Recently I read this article “Lawn Mower Parents Are the New Helicopter Parents…“, it left me nodding my head and patting myself on the back for ignoring the 6 emails that my middle school son sent me about forgetting his school issued i.d. at home…on library day.
A few days later as I was getting ready for school, my husband asked why I was making 4 PB&J sandwiches. He knew that no one in the Stumpenhorst household has ever been a fan of the combination. I replied very matter of factly that I was making extras because the shipment at school had been delayed a few days. A few students count on that sandwich as part of their daily routine.
You all can probably see the vast difference in my response to these two incidences, it honestly didn’t hit me until a few days later. I was a lawn mower principal, trying to mow over my students obstacles before it reached them.
Some of you will stop reading here and judge my ability to lead a school. Some may even decide that I am part of the problem. Others may hear me out…
After much internal conflict – I realized the variables. In any comparison, it’s important to notice the differences.
I feel confident in sharing that half of my student population have these obstacles to overcome, and my personal kiddos have none. That isn’t a brag, it’s an observation and reality.
I’ve always told my son and daughter – “fairness is based on need”.
If I can help a student’s day start a little smoother and allow them the opportunity to learn, sans lunch-choice-meltdown, I will do it every time. Will I always be there to mow over the trivial problems? Nope. Usually it’s my teachers who fix things, I just happened to be there in the moment this one time.
Pro-problem solvers. We wear the badge with pride!
Today something incredible happened…but I didn’t even realize it at the time.
At 7:30am, 15 minutes PRIOR to our advertised supervision time – a student brought me a piece of stapled up paper. It said “famle” and was in the shape of a house…missing one side of the roof.
“I made this for you Mrs. S.”
I thanked the student and pinned it up. Then I asked him to leave my office so I could record the daily announcements.
At lunch time the student came back…
“Did you put the picture in yet?”
He went on to explain that his intent was a homemade pictureframe. He couldn’t put the whole roof on because I needed a slot for the photo. Then he suggested that I put in a photo of my teachers.
“You always say that Washington School is a ‘FAMLE” (family), and this is our house. I made our house.” – pointing to the structure.
Wow. Delayed impact.
This student went home and glued, stapled, and jerry-rigged this one piece of paper to create a masterpiece. I’ll never forget it.
It made one of my teachers cry. It gave me a reality check.
Recording my daily announcements are not that important. The most important job I have is to listen, ask, and learn.
I remember the first time my daughter lost a game. It was Chutes and Ladders. She landed on a snake on the last row and threw herself on the ground in hysterics. Not okay.
When my opponent loses their fifth game of Uno and we are on game number six – you won’t find me hiding a wild card. I’ll play that card every time. It’s a teachable moment – we all need to learn how to gracefully lose, especially kids.
In my house and at school I end every game with a handshake and a “good job” no matter what. There is a lot of good natured smack talk and playful razzing, but in the end I want kids to know that games are about the act of..not the result of.
This week a few third graders challenged me to a race. I promised them on Friday. The rest of the week they told me about their fastest shoes, that “one time at football practice”, and then asked their friends to come and watch our race.
Today was Friday. They lost. I made sure they knew that no Washington School student has ever beaten me in a race. (If they do, I may have to hang up my hat) We shook hands and hugged at the end, congratulating each other. One student even showed a look of determination when he said to me “I’ve still got two more years.”.
Bring it on champ. I’ll be pushing 40 then…and I’ll still beat you. But after I beat you I’ll give you the biggest hug ever, because I’ll miss nothing more than racing you on the playground once you move on to the middle school.
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…
The 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.
“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….
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
This 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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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;
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.