The 5 Days of Christmas Teacher Treats

Because I can't keep up with TWELVE!!! Thank you to my Voxer group and +Jay Posick for helping with this again this year. I think Jay did this last year and we all jumped in midstream. This year I let our group of principals share ideas then I took the best ones!:)

Since it is AFTER Christmas (better late than never) and you might want to use these next year here is my recommendation....

Go to your calendar and on Dec. 1st add "5 Days of Christmas." Then include a link to this post as a reminder. Example: I use Google calendar. Any time I come across a time specific or holiday idea I add it to my Google calendar as an event. In the description I include a link to the post/picture/idea so I can look at it when I actually need it. Make sense???

Click here for PDF Copy

The how.....
  • I created all of the images on my phone, using the apps listed above, and attached them as images to a Remind text message.
  • I scheduled the text messages in advance. Sunday, before the week started, I scheduled all of these. (Remind has the "scheduling" feature.)
  • Just for fun these were all scheduled at different times. Created suspense:) It was fun. 

How to Blog More Often

So the two people who still read this blog asked why I don't blog more often anymore? That's a good question so I thought I would at least make something up. Here goes....

In order to blog more often my girls will have to rely on a diet of cereal, frozen waffles, and/or ramen noodles. My daughters are now 9 and 6 years old. I think back to my glory days of blogging and they were still drinking from a bottle. Or they were toddlers. You can put anything in front of a toddler. Whatever foods they don't throw on the floor become their meal for at least the next month. Nowadays I do try to prepare a decent meal at least 3 times a week (for a good week).
I also think I could blog more often if the laundry did itself. This pile of laundry just gets moved from the bed, to the foot of the bed on floor, back to on the bed in the morning! 
I actually think there is more laundry on the couch in the other room when I took this picture. 

I LOVE blogging! I have tons of ideas. Sharig helps everyone. I love reading blogs. I wish more principals/teachers blogged. I even have planner specifically devoted to blog planning! 
But its empty.
For now I will do the best I can. I share a lot of my ideas on Instagram now because so quick and easy. Maybe you can follow me there until the next phase of life that gets easier? But I've heard  the "easy" part is over:) 

Displaying Students' Digital Work

Oh what fun we have had with the new display TVs in the hallways!

So I didn't really have a workflow plan and list of things to display so this has been total trial and error. What I found is that once I displayed a couple student presentations more and more students have asked to have their worked "streamed" in the big screens. 

*Stream from Apple TV. (Our internet/filter/etc. does not play nice with Apple TV.)
*Stream from Chromecast. (Streams a little better on our platform but you need computer specifically for mirroring and a trained person to monitor it all day. Loses connection? Who troubleshoots?)
*Image slide show on USB! Ba-Bam! This has worked so far.
*If just displaying pictures, I put on USB and plug into TV, DONE.
*Teachers share their own Google presentations or share student Google presentations. 
*I download as PPT, save as pictures, put pics on USB, DONE. I don't have to worry about connection issues all day. 

Student presentations are the best! Tomorrow I am combining 4 student presentations as a slideshow to stream next week! 

What's your TV display workflow? 

Tech Cafe Part 2 - Redesigning Learning Spaces

 If you build it, they will come! So it took a while for the teachers to get comfortable allowing the students to work in this space "unsupervised." I totally get that. Some of us educators are very controlling, Type A personalities:) But it only took a couple of times to send the kids out to work independently that we "got it." They love it! They know it's a privilege and none of them want to jeopardize that!

Some days it looks like this:
And some days it looks like this:
Whether it's one, two or 20 kids it's a valuable space that the teachers and students really enjoy using.
The day the custom chair arrived.

Mrs. Grant using Smart TV/Chromecast.
"So how much did that cost?" you might ask. I do not know the exact cost but somewhere around $12,000 is my estimate. You see the furniture is custom ordered with custom fabrics and colors. Of course you wouldn't have to do that. This is our district's first attempt at redesigning a current space. you see, we don't all get to build a new school or have classrooms/spaces built on to our buildings. We wanted to see if we could use the space we already have in a creative way.
Yep! I'm sitting on the floor in awe of their work.

Interesting uses of furniture:)

Yes, this many 3rd and 4th graders were really working in this space quietly and on task. The teachers are in the classrooms right next to this and frequently check on their progress and work in the "Tech Cafe." I was as amazed as anyone with how quiet they were all working, writing, reading, listening, etc. You have to see it to believe it!

So come visit us! See it for yourself.
(Click here for Part 1)

What I'm Reading

This is an interesting list for fall reading. Looking for ideas to work with challenging students it appears. And Beyond the Bake Sale is a reference for the whole year.

Connected Educator Teacher Challenge #CE14

*This challenge is cross posted on my staff blog as a challenge for them this month. It was created in collaboration with @8Amber8.

In your mailbox you will find a Tic Tac Toe grid for Connected Educator Month. Last year you could fill out the Bingo card in the spring semester. Tic Tac Toe should be a little easier to complete for more people:) Once you complete your game board turn it in the to the office you can choose your FREE doodie! If you "black out" the whole card you can cash in for a FREE doodie AND 1 hour lunch coupon. Your class will be covered a 1/2 hour before or after lunch!

Please don't over think it. The goal is to explore connected education.
Activity explanation
Game board

Redesigning Learning Spaces - #WEETigers Tech Cafe

Not everyone gets the chance to work in a new school, open a new school, or be able to redesign their current school. So when my superintendent entertained my idea of redesigning some current spaces in my "old" my building I jumped at the chance. What started as a "what if...." conversation last spring has become a reality!

The 1st drawing...
I think I originally used Lucid Chart for this design. My original idea included a counter/bar with stools. You will see that did not make the final plan but I think it may still be an option. Student ideas were also considered. Hind sight I would not show the kids my design before asking for their ideas. Their designs mirrored mine:( They were great but I think I limited their thinking.
Student example/idea
 At this point in the process I became pretty assertive. Once you have student input/ideas it's pretty defeating to think or say you have to back out or it was just a pipe dream. The fact that we are proposing a bond issue with building projects worked in my favor. I think I got the green light for the project as a trial for one of the architect companies. But you don't see me complaining.

So these drawings are amazing! Then we had the meeting....Let me preface this by saying I invited myself to the meeting. Their ideas were okay at the time but I wasn't sure. On this occasion I had my girls with me. The meeting was unexpected and I didn't have childcare that day. My 3rd grader actually swayed my thinking on a couple of things.

And so it began...Stay tuned for Part 2 when I can spend more time sharing the final project. (Spoiler alert: There are finished project pics on my instagram account @mmiller7571)

Blog Makeover!

Blogs seem to come and go these days. Blogs I used to read religiously are gone or no one has posted to them in months. It's so sad. Bloggers have a lot to say and it's good stuff so I hate to see them go. But I am guilty of getting too busy to post too. Sooooo......I thought if I did blog makeover I would want to see my new blog so I would post more often!

There seem to still be some glitches but it's close!

Blog header: I used Powerpoint for my new header. Last time I used PhotoShop Elements.

Background: Followed directions from Cutest Blog on the Block. Used PhotoShop Elements but only to figure out size that would upload to blogger.

A Principal and Her PLN

Some people are not who you think when you meet face to face.  They are better! Funnier, more genuine, relate-able, and like-minded. This summer I met some of my favorite people face to face....FINALLY!

Build your network. Connect with others. Share ideas. Reach out. The rewards are amazing! I just wish I could have met EVERYONE in my PLN.

First, my ISTE roommate Amber Teamann! Amber and I have connected online and on Voxer. Voxer adds a whole new dimension to online relationships so it was like we had been friends for years.
@8Amber8 @mmiller7571
The Melinda's :)
Blogger's Cafe group! And we still connect.
But then came NAESP2014! There is just something about meeting other principals from all over the country. Especially those you've grown to know and built relationships with over the years. I started blogging and tweeting in 2008. I can't even begin to name all the people who have influenced my work and my leadership since then. I can't even imagine where I would be without the help of my professional network.

Finally! Tony and I had been sharing ideas and collaborating with a group on Voxer and met face to face in the Social Media Lounge at #NAESP14.  You definitely need to follow @Tonysinanis and #Cantiague to learn how to tell your school's story on Social Media.

Yep! THE Peter DeWitt blogger extraordinaire!(Oh and Tony:)
 You know those people you wish you could work with every day? The ones you want on your team? For me that is Don. This picture records that moment in time I really did get to work side-by-side with him! I also had the honor of presenting and writing an article with Kathy Melton. She has amazing ideas!

#NAESP14 Social Media Lounge Ambassadors
And finally a huge thank you to Joe Mazza for putting this group together. These leaders were truly inspiring. You can find them Twitter here:

This post does little justice to all the people I have yet to meet and have literally changed the way I do my work, but it's a start. Thank you all for your collaboration all these months and year!!!

Random Acts of Kindness Kick-off

This year my goal is to help my teachers remember why they became a teacher. With Common Core, evaluation changes, staff changes, curriculum changes, etc. over the last couple of years we may have gotten away from what's most important.....making a difference in the lives of children. Yes of course our goal is to educate them. However it's easy to get lost in the guidelines, restrictions, and rules.

Before school started my leadership team took off on a mission to perform Random Acts of Kindness. Some were planned and some were spontaneous. Regardless, it was a great day of thinking of and serving others. Below are just a few of our stops.....
Lunch planning session

Departure in the district suburban!

We left these behind.

Laundry mat change

Leaving notes for teachers in other schools:)
Leaving coins for kids:)

Wish we could have seen kids find these:)
Final stop and reflection!

It was an amazing day! These are only a few of our stops. Motivation comes easy when you think of others and how to make their day special.

Patience and the Principalship

"Never pray for patience." How many times have you heard this? There have been a few experiences to make me a believer in this statement. 

As a school leader how in the world are you supposed to have patience and wait when the stakes are so high? 

No Child Left Behind - All students in the United States will be proficient in everything! Ok not EVERYTHING. But as a school leader somewhere inside you think the "proficiency police" are going to come arrest you and all your staff before Dec. 31, 2014. 

Kindergarten - The first 2-4 weeks of a school year you and your kindergarten teachers have no idea how you are going to survive the year. Crying, pushing, shoving, taking all their clothes off to go to the bathroom, peeing on the playground, puking, and the list goes on and on and on.  Kindergarten parents need extra love and attention too. Many of our K students will be with us 4 - 5 more years. How you handle inappropriate "show and tell" on the playground can effect a relationship for years. But we survive with patience.

New teachers - So excited! They can do anything! Classroom ready. Organized. Everything color coded. Then the students arrive. They are excited! But some don't have school supplies. Some are hungry. Some are tired. Mom and dad just split up. You know the list. It goes on and on. College didn't prepare the new teacher for this. But they survive with patience.

The Principal - There are days I want to pray for patience. The stomach flu that took out half the primary students has now taken out 3 teachers.  Students get on the wrong bus. There is a fox on the playground. The internet goes down during lunch. Student brings a hand grenade for show and tell. (Yes, the bomb squad came and blew it up.)

Sometimes we just to go through things, get to the other side, reflect and plan for next time.


The topic for this post was inspired by a group of fellow PLN
principals that I connect with daily.  You can find each of their
posts on Patience below:


Principals are People Too

Contrary to popular belief, legends, folklore, and/or old wives tales.....principals do not live in the basement of the school! Hard to believe that we mill around the community just like all of you. Just yesterday I was spotted at Target by a former student who made her mom yell at me so she could say "Hi," in disbelief that I was out of my basement dwellings.

You will see us at the grocery store, at ball games, the gas station, restaurants, and occasionally at the public pool. Yes,  swore I would never go to the pool or be seen in public in my swimming suit but it happened. You see my children go to my school and they no longer believe that the principal was not allowed to go to the pool. (They want to play with their friends so I had to cave.) A friend of mine was even shocked I came to the pool because I said I never would:) "YOU went to the pool?!!!" Hilarious. I am not sure who was more shocked, the kids or their parents. One parent said the kids were better behaved that day than any day at the pool. I politely said that I was not The Principal of the Pool.

I love my job. I love the teachers, students, and their families almost every day. Yep! But I have bad days too.

Right before a grade level meeting this year I found out my best friend and college roommate had stage 4 cancer. (And by RIGHT BEFORE I mean the teachers were walking in my office) I had to suck that one in pretty hard not to lose it.

On my way home from work Sept. 12, 2011 my dad called to tell me my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.(My brother was 34. Young. Whole life ahead of him.) I did not speak to anyone at work for 7 days. Can you imagine a principal not communicating with their staff for 7 days at the beginning of the school year??? But the beauty of this situation(if there could be anything beautiful at the time) was the way my staff and school community picked up the ball and ran with it. They. Were. Amazing. I had no words....literally. You see my kids go to my school and we had to wait one day to tell them the sad news. (My husband drove me 6 hrs. to my family and he drove 6rs back in one day to pick up our girls and tell them.) They were guarded and loved like any other child would have been. Again......I had no words.

We do not know the battles that others are facing. But we learn that people really do care, even for the principal.

I am not sure I should thank my PLN for encouraging me to write this or block them from now on:) Whew! Those who know me know I don't necessarily wear my feelings on my sleeve. But maybe I should wear just a few.

I am a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, AND a principal. Sometimes principal comes first and sometimes family comes first. AND THAT'S OKAY! I have learned to live in the mix. Even at the pool!  So whether it's birthday parties, Silver Dollar City, White Water, the mall, or out to eat I will see you out there:)

 The topic for this post was inspired by a group of fellow PLN
principals that I connect with daily.  You can find each of their
posts on “Principals Are People Too” below: