I’m Freaking Out!

It is close to the start of the school year, for some it has already begun. Yesterday families came in to Washington School for back to school conferences.

Parents feel nervous.

Students feel anxious.

Do you know what teachers feel?

I was with teachers all day today, and I want to quote some things I heard while having conversation, traveling the halls, or reading email.

“I started having the back to school dreams last night, you know, when you forget something and you disappoint someone?”

“How can I make __________ feel more comfortable?”

“I just am so impressed with his mom, she really cares and it shows.”

” Can you believe that they just stepped up like that? Incredible.”

Above all they come to me. My teachers will come in, shut the door, and push their class list forward on my desk. They want to know everything. Tell me what excites him. Tell me what makes her laugh. Why does he worry. What do you know about her…

TheIMG_8710.PNG conversation is not gossip related. This conversation is related to mistakes. Mistakes that could be made when individuals are newly introduced. Mistakes that could have reoccurring effects on a relationship. Mistakes that could impact a school year if not prepared for.

“I don’t know, what I don’t know! And I’m freaking out!”

A version of this phrase has been heard around Washington School for years. Back to School is stressful for adults and kids alike. Changing teachers, changing schools, and sometimes moving districts can be incredibly taxing for families. Teachers know this. They anticipate it. They hyper-focus on it!

At the end of the day, communicate. Voice your fears, your failures, and your disappointments. Teachers will rise to this occasion and work so hard to make the year one to positively remember for their students and your child.

One hug. One joke. One smile at a time.

Taking it to 11

Lately I was introduced to a phrase when I heard someone say in excitement”You’re taking it all the way to 11!” It was meant to display the extreme and beyond expectation actions that a person was taking.
Being a connected educator allows me the opportunity to see others “taking it to 11”. Here are a few edu-rockstars that I have witnessed bringing their A-game recently…
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Mandy Ellis,  author of Lead with Literacy, knocked my socks off with a growth chart that I quickly duplicated…because it’s freaking amazing! Not to mention she always has such a creative genius when it comes to leading her school.
Jessica Gomez welcomed her staff back to school with an amazing room transformation, while they kick off their “Wild Card” school year. Check out her IG page!
Carter Langston (Phonics Man) is bringing it for his young readers! If you have a building of K-2…check out his facebook page for memorable/fun/rapport building phonemic awareness chants.
Melissa Kartsimas for always weeding through the best IG ideas and reposting…with credit to those who create! Check out her stories for constant inspiration, no matter if you are a teacher or an admin! Not to mention…her blog is full of amazing ideas!
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Amber Teaman & Melinda Miller, moderators of the “Principal’s Staff Appreciation & Motivation Group on Facebook. This group is the most amazing minefield of ways to celebrate your staff. If you are like me, it can also become the biggest rabbit hole known to Principals! I have pages and pages of screenshots from this incredible group that I’m hoping to incorporate someday!
Celebrity Shout Out –
Rachel Hollis, author of “Girl Wash Your Face“, has changed the way women across the world are living their best life by giving us a constant dose of real. Check out her IG account for links to her podcast, vlog, playlists, and so much more!
While reading “The Power of Moments“, I have also been inspired to take my position of Elementary School Principal – all the way to 11. Here are a few examples…

Miles of Memories

“Today is the day Mom. My Coach said it, ‘Tomorrow we separate the men from the boys’. I’m going to try my best to be a man…have any tips? Even though I know you’re a girl.”

I talk about it often, but maybe you don’t know. My kids ride with me to school everyday. They sit in the car for 35minutes on the way and usually a little longer on the way home. It was a hard decision for my husband and I, four years ago. It wasn’t just hard for us, but our parents had to choke it down with a spoon full of molasses…which is not nearly as sweet at maple syrup. They each live within 5 minutes of the school district in which we live and are very passionately involved and in love with their grandkids.

It’s hard enough to be a working mom. But to be a working mom in a school district that has a totally separate calendar, events, and activities make it nearly impossible. We did this for one year – and I chose work over my family so many times that my conformation Pastor would’ve written me a letter of guilt (that’s a story for a different day).

First, the not-so-great….IMG_2195.JPG
Today 7/26/2018
7:30am I drove to work my summer hours at school – 30miles
3:30pm I drove home – 30miles
4:00pm I drove back to school with my son for jr. tackle practice – again…30miles
7:15pm Finally we drove home – 30miles
– and this wasn’t even on a Chloe Dance Day…seriously you don’t want to hear about that, it will just stress you out

I sat down and talked to my Superintendent before I open enrolled my kids. I wanted to make sure he knew that this was not going to effect my performance. I’ll never forget what he told me – “Enjoy your time in the car with them. It is precious and goes far to quickly. When they are stuck in that seatbelt is when the best conversations happen.”

He is 100% correct. Now, four years later, I can say with confidence that we are living our best life. Goodness it sucks sometimes…but show me a life that is perfect, and I’ll tell you all about how manipulative social media can be.

You know what else I did today?
– I had 60miles of uninterrupted time to talk to my son about his fears, excitement, happiness, interests, and so much more.
– I had 60miles to listen to my newest favorite book “Girl, Wash Your Face”, by Rachel Hollis (I’m convinced she’s in my head!)
– and on Chloe Dance Days – we have two 20minute commutes to create the most epic carpool karaoke memories

In the last few years I’ve had others ask me about our commute. Occasionally I feel super sorry for myself and dramatize the miles. When a #momsasprincipals reaches out and asks me if she should do it, I say with complete confidence…YES. We will never be perfect at work or at being a mom – but this is our best shot.

In case you’re wondering –

The advice I gave my son? It’s same advice that my Dad gave me that I wrote about here. “You can work hard now, or regret it later. You’ll never say ‘Good thing I only did 1/2 ass today’…trust me.”

I added the last part…but I’m pretty sure my Dad would agree.

A$@ KICKER

Motivated. I can’t even describe the work this guy puts in. It’s incomparable to anything I’ve ever done.

This morning I text him…

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Okay, I know I had a typo. Forgive my speedy typing skills. And for those of you who are going back to re-read to find it – I love you most!

Anyhow.

We sat down tonight…for the first time for a few days, in the same space.
“So, are you done blogging?”

Whoa…stop the bus. Where did that come from?! He noticed I have been slow. Sleeping in longer, spending more time being a “homemaker”, and living status quo. It benefits him for me to be this way. Today I put away his laundry (two FULL baskets) and he thanked me – but then put me on a tilt-a-whirl, because he wants me to be the best “me” I can be.

Find a partner. One that doesn’t just have their own agenda but doesn’t give two s*%$# what the house looks like and will just put the laundry in the machine himself if needed.

Two blog posts, a School Improvement Plan, and a Back to School Institute Schedule later…

I could spend days gloating about my marital luck – but at the end of the day, what I care about is that YOU have someone in your corner, someone who is your cheerleader or sometimes your a$@ kicker. If you need either – I’m here.

IG – @principalinboots
Twitter – @principalboots
Voxer – @PRINCIPALINBOOTS

 

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Self Proclaimed

Chaos Coordinator, this is largely a self-proclaimed title.

Before now it is has been something that I’ve actually held pride in…the ability to roll with it, decide or act on the fly, and an Olympian style jump into the most exciting thing in the moment.

In reality, I probably don’t give the planning side of me enough credit…it’s there, I promise you. However I realize that I haven’t done the best job in the last few years of balancing out my crazy procrastinating enthusiastic side with my organized methodical and intentional self.

My crazy has led to this and this and this. However there are a few things that have resulted from my laser-like focus, here and here. This piece is a proclamation to create a healthy dose of both in the upcoming school year. I tend to lean more towards crazy…but am so ready to bring my A-game for my school this year.

Now…don’t get too disheartened – Lord knows I’m still super spontaneous and at any moment may send a message asking you to drop your plans for the afternoon. But trust me when I say that those times will be well thought out and only to produce the most amazing result.

Kids Focused. Staff Centered.

Get ready 2018-19 school year. Washington School is about to own you.

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Must Have Apps for FUN!

Get ready friends! Per usual, I’m coming at you from a mom & principal perspective! The apps I’m going to share with you today are MUST HAVES if you want to laugh, smile, and share a special moment with kids – you’re own or at school! Of course, each comes with a brief description and how I use it at home or in at school.

Heads up

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I use this app at home AND school! It records a video of the kids while they do their best to describe the noun to me, using words, motions, etc. It is a great way to spend time connecting with kids during indoor recess or when my own kiddos are needing some Mom time!

 

What Would You Choose?

246x0w.jpgThis app is a spin off of “Would you Rather”. I started reading the questions over the microphone during lunch one day as a way to salvage my hearing. Now students at school BEG me to read more. This was an accidental way to teach SEL skills! First they have to be super quiet – I refuse to repeat myself 🙂 Next, I have them think of their answer with their eyes closed briefly. Finally they turn and talk to their neighbor who tries to use persuasion, just before they raise their hand and vote proudly.

SnapChat

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The way I use this app is not as a communication tool – but as a barrier dissolver! Sit next to a student, ask them if they want to see something really funny, then bust out snapchat filter photos of you. Invite them to try it together! The “remember when” moments this app creates will allow you to build a positive rapport with all students.

ISTE 2018

Whether you attended my Admin Toolbox session during ISTE 2018 or were there in spirit and are looking for additional resources…this post will hopefully be a great resource for you.

First, some things to keep in mind…

  • Just because it works for me…doesn’t mean it will work for you
  • Take a risk, chances are…when this go off plan, you’ll be the only one to notice
  • “It’s not the tools that you have faith in, tools are just tools. They work, or they don’t work. It’s people you have faith in, or not.” – Steve Jobs  

Also – Please feel free to share these resources with colleagues! I am providing this organized document for you to use!!! Please consider giving @principalboots a shout out on Twitter if you like what you see!

(CLICK IMAGE BELOW FOR SLIDE SHOW)

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One Foot in the Door

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As an Administrator something that I focus intently on is not losing sight of the experiences and challenges of being in the classroom.

Any random day of the school year…teachers may be out sick without any available substitutes to fill it. In these moments I may shuffle staff around to cover, this is a last resort. My more preferred strategy is to step up and step in. By subbing in the classroom I come away with many pieces of information.

First, I am fortunate to understand and build rapport with the students in the classroom from a deeper perspective. Arguably more important though, is that I am quickly reminded of how it feels to be a teacher. The constant decision making, extinguishing fires, pressure of students comprehension, and gratification behind the lightbulb moments.

Principals or those administrators with more flexible schedules – I challenge you. Step foot in a classroom, step up to the plate, take on the challenge of remembering.

VIP Luncheon

When I joined the team at Washington School, we did not have Student of the Month. I was totally okay with that but wanted to find additional ways to recognize our students who really work hard at being the best they can be – enter stage left – VIP Luncheons!

Once per quarter every certified staff member at Washington School is asked to nominate one student for this special occasion – and it doesn’t have to be a student in their class. They use the form here, and once they turn the form back into the office I call ALL students down over the intercom at the same time to read aloud why they were nominated for the VIP Luncheon. I also during this time let them know who I have nominated as a VIP – which so far has included; dayllovvmae4rrg.jpg

  1. Chief of Police
  2. Fire Marshall
  3. Doctor at our local hospital
  4. Regional Superintendent
  5. District Superintendent

The day of the lunch, the students, select community member, and I spend 30minutes in the library eating pizza and chatting about random things like our favorite wild animal, the most daring thing we’ve ever done, and the favorite question….what is your favorite dessert.

Service with a Smile! #TeacherAppreciationWeek

During Teacher Appreciation Week I wanted to do something special for my EduRockstars! Heather Leonard, a fantastic Principal in Mass. shared an idea her PTO does every year and I twisted it up to created this!

Personalized Room Service!

Check out the link below and edit it for your own use!

Door Hanger

Faculty Hot Potato

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Faculty Hot Potato was a game made up by the Elementary Principals in my district during “Have Fun At Work Day”. It was totally distracting, hilarious, and the staff won all sorts of amazing prized…which they loved!

I am self-proclaimed the “Chaos Coordinator”…and in the object of transparency – this game should NOT be played during testing. An early out or just before a holiday would be perfect.

I downloaded a random time generator app on my iPhone and set it to ring at increments between 15-45minutes, then I gave the potato (which I made from a pair of nylons) to a staff member making sure they knew…you have to pass the potato to another staff member sometime in the next 15minutes.

When my timer would ring, no matter where I was physically in the school, I would get on the intercom and usually sing “Hot Potato, Hot Potato, Who has the Hot Potato?” from there the person who was in possession of the potato would send me a message and I would wheel my cart of goodies down to their room. The staff member would then flip a quarter…heads = prize, tails = challenge.

List of Challenges 

No matter if they flipped heads or tails, each person received a prize. It was the least I could do after my staff did some of the crazy things on that list!

 

Facebook Live Bedtime Story

The night before the first day of school I utilized our school facebook account to go live, from my home, in my pajamas, with my daughter. We read a back to school bedtime story to Washington School students and then saved the video for students to few at a later time.

Many other principals have done this! I first saw it advertised on Melinda Miller’s Instagram account and knew I had to try it! 

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