Notifications Poison Productivity

Turn off your notifications! I dare you! Turn off the badges, banners, sounds, lock screen, previews etc. Turn it all off!

I bet you are having an anxiety attack right now just thinking about this right? It will be okay. It's not like you are going to forget to check your email. Maybe you just wont check it every 15 seconds. Is that such a bad thing?

This summer at #NPC2017 (National Principals Conference) there was a challenge started to put a picture of your most important people on your home screen. When you turn on your phone (actually I think our phones just turn on when we look at them right now:):) your home screen is that picture, then you have to swipe left to get to your apps. Now THAT makes me have an anxiety attack!

My phone is not a picture frame! I do not need my phone to remind me who my most important people are. My phone is for work and getting things done and connecting. Now that I have offended almost all my PLN principals, let me explain. It would take me FOREVER to move all my apps around off the home screen, to another screen and move the 2nd screen apps somewhere else. No. I could not accept that challenge. 

If any of you are still reading here is my thinking:
  • Decide if there is an app or two you have to leave on. (Messages because I have kids. Facebook pages because parents contact me there sometimes. Facebook because I manage a new principal group so I had to turn those badges back on.)
  • Turn off ALL other badges. Those red circles with the number of notifications waiting.
  • You can actually leave previews on or banners as long as they go away easily and quickly.
  • You are not going to forget to check your email, or Voxer, or Instagram, or Twitter. You're just not going forget. Try it. It has become habit so you know you are going to check at some point.
  • Messages clarification - I do not get a lot of text messages. At least I don't think I do but I don't really have anything to compare it to.
If none of the above apply to you maybe you can just turn off your work email at night. Yes, my work email is OFF my phone at night. I check it first thing in the morning when I wake up except on the weekends. Yep, I am guilty of emailing my staff on the weekend at times. They don't have to read it until Monday morning. I just have to get it done when I have time. If it's super important I can send a text through Remind.

Who is going to take the challenge! Let me know if you take the notifications off or turn off your work email. Regardless if your successful or not I'd love to hear how it worked out for you.

Principals Aren't Perfect - It's ok!

This image was making it's way around my principal friends' Facebook pages recently. Let's face it...We are "supposed" to be perfect-ish. Never make a mistake. Have all the answers. Solve all the problems. Know all the things.

You know, principals can really tick people off. Kids, parents, teachers, co-workers, custodians, kitchen staff and other principals. There is no shortage of people I have probably rubbed the wrong way.

It is never my intent to get all up in your business and make you mad. (Unless you do something that hurts or has a negative impact on kids.) Oh no you didn't! It is also not my intent to upset you by telling you to be at work on time. It is not my intent to turn you sideways over "the next new thing." You know what? We are all trying to figure out this crazy world of education!

Principals are still human, moms, dads, siblings, brothers, sisters, grandparents and all the things that go along with all of those rolls too. Believe me I have spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours outside of work....working. Teachers do the same if not more.

Hopefully November will bring peace, calm and thankfulness. With all these gratitude challenges on Facebook everyone I know should be happier and more thankful right? I am thankful for my principal friends!

I might not do the dishes every day either!

Holiday Planning for Your Staff/School - Join our group

The holidays are quickly approaching. Don't wait 'til the last minute! (Ok, some of my best ideas have come at the last minute.) 
This is my 15th year as an elementary principal. I can't even believe it myself. I know you are all thinking, "WOW! You look so young!" You don't have to say it, I know you're thinking it:):):) Even after 15 years I still need help coming up with ideas. I sometimes think I've tried it all then, low and behold someone shares the greatest idea.

In my infinite administrative wisdom I thought I should start a Facebook group of principals only to share ideas. AND I thought it would be even better if I drug my principal BFF +Amber Teamann along for the ride as my co-administrator of the group! I think she likes when I come up with these hair-brained ideas. Little did I know that everyone else feels the same way we do. We all need fresh ideas.

If you'd like to join our principals only "Holiday Planning for your Staff and School" Facebook group click on the link/image below. You HAVE to be a practicing principal and answer the two questions before you gain access to the group.

Let me shoot straight with you....I want my holiday treats to be a surprise for my teachers. But they follow me everywhere! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you name it. (You can follow me too BTW. I strategically linked my accounts. Wink, wink.) My goal has always been for them to gain as much from social media and a PLN as I have. But come on! I can't surprise them anymore!

This is a TEMPORARY group! This group will not live on forever and morph into something else. After the holidays I am deleting the group and it's GONE. So save the ideas as we go. I could probably be persuaded to start the group back up next year. Actually, I already have other ideas for temporary groups for principals. Stay tuned!
What do you think? Want to join us? Click below!

Practice Makes Perfect - Lunch Doodie

Posted in cafe-a-gym-natorium
200 children sitting side by side(touching) at a table with food and sharp objects....Now that you have that picture in your mind you understand why I changed the word duty to "doodie." You might only understand if you have ever had lunchroom supervision duty.

Total disclosure: My school practices PBIS methods but we are not an official PBIS school. We visited PBIS schools and did our Pinterest research. (LOL) Well you know what I mean. We do believe in being specific in our teaching of routines and behaviors in all school settings. 
I can assure you that children have not been taught how to eat lunch at a table with 25 other students in the school cafe-a-gymn-atoriaum. Think about it. Where does your family eat dinner? The car? Standing at the counter? Watching TV? Gone are the days of the sit down family dinner! Not in all cases, I know.

Seek first to understand. Next time you have lunch doodie stand and look at the kids. Try to guess how many sit down to a family meal 1-5 nights a week at a table? Better yet, ASK THEM! (I highly recommend you also ask them if their parents have told them to chew with their mouths closed. To their credit they may not remember being told not to chew with their mouth open:):):)

How do we practice? My goal/suggestion is at the beginning of each quarter do a refresher lunch training.

  • Special class teachers are the lucky few who are assigned lunch doodie. (Art, music, pe, library, etc.)
  • We do not have a separate lunchroom and gym. Lunch has to be scheduled around PE.
  • At the beginning of special classes for each grade level, once a quarter, the teachers bring them to the cafe-a-gym-natorium instead of their special class.
  • The special class teachers are in the gym with me to go over rules in case I forget any of the rules.
  • We are all in this together. The kids need to see that we all heard the same rules.
  • If you have access to the lunch trays I recommend "pretending" to get their supplies carrying a tray and then practice "dumping" their trays after they are done.
  • If you are a really nice principal you could include a cookie on their tray for fun. (I think I am nice but I totally forgot this bonus last time we practiced.)
They may not have sit down dinners at home very often but they do school lunch like this EVERY DAY.  Once we teach them how it works they can be successful in this crazy environment!

What are your lunch doodie secrets of success??

Progressive PD for Teacher Workday

Who doesn't plan events around food? I mean really. If you feed them they will come.
Friday was a 1/2 day teacher workday. The kids were here for the morning and then teachers worked in the afternoon. It is the end of the quarter and time to work on Report Cards but our report cards self-generate through the program we use. 
The teachers finished their DRAs (Developmental Reading Assessment) about 3 weeks ago. Guided Reading groups are starting and teachers are getting organized to kick this off. Since we all learn best from each other why not share all the great things my teachers are doing within my own building?
Let me address Pinterest......Yes, they can get a bazillion more ideas on their own by going to Pinterest. However, it's pretty powerful to see that teachers you do life with every day are even better than Pinterest! I know right?!
This idea came from an #edcampsgf session and one of our intermediate school teachers. At the beginning of the year they participate in a progressive luncheon (Walking Tacos) to travel around the building to see how other teachers IN THEIR OWN BUILDING set up flexible seating. Our activity was a spin-off from that event. 
(Full disclosure...I did not go to their event. I've heard how great it is for a couple years so I reached out to their instructional coach for the directions. You too can reach out to their Instructional Coach for more info: Michelle Sechler at michellesechler@willardschools.net)

Instead of lunch we did a "snack." Trail mix to be specific. 

  • Credit where credit is due - I asked one of my teachers if she would be willing to put together a team and organize this. (Afterwards I thanked them with $25 TpT gift certificates:)
  • Each class had a bucket of one ingredient for trail mix. You decide how many ingredients and which ingredients you need by classroom/teacher numbers. 
Silver buckets outside classroom to reduce mess:) 

  • I bought all the ingredients and my secretary put it all together. I think it was my secretary and teacher who took a cart around with all the supplies and placed them outside the classroom.
  • Teachers were asked to showcase how they organize for guided reading. (Kindergarten doesn't DRA until Dec. so they showcased data binders.) If they weren't ready or wanted to show something else that was okay to. But everyone is getting set up for guided reading so I thought might be most helpful.
  • Upper grade teachers started in the lower grade hallway and vice versa. 

Reflection of activity: We scheduled an hour but it only took about 45 min.. We came back together as a group to reflect together. Teachers were asked what went well and what we could do different.
  • Schedule this after guided reading has been in place for a while so they have samples of student work.
  • How do special class teachers fit into this? They did participate but obviously they don't teach guided reading.
  • October is super overwhelming! Later in the year when teachers aren't so stressed.
  • Have the teachers stay in their classrooms while other teachers visit then switch. We left feedback notes but having the teacher there to clarify would have helped too.  
My teachers are amazing! Just when I think they can't get any better they surprise me again!

Space Saving Hack for Photos and Google Drive

How much space on your smartphone is used up by photos? I am guessing quite a bit. Photos take up almost all the space on my phone. Some are photos for work and some are personal photos. Get your mind out of the gutter! Personal photos mean pics of my kids, screenshots of funny/not funny stuff, pics of my dog, etc. 
Yesterday was Fall Party Day. (Don't get me started on why it's not actually called a Halloween Party.) Anyway, we need pictures for the yearbook from all of our school events. 
So.....here is our workflow:
  • Yearbook coordinator made a Google drive folder "Yearbook."
  • Within that folder there is a folder for every grade level shared with that grade level teachers. Or maybe every grade level is shared with every teacher? I don't know but they are all shared with me of course. 
  • We ask teachers to take as many pictures of as many events as possible and put the photos in that folder.
  • Yearbook coordinator can see all the pictures and know what grade level. Yearbook is divided up by grade level.
Maybe a year or two ago they added a "use camera" option within the Google drive app on the iPhone and iPad. (This option is not available on the Samsung etc. I'm guessing there is an even easier way to save directly to a folder on a Google phone? Anyway, we couldn't figure it out yesterday.)

Below is the screen cast created on my iPhone how to take a picture directly to Google drive instead of your phone. I was hoping this would be the only picture and there wouldn't be a duplicate on my phone. Turns out there is a duplicate in my photos which is counter to what I am trying to do. I don't want the photo on my phone but only in the Google drive folder. I hope that makes sense. There is probably an option not to save the original picture but I didn't have time to figure that out.

Yep! It's that easy! AND now you know you can screen record your iPhone. It was added when the last phone came out recently.

My Photo and Image Creation Apps

Downloaded free camera cliplart. Created in Phonto.

LOTS of you have asked about apps I use to create my images. Of course I will share!

Phonto and Photofy are my favorites! They are the first two apps I go to when creating most of my images. I take that back a little bit. If I can just take a picture and use a filter I just do Instagram. The easiest image is something that just speaks for itself in Instagram.

Phonto is an app that allows me to upload all the fonts I have purchased for my computer. You can purchase fonts directly from Phonto but I really like PBFonts, HelloFonts, and AGFonts from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Used Phonto for fonts and Photofy for the stickers

  1. Take picture. Leaving room somewhere in the photo for text or stickers. Take the picture off-centered or leave room at the top or bottom of the picture.
  2. Upload the picture to Phonto and add my text. Then save image.
  3. Upload image with the new font on it to Photofy if I want to add a certain sticker I know I can find in Photofy.
  4. Share to Instagram through Photofy. (I think it automatically saves it to my camera roll anyway.
  5. From Instagram the picture is shared with all my Facebook accounts, Twitter, and/or any other social media I'd like to share it.
Ripl and Legend are my two favorite animated photo apps!

Ripl but you have to pay to download. Sync's to Instagram as a movie.

Ripl allows me to add animated text to a photo I upload. But it's also a paid app to be able to download the actual photo or video. I learned that the hard way and paid the "trial" and immediately "unsubscribed" on iTunes so I didn't get billed.
If I want flashing words in certain colors, without pictures, I use the app Legend. It's good to change it up every now and then to get attention. When I post a Legend image to social media once in a while I think people stop for a second to look.


 Skitch is my all time favorite app to make arrows and/or annotations! I think it's how when the neon colors and words outlined in white show up so well on photos.

Made with Skitch
One goal I have is to get better at SnapChat filter pictures. Not necessarily to use Snapchat but to use the pictures and upload to another social media channel.

Next up: How do I sync all my accounts so I don't have to post individually each place?

Balancing Text vs. Using Images

Over the years I've learned a lot about communication with my staff and school family . A lot especially about social media communication. I would rather over communicate than leave anything to chance.

It's so much easier for me to create graphics/images/etc. from my phone than wait to get back to my computer. This started when I would lay down with my girls at night for bedtime. I still had so much to get done and bedtime was 8:00. Then it took for freaking EVER for them to fall asleep. This is when I started doing a lot of my work from my phone.

Last year I did a post on using photos instead of text. Here are the places I use photos instead of text:

  • Remind text messages to my staff
  • Remind text messages to my school community
  • Twitter 
When a parent sees the images below I feel like they take note. If it's just text they might skip over it.

This way more fun to look at than just text.
Adding text helps when I cross-post things to various platforms. I try to post to ONE place then let IFTTT or the app share it to various other places. Saves time! I do actually post text with this so the hashtag shows up and when it cross-posts to twitter. The picture is my focus and the text is the secondary focus.

It was brought to my attention that translation apps and using other languages will not translate the text within my pictures. This is a bummer and I had not thought of that at all! So my Romanian families will not be able to translate just the picture. That's another reason I probably need to include text also. Below is an example of a Facebook post with text...

Would love to know your photo workflow! Next up I will be sharing some of my favorite photo apps.

Getting Things Done....AFTER School

The struggle is real! What time do you get home AFTER work? How long do you stay at work to get things done? After school for me is a black hole of complete un-productiveness. (Not a word apparently) I get things done but there is no rhyme or reason to how or when. There is a never ending to-do list that I can cross things off randomly. But I just want to feel like I accomplished something....anything important after school!
During the day my schedule is perfection almost down to the minute. 7:30AM - 4:00PM I am getting things done. Well some days I am getting things done and following my schedule. But at least there is a schedule to follow. After 15 years as a principal even the unexpected is expected and I can get back on track during the day.
But.....when the end of the day bell rings and I am packed up and headed home, everything is in slow motion. Oh, I have PLENTY to do. It's just a matter of getting it done:)
  • I always "need" something at the mall. 
  • Tropical Smoothie would be great for dinner. 
  • The yard needs to be mowed but that just makes me mad. 
  • Instagram won't "like" itself! 
  • I wonder what new LuLaRoe or Agnes & Dora outfits are posted in groups today? 
  • Minnie needs to go for a walk.
  • The laundry won't do itself. It especially won't put itself away.
  • Fast food on the way home or should I cook something? Fast food.

Need I say more? So far my answer is creating an "Evening Planner." This has been slowly improving my productivity AFTER school. It's actually pretty exciting. However I don't follow it every day yet. Making progress though!

Before I actually filled this completely out.

How do you get things done in the evenings?

Do You Have A Plan?

How do you plan for your week to get everything done? I am always looking for advice or new ideas when it comes to planning my week and getting things done. Please comment below if you have better/different ideas than what I share. 
Weekend planning is my thing. Usually on Sunday night, but at some point on the weekend I sit down with my calendar, computer, planning supplies, and snacks. (Snacks are probably most important:) 
Spread out all over kitchen counter.

View of one day. I plan daily.

Arch Paper Punch

Stickers just make me happy and make my planner look cute so I have to have stickers:) Washi tape is another must-have accessory. (Glitter tape is my favorite.) I use the Staples Arc system so I can move pages in and out. I can also try new pages and new formats weekly. The second picture above is my currently daily view. I create my own planner.

Paper vs. Digital - BOTH! I tried to go digital only and couldn't do it. It's faster for me to write immediately than remember what app I am using and where I put stuff on my computer or iPad. I do however transfer  my work to wherever it goes digitally.

Google calendar - Yes, I live by Google calendar. However I have to see my day laid out by 30 min. increments or I will waste time. I transfer my google calendar events to my planner. Once I have all my required events, I can enter the "stuff" I have to get done in my paper planner then transfer it to Google. Works for me but may not work for you.

Planning for the whole week has been life-changing! If I can find that uninterrupted time to do this it really helps. I can get so much more done when I have a plan.

You can find the Arc notebook system and paper punch below:

The Honeymoon is Over - October!

You've built a relationship.
You've called home. (Multiple times!)
The kids have missed recess. They get extra recess.
We give them a pencil. We take away said pencil.
We tell them we are proud of them. We tell them we are disappointed.
You've eaten lunch with them. You've eaten breakfast with them.
They've clipped up. They've clipped down.
They Dojo'd +. They've Dojo'd -!
They earned points! They lost points!


Well to be honest I do not know. After 25 years you'd think I have all the answers and I just don't. My teachers try EVERYTHING! And I am not kidding. No stone is left un-turned. What would you do? What would a politician do? What should a parent do?
When I don't know, I say I don't know.
"You know what? I have no idea. You've tried everything I can think of. What do you want to try next?" And of course we come up with something. Because that's what we do.
You know what.....we just keep on keeping on. We try again tomorrow. We eat donuts for breakfast, pick up Starbucks on the way to work and start all over. Because that's what teachers do.  

It's October and we always make it to May.

Planning Your AFTER School Time

Get "Evening Planning" here
After school planning is almost more important than planning for the day. After school is family time. How do you plan for your "big rocks," the things most important to you? 
This summer our admin team went through The Leader In Me training. Almost all of our elementary schools are becoming Leader In Me schools. My personal goal is to do a better job planning my time after school. I used to only write down "softball practice." The rest of the evening would be wasted around softball practice. Now I know what I can get done around softball practice.
This has also organized my social media time so I am not online when I should be present with my kids. I have scheduled my social media time.

Whew! Surviving Back-to-School (7 min. video)

Productivity tip and getting ready for BTS! Teachers and students have been back in school for a week and two days! Let me just tell you that nothing other than survival gets done for about the first 2-3 weeks of BTS prep! My kids get drive-thru, we eat on paper plates, dishes may or may not get washed every day, laundry is in piles, you know what I mean! SURVIVAL!!!

There is a lot more behind the scenes than what's in this video but it's a start. Every year I don't do half the things I want to do for back to school. Big shout out to all the #momsasprincipals who share ideas and support each other during this stressful time. If not for them I'm not sure how we would all survive!

Celebrating Others! - @8Amber8 #askadmin Series

I highly recommend that you follow my good friend and conference roomie Amber Teamann from the blog Technically Teamann. Most notably known as @8Amber8 in our social media circles. She shares phenomenal ideas for school principal/administrators. I. Love. Her!! (But not in a creepy way. You know what I mean.)

This summer she organized many of her principal friends, including me(Yay!) to answer a set of questions applicable to building leadership. It has been amazing to read all the answers! What a powerful way for principals to learn....from each other!
Of course I was paired up superhero principal Matt Arend. Geez! I should have just typed,"What he said!" and left it at that. He is such a servant leader. Check out Q #10 below. That's us!

Check out these awesome answers...

Q1: What is your go to strategy for team building?

Q2: What is something you do EVERY year, without fail?

Q3: What is something you wished you knew as a first year administrator?

Q4: What has gotten easier through the years? Harder?

Q5: Where do I even start to build a culture of innovation?

Q6: How do I become the instructional leader?

Q7: How does the leader model RISK TAKING?

Q8: What are you reading to GROW as a leader?

Q9: How do you know who to hire?

Q10: As the leader, what are you MOST proud of at your school? 

Celebrating others is something I truly want to work on this year. There can be too much negative in life and in education. Believe me, I fall into the "poor me" seasons. If I can be intentional and have some measurable goals maybe I can be that positive influence I wish I had in the classroom and as a beginning principal.

How do you celebrate others?

Principal Randomness - Camera, Driving & Updates (5 min. video)

It's been a while since I uploaded a video or did a blog post. So let me clear that up. On June 9th my dad was killed in a motorcycle accident and my mother was injured very badly. Pretty much the month of June is a blur. (Sorry summer school teachers. I do remember our selfie contests though:) 

There were only3 weeks in July that I could get all my summer projects done before going back to work. It was also the month of the principal's conference...which was amazing!!! That whole story deserves it's own post if I ever get to that.

New camera - right before my dad passed away I got a new camera. The teachers I watch on Instagram and YouTube had fancy cameras. Their videos are so much better than mine. So here I am trying to figure out my camera driving around. (I do not recommend that. BTW.)

Student #Summerselfie BINGO - Mystery Spaces Included

Piggy-backing off our original PD BINGO and Matt Arrend's #Summerselfie BINGO for his staff, I decided we need to include our summer school teachers! This BINGO can be completed with students doing all the things we do in summer school. Teachers can share via Twitter or Facebook.
I was beginning to stress out over coming up with 24 activities. Then it dawned on me this summer school group of teachers is super creative. Probably a little over competitive too. You will notice that I left some of the spaces empty for them the choose their own selfie that is not listed. I guess I am going to need to come up with some guidelines so they don't get completely out of control! :):):)
Download a copy here!

End of the Year Procedures


End of the Year Procedures

I am learning through all the social media channels that all principals end the year differently when it comes to teachers checking out for the summer. This video explains how my teachers check out and the information that I give them prior to checking out. There are links in the description of the YouTube video on my YouTube page of all these resources. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel as I hope to publish more helpful videos for principals.

FUN Summer PD Option!!!

FUN summer PD idea! Join my great friend Amber Teamann and I as we offer this unique option of gaining some PD credits and having fun this summer. She talks more about it HERE.
Download Here