One of the important roles that I have as an assistant principal is handling discipline for our school. Within the list of the consequences that students are given, according to our discipline policy, in-school (ISS) and out-of-school suspension (OSS) can be assigned depending on the severity of the original offense. While consequences for inappropriate behavior is definitely needed, one thing I’ve noticed this year is that the format of suspension is not always the most conducive to trying to handle the behavior. For the majority of your population at a school, suspension can be an effective disciplinary tool. However, this group of students are not the ones that spend the most time in ISS or OSS. Often you have a small group of your population that frequents ISS because of chronic discipline issues. So the question becomes, how is the current suspension model helping resolve any of the chronic behaviors? Especially ISS, since it is used more frequently than OSS.
So the current model that is used in many schools for ISS goes like this, student receives ISS as a consequence, they sit in a small room with one teacher for the duration of their time in ISS, they get caught up on assignments while missing classroom instruction, then when they are done they return to the classroom and are expected to resume the class as normal. The dilemma is that you are removing a student from direct instruction of the teacher and they are behind when they return to class; but, a consequence is needed. Furthermore, when the student returns to the classroom they are behind in the instruction and can become disengaged in the content. When students are disengaged, they are more likely to be a behavior issue in class.
So how do we fix this? The model of suspension is something that I have struggle with for sometime now because I know it’s not the most effective, but we still continue to use it because it’s one of the tools we have to handle behaviors. Essentially what could make the most difference in trying to correct this problem is having strong classroom instruction continue while suspended and character education to boot. This is much easier said than implemented though. The curriculum and staff development that would have to be done is a large task to accomplish.
The real emphasis to this system should be discipline as a corrective measure and not punishment because it is the tool that we have. Over the summer and moving into the next school year this is one of my major professional development goals for myself. I want to be able to provide appropriate instruction and access to the curriculum for these kids in both the academic and character education realms. One tool that I will work with to try and improve this is Google Classroom. My goal/vision is to be able to create a “Class” for students that may be in ISS so that myself and their teachers can push assignments out to students. The real beauty in using Classroom in this regard is the ease, instant feedback, and the quality of instruction can be must better than the old fashioned way of sending down a reading assignment and worksheets to complete. The same can be said for character education. My goal is to begin pulling as many resources as I can go begin to develop our own curriculum resources for in-school suspension. I know this is a lofty goal but it is something that I feel like can be accomplished through some hard work.
One of the most commonly shared Chrome features that I share with colleagues is the multiple user sign-in feature. Many people have multiple Google Accounts that they use between their personal and work/educational accounts. Normally you would sign out and sign in within the browser that you are working in. This way does work, but having multiple accounts associated with one browser can confusing and leave you signed in to the wrong account if you’re not careful. By using the “Switch Person” feature that is detailed in the video above, you can open a new browser window that is only associated with the Google Account that you have switched to.
I have been pretty much a ghost on my own blog for about 3 years now. When I was in the classroom blogging was so easy because I had so much to write about that was interesting. My blog served as documentation as to what my student’s were learning and experiencing each day…the material basically wrote itself. The change in my blogging habits over the past three years has been due to my career change to administration. Before, I was able to write about my everyday experiences. If I were to do that now, I’m afraid it would make for some rather dull reading material.
Lesson Two – PARCC Planning is Hard
PARCC planning was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a long time in this profession. It has been 3-4 months solid of eating, living, and breathing PARCC testing here at this school. That amount of time doesn’t even take into consideration the amount of time that was required to prepare for the assessment earlier in the year. The logistics alone were unreal. We had the task of administering 12 tests in a time frame of 3 months that included the shuffling of a 50+ person staff and 750+ student body. As for the actual test itself, it all went as smooth as anything with technology can be expected to go. There were glitches and hiccups along the way, but I think everyone was pleasantly surprised how smooth it went.
This has been a very important lesson for me to learn this school year. To be honest, I have become stagnate in my professional growth process. Since I have went into administration, I have developed a bad habit of just trying to put out fires on a daily basis. I haven’t been active in trying to find materials that will help develop myself as a professional. For all purposes, I have removed myself form social media, blogging, and any type of PLC that I has apart of 3 years ago.
We all can get so bogged down that we focus on what is in front of us and become singularly focused on trying to complete “our job”. I want to continue grow professionally, but that means I have to do my part and be an active member in social media, blogging, and PLC’s. So, what does all this mean? It means that this is me making the effort to get out there and become an online participant again.
This year we have taken a new approach to the way that we incorporate technology into our classroom instruction. Our school has utilized programs such as Reflex Math, Lexia, and Raz-Kids; this year we have added a couple more programs to that growing list. While we have always had quite a list of computer programs to help with math and literacy but never a designated time for all students to use these programs. This year we have added time to everyday for students to use these programs under their teachers direction. With 30 minutes everyday devoted to digital learning students now work on assignments given by their classroom teacher in order to front load them or reinforce the lessons that are being taught that day.
This provides a lot of advantages to our classroom teachers and students. The content can now be differentiated based on the students needs and changes the way the way teachers spend their classroom time.
After a very long hiatus I’ve decided to return to my website…and at the right time of year seeing that our first day of school is today. As you can see, over the break I have really gotten into air guitar and stuff. Pretty cool I know. The real reason I’m playing my Air Fender Guitar is because of a district video that was shot to welcome everyone back for the new school year. Click here to check it out. Welcome back to school.
For spring break this year I took a trip to China with students from Woodland and FHS to China as apart of a group with Education First Tours. On our trip we were able to see three major cities in China: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. The trip was amazing and it was great to catch up with former students and get to experience international travel as a chaperone for those students. The pictures above are just a few of the shots that I took while I was in China.
After a long hiatus, I thought it was time to touch base on my website and give some quick updates…lessons learned style. Since the last time that I logged we have all become smarter. Some more than others, but specifically my kindergarten students have become smarter. On February 1st kindergarteners at Leverett celebrated the 100th day of school. This is a very exciting celebration that is very unique to elementary world. Teachers held parties in their classrooms to celebrate this occasion and students had a blast.
This past week we also celebrated our annual international festival. One of the great aspects of our school is the cultural diversity that we have at our school. Over 25 countries are representing in our school population and these students and their families help us during this by setting up booths kind of like an impromptu cultural lesson. Also in the time leading up the this festival students study a variety of cultures and listen to guest speakers from the University of Arkansas.
During international festival, our 5th grade students sold hand made goods in an effort to raise money for hurricane Sandy relief efforts. proceeds from the hand made goods went directly to a school district in New Jersey and gave our students a wonderful way to lend a helpful hand from so far away.
Lastly, back in January we celebrated Fun at Work Day…well, kinda. We had a cake made to celebrate this belated occasion, the day after, and just so happen to have a staff meeting that day. Which come to think of it, isn’t everyday a belated Fun at Work Day?
Last week Leverett Elementary was invited to attend the monthly school district board meeting and lead the meeting in the pledge of allegiance. Accompany me to the board meeting was my 5th grade student council officers and representatives. It was a great a great privilege to be invited to lead the pledge and myself and the kiddos were extremely excited to get the opportunity.
A conversation that we really need to start having as educators is how do change math? I know that there has been an influx of ideas regarding this subject, but there has to be another way. Think about it, as time goes on just about all of our academic disciplines have morphed as a direct result of the impact that technology has had on them. The same cannot be said for math. While we have adopted new ways to handle computation (calculators) we have not changed our approach to how we teach and, more importantly, how we apply it in a practical sense. This is a dilemma that we currently face at my own school. We are facing a real issue with how we teach mathematics and the more I think about it the more I think there has to be a paradigm shift on the horizon. With that said, I’ll leave you with the video from Conrad Wolfram presenting what he believes is a reasonable solution to this entire dilemma.
Harry’s Kindergarten is a wonderful YouTube channel that provides educational videos to teach the basics of kindergarten. Our kindergarten teachers are currently using Mr. Harry’s channel to teach counting to 100. To check out all of his videos click here.
We had a very special visit today as the members and coaches of the Arkansas Razorback baseball team stopped by to help us celebrate the holidays. Over the past few weeks these young men worked to raise money to buy gifts for 4 very lucky children…it’s also worth noting that they then wrapped and presented the gifts as well. This was all coordinated by our wonderful counselor, Ms. Bley, who has helped us do something like this for many years now. Not only was it cool to see the children open the gifts, but it was equally as cool to see how much the players on the team enjoyed it. Majority of them were recording videos and taking pictures as these children opened their gifts. They were just as excited as the children themselves.
One of our major professional development focuses for our school this year is to increase the amount of cooperative strategies that we use in the classroom. The focus is on increasing student engagement by reducing the amount of teacher talk and replacing it with guided practice that the students perform. We have been focusing on implementing one new strategy a week each time we meet together in our grade level meetings. One strategy that we are currently focusing on is called numbered heads together. In this activity the teacher asks everyone in the group to number off 1-4. After they have numbered off, the teacher then poses a question to the students and everyone spends time thinking and answering the questions independently. After answering time is over, they then can share with each other or the teacher can asks students who have a certain number to share aloud with the whole class. As wed move forward and start to implement more strategies I will try to update my blog with that information. On another note, if you have effective cooperative strategies that you would like to share please feel free to leave us a comment.
Today our 3-5 graders visited Bud Walton Arena to watch the women’s Razorback team play Jackson State. The visit was apart of the Sweat Hog program that our school participates in. Sweats Hogs is an organization that brings student athletes from the University of Arkansas to speak in our public schools about the importance of eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle. This event was a huge hit with kids and was a nice break from their normal school day.
On Wednesday, our very own Ms. Bley received a $500 check from the our local news station KNWA and General Electric. Ms. Bley has submitted a project that she and her students did last year called “Energy Rocks”. This video focused on ways that students could conserve energy. This year she will be using the money to help fund a similar project that she and her students are currently working on. You can see the video that KNWA aired last night by clicking here. Congrats Ms. Bley.
Although I do complain about politics during the election season, I do enjoy the election itself and the teaching moments that it can provide in education…that’s the social studies teacher in me. Here at Leverett we have used this opportunity to introduce some election themed lessons/activities. The image above was from our 5th grade classes and shows their mock election results using the Studies Weekly website. Students in grades 3-5 used the website to cast their vote for who they believed should be our next president.
Last week we also held elections for our student council as well. Students in grades 3-5 got the opportunity to take part in the election process as they voted for president, vice president, secretary, and class representatives. Students that ran for these offices were asked to campaign for a week before the election and then perform a speech in front of their peers. The video above is of our student council president, Topher, giving his speech last Friday.
This last week marked the end to our first quarter of school…and it was quite a busy one at that. We started out on Monday by having visitors from the first department come to our school to discuss fire safety awareness month. Student get a chance to get up close with a fire truck and learn some basic safety skills along the way. I have to admit that it was pretty cool to watch the excitement in our kids when they had the opportunity to interact with our local fire fighters.
This past week was also a big week for health awareness for us as well. In the same day that the firefighters came to visit, we also had a visit from a local organization called Apple Seeds, Inc. The purpose for this visit was to provide a apple tasting for our students and give them the opportunity to try fruit that was grown locally in Northwest Arkansas. One day later, our PE coaches arranged a visit from Southwest Dairy Farms to come and discuss the importance of dairy to our diets. They also provided some cool information about the milking process as well as put on a show by giving us a demonstration of the milking process.
Lastly, I got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the classroom this week. If there is one negative to my new job as an administrator, that is that I do not get the chance to work with kids as closely as I did as a teacher. This week was very refreshing for me because it reminded me of what I got into this profession for. Being in the classroom in the classroom this week was just what I needed and put a nice bow on what has been an exciting first quarter of the school year.
One thing that I have learned in the short time that I have been an administrator is that there is always the “next big thing” on the horizon. Educators are always looking for the next program or resource that is going to make a meaningful impact on their students, and on the flip side, there is no shortage of educational consultants who are willing to sell you the program. I’m not sure if it is that I am more skeptical these days or what, but I don’t find myself getting as excited about every new idea I hear about in regards to education. Let me clarify, I’m not trying to imply that I know everything that there is to know about education and that I’m unwilling to listen to new ideas; but rather, I’m trying to say that I am now more leery about the information that I allow to sway my thinking…in other words, I’m no longer quick to believe the hype.
Early in my teaching career I would sit up late at night trolling the internet for all types of teaching resources. I would watch countless videos of all of the new teaching strategies that were sure to yield better outcomes in student engagement. I would treat each one of these videos as a golden nugget of information that I was fortunate enough to stumble across. I would fall in love with everything I found and try to implement all of these new found strategies into my teaching. These days I am more selective. I understand that everyone with a YouTube channel or blog is entitled to an opinion, but that doesn’t mean that each one of those opinions desires my full attention.
So, how do you find trusted information? BUILD A PLN! This is one thing that I neglected to do early on in my teaching career and it cost me a lot of wasted time. I use to think that I could do it all on my own and would fail to lean on my PLN for the proper support. By building a network of trusted professionals that have already crossed the bridges that you are currently trying to cross you can save yourself tons of time.
Yesterday morning athletes from the University of Arkansas stopped by Leverett as apart of the Sweat Hog program. Sweat Hogs is a program in which student athletes work with local schools in order to promote healthy lifestyles through exercise and diet. The university athletes spoke to the students about how they specifically stay healthy and what a day in the life of a student athlete is like. In the video above, you will our 3-5 grade students participating in the famous hog call with the university athletes.
Every year, when the political climate is just right, I try to post one of my favorite videos regarding politics. There becomes a certain point during election time where a person can get very overwhelmed with the rhetoric and the pandering that goes on…it’s enough to drive you crazy.
Lesson Two – Dress Your Age, Part II
Early this school year I was reminded of a very valuable lesson that was originally taught to me years ago. During week two of the school year I showed up on a Friday in my casual attire…jeans and a flannel. Everything was going well until I encountered a 5th grade student who promptly informed me that I “dressed like a teenager”. Quite a blow to the ego.
Lesson Three – Is It Basketball Season Yet?
As it turns out the Arkansas football team is not quite as good as everyone once thought. After dropping two games early on in the season it seems as if all is lost…and as you might guess, people in this state are taking it very well. Football talk has definitely dominated everyone’s conversations around town and has left me wishing for a bye week.