About Me

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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. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Uncomfortable

The following is a post from my final Northside News newsletter for the year 2016-17.

Rapper Andy Mineo has a song called “Uncomfortable” that I listen to while driving to work. In it, he describes many of the ways that we as a nation and a people have become content with being comfortable, so much so that we lose our drive and hunger to get better and we start to settle for less. As an educator,  I find this thought convicting.  The last thing I want to do is become comfortable and lose my drive to help kids improve.  Sean Cain, in describing schools, says that our practices often are more focused on what is comfortable for adults rather than what is best for kids.  In fact, very often Good For Kids = Uncomfortable for Adults. (Cain, 2017) 


Why am I saying this now?  We all have a summer coming up and I hope that we use it to rest and relax.  In fact, if I could I would make that a directive.  We all need that time to rejuvenate.  But, I also hope that we use the summer to reflect on our actions, practices, and procedures.  I don’t mean spend a few minutes thinking about it, but truly reflect and ask ourselves questions such as:  Is what I am doing best for me or is it best for the kids?  What do I need to change in the way that I teach or lead?  How can I step out of my comfort zone so that I can meet kids where they are?  This is not an easy thing to do. Reflecting is usually uncomfortable.  Sometimes it hurts. In fact, improvement always comes with struggle and pain.  It is just part of the process.  But, if we follow through, the end result is that we are better than we ever were before.  


Whether you will be at Northside next year or you are moving on, my hope is that you continue to grow every day and never settle for simply doing what is comfortable for you.  Instead, I hope that you will embrace the power of the uncomfortable in order to become the best teacher and leader of kids you can be.


Have a great summer!!!

Cain, Sean (2017, May 17) A Reader Asks...Principal Coaching-Upset Parents and Community (blog post)
Retrieved from: http://leadyourschool.blogspot.com/2017/05/a-reader-asks-principal-coaching-upset.html

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Last Two Weeks

Below is a post I shared with staff in our weekly newsletter.  This one went out two weeks before the end of school.  I hope it has meaning for you as this school years ends.


The last two weeks of school are upon us.  Can you believe it?  It seems like just yesterday these kids were walking through the doors.  These final days are usually crazy busy with so many programs, assessments, awards, graduations, and more.  In the hectic pace, it is easy to forget why we are here. As important as many of the other things are, they are not our driving force.  Children are.  We have a choice to use these last two weeks to focus on all of the things that are happening around us or to focus on our kids.  In a few years, when we reflect back on this time, we will probably not remember the hectic pace, testing, and all of the other demands on our plates.  Instead, we’ll remember the faces, voices, smiles, and joy of the little ones whose lives we’ve impacted.  


This week, I’ll close with a question from Stoic philosophy. To paraphrase, “Will this (fill in the blank) affect my ability to live a fulfilled life?” Anything that does not get a “yes” is really not that important in the long run.  As we approach these last two weeks, let’s focus on what is truly important and let the rest slide off, as it will all soon be forgotten. 

My Favorite Education Lines

After years of reading and participating in professional development, I've heard my share of new ideas and philosophies and strategies.  Most of these, even the ones that didn't work well, had some redeeming value.  Below are some of my favorite quotes and one-liners that I try to keep at the forefront when working with kids and adults.  These have been helpful over the years.  (I'll try to attribute when I can remember the source)

Q.T.I.P. - Quit Taking It Personal   (This reminds me that kids are not acting out because they are mad at me. I just happen to be there at the time)

It takes one fool to talk back.  It takes two to make it a conversation.  (Fred Jones - Tools for Teaching)

Some kids are born on third base and we think they hit a triple.  (Something to remember when we are working with our high achieving kids from strong family backgrounds.  Also serves as a reminder that most kids are starting in the batter's box)

Nevertheless....  (Great phrase when a child talks back or makes a personal verbal jab at us)

Is it what's best for kids? (The ultimate criteria for what we do)

We are here for student success, not adult comfort. (Like the question above, it is easy to focus on what is most convenient for adults and lose sight of our reason for being here.  We must never let our our own agendas get in the way of children having the greatest opportunity for success)

These are just a few of my favorite lines.  Please add your own to the comments as I need to increase my repertoire.




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Art Show

Tonight was Northside Primary School's Sixth Annual Art Show.  This year's theme was the jungle.  Our amazing Art Teacher, Misti King (she is in the black t-shirt) worked with students to design, create, paint, and display pieces created from recycled plastic bottles. The students also created and built the jungle items that make up the displays. To put this into perspective, these are five to seven year old kids.

Work on the show began in January and continued until just minutes before the guests arrived.  Students and staff spent the last week turning the building into a jungle including creating a walk through cave with cave drawings and a waterfall.  The rest of the building looked like a scene from "Jumanji."  In the middle of all of this, each student created their own jungle-themed art piece that was displayed throughout the hallways.

As a school leader, I am so proud of the work put in by the students and staff here at Northside Primary.  Honestly, the only thing I did was set up a couple of tables and try to document the work on camera.  Throughout this process, I've seen students actively engaged, excited, and ready to show the over 100 parents who came the work they did.  It was an amazing night at Northside.



















Sunday, April 23, 2017

Five Weeks

The countdown has begun.  The days are being marked off and thoughts are drifting toward that idyllic place called "Summer."  As I hear the hallway talk and watch the calendar days disappear, it reminds me that, yes, summer is coming, but more importantly, our time is limited.  We have just a moment left with this group of kids and then they are off to the next grade.  This remaining time is so precious.  I wrote the post below for my staff in our Friday newsletter to remind them of all that we can do with the short time we have left.  I hope you enjoy.


I looked at the calendar today and realized that we have five more weeks of school.  Just five weeks.  What on earth can you do in five weeks?  I would have to say quite a lot.

In five weeks, you can
  • inspire a child to become better.
  • build stronger relationships with your kids.
  • raise a child’s reading level by (fill in the blank).
  • teach your children new math/reading/writing strategies.
  • recognize something positive about every child in your class.
  • Encourage every staff member in the building
  • help a child get their AR shirt.
  • Make a positive contact with every parent in your classroom.
  • try a new teaching strategy.
  • visit another classroom and see how someone else teaches.
  • read that book you’ve been trying to get to all year.
  • develop a new habit.
  • learn more about a coworker.
  • walk 33 miles (if you just walk one mile a day).
  • read 33 blog posts (by just reading one a day).
  • Start setting goals for next year.
  • Add your own ideas to this list

How will you choose to use the next five weeks?  Whatever you choose, use it well.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Good for kids?

Last week, a student ended up in my office.  He was having trouble controlling himself and was bothering other kids to the point that they couldn't learn.  When I got him into my office, he was all over the place, barely able to sit still.  We talked while he bounced.  It didn't take long to find out the circumstances that brought on this behavior.  For one, the adult he normally works with in the class was out.  Plus, he had been brought to school late by a family member who didn't know his morning routine.  Everything was off.  It was now 9:00 in the morning.  Normally, this child can be calmed by looking at some calming sticks I have in my office.  These are tubes filled with colored liquid and glitter that slowly move when turned.  Not this morning.  They quickly turned to drumsticks and were taken away.  It was now 9:15.  I knew he liked to read, so we got some books out and I told him I had to finish what I was working on at my desk.  He could sit in the chair or on the floor and read.  That lasted all of 5 minutes. I then sat on the floor with him and we read together until he could no longer focus.  Having an errand to run in the building, I took him with me and let him help me carry a few things back to my office. Deciding that I would likely get no work done, we sat at my desk and tested out apps I had recently downloaded.  We would do them together and he would rate them for them.  Most were not any good in his eyes because they weren't games.  We did have some fun with Sock Puppets as I tried to get him to explain some things to me using his puppets.  However, he could only focus for a short time. It was now 9:45.  I had to make another quick trip to a class and saw a teacher waiting for an appointment.  I asked her if she would sit with him for a minute.  She agreed and I went into the building.  When I returned 10 minutes later, they were sitting on the office floor making funny faces into an app.  It was now close to 10:00.   I knew that he would have some extra support arrive in his class at 10:30, so I made the decision to keep him until that time.  We went back to my office, read some more, explored a few more apps, and then it was 10:20.  I took him back to class.


Walking back to my office, I asked myself three questions:

1)  Was that time good for the student? I would have to say yes.  He got positive one-on-one time with an adult, wasn't getting into trouble in class, and did learn a bit in the process.
2)  Was it good for the kids in his class?  Again, I would have to say yes.  They were able to work for over an hour with the teacher focusing on them and not on this one student and his constant movement.
3) Was it good for me?  Yes and No.  While I built a stronger relationship with this child, I had really needed to use this time to visit classes and finish an appraisal I was working on.

As a reflected on these three questions, I was reminded that, as an educator, I come to work each day to do what is best for kids, not necessarily what is comfortable for adults.  Yes, I could have taken this child back to class but would that have been in his best interest?  What about the best interest of his classmates?  At the end of each day, I want to look back and be able to say that I have done what is best for kids, no matter how it affects me.  That is why I come to work each day and why I am educator.  It's not for my own well-being and comfort.  I do what I do for children.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mission/Vision Planning Part 2

Last week, I posted about the beginning of our journey to craft a new campus mission and vision.  We got as far as deciding our major points for the mission and assembling a team to write our draft mission statement.  Today, that team met and began the process of crafting a mission statement that reflects our purpose as a campus.  From our previous meeting, we had narrowed our focus down to a few select areas.  These are listed below:


Key ideas: 
Age appropriate
Safe and secure environment that produces students who are academically successful, creative, and productive citizens
Problem Solving 
      o Social
      o Emotional 
      o Learning
Learning focused
Values, morals, integrity
Nurturing
To help encourage students to set and achieve goals
To teach each individual child to their full potential
Set the foundation
Student centered

Starting with this list, we discussed each point and then combined any together that could redundant. We also highlighted the key words and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each of these.  As we worked, the conversation became lively as people supported their ideas and opinions.  I was reminded of the points in Patrick Lencioni's book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team as I worked hard to ensure that we had effective arguments and not an artificial harmony.  I was elated when members of the team were willing to disagree with me and others and provided excellent points to back up their objections.  We finally decided that we would craft a mission statement that gave the overall purpose of the school and then craft supporting points to serve as our guide in implementing these.  

The first draft of our mission statement is:  

The mission of Northside Primary School is to provide a safe, nurturing environment where each Kindergarten and 1st Grade child learns to his or her full potential

This is more specific than our current mission statement, which reads, "As part of Palestine Independent School District, Northside Primary School is committed to providing quality instruction to our students.  The staff is a motivated group of professionals dedicated to assisting children in the development of their greatest potential.  Our vision is to equip all children who leave our school with knowledge and skills that will enable them to achieve maximum success in society."  

The meeting ended with some homework, namely to use the staff input from above to create a set of guiding statements to show how we will fulfill this mission.  We will meet again next week to put these together and rehash the mission, if needed.  

As a part of my own reflection, I will continue to blog about this process and share with others who may be developing their own mission and vision.  Hoping it will be helpful.