Friday, May 1, 2020

So, you want to be a School Principal...

Working as a school counselor early in my career, I received a behind the scenes glimpse at what actually goes on in a school office. And, If you have not been a principal, or a school secretary, you have no idea what a principal or a school office has to deal with on a daily basis.  I didn’t, but I quickly figured it out. Principals have to make decisions about situations in a snap. Sometimes, they have time to think about what they want to do and that can make the process even more agonizing. The internal debate can go on forever and even when they make the call, the decision continues to rage within their brain.   After being a small part of those decisions for two years, I decided it was time for me to go back to the classroom. 

My  current principal, Mr. Tim Jordan, is an educator that I mentored when he began his teaching career.  I have watched him progress from teacher to Math specialist, School Counselor and now my Principal. He has gone from someone who sought my advice to someone I seek advice from, frequently.  Our history also makes me a little protective of him, even when I don't agree with him.

Principals have to consider all sides of the story, all consequences, all influences on future decisions, all the students and the parents they will impact.  And, how will their teachers react to what policies they are making.  Parents may disagree with a policy and leave their office and they may not see each other for a while, but when a principal and a teacher disagree they have to face each other in the hallway everyday.  That can get tricky. Building relationships of trust is very important. Hopefully that can be achieved, sometimes it is not.

Some of us who are teachers have administration degrees and we catch ourselves saying, “Well, if I were in charge…” Well, we don’t know what we would do because we aren’t in charge and we don’t know all the details.  Principals have to keep the details to themselves because they can not tell us the details that went into their decisions.  And, if we were in their shoes we might have come to the same conclusion.  We might not have, but we can’t ever know that.  

Principals have taken the leap that most of us will not. There is crazy bravery there.  The principal you are dealing with at the moment, may not be your cup of tea.  But, I guarantee that in the moment they make a decision, even one you don't like, they are doing what they feel is best for kids.  Maybe not what you think is best for kids, but you are not them. 

These men and women are not “Yes” people.  They do not make decisions because the decision will make them popular.  Think about all the decisions they have had to make, this year in particular. Scary stuff. Sometimes everyone in the room is in agreement. But, a lot of the time, they are not.  They do not seek to be put on a pedestal because that is not where they belong or where they want to be. As educators we are all in this together.  Principals are dedicated to their craft and for that I have respect for the task they have undertaken. 

So, for anyone reading this and considering this as a career path, I say to you, toughen up.  You're going to need to have thick skin for this job. 

So, here’s an enormous THANK YOU and HAPPY PRINCIPAL'S DAY to all these principals, some still working, some retired, that I have worked alongside.

Mr. Lowell McInturff, Wheaton
Mr. Bob Borman, Southwest
Mr. Jeff Swadley, Southwest
Mr. Mark Mayo, Southwest
Mr. Terry Winton, Exeter
Mr. Robert Taylor, Exeter
Mrs. Tina Nolan, Exeter
Mrs.Tamara Kester, Exeter
Mr. Tim Jordan, Exeter
Ms. Ashley Fly, Exeter

And, there’s one other that I want to pay tribute to… Mrs. Christy Hermansen, my sister! 


Sunday, April 26, 2020

You would think...

You would think I would have lots to say about all this "stuff" happening in our world, but I don't.  
You would think I would have lots of books to recommend, but I don't.

You would think my laundry would be all caught up, but it's not. 
You would think the sink would be empty of dirty dishes,  but it's not. 

You would think I would be all caught up on grading, but I'm not (getting closer). 
You would think I would take the opportunity to catch up on curriculum writing, but I'm not. 

I struggle with goals...lists are out the window.
It doesn't seem like the right time to write for next year...I'm supposed to giving tests this week. 

I'm sad because I haven't seen my kids in more than a month.
I'm sad because I haven't seen my students in more than a month. 

I'm mad because everyone keeps posting on social media  pictures of them seeing their kids.
What about the rules. Everyone stay home. I'm following the rules. Why aren't you?

I am tough.
I know this has taught me to invest in experiences, not things. 
I'm trying to do my best. 
Taking a breath! 

Begin again! Tomorrow is Monday. Whatever that means...

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Books that Touch Your Heart

Some books are good reads.  Some books make you laugh.  And, some books touch your heart.  This week I have finished two books that have done that.  Tears in your eyes, trying to keep it together while your class is also reading, touch your heart kind of books.  

The first book is The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds.  The story is tough.  The main character loses his mom, his dad gets becomes injured.  He basically has to get himself through his senior year.  He doesn't feel sorry for  himself, he just takes care of business.  Through adversity he gains lifelong friendships and new experiences.  When I finished reading this book, I immediately emailed the High School English teacher and recommended it for her modern novels class.  Although, if I'm being honest... my goal is for everyone to have read it before they get to her.  

The second book is Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart. Oh. My. Goodness. This is one I started and put back last summer.  That was a crazy thing to do because this book is amazing!  Brodie, the dog, has to make some tough choices. The choices are at a sacrifice to him. But, it doesn't matter, he has to be sure his boy is ok. He gets some help along the way.  

This is a book that some of our students will have lived through in real life. I hope not many.   I book talked this with all my classes.  One of my 8th grade girls picked it up. I want to read this book aloud... but i'm not sure I can without some help.  

Two great books this week!  I'm working on my goal of 100 in 2020.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

New Year, New Goals

New year, new goals... right!  Personal goals I have set for myself this year include being a kinder person.  I think I'm a fairly nice person.  But, is being nice the same as being kind?  I used to think so, but now, I am not so sure.  

Another goal is to get rid of the clutter.  After 32 years of marriage and three kids, there is a lot of stuff in my house, basement and garage that probably needs to go.  Of course, there are life artifacts that need to be held onto for the next generation.  But, there is also just a lot of stuff! 

I would also like to finish some home projects that have been needed to be completed for oh, probably 20 years, or so.  Sometimes you just don't get to things.  Life gets busy.  There is another show to binge watch.  There is a basketball game at school.  Such is life.  

There are creative goals I would like to reach as well.  I want to sew more quilts.  I have all the supplies anyone could ever need.  I have two sewing machines!  I need to let go of the idea that the things I sew all have to be queen-sized quilts.  Wall hangings, pillows and table runners have value also.  Sewing some smaller projects would allow me to practice the craft and give me a sense of accomplishment. 

Finally, I want to read more.  Today in class, myself and the 7th grade, had a conversation about reading goals.  They are not as excited about it as I am.   I hear them say that they just do not like to read.  To which I say something like, you just haven't found the right book.  They don't necessarily agree with that.  But, I am sticking with that argument, no matter what.  

I hope I can achieve these goals.  They don't seem difficult.  Honestly, they sound kind of cheesy, easy.  I can do this!  

Sunday, July 28, 2019

School Supplies

Yesterday we visited with our daughter and her family at her house.  While we were getting ready to leave and saying our goodbyes she pulled me over and said she had something for me.  She handed me the cutest bag full of school supplies.  She is the best and she remembers all the times I purchased extra school supplies for students.  Even at 27, she is a teacher's kid.  

I love how community rallies around schools and students.  Parents and community members are always pitching in to help out with school supplies, or special treat days or cleaning up after reading night.  People will stay after to help stack up chairs after graduation.  It's amazing!  

And, I see this in all our area schools.  My cousin and her husband just donated two pallets of wipes to be distributed in her local school district to teachers to have in their classrooms.  We take care of each other and we make sure kids have what they need.  I could name lots of programs, like the backpack program that every school has.  Coats, clothes, toiletries... it's all there when needed. 

I have even noticed that college campuses are filling student's needs.  I see posts about clothes and food availability all the time.   It really warms the heart to hear about all the ways that everyone helps out.  And, having said that I know there are needs that go not met.  I know it's not perfect.  I wish it were.  

I hope we are doing our best.  I think we are. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Through the years...

Recently I was interviewed with three other veteran teachers about how technology use has changed over the course of my career.  I pointed out that I could see three different timespans, for lack of a better word. 

When I first began to teach there were typewriters and computers in the business lab.  However, as a classroom teacher, I did not have access to lab time.  Students wrote papers by hand and maybe typed a final draft if they had extra time in business class or if they owned a typewriter or personal computer at home.   Readable handwriting was very important. 

After about 10 years or so, there were more computer labs in schools, but I didn't use them a lot because I was still teaching students how to use the library for inquiry.  Magazines and the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature was still the most convenient way to get recent information each month when the news or sports magazines were published.   Students were, however, able to type things more readily.  

Fast forward to the past five years and the increase in the use of technology has become exponential.  So much, so fast is the best way I can characterize it.   I view technology as a tool for teachers to use.  Some say that it will replace teachers.  I don't believe that.   I was a librarian for six years and lots of people talked about how ebooks would replace libraries someday.  That hasn't happened, and I don't see that happening anytime soon, or at all.  Students need to hold books.  Students need to talk to teachers.   

I am headed out to a technology conference on Thursday and there are so many sessions on the schedule to pick from.  I really had to think about how I am going to use technology in my classroom and if the programs or apps being advertised would truly fit my vision for this year.  I ended up choosing a session about the Digital Public Library of America, notebooking and using technology to engage all students.  Those three seemed most like what I can absorb and really put into use.  

My vision for my students is that we will read books together and independently, write frequently about the books we read, ideas we research and people we meet.  And, we will communicate face to face.  Legible handwriting will be important, again.  Technology will also fit in nicely, as a tool to aide us in our quest for knowledge.   My goal is for a well-rounded student who doesn't completely rely on technology to get through the day.  

The summer is winding down.  August 13th will be here soon! 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

End of the Year, New Direction

I am returning to the classroom next year after six years spent as our school's librarian.  I am very excited about this.  Next year will be my 26th year in teaching and most people might ask, why would you leave a job like the library where there is no grading and lots of open time not committed to a specific class?  It's not too hard to explain.  I really love teaching reading and writing.  I really miss making connections with students in a classroom on a daily basis and continuing conversations that began the day before.  So, 6,7,8 ELA classroom, here I come!  

I have already begun to plan for next year.  I've been reading and re-reading lots of books from my personal library.  A few are pictured here.  I have to get back from another teacher my copies of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller,  Real Revision by Kate Messner and Book Love by Penny Kittle.  I definitely want to review those again.

I'm always looking for suggestions.  Please comment if you have any.