce the gap between our TAGG and non TAGG students. Teachers then worked collaboratively in various grouping formats to articulate a vision and determine collective commitments. We were guided by work through Solution Tree, using a webinar hosted by Ken Williams. Several adult learning tools were used throughout the process in order to meet the objectives for the day. We ended the day with a "Sweet Send-off" where teachers were treated to their choice of an ice cream sundae, sherbet, or a bowl of fruit while they wrote positive affirmations on individual staff cards. It was a great wrap-up for the year and set the stage for our work next year.
Culture has been a huge focus for me this spring, particularly at the end of the school year. Keeping teaching and learning the focus, right up to the #lastbell. We have also focused heavily on looking at specific data on individual kids, including behavior data and social history, to help us make decisions about kids. The following post was published by myself on Medium to share some of the ideas we used in grade level PLC meetings, as well as in whole group faculty gatherings. Each child who enters a school has a history. I know for a fact that many of the kids I serve each day have experienced more challenges in their little lives than I have in my lifetime. The kids who anticipate their school day as a safety net, a place to be fed and to feel secure, are begging us to dig into their backgrounds. We can learn quite a bit from the surface of a child, but we can learn so much more if we take some time to dig. Every child comes to us with a personal file that details their career as a student. Within this file we can also find personal information that can help us learn more about our kids. Consider the importance of knowing how many people live in the home, how many schools a child has attended, and the general makeup of the family within the home. How will the child who has attended only one school, differ from the child who has attended four or five schools? What if this child is only in first grade? That is a story worth learning about.We must dig and investigate as educators. It is part of what we do to serve kids. When we receive new students, the first thing we should do is view their history on paper. The second thing we do is begin forming a relationship with the child and the family in order to learn more. The two combined are a powerful weapon for the teacher to use when planning instruction and social emotional support for all kids.Each child is unique. They all come with stories and they all need to be heard by us. The more people who read into the history of a child, the more chances a child has to be successful and confident. Dig. Investigate. Get personal in a way that will help families open up.Kids before content…it’s the way to meet kids where they are. It’s the right thing to do!
Like Bethany, we have focused on creative a positive and collaborative teaching and learning culture. This has been an ongoing process for the last three years. I was so proud of how far I thought we had come until we had a major setback. In February, I was presented with an opportunity to become a lead learner at an elementary school in a newly formed school district. It was an opportunity I felt compelled to take. While I did not want to let my team know so early in the spring, I had no choice given the close proximity of the new district. The last thing I wanted was for my team to hear that I was leaving through the grapevine. I did a Carol Burnett skit to share the news hoping that keeping it light would help the digest the news. What I saw and felt the next two months was a strong culture start to sway. I saw emotions that ran the spectrum including fear, anger, sadness, and rebellion. I was blindsided. I knew there would be a few that were sad, but I had no idea the announcement would have the impact that it did. I spent the last two months of school attempting to repair the damage, continuing to build and encourage leaders and assure them they were ready to step up to and out of their comfort zone. I am proud to say that after many conversations, much prayer and diligence I feel the end of the year was positive. We did have five people resign at the end of this year and that is the biggest turnover I have seen since arriving at CES. I underestimated the impact I had on my team. I am humbled by the experience and learned a very valuable lesson through this process.
The closing of the year event with faculty was not only beneficial, but provided a summary event in which the entire faculty, not just myself or a few key personnel, could see both our achievements and our challenges. This has been a challenging year for our building for many reasons, and during those struggles it is often easy to forget some of the positive, constructive achievements that were met, especially earlier in the year. Additionally, this activity allowed us as a group to not only continue reflection on what worked and what didn't for the year, but also to specify goals and action for the upcoming year that would address some of our weaker areas. The most important and beneficial aspects of this time came in the form of our group and individual reflection, as well as the opportunity to have everyone provide input and viewpoints. This served the purpose as well of ending the year on a positive note.
At our end of the year closing, we focused on shaping the culture for learning, revisiting our core beliefs, vision, and mission, and on transforming teaching and learning. We began the day be engaging in a team building Pirate Battle Game. We then revisited our core beliefs and revised them based on input from research and student and parent stakeholder groups. Next we developed our vision and mission statement. Our vision at EEI is to Encourage, Engage, and Inspire. This led us into the launching of "Teach Like a Pirate". It was a great way to bring closure to the year and begin to develop plans for the new year.
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