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. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Typical Day?

A Typical Day?
How would you describe a typical day in the life of a school administrator?   That is, I'm afraid, the $10,000 question.  So far, I've never met anyone with an exact answer.  As I drove home from work tonight reflecting on the day, I must admit, I don't have one either. Each day is new and different and has its own set of challenges and triumphs.  I don't believe there is a typical day.

With that said, I'd like to go through one day in my week.  Today, for that matter.  First, a little background.  I serve as Assistant Principal for Student Management in a rural Title I school with approximately 740 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. As of this writing, I've been in this position six months. The learning curve feels like a straight line.  Straight up.  I contend that this is the hardest job I've ever loved.

Now to that "typical" day: 

7:15 am - Arrive at school.  Immediately proceed to duty station and begin greeting kids as they walk to  their homeroom classes.  
7:45 am - 1st Bell rings for kids to go into classes.  Quickly monitor halls, open locked doors if necessary, and make sure kids are in classes.
7:55 am - Proceed to office.  Log in to computer and then encourage the two kids who are getting ready  to help with announcements.
8:00 am - Give my "Project Wisdom" daily message on the morning announcements.
8:10 am - Monitor halls as I walk to a teacher's classroom for a formal observation.  Conduct observation, taking copious notes that will not only help with the evaluation, but also give me ideas to share with other teachers. 
9:05 am - Proceed to office.  Return two parent phone calls and begin calling down students for disciplinary referrals.
10:10 am - Receive phone call from a father who apologizes for the short notice, but could he serve in our WatchDOGS program that day since he got off unexpectedly.  Agree to the request and quickly make a schedule.  Take a call from a parent.
10:15 am - Meet with a set of parents about a discipline issue.  Invite the parents to visit their child's class anytime and sign the Dad up for WatchDOGS.  
10:30 am  - Receive WatchDOGS dad, go through short orientation, take a photo with child, and show him around the school.  Drop him off at his child's classroom and proceed back to office to continue with student management issues.  
11:20 am - Enter cafeteria and take pictures of fellow AP getting Silly Stringed by students as part of a fundraiser.  Realize that my turn is coming and run back into office to look for plastic bag to put over my hair. 
11:30 am - Lunch Duty
11:55 am - Cover my head with Wal-Mart bag and proceed to stage for my turn at getting covered with Silly String ($1 for a two second spray or $4 for a can).  Realize very quickly that the line for a shot at me is very long, kids can hit the face with total accuracy, and Silly String is full of alcohol.  Notice that many of the "sprayers" are also the kids who regularly visit my office.  I smile at them as they enjoy their payback.  
12:10 pm - Finally leave stage covered with Silly String.  Make it to office, wash up, change clothes, and eat lunch. 
12:40 pm - Return to cafeteria to take pictures of building principal getting her turn in the Silly String chair.  Notice that she has covered her body with a plastic bag. Smart idea!
12:45 pm - Return to cafeteria to make sure that the stage is set for our 1st semester awards ceremony.  Make sure the microphone works, go over the list of names, and check that the stage is not slippery from the silly string 
12:55 pm - Return to office and continue with student management issues.  
1:30 pm - Enter the cafeteria and start to greet parents arriving for awards ceremony.  Spend a few minutes visiting with each.  
1:40 pm - Announce for teachers to bring students to cafeteria to begin awards ceremony.  Return to stage for one final check before all classes arrive.  Continue to greet parents and visit with them.
2:00 pm - Awards ceremony.  Serve as MC as students cross the stage to receive their awards and put them on.   (We chose to give Dogtags instead of certificates)
2:45 pm - Finish awards ceremony.  Return to office and meet with several students about discipline issues.  Visit a class to clarify some information about a student management concern.
3:15 pm - Start Bus Duty.
4:08 pm - End bus duty.  Accompany WatchDOGS volunteer back to office to sign up for another day and then proceed to faculty meeting, already in progress.
5:00 pm - Faculty meeting ends. Spend a few minutes helping a colleague understand one of the key points in the meeting.  
5:10 pm -Return to office and begin putting teacher evaluation information into the computer.  During this time, help students in after-school program call home for a ride and field several calls from parents.
6:30 pm - Finish teacher evaluations.  Return two phone calls.  Review calendar and plan for next day.
6:50 pm - Clock in (Forgot to this morning), change starting time, and then clock out.  
6:55 pm - Leave the school building.  On the way home, reflect on what a typical day in my position consists.  Realize there really isn't one.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Don't pass out matches

The other day, I read this quote on Twitter: "Instead of putting out fires....let's not pass out matches" (@daveburgess).  It's been haunting me ever since.  As a teacher and now an administrator, there are a lot of fires and potential fires that must be addressed daily.  But, I didn't enter this profession to be a fireman.  Instead, I want to be a teacher, a coach, a leader who makes a difference in the lives of teachers and students.  I would assume that most others in the profession feel the same way.

As I reflected on this statement, a couple of key ideas came to mind.  First of all, in my little sphere of influence, I have the opportunity to pass out a lot of matches...or not.  Second, I can't control what kindling others bring in the building with them, but I can often control whether it gets lit.

Or, in simple English, my actions can often control whether a situation becomes out of hand or whether it becomes a non-issue.  Also, there is no way for me to change what has happened to a person before they enter my building, but, by my actions, I can influence how they react to it. 

For example, in a typical classroom, behavior problems often occur when children are given too much extra (free) time or when they are unmonitored, such as when the teacher has their back to the class or is in the hallway with someone else.  They also occur when the work is at a level that is either too high or too low for the child.  These are examples of matches.  If a teacher can identify avoid these situations, then many behavioral issues can be avoided.

The same is true for principals and other leaders. As a principal, I have to reflect on my actions daily and plan how to avoid problem issues, especially when related to staff and parents.  If I can identify potential problem areas early, then I can either eliminate them or avoid causing them to grow.

Putting out fires is not a task I enjoy.  I would much rather spend my time helping teachers and students grow and developing positive working relationships with parents.  Therefore, I must determine early and often when I am potentially "lighting a match" that may lead to a future fire and do everything in my power to avoid that action.