Day 44 My Moment – Spring Break

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.

February is a loooooonnnnnngggg month! Funny to think about, since it is actually the shortest month, as far as days within the month…even with this year being a leap year. What’s the recipe for recovering from a long month? Two words. Spring Break. 

While today was a great day at school, sharing takeaways and feedback from last night’s open house, I could not help but think about the upcoming days off from school. Spring break is officially upon us. Do you take the time to unplug, relax and recharge during spring break? What does that look like for you? 

I will be stepping away from Twitter for the week, diving into a few books that have already stacked up on the corner of my desk…otherwise known as my “summer reading list” and spending some time with my son. 

I cannot reiterate the importance of stepping away from the work, if only for one week, to relax and recharge so we may finish strong when we come back on March 14th. 

I look forward to spending time with my son, making new memories and relishing in the moments we have together. 

Whether your spring break is this week or next, I trust you will find time to unplug, relax and recharge. 

You deserve it! 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 43 – Proud Principal

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.

Concessions, prizes, fitness stations, Sphero mini-golf, used book fair, candid family pictures, a blinking welcome sign, classrooms full of theme park rides, experiences and games designed by students, teachers with the deepest desire for students to succeed and a building full of parents who understand the importance of being present for their children. I am not sure we had room for anything else. Tonight included all of the above as we opened Siglerland. Just look at the crowd that gathered before parents and students made their way down to the classrooms. 

It was just an idea. An idea that started by asking, “How can we do this different?” Open house is a tradition in elementary schools across the country, but the activities, student work and overall feel for open house does not need to be traditional. Make it different. 

Earlier today a teacher asked if this “different” turned out the way I wanted it to. Honestly, I did not have a baseline of what my expectations were. I wanted it to be different. I wanted it to be student centered. I wanted it to be fun and engaging for our parents, families, students and teachers. Had we accomplished that? I thought so. Would we do it different if we had to repeat it? Somethings, yes. We learn through the process. So, did tonight turn out the way I wanted it to? 

Absolutely! 

Tonight turned out the way WE wanted it to for three reasons. 

1. Students were proud of what they created. Students were proud to bring their parents into the school they attend daily. Students were proud of the process they were able to share leading to an authentic learning experience.

2. Teachers embraced the idea of doing something different. It started as an idea. The difference between a good idea and one that never happens are the people that make it happen. In this case, it was the mindset of teachers. Teachers who did not get caught up in “how it looked” but focused more on the process and the potential students can reach when given the time, opportunity and experience. 

3. Parents who recognize the importance of what their students and teachers are doing. We had a full house! Attending open house is a choice. Yes, we advertise, we encourage parents to attend, but we cannot make them. Parents, grandparents, relatives and siblings turned out in droves to experience Siglerland. The comments that were shared with me from grandparents, parents and children help answer the question I was met with earlier today. 

Did Siglerland turn out the way I wanted it to? Yes! I know that because the feedback received, the smiles on parents and students faces and the sense of accomplishment on each of the teachers faces as we all realized we did this! 

It’s the moment. It’s the moment at the end of the night, when the building is quiet. It’s when the building is empty and the families, students and teachers have left for the night. It is the moment when I am left standing in the middle of the building realizing the success WE; teachers, students and families had during Siglerland that warms my heart. It is the moment in the eerie silence that I am reminded once again, I am one #proudprincipal. 

Thank you teachers, thank you parents and thank you students for making #Siglerland and huge success! 

Check out some images from Siglerland by clicking here

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 37 – Our Students are Worth It

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.

Today was #WRAD16. As I mentioned in yesterday’s moment, I do not do anything halfway so we went big today and it was amazing! 

The staff and students at Sigler Elementary participated in #SiglerRAD focusing our work on “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires. Our day started at 9AM as students at Sigler, joined by a number of other Plano ISD campuses participated in a live reading of “The Most Magnificent Thing” via this @Zaption: http://zapt.io/t8e26uh6 and participated in a live Q&A via Twitter using the questions embedded within the Zaption, including the hashtag #SiglerRAD. Thank you to the Plano ISD campuses that contributed to our chat and #SiglerRAD.

Check out the @Storify of all the students’ responses: https://storify.com/matthew_arend/siglerrad

What you may notice in the @Storify is that there were campuses participating outside of Plano ISD as well. As a connected educator, I had sent out many tweets over the last week or so, encouraging other educators to join and connect during our #SiglerRAD (Read Aloud Day) and they did not disappoint.

In fact, the connections did not stop there. Following our live 9AM reading of “The Most Magnificent Thing” classrooms across Sigler Elementary were able to connect via Google Hangouts with students in classrooms outside of Plano ISD who had read the same book and wanted to share their answers with us. We connected with other elementary schools in Texas, including OC Taylor Elementary in Grapvine-Colleyville ISD and Sheldon Elementary in Sheldon ISD. The connections did not stop there. Students were also able to connect with campuses outside of Texas, including Carlisle Elementary in Arkansas. On Friday, we will follow up with an elementary school in Florida!

We live in a digital world and we must leverage the opportunities to connect our students with others both near and far with the technology we have access to. I was able to witness the joy and how proud students felt when they were able to share their answers. The work had a purpose. They were not just writing down answers that were inevitably going to end up in a trash can. Students were generating answers to questions they were going to share with an authentic audience of their peers, both online and face to face, regardless of how far apart they lived. My hope is that this experience today, leads to more connections with campuses, allowing our students to share learning experiences with peers that move beyond who we are sitting in the same room with, our even the same school district or state.

Events such as this take a little bit of planning, patience and flexibility, because as you know, technology does not always cooperate. I have to share a heart-felt thank you to the staff at Sigler Elementary who put the “curriculum” on hold for a moment today, allowing students to connect with authentic audiences across the state and country via Twitter, Google Hangouts or both. Regardless of the comfort level teachers held in using these technologies, everybody took a step outside their “comfort zones” today to bring a unique experience and opportunity into their classrooms for the students. We all realize…”It is not about us, it is about our students.” Our students are worth taking the risks!

As for the members of my PLN that made this happen across multiple school districts and states…thank you! This is another glowing example of the power of a PLN.

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 35 – When No One is Watching

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.

“Because I won’t get in trouble.” Six words that have stuck with me since 10AM.

Behavior management in an elementary school is like peanut butter & jelly. The two just go together. When educating students between the ages of 5-11 there needs to be a consistent management system in place for students to learn from, teachers to references, parents to follow through with and most importantly, to outline expectations for each of the students. At a minimum, a common language between students and staff. But…at the end of the day, it is never about a program or system. It is about people. In this case, it is about the relationships established between educators and students and what fills the moments in between.

Looking for an example of what I am referencing…check out this blog post written by @Jonharper70bd “His Smile”.  Relationship matter!

I had just wrapped up a meeting with a team of teachers this morning as I walked down the hallway and saw it. I saw the way a student and a teacher were walking back into the grade level as if something had just happened and by the body language I was seeing, it was not a good thing. The student I am referencing just happened to be a topic of conversation with the grade level I had just left. I had let the team of teachers know I would be making an increased effort to connect with this student, multiple times a day…just checking in. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I shared my plan, I would have an opportunity to begin connecting, immediately.

Like most things do, when you are having discussions involving behavior, a small deal becomes a big deal, relatively quick and involves more than just the one or two students you are speaking with. This was the case today. As I worked through the conversations, with both small groups of students and with individuals, I was reminded that our work is not done. Then I heard this statement, “Because I won’t get in trouble.” It was like a punch to the gut.

After talking with a couple of our students and getting to the bottom of what occurred, why it occurred and sharing why it should not occur again, I asked the students what they would do differently if they were in the same position again tomorrow. They answered…it was a great answer. Then I asked them why.

Their response: “Because I won’t get in trouble.”

Wrong answer.

I want students to make the choices they make because it is the right thing to do. Not because they “won’t get in trouble.” I tell our students it is not about the decisions you make when the teacher is around. If you make a poor choice with a teacher around, you get a reminder of the expectations. It is about the decisions you make when no one is watching. It is what defines you. It is your character. It is who you are as a person.

I am not sure why, but we dedicate ourselves (generally) to teaching math, science, reading…all the core content areas, but I wonder…why don’t we specifically teach behavior? Sure, we seize opportunities as teachable moments, but do we consistently teach behavior? Do we just expect students to walk in the door knowing how to add and subtract or multiply fractions? Of course not. We teach that. Why do we expect them to walk in the door knowing how to meet our behavior expectations without teaching them? I can think of all the easy answers, but I cannot think of a good one.

I look forward to the moments this student and I will have over the next several days & weeks, celebrating success and learning from the moments that are not our best.

My goal…the student’s character is built and we make better decisions when no one is watching because it is the right thing to do.

My Moment – Day 34 – Movie Night

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 to take a moment and make a shameless plug for the #NoOfficeDay. I was able to complete another #NoOfficeDay today, spending my entire day with the students and teachers in 1st grade. I strongly encourage you to check out the tweets today from @SiglerStars to check out my experience. While you are there, be sure to follow our @SiglerStars1st grade Twitter account. The students and teachers are looking to connect, share and learn from other connected classrooms and educators. As great of a day as today was, my moment actually happened after school. In fact, it is happening right now. Yesterday, I posted a moment that was a “celebrating parents” and as I currently sit in the front entry way of Sigler Elementary (yes, its 7:30PM), I can look up and see four empowered parents manning a concession stand for the students and families here for our Sigler Movie Night. Do you host movie nights at your campus? 

Three to four times a year, we open up our Sigler Gym and invite families to bring chairs, blankets & pillows to enjoy a night at the movies, right here at Sigler Elementary. Families come out, together (students cannot come alone) and simply enjoy being together as a family…at school. 

Movies can be expensive for a family of four. I know when I take my family, we can easily spend of $50. Why not give families the opportunity to grab dinner (bring it, to movie night), purchase a soda, popcorn or candy bar for a fraction of the price and enjoy a movie together, for free? Sounds like a no brainer…right? 

As this is my 34th moment, you can probably tell by now, I value relationships. I value culture. I value the community understanding their elementary school belongs to them. I believe it is our responsibility to provide opportunities for our school community to come together as a family for both academic and non-academic events. I want our parents to be comfortable enough being on campus, to simply come. If they are comfortable coming to campus for movie night, they will be more inclined to come for other events scheduled throughout the school year. 

As we know students will not truly embrace learning until they feel safe within their environments. Don’t you think the same is to be said about parents feeling safe within the same environment? 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 33 – Celebrating Parents

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.

At the beginning of the school year I challenged all of our parents to find their place within our school community. It started by setting up ice cream socials within the neighborhood to connect and be present. No pressure to attend, no sales pitch. Just the opportunity for parents to be reminded their children attend a school that is truly a part of the community. Building on momentum created over the summer and into the school months, we challenged parents to be one of three things. We challenged parents to be informed, be involved or be empowered. Each of our parents is at a different place and depending upon where they are, they have the opportunity to be one of these three things. So what do these three things mean? 

Informed
Being an informed parent means you are knowledgeable about what is taking place within your son/daughter’s school day. Parents may be informed by notes/fliers that are sent home, by receiving emails, checking social media or by simply talking with their children and checking their agenda. As a campus, we use a variety of communication options and I tease parents, “If you do not know what is taking place at school, it is because you are choosing to be un-informed and that is unacceptable.” 

Involved
Throughout the school year we host a series of parent learning opportunities, after school music performances and school wide events in addition to the more traditional parent conferences, class parties and volunteer opportunities that exist in an elementary school setting. An involved parent is in attendance at some of these events. I will be the first to admit, it is not reasonable to expect every parent to attend every event, but an involved parent will do their best to attend the events that meet their needs and support their son/daughter’s development. 

Empowered 
All parents can be difference makers in one way or another. By being informed you support making a difference through the conversations and expectations you hold for your children. By being involved, you support your children and the school community through your participation. Then you have the parents who are informed, involved and empowered. The empowered parent is the parent who is on campus, creating the involvement opportunities, rallying other parents to become more involved and stops at nothing to create the parent/school partnership we desire to build and sustain. 

Tonight I will be attending a PTA Lifetime Achievement Award Banquet recognizing PTA members and parents who have made contributions, both big and small to the schools their children attend. It’s easy to recognize the empowered parents at an event such as this, and to be honest, I am not sure where I would be without our group of Sigler Elementary empowered parents, but do not forget about the involved and informed parents. These are the quiet parents. They come in, attend events when they can, support the heck out of our teachers and then they leave, feeling proud of being a part of a school community that recognizes they are giving what they have to give. I am blessed to be a part of a school community who supports the campus vision, supports the teachers and staff, embraces the same values and ultimately wants what is best for ALL students. 

Tonight we will recognize PTA members who are making a difference in schools, but as I walk across the stage, pausing to share the moment with the deserving,  I will be celebrating ALL of our parents. Whether they are informed, involved or empowered, each plays a role that is invaluable to the work we do in schools and the work we do at Sigler Elementary. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 29 – Where Are Your Students Going?

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.

Do students in your school know where they are going? I am not talking about what they are doing this weekend or where they are going after school. I am talking about the big picture. Do students in your school know where they are going when they complete all the grade levels you have to offer?

I would like to think the students at Sigler Elementary are familiar with where they are going. Some are aware because they have big brothers or big sisters who have paved the way before them, while others are aware because they are familiar with the neighborhood. For the students who do not have big brothers or big sisters and for the students who are not as familiar with the neighborhood, it is important to me for them to know what campus they will be attending next. Thankfully, it is important to the administration and staff at Wilson Middle School as well. Over the last couple of years we have been working as a feeder system to increase our involvement with one another and exposing our students to what school is like after elementary. At Sigler, we invite students to come back and share experiences as a part of our Future’s Day Speaker Series, administrators are invited to come speak with students, counselors come visit with our 5th grade students and when schedules work, the jazz band and cheerleaders will join us for a spirit assembly or two. At Wilson, our 5th grade students spend a day on campus, as if they are already in 6th grade. They participate in a spirit assembly, eat lunch in the cafeteria and hear from current middle school students about what they can expect when they do become 6th graders. They do all of this in the coolest of tie-dyed t-shirts compliments of Wilson. Our growing partnership with one another is healthy! I want it to continue to grow. 

As a part of our partnership, today, students in the Theater 3 class at Wilson Middle School came to Sigler to perform their musical, Swamp Land. I love seeing middle school students come back to an elementary school and listen to the memories they share. I love seeing middle school students come back to their old elementary school as was the case today. We had one of our former Sigler students return as a member of the theater class. We had a few minutes to catch up and I had a few minutes to speak with his grandfather who accompanied the middle school students. It was great. I was proud of this young man’s accomplishments and enjoyed hearing his grandfather perspective on his grandson’s middle school experience. 

Throughout the last five years the relationship between Sigler Elementary and Wilson Middle School has blossomed. I am encouraged by the relationships and connections we have created with administrators, counselors and teachers and would like to think, in some small way, we are preparing our students to have a better understanding of where they are going. 

What types of things do you do to partner with your feeder campuses?

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 23 – Play

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.

Day 23! The sports fanatic in me would love nothing more than go incorporate a Michael Jordan theme into my moment for today, but in all honesty, I just cannot do it. Probably better for the both of us, as I am more of a Kobe fan anyway. 

Yesterday students and staff at Sigler Elementary participated in the #GSPD2016 which I shared briefly with you yesterday. Embracing the idea of #GSPD2016 was easier for some than others, but as I returned to campus today and spoke with several of the teachers and students about their experiences, each person I spoke with had one thing in common. Each of them shared a smile while they were expressing their reflections. Students were simply excited at the notion they were able to play while others were completely unaware of the fact that they were still learning. Teachers gained insight into into how their students learn during their time playing. They discovered gaps, realized how working memory impacts students and most importantly, discovered that a different approach to learning, while risky, can work! Did I mention the stress levels decreased too? 

Each of my moments thus far have highlighted aspects of my day while I have been working. It is not thought I do not have moments outside of the school day. The truth is, I start typing most of my posts before I leave school, long before my moments at home, with my family begin. 

The current time is 8:26PM, which means my one and only son, Cooper has just gone to bed, leaving me the entire day to find my moment (I told you I was trying to find a way to incorporate MJ…I waited as long as I could). Although #GSPD2016 is behind us, does it mean we have to stop playing? Easy answer…no. Tonight, in the spirit of #GSPD2016, we decided to play a little bit at our house before bed. Cooper opened up the game cabinet and his game of choice…Chutes and Ladders – Super Hero Squad Edition. Just in playing with him for 30 minutes, it was so clear why students and teachers enjoyed yesterday. Play incorporate so much learning. Students, including Cooper, problem solve, practice number sense, learn to take turns, learn to be observant and respect others when it is not their turn and learn how to cope with losing and winning. Equally important to the learning that can occur, playing is fun. We laughed, we joked and celebrated the victory as Cooper landed his Iron Man place maker on the number 100. 

On a day where I returned to campus with a inbox full of emails, a building full of teachers and students I hadn’t seen in almost a week I put the people first and the work second. I figured, I can do the work later. 

As I arrived home, welcomed by my family, I could have done the work. 

I took a moment to play. 

What was your moment today? 

My Moment – Day 22 – Connecting Your Campus

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.

Today was my final day in #ATX (hopefully for a while). While I absolutely loved the learning and connecting I am ready to be home.

Yesterday, I was able to present “Connecting Your Campus” at #TCEA16 and today I am witnessing the power of being on a “connected campus”.

Today is Global School Play Day 2016. A day dedicated to returning play to classrooms around the world. You can read more about #GSPD2016, but just know that over 170,000 students around the world learned in a different way today while at school. I could quickly begin another blog post about why everyday should be like this, but for the purpose of this post, I will spare you my soap box. The important thing to focus on is that students learned in a different way today. It was a day that had purposeful play and engage students in activities in each of our grade levels. The bad part…I was not there. However, at the same time…I was. Teachers across the building posted pictures and tweeted to the hashtag #GSPD2016 and I was able to keep up every step of the way.

Consider how many parents are interested in seeing what their children are doing in school throughout the day. Does your school give them an opportunity to see what their children are doing? Are you a connected campus?

While watching the videos and fun unfold through images is not the same as being in the classrooms seeing it, I was just as proud of our students and teachers for embracing the idea of #GSPD2016 and engaging students in activities that allowed them to play. I am excited to get back home and hear their feedback.

In the meantime, I thank each of our teachers from the bottom of my heart, for including me and all of the others who enjoyed your tweets today. Thank you for “connecting our campus”. See everyone tomorrow!

Check out some of the play that happened today at Sigler Elementary:

https://storify.com/matthew_arend/gspd2016-sigler-elementary

My Moment – Day 21 – Powerful Learning Network

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.

Ever have a day that just gets away from you? Good. Me too! Fortunately for you, since yesterday got away from me, you are going to have the pleasure of ready two posts in the same day from your’s truly. Enjoy! 

You hear people speak about the power of being a connected educator and the relationships you are able to develop with like minded individuals. I cannot disagree with them. In fact, yesterday both of the presentations I was a part of referenced the power of being connected. I know, you understand it. You are connected. How else would you have stumbled upon this blog post? However…after two days at #TCEA16 I am reminded that there are educators who are not connected. Do you know someone like that? Share this post with them. 

There is certainly power in being connected. My “PLN” or professional learning network (or POWERFUL learning network, as we referred to it in our presentation yesterday) continues to grow and expand. The best part…getting to meet members of your PLN for the first time face to face. I had a similar experience last year at TCEA15, which you can read about here: The Power of a PLN – My Personal Experience

As my “PLN” grows, I feel responsible for growing the network of others as well. It is my hope I was able to do that yesterday as I shared testimonies about #edcamp and being a connected educator from past and present teachers at Sigler Elementary. Be sure to give them a shout out and add them to your PLN. Next year, my goal is to bring teachers with me! 

PLN Members – @E_Sheninger @MattEndsleyTX@VealHeidi
@techwnancy & @R_H_Steele

@SOC54
@RobinStokes24
@MagdaJPorter
@StaceyFawley
@DeboerDo1
@SSchweikhard

As I mentioned, there are members of my PLN I am meeting for the first time face to face this week and then members I am reconnecting with that I have met prior. Either way, the power we can harness as connected individuals far exceeds the power of one and constantly challenges me to think differently about my roll as a principal and educator.

First time meeting @OTCVisser – Pictured Center

To be honest, I had several moments yesterday as relationships were strengthened, cultivated and in some cases, created by meeting someone for the first time.

What was your moment “yesterday”?

A couple more images of my PLN from #TCEA16

Long Time PLN Member: @ShawnaFord1, @tinaberumen@jess_malloy

First time meeting @menxueiro @Owl_b_TorresEdu– Pictured Center