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? 


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 42 – Life Sized Heroes

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 received a text message today from a 3rd grade teacher that read, “You need to come check yourself out down here. The girls out did themselves.” The 3rd grade students were working on people they admire and who possess hero qualities. 

Of course, I did my best to make my way down to the 3rd grade hallway to see the work our students had done. There, standing next to Albert Einstein, sharing a hallway with Clara Burton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ruby Bridges was Me! 

Look closely at the detail these children put into their heroes. There are two specific details that I love about their version of me. Well, actually three. Normally when students draw pictures of me, they fail to get the hair right. They love to remind me that I do not have much on the top of my head. In this case, I believe they nailed it! The two details that really got me…and I mean really got me were my “daily planner” and the notebook I am carrying in my hand.  

Look closer at my daily planner. These young ladies broke my day down and did it well. They included morning announcements, conference times, a school assembly and were kind enough to let me have a snack before leaving at 1:00PM. A day ending at 1PM. Love it! Notice the notebook in my hand? What you cannot tell from the picture is what is written in the notebook. The handwritten notes, in the notebook, are letters from students, sharing the kindest of words, about me. The honest notes from students nearly brought me to tears.

The most humbling part of the moment I had in 3rd grade today? These girls consider me and their teachers heroes. When I look up the word hero, it is defined as: a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. What an honor. I associate the word hero in my life with my parents, grandparents and other people who have influenced me and helped in molding me into the person I am today. The idea that students hold me in the same regard reminds me how awesome our responsibility truly is.

I do not wake up in the morning to be a hero. I wake up in the morning to be a positive influence in the lives of our teachers and our students. I wake up in the morning to encourage and inspire teachers and students to be the greatest version of themselves. I wake up in the morning to be the one who can listen when teachers and students need someone to do just that…listen. A life sized hero? Never in my wildest dreams.

What we must realize as educators is that our students do see us as heroes. Students do admire us. They grow up wanting to be us. They see us as courageous. They see us as being noble and they see being a teacher as an outstanding achievement. We make a difference in the lives of our students, each and every day.

At the end of the day…we are all life sized heroes!

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? 

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.” 

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. 

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 31 – Excited

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 principal will actively participate with teachers in meaningful professional learning that results in increased language acquisition & development for all students.”

The statement you just read is one of two professional goals I have for the 2015-2016 school year. (It’s actually a two year goal.) Serving on a Title I, bilingual campus, you can imagine how important language acquisition and development is for all of our students. Yesterday was President’s Day; a student holiday & teacher professional learning day. I was able to spend the morning with teachers, attending sessions developed by our teachers, supporting our growth towards the goal highlighted above. Teachers developed two sessions which we rotated through, Moving Students Writing & Vocabulary/ESL Strategies & Whole Brain Teaching. The session were great. The teachers who facilitated the learning worked extremely hard preparing an interactive, participant guided session and did so based upon feedback provided by the very teachers who would be attending. Check out one of the sessions here: Fractions
The feedback received thus far has been positive and I am excited to continue to use the feedback we receive to further provide our teachers with the learning opportunities they articulate needing. 
As a leader, I want to provide learning opportunities that are worthwhile, meaningful and applicable for all of those in attendance. Much like teachers in the way they prepare learning opportunities within classrooms, for students. Teachers are asked to do so much, I should not be asking them to sit in sessions that are not applicable or necessary. (We should not be asking students to do that either.)
Imagine the joy I experienced today, as I walked into a 3rd grade classroom and witnessed the very strategies shared, not even 24 hours prior, being incorporated into today’s math lesson. I was so excited! I was excited the teacher found value in yesterday’s learning. I was excited the teacher was able to apply her learning so quickly and I was excited how well the students were able to demonstrate their understanding of fractions. Specifically, the difference between a numerator and a denominator. 
Check out my video tweet below: 

My Moment Day 30 – Are You Going to Be OK?

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 the proud principal of a Title I campus that serves over 400 students who make up a diverse school community. Almost 80% of our student body qualifies for the free & reduced lunch program, which means the needs we meet on a daily basis go far beyond “just” the academics. 

Over the weekend, while surfing Twitter, I came across the following article written by Bruce Hansen at Education Week, “Teachers at Low-Income Schools Deserve Respect”.  

I remember my first experience working in a “low-income” school. I had previously taught at a school, well, let’s just call it the opposite of “low-income” and when a parent found out I was leaving he/she approached me asking “Are you going to be ok?” At the time I wasn’t sure what to do with that question. “Was I going to be ok?” Why wouldn’t I be ok? What did this parent know that I didn’t? 

Now, after nine years as an administrator in “low-income” schools, I know what they didn’t know. 

I know that “low-income” schools require the best teachers. OK teachers do not last very long on a “low-income” campus. As Hansen states in his article, “Working with children who live in poverty requires some special skills.” Teachers must balance the profession with their personal lives and let’s be honest, that’s tough. Our students need 100% of our 100% and if we are only able to give 100% of 75% the students are not getting what they need. Teachers in a “low-income” school must not only address the academic needs students face, but they must also address the social and emotional needs of students, which at times can limit the teachers ability to deliver the academics if not done with the “special skills” required. 

I know that “low-income” schools are anything but low performing. The term “low performing” in itself means we are comparing all students based on a single measure; an equivalent expectation. I will be the first to argue, we must have the highest of expectations for our students because in some cases, it’s these expectations that allow them to reach their full potential. But to label a campus as “low performing” does nothing but feed a public misconception, which is disheartening to the teachers  and community who pour their heart and soul into the children we serve. While our scores may not mirror the top scores in the state, the last thing we are is low performing. Come walk in our building. Come meet our students and listen to their stories. For each story you hear, I will share a story of perseverance and dedication that far exceeds what would happen on a low performing campus. (Really want to know how I feel about railings and rankings, click here.)

I know my teachers and all the other teachers who work in “low performing” schools deserve to be recognized for the work they do. They make a choice. They make a choice to work where they do. These teachers are phenomenal. They could go and work at the “high performing” campus tomorrow. They don’t! Each day, these teachers wake up and make the conscience decision to embrace how hard their job will be, rising above the challenges, knowing the students they serve are worth every obstacle they may encounter along the way. 

So, to the parent who asked me the question “Are you going to be OK?” nine years ago…I know what to do with that question now. I have my answer. 

Yes, I am going to be OK. In fact, I am better than OK. I have the honor of working with the best teachers in our profession and have the awesome responsibility of serving as a role model for students. In some cases, I’m the role model for the students who need it the most and have no where else to find one. In my line of work, my cup is filled daily and it’s emptied as well, but I know it will be full again the next day due to the passion and greatness that surrounds me.

Yes, I will be OK. 

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?