Ozarks Writing Project Guess Day

Yesterday I had the privilege to be invited to the Ozarks Writing Project guest day. A teacher from another elementary in my district invited her principal and her principal invited me. Let me see if I can briefly describe OWP.....
  • 4 week summer institute for teachers focusing on the craft of teaching and learning about writing
  • Intense but valuable writing activities
  • Teachers teaching teachers
  • There is WAY more to it than that and hopefully some of the participants will comment and explain more eloquently than I have here:)
You might think that I am confident in my writing because I keep up this blog but you are wrong. I have read some blogs that get the same points across as I do but in a musical/story-like way. My goal is to just ideas out there in a short and sweet post.

Can you believe they were also promoting Twitter? They had the live twitter feed for #owp & #nwp scrolling so we could see what was going on with other writing institutes. Pretty cool stuff!

Unfortunately I was not able to stay all day but we did a really neat project with a teacher who teaches at-risk students. She talked about having a difficult time teaching about writing a reflection letter until she heard the Brad Paisly song "Letter to Me" on the radio. She then played the music video for her students and had them write letters to their future self. It was really neat.

I have a feeling this kind of stuff is what took place all the time for the 4-week institute. I really wanted to attend this summer but 4 weeks was more than I could manage. However, they are talking about hosting a principal version of this in the future.

Blogpress for the iPhone

So I'm try g moble blogging AGAIN:) Chris Lehman just posted using this app and he has mentioned it before so now is the time! It makes me think I will blog more but don't get too excited. I could also email posts and don't so that either. I guess we will see. Probably best that I didn't spend the money to go to ISTE since I am buying all the Apps they are recommending. Geesh!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Staffing Changes, Moving on in Life - June Challenge

Since I am running out of ideas for posts, Larry suggested I write about a staff change that was a real challenge for me. All staffing changes are a challenge.

Something that affected me more than I thought it would is when a staff member leaves. Teachers/staff leave for a variety of reasons and it is beyond my control. Some choose to stay at home with new babies (I always hope they will want to come back.) Some transfer to another building/age group. Some make career changes. Retirement. Regardless of the reasons, when I became a principal I didn't think anyone would ever leave my building. The first year was such a whirlwind that I hardly remember what happened. After that each departure affected me in a different way.

When we hire teachers we hope they are here to stay. We ask the question, "Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?" and we hope it's with us. Unfortunately there are no guarantees. Even the teachers in the interview think they are here to stay, but life happens. I mean seriously, am I going to say, "I would rather you not retire until I retire." or "Your baby will be fine. You need to teach a few more years with me." Those comments would not win me any points I am sure!

Unfortunately we spend more time at work than we do with our own family and our co-workers become our 2nd family. We invest a lot of time in each other and it is hard when there is a "break-up" for lack of a better term:) Most of the teachers and staff who have left my building have stayed in touch and/or I see them very often. It is like a family reunion when a former teacher or staff member comes back for a visit.

Image credit

Pogo Stylus - How did I miss this? - June Challenge

Seriously? How did this get passed me? (I am sure I can find some way to blame @scottelias for holding out on me with this:) My fake nails kept me from buying the 1st gen iPhone so if I had known about this.... Steve Jobs could have had another $699 3 yrs ago. Can you remember how expensive the 1st iPhone was? Holy crap?

(I first read about Pogo Stylus in a post by Scott McLeod. This is a really good post and I highly recommend reading if you want to get the most out of your iPad.)

Now all jokes aside, this is a pretty good idea even if only for my daughter. She LOVES the iPad but I think she needs to work on "writing" at her age. Now she can work on writing on the iPad! The touch screen is great. Don't get me wrong, but that's not developmentally appropriate for my 4 year old. At least not in 2010. Maybe it will be some day but I still think kids need to "hand write" well.

It's an iPhone4 Anniversary! - June Challenge

For those of you who stayed tuned to see if my iPhone4 actually arrived for my 10th anniversary.....it arrived early! Yesterday I semi-secretly tested out my new iPhone. Didn't want to post too much to twitter as I was seeing twitpics of all the lines at all the stores and I felt a little guilty. Didn't really want to drive by and wave my new phone box out the window. But curiosity got the best of me and I did journey around town to see if there was any hoopla locally.....nope. At least last night I could not find any lines:)

After downloading iOS4 at the beginning of the week I was almost regretting ordering the new iPhone. iOS4 really does everything the new phone does. I have not tried all the new features yet and will enjoy doing that the next few days.

1st Impressions:
  • The new retina vision or whatever it is called is pretty awesome
  • It's pretty sleek/flatter I guess
  • Felt really breakable until I got a new case this morning
  • I used Google voice and I am not sure it is set up correctly now, I couldn't remember my voicemail password.
  • Love the way the Apps look like they are floating, but that goes along with all iOS4
  • Battery doesn't seem to last longer I don't think, full charge yesterday at 4PM and it's at 27% right now. So that would be less than 24 hour life. Hmmm?
Image credit - and I think you can buy this cake topper if you would like:)

More Evernote Information - June Challenge

This is just a reminder that I took on a challenge to post every day the month of June. Originally it was to post about the book Spilling Ink. However it morphed into posting whatever I could think of at the time. Even though I have failed miserably at the challenge and not been able to post every day, other challengers continue to inspire me. I will continue to do the best I can do:)

I often neglect to mention that I use the paid subscription to Evernote. I quickly exceeded my limit of space one day when I was scanning documents to clean out paper files. I believe it is the $40/yr. subscription.

Here is a post from one of my challengers, Principal Larry Fliegman, about how he uses Evernote. Be sure to read his June Challenge posts also.
This link just came through on Twitter and is an amazing, but lengthy post regarding Evernote.

So I guess I am linking to two other posts to take the pressure off a long post for myself:)

Evernote vs. Dropbox vs. Google Apps - June Challenge

How about that for a mouthful? I have actually used all three. I use Dropbox the least amount of time however most admin. & teachers in my district use Dropbox more regularly than I do. All are accessible on the iPhone.

Evernote: My scanner is set up to scan all paper to Evernote automatically. Any time I get handouts, meeting agendas, teacher notes, etc. these are scanned into Evernote. My scanner is the small scanner and I will probably invest in the larger one in the fall. The hardest part is remembering to go back into the "note" and give it a title and tags so I can find it later. The search feature of Evernote is amazing so if I forget to title or tag I can search for any word in the document and eventually find it. (Tune in for more posts this week regarding Evernote. There are so many uses!)

Google Apps/Regular Google: This is where I live. Now that we can upload ANY file to Google apps/documents this makes Dropbox irrelevant to me. I can upload my files and keep the original formatting I just have to remember that if I downloaded I have to re-uploaded it as the new file. Have not had to do that yet. Now that Google docs has been upgraded and they added Google Drawings I can do just about anything I need right in Google.

Dropbox: When Dropbox first came out I used it for a couple of documents to work on at home. I think my entire "My Documents" folder is sync'd to Dropbox but I have not used any of my documents in there. Some other principals have share some Dropbox folders with me but that is the extent of my use.

This is a very brief comparison but I have to get home because my sitter leaves in an hour:):):) Still trying to post in June though!

Google Docs Collaboration - Day (? I lost track:)

Next year my building will be using Google Docs to collaborate. Here are some of our current uses and hopefully future uses:


  • Leadership Team agenda and minutes - The agenda is typed up and shared through Google Apps. We type the minutes directly onto the agenda. There is an original template that I copy so that we don't have to redo the agenda every time.
  • 3rd Grade Planning - My 3rd grade team is planning their grade level meetings in Google Docs. They commented that they actually get more done in a short amount of time because they can just fill in the document and not even have to talk about things because it has already been addressed. (This is a pretty cool thing for them.)
  • Curriculum Pacing Guides - A district committee created Math pacing guides and we are actually using Sites to store the information. When we were not able to type into Sites because of tech glitches I notice that the different groups were typing in Google docs so that the information could be shared with the right people.
  • Behavior Matrix planning - We are creating a consistent behavior expectations matrix and this was created in Google Docs as a "table" and the teachers can add their thoughts. No has added any thoughts but I will continue to send links and ask for feedback.
  • (I think there is more but I don't want this post to get too long.)
  • All grade level meetings
  • All committee/cadre meetings
  • Lesson plans - This is a long shot because this is such a personal thing. Everyone has their way of doing lesson plans just like I have my way of documentations. It would make it easier for me to see their lesson plans but "easier for me" is not a good reason at all.:) It would have to benefit them and they would have to see the value. If they found value in sharing with their grade levels and then could share with me that would be great!
  • PTO website with agendas and minutes in docs but linked on the website. We already set my PTO president up with an Apps account we just need to try this one out.
  • Student reading logs in Forms
  • Reading/writing workshop student conference logs in Forms
I'll keep you posted!

Traveling Post iPad 3G - Day 13

So I missed yesterday and trying to make up today. Since I had a day trip today I thought I should try out the 3G capabilities. Not such good luck today. From the SW center of MO to the SE corner of the state there is no 3G. Not only did the iPad not connect but neither did my iPhone. Oh, and when I got on to activate the 3G, the site was down for maintenance.

The silver lining is the fact that in had downloaded some kid-friendly Apps. Cassidy (turns 2 next weekend) enjoys drawing. Alyson 4yr. old, played some alphabet games. So I guess my opinion that this is a great tool for kids still stands:)

Needless to say I wont be able to blog on day trips to the in-laws.

Why I "need" an iPhone4 - Day 11 of challenge

Let's face it, I don't really NEED an iPhone4 but I sure should have one! Below is my Top Ten list why my husband needs to buy this for me for our 10th anniversary:

10. 10 yrs = "Aluminum Anniversary = iPhone has to have some type of aluminum-ish metal in it somewhere.
9.  The iPhone is scheduled to be available the exact date of my anniversary. June 24
8.  I showed great restraint when the iPad was released
7.  It's thinner
6.  I can record and edit movies of my children to send to family
5.  The folders option can help me organize all my Apps. (I have A LOT.)
4.  Multitasking - I have wanted the iPhone to do this since the Palm came out with it.
3.  Longer battery life
2.  I can keep the unlimited plan
1.  Scott Elias is getting one and I have one-up him.:)

So tune in for my "Anniversary iPhone Post" and see how it turns out!

Summer Office Organization - Day 10

My office is a disaster by the end of the school year. For the last 3-4 weeks of school I usually just let it go and keep adding to piles. After the teachers and students are dismissed for the summer I know I will have time to clean/purge whatever is needed.
(I wish I would have taken a picture before I started but these will have to do. )
My daily documentation system is a paper system. I know that is shocking since some of you might think I am so tech savvy:)

  • My documentation is kept on a clipboard. This is an Outlook daily page from 7AM-7PM. 
  • I tried to print Google calendar pages but they don't print the right time range. 
  • Behind each daily page on the clipboard I keep a blank lined paper to take notes for the day.
  • Sometimes there are notes and sometimes not. 
  • I print 2 weeks documentation at a time. 

So I just realized that I have 6 years of documentation binders! I usually do not have to go back through these binders but you never know. But I probably do not need to keep them in binders anymore and could free up some space:) 
Sooooooo....I am spending the next couple of days scanning all this documentation to our school server or Evernote. I added my Evernote email to the office copy machine so I can just go ahead and scan directly. I was emailing my school email and then forwarding to Evernote and that was not working.
This picture is only a small amount of my most recent documentation.(Highlighted in green.) It should only take me a little time to scan this today. Then I can give the teachers these binders to use for their Reading binders:)

The reason I chose Evernote is because I can search by any word that might be in the document. Searching my files on my computer takes forever and I can never remember the exact title of the document. AND I have Evernote on my iPhone and can access it anytime, anywhere. Not that I ever do but I could:)

Now I have to work on the "binders" stored in the teacher mailroom/junk room. Remember when binders were the thing "in thing?" The more the better and who could make the coolest spine and cover page?

Spilling Ink ARRIVED - Day 9 Challenge

Finally, the reason behind all this madness has arrived on my desk! The original challenge was to read and post about the book Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook, daily for the month of June. My dilemma was that it was going to take so long for the book to arrive, what was I to do in the meantime? So it's here and this may the only post regarding the actual book which = the reason for the June Challenge.

The past two years our building has been working on teaching writing through the Missouri Reading Initiative. This was a three year initiative that has ended but how do we carry on all the things we learned? Anytime I see or read something on Twitter about literacy it catches my eye. I wonder, "What are other schools doing and could we do that?" Taking the "Spilling Ink Challenge" was a way for me to work on my own writing. (It might take longer than the month of June to improve my writing but at least I am trying.:)

If independent writing is something you expect your students to do on a daily basis, how about you try it? Challenge yourself to write something every day. It's a lot harder than I imagined. I love to blog but for me it is finding the time to do it. Time is one of the excuses I use in public. My private reasons for not blogging as often is fear. What do people think of what I write? Does anyone read this stuff? If they do read it, does it help them at all? Many of the people who read this do not KNOW me as a person so what perception am I giving off in all this writing?

Well regardless of the answers to the above questions I am in it until the end of June at least:)

Adult Podcasts for PD for Adults - Day 8

This is about adults listening to podcasts for adults, NOT podcasting for students or students creating podcasts. Although that is really great too, I think we don't realize all the resources out there for us.

The first podcast that I ever listened to was WOW - Women of the Web. At the time I thought I was listening to a “podcast” but I actually started out listening to LIVE webcasts then realized I didn’t have to show up “live” every time they were on. I could just subscribe in iTunes and listen at my liesure.

I strongly recommend that you explore the world of podcasting. I was hooked after just a couple of downloads. My car has become my “vehicle” for personal learning. My two daughters make it a little challenging to listen to live webcasts any more but I can download a variety of “shows” to my iPhone.

Podcasts I created:
The Podcasting Principal - I abandoned this podcast when Scott Elias and I started The Practical Principals but there are still some episodes you might enjoy.
The Practical Principals - Practical advice on topics and issues you didn’t learn about in Grad school.

Favorites to subscribe to:
TWiT = This Week in Tech
TWiG = This Week in Google
Entreprenurial Thought Leaders = Standford University
Small Schools Big Tech

#Edcamp KC Fall 2010

@wmchamberlain just tweeted me about #Edcamp KC! Finally an un-conference type of event for the Midwest! According the wiki these are popping up all over the country this year.

@kylepace seems to be the instigator, I mean organizer of this event and he needs our help. Please join the wiki and the discussion about this exciting event. Below I am copy and pasting the sample "press release" so you can understand what this event is.

"edcamp Philly: Education 'Unconference' Comes to Drexel University in May 2010

edcamp Philly, a free conference for teachers, administrators and anyone involved in education comes to Drexel University on May 22, 2010

(Philadelphia, PA) March 25th, 2010 -- edcamp Philly (http://www.edcampphilly.org), an education conference like no other, will be held at Drexel University on Satruday, May 22nd. The structure of the conference is very informal, with attendees signing up to run sessions first thing in the morning.

The conference will be free from corporate vendors and booths, with the focus being solely on conversations about education. Attendees will come from all over the East Coast and will range from classroom teachers to administrators to coaches and school board members. There will be time for attendees to gather informally to share ideas as well as a variety of sessions for them to attend, run by their colleagues and fellow educators.

This inaugural event is based on the barcamp model, also known as an unconference (http://barcamp.org). An unconference is:

  • an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment; and
  • a conversational event featuring discussions, demos and interactions between participants, rather than a group of people listening to a particular speaker.  

The organizers of edcamp Philly met at BarCamp Philly (http://www.barcampphilly.org) in November 2009, ran a session together and fell in love with the model and its potential for teacher professional development. They immediately began pulling together ideas for their own, education-centered barcamp conference.  They dropped the 'bar' wording (which refers to computer programming language) and replaced it with 'ed,' referring to the event's K-12 education focus.

As with all barcamps, edcamp Philly is completely free, with all refreshments and other amenities provided solely through sponsorship.  With the possibility of up to 300 attendees, the organizers are looking for local businesses who may be interested in being featured in the conference literature.  Those interested in being a sponsor can make donations and/or contact the organizers on the website (http://www.edcampphilly.org/?page_id=51).

The organizers are excited to start what will hopefully be an annual gathering of forward-thinking, innovative and engaging education professionals in the greater Philadelphia area.

For additional information about this event, contact Mary Beth Hertz or visit http://www.edcampphilly.org.

About edcamp Philly:
The first of its kind, edcamp Philly is a free, informal education conference to be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. 

Mary Beth Hertz, co-organizer
(267) 507-4033
email: organizers@edcampphilly.org"

School-wide Behavior Expectations(aka Positive Behavior Expectations)

The PBS philosophy has been around for a few years. Let me begin by saying we are not going through the formal PBS training provided by our regional PD centers. A couple other schools within my district are going through this process with their staff as well. Sometimes schools/teachers do not realize how much they can accomplish on their own. We are not opposed to inviting trainers to help out but we think we can get the ball rolling on our own.

At our last Leadership Team meeting before the teachers went home for the summer we talked about the need for school-wide behavior expectations in certain locations and/or scenarios in our school. We do not have a HUGE discipline problem but we could stand to have a little more order during transitional periods or unstructured times during the day. (Hallway, restroom, cafeteria, etc.)

We are not reinventing the wheel so to speak. We are using resources and information off of other school websites to create our philosophies/forms etc. I have been doing a lot of the initial creation because I am still "on the clock." I did share our behavior matrix with the teachers through our Google Apps account so they can add to work I already started. We will meet again before school starts to tweak our collaborative online work and decide how to present to the teachers.

Our Universals:
R-Respect Each Other
0-Observe Safety
A-Attitude is everything
R-Responsible Choices

Below are links to some of the resources I have referred to:
Mrs. Avery's Class
Emerson Elementary, Joplin, MO

Faculty Review of Administrator

This is my 6th year as elementary principal at Willard East. In an effort to make sure that I am genuinely serving my teachers and students I decided I would have the teachers fill out a survey somewhat evaluating me as a school leader. This was not a researched based survey or some type of hidden meaning evaluative survey. It is a survey that is used by a neighboring school district every year. I did not create it.

Another principal in the district surveyed his staff and I thought this would be very helpful for my personal and professional growth. There was NO hidden agenda to doing this survey. I wanted to know what my teachers think. Mentally I was prepared to be put under the microscope and hear some negative feedback too. However, I found that most of the feedback was very professional and genuine. Both the "needs improvement" areas and "strengths" were right on or at least I agreed with most of it.

Here is how I posted the information for my staff to see the results..... 
Below the quoted post is a copy of the survey if you would like to use it someday.(Sorry for the terrible template. The teachers clicked on a link that sent them to the form which is formated better as a website.) 

"Principal Survey – Thank you to those of you filled out the google form “Faculty Review of Administrator.” This information is very helpful for my personal and professional growth. I shared this information with the Leadership Team and told them I would share with all of you as well. Below I will briefly summarize the results. If you would like me to elaborate on this more, please stop by and we can talk.
  • Only 20 staff members completed the survey
  • Next year I will probably have Bob create the survey and provide everyone with a login “token”. Stewart used this process at the HS and received 87/113 responses to his survey.
  • There was one “outlier” to the positive, meaning someone rated me highly on EVERYTHING. ‘
  • There was one “outlier” to the negative, meaning someone is not pleased with my leadership
Needs Improvement:
  • Collaboration with grade levels
  • Be respectful of time and work load
  • Build positive relations with parents
  • More student involvement
  • Be a better listener
  • Technology expectations – Slow down
  • Job Stress – handle job stress better:)
  • Communication
  • High expectations
  • Follows policy
  • Backing/supporting teachers
  • Technology – knowledgeable
  • Humor/creates positive environment"

Elementary Writing Use for iPad

There are tons of math, games, science, chemistry, etc. upper grade apps for the iPad. Finding uses for the primary grades seems a bit more difficult. Please keep in mind that I have not taken the time to explore this as much as other iPad education users have. Below are a couple of uses.

Children's books - There is huge possibility here! Unlike the Kindle, the iPad is colorful and gives the impression of actually turning pages. Children learning to read need to have their hands on authentic books. I have a 4 year old who LOVES books but when I put the iPad in her hands she wants to watch videos. Here is a screen shot of one children's book I found in the iBook store:

Writer's Workshop - We use Lucy Calkins Units of Study and it entails drawing pictures. Doodle Buddy has options for drawing, using "stamps," and inserting backgrounds. Students can create a picture, email it so it can be posted online, then students can write/type about the picture they created.

(Ignore the spider in the sky. Or you can actually write about the spider in the sky I guess:) There is so much more I am sure but I am really interested in the literacy instruction with the iPad and technology right now.

My iPad Thoughts So Far - Post 3 of June Challenge

This is actually not my own iPad but one purchased for the school. Our assignment has been to evaluate it for it's use in education. Sooooooo....I'm not doing so well with that:) Here are my random thoughts:

  • I did not sync it correctly and all my iPhone apps ended up on it the first time. I am still in the process of deleting ALL apps that are not compatible for the iPad. Some only show up in the iPhone size and when you 2x's them it distorts the image. Not a fan of that:)
  • The apps in green are the apps I or my daughters have used most often.
  • Currently I use it as a "reader." It is really easy to just pick up and read email, the internet, or books I have downloaded.
  • Since I can just leave this laying around I use it more often than my laptop now. That is one of the most surprising things to me. My laptop is always positioned on the kitchen counter but now the iPad holds that coveted position.
  • The apps in green on the 2nd image are apps that my daughters use the most of want to play with the most.
  • Apps are expensive! I quit downloading the free iPhone apps that are not compatible to the iPad. It is annoying that the apps are not the right size. 
Tune in tomorrow for some ideas on using this in the classroom:)

Summer Reading List - Post 2 of June Challenge

Hopefully I will get some reading done this summer! I have quite a list and I have started to read each of these books.

Book study with teachers - We have just come off a 3 year reading initiative and will now begin to "sharpen the saw." We are reading The Daily 5 and The CAFE Book. My 2nd grade teachers have read and implemented The Daily 5 and they are on to reading The CAFE Book. We will meet 4 times this summer. I also purchased the accompanying videos and the Intermediate grade versions of the videos.

Books for myself:
Spilling Ink - The main reason I am posting each day is a tweet I saw about reading Spilling Ink.
The World is Flat - A Brief History of the 21st Century (So far this is my favorite and I have just read the beginning.)
Greater Than Yourself - The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership - Recommended by one of my "google heroes" @iteachag (By the way he has an awesome new podcast Small School Big Tech. You have to listen!)
Accidental Billionaires - The Founding of Facebook: A tale of sex, money, genius, and betrayal.
Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
unChristianWhat a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters - Going to church is so different today than when I was a kid. What are my children going to think of church/religion/spirituality as they grow up? My mom "made" us go. She sang in the choir and after the choir came in we went for donuts because we sat where she couldn't see us:) But I still had a connection with the church and what it meant. 

Sucker for a Twitter Challenge

Jeesh! Here I go again. Hopefully I can make it all the way through June on this challenge.
Today I retweeted a challenge by @teachergirl89......Spilling Ink" challenge... blogging every day in June...Who's up for it? http://tinyurl.com/nc7gg3

Then @fliegs replied he would do it if I did it. Oh man, how can back down now? Well let's just see how it goes. The book Spilling Ink is not at the local book stores and will take some time to get here. So we agreed to at least post every day in June and when we get the book go from there.

I did actually go to Amazon and read the excerpts they have there and I am excited to read the book now. I think kids would love it. It is a down to earth book about being a writer. I struggle with writing myself. I feel like I can write a "mean" school newsletter and/or parent letter but blogging and twitter are not as natural to me. That sounds pretty pathetic I am sure.

Tune it to see how this evolves. If you are like me and don't have much showing up in your reader these days.... it might make for some light/humorous reading.