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Showing posts from 2017

Give Permission

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Just the other day a teacher reached out to me to let me know that there were two upcoming conferences that she would like to attend and asked if she could attend one of them. Soon as I read the email I reached back out to her to let her know that I think both conferences had value and since they were spread out I thought that she should attend both of them.

Think of the last time that you wanted to go to a conference. What was the response when you asked for permission? Did you get the same response that this teacher recieved?

I’ve had many experiences when it comes to conferences and professional growth that haven’t turned out the way I wanted them to. They left me with a feeling of not being supported and not valued as a part of the team. I can remember an experience as a teacher asking for permission to attend a state conference in Southern California. As soon as I mentioned it to the principal, the answer was no. Then through conversation that I was able to convince the principal …

Just Try

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When was the last time you needed to JUST TRY?
As a parent and educator, I often hear " I can't". These words uttered by our kids are most of time redirected and explained that you can do it, you just need to try. I remember back when I was a teenager and my parents really wanted me in AP English classes. I didn't want to be forced to read and write, when I could be having fun with my friends. They kept up the pressure and told me to "Just Try".
I did exactly that. I was in honors and AP english classes all throughout high school. I didn't always do great, but I tried. This concept has been something that has made me a better father, husband, educator, and person. We must continue to try at anything that is thrown our way.
In education we are constantly reminding our students of this simple concept. We want to expose our students to as many concepts that we can and we want our students to just try to accomplish the tasks at hand.
But do we practice wha…

Are You Willing to do What it Takes?

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I walked onto the blacktop like I do most mornings. I am there to connect with students and parents and make sure that everyone is ready for what the day entails. On this particular morning as I rounded the corner, I noticed a 3rd grader laying face down on the blacktop. He was crying and banging his hands repeatedly on the ground. He was visibly upset and shaken by something his twin brother had done. I walked over to this child like I would for any other child and asked him what was going on, and there was no response or change in behavior. I repeated myself and no change. Wearing a nice pair of slacks, a sweater, and a tie I got onto the ground and laid right next to him. With hundreds of kids running around on the playground this child and I just laid there. 
The bell rang and he looked at me. I asked him if he would come with me to the office to collect his thoughts and we could talk if he wanted. He was okay to come but required me to basically carry him the 500 ft to the offic…

Dreams

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As an adult, I think of often about what I dreamed of being as a child. I remember when I was little, my goal as an adult, was to be the owner of a cattle farm. I always wanted to be a cowboy and I thought this is the way to achieve it. As I got a little older, I realized that just owning a cattle ranch wasn’t enough for me, so I decided I was gonna split time as a MLB baseball player and rancher. My brother and I would go into business together being on the ranch. That way there would be someone back home tending to the cattle as I was on the road playing ball.

Obviously, once I got into high school I realized there’s no way I’d ever play major-league baseball and I realized that I probably wasn’t gonna be a cattle rancher either. But my dreams changed I want to be a dad and a husband, and I didn’t know what else. Working in college figuring out what I was going to do I found a girl to make one of my dreams come true. As I  thought about what profession I would enter I knew that I wan…

Lessons Learned

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I walked into the classroom and found the chair that was assigned to me. I happened to be sitting next to the same girl that I had been sitting next too for many of my other classes. Our last names happened to be very close and by happenstance our schedules were very similar. We sat there and made small talk and she jokingly told me to pay attention, while the teacher began to take roll. As soon as the teacher started to talk about the class and what we would learn, I can remember being excited that there were no papers to write or written tests. I was hooked as I was sitting in a intro to photography class as a sophomore in high school.

What I would learn in this class helped shape into the man I am today.

The top 3 things that I learned in photography class:

1. Be Social: When I entered high school, I entered back into public schools, a place I had not been since 2nd grade. I was a scared and awkward teenager that wanted nothing more than to fit in, but had no social skills to do i…

Slow Down And Be Careful What You Wish For

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The school year was in full swing and kids were in classes. The pressure of being a principal was mounting and taking a lot of focus to make sure that I was doing the job to my full potential. There were moments, where I thought to myself, 'I need a break'. I never thought I would actually get one. 

Over three weeks ago I had come home from work with aspirations of doing lots of housework. I was on the phone with the electric company as I was walking down the stairs and then I was suddenly at the bottom step looking at the ceiling, wondering what had just happened. I had fallen and as I fell I heard something snap in my leg, I was in excruciating pain. My wife quickly responded and ushered the kids to get in the car, we were going to the ER. Once their it was confirmed, I had broken my leg in two places and would need surgery the following week.

I was upset. I was in shock. I was in pain.

Suddenly I was faced with the break that I needed, but now did not want. Too often we s…

Say Yes... You Will See Why

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My phone rang two weeks before the new school started. I looked at the caller ID and was surprised to the Director of Special Education from the district office was calling. I answered the phone and we quickly got down to business.
As soon as she starting talking I knew that she wanted to move some type of program to my school site. I had been advocating earlier in the planning year to include more special education students into my school environment and have the special education continuum for SDC available to support our school community.
She started off by thanking me for wanting more students with special needs and continued to say most of our schools are the polar opposite.

I wanted more...

I want students to feel that they belong and have a home at their school. She asked if I would house a preschool/TK/Kindergarten Autism program. Absolutely was my first response. I was nervous to house this program on our campus because we are a large elementary school with only one administ…

Pick Up The Phone

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“Hello, this is the principal calling.”

In the summer of 2015, I (Mark) was participating in a Twitter chat and was impressed when a teacher shared that she made a positive phone call home for one of her students every day. I thought, in my school I have 750 students and can certainly find one student a day deserving of a positive phone call home, thus #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay was born. That year (2015-2016) I created a spreadsheet and tracked my 130 different positive phone calls. Actually, I made more than 130 calls, I selected 130 different students that year. For some students I called both parents or other family members, whoever they wanted me to call. I also took a selfie with the student and shared the photo and reason for the call on social media. The following year (2016-2017) I continued my #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay making calls for 135 different students that year. I continued with the selfie and sharing on social media and I bought #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay wrist bands to give each s…

Stay Focused

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As an educator for many years, there are plenty of times that you get distracted. There is always something that is pulling you away from the classroom and school site. During these times it is more important than ever to focus on kids and what is important in education.

As a teacher I worked with an administrator that was set out to make sure that everyone on her staff turned in daily lesson plans and was at work until 5pm. These lesson plans were to be very detailed and turned in the day before the next instructional day. As you can imagine this frustrated many teachers and teachers felt that they were being micromanaged daily and being force to work outside. It took everyone focusing on what was important to get through each day. I met with individual teachers and discussed with them how we could come together and be compliant but focus on our students. We as a staff came together and agreed to follow the rules and intentionally re focus on the students of our school rather than o…

Be Real

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Be Real. It seems so simple, yet too often we come across individuals that are anything but real. As you walk down the street or open up magazines you are constantly seeing individuals who are anything but real. People tell you what you want to hear, not necessarily what they believe. I hear people all the time claiming they stand for something, but their actions say something completely different. Our words hold so much power until our words don't match up with our actions and then our words are just words. Life could be so much richer, if we surround ourselves with people who are real.

Years ago I walked into an interview for vice principal of an elementary school interview and the questions came in the order that I expected. At the very end of the interview they asked if I had closing statement, which was something I had experienced before.  However, this day I decided to change the way I answered. I wanted to be real.

I went on to tell them that if I was hired they would be …

Don't Limit Learning

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Recently I was presenting to a group of teachers about using google classroom and how to create a school website, using their district provided website program. As I presented on both platforms, I looked around the room and saw many faces that are similar to our students as they are taught something for the first time. There were many blank stares and many confused faces. For many of them, this was the first time they have been introduced to both of these programs.  

Google classroom is new to me and taking on something that is new and trying to teach it to others, you suddenly become the expert in the room. (or at least some think you are) As frustrations arise from teachers trying to learn something new, individuals were upset with the speed of instruction, lack of wait time, and importance of task.This was a great opportunity to remind them that this what our students are faced with on a daily basis.

Too often as educators when we are put into these situations, we get frustrated a…

Be The One Who Welcomes Them Back

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The new school year has arrived for some and for others it is quickly approaching. The summer heat is still present across the country, but kids, parents, and teachers are returning to school buildings. 
How will you welcome your staff back? How will you welcome your parents back? How will you welcome your students back?
These three questions should run through every educators head. Some of you might think these are questions that the building administrator should be thinking of, however it takes everyone to make others feel welcomed and valued. 
I know in our school district, teachers aren't required to come back until three days before the school year starts. Some of that time is work time, some of it is district professional development, and the rest is site meeting time. Sites have so many things that happen over summer that it takes much more than a day to catch everyone up. 
So what can we do?
The time you do have is important time. You must categorize your top tier things …

What is this #PIAchat thing all about?

What is this #PIAchat thing all about?
#principalsinaction is a wonderful group of principals who are always working to be better for their kids and their schools.  There is a running hashtag on Twitter where principals, and others in and out of education, can see the wonderful things that principals are doing every day. The group consists of about 100 principals that stretch from coast to coast across this beautiful nation.
But there is also a Twitter chat that occurs on Tuesday nights at 8CST that is what we consider the fastest 30 minutes on Twitter.  Moderators post a few questions and principals from all over the country respond.  We end with a call to action or a challenge that many of the principals take on as the focus of sharing the great things principals do.
For me (Mark), engaging in Twitter chats has provided some of best professional development I have received, and it's free! I started as a lurker, advanced to answering questions and contributing, to these days volunt…

How do you challenge yourself?

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With school starting back up around the country it is important to start thinking, How do you challenge yourself? Jay Posick, Mark French, and I (Ryan Sheehy) are principals that have connected through being in a PLN called Principals In Action. Principals in Action is a group that was started by one of the Kids Deserve It authors, Adam Welcome. It started with a challenge by Adam to ride the slide with kids then tweet the picture using the #principalsinaction hashtag. The group is now so much more than a hashtag. Using Voxer as our communication platform, we communicate on a daily basis, discussing triumphs, struggles, and the everyday occurences of being a principal.  We currently are a group of over 100 administrators that have made a goal of being out of the office and truly being a principal in action. Our group stretches from coast to coast and everywhere in between.
One of the ways we have been able to challenge each other on a daily basis is through creating challenges that ev…

Keep Them Moving

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Summer is coming to end for many teachers, parents, and students. Summer is a time for everyone to get outside, exercise, and enjoy each other. When school starts, no of that should change. We need to keep kids moving all year long.

Too often as the year gets going, classrooms get busy and activity is not a focus. Getting students up and moving decreases behavior in the classroom and increases attention. Activity needs to be present in every classroom and no excuses should be made. Here are 10 easy ways to incorporate activity into every classroom without losing "academic" time. 
1.   Introduce vocabulary words to your class on a daily/ weekly basis. Use a bone or muscle each day instead of saying the word "go". This allows students to learn parts of their body, increase their vocabulary, and work on their spelling. Incorporating vocabulary into the class gives the teacher another avenue for assessment. Teachers then can administer quick writes, allowing students to…

Get Connected and Build Relationships

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Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

Those three words are constantly talked about at conferences, meetings, books, and summits. We need to build relationships with students, but we need to build relationships with other educators. If you are only surrounded by like minded individuals then you will never grow. You need to surround yourself with people who think differently and will challenge your way of thinking. I am never the smartest one in the room, because I don't want to be. I want to continue to grow. 
I was recently listening to Better Leaders Better Schools podcasts by Daniel Bauer and something that struck me was how much his guests talk about growing because of surrounding themselves with people that push them. He has establish Mastermind groups of educators that regularly meet using technology and challenge each others thinking and weekly push them to be better. School districts can do a better jobs on setting up these internal mastermind groups with teachers fro…

Who Tells Your Story?

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How do you connect with your families?
How do you tell your classroom story?
Once I hear you answer those two questions, I can tell you about the climate and culture of your classroom. There is always so many negative things coming out about teachers, schools, and classrooms it is our job as educators to kill the negative with all the positive things happening in our schools and our classrooms.
What are you afraid of?
After speaking with many educators typically there is something that scares teachers from telling their story. You are awesome and it is okay to brag and share what it is happening in your classroom. Educators tell me they are scared of failing while telling their story. What a better way to demonstrate to kids that is okay to FAIL other than showing them! Fail Harder is a mantra that I have and taught my students. Try! Try! Try Again!
I have found the following 10 resources a great way to communicate with my parents, community, and other educators to tell my school/cla…

Everyone Needs An Advocate

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When my wife was in 2nd grade her teacher told her that she was dumb and that she would never read. After having this encounter with her teacher she ran home to tell her mom what had happened. As we were driving tonight she was telling me the story and she could recount everything that had happened and the facial expressions of her mom as she heard the story. The next day her mom rushed into school and demanded a classroom change. The change occurred and my wife grew into a voracious reader that has a love of all classic literature. In this circumstance she needed an advocate and the advocate was her mother. 
Why does my child act this way?  Why is he such a pain?  Why is he so annoying?
These are some of the questions that parents ask me. Whenever these questions are asked of me, I always think how can you think of your child that way. Kids need an advocate and they need someone to believe in them. In the above story my wife needed someone to be that person. Unfortunately her teache…