Saturday, August 27, 2016

High Fives and Hugs

Last year my intervention class wasn’t worth any school credits, although a required part of each of my student's Individual Education Plans.  I quickly learned I had to find ways to motivate my high school students.  I started weekly trivia that earned them points towards semester pizza parties and then everyone earned “Candy Fridays”

I worked hard last year advocating for my students, and now they get a well deserved credit for my class. This year I decided to eliminate “Candy Friday” for two reasons.  
  1. They’re now getting their credit
  2. Selfishly, I don’t want the candy around me.

This week a student, J, walked in said, “It’s Candy Friday!”

“Sorry J, we’re not doing Candy Friday this year.  How about High Fives and Hugs instead?”

After a little stare…

“That’s cool.  You know, I haven’t been hugged since, like, elementary school.”

“Yeh, most teachers don’t hug after elementary school, huh?”

J laughs and says, “No, I mean by anyone.  You know my dad doesn’t do that stuff”

J is an 18 year old student who struggles with reading and writing.  He lives with dad, uncle and twin brother.  They moved here when he was in 8th grade from Kenya.   His mother is still there. J struggles with making the right decisions and he makes some pretty bad ones unfortunately.

Yes, J needs the educational support that we provide him, but he needs so much more.  He needs support, care, and someone to guide and cheer him on. There are many students in our buildings exactly like him.  Are we doing EVERYTHING we can to ensure that we’re meeting their needs? What will each of us do to look for and support the Js in our buildings?

Yes, J got a hug as he left on Friday.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What THEY are saying!

Building relationships with my students is a #1 priority for me. As an Intervention Specialist, I am fortunate to get to have my students over multiple years. I thought I knew my students really well, but I was blown away the last two days getting to know my new freshman and the upperclassmen even better!

I started my first day with a large bag of M&Ms. We went around sharing highlights of summer, our goals and unknown fun facts!  It was a fun way for my groups to get to know one another.  

On day two I asked them to fill out a survey for me as I met 1:1 with the students. I was amazed with my student's openness and transparency about school.  Please keep in mind that these are all high school students who have some type of IEP.

Survey Takeaways we can all benefit from:

“When taking notes, it’s sometimes hard to keep up.  Once a teacher stared at me and told me to write faster - I was trying!”

“I want to succeed this year.  Graduation is close.”

“I wish teachers would talk with one another.  It’s hard when I have more than a couple of tests on one day.”

“I wish teachers would make class more interesting like they did in elementary school.  I need to move around.”

“I wish teachers knew how hard reading was for me.  I’m not like most high school students.”

“I want to prove to everyone that I CAN be successful at school this year.”

“I wish principals would enforce the dress code more.”

“I’m looking forward to getting on honor roll this year!”

“I sometimes feel like I am bothering teachers when I ask questions.  I wish teachers would try to explain things in different ways.”

“I wish school started a little later in the day.”

“The hardest part about school is getting back on track missing something or being absent.  As hard as you try it keeps getting harder and teachers just keep moving on.”

“I know it’s hard for me to stay focused, but I don’t like it when teachers say something to me about it in front of the whole class.”

“A great teacher is one you can always go to and ask questions to even if you’re not in their class.  You just trust them.”

“I like hands-on learning.  Why don’t we do more of that?”

“A great teacher will help me with my goal of getting good grades and being eligible for sports.”

“I wish teachers wouldn’t call on me in class, I’m shy.  I wish they would talk to me on my own.”

“I feel like we try to cram a lot of stuff in a period sometimes.  It makes it hard to focus when we do that.”

“I like the teachers that I have this year.  I’m excited!”

“I wish teachers knew I have really bad anxiety.”

AND…  just because I do teach high school… “The best part of school is all the cute girls!”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"The Edge"

I was born and raised in a suburb of Columbus.  I did both rounds of my graduate work at The Ohio State University, so suffice to say, I’m a HUGE Buckeye fan.  So yesterday, when Urban Meyer stated that the motto for the 2016 Football Buckeyes was going to be “The Edge” I wanted to learn more.

“The Edge is where the average stop and the elite begins.” The Edge is intended to symbolize a point where the work in practice becomes very difficult and great players persevere while average players give up.

As educators and school leaders we need to push ourselves to “the edge” as we start this new school year.

  • We must try new things and take risks.  Don’t be afraid of failure, but rather afraid of what you may miss if you don’t try.
  • We must set goals for ourselves, both personally and professionally.  Have accountability checks with people you trust.
  • We must meet new people.  We learn and grow from others.  Meet the new staff in your building - all the staff, not just the teachers, and really talk to them.  Grow your Personal Learning Network as well.
  • We must be present - give 100% to the students and building you are serving. Leave the negativity behind.
  • We must define our “why” and revisit this often.  Don’t ever forget why you chose education as your profession. Make it your passion.
  • We must have fun.  Take time to laugh and truly enjoy what you are doing.
  • We must be kind.  Even on the hardest days, take a step back, take a step outside, but be kind.

Make this the year you find your edge!


Monday, August 1, 2016

School Leaders -- I'm Hiring!

I just finished my school administration master’s and the ink is still drying on my license. Sure, I learned the pedagogy behind school administration, school law, human resources, etc. I was so lucky to be able to complete a wonderful internship at both the elementary and high school level and had great mentors.  But now I’m done, well, with the requirements. Now what?

I can tell you I’m not done.  I crave learning and will continue to seek out learning opportunities.  This is my passion and a future goal that I will continue to strive for.  As a connected educator I am fortunate to be connected with other educators and leaders. I read blogs, books, and participate in Twitter chats, but I’m sure there is still a lot that I am missing. So, I’m hiring school leaders who will continue to help me grow as a future school leader!
tom peters.jpeg

I recently saw Tom Peters’ quote “True leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders” as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed.  As a school leader I challenge you to the following:

  • Find the aspiring leaders in your building and offer sound advice. Have conversations with these staff members and share your experiences with them. Tell us the good, the bad and the ugly.  It’s really the only way we’ll know if this is what we truly are passionate about. Message me - I want to hear it!
  • Share resources.  Find a great article? Find a great blog?  Know of a great book? Share!  We want to learn and grow.  Yes, we learn in school, but the “real” is what we will benefit from the most!
  • Have a great conference or PD opportunity that you know about?  Please tell us.  We don’t hear about the opportunities in fields that we aren’t a part of yet.  Same with EdChats - invite us!  We may lurk, but again, that’s how we learn.
  • Let us join you in presenting or allow us to present at staff meetings.  Can we assist or lead on a project?  Ask us our ideas, maybe we have an idea that we would like to try to implement.  
  • Be a mentor!  Seek out teachers going through their admin program in your school or in your district and ask “How can I help?”.  Even better - contact a local university that is working with aspiring administrators and ask to present or mentor a student! Again, many of us want to see the authentic side to school administration.

We’re the next generation of school leaders.  We look up to you.  We can only be as great as those who guide and teach us.

Are you willing to accept my job offer - will you help me grow and learn? I’m ready to hire!