Ending the school year… (176:365)

source: aatifbokhari.blogspot.com

source: aatifbokhari.blogspot.com

I will be honest…. The last four weeks of the school year were my most challenging since becoming a principal 3 years ago! Everyone noticed it. Even I noticed it. I tend to be an open book (wear my emotions on my sleeve, blog about things, and vent openly and honestly)….

But the challenges I faced were beyond my scope, or so I thought. Many times I drove home considering to never return. Nothing was good enough, problems persisted, and deadlines piled up HIGH. Event after event, I just kept focusing on the positive. I knew it would end (and I was correct)!


Here are the lessons I learned, and tips to keep my sanity:

  1. Make the call – Get your mentors on the phone, and tell them everything.
  2. Pick up the phone when they call – When your mentors check in on you, take the call and tell them everything!
  3. Be honest with people – We all go through tough times. Let your people know that things have been rough.
  4. Wait 24 hours on major decisions – Ready to send the epic email? Just wait. Need a meeting ASAP? Just wait.
  5. Watch your diet and exercise – Stress can be combated through a healthy diet and regular exercise (I know it feels better during high stress times to eat unhealthy, but not in the long run)
  6. Set a date – Tell yourself that if I can get to a certain point things will be better
  7. Blog about it – But don’t blog about it (if you know what I mean, wink, wink) Social venting is not becoming ūüôā




Summer Learning Resources (175:365)

source: www.expandedschools.org

source: www.expandedschools.org

This summer, the teachers and I developed suggestions for students entering their new grade level. The summer is an excellent time to sharpen your skills, expand your horizons, and prepare for your new grade. 

The¬†activities¬†listed in each grade level do not require a lot of time. In fact, if¬†your child spends 10 – 20 minutes a day (5 days a week) that can help stop the “summer slide” that many students experience.¬†

No matter what grade your child is entering, check out these resources to assist with Reading!


Be able to say first and last name, writing his/her first name properly- not all capitals

Learn the letters in his/her name

Name the letters of the alphabet 

Counting numbers up to 10; Recognizing numbers 1-5 

Practice cutting with scissors 

Read to your child as often as possible even 10 minutes a day will help them become a better reader!

Websites: ABCYA 


1st Grade  

Dolch word list 1 and 2

Familiarity in the 1 to 100 number grid

Counting to 100 by 1, 5, 10’s

Writing all upper and lower case letters and the sounds they make 

Websites: Starfall, ABCYA

2nd Grade 

Check out the site, Internet for Classrooms. This helpful resources has activities for Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. 

3rd Grade  

For 3rd grade resources, check out Internet for Classrooms. This helpful site has activities for Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. 

4th Grade  

Math: Students can use MobyMax, XtraMath, and CoolMath to practice multiplication facts.

Websites: Math  and Reading 

5th Grade 

MobyMax: this site is an innovative approach for instant feedback. Mobymax can be used for both language arts and math and has all returning 5th graders currently placed on their grade levels. 

The following websites will also assist students transitioning into 5th grade: Eduscapes and Sumdog 


Learning from @ideaguy42 (174:365)

Check out our conversation with Bob Dillon on Principalcast 31. In this podcast, you will learn about how Bob became connected, hist time as a principal, and transition into his new position as Director of Innovation. In addition, Bob talked with the Principalcast Crew about his experience with #Edcampusa. Bob gives suggestions for summer learning, and encouraged everyone to follow the #iste2014 hashtag for the upcoming conference in Atlanta.



Other People’s Children (173:365)

source: www.goodreads.com

source: www.goodreads.com

When I was in the doctoral program, I took a fantastic class titled Diversity in Education. One of the books I read, and have decided to re-read this summer is Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit. I love the title.. think about it… Every day we are teaching other people’s children.


Without going into much detail of the book, my question is… do we realize this? Or have we become accustomed to teaching students and not realizing that they in fact other peoples children? Is this more pronounced when teachers are from another ethnic group then those they teach? Do we truly understand the cultural significant issues in the classroom as we attempt to teach math, language arts, or even physical education? What role does the principal play in developing a culture where cultural conflict is dealt with in a meaningful way?


All things I think about, and things I need to reflect on this summer.

The New Hippocratic Oath for Principals (172:365)

Source: promobiledj.com

Source: promobiledj.com

I know very little of the actual Hippocratic Oath (well, I have read it, and looked at modern versions). In researching for this post, I googled “Hippocratic Oath for Teachers” and I found quite a few attempts. In each of these attempts to create something of value for educators, there was a constant theme: do no harm!


As I read through the Teacher’s Oath, I kept wondering if we needed a Principal’s Oath? Or maybe an Administrator’s Oath. After reading about 5 or 6 Teacher Oaths, I decided to give it a try. I figured it couldn’t be that hard…


I started by asking myself a few questions.. How do we go through the day, the week or the school year without doing any harm? How can we assure that students and teachers are treated in the best way possible, so that their experiences in “school” inspire them to do great things in the future? How can we, as Principals, do better?


Here are few lines in my feeble attempt to create a new oath for Principals:

  • Treat students as if they were your own I’m not sure we would trust each other’s parenting techniques.
  • Treat students and teachers with dignity and respect Do we have a working definition of dignity? Respect?
  • Provide a student-centered, growth approach to student learning Hmm, are we talking about best practices, assessments or UGH this is difficult!
  • We will educate the whole child Just as soon as we get through these standardized assessments
  • While the teachers and students are in the building we will be as present as possible Just as soon as we get all these reports completed!

Ok, I am going to leave it up to the experts… And in the meantime, I am just going to follow these principles, for my Principal’s Oath:

  • Treat others as I would like to be treated
  • Be the change I wish to see in the world
  • Make kids, teachers and parents smile (hopefully laugh) as much as possible

Whats your Oath?

A pound of flesh? (171:365)

source: pbs.org

source: pbs.org

“A pound of flesh” is a figurative way of referring to a harsh demand or spiteful penalty‚ÄĒthe consequences of defaulting on a desperate bargain… Source: enotes.com

Survey any vice, assistant or principal about student discipline, and you are likely to get similar responses … We make discipline decisions on our policy, in accordance with our philosophy, we attempt to be transparent, we try to make kids learn from their mistakes. We involve parents, teachers and guidance.

Survey any teacher, staff, or aide and you might get these responses…. Our kids get away with too much, there are not enough suspensions, I just handle it myself because it is not worth it to send to the office, our administrators are not strict enough.


So, it seems that the two sets of stakeholders are viewing the issue from different perspectives… and this happens across the country probably more than we would like. I wrestle with this issue even though I feel like I have made decisions based on our district policies, in accordance with the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, which is a nationally recognized approach to improving the climate and culture of schools. We work with consultants from a respected university who assist us with monitoring, tracking, and decision making in regards to classroom, and school wide management.


We have a committee that meets monthly to analyze student discipline referrals, both individually and through grade levels, and specific classrooms.  In addition to analyzing the data, and identifying trends and re-mediating those trends in a systemic manner, the committee sets school-wide positive rewards for students who adhere to the basic rules/guidelines of the school: Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful. We have an instructional aide whose specific job responsibility is to work with teachers and students to ensure that students understand and learn from discipline. Yet, for some, its just not enough.


Critics of the program demand harsher punishments for students. They want to suspend individual students or punish entire classes without a clearly defined process. They want an “Old School” approach to discipline…. This is ironic because, as a student of education history, administrators who I have talked with (some who were in the role as far back as the 1970s) told me that suspensions were always used in extreme cases, especially in Elementary School. They report that working with parents and the students to correct the behavior was always the top priority. Often times, no actual discipline was awarded, but a stern talking to…. Sound familiar?


My hope is that as we continue to refine, and make research-based decisions on student discipline that we can everyone on board. I look forward to a day when classroom teachers have clear, consistent measures in place for dealing with classroom management. A day when teachers understand that kids are not perfect and are going to make mistakes. A day when students are not labeled “trouble makers” or “bad kids.” A day when teachers come into my office and report what they have done (warnings, parent conferences, PBIS referrals, guidance referrals, lunch detention, etc) and that we can work together to follow the policy on progressive discipline. A day when everyone truly understand the School to Prison Pipeline.


For further reading, and reflection:

Public Broadcasting System: Fact Sheet

Education Under Arrest 

Schools Becoming Dependent on Suspensions 



The @principalcast Crew hosts @KleinErin (170:365)

Source: @kleinerin

Source: @kleinerin

This Sunday (June 22, 2014) the Principalcast Crew hosts Erin Klein. Erin will be talking about the upcoming ISTE 2014 Conference in Atanta. We are excited to interview Erin because we learn so much from her!¬†Erin Klein is a teacher, author, and parent who has earned her Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and currently teaches second grade. She has previously taught first, sixth, and seventh grade.


Erin is also the technology chairperson for the Michigan Reading Association, a national A Plus Workshop Presenter, SMART Technologies Exemplary Educator, Really Good Stuff Monthly Blogger, Edutopia Guest Blogger, Edudemic Guest Blogger and Magazine Contributor, National Writing Project member, and award-winning EduTech Blogger. Klein has most recently appeared in the Scholastic Instructor Magazine and co-authored Amazing Grades with experts from 13 countries around the world.

Come and learn about Erin, and the upcoming ISTE 2014 Conference this Sunday on teachercast.tv at 9:30 PM EST!


You never know who is reading! (169:365)

source: sociallyrelevant.us

source: sociallyrelevant.us

So, I visit the middle school today because our video yearbook is complete and there is a machine there that can make multiple copies at one time. Mr. Perry, a colleague and friend (and very innovative teacher) is always gracious to help me out with this process. As we make the video copies, we get a chance to converse about the latest Mac news, share resources on emerging technology that can help students, and just catch up. I am always impressed with his ability to multi-task. Today he was reviewing with students web 2.0 tools that they could use for the summer or in high school.


During one of the breaks he took me to their 21st century, digital masterpiece affectionately known as Digital Media Center (DMC). This room has flat screens on the brick wall, the latest ergonomic tables and chairs, an 80 inch 3D TV,a Bright-Link, and most important room to grow and change as technology changes. When we entered the room the teachers, Mrs. Bermudez, and Mrs. Fisler looked at me and smiled…. “Students, do you know who this is?” they asked. “This is Dr. Cook, you have been reading and studying his blog.” My mouth was agape. I thought to myself, wow, and then… hmm what have I been writing about. The teachers went on to tell me that they are teaching the students about blogging and they wanted them to see someone’s blog that is close to them. I thanked the students, and encouraged them to comment.


What a great learning opportunity. I hope some of the kids start their own blogs, and use the platform to discuss their ideas. It is so rewarding to blog, and it helps develop your digital footprint. Happy reading and blogging. You never know who will be reading your blogs:)

Patience is a virtue (168:365)

source: agbeat.com

source: agbeat.com

There is a very old saying that “patience is a virtue” and whoever first developed it couldn’t be more correct! Often times in organizations, there are deadlines, changes, innovations, and decisions that need to be made at the drop of the hat…. Yet, the best change, the best innovations, and sometimes the best news comes after being patient, very patient.


As I child, I can always remember adults telling me this infamous line, and now I am blogging about it… I must be getting old ūüôā