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Friday, October 30, 2015

How Do We Reach All Students?

It’s 1:13 a.m.

I’m lying in bed and watching the blades of my ceiling fan spin.

As my eyes rotate with the fan the same question continues to repeat itself in my mind...How?

As a campus principal, how do I ensure we are reaching the entire student body? How do we create an educational experience that is individualized to the needs of every child?

There are only so many hours in a day for a those hours they have to plan, assess, analyze, manage, support, care for, adjust, change, create, and ensure every child gets what he or she needs. So much to do, so little time.

It’s 1:17 a.m.

I am sitting on the edge of my bed staring at the clock in front of me...thinking...thinking… How? What’s the answer? How do we reach every single child?

Is the answer programs? A one-size-fits-all program?

No, would never work. Our kids range from non-readers to gifted and talented all in the same room. There isn’t one program that will reach every child…

Maybe if I change the schedule, maybe if I change the routine, maybe if I can grow our parental involvement, maybe if we adjust our positive behavioral supports...maybe...

It’s 1:21 a.m.

I am now pacing back and forth as the faces of my teachers begin to flash across my mind’s eye. Classroom, special education, specialists...The faces of the amazing people who are working so hard each day to try and answer the questions that keep me up at night. The people who give everything they have...every single day, to each other, their kids, and to me.

The truth of the matter reaches me in the early morning hours...there is only one answer to the question: How do we create an educational experience that is individualized to the needs of every child? That, support, and trust my outstanding teachers.

I could create the best schedule, invite the most parents, buy the most expensive software, even provide the best professional development money could buy - all good things...yet, if my teachers are not successful, if my teachers aren’t willing to take risks in the name of reaching everyone, if my teachers aren’t willing to plan effectively...well, than in the end every child won’t be successful.

Love, support, trust - repeat. These are the key ingredients to the question that keeps me up at night…

This is my second year of being a principal - I have made mistakes and have taken risks… For some, this would be seen as a recipe for disaster. Yet, I work with a community of teachers that all share the same passion and the same desire...we want our kids to be successful.

Love. I tell my teachers I love them. That’s right, I said We don’t hear that often in education. Well, actually we do, all the time...we hear it in classrooms all over. Our teachers tell their students they are loved, they are cared for, they matter. Why shouldn’t teachers receive the same sentiment back? The parallel couldn't be more much as my teachers love their kids, I love them.

Support. From supporting the risk a teacher wants to take, to providing that much-needed professional development, support comes in many different forms. Regardless of how it is provided, our teachers need to know they are supported. I have their back, I am in their corner, and I want the best for them. I might raise the bar high, but I will help them reach it in anyway I can.

Trust. In all honesty this is the hardest one for me. For a long time I lived by the idea: I will trust you once you show me I can. This of course means I didn’t trust anyone at essence, a recipe for a negative school culture. It was my first year in administration, in middle school no less, when my principal modeled and demonstrated something I have tried so hard to embody. She gave trust freely, and it stayed there until proven no longer possible. It was the opposite of what I knew, yet was the most freeing idea that I have come to believe in. I trust my teachers, all of them. I trust they are here for our kids, trust they are doing all they can, and trust they understand they are an important part of something larger than themselves.

It’s 1:32 a.m.

I lay back down - close my eyes, and for the first time, in a long time, I am able to sleep.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

More Than Title

I have a great friend who doesn’t work in the field of education, yet loves to stay on top of what is happening in schools today. While he lives in the business world, he understands the importance of the educational one. For the last several years, every time we get together he throws out several questions that are complex in nature, and always underlined with the need for more opinions that factual evidence/data. Questions like: Why do you think our educational system needs to change? Why it is that schools in this city outperform those of the surrounding cities? What is school culture? Why do I keep reading that teachers are leaving the profession faster than ever? What does great teaching look like? Etc…

Educators are funny - whether we are at school or not, we can’t help but enjoy a great conversation about what we do. was my most recent conversation with my friend that hit me to the all started with this question: “How do I make sure my child isn’t going to be attending a Title 1 campus?”

My response: “Why do you ask that?”

My friend answered: “Everyone knows that Title schools are the bad ones.”

Before I move on let me make one thing clear --- I am a proud principal of a Title 1 school, my kids are amazing, my teachers are outstanding, my community is my second family...and we are more than “Title” ---

For those who are not sure what makes a school Title 1….Here it is: 40% or more of the student population qualify for free or reduced lunch/come from low income families.

That’s it...the only qualifier, yet the minds of many...Title 1 means: A school with families that don’t care about their children’s education, kids that misbehave/bully/fight, sub-par educators that don’t really care about kids, lack of parent involvement, lack of community support, lack of ability, and an overall horrible place to go to school. I have to ask...Why is this?

Here is what I know - here is what I believe - The amount of money a family makes does not dictate the level of care or support they offer. The amount of money does not dictate what a child can or can’t do. More money does not translate to more love, more desire, or more ability.

Let’s be honest: Title 1 schools do have challenges - In fact, according to the Marzano Center the three largest challenges facing Title 1 schools are the following: RTI interventions are not sufficient to prepare struggling students for college and careers, new standards require whole-school alignment, and lagging indicators of student achievement are too little, too late.

Bright Hub Education suggest teachers in Title 1 schools face students with multiple distractions. They point out that some students are working part time jobs to support their families, are facing real world challenges, may feel it is impossible to break the chain of events they see in life, know someone in jail, use food stamps to buy food, often go hungry, or lack parental support thus requiring the teacher to often act as a cheerleader or confidant.

There is no question there are challenges in education, and that many students from Title 1 campuses do come with less than those in more affluent situations. There are heart-breaking stories, families just trying to get by, parents working multiple jobs thus missing time with their children, as well as family members at home unable to read/write.

Yet, in the end...regardless of the struggles, regardless of the challenges, remember this….we are more than Title. The response “Everyone knows that Title schools are the bad ones” breaks my heart. There isn’t a soapbox large enough to support my belief that Title 1 or no, our kids are amazing, our teachers are nothing short of phenomenal, and our community is one built on the belief that we are all in this together.

So to anyone with the same question as my friend, let me be clear. The decision to have your children attend your local school should not be based on whether or not it happens to be Title 1. Visit the school, talk to the community, contact the principal, and be ready to learn about the amazing things that are happening...because I assure you - this country is filled with schools that are much more than Title.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Post for Sharing

I simply wanted to share:

Above is a Changing the Odds issue by Bryan Goodwin