January 30

What is it like being a principal? Are you in meetings all day?

RM Bacon a long, long time ago

One of my best friends, Dan, recently asked me those questions via text. I have known Dan since high school. I have always admired him because he is a risk taker. When most of our friends went off to colleges and universities, Dan went to Africa to plant trees. Then he moved to Montana and got into a bagel business which required him to go to work very, very early. After his stint in Montana, he moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana to work on a boat in the gambling world which required him to work nights. When he was finished with that, he and I went on a cross country camping excursion and were able to see much of this beautiful country.

 

What do I really do at work?

I think it was on that trip that Dan decided he was going to devote himself to becoming a chef and one day opening his own business. He moved back to Philly and enrolled in restaurant school and started his journey into the business. About 12 or 13 years ago he moved up to NYC. He has remained there working in all different capacities, and types of places. He often tells me how tough the business is, and he works when everyone else is off and vice versa.

So when I texted him back this is what I wrote: “It depends on the day. My main goal is to be out in the classrooms with the teachers and students. There is also a lot of management stuff I have to take care of. I do have a lot of meetings, and I try to have fun.” I let him know I had this blog, and he checked it out and said he was going to follow it.

I thought more about his questions and reflected on my position as a 21st century elementary principal. Well, if he is reading this, I would like to add a few things to my text.

Dear Dan, here is what I do:

Meetings help us solve problems

Meetings

  • Meet with other administrators
  • My mentor
  • Literacy coach (who is my new life coach)
  • Consultants
  • Parents
  • Guidance counselors
  • Teachers
  • Custodians
  • Cafeteria workers
  • Bus drivers
  • Secretaries
  • Security guards
  • Students
  • Parent Teacher Association
  • DYFS workers
  • Community organizations
  • New initiatives

Management stuff:

  • Monitor hallways
  • Manage budget
  • Make sure lunches are running smooth
  • Supervise Arrival
  • Read, write and respond to about 50 emails a day
  • Supervise dismissal
  • Complete cleanliness evaluations on rooms, offices, etc.
  • Ride school buses
  • Drive the streets after dismissal making sure kids are behaving
  • Visit houses
  • Visit other schools
  • Phone calls/conferences
  • Write

    Always watching Classroom Instruction at Work!

  • Read articles
  • Collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Organize paper work
  • Sign for various trips, professional development days, approvals, etc.

Leadership stuff:

  • Present information at faculty meetings
  • Train staff on best practices
  • Make suggestions on improving classroom instruction
  • Listen to suggestions on improving the school
  • Follow through on requests
  • Analyze problems, seek solutions, implement programs
  • Hopefully inspire staff
  • Speak at events, assemblies

There are other things as well that I will call “Other category”:

  • Announcements, ‘Goooooood Morning Bacon Elementary School”
  • Play kickball
  • Get lots of cupcakes for birthdays
  • Play floor hockey
  • Clean up syrup at breakfast
  • Play basketball
  • Run
  • Jump rope

    Lots of cupcakes

  • Attempt to get in on Double Dutch
  • Read with kids
  • Solve math problems that kids give me
  • Mentor
  • Counsel
  • Mediate
  • Make my secretaries laugh (that is starting to wear off, just like it has with everyone who knows me long enough)
  • Dance with the most awesome Postal Worker, Jenna
  • Rap with Jenna, the most awesome Postal Worker
  • Show people Karate moves
  • Sit down at breakfast/lunch with kids
  • Ask teachers for help
  • Eat at Moe’s (Please don’t share that with my wife)
  • Get tons of hugs from great kids
  • Give out lots of high fives
  • Listen to kids who cry or are upset
  • Make kids cry and be upset (well, usually that is because of their behavior)
  • Call the superintendent, assistant superintendent, other principals,supervisors, and friends in other districts and ask “How do I…”
  • Philosophize over educational problems, solutions
  • Listen to music
  • Check twitter
  • Jam a minute everyday at 2:30 PM
  • Blog
  • Take pictures
  • Capture cool things on video
  • Entertain visitors
  • Read the local newspaper
  • Cut out articles from the paper and post

OK, Dan, I think I got it all. As you can see, a lot has changed since the last time you were in school.  I encourage you to check back on the comments. Some people may either make additions, or tell you I flat out don’t do what was listed above. I think you know me well enough.

My first grade teachers dressed up as Dr. + Spike + Cook

January 25

As I Walkthrough RM Bacon

Panda teacing a lesson on movie making through kerpoof.com

One of the important initiatives administrators have in Millville is the McRel Walkthroughs. Using the McRel technology and armed with the ipod touch, we collect data, analyze classroom practices, and ensure the systemic practices of Classroom Instruction That Works are being implemented.

 

Non Linguistic Representation of the phases of the moon - Yummy Oreos

As of today (January 24, 2012) I have 381 walkthroughs. In reflecting on those walkthroughs it means that I have watched 381 lessons (about 1,143 minutes), talked to 381 students, and probably walked 3,810 steps (just a guess).

 

 

Venn Diagram - Boys vs. Girls

This practice keeps me engaged in the classroom and active in the learning process at my school. Here are a few images I have collected along the way. Thanks teachers!

 
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January 24

Here are some posts from my previous blog (Jan 2012)

Following that twitter bird

January 17 – 20

We had a four day week because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday. I love MLK day because this holiday always requires me to reflect on the type of human being I am. My son had his buddy over that day, and I feel that MLK would have been proud of both of them because they are from different cultures and have different tones of skin color, but ultimately they are just 7 year old boys.

 The highlight for me this week was joining Mrs. Sutton’s class on Thursday afternoon. I was called to the class because of typical 5th grade drama, but we all walked away ready for a change. The students took time to deeply reflect on how they treated each other, their teacher, and their families. On Friday, they all said that for the first time, they really understood the no bullying pledge. I rewarded them with a friendly floor hockey game on Friday afternoon. We may have lost that game, but we won in so many other ways. Then, Now, Always Family!

January 9 -13

Twitter has opened up my professional world! I am hoping to get teachers, other administrators and parents involved in this vital piece of social media. Get started at twitter.com – its free!

I spent almost 2 full days away from the school this week (and another pretty much in my office with meetings) so today was my day for walkthroughs and reconnecting with everybody. I saw some awesome things today, but I have to say I got “stuck” in 3rd grade. Mrs. Woodman had a legendary lesson for martin Luther King Jr. Day. She taught the students sign language (she herself learned it the day before on her ipad) and they read the book One Love by Cedella Marley (Bob’s daughter). As they read the story they learned sign language. At the conclusion of the lesson, she played Bob’s One Love and they danced and signed to the song. Then I went next door and Mrs. DiGiogio’s class organized and performed an anti-bullying play. I was so impressed with the team effort (not to mention acting abilities of these 3rd graders). Mrs. DiGiorgio plans to help them expand the play and maybe share with a larger audience. Way to go 3rd grade! We ARE World Class!

January 3 – 6

The students seemed very relaxed this week. Not sure if it was because they had so many days off from us or they are just ready to start the New Year! We had our first snow of the year. As I was talking to someone in the office, a safety came in to tell me that there were kids throwing snowballs at each other on the playground. I knew we only got a dusting, so I doubted that actual snowballs. I went out and yelled for them to line up. Within 20 seconds I had a straight line with kids waiting for me to speak. I told them that I was young once and I also loved to play in the snow, but we do not throw snow or run around on the playground because someone could get hurt. The snow melted by the end of the day.

 I had the opportunity to work with Mrs. Gandy’s class on multiplication. As they were working on the slate boards, I asked them what they were learning. Working in pairs, the students were giving each other two and three digit problems to solve. Eventually, I sat down and the students were giving me problems to solve. My hardest was when one student wrote 5555 X 5. I showed them a trick to solving the problem. They got the calculator out and sure enough I was correct: 27, 775!

January 21

Martial Arts and Leadership

When I was interviewing for the Principal position at RM Bacon I was asked this question, “Do you have any hobbies?” I thought for a minute and said, “Yes, I am pursuing my black belt in Kenpo Karate at Champions Martial Arts in Turnersville.” I was then asked a follow up question about how it helps me in my daily life. I told the committee that it has taught me a lot about goal setting, being involved in something bigger than yourself, and most of all discipline.

I remember my first martial arts class. I was the only adult in the class, and most of the teenagers had black belts. We started off with basic warm up drill, and I thought I was going to pass out. I just kept  thinking to myself that I needed to stay focused and that one day I too would have a black belt (and be in better shape).

Eventually more adults showed up at the classes I was attending and I began to talk with them about the process. My mentor, Matt, has been very patient with my development. He too joined when he was much older and in a few years has risen to a brown belt.  He has taught me about the true “art” of martial arts and how it is a scientific process.

One of my goals in joining  karate was to lose weight. So three days a week (at least) I am sparring, doing push ups/sit ups, kicks, punches, etc. and burning a lot of calories. More importantly, I have begun to make better decisions about what I eat. I believe this is a result of the martial arts discipline that teaches students to be patient .

I have only been studying about 10 months and have already earned my purple belt. I know I have a few more years to attain a black belt, and I am enjoying the learning process. This experience allows me to be the student instead of the principal.

January 21

Your Image is Our Image

A few years ago there was an advertisement campaign that placed a great deal of emphasis on image. Statements such as “Image is everything” or “This will improve my image” impacted thousands of people. Yet, my exposure to the “image” concept goes back to 1996 when I first worked the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) summer program at Rowan University. The EOF program is designed to help at-risk college students succeed through a summer program and intensive support. I had gone through the program myself in 1992.

The Residential Supervisor I worked for was known for his ideas. One day I helped him place a 6 by 4 foot mirror in the front of the residential hall for all EOF students to see as they came and left each day. I asked him what would be the purpose of this big mirror? He told me that he was going to put a quote on the mirror to have the students recognize the importance of their appearance, and also and more importantly, that they represented the EOF program by what they did, said, dressed, etc. This concept stuck with me.

Fast forward to 2011. When I arrived at RM Bacon I was impressed by the appearance of the historic building.  I loved the marble entrance and wanted to make sure visitors could see and appreciate it as well. During the summer we moved some things around and I pondered what to do with the big open space where Mrs. Bacon’s picture used to hang. It was then that I thought of the Residential Supervisor from the EOF program, and since we are located in Millville, home of the glass industry, I ordered the mirror.

And just like my former supervisor, when someone asks why we needed a big mirror at our entrance and exit I say, “Because your image is our image.”