It's been fantastic to learn more and experience the use of BreakoutEDU with students and teachers. I've had the pleasure of working with many teachers on using the breakout boxes in many context. A few of these amazing educators include Heather Cleland (my TOSA colleague), Helena Holmes, Valerie Sabbag, Jenna Segall, John Brubaker, and the teachers in the PAUSD Elementary STEAM Inquiry Group. This list continues when I mention coaches and educators outside of PAUSD - Judy Blakeney, Lindsey Blass, Ben Cogswell, Ari Flewelling, Amanda Haughs, Jody Green, Ann Kozma, Debbie McHorney, Jessica Miles, Sabba Quidwai, and the many teachers I got to play breakout games with.
One of the most amazing experiences I've had with BreakoutEDU was seeing the work from Valerie Sabbag's fifth grade class last school year creating their own games, building their own boxes, and getting to play their games with the Kristi Van's third grade class and also their parents. Check out my blog post from that experience.
Definitely inspired by the games I've played from the BreakoutEDU site, I've started writing my own games during my 20% time. So far I've had the chance to facilitate a TV Show themed game I wrote with some of the coaches and TOSAs from Southern California during one of our #TOSAchat #tikitosa meetups. It was definitely a game I learned a lot from - ways to make it better, ways to make it harder (especially for other "game makers"), and other ways to give clues to the direction lock. Since that game (this past September) I've written two more games - a Math game and a Disney themed game (inspired by Jody Green's game).
I'd love to get feedback on the Math game.
Update, December 18, 2016:
After Valerie Sabbag's fifth grade class beta tested this BreakoutEDU game, I made corrections to my game. I'm glad they got to try out my game because there were 3 things I changed, one of which was a pretty big mistake as I left the answers to one of the puzzles on the sheet. The link above has the updated changes. Again, I'd love feedback on the game.
New Update, December 28, 2016:
I had the opportunity to facilitate this Math BreakoutEDU game again over the Winter Break and definitely got some great feedback about different parts of the game that led to this newly updated version.
Another Update, March 9, 2017:
After having the many opportunities to facilitate this Math BreakoutEDU game with students in first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grades, I learned more about how to make the game better. This new update includes differentiated levels for grades K-middle school.
It's been amazing to deepen my professional learning around the Next Generation Science Standards. There are so many amazing resources out there! Below is a Padlet of NGSS Resources I started a few months ago and definitely want to share it here for others to use and also add to the collection of resources.
The result of this year's presidential election has definitely affected everyone on both sides of the aisle. I do not want to go on any political rant of my experience as I've set the purpose of this blog to share my journey of a Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA. The thing that's still weighing on me is the effects of the election and days leading up to the election. The presidential election process, particularly the debates, have reached a level that I never imagined. Steve Kerr's words during the Warriors' pregame press conference on Wednesday, November 8th perfectly articulated this feeling.
I am indeed saddened by the nature of this year's presidential campaign and election. I am concerned about the prospects of the new administration's effects on education.
My email inbox has been filling up with messages about the election results. One that stood out to me is a message from Hadi Partovi of Code.org.
After a divisive and draining election, I want to write a heartfelt note to you, the 400,000 educators whose dedication and support has made our work at Code.org possible.
The United States is increasingly divided. Whether you’re celebrating victory or despairing in defeat, it has been exhausting. Amidst the escalating rhetoric, I’ve looked for areas of shared hope.
Americans all want equality of opportunity. It unites us, even when we don’t agree about how to get there. And if there’s one group that’s dedicated to equality of opportunity, it’s educators.
I want to thank you for the work you do every day. No matter who you voted for, your students are our future. Whether you teach your students to add and subtract, to read, or to code, yours is the most important job in the world.
As I wrote in my previous post about the words of Joe Marquez, education is our most powerful tool.
No matter what happens, the following remains clear to me.
We are in the business of hope.
Next steps. Looking ahead. Lessons learned.
The words in the above image appeared in my Twitter Home feed and it really spoke to me and motivated me to create the image. Thank youJoe Marquez for your words.
"Curriculums come and go. Standards are here to stay."
This was the phrase that prompted my work with grade level teams on examining the CCSS-Math standards. Elementary school teachers in the Palo Alto Unified School District are in the middle of a pilot year to select new math curriculum that scheduled to be implemented during the 2017-2018 school year. PAUSD has been using Everyday Math for eight years with a lot of conflicting opinions of the curriculum between the staff and parents. There are many schools that have used it with fidelity while some schools have moved onto using other math curricula to meet the needs of their students and align with the Common Core State Standards, including EngageNY. No matter what curriculum teachers use, quality pedagogy that focuses on the success of all students, aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the 8 Mathematical Practices is the key.
I share the belief (and fact) of many that there is no perfect curriculum. My view is that any curriculum acts more like a GPS navigator. Throughout the school year, teachers make professional and purposeful decisions to use supplemental materials to meet the needs of their students. As a result, the progression of lessons in any curriculum is paused or altered. These professional and purposeful decisions is the science of teaching and no curriculum can replace the science of teaching. Instead, the curriculum as a GPS navigator to guide the teacher back on a predetermined path when necessary decisions to change the path are made. Like any road trip, the driver (the teacher) can make purposeful decisions to alter the suggested path (of the curriculum guide).
The biggest part of this analogy is the focus on the destination - meeting the grade level standards. An effective curriculum is designed to bring all students to meet CCSS at the end of the school year. Focusing on the destination of CCSS is the key aspect of the standards mapping activity.
Working with grade level teams, I've lead teachers to read and better understand the CCSS Math standards for their grade levels. It's been a powerful exercise, evidenced by teachers commenting that they "didn't know that was the actual language in the standards," that they didn't have to "teach concepts they've taught before" which saves them time to focus more on the concepts that have been problematic for their students, and that they see how to address "standards at each trimester of the school year." The exercise provided teachers the chance to identify which concepts/standards was important to address at each trimester in order to build understanding that leads to practice and mastery by the end of the school year. Of course, each of the above standards cards is meant to be mastered by the end of the school year, AND having an understanding of the progression of concepts throughout the school year helps gain a bigger picture of the professional and purposeful instructional decisions.
Having a deeper understanding of the Common Core State Standards is definitely an important piece of instruction.
- to know the destination of the school year,
- to know what's important to address at each point of the year and how concepts build,
- to be able to teach to those standards no matter which math curriculum is used (or selected in PAUSD),
- to see curriculum maps as guides to meeting CCSS and professional instructional decisions are far more important,
- to be able to see how "concepts build from grade to grade."
It's definitely important to remember that We don't teach curriculum; we teach students. Be mindful of the standards - the end destination, however, remember we teach students.
Learning takes hard work, understanding, perseverance, making mistakes, and learning from mistakes.
I had the pleasure of supporting two second grade teachers at Fairmeadow Elementary School this week with the use of SVMI's Problem of the Month packets to practice the 8 Mathematical Practices. During week 1 of this Problem of the Month packet, I led the students through Level A in a Number Talk format. Students were able to construct viable arguments and share the strategies they used. It was great to see the students in both second grade classes exercise Math Practice #1 - Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them throughout their time working on the levels of their packets.
Last week, I continued supporting the teachers with their SVMI Problem of the Month packet with the project of creating posters to share our thinking. Of course, students are used to sharing their solutions. Most math sheets, activities, packets ask students for the answer and to explain their solution. A great benefit to SVMI's Problem of the Month packets is how the problems are written. Many packets and their levels have been carefully written to allow for multiple solutions, causing students to truly justify their thinking - fostering Math Practice numbers 1, 2, and 3. Students showed great perseverance with making sense of problems, deciding how to attack the problems, constructing viable arguments with clear explanations, and checking their work for labels and clarity.
In our activity, I shared the concept of an explanation poster where students share their thinking, explanation, and strategies. This is an area that I've grown as an instructional coach. In previous years, I called them Solution Posters, but realized having a slight name change to explanation poster shifts the focus from the solution to the explanation. This was definitely evident this year as I observed students putting more of their focus on providing clear explanations.
In that session I also introduced the concept of a status poster. The second grade students were quick to understand the purpose of a status poster. "It's to show my progress." "The poster helps people know what I've done so far." In our discussion, we added that showing a status poster allows classmates and other learners to either get ideas from your work or offer ideas for your next steps. It was really great to see students understand the value of the this process - the value of growth mindset and the iterative process.
Below are pictures of the second grade students from Susan Hoff's and Melissa Hinkle's classes creating their explanation and status posters of SVMI's Problem of the Month packet. Scroll down beyond this first set of pictures to see the work from this week.
This week, we concluded our month's work with SVMI's Problem of the Month packet by sharing our explanation and status posters through a gallery walk. After introducing/reminding students of the process of a gallery walk (the process of admiring the work of the artists/mathematician and being a detective to understand the work behind the piece), I shared the process of providing feedback to classmates on sticky notes. For the second graders, we discussed the process of sharing compliments and questions. When discussing compliments, we talked about the importance of being specific with our positive feedback so our classmates know exactly what they did well, instead of just "Great job." We then moved onto the value of asking questions about the work instead of sharing negative criticism. With examples and sentence stems, we talked about the impact and difference between, "You're wrong," or "You didn't do your math correctly," and "Did you double check your calculations," or "I could understand this better if you included labels." It was definitely an important discussion and setup for our gallery walks. Below are pictures of the compliments and questions from the students to each other.
I absolutely have relied on Google Docs for most of my collaborative efforts. Pages on my Mac is definitely a great application for documents, newsletters, and page layout projects, but Google Docs has made collaborating with others super easy. The great feature that Google Docs and the may Google Apps have over other products is the Share button. The ability to share a document, give access to view or edit, and have expiring sharing privileges are great features!
There are many ways to use Google Docs and its sharing settings for collaborative work. Below are just a few of the ways I've used it.
Shared notes at a conference.
Drafting a document with others.
Asking for comments, suggestions, ...
Publishing content to the web and embedding it on webpages like tosachat.org.
I recently came across this website of tips and lessons on using Google Apps. A lot of the information is basic to me now (thankfully), but definitely still useful.
Here's a question I still have though - about tables in Google Docs. Is there a setting or way to make table cells that reach the bottom of the page not spill the text onto the next page? I want the cell to automagically start on the next page instead.
It was such a pleasure, privilege, and honor to be on Jennifer Williams' blog post on Shared Stories of Pedagogical Practice. Jennifer made the above amazing image of my quote, my belief, my calling. Thank you Jennifer!
Of course we all know how kids say the best things (funniest, silliest, ...). I saw the following image from a 4th grade class at Fairmeadow Elementary today. What a simple and profound piece of advice for other students and adults. No matter what you do, who you are, be a good one.
PAUSD's Elementary TOSA Team had the pleasure of spending Thursday and Friday, August 25th and 26th at its Fall TOSA Retreat. It was an incredibly important time to connect, engage, calibrate, articulate, collaborate, laugh, cry, and build our team. It was a powerfully rewarding time to be together during the retreat.
Our team has been in the work for about a month already - delivering orientation to new hire teachers on literacy, math, science, and other details of the district; planning, preparing, and facilitating PD on NGSS for every elementary teacher; organizing agendas and materials for meetings with reading specialists, the math pilot and adoption committee, a district webinar on the exploration year and pilot year for math, and the STEAM Inquiry Group; and working on logistics and planning for the school year. The retreat was amazing for us to spend that time engage in deep discussions and conversations, be creative with various projects, get to know our team and ourselves, and establishing key elements for our work together. It was a great time to be away from the district office. To be away from the never-ending list of tasks, the hallway conversations, our email inbox (at least during the hours of our retreat), and the intense work preparing for our year at school sites with teachers, students, parents, and principals.
Highlights from our two-day retreat:
The verbs I used when describing my TOSA Journey are:
Play, ponder, inquiry, be curious, be creative, reflect and refine, listen to understand, and constantly engage (in professional development).
I am super excited to work my fellow elementary TOSAs: Heather Cleland, Amy Doss, Leslie Faust, Amanda Gantley, Nikole Manou, Hilary Mark, and Mangla Oza.
Below is just one of the many wonderful videos we watched during our retreat.
Influence and Impact.
Instead of counting down how many school days are left, count the number of days of opportunity to influence and impact teachers and students. (Thanks @edtechari)
Do you use Google Apps for Education (GAFE)? Are you a connected educator on Twitter? (And if you are not, then why not? But that is another conversation to have later.) Have you ever had a question about GAFE and so you Tweet it out only for it to get lost in the abyss of Twitter and never get a response? Or if you do get a response, it is completely random and really doesn’t help?
Well, we hope this will be a solution to that dilemma. We would like to introduce to you a new Twitter account, @GAFEhelp.
Eight GAFE using educators connected on Twitter and have teamed up to manage this new handle. Our goal is to be a resource to other GAFE using teachers and help provide a quick answer to any type of GAFE related question you may need help with.
In addition to this new Twitter account, we will be using the hashtag #GAFEhelp to also facilitate communication of any questions that may be out there.
We don’t see ourselves as experts, but just a group knowledgeable teachers wanting to help provide answers to your questions. If we don’t know an answer, we will try to help you research a solution and provide resources to help you get going in the right direction.
So if you need help with Google Apps, just tweet us @GAFEhelp and/or use the hashtag #GAFEhelp. So, How may we GAFEhelp you?
Meet the GAFEhelp Team:
Happy First Anniversary #TOSAChat!
It is truly incredible to think about how impactful the #TOSAChat community has been this past year! #TOSAChat was the brainchild of Ben Cogswell, TOSA Technology-trainer at Alisal Union School District back in the summer of 2015. Ben then approached Karly Moura, Kelly Martin, and me with this idea and after a couple of months, countless Twitter DM messages (back when they were restricted to 140 characters), creating a dedicated @TosaChat Twitter and Google account, and establishing tosachat.org, #TOSAChat launched its first chat on Monday, August 17, 2015.
#TOSAChat had its anniversary chat this past Monday, August 15, 2016, and it was truly amazing to see how much the #TOSAChat community has grown. It's amazing to reflect on how this community has influenced and improved everyone's coaching, professional development, pedagogy, resources, professional learning network (PLN), and our impact on the teachers we work with, and of course, ultimately the students.
It is incredibly hard to have a comprehensive list of the impact of #TOSAChat on the coaches, TOSAs, and teachers this past year. Below is a feeble attempt of listing some highlights.
Again, that is definitely not a comprehensive list of the impact of #TOSAChat, but what an impact its had on all of us!
#TOSAChat is definitely our collective reason to #CelebrateMonday! As Joanne Ireland wrote, I Found My Tribe!
And it's incredible that all of this happened through Twitter. None of us (Ben, Karly, Kelly, and me) had met each other in real life before. This definitely shows the incredible power of using social media for education! Here's what I remember of our journey meeting each other.
I informally and unofficially met Karly Moura before knowing the journey we'll experience together in June 2015.
Karly and Kelly met face to face at Fall CUE.
I officially met Karly at MDUSD's STEM and EdTech Symposium.
Ben, Karly, and I met face to face at EdCampSV. Of course we HAD to get Kelly on a video conference! (Thanks Lindsey Blass for taking that picture.)
Ben, Karly, and Kelly presented together at National CUE on creating Twitter chats with me supporting remotely from Palo Alto.
By the way, I have yet to meet Kelly. :( However, even though that hasn't happened yet, the work we put into the #TOSAChat community definitely filled a need for TOSAs and coaches. I think this really goes without saying, but I'm going to write it anyway - #TOSAChat is nothing without everyone in the community. Ben, Karly, Kelly, and I just started the community, but it's everyone that participates on Twitter, Voxer, EdCamps, conferences, and of course in real life that makes #TOSAChat what it is - our tribe.
Once again, #TOSAChat is definitely our collective reason to #CelebrateMonday! Happy First Anniversary, #TOSAChat.
What an incredible experience serving as the principal for PAUSD's elementary summer school program! It was such a pleasure and privilege serving the students, teachers, and school staff.
After writing a reflection after the fifth day, which was a very vulnerable piece for me, many colleagues encouraged me to write a final reflection. It's hard to capture all the excitement and creativity from the students and teachers in a blog post. Hopefully the sampling of pictures below will help show the wonder of this year's summer school.
1) The Students.
This structure of summer school really had an affect on the students. Through the work of the district's Minority Achievement and Talent Development committee (MATD) one of the recommendations was to shift the focus of summer school from the traditional efforts of intervention and remediation to enrichment. Their research, studies, and analysis of data revealed that the majority of students in traditional summer intervention programs don't make significant improvements in math and literacy. Students who attend summer school have also not been in favor of attending summer school. Why go to school during the summer to work on things you struggle with and feel the effects of having this knowledge, the social aspect of others knowing this, and also missing out on experiencing things often associated with the summer months? In addition, many students who attend summer school have parents who are working full-time and may not have the opportunity or the means to provide those summer activities. As a result, summer school focused on enrichment was created. Make the program so exciting with enrichment opportunities that students will want to attend summer school. Provide students enrichment opportunities that they otherwise may miss due to the challenges of time and resources. Engage the students in design thinking and design challenges, genius hour, passion project, MysterySkype, science and engineering projects, discussions about growth mindset and neuroplasticity, field trips to The Computer History Museum and Hiller Aviation Museum, creative art projects, number talks, and interactive read alouds.
This was definitely achieved throughout the summer as I saw students come off the buses smiling, greeting me and their teachers, asking what they'll do that day, and many running to class. Students wanting to come to school. This was evident on the last day by the tears on many faces as they walked towards the bus at dismissal. "I'm going to miss you, Ms. ----." "I don't want summer school to end."
2) The Staff.
It was an absolute pressure serving and partnering with the teachers, aides, custodians, librarian, secretary, campus supervisor, and coach during summer school. The teachers were all committed, dedicated, and passionate educators who were creative, curious, flexible, and purposeful with their lessons with the students. It was such a powerful summer experience for all. Partnering with Jenna Segall, a fifth grade teacher at Palo Verde who served as the principal for the first session of summer school, was such an incredible experience. Jenna truly made the transition from the first session to my second session smooth.
As mentioned in my Fives for Five post, I really worked on communicating my appreciation and acknowledgement of the teachers' hard work. Often, a teacher's efforts goes unnoticed and it's important to show recognition of those efforts. I feel it's equally important during summer school, if not more. Those teachers could've spent their summers doing a variety of things but they chose to share their summer with the students. What a wonderful gift to the students.
Before I began this position as summer school principal I made a plan to recognize and acknowledge the teachers' efforts.
Week 1: write personalized thank you cards appreciating teachers sharing their summer with the students.
Week 2: send an email message to teachers' principal during the school year sharing the awesome ideas and projects their teachers are sharing during summer school (copying the teacher on the message as well).
Week 3: make personalized etched glasses for the teachers along with the staff appreciation brunch on the second to the last day of summer school.
3) The Curriculum.
Having a summer school program focused on enrichment and 21st century skills providing the teachers the freedom and flexibility to create their own lessons and curriculum. It was great to see the teachers try out lessons and activities they were passionate about, interested in exploring, and took risks in trying. It was an honor and pleasure to observe and support teachers with all their wonderful activities and lessons. Some were:
My experience with summer school definitely wasn't all smooth and easy. With any position in any profession, there are successes and challenges. As mentioned in my Fives for Five blog post, I faced many challenges during that first 5 days, which continued throughout the summer. However, ...
On the last day of summer school, I faced the biggest challenge of all. The night before the last day I received an email from one of the teachers asking if we could talk the next day. When we met, she shared with me her suspicion of physical child abuse with one of her students by the child's father. A call to CPS. In my over ten years of being an educator I never made a call to CPS (fortunately). On this last day of summer school I was making my first CPS call. What makes this situation extra unique was the teacher who shared her suspicion was entering her first year of teaching. What a way to start a career.
In short, after contacting my supervisors for advice and guidance, I assisted the teacher in calling CPS, filled out and faxed the report, recorded the entire experience, and circled back with my supervisors to share what happened. A call to CPS - on the last day of summer school. What a way to end the summer.
Summer school principal. What an incredible experience - seeing the students' excitement and engagement, supporting the teachers, seeing the fantastic activities and lessons, and, of course, all the challenges as well. I didn't really consider applying for this principal position; my boss suggested that I apply. Now, as summer school is over, I am definitely glad I did. What an incredible experience!
Kindergarten and First Grade teachers in PAUSD engaged in a powerful exercise analyzing the 8 Science and Engineering Practices (SEP). The verbs on each of the posters are definitely powerful verbs for all students. Our students definitely can engage in each of the 8 SEPs. The potential of children is boundless!
Which one speaks to you? Are we creating a space in our classrooms for students to exercise these verbs?
Today marks the first day of year 2 of this Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA position. I am super excited about this second year, taking what I've learned last year and pushing myself farther, deeper, ...
My goals this year:
-Make systematic changes and support in math content knowledge and instructional practices in teachers through PLCs, Learning Walks, and Lab Days.
-Complete the Maker Mobile proposal and get ready for its launch after securing funding from the district's fundraising organization.
-Facilitate workshops on NGSS and begin the 3-year rollout of the Next Gen FOSS modules.
Just like my first day post from last year: I have the privilege of engaging with many more educators. And with the support of the elementary TOSA team, my colleagues, and of course #TOSAChat ...
I am glad this is Day 1 - of Year 2.
Let it begin.
Let the journey continue.
Technology has really changed the world. Here's a simple story of the impact of technology. This story happened recently with a student I was speaking to.
"What's this word mean?" - a child.
"Well, here's a dictionary for you to look it up." - Mr. Young
"Oh come on, why can't I just ask Siri?"
On one hand, technology has given people easier access to information. People can pull up information from around the world, instantaneously. On the other hand, has technology had a negative impact on people's (traditional) research skills. Has it influenced a person's inability to exercise patience, persistence, and delay gratification?
What do you think?
It's been a wonderful experience so far serving as the principal for PAUSD's elementary summer school. The students and teachers have all engaged in so many amazing experiences, including genius hour, passion projects, design challenges, art projects, music, social-emotional discussions, number talks, and interactive read alouds.
In the work this summer, teachers and students have engaged in many conversations and activities around the concept of having a growth mindset. Below is a video I created back in September of 2014 that I've shown to my students, colleagues, and at conferences. There is definitely a lot of power in our words.
Recently I was asked my colleague about how to disable YouTube from showing the related videos at the end of the video. She was using some videos embedded in her Schoology course for her students and wanted to keep the students focused on their work. I was able to find a video tutorial I made in November of 2015 that I was able to share with her. After sending the video, I thought of sharing it on my blog as well. However, instead of putting it on my main blog page, I decided to create the new "Tech Tips" blog page.
Today is Day 5 of the second session of PAUSD's elementary summer school program. It has been truly an amazing experience serving as the principal for this second session. As the days progressed after writing my post about the first day, I started gathering my thoughts about the successes and challenges of each day. Today, being the fifth day of summer school, I wanted to list five successes, five challenges, and five tips for new principals - not that I am at all a school principal myself since I am just serving as summer school principal. The list of tips/reminders is just a way to help those who are stepping into the role of principal.
1. The Students' Engagement and Excitement. The absolute best part of this week and my experience as summer school principal is being able to see the excitement and engagement from the students with the STEM, engineering, design thinking, ..., projects. It's truly amazing to see how the students connect with the lessons, activities, and projects. The students smile, laugh, work together, try again with failures, and want to continue the learning as they head home each day.
2. The Teachers' Dedication and Commitment. None of the excitement and engagement can be possible without the dedication and commitment from the summer school teachers. Today, I personally thanked each one of them (the teachers, aides, custodial staff, librarian, secretary, and coach) for sharing their summer with the students. Instead of enjoying their summer with trips, sports, ... they chose to share their time with the students. That has to be recognized. Their dedication, commitment, and hard work has to be recognized.
3. Communication. A great success for me was being prompt and proactive with my communication. Prior to starting this week's service as principal, there were so many email messages being sent about a change in the schedule of students taking a different bus at the end of the day to attend an after school camp at another campus. After I sent a reply asking for clarification, I received feedback from the program director that it was great that I engaged in the process of ensuring the safety of the students after each day at summer school. Another example of the success in communication was sending email messages on the second day of my service to the location of our field trips during week 2, the transportation department at the district office, and also food services to confirm all the details of our trip. Being proactive in checking the details of our field trip schedule, times that the bus picks up and drops off, and the delivery schedule of snacks/lunch for the students on our field trip days was very important to ensure the success of our field trips.
4. Personal Greetings. Beginning each morning and ending each day greeting and talking with staff members, students, and parents was a very successful part of these first five days. It sets the tone for the day. It fosters connection and community. It communicates trust, kindness, and a message that I'm happy to see them.
5. Partnering with and Supporting the Teachers. I started this role with a few guideposts in mind. I knew my position as the administrator of summer school was one of support. Supporting teachers deliver their enriching lessons was an honor that I had. My position was one of partnership. I knew I was a partner with the teachers in their brainstorming, their celebration of the students (I shared in their celebration through many tweets), and their management of behaviors. My view of my leadership position was one that led by walking alongside the teachers.
1. Starting Day 1. Nothing can ever prepare you for day 1 as an administrator. When someone works at becoming a teacher, there's internships, the teacher prep program, student teaching, and more. When someone works at becoming an administrator, there's the administrative credential program, the masters program, but there's no "student administrator" position. Even if you have the opportunity to start as an assistant principal, there was no true prior experience. Day 1 was intense. All the nerves, anxiety, fear, ... that you'd been feeling days and weeks leading up to day 1 bubbles up and manifests itself as you start working on the countless tasks before you: checking class lists, placing high school volunteers, issuing classroom keys to new staff members, checking bus tags and bus schedules, ensuring snacks from food services are ready, preparing to introduce yourself as principal, ...
2. Volunteers. As mentioned above, placing the high school volunteers was quite a challenge (this could be volunteer adults and parent volunteers). On day 1, I had four high school volunteers who were starting their volunteer hours with this second session of summer school. I had to ask them which grade level(s) they're interested in helping, ask staff members who could use the help of volunteers, and try to find a match that would hopefully ensure each person found the partnership helpful and productive.
3. Working Relationships. Prior to starting this role of principal, I was a colleague to the summer school teachers. This week I took on a different role. With it there seemed to be an apprehension from the teachers to speak to me, a seriousness in our conversations, ... As much as I worked on partnering and supporting teachers (which is definitely a success as listed above), I kept hearing phrases in my head: "You're not fit to be principal. They're watching you. Why are you doing that? Are they judging me?" The working relationships was definitely a challenge I faced that may have been self-inflicted but nevertheless a challenge of beginning this position of principal.
4. Dealing with Behavior Issues. As a classroom teacher, you have the opportunity to build connections with your students that can help you with combatting and preventing behavior issues. Knowing your students helps a great deal. As an administrator, especially a summer school principal, you don't always have the luxury of knowing the student that gets sent to the office. You don't necessarily know which path to take with the child, which method would be most effective. As a new principal with students who are new to you, it feels like your attempts are like shooting in the dark.
5. Changes in Schedules. A specific challenge I faced this week was with changes in the students' busing schedule. Some students needed to take a different bus for after school programs they needed to go to and got on the wrong bus. After several phone calls with transportation, the bus drivers, and the parents, we reach solutions to ensure the safety of the child, but it sure wasn't an easy process.
Five Tips/Reminders/Things to Think About
Again, in no way do I consider myself an administrator. I don't believe serving as a principal for the summer school program qualifies me to speak on this topic much. I question whether this section is of any value to others. However, all of that may just be that self-deprecating voice in my head, and this current feeling of newness and reflection of the position I started five days ago will never be back. This is a unique feeling, unique time in my career. With that notion and with my reflection, the following list of five tips/reminders/things to think about is just to offer my perspective of this administrative position.
1. Always be in your Teachers' Corner. As mentioned on point five of the five successes, partnering and supporting your teachers is paramount to the success of you as an administrator. Guide your staff. Empower them to grow themselves. Always believe in them. This is true of the "star teachers" and those who need support.
2. Get to know Everyone. Greet everyone, get to know your staff and students, learn about each person's strengths, areas of growth, passions, joys, concerns, ... This will help with building positive school culture, staff morale, connections with students, and a sense of community. As commonly mentioned in teaching credential programs, the two most important people on a school campus are the secretary and custodian. Get to know them.
3. Schedule your time. Create time limits for being in the office, checking your email inbox, ... and get into classrooms. The classrooms are where the magic is happening. The classrooms are where the joy is found. Scheduling timeframes to do administrative things and sticking to those time limits will help free your time / prioritize your time to get in the classrooms.
4. Look Ahead. In any position, having a sense of the big picture is important. Knowing what's coming down the line is important to plan, prepare, and to be proactive. Sometimes, you can get caught up on the details of the task or the day. Keep an eye on the big picture. Think about what's scheduled next week, next month. Think about potential issues that may arise. Think about ramifications of each action you take.
5. Reflect and Celebrate. With all things, at [the end of] all times, remember to stop, breathe, reflect, and celebrate. You are doing great work. You are working collaboratively with professionals to help children learn, grow, think, question, comprehend, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, discover, design, construct, fail, recover, revise, ... and live.
Today, Monday, July 11th was my first day of summer school in PAUSD's elementary summer school program. What a fantastic start to my service as summer school principal. The summer school program had been in session for three weeks already with students engaged in design challenges, engineering activities, math talks, interactive read alouds, and more, and I had the pleasure of joining the program today.
It was great to be able to have this job-share opportunity for the principal position. Jenna Segall (@MrsSegall) served as the principal for the first three weeks (and the ESY week during the week of July 4th for students whose IEP required four consecutive weeks of summer school). As noted in previous blog posts, Jenna and I, along with the summer school administrative team, worked together to prepare for the program that included meetings, professional development sessions on design challenges, and plenty of emails. Having this job-share opportunity allowed me to have time during the first part of summer to travel, run, be creative, write breakoutedu games, facilitate workshops with Sabba Quidwai (@askmsq) reflect, read, and relax.
This first day of summer school was a solid day overall. After a somewhat chaotic morning with placing high school volunteers with teachers, working on students' bus tags, and ensuring there was enough supplies for teachers' needs, it was a smooth day. It was great to visit each class, introduce myself, play soccer and basketball during recess, and get to see the great projects the students were engaged in. Classes had wonderful morning messages for the students, design challenges, interactive read alouds, and engineering activities. Some of the highlights included designing parachutes for their gummy penguins and plastic ninja toys, building towers with their choice of materials, and discussions about tools engineers use.
Below are some pictures from today's first day of the second session. One picture in particular is an amazing one. While some may see a pile of mess, the teacher, Laura Wright, and I see a pile of possibilities. I can't wait to continue to see the fantastic projects the students design, plan, prototype, revise, and create.
Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA in Palo Alto Unified School District.