Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dear New Principal

There you are with all of your hopes and dreams, your expectations, your trepidation, and a staff waiting eagerly to see how you are going to run things.  Will you be someone who comes in like a mouse or will you slug us all with your hammer of power?  What the future holds we can only guess but I know there are some  things we would love to say.

First, be kind.  We are new to you and we may need an adjustment period.  We know you have many changes and visions for our school but take some time to get to know us first.  Figure out the dynamics of our school and see what really works before you start to change and dismantle.  There are many powerful things happening that would be sad to see destroyed.

Second, know your way.  We want to be led by someone with a vision, someone who has convictions.  And yet, make sure your vision doesn't cloud your judgment.  Does it fit with our culture?  Does it fit with the community we get to call home?  Does it fit with us and you and all of the kids?  If yes, then go ahead, if not, then perhaps discuss, reflect and reevaluate.  For whom are these changes being made?

Third, make it about the children.  We have always been focused on the students and want to stay that way.  So get to know them as you get to know us, make yourself visible and always keep their interest in mind.  Trust me, the children would rather not be tested more or discussed as mere numbers on the wall.  They do not care what standard they are being taught right now but instead whether the curriculum is engaging, relevant and allows them a choice and voice.  They are complicated, delicate, curious beings that we are privileged to work with.  Relationship first, then we can get to the academics.

Don't exclude us but think of us as your team.  We want you to be successful as much as you want us to stay that way.  Believe in us and our crazy ideas.  Push us to do new things but know when to hold back and perhaps even hold our hand a little.  Trust us as professionals who do really want what is best for the kids but sometimes need some guidance.  Bring in new ideas but one at a time, let us figure out one before we rush into something new.  Don't micromanage but believe in our judgment and also in our dreams.  Make friends but don't create cliques, we are a family here and yes we may disagree but we take pride in who we are and what we create.  Trust us as professionals and defend our decisions if you agree with them.  Don't lose yourself in trying to please everyone.  Be fair but listen to all the sides, don't take sides whenever you can.

Don't punish when it doesn't fit the crime, whether student or staff.  Push us to excel and give us someone to look up to.  There are many leaders in this school but look for new ones as well, there are people here who who have such incredible ideas but never can find the words to share them.  Tell us when we do well, tell us when you notice something and do the same for the kids.

Welcome, new principal, I don't envy your position but we are excited to have you.  We hope you are everything we have hoped for.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What Happened to Our Dreams and Expectations?

Image from here

I am reading the local paper about the growing achievement gap between minorities and as my heart grows heavy, my mind starts to spin.  What happened to our expectations for all of our students?  What happened to having the same dream that ALL students can achieve, even those that face special disabilities, crippling poverty or lack of parental support?  We, as teachers, are supposed to be the last bastion, those that choose to believe in all of our students, no matter their race, their background, their belief in themselves.

I look inward and wonder when was the last time I asked for a file for a non-minority student that transferred in?  When did my own assumptions cloud my belief that all students can achieve and that I just have to set the bar high enough and then support, encourage and challenge?  That every year the slate should be wiped clean when they enter into my room, and yes, I may stare at those pages of past behaviors and troubles but that they should not be come my roadmap for the future?

I pledge again to believe in all of them.  To set the expectations high and to support them where they need it.  To look past color but not become colorblind.  To see the whole child and not the papers that follow them or the path they chose before.  To defend my students from academic prejudice and grow along with them.  One young man in the paper said that if perhaps he had just had someone believe in him, told him he could have done it, his path wouldn't have lead to jail.  Perhaps he is right, the path cannot be changed, but at least I am willing to do just that; believe in all those children.  Will you believe with me?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

week 12 {March 18-24, 2012}

March 18
Tulips in my front yard.

March 19


I'm obsessed with tulips.

March 20
Bath time.

March 21
Smug at 29 weeks of age.

March 22


These arrangements are just outside the Grove Arcade. Love.

March 23
Chloe's trying to stay out of the action.

March 24
baby belly.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

When Students Tell You They Are Bored Can We Blame the Students As Well?

I am in a conference trying to figure out why a child seems less engaged, less into it, and just not all that excited about school.  So far the conversation has been rather one-sided, meaning me speaking and being met with lsilence.  Finally I ask, "Are you bored?"  And the student looks up and says, "Yeah."

I think that has happened to most teachers, a bored student, but what may not have happened to many is for that student to have the guts to tell you.  I know I was incredibly bored throughout many classes in my school days but I never did tell a teacher since I figured nothing good would come of it.  And I may have been right because my gut reaction the moment I was told was to get frustrated.  How can you be bored in my room? We do so many exciting things!  And yet, I bite my tongue, nod, and go home with a head full of questions.

I have a classroom full of noise, ideas, and engagement. It is something I work incredibly hard for and I am very very proud of and yet, it can also be boring.  There are times when the base needs to be built for our further exploration and I have to talk.  I try to make it engaging, I try to make is student-centered, and yet sometimes I can't.  It gets better every year but still; but yes I can be boring.  So these thoughts follow me home and I ask my husband what I should he do since he acutely suffered from school boredom.

His thoughts stopped me; "Maybe it isn't you?  Maybe you do everything you can and that child needs to step up too.  Maybe boredom is a two way street and you can only make it so exciting but if the student is not ready or wanting to be engaged then it doesn't matter what you do."  I immediately started to defend the child and lament that it must be me until I realized he may be on to something; perhaps we as educators can only do so much.  Perhaps we can only engage and excite until a certain point and then the student has to invest as well.  Perhaps we cannot change every student's perception of school no matter how many things we pull out to do.  Perhaps, we are not the only ones with control in our classroom?

So I turn to you; what do we do when students are bored?  After we have changed the curriculum, the approach and the task?   What do we do when a student-centered learning environment is not enough?  Do we dare tell the student that they too have to invest?  That they have to make an effort to be interested or else school will be infinitely boring no matter what we do?  Do we dare put some of the responsibility for school engagement back on their shoulders?  Or is that taking the easy way out?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stop Telling Me Technology Engages

Image from here

Not too long ago when I brought up my dislike for the cost of Smartboards working in a budget crunched district, I was told that there was no way I could dismiss the improvement of student engagement that it has created in my classroom.  I met that statement with raised eyebrows and then shook my head.  The Smartboard or whatever technology tool I may be using is not what increases engagement in my students; the content is.  The tool does not engage; the learning does.  Because if the tool is the only thing that engages then I would say we are in serious trouble.  If the tool is the only thing we use to keep those kids tuned in and invested then we need to do some serious re-thinking of our curriculum and delivery.  

So while districts can flaunt all of the technology tools they so happily purchase with or without teacher input, we cannot tout that our engagement level goes up just because of that purchase.  We cannot say we are now 21st century districts, since in all sincerity this is the 21st century no matter what tools we have.  Sure kids may be looking at the board or screen more when we have more technology, but how much of that is training or simple politeness; a feigned interest or hope that something engaging will show up on that screen?  How much of that is because all of them are facing the board rather than in pods?  How many of them long for getting out of their seats and do something rather than watch one person direct the learning?

So don't tell me that putting a Smartboard in my room increases student engagement, in fact, please run any technology purchase by me so that I can investigate and dissect it.  Don't tell me that my students are eagerly anticipating their turn to click the magic board, that wears off after the first couple of days.  Tell me instead that the curriculum we teach is worthwhile, that the learning that we DO is engaging, that my students are engaged because they choose to be and I put enough thought into what I am teaching to realize that.  Tell me that and I will agree; the tool does not create the engagement, we do.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

week 10 {March 4-10, 2012}

March 4

March 5

Sign on the left says "no left turn". Sign on the right has an arrow pointing to the left stating "Event parking." The Southern Conference basketball tournament was taking place a few hundred feet from those signs.

March 6

Inside the Grove Arcade (across the street from where I work.)

March 7

Not focused.

March 8

From my mom's yard.

March 9

First concert since the baby was born!

March 10

Random, but this is some of the milk we have frozen for the baby. Doesn't include our upstairs freezer.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

week 9 {February 26-March 3, 2012}

Posting this a little late, and I apologize for every. single. photo. being of the baby. Next week will be better. I promise!

February 26

Always happy.

February 27

Waiting for pictures to be taken.

February 28

What you can't really see is how Disney-ed-out he is. Mickey pj's, Pooh sleep sack and Tigger lovey.

February 29

March 1

I love his legs.

March 2

March 3

I think it's safe to say he does not like pears.