Be a Principal With No Regrets

…On losing a student

When I decided to start a blog I never ever thought I would be compelled to write a post about the death of a student.  However, this week six year old Astha who is in grade one at our school died.

It has been a complicated week emotionally.  So many questions, who will go to the funeral, how will the school honor Astha, how will we tell the students and other parents, how will we support her grade 4 sister when she returns, what do we do with her file and student records, how long do we keep her desk in the classroom…. all sorts of things.

Its my nature to go into efficient mode when faced with a traumatic event.  Make decisions, get things done, keep busy, keep out of my head and although I did do that to some degree, as the hours went by I found there was only one thing I really needed to do,

Be there to listen to any staff or students who needed me.

Don’t make decisions now, deal with what is most important now; the feelings, and emotions of those affected.

People have asked me, “What are we going to do for Astha?” and I just keep replying, “I’m not sure yet.” I just feel like we need time to grieve, process and understand the intense loss our school has suffered.

I am most thankful that I knew Astha well.  Last year when she was in kindergarten I got to know her, I saw her most everyday and said “hi” to her.  She was scared and timid at the beginning of kindergarten so her and I went for a few walks around the school.  We would go and visit her sister.  This year in grade 1, i continued to say “hi” to Astha, I would greet her at the door in the mornings when she came to school.  It made me think about my role at school and one of the most important things I do and can do more of:

Get to know every student, be visible, be friendly.

How horrible would it have been if Astha had died and as principal I had never taken the time to say hi to her or get to know her a little bit?

Although Astha has not even been gone a week, and although she was only six years old, she has taught me a powerful lesson…. we are here for each other, the relationship the principal has with staff, students, and families is crucial and critical and needs to be attended to every day.

I will never forget Astha.  For such a little girl, she has left a big mark on our hearts.

Be A Better Principal Through Collegiality

Who Was Your Teacher Today? Teachers Learning From Teachers.

I recently shared a TwitPic I had found online.  To my surprise (sort of) the picture resulted in about 40 retweets and 30 new followers.  For me, this amount of response is unusually high so the picture obviously struck a chord.notes

As you can see, the picture depicts what looks like high school students taking pictures of information on the screen.  It is titled Note Taking in 2012 which leads us to believe and imply that students are using their own devices (BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE BYOD) to take pictures of notes rather than using the paper pencil method.

The twitter post resulted in some interesting comments:

@lorilynnecullen No BYOD policy & no phones in class in my district. Post notes on my website & use remind101 for my 6th graders & families.

I only have one response to this, “WHY?”  When students use their own devices to communicate, find information, and store information what  we are essentially telling them in schools that ban BYOD is, “We are not going to be efficient and current and engage you in ways of thinking and learning that you automatically and intuitively use outside of the classroom.”  Schools are supposed to be current, relevant and engaging so why are you banning BYOD?  I’m glad @ChristinaMLuce is making the best of it and doing what she can.

@lorilynnecullen any other form of note taking is a complete waste of time.

I like this.  Life is too short for long hand.  We can gather and store static information in an instant.  What are you using your classroom time for?

Stephen Turner ‏@SteveT_AU @lorilynnecullen Great, but even quicker would just be getting digital copy straight to device. Taking pic of board is pretty analogue…

@SteveT_AU should work for the district that has banned BYOD.  He obviously has a strong understanding of efficiency and using  classroom time as efficiently as possible.

R.T. Chidiac ‏@RChids@lorilynnecullen one more way to differentiate instruction also builds capacity for the ethical use of technology #edchat #edtech


I love twitter most for this reason; educators analyzing, understanding and describing authentic practice.  I would love to see this picture as the answer to “Show me one way you differentiate for students who struggle with written output.”  Also, @R.T.Chidiac could influence the No BYOD district with his point here about ethical use.
Michael Dushel ‏@MichaelDushel@lorilynnecullen Better would be for the teacher to email it or EVEN better would be to build the notes together in shared electronic form
Shelly Vee ‏@raspberryberet3 @MichaelDushel @lorilynnecullen this is awesome butI agree Michael; more effective if build notes together to #constructknowledge

I love how @MichaelDushel replied to the picture and as he was replying took his understanding of constructing knowledge together even one step further.  He makes a great point, that if this is a picture of a teacher writing or delivering information to students who listen, surely we can do better by constructing and creating understanding together.

The above are examples of critical dialogue amongst teachers that improves practice.  As Michael Fullan states:

For teachers to improve their practice they learn best from other teachers provided that these teachers are also working on improvement. These exchanges are thus purposeful, and based on evidence.

Thank you to my colleagues for creating purposeful dialogue and exchanges designed to improve our thinking and our practice.  Where would we be without each other?

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