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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Wall of Fame

“Should I write my last name?””Can I write my nickname?”
“My name is on here three times!”
“Mom! Have you seen my name on the Wall of Fame?!”

Some of the greatest Principal’s I know have enabled their creative talents to give a shout-out to kids in the most positive way!

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Check out Todd Nesloney’s – HERE

Check out Mandy Ellis’ – HERE

I have joined the ranks of these rockstars and last year created

my own Wall of Fame. When students receive a positive office referral they are called over the loud speaker to the office and then sign the wall of fame in the hallway for everyone to see!

Sample Positive Office Referral

Sometimes we forget to fill out the paper documenting why we are proud of our kids, we all have busy days! For a gentle reminder, we place paper copies in staff mailboxes at least once a quarter.

Student Feedback

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According to Gretchen Brion-Meisels, a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, creating opportunities for student voice is critical to a school’s success…“it means recognizing that young people have a perspective on the world that adults can’t share, and that their perspective should be welcomed alongside the wisdom that adult perspectives bring.”

Twice a year we ask for students to give us their impression of how the school year is going, once in the late fall and once in the early spring. The data from this survey gives our PBIS team something to create school wide goals and social emotional lessons from.

We collect the feedback during our students computer lab special and our lab instructor reads the questions aloud to our students. Click here for an example of our survey.

 

 

International Day of Happiness

We celebrated International Day of Happiness school wide this year, sponsored by our Marigold Club. Here are a few ways we recognized, honored, and celebrated our happiness.

  1. We started the day off playing “Happy”, over the loud speaker and we all lined the hallway and danced together.
  2. Students painted pictures of things that make them happy (all kids love to paint!)
  3. Made a paper chain that each person in the school contributed to that lead down the school hallway. On each piece of paper students were asked to draw/write/color what makes them happy.
  4. Sidewalk chalk art on the playground.

Plan Ahead for 2019!
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The Magic of Music

A few years ago, when I first met Jessica Cabeen…an amazing principal in Minnesota, she mentioned a speaker on wheels that she drives around her campus playing music.

I had to have one.

I hopped on Amazon and purchased this…

(click image for Amazon link)
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Have you heard of the fable Magic Flute? This is even better! When I started to wheel this speaker out to recess or into the cafeteria, you could see everyone stand a little taller, smile a little brighter, and maybe even bust out a dance move or two!

Here are a few tricks I’ve learned about this speaker –

  1. It works better plugged in to music playing device. Many times I would walk away with my phone in my pocket while supervising recess and the signal would break.
  2. Students love the job of wheeling the speaker around! I decided to put a few students in charge of the safe transportation after being called away for a student crisis and then forgetting it outside! It played music until the end of the day.
  3. I recycled an old iPod to play the music and enabled the restrictions feature to block everything else.  At any point during recess students can walk over and change the song, and the only songs that will play are the ones that I have preselected.
  4. I don’t have students bring out the speaker everyday nor do I have a set schedule. This way, if something comes up students aren’t disappointed…and when it does come out it is a nice surprise!

A Million Bucks

When you leave the barbershop or the hair salon how do you feel? Like a million bucks! Fresh! Killer confident. I want kids to feel the same.

During the beginning of the school year there are nerves and anxiousness. Some of our students dread this time of year because they know that many of their classmates will show up on the first day dressed to impress…and they don’t have the means to do the same.

One of my special education teachers messaged me last summer,  “what would you say if a few hair salons would donate their time to giving our students haircuts before the first day of school?”.

Of course I said “ABSO-FREAKING-OUTLEY!” followed up by “how can I help?”

During back to school conferences our teachers placed a coupon outside of their door for waiting families with all of the necessary information.

It was scheduled for one hour and we had five local hairstylists, all who ended up staying for three hours. Not a single child was turned away.

Special props to my special education teacher, Wendy Boyer, for getting the ball rolling on this one. She recognized a need and capitalized on the moment.

 

 

Surprise Book Talks!

As a school we want to be sharing with our students the excitement of reading!

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 6.47.39 AM.pngIn our school library we have bookmarks hidden inside some of the titles. When a student finds the bookmark they hold on to it until they finish their book. Once their book is finished, they bring it to the office and give a quick book talk! We then recommend to students other titles they might like as well as gain new insight as to books students enjoy reading!

We may also surprise them a pencil or sticker if their book talk was out of this world good!

Future Adjustment – In the future I am going to ask that the student take the bookmark to any adult at Washington School. It is not often that I am in my office, so sometimes it can be a day or two before a student and I catch each other. We will continue establishing positive culture surrounding reading if we spread our book talks school wide!

 

Peace Path

In the past it has been easy when two students aren’t getting along to instruct them to play on different pieces of equipment, or a different game. The problem is that it never truly solves the issue, just avoids it. We have worked to solve the struggle with peer to peer communication by implementing something called the “Peace Path”.

This is an idea that I saw on Pintrest that I tweak, modified, and adjusted to fit our needs at Washington School and plan to expand on this coming school year.

Painted on our playground in worn out colors are footprints, each set facing each other as you would stand when you are having a conversation with a friend.  Between each set of footprints are questions/phrases –

  1. IMG_2687.JPGWhat happened?
  2. How do you feel?
  3. How can we fix it?
  4. Are we okay?

On the playground when an argument is brewing and an adult notices, they take students to the “Peace Path”. Students are led through the questions and down the footprints by an adult moderator. Each child gets an opportunity to answer the question and our only rule is that each person is allowed to speak honestly without interruption.

Next year we will have a poster in each grade level hallway with a vinyl set of footprints on the floor so that we can use this same strategy during the academic day and not just during unstructured times.

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