Missouri Principal's Conference - Hot Spot

Okay all my friend bloggers out there, I need your help. I have suggested that we have a "Hot Spot" room at our state principal's conference next year. The motivation behind this comes from wanting to get more Principals blogging. It has been incredible PD for me that I would love for others to benefit from. My idea stems from the EduBloggerCon and the Internet Cafe type environment from the National Conference. I was unable to attend the conference but really enjoyed watching all the events 'virtually' in the blogs and pics etc.

I am not one who would shy away from taking a risk. I am happy to just jump in and see how it goes. But I want the participants to benefit from it so I need to think through the pro, cons, and possible glitches.

$100 to make one of the conference rooms wireless for the day
Want to schedule some "Hot Spot" times to just check email, surf the net, and or socialize
Host a Blogging workshop, RSS workshop, and other ideas????

Here is where I need your help! What am I forgetting or overlooking? Of course I will take my Tech Director, Janetta to back me up, but what else? The suggestion was made for me to do the same workshop 3 times rather than give 3 choices. More people could benefit. If we did 3 different workshops the same people may stay the whole day.

Help please? Wide open for suggestions!

Firefox! So far, so good!!

On my very 1st WOW2.0 webcast I heard the women talking about Firefox. At the time I had no idea what this was. But they kept talking about it. At the same time I began listening to Tuesday Night webcasts I was also listening to The Google Story on my iPod. Little did I know that Firefox was something I could download from Google. Then, Fusion Finds started testing out Firefox so I let her tinker with it for a while. Just today she emailed me that I have to try it. Within minutes I was using Firefox!!!

So far, so good! Much smoother for me. My IE was shutting down a lot with errors. This has not shut down yet today. It has the multiple tabs that open up like IE version 7, or at least I think it is version 7. There are way too many icons in the toolbars for me right now but I am sure I will like them or at least be able to customize my toolbar as soon as I figure all this out.

I will probably mention The Google Story a lot. It was an amazing story and I highly recommend it for summer reading. I listened to the whole thing but will probably buy the book and probably but it for my dad for Father's Day. I think he would really enjoy it. But for those of you who are as busy as I am, I recommend the iPod version!!!

Online Conferences!

Janetta just emailed me another online conference going on in New Zealand. As I see that online conferencing (I have been watching last year's K12 Online Conference) is going to grow, I think it would be great for teachers to collect professional development hours for 'attending' online conferences.

Our district gives credit to teachers who physically go to workshops, write a reflection, and turn it in for approval. The only difference for this is that the teachers are not going to have to go anywhere! I will require that they include the web address and the people included in the discussion, workshop, or podcast. But I have listened to lots of podcasts and webcasts lately that I have benefited from and I think my teachers could really benefit from these tools.

Next year we have committed all our PD funds to the Missouri Reading Initiative anyway, so that makes even less money for the teachers to get professional development. 'Virtual PD' is going to be the way to go!

I will need to direct my teachers to EdTechTalk, WOW2.0, and the above mentioned conferences so they can get some PD hours. A lot of what I have come across is technology related and my teachers would be really interested in reading and writing ideas and podcasts. I may even have to interview my own teachers so they can get the ball rolling for other teachers.

Any suggestions on how to get started? I am so excited about this that I think my excitement alone can be contagious with my teachers. The Women of the Web even said they would Skype in on my Tech Tuesdays! The possibilities are limitless!!!

End of the Year Reflections

Where does the time go? I can't believe it has been another year. As my 3rd year as principal I feel this has been a challenging year for me personally and professionally.

Personally, I have a 1 1/2 year old daughter that does not sleep through the night. I have relied on Panera, Star Bucks, Krispy Kreme, and Monster drinks to keep me going/get me going in the mornings. Not a healthy example. These are habits that are going to have to change. Personally I would like to live to see my daughter become a young lady and enjoy all her special moments in life. We are going to work on the sleeping thought night thing as soon as school is out.

I also began working on my Specialist degree this year and had class every Wed. night. This will begin again in the fall as I begin to work on my Doctorate. Yes, I think I am crazy. But I am a life-long learner and have enjoyed my night classes tremendously. The friendships and networking that has developed through these classes will last a lifetime. This was a challenge for my husband as well since there isn't enough time in the day for my regular job duties, then to take on college classes. I want all my college behind me before my non-sleeping child begins all her extra-curricular activities.

Professionally, I know I can do better. Having a child definitely redirected my priorities. I want to be a good mom, good wife, good principal and good friend. I also need to model that family comes first. It is difficult to take a 1 1/2 year old to school events when I am supposed to be working. It does allow my school community to see me in a different light and realize I am human too. My daughter is going to make an honest principal of me!

I am a band-wagoner. I love to try all the new things that are going on out there even though I know I need to focus on smaller increments. There are so many neat programs in other schools and ideas I want to try that I don't think there are enough years to try them all. And, I think all my teachers would quit! :) It's the teacher in me that wants to reinvent myself each year.

That is the great thing about my job. I feel I could have done better this year so next year I can do better. It is like starting over every year and teachers get to do it too. We have our theme picked out, I have lists started, and ideas generated. Now it is a matter of staying focused for the next couple of weeks. Taking much needed time off in July and gearing back up for August and starting all over again.

As my teachers are checking out for the summer I realize I will miss them. I love my family time but it is very weird when the teachers are gone for the summer. I am a little lost for a while. We get together during the summer for book clubs and this year the very fun Tech Tuesdays but it is an adjustment for me.

I am looking forward to blogging more!!!

WOW 2.0 - Tuesday night webcasts

For the past two months I have been tuning in to WOW 2.0 webcasts. This is a live webcast hosted by the Women of the Web, teachers,Cheryl Oakes, Jennifer Wagner, Sharon Peters, & Vicki Davis , involved in discussions about using technology in education. This has been an amazing experience and unbelieveable professional development, FOR FREE!!

Tonight's chat was with Brian Crosby of LearningisMessy blog. Brian has been using Skype to include a homebound student with lukemia in his class every day. The student signs on in the morning and can listen in and view Mr. Crosby's class each day. Isn't it about time we heard some positive Tech Talk on the airwaves?! Seems like every time we turn around MySpace is in the news for something negative or cell phones are getting bad wrap again. This discussion was 'technology GONE RIGHT!'

This summer jgarton from Fusion Finds, Bob from R2TechnoBlog, and I are hosting 6 open lab times for teachers to come in and work on projects they already have started. We want to promote technology and give teachers some assistance so they feel more comfortable taking risks. I don't have many signed up but I am going to continue to promote this and talk about it so teachers can get some assistance and try new things.

Google Tools

Recently I discovered Google calendars. I think this tool is going to come in very handy for me professionally and personally. I have customized and set Google as my homepage, I have a google email account, and I use Google Reader as my RSS tool. It is nice to have one stop shopping!

I just finished listening to The Google Story on my iPod. I am thinking it is in my Top 10 list of books I have read. But that is a whole other post for a later time. After reading the book I feel pretty comfortable using all Google tools.

As a school administrator and/or teacher, I am sure you have many different schedules and/or calendars: District calendars, building calendars, B-day calendars, personal calendars, Holiday calendars etc. My list could go on and on. Keep in mind that I am just starting work with Google calendars but so far I see MANY benefits. My worry was that I was going to have to all my teachers register for google accounts and remember to check them but I can actually embed a calendar in my blog that I use for teachers.

  • I have embedded a couple in my blog for starters. (Summer Calendar)
  • My teachers like to have hard copies of our Special Class rotation calendar and these print very nicely and are easy to read.
  • You can subscribe to a calendar so that when an event is added you are reminded. (I haven't done this yet so I am not sure if it is through email or RSS.)
  • I can "share" my calendars with my secretaries so they can add/change dates.
  • I also added a link to one of the days. It had to be a separate 'event' in order to fit.

Over the past 3 years I have tried many different calendars and I hope I have hit the jackpot with this one. So far so good. I really like embedding things right now! As I plug along through this I will include some of the pitfalls as well. I have to admit these tools have made my life a lot more organized. Now, if I can just get my teacher to read my teacher blog without coming to me first.

Above and Beyond?

This is my 3rd year as elementary principal in my current building. For the past two years I have "required" my teachers to spend one afternoon, after school, and ride a school bus. Well today was the day! We have early-out Mondays and the students are dismissed 30 min. early so teachers have collaborative work time. Since we only have 2 Mondays of school left and I didn't have another event scheduled, I decided to use our early-out time this year.

Reasons behind this idea/event:
  • One of the philosophies of an Accelerated School is Unity of Purpose. Basically we are all in this together. This is a bid deal to the bus drivers, to have the teachers ride their buses and see what their jobs/routes are like. I include my bus drivers as much as possible and in turn we work together with bus disciplines.
  • Relationship building - Getting to know where your students live gives you another perspective on their lives.
  • Realizing that some of these kids spend an hour on the bus in the morning and another hour in the afternoon getting too and from school. Maybe that is why they are so "awake" when they get to school in the morning.
  • PR - The teachers do not realize how big of a public relations event this is for them. The kids look forward to it and the parents are amazed. (Little do the parents know that I 'require' this.)
  • Bond Issue - We are going to try to pass a bond issue this June and need all the positive PR we can get.

My first year I rode all 8 of our buses. I rode some on the morning route and some the after school route. The kids were so excited when they got on the bus in the morning and principal was there with a happy "Good Morning!" Some of them weren't quite awake enough to realize it wasn't a dream. I think I received more compliments and pats of the back for just riding buses than anything else that year.

Last year, or it may have been the year before, this wasn't a "requirement." We are not unionized therefore I can make these requests and it is okay. I told the teachers I wasn't going to force them to ride the buses but that I expected it and I would be disappointed if they chose not too. Some chose not to.

This year, in my daily blog/news to the teachers, I think I did use the word required. Somewhere deep in my subconscious I knew a teacher would probably confront me but I forgot about it until today when a teacher did come to me not very happy about the prospect of the bus adventure. The good thing about this is that she came to me and she was very honest and open. I appreciated that and told her so and that I was glad she didn't go spreading her disagreement with everyone else. This teacher didn't see how this was going to make her a better teacher. As far as instruction and professional development, riding the school bus would probably not increase her test scores.

Keep in mind it is 'that time of year' and everyone is on edge and overwhelmed but this was about the kids and doing something special for them. You should have heard the cheers on one of the buses when the teachers got on. So, how did I respond to this teacher? I told her that sometimes part of being a better teacher is improving relationships with kids and parents. She feels she has a good relationship with her kids and has lived in the area and knows how and where they all live. Nice try I thought. Then I told her she may disagree with me but I expected this of her and it was an early out day and she could choose the shortest route if she liked. Then I turned it around on her. "When your students ask why you didn't ride the buses like all the other teachers, what are you going to tell them?" I think she understood at that point.

The bus I rode took about an hour and it was hot and we missed a stop and had to go around the curviest road TWICE, but I survived. A couple of other buses were driving in as my bus dropped me off. The teachers appeared to have survived but of course we all dashed to our cars and turned the air-conditioners on full blast!

When did just the day to day planning become above and beyond? Remember when you went above and beyond the last time? I try to make it very hard for my teachers to complain that I don't go above and beyond. Since I had my daughter last year I have not been able to do as much as I used to but I still love to do all the little extra things that are not in my job description. I want my daughter's teacher to go above and beyond and take that extra minute to listen and to care. I think the key is balance. I hope we can all find some balance so that we can continue to do the above and beyonds that we have always done.


Where did the year go?

Is it really May? Do you say this every year? Yes!!! Where did this year go?

I think this year was an especially trying time for my community, school, teachers and students. In January we missed 6 days of school due to a devastating ice storm. Families were without "power" for days and some people for weeks. Even when school reopened we had families and teachers without power. It took over a month for people to get just their own homes back in order let alone our yards and streets. We have been waiting for months for our legislature to determine whether or not they would "forgive" our ice storm days and the forgiveness finally came last week. Now we are all in a frenzy to try to end the year on a positive note. Once we got word that our last day would be in three weeks, everyone felt the rush of getting everything done. (Disclaimer - Some schools in our area declined to accept the forgiveness days and will be in school 6 days longer than their regular schedule.

My family was not as affected by the ice storm as most. I think the challenge for myself and my husband is that we both have public service jobs. My husband is a fireman and his crew was having a hard time making it to the locations where he was needed due all the tree debris in the streets. My challenge were the children's emotional state after being displaced for 2 weeks or running only certain household appliances for short periods of time with generators. It actually took the students longer to recover than parents which I have yet to understand.

We are counting the days until the end of the school year as we usually do but with greater anticipation than ever. We need the summer to recover and re-energize for another great year. I truly have an amazing group of teachers and staff to work with but we are tired. I f ind myself falling asleep as put my one year old to bed, only to wake up a couple of hours later with a head full of, "Oh, I forgot this. I need to do this. I need to remember to write this down. Oh, I forgot to return that email." The list is endless. Ice storm, state testing, newly adopted district computerized common assessments, etc. We are so lucky to work in a profession that we get two 'New Years' in on year, August and January. In August the year always begins with excitement and everyone is ready to try new things and build on things that they have tried in the past. January we get to return after a long holiday break and begin again.

10 MORE DAYS!!! The teachers are counting and so am I! Our theme for next year is "Cruising to Success with Willard East" a cruise ship theme. We have a new 2nd grade teacher, we will have a new special services teacher, I think, a new Behavior Support person and I hope I am not forgetting anything. Over the summer I will get a supply of cruise ship theme items and plan for another exciting year. We have our annual pool party scheduled and I will work on scheduling our summer book club. Friday was an amazing day that gave us all hope the year was going to end on a positive note. Field Day with a 4th grade performance and lots of tan/sunburned little ones running to bus, was a happy day for everyone!

Principal Support Systems - BLOGGING!!!

Now that I have my life back in order, thanks to GTD, I have been feverishly reading blogs. I guess I forgot to keep up with my own. I just get so intrigued with others. I want to comment on everyone but then I get headed off in another direction with a link in someone's blog! Vicious, but fun cycle.

As the school year winds down (only 13 more days for us) I look forward to the professional development that blogging has lead me to. Yes I worry about how I will sound when I blog but I don't really worry that blogging will get me into any sort of trouble. I have so much to explore this summer and share with my teachers.

I have read lately about schools, teachers, administrators deleting blogs for fear of "it coming back to 'bite' them" so to speak. I hope we aren't saying anything that isn't okay for all eyes and ears and we know that when we get into this. Yes, I have days when I shouldn't speak let alone blog therefore I just don't do either on those days! :):):)

We are human too! Principals need support and ideas as much as teachers do. Unfortunately we are the only person in our "grade level" at our respective buildings and have to rely on other busy principals for help and advice. Blogging has been a great way for me to "get to know" other principals and profit from their wisdom in my professional career. Even if I have not met Glenn Malone or Chris Lehmann their blogging has been a support for me. I have spoken with both briefly and know that they would help me in the drop of a hat.

Can you hear us all now, "My name is Melinda Miller and I am a blogger!"