My Moment – Day 9 – Relationships Matter

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 
As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

Mr. Arend,

It’s been a while since we’ve talked! I remember winning the “Yes Sir Award” back in your 5th grade class at Centennial. I hope things are going well! I am currently at Texas A&M majoring in Kinesiology and looking to graduate in the next year. After college I am seeking to be a teacher/football coach and need help on how to go about this! I go back to school on the 18th and was seeing if you were available to meet up sometime (maybe I can bring lunch up to your school)? I am looking forward to seeing you!

The message above arrived in my inbox this week at work. The young man who wrote this email was in my 5th grade class in 2004. My second year of teaching. The #moment I read his email, I instantly went back to my classroom days and had fond memories of the time I spent with the students in my classroom. Reading this email (even again this evening, as I type this) I am reminded just how important the relationships we cultivate with students are. This email proves it. Here is a young man who is one year away from graduating college, back home over the winter break, seeking out his former 5th grade teacher asking for career advice. His mom is a teacher. He kind of knows how this works. Yet, he sought me out. 
I have to admit, I feel like I did something right. I read this email a couple of times, before responding. I was so honored and humbled. 
This afternoon, just after twelve o’clock, my former 5th grade student, the current Aggie, sat down with me and we caught up. He shared some of his college experiences, what he desires to do upon graduation and asked me some questions regarding how he could best go about securing a teaching/coaching position after graduation. We talked, we looked through the yearbook from 2004, which I proudly keep on my book shelf and laughed at both of our pictures. I was able to walk him around the building ending our time together with a great selfie. 
I am proud of this young man and I look forward to hearing from him as he completes his final year of college. 
As you walk into your classroom’s tomorrow or the next day or three months from now…do not underestimate the power you possess as a classroom teacher. The relationships you cultivate with your students matter. 
It is my hope that each teacher, at some point in their career, receives an email like this and is able to spend a #moment with a former student. 
Certainly one of my best #moments. 
What was your #moment today? 

My Moment – Day 8 – Who’s Coming With Me

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

I am ready! As a school leader, I find myself in the midst of evaluations, follow up conversations and sitting in meetings that are geared around instructional programming that is going to prepare students to pass our State of Texas STAAR test. Do you know what all of that leads to? It typically leads to teachers who are working way too hard. Much harder than their students. I do not like it. Teachers do not like it. It’s not that we all shouldn’t be working hard, but I want us working hard, doing the right kind of work. The kind of work that is inspirational. The kind of work that students will remember ten years from now. 


Why do we do this to ourselves? 

I am ready. I am ready for a change. I am ready to do things differently. There are days when I feel we are doing things differently and then there are days that I feel we are trapped. It is time to strip down what we do TO STUDENTS in school and start giving students opportunities to think. Ask questions. Listen to student voice/input. Solve problems. (Not in a workbook) Create. Problem Solve.  Have fun! That goes for the teachers too! 

Let’s focus our efforts beyond what is assessed on a test. Let’s focus our efforts on what is best for students. Let’s focus our efforts on experiences and opportunities students will remember. 

I am ready. Today’s #moment occurred during a break from my monthly principal’s meeting as two colleagues and I started a discussion about just how hard our teachers are working. Why? Why do we do it the way we do? Why do we only teach content areas in isolation? Why do we teaching certain content areas for a specified number of minutes? Why are we so stuck to teaching a curriculum, that at times, is not fun and engaging? 

Short answer: I have my opinions. Is it the right answer? Is it what is best for students? 

NO

I am ready! I am ready to do things differently. 

To quote a line from the movie Jerry McGuire – “Who’s coming with me?” 

What was your #moment today? 

My Moment – Day 7

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between. 

Grades! To be honest, I am not a huge fan. A lot of the work we do with students in grades 3rd-5th on my campus is done in a small group setting. The work is done following an I Do, We Do, You Do model and grades quite frankly do not always tell the story of how successful students are or are not being. I say that, yet out the other side of my mouth, I will tell you that I still print out a “honor roll/failure” list at the end of each nine weeks to see which students are “making the grade” and which students are not. Yes, it provides an opportunity to have conversations with teachers about who is doing well and who is not doing so well, but shouldn’t I be having those conversations already? Of course we should be; and we do. You know who I need to be talking to about the grades? The students. I do not do that enough. 

Today I did. I took a #moment. I took my reports and made my way around the campus today talking with students about their grades. What you need to know, is my conversation was not near as much about the number as it was about the effort. The effort! Isn’t that was really gets the grade to begin with? It is not about how much you know or how little you know, it is about the effort you put forth, how much you learn in the process and then how you can apply that learning in a new way. 

Through the conversations today, students would openly admit. “I was not doing my best.” “I need to focus more on my homework.” “I have already talked with my teacher and parents about this and we have a plan.” I was not worried about the number on the page or the grade it represents, I could careless. I want to know that students are giving their best. I want their best each day. I want them to work hard, I want them to overcome and I want them to understand, whatever obstacles they face, the minute they walk in the school doors, those obstacles stay outside. While they are at school, they are safe, they are able to succeed and when they give us their best…THEY WILL.

Educators around the country spend hundreds of thousands of dollars attending conferences, listening to speakers share stories of triumph. Listening to speakers share personal struggles they faced as a child and share how they were able to overcome those struggles and find success. I want my students to realize they can be the ones on the stage. They can be the ones sharing their stories of triumph. They can be the ones inspiring us all, because they did it. They refused to let their story, become their excuse. Their story, became their success.

That’s my #moment. I spent the day letting our students know their story can be worth sharing…if they want it to be.

What was your #moment today?

My Moment – Day 6 – Let Them Know

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between. 

As the sunsets on Monday, I find myself having to choose between three #moments that I would love to share with you. I could share about my #moment which would detail how I am starting a 14 day cleanse and have not had a drop of caffeine today. Or, I could share the #moment I spent eavesdropping on a conversation about “Codetalkers”, a story students will be reading  that takes place during WWII. (I have to elaborate on this just a bit) Students were asked to share what they know about WWII…Did you know Emmitt Smith served in WWII before signing with the Dallas Cowboys? After all, we are in the state of Texas and this young man is a HUGE football fan, but after a quick Google Search we sadly had to let him know that Emmitt was born in 1969, long after WWII.

While those are both honorable #moments, I have decided to go another route. We recently named an amazing teacher within our building as our 2016 experienced teacher of the year. As the principal, I am required to submit a letter of recommendation, highlighting why I feel this candidate should be recognized as the district elementary experienced teacher of the year. Through the nomination process, we ask staff to select a teacher who they feel would be a good representative and then have them explain why they feel that way. The why’s are powerful! In fact, I incorporate the statements within my letter of recommendation, to show I am not the only one who feels strongly that this candidate should be considered for the district elementary teacher of the year. 

After submitting my letter of recommendation, I emailed the teacher a copy of it, letting her know it was a honor and privilege to write a letter for her. (If you ask me, she has already won the award) It was her response that made me pause for a #moment and reminded me just how powerful my words can be as a principal.

Every teacher should get a letter like this and keep it in their  “I am having a bad day” folder and reread it along with your thank you notes to get teachers back on track.”

I took the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to write a thank you letter to each one of our staff members, thanking them for everything they do to support our students, staff, parents & me. I know it is important. I know I need to do it more often. I know I need to find a #moment to make it happen. Reading this statement today, just makes me realize how important it is…for both of us. 
When was the last time you wrote a letter or a thank you card to the teachers on your staff on teachers on your team? Be sure to take a #moment. 
What was your #moment today? 















Enjoy the Moment – Day 5 – Listen

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between. 

Friday. Friday at the end of the first week back in 2016. There was something special about this Friday. Today was the day, students in each grade level had a pizza lunch with the principal. 

Prior to our winter break, we held a school wide assembly as we do at the conclusion of each of our nine week periods. During the assembly, we draw names of students (two from each grade level) that will be awarded the opportunity to eat pizza with the principal. I know there are some diehard “I believe in intrinsic motivation” folks out there, but just hang in there with me. ALL students have an opportunity to have their name drawn for our pizza lunch if they choose to make a purchase from the school store and ALL students can choose to make a purchase. 

I have been looking forward to the pizza lunch since the beginning of the week. I am able to sit down with 12 students, two from each grade level KN-5th grade and two selected staff members are able to join us as well. We eat pizza, we ask questions and most importantly, we enjoy the #moment. 

I secretly take advantage of the time together and use the student group as a sounding board to help give me a student perspective of how they feel things are going around campus. They tell me what they like. They tell me what they do not like. They tell me what they wish they had more of. They tell me what they wish they did not have to do. Do you ever take a #moment to ask these types of questions to the students in your classroom or on your campus? 

The last question I asked the group of students today was, “What is one thing you want to do at school in 2016 that you did not get to do in 2015?” 

– more activities with electricity
– more hands on math activities
– more science experiments
– football at recess (our students play a lot of soccer)
– learn my letters (an up and coming kindergarten student)
– wider variety of after school sports clubs (currently we offer soccer)
– win the spirit stick during the nine week assemblies 
– gymnastics club
– karate club
– learn 5th grade music (from a 1st grade student with a 5th grade sister)
– play more instruments with students (music teacher who is currently using a ukulele with students)
– create volcanoes
– win the science fair

What an amazing list! If you study that list, does it tell you anything about the interests of our students? How much more could we learn if we just took a #moment to really listen to our students. 

What was your #moment today? 













Enjoy the Moment – Day 4

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between. 

I have been given an amazing opportunity to work side by side with some of the best principals across the state of Texas this year through the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute. Over the course of the school year I meet with my cohort (PI5) to discuss how we can transform the learning within our school districts and buildings to provide students with experiences and opportunities that will prepare them for a future that does not exist. 

Through the visioning institute, I have been able to develop relationships with fellow administrators who are outside of my daily circle of influence in Plano ISD. I am proud of where I work, however I know creativity and innovation exists outside of my bubble and through these relationships, I am able to strengthen my capacity to be innovative and creative in my role, on my campus. If you have an opportunity to break outside of your bubble, I highly encourage you to do so. It is a tremendous opportunity to gather ideas and see how liked minded folks are making it happen!

Through the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute, I am highly encouraged to visit the campuses of fellow cohort members and today I was able to spend some quality time with two of my cohort members, @loriebratcher & @TisonPrincipal. (Both are amazing leaders and have something to offer us all…follow them on Twitter) Over the course of about an hour and a half I was able to walk them around the halls of Sigler Elementary showcasing our students and staff and boasting about the phenomenal job they do. 

The best #moment for me, came at the conclusion of our tour, when the three of us were able to sit back down and just have a conversation surrounding innovative ways to create more time in a school day for teachers. Time is the one thing we never have enough of and can never get more of. Through seeing and hearing how others are creating time for teachers to talk, plan, reflect and grow, it makes me reflect on our practices. It does not mean our practices need to change, but it does challenge my thinking. 

I appreciate the #moment @loriebratcher & @TisonPrincipal shared with me today and hope to visit both of their campuses in the future.

When was the last time in the middle of your day, you stopped for a #moment to have someone or something challenge your thinking? 

What was your #moment today? 


Enjoy the Moment – Day 3 – “Keep it 100”

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between. 

One of the things I love most about returning from winter break is hearing about the gifts students received and seeing the new clothes our students come to school in. 

The first week back from break is not a busy one for me as far as meetings and being off campus, so I have been relishing the time I have on campus and spending much of it in classrooms and connecting with students in the hallways. This afternoon I was walking by our cafeteria during one of those times where one grade level is entering, one grade level is exiting and I found myself smack dab in the middle of the transition. Instead of fighting my way through the near 150 students, I simply planted some roots and gave high fives, hugs and exchanged smiles with as many of them as I could. As lines dwindled and my high fives ceased, I could not help but notice an outfit on one of our students. His t-shirt, vest and pants were a combination I had never seen and the words “Keep it 100” were printed squarely on the center of the t-shirt with the number 100 scattered across the vest and pants. Upon seeing this, I had to let this young man know just how amazing I thought he was dressed and out of my own curiosity, I had to ask him, “What does “Keep it 100″ mean?” The following dialogue occurred:

Student: “Um, I don’t know. Getting a 100 on a test? My mom got this for me.” 
Me: “So if I saw you on the street this weekend and I told you to “Keep it 100” that would mean you need to get a 100 on your test? 
Student: shrugging his shoulders “Um, yes?”
Me: “Do you take tests on Saturdays?”
Student: laughing “No.”
Me: “So then what does “Keep it 100″ mean?”
Student: “I do not know? Can we look it up?”
Me: “Of course.”
So we take a moment and look up the term “Keep it 100”. What in the world did we do before Urban Dictionary? I take a glance at the definition and share the following sentence: 
“I gotta stay focused and keep it 100 these last few weeks of high school so I can get into college.” 

As soon as I finished sharing the sentence the student’s eyes lit up and he said, “I know what it means! It means you need to stay focused!” (not exactly, but in this #moment, I thought it was the perfect response)
I gave a high five and told him to “Keep it 100” and he was on his way. This comical back and forth was just the #moment I needed in the middle of my day. I never lose appreciation for the innocence our students possess. 
Until my next #moment, you know I am going to “keep it 100”. 
What was your #moment today? 

Enjoy the Moment – Day 2

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

The second semester of school officially began today as students returned after teachers had a professional learning day yesterday. As expected, we had students that did not return. Some withdrew and enrolled in another campus within the district, some moved to another district within the state and unfortunately, there are some students that were not there today and we hope they return tomorrow. However, for each student that did not return, we had one that enrolled and today was their first day. Throughout the morning we had five new students enroll. It is exciting to get to know the students and families as they complete the enrollment paperwork. I get to know their names, their interests, what they liked most about their previous campus and sometimes what they didn’t like. It’s amazing how much or how little you can find out about students while they are waiting for their parents to complete paperwork. Every now and then parents will come to enroll and not have all of the necessary documentation they need for their children to begin. They fill out what they can, take some items with them or let us know they will be back later in the day with the documents they need for their child to begin.

After a conversation with one mother and daughter today, it became obvious they did not have everything they needed and they would be coming back later. I said my good-bye and went about my day. After about fifteen minutes, I was informed they were still in the front office and were interested in being shown around. They asked if I had a #moment.

The minute I let them know we could walk around, this soon to be Sigler student, would not stop smiling. She was able to walk around her new school and of course, it was better than her old one. Her mother was so excited to be able to see where her daughter would be checking out books, eating lunch, attending music, art and PE and where exactly her daughter’s grade level was. As we made our way back to the office, I asked the young lady what she thought, “This school is awesome.” “It’s better than my old school.”

It was worth the #moment.

I love showing parents and students around our campus and take great pride in the program we offer our community. It would have been easy for me to ask someone else to show them around or let them know we would do it tomorrow when they returned, but I needed a #moment and so did they.

They asked if I had a #moment to show them around. Little did they know, it was the #moment I would share with you.

What was your #moment today?

Enjoy the Moment – Day 1

If you have not gotten a chance to read my blog about my #oneword for 2016, check out Enjoy the Moment. 

As I mentioned in my blog, my #oneword is a call to action for me to be mindful of the moments that make up my day. The moments at home, the moments at work and the moments that happen in between.

As teachers returned to school today, (students tomorrow) I was excited to get our family back together and see how everyone spent their winter break. We planned a breakfast and invited some of our friends from Plano Family Literacy, @NCFL and some central administrators from Plano ISD as we learned more about family literacy and the program we are building at Sigler.

As teachers were enjoying breakfast I could see their wheels turning. I could teachers creating their to-do lists. I could see the anxiousness build as they were eager to get into their rooms, start planning with their teams and make the necessary adjustments as students return tomorrow.

What the teachers did not know is that I was also anxious. I was anxious about the time we used sharing information about @NCFL and family literacy. It is important. Family literacy will positively impact what we are doing as a campus, but I know teachers wanted to be in their rooms, getting ready for the next day.

As we concluded the morning’s activities and teachers slowly made their way to lunch and back to their grade levels, I said my good-byes to our friends from Plano Family Literacy and @NCFL and took quick glance at my email.

One email titled “Thank You” stood out and while I did not have time to read them all, I did take a #moment to read this one. It was from a teacher in our building that had just sat through our informative session where she learned more about family literacy and how this program will positively impact the students and families within our community.


I was amazed to learn all the facets of the family literacy program and so proud that we have it here at Sigler to impact our families and community.  Thank you soooooo much for your part in bringing the program to Sigler!”
The #moment I spent reading this email, meant a lot. The teachers have so many things they could be doing, but this teacher took a #moment and shared her thoughts with me. The #moment this teacher took to share her thoughts led to my #moment I am sharing with you. 
What was your #moment today? 

Enjoy the Moment

The hashtag #oneword has captured the attention of many as the calendar turns to 2016. While some commit to resolutions for the new year, others have chosen a single word to use as a call to action. Personally, I prefer selecting #oneword over a resolution. #Oneword is a call to action, while a resolution is a statement to make a change. Change is hard people. It is why many resolutions fizzle out after a few days, weeks or months. (Present company’s past resolutions serve as a perfect example)

So, rather than sharing my resolution, I present you with my #oneword for 2016, #MOMENT. Life is full of them…if I take the time to notice. As I reflected over the last year, I am not sure I took the time to truly enjoy the #moment.


The good news is, I have recognized it. I have called it what it is. Now what? My #oneword for 2016 is going to be my reminder. My daily call to action that supports me in seeking out the moments that occur during a day. The moments I can highlight, recognize and celebrate.

As I return for the second semester of school on Monday, there are going to be numerous times a day to enjoy the #moment. There is time before school, when I am getting ready at home and my 4 year old son is just waking up and wants daddy’s attention. Will I take advantage and enjoy the #moment? There is time during the school day, when students are eager to share their stories and just want someone to listen. Will I take advantage and enjoy the #moment? There is time after school once students have been dismissed, when teachers are planning, collaborating and brainstorming how to be their best for their students. Will I take advantage and enjoy the #moment? There is time when I get home. The time at home may provide the best #moment if I am looking for it. Many times I come home, tired from the day, just ready to relax, but I am missing the #moment. The #moment may be helping my wife in the kitchen or playing with my son who has not seen me all day. Will I take advantage and enjoy the #moment?

My #oneword for 2016 is going to be my reminder to enjoy the moment and take advantage of it.

How will you know if my #oneword serves its purpose? So glad you asked.

Beginning Monday, January 4th, I will be sharing what my #moment is for the day. Sharing one moment, Monday-Friday between now and the end of the school year will be my call to action. Each day I will be intentional about seeking out a moment I can highlight, recognize and celebrate. Best of all, I will celebrate my #moment with you.