Saturday, November 28, 2015

Keeping the Sword Sharp

The winter months are filled with constant disruptions for an educator. Starting around Thanksgiving and stretching until late February it seems that full weeks of school are the exception instead of the norm. This creates a number of inconsistencies in a field that is filled with them already. We all know that a middle school student's life is filled with distractions that we as educators cannot control. So the challenge is to create an environment in the school and specifically the classroom is where students can be consistently great. The key is to have large goals that are focused on daily ones in order to provide a greater purpose to the learning.  That way every minute of every day counts as much for them as I know it does for you, the teacher.  Sure this is easy to say but what does it look like.  Consider the following 5 points:

1. Demonstrate a love for learning. Come with fresh ideas and EXPECT the same in return.
2. Hold yourself to the same expectations as you hold your students. If you are having students work bell to bell then do the same.
3. Plan for success. Use the MAP testing data, summative data and your formative data to pace, but never feel there aren't exceptions. When you read something, watch something or hear something that inspires you, share it with your students, it just may do the same.
4. Talk to the pros. Never stop collaborating about the "right stuff." People that say you can learn from others mistakes aren't hanging around the right people.
5.  Bring the POSITIVE energy. Students feed off of negative energy just as well as well as positive.

"We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future."
 - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

1 vs. 100

This morning anticipating the first day of school I posted a tweet. The tweet read. " Let's be as excited on day 100 as we are on day 1." You see when students enter our school building no matter where they ended up the previous year, their age or gender they are filled with anticipation. Here at the middle school we have a very diverse range of this example. Sixth graders walk in extremely nervous not knowing teachers, staff, what the bells mean, why there is no teacher leading place to put it bluntly they are more scared than anything else. Diversely the 8th graders are puffing out their chests proud to be the upperclassmen. Then the 7th graders some look still scared others just released they are not the rookie and still others thinking they are older than they actually are. To say that I enjoy this odd mix and emotions would be an understatement. The challenge I have set before my teachers is to not let day 1 effect your day 2. What do I mean by that, try to limit the carry over. Students will make mistakes and they will upset you and keep you up at night. Give them the clean slate approach on a daily. Give them renewed energy on the regular. It will not be easy but to accomplish true growth it never is. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New School Year + New Challenges = Greater Success

The 2015- 2016 school year is upon us and I welcome it with open arms. Last year during this time I spent a lot of time writing, talking and thinking about "ghost." What I mean by that is that I did not know my staff or students and I barely knew the community. All of this has changed and the greatest change is knowing the staff because in order to lead you must know who you are leading. Being a great teacher means differentiating your instruction to meet the needs of your students and the location or role you can be in a factory in a classroom or in an auditorium.

At Eaton Middle School we have a number of initiatives that were started last year that will continue to grow this year. The largest initiative is our Claim Evidence Reasoning (CER) piece, which is a strategy implemented building wide to provide students with a method to comprehend and write at a higher level regarding a passage of informational text. This initiative was launched last year and I look forward to seeing what level our students and teachers will advance this to this year. Our summative and formative assessments will strengthen and provide "real" feedback.

This school year brings back so many "Highly Qualified Teachers" at EMS and we welcome two new educators as well. This is not only an exciting time to be a student at EMS but also a great time to be a teacher where we will work together to provide a challenging rigorous curriculum every day. 

So what are we going to do with one of the greatest opportunities and responsibilities we could ever ask for........ Attack!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reflecting on Year 1

What a ride it always is in your first year of education, whether you are first year teacher, counselor, principal or even superintendent.  For many of us it is very easy to think back to our first year of teaching and remember the struggles, victories and sleepless nights. You worried about your students, your principal the teachers across the hall and even cafeteria duty. You are continually reminded that next year will be easier and if you are as fortunate as I was you have a mentor who you can vent too, brag too or even cry with.
Over the last 9 months for me in my first year as a principal it has been a roller coaster ride to say the lest. It started with the excitement of the first day. I over prepared to say the least for the first staff meeting, my introduction at the 6th grade orientation and the first day assemblies. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Stay Hungry

When we sign up for classes towards becoming a teacher the question is always ask, why? The answer more often than not is that we want to make a difference. A difference in young people's lives, a difference in our communities, and dare we say a difference in the world as a whole. Now take that same question and ask it to a 15 year experienced teacher and see what answer you get. Some will definitely repeat the same answer, others will talk about summers off, stability and feeling trapped. Why is this? How do we loose our hunger? It is simple, we must feed ourselves the right way. If we become complacent than we do not grow and in turn our passion wilts. 

I hear and read about administrators  ranting and raving about the need for  teachers to attend or be a part of professional development. The truth of it all is that it is not about professional development. It's about developing as a professional, we as educators need to continue to grow. That is our expectation for our students and we need to hold ourselves to the same standard. 

What are we eating? Are we getting bogged down with discipline and formal lesson plans. Or are we continuing to find ways to inspire kids and connect to their way of learning because it is where our focus needs to be. If our diet consist of ways to energize us as educators then the students will feel the same. Professional development doesn't have to equal traveling to some far off place and missing a day with students. What are you reading? Who do you follow on Twitter? Are you using Pinterest? What's the latest TED video you've watched?These are just a few of the ways that you can eat the right things on a simple, free and regular basis. 

In conclusion do not simply listen to a speaker that has never seen the inside of a classroom one day in June and expect to grow. Feed yourself regularly so that you can "stay hungry" and in turn keep the passion burning.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things

As a principal it is easy to become consumed with the negatives, shortcomings or lack of good judgements that come across my desk. The truth of the matter is is that when a student needs to talk to me in private or a teacher needs to "shut the door," there is a pretty good chance that it is to report a poor decision, confess a wrong doing or report a problem that they heard. This is NOT why I choose to lead. I choose to lead because I believe that the young people of this great nation have crazy potential. I believe that without a quality education it is impossible to accomplish your dreams. I believe that teaching is one, if not the most noble profession in the world. Last, but not least, I know that a school can be the bright spot during a dark time for our students even if they may not realize it at the time. 

As a father my perspective on education has continued to evolve. When I look at what I want for the kids and community of Eaton the answer starts and stops with placing quality people with the tools and support to work with these young people effectively. Having quality, inspiring, hardworking teachers in place to fulfill their dreams while working to make students come true is a must. 

What a great time to be in education. Not only are there technological tools that give us access to countless resources but we also are living in a time where accountability has continued to increase based on an array of state tests. Accountability is a great thing if accountability is done correctly. The keys to having accurate data for teacher accountability are very similar to collecting student data; it must be done at different times, using multiple measures and being transparent concerning the goals and the objectives that the individual should be striving to meet. Accountability is all about raising ownership and if teachers take greater ownership of their students' success then the entire school/ district/ community can achieve things never thought possible. 

"Each finger can be easily broken but close them into a fist and the power increases significantly."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Professional Development for All

Ask most teachers what they get out of a PD day and the answer usually is something like: "well it's something we have to do." So as a principal of a middle school where we have endured 8 calamity days, 11 snow, fog or ice delays, and 17 testing days thus far, it is my goal to change that answer from something teachers feel they have to do into something that teachers feel is beneficial to themselves and their students. 

The real question is, why should teachers care? Does the work equal more hoops to jump through? By that I mean are we working on goals that are never followed? Are we creating paperwork to justify the hours spent without students in the building? I challenge teachers to continually ask, how does this improve a students life? Easy to say not easy to make happen. It is always easy to point the finger and play the blame game of who's at fault when your time as an educator is being wasted. But a wise man once said, if you do not like what you are being fed than pick up the spoon and feed yourself. 

So lets take the time to reflect and look more carefully at the decisions we are making, the time we are spending, and if again we are not using it to better student learning, then why are we doing it. So let's do the work and make it meaningful! Have a great day or not the choice is yours. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Showing Up Matters

During the course of a school year there are a number of reasons students are absent; illness, family crisis, or other crisis are all acceptable reasons for students to be absent. In reality it is very common for a secretary to hear that the driveway was to slick, I stayed up to late or I had nothing to wear. These are not acceptable reasons and students are cheating themselves out of a completely unique experience. EMS is a place full of people who care, work hard and completely pride themselves on making the best out of each minute of the school day. Maybe students and parents alike say, what does it hurt to miss a day here or there.You know who it hurts YOU! Each day you have approximately 5 1/2 hours of classtime. Which equals 910 hours of learning per year. 
You always get out what you put in and if your not putting in the effort to show up then you are not going to reap the benefits of what a first class education can afford you. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Testing Season

In middle schools across the state life will be very different starting on February 17th. The new states tests that are all online will start the "performance based" section which will be in the areas of Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science. Through the capabilities that computers afford as opposed to paper pencil, students will be asked to manipulate and manage the content in an entirely new way. At EMS students are being exposed, educated and coached up in ways that will ease the anxiety that these high stakes test afford.

Two important acronyms to know are P.A.R.C.C. and A.I.R. 

P.A.R.C.C. (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career)
-language arts

A.I.R. (American Institute for Research) 
-social studies

Dates of Tests based on grade level (1st round only)

6th Grade: February 18- 20/ March 4-6

7th Grade: February 23- 25/ March 9-10

8th Grade: February 26- March 3/ March 11- 12

Here at Eaton Middle School You Matter!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Let the Second Half Begin

We are now entering the second half of the 2014 - 2015 school year here at this wonderful place called EMS. We started this journey with 8 goals in mind and they still ring true. 

1. Teach with love, patience and passion.
2. Teach lessons that excite future learning.
3. Ensure all students are safe.
4. Constantly and consistently assess the progress of all students
 and use this data to drive instruction.
5. Give respect and expect respect.
6. Communicate with parents constantly.
7. Create cross- curriculum lessons.
8. Celebrate student achievements.

This is a monumental year in education as students are taking different state tests than ever before.

The key differences are:
1. Tests are electronic not paper pencil
2. Language Arts skills are ultra important. (5 tests per student)
3. Reading comprehension will be an intricate part of each test.
4. Students are tested in the area of Social Studies again. (6th only)
5. Two types of tests: Performance Based & End- of- Year

Soar like Eagles

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mid- Way Celebration

You must look back to move forward

During the first semester here a at EMS we have had a number of successes that were acknowledged during our Mid- Way Celebration Assembly. The assembly was on the last day of the semester, December 19, 2014 in the Performing Arts Center. The mid- way celebration was an opportunity for the entire middle school student body to acknowledge the many accomplishments students have made in the first semester. A special thanks to the band and choir members who performed as well as the student council members who lead in a number of capacities.

Here is a list of acknowledgements that occurred.

M.A.P. Champs

Spelling Bee Finalist

Students of the Month

Quiz Team Members

Straight A's 

Perfect Attendance

Presentation of "Pie in the Face" money towards the local cancer foundation.