Bring the magic alive (358:365)

Our Elves on the Shelves

Our Elves on the Shelves

Yesterday was the last day of school in 2014. It was quite a day. I love how our teachers are committed to bringing the magic alive for our students! The day started off with two visitors from the “North Pole.” Two of our teachers dressed up as Elfs on the Shelf. They wanted to be outside so the parents in the car line could see, but the rain prevented it. So we set them on top of the “shelf” in a classroom and had students visit before homeroom. Kids were in awe. Our transfer students said to me on the way out, “Wow, we never had anything like that at my old school.”

 

Then we hosted our annual Sing-A-Long. We packed the gym and sang all types of songs to get the kids in the Holiday Spirit. At the conclusion of the Sing-A-Long we got all of the staff members to come down in front of the students and we sang, “We wish you a Merry Christmas.”  We all had our arms on each other and we swayed back and forth. I literally got chills.

We then showed a movie to the students and everyone enjoyed the rest of the morning. All of the classrooms bought pizza for the kids and they enjoyed lunch as they shared presents with each other.

 

It was a magical day!

Early indication of Genius Hour? (357:365)

I was reading Lilly’s Purple Purse by Kevin Henkes the other night when I came across something that piqued my curiosity (no pun intended). The book, published in 1996, is a story about Lilly, an out of the bok thinker, who goes on an adventure. When she is in the classroom, there is a section the teacher established called the Lightbulb Lab – Where Great Ideas are Born. 

 

Whenever the students had free time, they were permitted to go to the Lightbulb Lab in the back of the classroom. The expressed their ideas creatively thorough drawing and writing. Lilly went there often. She had a lot of ideas. ~ Keven Henkes

 

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Sound familiar? To me it sounds like the modern day “Genius Hour” or “Makerspace” that schools and classrooms are implementing. Was this book ahead of it’s time? Or is this something that has been happening in schools for a long time and now has a name, blogs and videos to showcase?

 

 

All I know is whether it is called the Lightbulb Lab, Genius Hour or Makerspace, we need more of it… If only those state administered assessments that determine our future wouldn’t get in the way…. Who knows where we would be????

Leadership starts with YOU (355:365)

source: wspucla.wordpress.com

source: wspucla.wordpress.com

In some way, everyone is a leader. You may be leading a district, school, classroom, or an area, but you are leading. How are you leading? How do you know? What is your impact? These are all questions leaders face during reflection.

 

Understanding how you impact others can be challenging. You can’t go up and ask people, ‘how am I doing as your leader?’ and you can’t go by how you ‘feel you are doing.’ You could send out an anonymous survey and let people weigh (hoping of course that everyone takes it and everyone is honest). You could use the measurement of your organization such as test results, quality of work, absenteeism, or discipline referrals. There are countless ways to measure, but it all comes down to YOU.

 

Here are some questions to consider as you reflect as a leader?

  • Do you have core values and does everyone know them?
  • Do you hold yourself accountable?
  • Are you willing to acknowledge your mistakes?
  • Can you be honest with your staff, classroom, area or district?
  • Are you approachable?

 

This is a great time of year to reflect on the impact of your leadership. The most important tool you can use is a mirror.

New Year, New Resolution? (354:365)

source: www.getorganizedwizard.com

source: www.getorganizedwizard.com

I’m not sure what it is, but I like making New Year’s resolutions, goals, or ambitions (whatever you call them). In fact, I have made (and was somewhat successful)  some meaningful resolutions. There are other years when I wasn’t so successful. So why do some work and others don’t?

In 2012, I made a resolution to start blogging and tweeting. I never thought I would get into social media, but I also thought about it for 3 months before I actually did something. In 2013, I didn’t have a resolution, but rather I wanted to improve my health, lose weight, and be more centered. Honestly, since I didn’t make a goal or resolution, I only made minor progress. In 2014, I made the resolution to blog everyday and I have learned a great deal about the writing process (I only have about 11 more to go). As much as it is cliche, I have found power in starting the new year with a vision of what I want to improve (or accomplish). Obviously, sometimes life takes you in other directions and that is OK.

 

Pre-Planning – What I know about 2015

In early 2015, I will be getting surgery on my foot. This may keep me in a cast or boot for a few weeks or few months. Knowing this, I can’t run a marathon 2015, but I am hopeful that this surgery will help me eventually become more active (with less pain). I will not blog every day. That was a great experience and I might have some good ideas that could be taken further. In 2015, I will be working on finishing the book with the PrincipalPLN crew on Isolation but that isn’t resolution material. I am still perplexed at what to focus on.

 

What makes a successful New Year’s resolution?

  • Be honest – Like I said earlier, there are a few things I know about early 2015 and this will help me guide my resolution
  • Plan ahead – This is the time to start mulling over what you want to do (basically this whole post is a public mulling session)
  • Talk to others – Make sure you talk about ideas to your loved ones. They can be your biggest champion!
  • Make it SMART – Is it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bounded
  • Write it down – By writing down your resolution, you will double your chances of success
  • Make it public – Put it on your blog (or Facebook, Google +, or Twitter) for all to see. This will increase your chances of success, and rally support from your PLN!

 

I will have something by 12/31. Thanks for all the support…. until then I will keep searching for the right resolution!

The 12 Days of Christmas at School (353:365)

source: www.judithsfreshlook.com

source: www.judithsfreshlook.com

A few weeks ago, the PrincipalPLN crew discussed ideas we could do to show our staff appreciation. We talked about a few ideas that other principals have implemented. We then created a Google document to share what we would be specifically doing at our schools. I am so thankful to have a PLN that could help me with the ideas. I can only hope that my staff appreciated it 🙂

 

Day 1 (Monday, December 8) You’re so valuable ~ enjoy a 100 Grand Bar ~ Check your mailboxes

Day 2 (Tuesday, December 9) Lottery Day (Everybody Wins)~ Win a Lottery Ticket, Get out of Duty, 1 hour of Classroom Coverage or WaWa Gift Card ~ Check you mailboxes

Day 3 (Wednesday, December 10) Work Out Wednesday ~ Wear your workout gear and be comfortable

Day 4 (Thursday, December 11) Reading Blizzard ~ Once the Principal arrives, everyone stops, and listens to a book

Day 5 (Friday, December 12) Flannel Friday ~ Wear your favorite pajamas or Flannel Shirt

Day 6 (Monday, December 15) Hugs and Kisses (The Hershey Kind)

Day 7 (Tuesday, December 16) Good Morning Visit ~ Wear Red and Green 

Day 8 (Wednesday, December 17) Workout Wednesday ~ Wear your workout gear and be comfortable

Day 9 (Thursday, December 18) Staff Meeting ~ Breakfast at 8:30 AM (Teacher’s Room)

Day 10 (Friday, December 19) Holiday Sweater/Shirt Day ~ Holiday Party at Runaway Chefs @ 4:15 PM

Day 11 (Monday, December 22) Monday morning quarterback ~ Wear your favorite sport shirt and jeans

Day 12 (Tuesday, December 23) Handwritten Notes for the Holiday 

Stop! And smell the roses (352:365)

source: tattly.com

source: tattly.com

Sometimes in life, and in work, you have to stop and smell the roses! Leaders, when was the last time you scheduled a meeting and just let the staff connect with each other? When was the last time you just stopped and smelled the roses?

 

Scaling back, especially around the holidays, can be the best thing for you and your staff. We all understand we have a tough job to do, but we also have to remember everything else that is going on outside of the workday. The holiday stress is real, and our teachers are also mothers, and fathers, brothers and sisters. Not to mention people get sick, and kids get sick. There are days when teachers are roughing it out so that we don’t have call substitutes. The list goes on and on.

 

So as you reflect on the holiday season, it is important to stop and smell the roses, slow down, and be sure that people know how much you appreciate them.

3 years in Review: Top 5 of All Time (351:365)

I am approaching my 3rd anniversary of blogging. I really can’t believe it has been 3 years. Throughout this experience, I have tried to stay true to the theme of my blog, Insights Into Learning. This platform has allowed me the opportunity to share my insights into my learning process. Writing as a leader is not easy. Every time I sit down to write I have to consider the implication, message and intent of the post. Although I always try to stay positive, there have been a few posts that have not resonated with everyone the same way. Whenever you challenge the process, you are not always welcomed with open arms.

 

With that said, I would like to share the top 5 blog posts from the last three years. Perhaps you have read them, or maybe you missed them. Either way, I had a lot of fun writing and sharing them.

 

5. There is no problem so bad you can’t make it worse – This post was inspired by listening to the Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield. As we try to fix education, could we be making it worse?

4. Micro-managing vs. sweating the small stuff – This post was part of several posts where I was exploring details in leadership. Popular culture has a mantra for us ‘not to sweat the small stuff’ but is that really applicable in an organization? I think leaders need to understand the concept of “What y0u permit, you promote.”

3. Turtle on the fence by Dr. Pamm Moore – This was my first guest post. Dr. Moore, who is the Assistant Superintendent, was considering starting her own blog. I asked her to let me share on my blog and see what happens. The results were amazing, and she ended up taking her “turtle back” and starting her own blog!

2. Building a plane while flying it – I can distinctly remember sitting in a workshop for a state initiative when I heard the speaker utter these words, “Well, we are building the plane while we are flying it.” What other industry would accept that mentality? Then, as I reached out to my PLN, I found out that people in other states experienced the same thing. Coincidence or not?

1. Where does the road of excess lead? Emotional Intelligence? Resonant Leadership? – This was one of my early blog posts. I actually took some of the concepts from my reflection journal while I was going through the doctoral program. Each year this post by far out ranks the other posts in terms of visits and views.

Year in Review: Top 3 Overlooked Posts (350:365)

Yesterday I posted about the top 5 most popular (number wise) posts of the year. Today, I want to focus on the gems that may have slipped by. Everyone is busy and for some reason or another, you may have missed these posts….

 

3. The top 5 reasons to start blogging – Short but sweet. I am a firm believer that leaders need to share more about the awesome stuff happening in their respective areas. Get started blogging!

 

2. Why I am not wasting time with Email anymore! – If you happened to have missed this post, I recommend to take another look. Email is draining time and energy away from educators. Don’t let it be your “to do” list. Get organized in the new year and attain ZERO INBOX!

 

1. The true cost of meetings – How many of you are in meetings? I know, silly question… we are ALL in meetings at some point. Take a look at this post and think differently about the true costs of meetings…. Do they have a purpose? Agenda? Note taker? Take place in the right area?

Year in Review (349:365)

Source: pro.wzba-fm.tritonflex.com

Source: pro.wzba-fm.tritonflex.com

As I get closer to my goal of blogging for 365 days in a row, I figured I would go back and look at the posts. Obvioulsy, some of the posts resonated with people more than others. Today, I want to highlight the top 5 posts of the year (so far).

There were a few ties, so I made sure to include each 🙂

 

5. A Principal Legacy ; Did you have an awesome day? Blake wants to know -(tie) In a Principal Legacy, I wrote about my friend and mentor, Eric Sheninger. The post takes a look at the impact Eric has had on New Jersey Principals. In the Awesome Day post, I discussed how a second grader in Florida was using his inquiry learning to collect data and connect with the world!

4. 80/20 Staff Meetings and Are You a True Leader? (tie) – In the 80/20 I was planning out the staff meetings for the year and wanted to give back 20% of the time to the teachers so they could work on their Genius Hour. In Are You a True Leader, I found an infographic that provides 3 reflections for leaders!

3. Go Ahead, Throw That Snowball; The End of my Test Pep Rally; Are You Struggling with Permission? (tie) – A three way tie for 3rd place! In the Snowball post, I wrote about how we allowed kids to throw snowballs as part of a positive reward. In the Test Pep Rally post, I revealed how I couldn’t justify creating a Pep Rally over a State Assessment. In the Permission post, I wrote about the struggles that educators are having with leadership that holds back innovation and risk taking.

2. Walking to School with Jacqueline Edelberg – This was a geek out post! I read the book Walking to School, and loved it. I took a chance and tweeted to the author, and she agreed to Skype with me. Jacqueline was honest, and open about how we need parents and schools to be on the same page.

1. The Code – I was a little surprised that this was the number one post of the year, but I guess it struck a chord with my PLN. The post is not very long, and honestly I don’t think it is to profound. What it does, though, is highlight how organizations have codes similar to the codes on the streets…. Snitches Get Stitches.

 

I have a few more ideas for the Year in Review. Stay tuned!