Insights Into Learning

Archive for the ‘Back to School’


Butterflies flying away (87:365)

Every now and then you have to stop and watch the butterflies

Every now and then you have to stop and watch the butterflies

This morning a group of 1st graders invited me to have them release their butterflies into the Millville area. I will be honest. I was in such a rush. I had meetings scheduled. I had people that needed to talk to me. I didn’t have my jacket. The last thing I really wanted to do was go outside. How could I say no to a 1st grader who said, “Dr. Cook, can you come out and watch us set our butterflies free?” So I did, and I am really glad that I made that decision. Sometimes, watching butterflies fly away is much more important than anything else.

 

The students, who have been studying the life cycle, have known these butterflies since they were in the cocoon. They were so excited to see them fly away. This process has been going on for a few weeks.

 

After I left the students and went back into the building, I was refreshed. This little activity made such a big impact!

There is a lot to laugh at (39:365)

source: www.bubblews.com

source: www.bubblews.com

Ask anyone who works for me what I enjoy most and you will most likely hear “he likes to laugh and he likes others to laugh.” After a rough day, week or even just to lighten things up, I seek laughter. Good laughter that does not come at the expensive of others (unless it is myself). I am so glad the staff I work with gets this about me. I truly believe if you can’t laugh at yourself, then there is nothing to laugh at.

 

Usually the staff will hear me say off the wall things to parents, teachers or students. For instance, this week they over heard me imitating a duck call for a parent of a student who was distracting others. Yes, I made the duck call. Or the other Spike-isms I have developed on the fly. I strive to be real and not have the air of a distant “school administrator.” When the day is over, I am a father, husband, friend, and jokester. I am a person!

 

So on Fridays, we love to hang out after dismissal and laugh! We laugh at each other, the silly things that happened during the week or crazy stuff I have done or said. It is therapeutic and necessary. It is a way to shake off the stress.

 

Laugh! Because there is a lot to laugh at!

 

 

Who is going to be your Sadia?

keynote 2013I was chosen by my school district to deliver the Keynote Address for our Opening Day Extravaganza. My superintendent wanted me to share my insights on innovation. I spent many hours writing, editing my speech, as well as watching TED videos for inspiration.

Ironically, my inspiration did not come from the TED videos… I was inspired by a 10 year old girl who was brave enough to take some risks and think outside the box. We don’t always need the experts to inspire us, we can learn about innovation from our students. So I shared my story about Sadia.

 

Here are the notes from the section on Sadia:

  • I was chosen to give the keynote on innovation, but I want to caution you that I am not the most innovative person in this district. I am probably a middle of the pack.

  • Remember the trailer? Since last year I have made several imovie trailers. I always say it’s the best 4.99 I ever spent on an app

My idea of Innovation

  • Imovie trailers are easy, quick and clean. Simple right?

  • One day my guidance counselor brought her daughter to school. Sadia is 10 years old and is going into 5th grade. She was in my office with her ipad. I asked her what cool apps or cool things she does with her ipad. She showed me a video she had been working on for the last few weeks. My jaw dropped. I begged her to finish it and I told her I wanted to share her video to a bunch of educators. Her mom told me she worked tirelessly on the video over the summer. She finished it the weekend before the Keynote.

  • I was amazed and I think you will be too

Sadia’s idea of Innovation

  • Sadia and the rest of her generation are ready to flourish. And guess what? They don’t need us to teach them everything. They like to figure things out and when they can’t figure it out they turn to …. You guessed it… Social media.. facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, tumbler, you name it….

  • Sadia is an entrepreneur

  • She has dreams

  • She has ideas

  • She has passion

  • Who is ready to step on those dreams, extinguish the passion, curtail the ideas?

  • Not me… and I am sure not you! That’s why we have to let people take chances. There have been a lot of people in my life that have allowed me to take chances.

How Sadia impacted an entire school’s welcome back video…

Who are you going to learn from this year?

Who is going to be your Sadia?

Welcome Back, are you ready?

August is that kind of month where I always wonder if I’m ready for the school year. Guess what? I never am fully ready. One of the hardest parts of being a principal is the mental checklist that sifts through the brain as you consider the opening of school. Here are some of my random thoughts about the opening of school.

The Building 

I start with the building… I constantly ask myself if everything in its right place? Did I make sure that all my promises were kept? During the summer, I usually do weekly checks, but as the end of August approaches, I am doing daily, sometimes 3 and 4 checks of the building. This summer we had major projects such as wi-fi throughout the building, a new cafeteria, redesigned faculty lounge, painting, offices moved and renovated. Thankfully, I have an awesome crew who continues to deliver a clean, organized building.

The Schedules

Then I continue to labor over the various schedules… Does everyone have a prep? Do we have enough sections? What about morning, afternoon, lunch?  Have I optimized instructional time? Will the students have what they need? This year, we will opening the building without our full staff. As of now we have three positions that need to be filled (or are in the process of being filled). Students continue to transfer in and out on a daily basis.

The Changes

What a year we have planned… New Teacher Evaluations, Student Growth Objectives and a Model Assessment that will help us transition to the PARCC. Our teachers (and fellow administrators) are feeling the crunch as we ensure to be compliant with the state mandates. Am I fully prepared for the new evaluations? Can I articulate the rigor needed for an appropriate Student Growth Objective? Are we prepared for assessments every 6-8 weeks and do we have enough time to analyze the data to improve student performance?

The Dreams

So far I have had a few “back to school” dreams. In one dream I realized I was wearing two different shoes. In another dream I was at my school (but it really wasn’t my school) and I was checking on the process of the teachers and their classrooms. One teacher had decorated their entire ceiling and it was a dome shape. In another dream, I was greeting students on the first day but I was not at the correct school! I know we all have crazy back to school dreams, but this year they have been intense!

The Reality

The reality is that when we open for business next week that I will be supported by an amazing administrative team, fabulous teachers, excited students, supportive parents, un-replaceable secretaries, and a dedicated support staff that will work collaboratively to achieve our goals. So I am done reflecting and I have to get back to working…. late!

Is this what I signed up for?

Mrs. Lunemann has lead the charge to create a 21st century classroom within a welcoming, student-centered learning space

After everyone cleared out from another successful Back to School night, I sat in my office in amazement. Maybe it was part exhaustion, part reflection, but never mind all that. This had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with my family.

See, when I started at RM Bacon Elementary about a year and half ago I was told of this theme: “Then, Now, Always Family.” I like themes, and see their importance played out on a daily basis. But there is something very different happening at my school. It’s not just a theme, its reality.

Everyone does Back To School Night, and so does our school, but we do it very differently. Well, I have to be honest, we do EVERYTHING differently! No matter if our teachers have one parent, or they have standing room only, they embody the principles of solid classroom instruction. Each session I went into last night had technology at the forefront. Smart boards, videos, blogs, interactive math and LAL lesson, sign ups for remind101.com, anything that is used during the day was on display last night! Not to mention the traditional “All About Me” posters, artwork, and messages to parents. Our teachers do it all!

 

A united front in 3rd grade!

Another thing that struck me, and I will go on record that I had nothing to do with, was the collaboration. Two of the grades decided to scrap the individual presentations, and worked collaboratively on grade level presentations. As a parent, I would have thought… united front! As a principal, I beamed.

Special area teachers, resource, and basic skills interventionists, were not to be outdone. They milled about the school talking with parents, assisting with anything that was needed, and made the parents feel welcome.

I received so many well wishes from excited parents. I can honestly say that they trust us with educating their children. We do not take that responsibility lightly. They asked about the upcoming activities, and many signed up for our Home and School Association.

Here was our Back To School Trailer:

This IS what I signed up for!