Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Calm After...

Thursday's inservice is now a memory. As predicted, it came and went in a flash! Was it a success? Was an idea conveyed? Hmmmm...

Remarks so far vary from "It was the best inservice yet!" to "I hate this F@$%^ Sh@#!" There was laughter and cheers, anger and jeers!

So, what do I take away from this?

Change is hard on all people! The feelings that it creates range from anxiety to frustration to anger! Yet, we ask kids to change all the time - every class period, every year! Always expecting them to "deal with it!" One teacher was heard saying "In the beginning, when I realized that I did not see one person from my school, I was pissed but now I think that I will teach differently understanding how hard it is for kids to come into my room not knowing anyone!"

It's also funny to see how people of like minds find each other quickly! There in the back row of the session on Motivation sat the frustrated/angry "kids" sometimes with arms crossed, sometimes rubbing their eyes with a vengence! Always not participating, needing to be drawn in sometimes successfully and some times not!

Then there were those who hung out by the doors until there was a chance to escape. As soon as people were busy, not paying attention, they would disappear! In the end, about 25% of the original group had disappeared from the final session! They weren't there to hear the district direction for the year nor were they there to hear and see the remaining group sing and cheer on their peers who had the courage to perform on stage! They missed the celebration!

It is the same with kids! Something happens that makes people "drop out". They don't feel they belong. They don't want to belong! They reject efforts to encourage participation!

Last year, John Perricone spoke about how "we teach who we are!" If there are teachers among us who reject participation are they then not teaching that to the kids?

Friday, August 22, 2008

In The Still of The Night!

It's 3:40 am, the third night in a row that I find myself awake.

Thoughts of the upcoming Back to School Event keep me from falling back to sleep once awake. The event will come and go in a short span of time actually but the preparation and planning has been going on since last May.

The kernal idea was to have an event that caused the staff at our school district to be so enthused by a presentation that they would stand and cheer the culmination!!! Set the stage for the coming year with a show stopper! No small directive!

Now we have had motivational speakers, heart wrenching photo slideshows, and award ceremonies over the years. The past Superintendent even delivered the Back to School Address all in Spanish one year - small feat for our middle class, predominantly white school system! Still in the end, there were some teachers who would leave saying, "That was ok but I wish I could have just spent the time in my room! I have so much to do to get ready for those kids!" do you bring back a staff of hundreds and share with them the vision and direction of the whole district in a short amount of time, in a way that will spark a tense Back to School brain? In other words, how do you become more important than time spent getting the classroom ready?

Key Elements To Include

It must be:

  • fast paced
  • interactive
  • able to drive home the ultimate vision
  • relatively inexpensive
  • and leave them cheering!

Can you do that with 600 staff members? Teachers, educational assistants, secretaries, bus drivers, cooks, custodians?

The answer is "Yes"..."Maybe"? We will know by next Thursday if we have pulled it off!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Countdown to Another School Year

I so look forward to warm weather. I can hardly wait to dig in the dirt once again and see plants coming up out of the ground. In May, I crack my window open so I can hear the birds and I yearn for the school year to be over. The stress level is so high that I just want to breath in some fresh air and feel the sun on my face. Finally June arrives and all I want to do is sing! I am so happy to have time away from that stress!

And then before I know it, the summer is gone and I am facing minutes left until the stress begins again!

Just imagine if I didn't love my job!!!

I have spent 30 some years going through the same ritual spring to summer to fall...year after year. When I was a teacher and a young mom, I felt as though the end of summer was like the end of my freedom. In those days, I actually had the summer months off! Blessed time with my kids! Then as a principal, I thought that summers would be a time to bring back the order to an office that had gone miserably out of order! Instead, all the days that I worked went towards making plans for that next school year. The piles remained until the last minute still and in a rush during this last week, I would find a place for all that stuff so that it looked like I had spent the summer in blissfull organization. Then, when I moved to the District Office, I thought for sure that this would be the time that summers would be relaxed. Come in late...leave early...that sort of thing! Guess what, it never happens. 100+ interviews later, I am now sitting here thinking, as usual, "if I only had just a little more time."

It doesn't matter, teacher - principal - director of instruction, whatever the role, come August you stop sleeping! The stress has begun again for another year!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Morning Quiet!
It's Sunday morning, early. I love this time of day. It's the hush before a storm!

When we were young, Sunday morning was always a mad rush to get everyone ready and out the door to be on time for church. It always seemed to me to be a contradiction with what my mom referred to as the "Day of Rest"!

This Sunday, the rest will be focused. It is time to start mentally preparing for the Back to School flurry. 7 days to go before the New Teachers begin their journey with me. 11 days until the big district wide inservice program - my major undertaking! It is always at about this time of the summer for a teacher and still for me that the butterflies emerge - anxiety over what will be the outcome of another year of school.

For teachers, the list looks like this:
  • What will the kids be like this year?
  • How will I find ways to meet all of their needs?
  • Will there be help for me if I need it?
  • What will happen with my own family and homelife when the expectations from work multiply?

For me, the list looks like this:

  • What will the new teachers be like this year?
  • How will I find ways to meet all of their needs?
  • Will there be help for me if I need it?
  • What will happen with my own family and homelife when the expectations from work multiply?

It is no different. My kids are older. My kids are the teachers. Each of them coming with the same number of differences as the kids in their classrooms. I need to remember to practice my own recommendations:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Take time at the beginning of the year to get to know each other. Show them that you care about them.
  3. Set expectations for how people will treat each other. Let them help set the expectations.
  4. Share the plan for the year - give everyone a sense of direction.
  5. Tell them that you will be there to help along the way and mean it.
  6. Stay positive by finding one positive thing that each person was able to contribute every day.
  7. Ban negativity! It only brings people down. It doesn't solve problems. It creates them!
  8. Start small. Remember everyone in the room has the same anxiety as you do!
  9. Have fun! Learning should be fun!
  10. Above all else, LAUGH! Laughter eases tension. Laughter calms fears. Laughter opens up the mind to take in new learning.

Sunday morning early - the hush before the storm!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trying to Catch the Wind

When given time to sit awhile,
I long for so many things
but then I just smile...

Oh, what I wouldn't give to try to catch the wind!

My days would go on and on with
no need for rest...
Yes, wouldn't that just be the best!

Hmmm, but I may as well try to catch the wind!