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I've been an educator since 1995 where I've served as both a teacher and administrator. I believe that serving others is the key to success and make it my goal to be a servant leader for students, teachers, parents, and the community. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Behavior Influences Behavior

I spent the first four days of last week at CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention training. I am now a certified NCI Instructor.  

The NCI course is focused on developing skills to minimize crisis situations as well as respond to them when necessary. It was beneficial and I hope that we can get more in our district trained soon.

One of the key points in the training is a concept called Integrated Experience. In layman's terms, this means "Behavior influences behavior." Think about that. Behavior Influences Behavior. Simply put, the way we behave can influence the way our students (or spouses, coworkers, family, etc) behave.

Let me give you some examples. Let's say you are teaching and your keep raising your voice. What do your kids do? Usually raise their voice. If you are talking softly, but with authority, your kids will usually talk quieter as well.

When I am at home with my teenage son, I will sometimes get frustrated and raise my voice at him. He responds by raising his voice back. What do I do? "Don't you raise your voice to me!" This only causes him to raise his voice again.

A student is visibly anxious, slumped over, tapping their feet. Their teacher approaches them and says sternly, "Sit up straight and stop tapping! You've got work to do." The student jumps back and shouts, "Leave me alone."

Picture the same situation. This time the teacher approaches, bends down, and quietly says, "You look like something is bothering you. How can I help you?" The student says they are not feeling well and asks for a drink of water. The teacher sends them out and they come back and go to work.

In each of these cases, the adult's behavior directly impacted the child's behavior.

As educators, the way we respond to a situation can either help defuse it or cause it to escalate. The course goes into this in detail, but in a nutshell, our behavior is often the deciding factor in how a situation turns out.

I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on situations you have faced this week. Ask yourself some tough questions such as, "How did my behavior influence how the other person behaved?" and "What could I do differently the next time I'm faced with this?" 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mission Statement Breakdown



Below is a post I sent to staff this week as we introduce our new Mission and continue working on our Vision, Values, and Goals.

“The Mission of Northside Primary School is to create a safe, nurturing environment where each Kindergarten and 1st Grade child learns to his or her highest potential.”

Last year, a team of Northside staff took input from the entire faculty and crafted our new mission statement.  It was a time consuming process going through all of the great input to craft a succinct word picture of what we are about. We literally selected each word with care and a fair amount of debate.  In this post, I’d like to break this mission down and talk about each part.  

“The Mission of Northside Primary School” - While this may seem like just a placeholder, it is really saying this:  “What follows is why we are here.”
“To create a safe, nurturing environment” - When kids walk into Northside Primary School, they should feel that this is the safest place they could be, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.  They should know that every adult is working hard to keep them safe all day long. They should also know it is a place where they can grow and develop among people who love them unconditionally and are committed to their success.

“Where each Kindergarten and 1st Grade child” - We are a Primary campus.  Our focus is on primary kids and everything we do must reflect that.  Every lesson, every activity, every word we say, every action we take.  What we do here may not be the same as at higher level schools, but it will be what is best for our Kindergartners and 1st Graders.

“Learns at his or her highest potential” - The primary purpose of Northside Primary is learning.  That is the reason we exist. We recognize that every child is capable of learning at high levels, often much higher than we give them credit for. We also know that every child is different (hence the “his or her”).  For this reason, we will do whatever is necessary to help each and every child reach their potential.  We will set goals that stretch them instead of holding them back.  If a child needs extra support, we will give it.  If they are not learning in the way we teach, we will teach differently.  We will ensure that every child is successful, no matter how much we have to stretch to make it happen.  

Will fulfilling this mission be easy? No.  Will it stretch us and make us uncomfortable at times?  Yes.  Will fulfilling our mission be what is best for Northside kids?  Absolutely.

Protecting your best

Often, our mistakes teach us our greatest lessons.  This was brought home to me clearly this week.  I had a student who was behaving poorly for a number of reasons in a class.  His behavior was interfering with the learning of the rest of the students in the class.  The teacher was fairly new and had a demeanor that seemed to conflict with the student.  She also was regularly visibly upset by the child's behavior.  So, after spending a couple of days trying to find a solution, I chose to move the student.  I moved them to one of my best teachers classrooms, hoping that the change would help the student. It didn't.  Instead, it disrupted the better teachers classroom and affected the learning of her kids.  Now, my average teacher is happy and my better teacher is threatening to retire if she makes it through the year.

In his book, Shifting the Monkey, Todd Whitaker says that we need to do everything we can to protect our best people by not putting someone else's monkey on their back.  I did just the opposite.  I took the problem child monkey from my poorer teacher and placed it squarely on my better teacher's back.  Bad move.

What should I have done?  I should have left the child where they were and provided support and additional training to their original teacher.  This would have helped her grow professionally while protecting one of my best.  It would have created more work for me, but in the name of protecting my my best, it would have been worth it.

This was a hard lesson to learn, but one I will take to heart.  As Todd Whitaker says, monkeys need to stay on the back of the people to whom they belong.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

We're coming up on Thanksgiving and a much needed week of rest. I hope yours is refreshing and that you come back rejuvenated for the three week run until Christmas.

For you trivia buffs, the first Thanksgiving is recorded in 1621 when the colonists at Plymouth and the Native American Wampanoag tribe shared an autumn harvest feast. The holiday did not become official until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be held in November.

If you are like me, your Thanksgiving consists of lots of food, time with family, and a good amount of fun. Okay, I admit, my Thanksgiving also has lots of hunting in it. But, in the middle of the food, family, and fun, please remember that this is a holiday of Thanks Giving. Literally giving of thanks.

I hate to say it, but it is our tendency as humans to hone in what is going wrong and forget to spend time focused on what is right. So, this Thanksgiving week, I challenge you to refocus your heart and mind on all that you have to be thankful for.

I've included below my list of Thanksgiving ABCs. This is an alphabetic breakdown of things I have to be thankful for. Just making it gives me a glad heart. Plus, as Paul says, it is God's will that we give thanks in everything.

Hope you have a restful week!

A- Ability to work every day
B- Bible
C- Church
D- Ducks and Dove and Deer
E - Education
F- Family
G- God’s provision
H - Hunting
I- Internet
J- Jesus death, burial, and resurrection
K- Kids
L- Laughter and Love
M- Music
N- Northside Primary School
O- Opportunities to serve
P- Patience
Q- (William) Quarles
R- Relationships
S- Sheryl Quarles
T- Time
U- Unlimited data on my phone
V- Vacations
W- Wildlife
X- X-Men movies
Y- (Feeling) Young
Z- Zany fun

Sunday, October 8, 2017

How Many Days?

As I write this post, I have been on Earth 19,127 days. For some reason, when you think of time in terms of days, it brings it into a new light. As I look back on those days, I am amazed at how many great things have happened, but also a little depressed with how much I have not accomplished, especially when I consider the things I set out to do. If I had used every day productively and intentionally, just think of all I could have achieved by now. However, I am also encouraged that I still, God willing, have days ahead to accomplish even more. That is the wonder of time.

At my campus, our students are with us two years, or 730 days. During that time, they are on campus 350 days. That means we have 350 days to teach them and lay the foundation for their future. We do some amazing things during those 350 days. Kids who can't read leave able to do so. Kids who can barely count are doing math problems. Kids who struggle to make the proper sounds end up speaking clearly. Kids who don't know what proper behavior looks like leave able to sit still and learn.

Still, I wonder if we can use those 350 days even better? Are we using every day, every hour, every minute, in the most productive way possible? If not, we still have time. Think of the result if we used every day that we have with kids in the most intentional and productive ways possible. Think of how that would affect not only our kids, but also our own view of ourselves as we see kids grow beyond our wildest imaginations.

As educators, we have the ability to make a massive difference in the lives of kids. Unfortunately, we only have a limited amount of time to do this with each child. Starting today, will you join me in asking a simple question each morning: "Am I using this day in the most intentional and productive way I possibly can?" 

A big Thank You to William Parker for getting me thinking about this during his "Principal Matters" podcast

Monday, September 25, 2017

BIPs

Behavior Intervention Plans or BIPs are plans designed to help students learn to engage in positive behavior.  BIPs are usually used for students with students who are ED or exhibit extreme behaviors.  They usually consist of one to three negative behaviors to eliminate and specific positive behaviors to replace those.  Then, action steps are designed to provide support for the student as they work the plan.  There are also consequences attached to the plan.  Creating a BIP can be a time-consuming process involving teachers, administrators, parents, other support personnel, and in some cases, the child.

One of the most difficult aspects of implementing a BIP is giving it time to work.  While you may see results in just a few days, sometimes it takes several weeks to see any progress.  This can be a trying time for teachers and parents.  The key is to not give up, but implement the plan consistently.  This is not always easy and it is very tempting to quit when immediate results are not seen.  However, we should not expect a child's behavior to change overnight anymore than we expect a baby to walk the first time it pulls itself up.  In many cases, a child has been demonstrating a behavior for months or even years and it is all they know.  These behaviors may also be a part of their disability.  In order to help them learn new behaviors, we must consistently implement the BIP for a reasonable amount of time.  If we quit too soon, we will never know if the steps could work.

If, after a reasonable amount of time, no progress is being made, it is time to sit down and develop a new or revised plan.  This must come after evaluating the effectiveness of the original plan.  What is a reasonable time?  Usually around 3 weeks is a good checkpoint, although a shorter or longer period may be required depending on the behavior.  The key is to meet and evaluate the plan at regular intervals.

One of the greatest things I've witnessed as an educator is seeing students with a BIP develop new positive behaviors to override the negative ones.  This usually comes after consistent implementation, review, and follow up.

Unfortunately, I've also seen plans fail due to lack of follow through or inconsistent implementation.

One of the key points to remember is that, just like an IEP, a Behavior Intervention Plan is a legal document and, as such, must be implemented as written.  The time to give input about how the BIP is designed is during its development, not after it is put into place.  Once in place, it is expected to be followed.

Thankfully, most children do not need Behavior Intervention Plans.  But for those whose disabilities and behaviors require it, a well-designed and implemented BIP can mean the difference between success and failure in education.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Follow the Process

The following is my weekly post to the staff at Northside Primary.  

For the past three years, we've had a successful WatchD.O.G.S. program at Northside Primary. Over 150 men have served in our classrooms and on our campus. Many come back numerous times. It has gone beyond my wildest dreams. Many times, these men tell me how much they enjoy being a WatchD.O.G. and then say what a great job I'm doing with the program. My answer is always the same. "I just read the manual and follow the process." You see, there is no magic to WatchD.O.G.S. There is no magic formula to get 150 men to come to the school and serve. There is no magic formula to get them to sign back up again and again. In fact, anyone willing to do the work could make WatchD.O.G.S. successful. The reason is that WatchD.O.G.S. follows a process that has been tried and proven at hundreds of schools across the nation and the world. (I will admit, though, that the staff at Northside has done some magic to make these men feel welcome and allow them to serve.)

I've been at two other schools where WatchD.O.G.S. was in place. Neither achieved the level that we have for one simple reason. They did not follow the process. In one school in our town, they tried to reinvent the wheel by doing it their own way and ended up tanking the whole program.

Is the WatchD.O.G.S. process easy? Not at all. It takes a lot of work and a commitment before success is realized. But, that is the same for anything worth having.

So, Mr. Quarles, besides that fact that we are kicking off WatchD.O.G.S. again in one week, what does all this have to do with me? I'm glad you asked. As an educator for over 20 years, I've realized that our profession has a lot to do with processes. We teach kids to follow processes (we just call them strategies) when they are learning. These processes help them do things like decode words and solve math problems. We also teach kids processes (procedures) to help them successfully navigate the classroom and school. The great thing is, when they follow them, they usually are.

As educators, we also have processes that we follow. For example, Lucy Calkins Writing is a process. Guided Reading is a process. M.A.T.H. is a process. Each has been proven to help kids successfully master their learning. But, like any process, they are only truly effective when they are followed. They lose their full effectiveness when steps are left out or not done with efficacy. When I decided to start WatchD.O.G.S., I made a deliberate choice to do exactly what the National Centers for Fathering said to do. I trusted the process and it worked.

I encourage you to do the same. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, simply trust the process. Will it take lots of reading, lots of work, and mistakes along the way? Absolutely. But, as our kids grow into high level readers, writers, mathematicians, and most importantly, learners, it will be worth the work.

Have a Great Week!!!