Are We There Yet????????

are we there yet

Last week my wife and I went on a camping trip for a few days. We decided it would be great to take our 3.5-year-old granddaughter with us since we had not had her stay with us yet this summer. We brought her back to our house on Sunday (a 2.5-hour trip), hooked up to the camper, and then went to the campground (another 1.5-hour trip) all in the same day. She did great traveling all that way. A few times on the way she asked that question we all long to hear while driving on a trip……..”Are We There Yet?” We gave the same answer we gave our children, that most of you probably give/gave to your children; almost. Each time she asked we told her “almost”. I am glad she did not reply with “that is what you said the last time”.

I started thinking about that question and school. Are we “there” yet? Where is “there”? Will we ever get “there”? What will we do if we do get “there”? How will we know if/when we get “there”? I think as educators we need to remember those questions. I think about all the things I would like to see our teachers and students accomplish over the new school year or the years to come, and hope they ask the question “am I “there” yet?”

I know as a teacher I never reached “there”. I feel as though I could have done such a better job if I knew then what I know now. I feel bad for the students I had. I don’t feel they were able to get all I could have done with/for them. As a principal with only one years experience, I have definitely not arrived “there” yet. A small part of me says I hope I never get “there”. I hope I am always on this journey of continuing to learn new things and progress as an administrator. I believe if we continue to evolve in our educational practices and continue to do what is best for our students we will not get “there”.

What about you? Are you there yet? Feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Until next time…………Are we there yet? Almost

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Fun Fridays…An Experiment In Learning

FRIDAy

During parent/teacher conferences each year, we alter our schedule and release all student, K-12, at 2:00 to give the teachers time to prepare for the conferences scheduled for that day. Tim, one of our teachers, came to me after conferences were over and said “what if we altered the schedule like conferences every Friday. Not to send the students home, but to allow them to learn about something they don’t ordinarily study.” Always open to doing something new and different, I said, “let’s take it to the teachers on Wednesday at our meeting and see what they have to say.” I brought it up that week and talked a little bit about the book I was reading at the time, Genius Hour by Don Wettrick. The discussion just took off. I would not say that what we came up with would resemble a genius hour or a 20-time, but it was unique.

We started by polling students about what they would want to learn. We had topics like military strategies, website design, cake decorating, cosmetology, mythology, auto mechanics, zombie apocalypse, etc, etc. We also asked the students if they would be willing to facilitate the learning and some were willing to do that. We then took the list of ideas the students gave us and asked the students to select three, in order of desire, they would want to be a part of. From there we took the top 25 topics and posted them for the students to sign up for. We had at least one teacher sign up for the different topics so there was a supervisor for them. After the students signed up there were three topics that were eliminated because of lack of participants. All of this took place between the middle of November and February.

So now it is time to start. I told the teachers I was apprehensive because I did not know how it was going to turn out, and I like to have some idea of what it would look like before starting. We started anyway. I visited every room on that first day to see how things were going. It was amazing! Students were leading discussions about topics they don’t normally get to study during the school day. Middle School and High School students were working together on how to gather the information they needed. Students were making suggestions on what route they wanted to group to take. We did our “Fun Fridays” every other week (for the most part) until school was out. After the first few weeks, we did have some that wanted to change groups, mainly stating the group they were in was not exactly what they thought it would be. We allowed them to do that.

Looking back on it now, I would have to say it did not go the way I had envisioned it. But that is ok. I feel like we need to make some tweaks to what we were doing. One teacher told me that a lot of the students commented that they learned more about how to be organized in a task. They learned how to break a big task into smaller chunks to make it more manageable. They learned how to work together and collaborate with a common goal in mind. Even though it did not go the way I had imagined, it was still worth doing. The majority of the students were excited about learning new things. Isn’t that what school is supposed to be about? Getting our students excited to learn new things. 

One of the biggest things I learned from this experience is that when we give students more choice and get out of their way, they will respond with a higher level of learning. Maybe we cannot always give them the choice of what they must learn, but can’t we give them some choices on how they will learn it, and how they will demonstrate that learning? When we give our students choice, they will choose to do amazing things. Some of the cakes our cake decorating group produced were awesome!

Here is a picture of some of the cakes produced

Fun Friday Cakes

Until next time…….May all your Fridays be Fun Fridays

Wrong turns……..or are they?

I recently returned from my vacation for this summer. My wife and I spent 12 days on the road together. It was an awesome time. We went to Clifty Falls State Park in Madison IN, Knoxville TN, Charleston SC, Savannah GA, Nashville TN and then back to home. We enjoyed over 54 hours and 2500 miles in the car together. We saw beautiful waterfalls, spectacular mountains, and wondrous beaches. However, you do not travel that far and not make at least one “wrong turn”.

We made one “wrong turn” in North Carolina leaving the Smokey Mountains (actually I think Google Maps gave us that wrong turn) that sent us on a 45-minute detour before we doubled back to the correct route. We were able to see some beautiful scenery because of that “wrong turn”. We would never have seen it if we had turned the right way first.

As I was recalling our trip with my pastor yesterday I started to think about those “wrong turns”. Are they really wrong turns, or an opportunity for new experiences? Then I started to think about school and “wrong turns” there. When we try new things for the betterment of our teaching and the benefit of the students, and it does not go the way we thought; is it a “wrong turn” or a chance for new opportunities. What can we learn from it, what new experience can grow from it, what new wonder will we get to see that we would have not seen if we did not take that turn? When I was a teacher I always told my students a mistake is not a mistake until we fail to learn from it. Wrong turns are not wrong turns when excellent things come of it. I once read the quote “it is better to try and fail then to never try for fear of failure”. I am not sure who said this to give them the proper credit, but I think it is very applicable. Don’t be afraid of that wrong turn. Take it. See what is out there for us and for the students. You may just stumble across something that works for those students at that time, and then the wonder and beauty of what they can do will come through.

Until next time……..enjoy the wonder and beauty of wrong turns.

2015….a great year!

The 2014-15 school year is rapidly coming to a close. For us, we have 3 days remaining. For some of you, your year may be over already. Whether you year is done or you still have days to go, I just want to say “thank you”. Thank you on behalf of all the seniors that are finishing their high school careers at this time. Whether you are an administrator, a teacher, an aide, a custodian, a bus driver, or a kitchen worker; you have made a difference in the lives of the graduating seniors. the old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child. Together we create that village.

My first year as a principal is ending almost as fast as it started. I have learned quite a bit this year, about myself, our teachers, and our students. Our teachers, even the most veteran, really are willing to make a change. They just want to know why. They want to know that it is not a change for change sake, but a change that will make things better for the kids. The staff entertained a new principal that wanted to have fun. I told them many times that if I could not have fun, I did not want to do it. I asked them to have some fun too.

The kids. Well…the kids responded better than I thought they would. Whether it was music Mondays, fun Friday’s, pep assemblies, a school-wide bucket challenge for ALS that earned over $1500 for ALS research, or a school-wide today’s meet at the end of the first semester to hear what they thought. The kids were all in. I am proud of the job they did and the improvement they made throughout the year. We put our faith in them, in return they put their trust in us, and it worked.

Our school year will be over in three days and the halls will grow quiet of the student noise. I think I will miss it! I will miss this group of seniors, they are my first graduating class. They have made in an enjoyable year.

So…..thank you to all of you that have made a difference in a student’s life, big or small, it matters. Keep up the good work!

Til next time…….Keep having fun..or why do it

Time To Take A Risk

For quite some time now I have thought about the need to start to blogging. I compared myself to others like Dr Justin Tarte, Amber Teamann, Matt Miller, Brad Currie, Jessica Johnson, Erin Klein, Peter DeWitt, and Mark Barnes (among others) whose blogs I read faithfully; and the same nagging questions always came to mind…what do I write about, how often should I write, who would want to read it, would I be able to inspire anyone etc.  After reading Connected Leadership by Dr. Spike Cook and receiving encouragement from him I started feeling the need to do this even more. As I thought about this more and more I decided I needed to seek advice from blog writers I respect and love to read. So I contacted Amber Teamann and Matt Miller for advice. I truly appreciate the time they took to give this beginner the encouragement needed to start this endeavor.

I don’t know that I will ever inspire anyone reading my posts, but I do know If I don’t do this, I will never inspire anyone.

So why do this? I ask our teachers and students to take a chance. To take a risk. To try something new. I tell them when they are uncomfortable they will have the most learning take place. I have decided it is time to take that chance and become uncomfortable myself. I am grateful to the many people in my PLN that have set the example for myself and others to follow and for giving us the courage to put ourselves out there.

This may be my first post, but I promise not my last.