Thankful for few office referrals

Principals do not tend to discuss how many or few office referrals they have per year, semester, week, quarter etc. My office has seemed pretty quiet lately but I needed some data to see if what I thought was happening was a reality. And it is!!!

Last year at this time our students had accumulated 53 negative office visits. So far this year I have only had 19 negative office referrals. To me that is awesome! But is it really? I wouldn't know because it is not usually a topic of conversation among administrators. I wish I knew if this was a high or low number. Do any of you get data on your school discipline numbers?

I shared this information with my staff last night as a celebration. I attribute this to the quality of my teachers and the relationships they build with their students. Yes, I have had some "unofficial" conversations with some students, but that usually nips the problem in the bud so to speak. Yes, my teachers have come to me for advice about situations and sometimes my advice has been to "send them to the office." Some events need documentation. I truly believe that my teachers put up with a lot and/or develop positive working relationships in their classrooms and with their school families that makes our numbers so small.

The current issue of Educational Leadership is about "Data, Now What?" I have not read all the articles yet but they look great and I hope to read them over the break. So what do I do with these numbers? It is my intention to put this in front of the teachers again at collaborative team meetings/grade level meetings. I will ask, "What are you doing in your classroom that is working?" "Can we share this information with others?" Teachers need credit for this because they are doing good things and in turn good things are happening with our students.

RtI - Response to Intervention

Is this a bad word in your school?Many of us are finding our way through these new rules and can use all the help we can get. Monday I attended the MAESP luncheon and the presentation was about RtI. It was the best presentation I have attended but that could be because of where my school is in this journey.
Where we have been:
  • Attended RTI training
  • Created Student Improvement Team (SIT)
  • Created forms/paperwork
  • Set meeting schedule (1st and 3rd Thursday of the month)
  • Met regularly
  • Started having referrals and meetings about students
  • Tweaked paperwork (District-wide forms because forms will stay in perm file to go to next school.)
  • Some interventions suggestions worked and some didn't
  • A little teacher frustration, and then a lot of frustration
  • Focused on ONE issue at a time and not a laundry list of concerns
  • Started to encourage more data-based referrals
  • Regular meetings
  • Meetings more organized and faster paced (see flipchart below - This flipchart is what we use for our agenda to keep on time and on track.)
  • Must bring only ONE issue that is backed by data to refer a student
  • Our district still uses the descrepency model and some 3rd graders need to be "tested" because they have had every intervention our school offers and are still not making progress.
Where we are headed:
We still need to tweak our system.
  • We need a master list of interventions.
  • We need to choose specific interventions for fluency, comprehension, addition, multiplication, problem solving etc.
  • Need for more common assessments and more often to provide the data on student success
Sit Team Flipchart
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: elementary administration)

RTI Podcast to come at a later date!

Chicken Timer for Administrators:)

As much as I take pride in all my technology wisdom sometimes there are just old tools that work better.:):):)
Take my chicken time for example. This sits under my desk and is used frequently....
You now how you walk into your office or classroom and you know you are supposed to be somewhere in 10 min., 20 min. 1 hour etc.??? I just set my chicken timer. Then I tell my secretary what I set the timer for and if I leave my office and she hears it go off, she finds me and reminds me. Isn't that a great system?!!! I have $500 iPhone and use a $1 chicken timer for reminders. Here is a list of times I set the chicken timer:
  • Teacher observation in 45 min. ....set the timer!
  • Recess "doodie" favor for a teacher in 10 min. ....set the timer!
  • Lunch "doodie" in 20 min. ...set the timer!
  • Conference call in 10 min. ...set the timer!
  • Have my secretary interrupt a long and drawn out parent conference ...set the timer!
  • Be at Admin. meeting by 9AM ...set the timer!
Now, how many of you are going bring your chicken timer to school? Come on, you know this is an easy and cheap reminder system.

K12 Online Conference

Happy Sunday morning from MO! For the past couple of days I have spent a lot of time in my car, therefore I have been able to make a dent in listening to the 100s of podcasts I have in my iPhone. Yes, I said iPhone and you need one! That is all I am going to say at this time. More on the iPhone on another post.

Back to K12online....Once again this is a FREE online conference. I have the workshops downloaded to my iPhone so I can watch/listen usually in my car. (Okay, I don't watch in my car.) You can subscribe through iTunes. You can also watch from your computer. Whatever works for you. The presentations are limited to 20 min. this year and I have been able to get throught 3 at the gym the past two days.

Here is the list I have gone through so far:

How Can I Become Part of this ReadWriteWeb Revolution? My hero Cheryl Oakes and her Seedlings crew talk about their web 2.0 journey.

The Google Gamut: Everything you need to get started. - Even though know a lot about Google I still learned some new tricks. I am a huge an of all the google tools.

What Did You Do In School…? - Digital tools that kids can use to "archive" their life stories. You have tools right in your pocket that can provide "proof" of your lifes journeys. Do you know how to use them.

Now it's your turn. What are you going to listen to?

Re-Surfacing Post

I have had so many great blog post ideas lately that I am going to have to revive the Principal Blog. For those of you who know me, listen to Practical Principals, tweet, you know that I had a baby in June. I think I have adjusted to the two kid routine and hope to be able to contribute to the blogging/professional/administrative world again! We all just have to live with the fact that we can't get it all done:):):)

Teacher Fear Factor

My students met their goal of collecting $1,400 in Box Tops for Education. I have actually been waiting 4 years for us to meet a goal so I can join the ranks of principals who have kissed pigs, had pie in the face, been human pizzas, and so on. Well I was inducted into that group last night.

The teacher/classroom that collected the most Box Tops at each grade level had to be a contestant on Teacher Fear Factor. The choices of events were......pie in the face, eat baby food, make-over by students, eat "gross" jelly beans, and kiss a snake. If we met the goal I had to ALL OF THE ABOVE. Well guess what? Last night I did ALL OF THE ABOVE!

I have actually had pie in the face before 5 years ago when I was an asst. principal so I kind of knew what to expect. If you have kids you have probably tasted baby food but not eaten like a whole spoonful and that was pretty gross. The "gross" jelly beans were actually "gross." I ate about 10 and there really was a vomit flavored, pepper flavored, baby wipe flavored, and molded cheese flavored. I can assure you that it was VERY gross to say the least. Hair and make up was ok but we probably needed more colorful supplies and pie in the face was a BIG hit.

The most fun was seeing my teachers participate and be true champs about the whole thing. I have one male classroom teacher and the kids were just dying for him to have to do Fear Factor and when I announced he did they about blew the roof off the gym. He did so good and the other teachers were such good sports. A great time was had by all!

This took place at our year end celebration and we raised $3,500 in raffling off a Wii and side of beef and we live auctioned 13 theme baskets. I am already trying to come up with some challenges for next year that we can meet and I can be "sacrificed" again. Next year I won't be pregnant so there will be choice about the challenges. Please share your stories in case it is a new one that others can use.

Melinda + Mac

I made the "switch." I am currently typing on my new MacBook! This has been a yearlong decision-making process. My 5 year old laptop is not going to make it much longer. Replaced the fan 2 or 3 times and the keyboard 2 times. Then it just started shutting off due to overheating.

Last night I turned on Mac for the first time. WOW! Worked immediately. Currently I am running on the battery only and it is working like it is plugged in and hooked up. No laptop I have works this well on the battery. Another Mac user also has the ability to "take over" my screen and make changes and show me how to do things. Thanks Scott for helping me last night. I look forward to more help and the questions and adventures to come.

Googe Docs for Administrators

I really feel like we can save paper in schools. As an elementary school principals I see LOTS of paper waste and trash. I have been using google docs personally for just under a year and love having everything accessible anywhere.

My personal use of google docs:

Originally, I used it to take notes for a summer class that was held on the university campus. Classes where usually held locally but for the summer we had to drive to St. Louis. We were so lucky to be in the computer lab and have computers right in front of us. My class partner and I took notes on the same google doc at the same time but used different font colors so we knew whose info it was. Then we decided we would write our Specialist paper together through google documents so we would not have to meet in person. We both have toddlers and it is hard to schedule meeting to write a paper as well as all the other committments we already have.

Worked like a charm. We did meet on a few occasions but not near as much since we could write our paper online together. SO MUCH BETTER than sending attachments back and forth and trying to remember which is the most recent attachment and the trying to rename it and send it back and forth and back and forth.

Professional Use:

  • I started downloading everything that came as an attachment into google docs first and then save it also in whatever file I needed to. Other principals in my district and I send official documents back and forth for editing but they haven't bought into google docs yet.
  • PTO Notes - I type up monthly PTO notes for my PTO meetings regardless of whether I can be there or not. Instead of posting these in the teachers lounge or making a copy for each teacher, I "publish" the notes and then send a link to the teachers to read. I could still post one copy in the work room but I forget.
  • End of the year checklist - Instead of giving all the teachers a copy of the end of the year checklist to lose, I just downloaded it to google docs, "published" it, and then sent them a link. I really just want them to have a copy to refer to and then I will give them a final copy but this is better than copying a lot of times. They can just refer to it until closer to the end of the year.
  • End of year info - The end of the year comes at us so fast that I thought I would also type up some "helpful info" and send it as a document as well. This one is a work in progress and I told them that I would be adding to it and not to make a bunch of copies but to just save the link and refer back to it. (I don't think they have even explored delicious yet.)
I also read an article somewhere recently that talked about a principal buying all his staff a school logo flash drive and put all his beginning of the year documents on that drive. This would keep from making folder packets of paper that don't get looked after the first faculty meeting. It is getting easier to put things on school servers or computer so teachers don't have to save a paper copy.

Some of the things that teachers post around their room would need to be copied but other stuff can just be saved to the computer.

Hope that helps you!

Reflections from MO Principal's Conference

Long time no post! It has been about 2 or 3 weeks since my inaugural opening of the "Internet Cafe" at the MO principal's conference sponsored by MAESP. Many of you who read my blog or listen to my podcasts know that I took on the task of incorporating a technology component at the conference geared toward administrators using the tools. Rather than a long and wordy post I thought I would just bullet some key thoughts and points:
  • My room was waaaayyyyyyyy upstairs and far away from the rest of the conference presentations. Not sure why but was assured that will not happen again.
  • Next year wi-fi will be available in ALL presentations. Whether it is used will be another story but I can at least try live-blogging/back-channeling.
  • Not a big turn out but like I said my room was "out of the way" of the rest of the rooms.
  • Bought too much candy that I ate most myself.
  • I did the same presentation 3 times with work time before, during and after each presentation.
  • Participants wanted more "how-to" instructions. (I gave links to screencasts tutorials on EVERYTHING I did.)
  • Next year they need to be able to leave with a project created.
  • Next year will call on the expertise of others to do presentations during the day too. Long day from 6:30AM to 4PM.
  • Need to add podcasting as a session.
Oh I am sure there is more I am leaving out but from the feedback I received I think it was went well. A lot of the principals from my region of the state came and supported me and were friendly faces in the crowd.
Please feel free to share any ideas for next year.

Talking to Myself???

Okay, I think I am talking to myself! After Educon2.0 and all the "reflective" podcasts that I listen to, I have typed some "reflective" emails to my teachers about meetings we attended together, how a certain school process is going, etc.. You know.........REFLECT! I have now come to the conclusion that I am talking to myself.:)

Not really. My teachers are probably so shocked by this they don't know how to respond. (Teachers are also really busy BTW) As I think about it I don't even think our administrative team has reflective conversations. Always task oriented, info packed, opinionated discussions. Even my own meetings with my staff, no matter how big or small the group, have an "agenda" and heaven forbid I get off track of my agenda.:):):)

In the summer we have a voluntary book study. What makes it easier for me to be reflective at this time and not more times during the school year? I've got it!!! Fear! If I speak reflectively I am not giving directions or "telling them what to do." Teachers aren't big fans of being told what to do anyway so maybe reflective conversations would be more effective?! I may be onto something here, or again, just talking to myself.

I always ask for feedback on topics, or at least I think I do. I guess I should ask my teachers if I request enough feedback. Saying ALL my teachers, is unfair. Some have responded which is much appreciated. Another reason for lack of reflection, on my teachers part, may be the fact that they never know what their pregnant administrator is going to say or do on a given day so it may be better to avoid at all costs. :):):) Hormones!:)

Whatever! I think I am just talking to myself!

Twitter and Me

It has been about 3 weeks since I have taken the plunge and started "twittering." I thought I would give my review since I was so slow to buy into this tool. Okay, I was absolutely NOT going to ever go here!

It all began on EduCon2.0 weekend. If you could not attend the conference in Philly you could send twitters to people who were there and they could communicate for you. I really wanted to participate this way but it took me the whole weekend to figure it out. :) After that weekend I wasn't sure how it would go.

Scott gave me a quick tutorial one evening on Practical Principals. This helped clarify even more. Then I figured out how to get notifications as text messages on my phone and I was SOLD on the tool!!! I probably need to limit the number of notifications on my phone but it's still kind of fun.

Currently I am "following 25" people and only 13 people are "following me." I am still in awe of why they would follow me but it seems really neat. I hope I am contributing as much to their learning as they are to mine. Some of the people I am "following" have over 600 followers!!! What a difference they are making!! Holy cow!
Benefits for me:
    • Quick links to blogs, articles, news that interests me
    • If I need help with something I can send it out to my "twitter" following
    • Keeps me updated with the tech world
    • Something to do during boring meetings (did I just say that?)
There are probably more benefits but it's late and I have brain drain tonight!

Having fun with "handwriting" - writing tools

Blogging and typing are fun. Computer copies and archived files are nice when you are in a time crunch. Modeling writing and coloring is not my strength. I would rather type on the computer than "write" any day. I realized I need to do better for my 2 year old.
For the past couple of weeks I started scrapbooking again, a little bit, and writing letters to my children that I will give them someday when they are older. I don't know when and I don't even know if I will remember to write very often but it's been fun.
Since I have been blogging I have a little more confidence in my writing. Oh we can argue over what size pencil to use, if/when kids are ready for pens, etc. Oh and those darned mechanical pencils, but I LOVE those and they are my pencil of choice unless there is a glitter pen or pencil around.
Do you write? What do you write with? What is your "pencil" of choice? What do you allow your students to write with? Does it matter?

New Book Study - Assessment for Learning

For those of you who have read my blog and listened to my podcast you are aware that I was not a very big fan of my administrative teams last book study, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. I am sure that if handled correctly and under the right circumstances this book study may benefit some of our schools. Many from our team went away from our first discussion with hurt feelings and comments were made that couldn't be taken back. Anyway, it is over and we have a new book!!!

Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing it Right - Using it well by: Stiggings, Arter, Chappuis, Chappuis.

Chapter One discussion is tomorrow. Just read it and here are my notes:

Chapter One Title: Classroom Assessment: Every Student a Winner!
  • The teaching profession i s a calling
  • Assessment can work in positive ways to benefit learning
  • Example #1 a good example - teacher worked with students to implement new standards, shared scoring guides written for just students in understandable terms, studied GOOD examples of writing, took a beginning of the year writing sample and end of the year writing sample to a School board meeting to show that a newly adopted program was working.
  • Unlucky students story - only direction was to "fill the page" and student only wrote 3/4 way down page, failed assignment regardless of content of writing.
  • 2nd Success story - students given copy of final exam plan at beginning of unit, teacher wrote 4-5 test questions each day, students wrote some questions for practice test.
  • Begin with purpose in mind
  • Classroom learning targets are clear and communicated to the students
  • Standards, GLE's, etc. in student-friendly language
  • Include enough exercises
  • Student involvement is critically important
  • The most important instructional decisions are by students themselves - OMG that is a mind shift for some! Holy cow!
There is a CD and I could take a survey if time but that wasn't part of the assignment.

I have "blogger's block:):):)

It is such a challenge to come up with things to write about right now. So I will call it "BB" Blogger's Block. I had a very long post about closing school for snow days. But then my Supt. was the only one of 200 and some schools that did NOT call off school yesterday and it voided all my thoughts from the previous day. I am not kidding. We made the news for having school when ALL other schools were not in session.
Twitter has been a lot fun lately. Getting twitter updates on my phone are a nice way to break up the day. It would probably be best to quiet some of them because my phone goes off too many times. Twitter has lead me to some great blog posts. I guess I am just as bad as others about not commenting on blogs lately.
How do you overcome "BB" Blogger's Block?

We're BaACK! - Practical Principals

Episode 06 = "Ketchup" will be out this week! It's been a while and we sure appreciate everyone who has kept us in their reader and/or subscriptions in iTunes up to date. Between sick kids, grad classes, and pregnancies (me, not Scott of course:)) it has been a challenge to meet up on Skype at the same time. We are hoping things have slowed down for us for the winter and we can get back to regular recordings.

For those of you who may be new to this blog, Scott Elias and I do a bi-monthly administrative-ish podcast, "What you didn't learn in grad school."

iPhone discussion you can't miss!
Conference updates and previews - EduCon2.0, MAESP Spring Conference, and A Colorado Conversation

EduCon2.0 @ SLA in Philadelphia

It is 10PM Central time and I am trying to figure out how to be involved in Educon from afar:) I noticed there are Ustream channels, it is on HitchHikr, and they have a wiki. They have a store items to buy as well. Now if I can just figure out how to take part in all this that would be GREAT!!! I am even going to "tag" this post in hopes that someone will "take my hand" and help me with this.:)
Okay, I just came across something helpful at EdTechtalk.

Giving my teachers a "virtual" tour.......

How do you "show" your teachers a resource room that only 3 people can fit in at a time? Obviously you can't have a faculty meeting in that room. :) Digital pictures are my answers for this!

Our district ordered a large number of new books for our book room. It is going to take quite a while to get them all organized and labeled correctly but I wanted my teachers to be excited and I really think they will get a lot of use out of these materials. My choices of tools were going to be a video, Bubbleshare, or Voicethread. I think Bubbleshare's audio over tool is down for maintenance so I went with voicethread.

Link just in case........


Podcasting Principal is Back!!!

Tune in this week to this blog and The Podcasting Principal for a new episode. I have been on hiatus for a few months but was able to record last night. Of course there is no school today and I am unable to upload but check your feeds and podomatic for the next episode.

I am talking Observations this week!!! Scott and I also did a show on this on the Practical Principals a few months ago.

Observations: Formal/Summative

Here's how I do it...........

In September I observe all non-tenured teachers. I do this in case I need to work with a newer teacher on planning, classroom management, instruction, parent communication, etc. This is the "dog and pony show" observation. They set the stage and just invite me in. If the lesson doesn't go well, there is a student problem, the teacher doesn't like how things are going, we reschedule. If the next lesson goes well, I trash the first one.

Note: Two other principals in my district do ALL teachers first semester. We have to do non-tenured twice a year but tenured is up to us. I do tenured EVERY year because they need that formal documentation and I need to be to say I have formally observed them.

Lesson learned: I am going to do 1/2 tenured 1st semester next year so I don't have EVERYONE 2nd semester.

2nd Round: In January I want to complete all tenured observations and February all non-tenured. These are drop-in observations but I have told them I am starting. I want to get them done quick because I don't want them to worry about it for weeks. When I leave the classroom I leave a "reflection" form for them to fill out regarding the lesson I just watched.

Post obs conferences: I put a letter in all teachers mailboxes. It takes me a few days to type up the formal "form" I have to use. I do however give them a copy of my notes. These are rough draft, random notes I write while I am in the classroom. They know exactly what I am thinking and questions I have right after the lesson. I emailed a disclaimer the these are RANDOM thoughts and I will go over it with them. If they have freak-out personalities I try to meet with them quickly because I think they are going to read too much into my notes.:)
I want them to lead the post obs conference. I am going to go over the lesson and my observations but I want them to "toot their own horns" so to speak.

Tools I use: For the actual observation I use GoObserve software on my palm. I copy and paste the district form after the GoObserve report. If they are due for a Summative I copy and paste the summative chart, for formative, I copy and paste the formative chart.

Lessons Learned: I change my phrases in my GoObserve software every year. Some I find are irrelevant and some I have to add due to new initiatives our district is implementing. I also updated my "reflection" form this year. 4 years with old one was getting kind of tired and I really want my teachers to reflect.

How do you do it?

Teacher Workday a Success!!!

Our teachers returned to work yesterday. It is a little odd to have a teacher workday on the last Friday of break. Oh well! Pick your battles. I was not able to be in my own building the whole day due to trainings going on in various locations throughout the district.

Conco Quarries is a community business that has a wonderful meeting room that they allow our district to use for district-wide training sessions. Our district is spread out over a few miles and this allows a "middle-ground" location for all 4 elementary staff to meet. It is soooo nice to have the collaboration of the district and for teachers to get to know one another. I hope that other districts have district-wide collaboration. It is very powerful. Our K-1 teacher had training in the morning, 2-3 in the afternoon and 4th grade met separately in the afternoon at one of the other elementary buildings. I attended the K-1 and 4th grade training.

You've got to start somewhere! Some of my upper grade teachers have mental road blocks to how to implement guided reading. Guided reading is such a powerful instructional tool. Just start somewhere! Do something! It doesn't have to be perfect. Model learning and risk-taking. The students will love and benefit from this individualized instruction. There is always a laundry list on how something will not work but just dive in anyway. It's called flexibility 101! I am anxious to see how it goes. Everything is in place it is just a matter of doing something and starting somewhere. Ready, set................

Flickr image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/judybaxter/115424637/in/photostream/

Happy New Year 2008!!!

I just read through a few of my favorite blogs in my "reader." I actually took my "reader" off my homepage to do away with some of the guilt of not being able to keep up. I am not even sure if anyone still has this blog in their reader. When I started blogging last year I found this to be the most forgiving place of any professional development activity I have participated in.

This post is to "test the waters" before I head back to work after Christmas break. Yes, I said Christmas and will probably continue to do so. My blogging crashed and burned after I found I was pregnant with our 2nd child. This has not been as physically exciting as it was with my 1st child. I will spare you the details other than it was all I could do to run a school from 7:30AM - 4:00PM everyday then come home and raise a 2 year old going on 10. Let's all hope the next 6 months of this "magical experience" is a little more magical:):):) I am thrilled to be having another child after struggling so hard for the first one. Ignorance was bliss the 1st time around!

Catching up on blog posts has been fun this evening. Just a reminder where and what everyone has been up to. A special thanks to Cathy who added me to her "friend's shared items." That is a pretty cool tool that I will have to check out. After I check out twitter of course. I do believe a very kind person set me up a twitter account during my few months hiatus from the technology world.

In March it is my responsibility to run the "internet cafe" for the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals annual conference. This is an awesome undertaking and I don't want to let anyone down. I may be seeking out my "blog buddies" for some assistance. But until next time it's nice to be back but I can't any promises on my consistency for a while.
Happy New year!!!