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. 

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!!!

Friday, September 15, 2017

We missed you

"We missed you, Mr. Quarles."
"Mr. Quarles, you're back!!"

Those were words I needed to hear today.  And I heard them from adults and children all day.  I've been out for the last eleven days due to a family emergency. It must be something about not working for a while that messes with your mind.  That and being without reliable internet most days. You have to time to think and ponder your purpose.  Near the end of my time away, I was beginning to wonder,. "Is this really what I'm supposed to be doing?" "Am I making a difference or just putting in time?"  Fortunately, when I walked in today, I realized once again that education is where I need to be.  The welcoming smiles, kind words, hugs, and greetings were enough to prove this.

I am so thankful to be an educator.  Not only to do I get to impact the lives of kids and adults, my own life is impacted by them.  Sometimes, I forget that.  But, when I return after being out and receive the welcomes I got today, I realize how important what I do really is.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

On being a (transplanted) Primary School Educator

I have a confession to make.  For most of my life, I was scared of working with Primary School kids.  There, it’s out in the open.  I could probably form a self-help group of people like me.  “Hello!  My name is Breck and I’m a Primary Scaredy-Cat.”  As a middle school teacher, I had the utmost respect for Primary School teachers.  “How can you spend all day long in the same room with the same kids?,” I would ask myself.  Anyone who could was almost saintlike in my eyes.


Now that I work at a Primary school, my views have changed.  Not about teachers.  I still think anyone who is effective with Kindergarteners and 1st Graders is a saint.  My views about the kids have changed. I’ve grown to love this age level and the wonder that each one brings with them each day.  I now see Primary School as the amazing place that it is.  As I’ve reflected, I made a list of some of the great things about being a Primary School educator (something I never thought I’d be).  Below are my thoughts:  


  • You get to start kids off on the right foot, without all the excess baggage they may gather as they grow older.
  • Primary kids are still moldable.  They do listen and take to heart what adults teach them (even when it appears they are not).
  • You often get to work with young parents and help them become better.
  • The kids still hug you and are excited to see you.
  • You can follow these kids a lot longer before they graduate and see what they become year after year.
  • Primary kids are often a blank slate.  You have an opportunity to write so much into their lives.
  • The kids still get excited when they see you in the community.  I love trips to Wal-Mart just for the kids I’ll know I’ll see there.
  • Primary kids are forgiving.  Even when you make mistakes, they still love you and stand by you.

What else would you add to this list?  I’d love to hear your feedback.

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.