Getting It All Done

In the first three weeks of school, I’ve quickly learned that it’s hard to get it all done.  My first lesson was in prioritizing things that had to be done at school over work that could be done at home.  Meeting with students and teachers, walkthroughs, phone calls…these are jobs that have to be done at school.  Research, planning, organizing…I can do these at home more effectively with fewer interruptions.

21 Day

One “tool” that has really helped me to become more efficient was participation in Justin Baeder’s 21-Day Instructional Leadership Challenge.  Principals and assistant principals know that our most important job is to serve as the instructional leaders for the school.  The 21-Day Instructional Leadership Challenge offers easy, quick solutions for becoming great instructional leaders while balancing the many other important jobs that we must complete during the day.  Each day you will receive a short video that you can watch or (as is my preference) you can read the transcript.

As I start “official” classroom walkthroughs next week, I look forward to implementing some of the great advice that I learned from the 21-Day Instructional Leadership Challenge.  If you are looking for some great ideas for streamlining your day and accomplishing more, check out this FREE opportunity.

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Psychological Safety..

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As we move into our third week of school, we are continuing to practice safe routines and procedures in order to keep our students safe. We are sure many educators were anticipating the long weekend but in return we must be refreshed and ready to be consistent with all of our safe practices.

Many students, possibly for the first time, are learning school routines, learning how to build relationships with their teachers, and trying to balance new behaviors at school and at home. We must be consistent in order to give students the safe learning environment they deserve. We must also remember we are responsible for the psychological safety of our students.

The collaborative for academic, social, and emotional learning gives us a model of psychological safety in order to assist us with the core area of our students’ safety and the specific skills we can assist them with, (CASEL, 2008). Students must learn self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making in order to feel safe and connected to our schools. In Table 6.4 Models for Organizing Psychological Safety Prevention Efforts (CASEL, 2008), gives us a better understanding of how to foster the knowledge, attitudes, and skills of these specific core areas. These skills all have to be acknowledged, reinforced, and modeled at our school. These are just a few key components of creating a safe learning environment allowing all of our students to be successful beyond their years at school.

Table 6.4-Models for Organizing Psychological Safety Prevention Efforts, (CASEL, 2008)

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In order to foster of each of these skills, we must strategically embed them within our lesson design, family time (at the beginning of each day), or when we address specific situations occurring in our classroom. If you have not already done so, visit/revisit your “getting to know you” sheets, or specific notes about students’ interests you have made, and take the time to plan how you will foster the psychological safety of each of your students in order to create a safe and positive learning environment.

*Sam

Procedures: Good News and Bad News

I survived my first week of school as a new assistant principal, and I’m thankful for a fresh start on Monday!  Like most new jobs, this past week had its highs and lows.  As assistant principal, safety and behavior are two of my chief concerns.  I worked really hard before school to be proactive by leading our staff through the creation of school-wide procedures and a comprehensive behavior management plan.  Already, staff members have remarked that the school seems “safer” with these new school-wide procedures.   We now have common language and procedures for walking in the hallway, using the restroom, lining up in the cafeteria, and getting students’ attention.  In the coming week, we will be adding procedure posters around the school that show our students demonstrating the new procedures.  This will act as a visual reminder of behavior expectations in our school common areas.

Teachers also worked to create individual classroom management plans using this FREE tool.  It’s not very specific, but it helps teachers build a broad framework for how they will develop their classroom cultures.   For more specific questions to think about when setting up classroom procedures, your teachers and staff can download this FREE resource from Tamara Russell on Teachers Pay Teachers.

As diligent as I was in planning, there are some things that need work.  Morning arrival time seems unsafe to me because students seem to be all over the school instead in a few places where they can be monitored.  Part of the problem, I realize, was that I didn’t successfully communicate these new procedures to students; some of them are following old routines from last year.  Over the weekend, I tweaked this plan so that students are in only two locations (gym or cafeteria) before class starts.  I also developed a plan for teachers and staff to communicate these revised procedures to students.

Another issue that bothered me was the noise level at lunch.  It just seemed out of control.  And while we had started implementing school-wide procedures, we didn’t have students walking in perfect lines by Friday.  But then I read this article by Angela Watson at the The Cornerstone for Teachers and I felt so much better.  Some of my own beliefs about procedures were those that she warned against.  For example, walking in a straight, quiet line is a simple task, so why do so many students struggle to comply?  For the exact reason that teachers don’t comply either.  When we have a chance to talk with our fellow teachers in the halls, we want to walk along side them and chat…not walk in single-file silent lines.   If we, as adults, struggle to remain silent and listen attentively during a presentation, how can we expect our own students to follow these directions 100% of the time?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t have rules, procedures, and high expectations, but we have to remember that these procedures are not always easy to comply with, especially for our younger audiences.  And when we do respond to students who are struggling to follow our procedures, we need to do so with love, patience, and positive intent.  If you have teachers that need help with this, have them check out this FREE resource from Angela Watson.

For my fellow teachers and administrators, I want to borrow some final words from a recent email from Angela Watson:  “Hang in there. I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” 

**Lindsey**

Calm Before the Storm

calm-before-the-storm05Welcome to the start of our new adventure!  Today is the “calm before the storm.”  Tomorrow begins our first day as assistant principals.  As we prepare for our new roles, we must stop and reflect.  Logistically, we are ready to go.  We realize that there will be so many demands on our time tomorrow, but we are prepared.  But just like teachers, we still have those “First Day” jitters.  We want to ensure our students are safe, prepared, and excited to learn.  We hope our teachers arrive rested, ready, and feel supported by our decisions thus far.  And as a school community, we hope to instill a passion for life-long learning.

Tomorrow, we will rise up to meet new expectations and challenges.  We are grateful for the experiences and learning opportunities provided by previous leaders.  We will take everything we have learned, and make the best decisions for our students.  As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”