Classroom Walk Throughs

Below I have posted pictures of a tool that I use for CTW's. This is a very non-tech tool and easy to create. I got this idea from a post at Ed LeaderWeb by Mike "How Do You Walk?"
There are a lot of good comments on this post as well. Be sure to go read that one.

This is a tool that I use for quick trips through the classroom. Mostly positive feedback but if there is something that I see that needs address, I will address it. The idea comes from a workshop on conferencing with students during reading and writing and how to document student conferences.
I want my teachers to know that I too get something out of workshops. As well and try to model the techniques learned in a way that works for me as a principal. Of course teachers can take these ideas and really run with them. But this is my attempt at implementing this in my role in education. :)

I have tried everything!!! Palm program walk-throughs, checklists, tally charts. You name, I tried it! I am very visual so this really worked for me. This folder is clipped to the back of my clipboard so I it is easy to carry. It can also be immediate feedback, where I had to carry my palm back to my office and upload everything, copy it, etc. Blah!!!!! Too much time for my busy world. My goal is to leave one note per month. Okay, so last year I think I left 2 as opposed to my 9 goal!#$%^& You have to start somewhere! Once all the post-its are gone I fill up the folder again and can use thematic post-its. (There are pumpkins, mittens, snowmen, apples, etc.) The pictures below are my generic post-its because I haven't picked up any thematic notes at the teacher supply store yet. You can actually do more than one a month by putting tally marks by the teachers names if you would like.

You may be wondering if I only go into classrooms once a month? Well heaven's no!!! I just try to leave written feedback once a month.

Teacher uses: Teachers can use post-its for reading running records, comments about student conferences for their own notes, use these to tally things, etc. Teachers could also use labels and stick labels in individual file folders for each student.

Diamonds in the Rough - Poem for teachers

Well, I am on a roll with my digital camera and the power of photography. Rather than try to keep all the artifacts that I have been collecting in drawers, closets and files here at school I have decided to take pictures of it THEN I can file it in the cylindrical file next to my desk. How many of you hate to throw things away? I know! Well take a digital pic of it and the pic files so much easier. The district will have to build on to the school just so I can keep everything!

On the first day of school I like to leave the teachers a little motivational poem/story to get them excited for their day. As teachers, we have everything set up just exactly how we want it and have a vision of how our day is going to go. Then............the children show up and it goes out the window. Perspective my dear! Perspective!

I cannot share this year's poem/story because some of my teachers are very sneaky and found this blog! Maybe I have one and maybe I don't?! They will have to wait until the 1st day of school.

Our theme last year was a camping theme so I used an outdoorsy border paper. There is a little bead in the shape of diamond in the little bag to the right of the letter. I put these on teachers desks the night before the 1st day of school or early that morning. Here is a copy of the poem:

“Diamonds in the Rough”

‘It can be said of most, if not all, children with whom we work, that they are “diamonds in the rough.” Underneath even the most cautious, guarded-with-defenses exterior is a child with talents, skills, and dreams looking for a place for the sparkle to emerge and be seen. Some diamonds are camouflaged better than others. Even so, diamonds are still present. All children have ‘sparkle’ no matter how tarnished they may appear. Our tasks as educators include looking for, finding, and affirming, (polishing) “diamonds in the rough.”’

Enjoy today! Enjoy the children, enjoy each other, and know that you are making a difference. You are going to be one of the most important people in the lives of your students starting today. Embrace that and “polish” each and every one of them. They are all lucky to have the master teachers we have at Willard East!!!!

This is the picture of a teacher's bulletin board and you can see the poem posted. At first I was just shocked that they kept it all. Then to actually post in their room made me feel really good.

Disclaimer: Now you have to tell me your motivational and inspirational ideas for the beginning of the year. I didn't share this to brag, but to get your juices flowing so you can give me some ideas too. :)

Enjoy and pass along! I am running out of beginning of the year poems/stories!!!

Blog Neglect

I have been back to work for one week and I am already neglecting my blog posting and reading. I am just not sure how I am going to find the time to continue this form of professional development. Okay, who am I kidding? I know I will be up all hours when I am onto a great blog post! :)

Reading blogs is the easy part. It's the comments and posting my own that has been lacking lately. I have to do my part because I have been getting some really GREAT ideas lately from other bloggers. If I can share with them in anyway, I need to for the sake of bloggers everywhere. :) I am already excited and nervous about posting on Leadertalk. I am not a very long 'poster' so I hope my contribution is significant.

For the sake of the conversation here are some of the posts I have read and wish I had time to comment lately:

Feed Your Teachers - love this book. Actually featured this book in one of my podcasts. Great ideas for Principals everywhere.

To Blog or Not to Blog -
Benefits - positive environment to have conversations, more than enough ideas on any topic you could dream of, patient participants, professional development, being able to see the big picture.
Favorite Blogs -
Dare I Disturb the Universe - Scott Elias
NAESP The Principal's Office
Mr. P's Blog - Steve Poling
Practical Theory - Chris Lehman
(There are more but I am running out of time)
Advice - Take it at your own pace. I have been doing this for only 3 or 4 months and just now feel like I am getting the hang of it. Remember that anything you post can be read by ANYONE, students, parents, teachers etc. Use your blog to get feedback or ideas. Post a question and wait see what kind of help you get back.

Whew! I feel like I have done my part. Now off to podcast then work on night class work then work on.....................the list goes on forever. Found the other link to To Blog or Not to Blog.

Going Green!

With the recent hype about "Going Green" why not?! Here are my two new office plants. One is supposed to be hanging but since I am a novice I did not know there were special pots to hang from. Live and learn I guess but you have to start somewhere.

Today is my official day back to the office. We received our 'welcome back' email from our supt. this morning so I guess it is official.

I should explain some of the items in my photo before I proceed. I am sure you have many questions. Especially about the crab hat! The crab hat idea came from a PLC conference in St. Louis a few ago. The thought behind this is, how can you be crabby if you are wearing this hat? It is true actually. I haven't worn it very often but if I do the kids get a kick out of it and we all laugh. You just CANNOT be crabby in this hat. Lots of pictures of Alyson of course. My husband bought me the digital picture frame for Mother's Day this year. He knows me too well! This has been an excellent addition to my office and great conversation starter.

You might also notice the BIG red barn in the background out my office window. Yes, I look at this every day. Most days there are cows out there but I don't see them anywhere today. Must be a pond farther back. It is especially exciting when it is 'branding' day. That happens right in front of the barn for the whole world to see and hear. The students have never commented on this but I don't know how they can tune it out.

The tiger stripes and black theme go with our school mascot the white tiger. I tried to crop out the candy jars. I ALWAYS have candy and that is probably not very 'green' example.

As far as my 'going green' theme for the year it comes from some other blog posts and beginning to realize what is at stake for the future of my own daughter and other children. The nice lady who sold me these plants asked me where I worked. When I told her, I told her I thought I should set a good example and she actually thanked me. PRESSURE!!! And to think my short term goal is to just keep these alive until school starts!#$%^&

We have started to use more chemical free cleaners in our house and trying to eat better. My husband is going to begin training for a marathon and it is a good time for me take better care of myself and set a good example for my daughter. (I haven't given up Starbucks and sweet, mocha, coffee drinks. Starting slow:):):):) Now that I have posted this I am sure everyone will keep me accountable.

What can you do to "Go Green?" If I can buy a plant.........and keep it alive????? All kidding aside I think this is an issue that is going to be on the front burner SOON.

Kick Start Your School Year - Podcast

I just uploaded my latest podcast and here are my notes and links. This will probably be a series of podcasts as the year gets started. I would love for you to share some of your beginning of the year ideas. I think these just scratch the surface:

David Warlick
Book Reveiw - Results Now
District Blog
Blog for my teachers
My personal/professional blog
Women of the Web

What's YOUR story?

Recently I have been reading many posts about the power of story telling. Whether it be digital or other I think story telling is a great way for people to get to know you and what you stand for.

I am sure there are some amazing stories out there. Not often do we hear about the journey of a principal. So here is my journey as short and sweet as I can make it, if you care to read about it.

Not long after I started teaching I thought, in the back of my mind, that I would like to be a principal. I became the before and after school program director and that thought quickly left my mind. It is much different dealing with parents/adults than the day to day dealings with children. By the way, teachers are not very well trained to deal with parents during college. They are barely prepared for the day to day grind of the classroom. May the "force" be with them on their teaching journey! That's another 'story.'

As the before and after school program director I quickly realized that I could not do everything well and that I was going to have to give something up. So I chose the classroom and passed the torch for the before and after school program to the next victim. (It is actually a very successful program right now!) In the back of my mind I still thought I could make a difference beyond the classroom.......

Seven years ago my husband and I started trying to have children of our own. Little did I know the battle ahead for us. After a year of trying on our own and a year of fertility treatments I quietly gave into the fact that maybe biological children were not in my future. I do not openly talk about my belief in God. It is personal to me but I know that God does not allow desires of your heart to go unnoticed. I just wasn't sure how he was going to fill the void of not being able to have children of my own. I guess having 400 children and my own school was meant to fill that void. :):):):)

I was not going to pursue my Master's because if we decided to do invitro fertilization that was going to cost as much or more than my Masters and I wanted a baby more than my Master's. Well, a group of teachers I worked with decided to get their master's in a cohort program that was going to be offered on Wed. nights at my OWN SCHOOL!!! Now, how could I pass that up? The reason I decided to join the program, other than peer pressure, was because I could not continue to put my life on hold. I wanted to be a principal and/or make a difference in people's lives but I also wanted children of my own. Basically I went into denial about not being able to have children for a couple of years. As hard as I prayed or as much as talked about it I could not understand why I was not going to be a mom. Even if I could not be a mom at least my husband deserved to be a father because I knew he would be a great dad.

Timing is everything and it wasn't until I got pregnant, my first year as a principal, that I understood God's timing. It hit me up side the head like a ton of bricks. There really is a reason for everything!

So, what's YOUR story? Do you know your teachers' stories? Do your teachers know your story? Why do you do what you do year after year with very little recognition?