Maximize Your Impact as a School Principal

So many things happen at school around Christmas time.  We are busy with concerts, activities, food drives, helping families with gift baskets and gift cards, making presents for parents and learning Christmas traditions.  We get all wound up with all this business and typically its a race against the clock to get everything done.

This year, a Christmas card showed up in mailbox.  It was from a grade 5 student who had come to our school last year from a different city.  He had had a rocky school history, battling with behavioral and attentional issues.  There had been good days and bad, but here is what the card said,

Dear Mrs. Cullen,

Thank you for taking care of our school and helping this school to be an awesome place.  I think you run this school really good.  Thank you for helping me when I am angry and supporting me and encouraging me to do awesome.  Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

After I read the card a few times, I really started thinking about his message and the things he had taken the time to mention.  I want all students in the school this way so maybe if I focus on:

  • “this school”  –  having a whole school presence. Being around the school and visible every day and in all aspects of school life.  Dropping in to classrooms, clubs, and intramurals.  Being visible during entry and exit both inside and out.
  • “helping me when I am angry” – let’s face it, I’m here to help.  In the good times and the bad.  When students are having a bad moment, when they are angry, or frustrated, or mad I am here to help students cope with those emotions, not punish them for having these emotions.  The best part about each new day is that it is a new day.  Everyone gets to start over without yesterday hanging over them.
  • “supporting and encouraging me to do awesome” – all kids, all the time.  What can I do to create the conditions where children are successful?  HIMG-20121220-00008ow can I manipulate or change the conditions or routines to support children?

 

Ending the year with this message that reminded me of my true work as a school principal was a delightful gift.  Funny how our students are able to identify what is important to them and for school leaders.

 

 

 

Get the Most Out of Your Next Parent Teacher Interview; Tips for Success

Parent/Teacher/Child Interview

Parent/Teacher/Child Interview (Photo credit: Kathy Cassidy)

Parent teacher interviews can often be a time of extreme stress for teachers and parents.  Teachers are often concerned about what they will say to parents, how they will say it and how parents will respond.  Parents often dread hearing news from teachers that their children are not perforning well or about a myriad of other problems linked to their children.  Parent-teacher interviews are short (usually 15 minutes) and can leave both teachers and parents feeling a little stressed.

To support teachers and parents, one way around the traditional ” how is my child doing?, why are their marks low?, and they aren’t like this at home” interview is to plan and structure the conversation around the learning beliefs and practices of the school.

For example, one of the main focus areas over the past year in our school has been goal setting.  We have adopted goal setting as an effective learning strategy based on research.  With the shift over the past several years to including formative assessment, student goal setting has been found to be highly effective in supporting students in academic achievement.  In  his book Visible Learning (p. 164) John Hattie summarizes that the right kind of student goal setting can have a positive affect on student learning;

“… goals inform individuals as to what type or level of performance is to be attained so that they can direct and evaluate their actions and efforts accordingly.” pp.164

Student goal setting works best when the parent, the teacher and the student work together to develop goals.  Thought is given as to:

  • where the student is currently functioning;
  • what level of achievement would challenge the student;
  • who would support the student in what way;
  • when progress toward the goal would be tracked or monitored.

As Goal Setting has been a significant part of our daily work, structuring our parent teacher interview around goal setting seemed a perfect fit.

Together, with the amazing staff and collegiality at Erin Woods School, our discussions around using parent teacher interviews to support our work on student goals developed.  We created a protocol for the interview, for teachers to follow, to focus the interview around the critical essence of our goal setting focus.

Parent / Teacher Interview

Name:                                                                                   Date:

 

Purpose: The purpose of this Parent Teacher interview is to look at the term ahead and consider goals and areas of growth for the student.  Additionally, teachers and parents will define and articulate their planto support the learner.

 

IRIS

         Right now in IRIS you have set the goal of :

How are you doing with that goal?

What is helping you to achieve that goal?

Are you still working on that goal or should we adjust or change it in any way?

 

TYPE NEW GOAL IN IRIS

 

How can parents help you?

How can teachers help you?

How can you help yourself?

 

RC OR IPP

           I have also identified this area of growth for you (on your report card or IPP):

I will be helping you by:

What ways will you be working on this goal?

 

With a structured conversation for the Parent Teacher Interview the following results are expected:

  • Teachers can plan and prepare for the conversation based on the purpose and the outline;
  • Students can be prepared to share the necessary information with their parents (no surprises);
  • Parents become partners in our work, rather than stand bys who we report to causing everyone to be focussing on our beliefs and direction;
  • In this particular protcol, the focus is forward looking, “here is what your child will be doing and here is how I will help.” Leaving parents with a sense of hope and achievement for the next term.
  • We have clear documentation of each parent teacher interview.

 With this process, we are noticing teachers looking forward to their parent interviews,  There is no ambiguity or surprises,  thus leaving teachers confident and prepared, and parents hopeful and happy with things to come. 

 

 

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Math Facts Plus Stop Watches Don’t Equal Success

This post was re-posted at  Edudemic where it was nominated for a 2012 Edublog Award.

MAD MINUTE is a teaching practice widely used in Canada.  It includes having long strips of papers with lists of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts on it.  The goal is to get as many math facts correct in one minute as you can.

Guest Blogger Autumn Shaw, age 16, shares her reflections on the years of MAD MINUTE and how it affects her to this day.

It all started in grade 1 when I learned to add.  I’d say its what has led to crying fits, hiding in the bathroom, avoidance techniques (breaking my pencil), stomach aches and just a general hate for math.

This one minute of the day could ruin my whole day.  It was literally the worst minute of the day.  I could do all the questions, I just couldn’t do them in one minute.  Some of the kids could, and they got their Mad Minutes hung on the board, they got stickers, they got glittery pencils.  All I got was a hate for math.

Then there were the teachers that thought 2 minutes a day of Mad Minute was a good idea.  A good idea to give me twice the amount of time to learn I could not do mad minutes was not a good idea.

02.19.10

02.19.10 (Photo credit: colemama)

Of course, another reinforcer to my belief that I could not do math, never could, never will, was the extra-reinforcing practice of passing my paper to the person sitting in front of me to mark.  This was the chance to share with my classmates, I couldn’t do math, never could, never would be able to.  Some of the kids started writing, “YOU SUCK :-(” on my paper.  This led to me one upping them and me just writing, “I SUCK,” everyday on my math paper.

I don’t know why the teachers thought Mad Minute helped me in math.  It didn’t improve my math, at all.  It did however reinforce everyday that I was not good in math, couldn’t be the fastest in math, never was, never would be, and I was only six years old.  The irony of it all was that I could do math, just not under pressure in a situation that pitted me against the clock and against my peers.

Another torturous part of MAD MINUTE, was the practice of allowing all the students who had 100% each day Monday – Thursday to be exempt from Mad Minutes on Friday.  So, if you didn’t feel like the outcast already, on Fridays, classmates watched me, glaringly obvious that they were good at math, and I wasn’t.  Never was, never would be.

Today, in grade 11 I am in the lowest math class.  Could this be because when I was six I learned I was not good in math, never was, never would be?  There is something to say for that daily reinforcement.  I look back on it and I know, Mad Minutes were not good for me.

I hope there are no teachers out there that continue with MAD MINUTE.  Its not good, not helpful and can have a lasting negative effect on a student.

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