"It's Worth It" (Adapted)

Credit goes to Christina DeCarbo for this idea! Instead of a box I made it a folder. Originally I was going to do this in October. That's the time of year that the "honeymoon" period of behavior is over:) It's conference time, Halloween, teachers are ready for a break etc. 
Well life happens and I didn't get to this in October. So it's going to be one of my "days of Christmas" treats this year.

Two Principals Reading With Kids - #tcrwp

Today's post is all about books and reading with kids. I've co-written with one of my favorite bloggers and good friend Adam Welcome who is an Elementary Principal in California. Please read, especially with and to your students. It's very powerful!
I vividly remember my grandma reading aloud when I was growing up. Every Saturday night we would spend the night and she would read The Mickey Mouse Picnic, Little Golden Book. Same book over and over. Her voice, her expressions, the laughter, it was magical! This was my first and favorite experience having books read to me.

My next favorite experience was in 6th grade with Mrs. Hagg. She was awesome! Her expressions were amazing. She could draw us into a book and the world would stop.

Then, as a teacher I loved reading aloud to my students. My first year teaching I read Where the Red Fern grows. Without giving the ending way completely let's just say it's "emotional." I could not finish the book. I was crying, my students were crying. One of my boys, Zach, just wanted to hear the end. It was killing him! During on of the "emotional" events he raised his hand and asked, "Can I just finish for you so we know what happens?" He was really into the book. He just wanted to know and it was going to take me a while. Students still come back and mention that 21 years later.

I LOVE reading! I have stacks of books at home and at work. My Kindle is full. Love it! So as a principal I want to pass on my love of reading to my school. Even principals can read to students!

So here's my list:

How Full is Your Bucket?: We recognize good character and this has been our kick-off book for years. Each teacher has a copy and sign up for a time for me to read to their class within the first couple weeks of school.

The Principal's New Clothes: When I cover a teacher's classroom this is a quick activity/lesson the kids enjoy. After I read the book I give the kids a piece of paper with my school picture at the top. Then they have to draw my "new clothes." It's so fun! I have been a princess, a football player, and even their mom. 

The Frog Principal: Just for fun the principal is turned into a frog and tries to run the school as a frog.   

The Principal from the Black Lagoon: Well first, I think I look like the principal in this book don't you? It's been 12 years since I read this one so I think I will have to bring this one back. 

You will notice a theme in the books I choose. But then I came across my good friend Adam Welcome's read aloud list. Holy cow! What a list! I am excited to incorporate his books and ideas this year. Check out his list........ (I added them to my wish list on Amazon so I can buy them all.)
You can find Adam's amazing blog HERE!

Reading is funny, why does it click for some kids and not for others. I was one of those kids, it didn’t click. The frustrating part is my dad was a teacher. He taught 2nd grade for 38 years and I virtually grew up in his classroom. When I did read at home it was always out loud, which frustrated my older brother.

Then, 3rd grade came along and I discovered Roald Dahl, it clicked! When I taught 3rd/4th/5th grade we'd always go outside to read after lunch. My class absolutely LOVED reading outside and would beg me for a few more minutes, it was the best. I also read myself, modeling is so important and showing kids how engaged I was with a book hopefully gave them more reading mojo! When I became a Principal reading with classes was a top priority. It started with a few books my first year and then morphed into one book each month that I read to every class on campus. I'd then donate that book to our library, which was always a hot checkout after I finished my rounds.

I just recently moved schools/districts and overwhelmingly the most common comment I received from kids was that they loved when I read to their class. Wow!
- Reading with kids works!
- Reading to kids is powerful!
- Having the Principal read to classes is even more powerful! - I have books all over my office, kids pick them up and read whenever they visit, parents do too!
- My email signature is below, I even lists books there as well!

- Connect with kids
- Model Readers Workshop strategies for teachers and kids
- It's fun
- You can foster deep conversation
- Gives teachers a chance to relax and list to a story
- A common story across the school allows for a consistent conversation amongst ALL students
Here's just a few of my favorites, come visit my office to see many more!

Reading Gaston with a French accent is the best, kids love it!

"I have nothing to write about"  - How often have you heard this? Ralph Tells a Story is hilarious and a great way to show kids that they do have a story, they just need to look for them!

Never judge a book by it's cover, look on the inside first before you make a judgement! Glamourpuss is excellent to read with all grade levels.

Randi Zuckerberg has written Dot Complicated which is a great read for all adults. Love reading Dot to kids, don't forget to balance all the amazing technology we have, get outside too!

When I read One last year to our classes there were numerous parents in different rooms at times, they all cried. I had 5th graders cry........a must read, everyone is important and should be included!

And I just ordered these this week!

Super excited to read Happy by Pharrell Williams

At our school auction every year I do a Principal of the Day! What's their favorite thing to do, read to classes, it's contagious! 

Have had SO many parents send me pictures of their kids reading, the exact same book that I read that month. Kids love it so much they have their parents buy a copy for home, and they READ!

Back to Work Principal To-Do List

Get ready for the scroll of death! Not sure what better way to share my back to work to-do list other than to just start typing it. Actually it's easier to screenshot most of my lists.

First, I really do empty my head onto whatever device I have at the time. Evernote, post-it note, Reminders, iPhone notes, clip board next to me, etc. Getting it out of my head and onto paper relieves more stress than whether or not I actually do the item. In the end, everything ends up in my Evernote "reminders" even if I have to retype a paper list.

Let the images do the talking for me:
This is pulled up on my computer all the time.

Click HERE for link to actual list.
When things happen too fast.....just write it down!
What's on your to-do list? Did I forget anything?

#EdcampLDR Women in Leadership Session Reflection

Even I was intimidated by the quality of female leadership at #EdcampLDR! After the session a couple of women came up to share they loved the session and wanted to carry the conversation on in a more intimate environment with a smaller group. Well......the conversation has started and we ALL need to carry it on:) 
Facilitating the session: We started a group on Voxer a couple days before #EdcampLDR. Our purpose was to be able to connect and plan a little bit before the craziness of an Edcamp started. We wanted to make sure there was a space for us to talk about women tips, tricks, organization, and challenges we have in our leadership rolls. +Jessica Johnson and I put our session on the board as soon as we got a chance. After that we had no idea what would transpire:)

During the session: AMAZING! How awesome was it to hear from female principals, teacher leaders, aspiring principals, and many more?! We basically just threw it out to the group to talk and ask questions. 
I think it is important for women to know each others support systems so we can better serve each other. 
  • Single moms with 4 kids with or without  support.
  • Women with 1 child, no children, 6 children.
  • Women wondering if they should have more kids.
  • Women with no family support.
  • Women with family support that sneaks in criticism about their job.
  • The women in the room that we have no idea what successes and challenges they are facing.
The male voices in the room: Yes! We had some male leaders attend our session. AND they spoke out.  +Jimmy Casas shared with us that we should embrace our roles. Both men and women. We chose this career and we love it so let's support each other. +Tony Sinanis talked about how much he understands what women and mothers are accomplishing and how he supports his female staff. I don't remember what +Joe Sanfelippo said. LOL!

Session take-a-ways: 
  • Support each other! 
  • Share anything and everything that will help other leaders, men or women, feel validated in the work they do.
  • Keep the conversation going!  
I am not necessarily a fan of women beating their chest and yelling, "I am woman, hear me roar!" If that's your conviction then, YOU GO GIRL!!! We can support that too. I started the session by confessing that I have lived a charmed life as a woman in leadership. My immediate family is 6 hours away but I have developed other support systems. My husband is very supportive and picks up where I leave off. My hope is always to gain practical tips, ideas, and solutions to every day challenges so that I can serve others.
  • My daughters ate cereal and ramen noodles while I was on the phone helping a teacher with a family situation. My daughters will live.
  • I missed a day of laundry so I could watch Pitch Perfect with my daughters. No on has to know I wore my Friday T-shirt twice:) 
  • I ordered 3 meals worth of food from the Schwann man because we had softball games then pool party. But I didn't have to go to the grocery store. SCORE!
We are all in this together! 

#EdcampLDR Chicago

Sharing Presentation Resources Through @Remind

My good friend +Kyle Pace started a Remind.com community last year to share all things Googley. Well of course I signed up, it's Kyle Pace. I have been using Remind for a little over a year so I am familiar with the platform. Seems like most people have their cell phone with them all the time regardless of all the other devices in their possession. 
What's the fastest, best way to share presentation resources before/during/after you give a presentation?
This summer I am giving Remind a try. Below is the first slide in my presentations this summer. While we are waiting to get started and the room is filling up (or hopefully filling up:) attendees can sign up to receive presentation resources delivered directly to their mobile device. My secret strategy is to have the text messages scheduled through Remind the night before. Then 5-10 min. into the presentation....BOOM!
What other ways are you using Remind?

Leverage Leadership with Google Apps - MO #gafesummit

Today I had the privilege of sharing how I use Google Apps to leverage leadership. Our job as principals is so important to so many people. Using these apps helps me save time on the management and paperwork so I can focus on the students and school community that is so important. Take a look! Maybe it can help you leverage your leadership.

That's a Wrap! #NAESP15

Better late than never! Below is my final post as the official blogger for #NAESP15. 
 This post was originally published on, NAESP 2015 Conference News page.
Wrapping up #NAESP15, both my head and heart are full this week. Let me break it down for you.
My brain is on overload from all the great information shared this week. Where do I start to plan and use all the information? It's easy! Start small.
Pick three things you learned that you would like to implement or try during the 2015-2016 school year. Be sure to write those three things down and put them in a place you will see every day. Whether it's your desk, your bathroom mirror, or the door of your house, post your list.
My heart is full from connecting with so many principals who put the needs of our students above all else. All our conversations came back to what's best for kids. We could have talked policies, regulations, legislation, and I can assure there were some conversations about those things too. But the topic always turned to what's best for kids. It makes me proud to work with such devoted principals.
This post brings us to the end of the 2015 NAESP Conference in Long Beach, CA. It has been an honor to serve as the official conference blogger. However, there have been some other amazing blog posts to come out of this conference that you may not have seen. I would like to take this opportunity to share the words of other great principals who use blogging as a platform to share the great things going on in their schools and about our profession.


Meet #NAESP15 Conference Blogger Melinda Miller

This post was originally published on, NAESP 2015 Conference News page,  where I served as an official conference blogger.

Welcome to #NAESP15! My name is Melinda Miller and I am honored to share my NAESP experiences with all of you as the official conference blogger for the NAESP 2015 Annual Conference.
This year I am celebrating my 12th year as the proud principal of Willard East Elementary School. Willard East Elementary is located just outside of Springfield, Missouri, with approximately 320 K-4th-grade students. You can find Willard East Elementary on Facebook, Twitter(@WEEPrincipal) and the Web.
This will be my third NAESP conference. I thought I would share some tips and tricks for navigating this year’s conference.
Build your network.
It's amazing to have to so many like-minded administrators in one place. One thing I enjoy most is meeting other principals and sharing ideas. Once the conference is over, the connections last a lifetime. The connections you make are a phone call, Tweet, or Vox away when you need advice or an understanding ear to vent.
Leverage the technology that is available.
Definitely download and use the conference app. Everything you need to communicate, curate information, and connect are neatly packed into one easy-to-use platform.
Stay fueled and hydrated.
Take care of yourself! Unlike during the school year you--at the conference you will have more than 15 minutes to eat your lunch. Pack your favorite water bottle or treat yourself to a new one.
Backpack instead of bag.
Save your back and keep your hands free for coffee and handshakes. Carrying a bag and switching shoulders all day takes its toll. I will not make this mistake a third time. My backpack is packed and ready!
Connect with me!
You can find me in the Innovations Lab. Gathered there will be a great group of connected leaders ready to share and help with your conference needs. Online you can find me on Twitter @mmiller7571, at The Principal Blog, and The Principal Blog on Facebook.
Tips and tricks adapted from Renovated Learning
—Melinda Miller
Melinda Miller will serve as the official blogger for the 2015 Annual Conference. Visit NAESP’s Conference News page to find the latest updates from Long Beach.

#30SecondTake Special Edition #NAESP15 - New Principals

You do not want to miss this! During #NAESP15 I finally got to meet +Brad Gustafson. Brad and I have been connecting online via Twitter, Voxer, and Facebook for a few years now. He has an amazing connection with kids and sharing student voice through video.

#30SecondTake is a series of videos where principals and other educators compete and/or share about an educational topic for 30 seconds.
This particular video was created at the National Association of Elementary Principal's conference in Long Beach, CA this week. Brad used his video and interview skills to collect advice for new principals. 
Check it out..........

Organize Your Digital Paperwork - #NAESP15

Today I will be presenting about digital organization to elementary and middle level principals at #NAESP15! This is super exciting so I'd like to share my resources with any principals or teachers who can't make it. Hopefully you will find something in this presentation that can help you get organized.

#EdcampLDR July 13th 10+ Locations

Don't miss out! If you are a school leader, aspiring leader, former leader, or teacher leader this event is for you! It's free! This un-conference is devoted to K-12 education issues, ideas and reform. Gather with foward-thinking school administrators, teacher leaders, parents/community members - ANYONE interested in K-12 public/private education.
Click here for more info and registration
Check out this awesome collaborative video promotion.......

Opening Most Used Tabs Quickly - Tabcloud

Summer time is organizing time. It's nice to see if some of the tips learned/heard over the year can be applied with purpose. Let's take Tabcloud for instance. If memory serves me correctly +Kyle Pace shared this during a workshop.
Any time I can simplify or speed up my workflow.....I'm in! When first learning about Tabcloud it was cool but I couldn't put my finger on how best to use it. Fast forward one year and I think I got it.

Currently, I am only using 3 "clouds." After posting this I hope some of you will share other ways you use Tabcloud.

Tabcloud 1: Googley Tabs - These are the Google apps I use most often. Probably this will be the window I live in the most.

Tabcloud 2: Willard/East/Preschool - These are the district website tabs that I get the most questions about or that I am always opening to find things during the day.

Tabcloud 3: Social Media - This will probably run in the background so I can update school social media during the day.  It will be convenient to see all our social media channels with one click. Then on my personal time I can use this for my personal accounts.

Bookmarks? Tabcloud? Google site with list of links? How do you get to those websites you use every day?

Check out this video by Amy Mayer @friEdTechnology:

The Power of the Thank You Note

 Willard East Thank You notes.
The most unspoken words in school might be "Thank you." We mean to say it, we want to say it, and we always remember.....after the fact. Sooooo many people are doing soooo many thoughtful things that it's hard to keep track. What a great problem to have!

"Oh, I need to write them a thank you note."- forget
"That was so thoughtful! I have to remember to send them a thank you card." - forget
"I need to add them to my to do list for a thank you note." - forget

The past 3 years I have tried to use my time at the end of the year, after teachers and students are checked out, to sit down and write thank you cards. It's still easy to forget some people but at least I try. There was a time I was so scared I would forget someone that I wouldn't write any. Well that's ridiculous! It's better to thank a few than to thank none.

Here's my thinking:
  • We write thank you notes after each even during the year that parents sign up for using VolunteerSpot.
  • The end of the year thank you notes are a "global" thank you for everything.
  • Look through each class list.
  • Has that family done anything over the year I need to thank them for?
  • PTO, volunteer, donations, brought freshly baked treats, etc.
  • Takes me about one full day.
Custom made:)

#EdcampUSA - It's About the Conversations

Edcamp energy is hard to beat! Take it to the national level and insert a surprise visit from the Secretary of Education himself??? How do you compete with that? You don't! That's the beauty of the Edcamp phenomenon. The energy level is the same everywhere and it's very high.


For me, it's about the conversations. I genuinely look forward to getting to know new people and hearing their stories and ideas. Sit and get has a time and place. (I am not sure where now that I have caught the Edcamp bug.) Meeting people from my PLN was very exciting. But it's what I learn during the conversations that matters the most.

Initial pleasantries: Everyone wants to meet everyone in their PLN. Some want to meet and take a photo. I'm glad they take photos. I am too selfie self conscious.

@amandacdykes +Tim Lauer @magicpantsjones @curriculumblog

It's not realistic to think that we can spend the same amount of quality time with all 100+ PLN members. But those initial encounters matter. We will meet again. Whether it's online or in person. Then there are those deeper connections. Those PLN members that you can genuinely call friends. Not the fleeting friends you meet once and never connect with again. The PLN members that you have gotten to know for YEARS maybe.

My social media birthday is in 2009. I met THE Tim Lauer through social media almost 8 years ago through a leadership podcast I hosted with Scott Elias. Here a tweet, there a tweet, everywhere a tweet, tweet! (Ok, it's more than just a tweet here and there but that's funny:) We have grown up as principals together over the years and we got to meet face to face and talk shop for the first time. Again, it's about the conversation.

Fist time in D.C.

The conversations: Conversations are the heart of Edcamp. It's not about a PowerPoint or presentation. It's about throwing a question out there and watching the learning unfold around you.
  • Conversations before arriving at the event.
  • Conversations during morning opening.
  • Conversations during morning sessions.
  • Creating your own conversations outside of session.
  • Conversations at lunch.
  • Conversations during afternoon sessions.
  • Conversations at closing.
  • Conversations after the event.
Do you realize how much conversation goes on around an Edcamp? If you like to talk....Edcamp is for you. If you like to listen......Edcamp is for you.

Next steps:
Kids and conversations: How much conversation do we facilitate with students during the school day? Can you imagine how much kids can learn if they are just given an opportunity to have purposeful conversations? There is a difference between talking and having a conversation. Believe me, I know kids talk a lot! I have two daughters who literally do not take a breath on the car ride home from school.