Getting to Inbox Zero

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Is Inbox Zero possible? Sounds like flying unicorns to me.  I’ve often heard Curt Rees talk about getting to Inbox Zero and even though I accomplished it a few times (literally only a few!).  After Curt join us on the PrincipalPLN podcast he helped me understand how and why to get to Inbox Zero.  He also convinced me that it is not productive or healthy to have my work email on my personal phone and I “ripped the bandaid off” right in the middle of the podcast, taking it off of my phone.  It’s been one week since we recorded this podcast and I achieved Inbox Zero 3 days (and I know I’ll get back to it by Monday) and I felt way more productive with my time, getting into classrooms and having conversations with staff.  I also enjoyed ongoing conversation about this topic in the PrincipalPLN Voxer group and could completely relate when Tia Henriksen said, “Flying unicorns exist!!! Who Knew?”

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Here are the shownotes from PrincipalPLN.com:

#PrincipalPLN Episode 47: Conquering Email with Curt Rees

In this episode we are joined by Curt Rees, Elementary Principal and Recess Kickball legend in Onalaska,Wisconsin. Curt’s school is recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as a model school for their implementation of Response to Intervention.  Curt is also a current doctoral student at UKSTL. You can find Curt online at @CurtRees and http://curtrees.com/ Curt is also mentioned in chapter 4 of Spike’s book, Connected Leadership.

Some of Curt’s Email Wisdom:

Don’t sit down and browse email. Sit down and “crank” through them when you’re ready to work on them. Don’t touch an email more than once. Decide on your action for it once you read it. If it takes more than 2 minutes to respond, he sends it to his to-do app (OmniFocus) to schedule when to work on it. Don’t let a read email sit in your inbox, schedule it and get it out of your inbox!
Curt recommends not having work email on your phone and was so convincing that Jessica “ripped the bandaid” off and took work email off of her phone while listening to Curt explain why.  Can you do it?
Curt’s Top 5 Tips:
  1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (or anything by David Allen)
  1. Have a system: this is beyond just email, to keep track of what you’re going to do and when
  1. Don’t let email dictate how you’re going to spend your time. Our jobs are busy enough!  Make yourself available in other ways.
  2. Don’t let your email inbox be your to-do list!
  3. Don’t clutter up anyone else’s email inbox. Recognize when you need to go and talk instead of sending an email.
Other resources/thoughts on email…
Jessica’s blog post: The Email Monster

#SAVMP – How Do You Connect with Your School Community?

I’m excited to take part in this year’s digital School Admin Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP) and am hooked up with two mentees, Jennifer Kloczko and Brandon Pafk.  Despite me being considered the “mentor” I am enjoying connecting with these two folks who already have administrative experience and have so much to offer me as well as we reflect together on posed monthly topics that are pertinent to school leadership.

Although October was busy month for me and I never made the time to write my blog post on the topic, I did connect with them through Voxer, discussing the topic for October.

Image from SchoolandTrust.org

Image from SchoolandTrust.org

October’s discussion topic is “How do you connect with your school community?”

I believe the first and foremost responsibility for a school leader is to know every student in your building.  I don’t know every detail about every student, and I will occasionally mix up names, but I feel it’s important to know every student’s name in my building.  I do this by reading to classrooms in the first week of the year as my first opportunity to practice their names, and then continue to mentally practice names when I observe in classrooms. I connect with students on before/after school parking lot duty, recess duty and lunch duty, choosing to make these duties great opportunities to connect with and get to better know my students.  I attend as many IEP meetings and Student Intervention Team meetings as I can, which is also helpful to get to know students’ needs and connect with their families.  In addition, I try to attend as many extra-curricular activities as I can to connect with and support our students outside of school.  I am fortunate to live in our school’s community (and love having my children attend the same school each day), so many of the events I attend are a part of our family’s routine.

As a parent, I always want to know details about each of my sons’ day, yet I’m often answered with “nothing” as their response when I ask what they did at school.  Knowing that this is a common response for all children, I find it important to “create a window into our school” to keep parents engaged and informed of the great things happening in our building. I do this by maintaining a school Facebook page that is also embedded on our school website so that even the parents that aren’t on Facebook can see the posts on our website.  I use the page to post reminders for upcoming events and share pictures from my classroom visits.  I have found this presence on Facebook to be a helpful tool for parents as it is much easier for them to send me a direct message with a question on Facebook than it is via email.

Finally, it’s important to connected with the staff in your building as a school leader.  I have to admit that this is not a natural strength of mine.  When I’m at work, I’m very focused and intentional and can easily find myself getting into a zone, forgetting to connect with the adults that make a difference in our students’ lives.  Just as a teacher must connect personally with their students, I believe a school leader must do the same.  I try to make a point to get to know individual staff members; ask how their weekend was, follow-up on a planned camping trip or ask about the book their reading.  I have found it helpful to be connected with staff on social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads to help with this.

I’d love to hear other ways that school leaders connect with their communities.

Reflecting on NAESP National Distinguished Principals Program

naesp ndpI never understood why people say, “it was a humbling experience” or “I feel so humbled to receive this.”  But I think now I fully understand that phrase. This week I attended the NAESP National Distinguished Principals Program in Washington DC as the Wisconsin 2014 Elementary Principal of the Year and had a humbling experience as I joined 60 other amazing school principals from across our nation (and those leading American schools overseas).  There were several points of the program that I thought to myself, “do I really deserve to be here?” or “I have to go back next week and be as awesome as these people are making me feel!”  In reality, I know that I was only able to have this experience because of how hard the staff in my building work each and every day to make our school the best school for our students.  I am blessed to have had the opportunity to hear about the great things happening in schools across the country, learn from their amazing leaders and reflect on the work that I can continue to do as a leader for our great school.  I made some incredible connections with these leaders and hope to keep connected with them through Twitter/Voxer to continue learning from them.

 

As I heard firsthand from principals about some of the challenges in their states, I was so thankful to be in Wisconsin.  I am thankful that our state has not gone as “high stakes” as some other states, like Florida or New York and that Wisconsin has things right with support for preK/K (see below).

 

I was even more fortunate to be a part of my first press conference.  I was asked by Mark White, president of NAESP, to join the press conference for NAESP’s release of the Early Learning Competencies for principals before the NDP event started.  What was even more exciting is that I got to join the Press Panel along with Libby Doggett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education.  Principals- I’ll have you know that we’ve had a number of our colleagues across the country working on this important work that I didn’t even know about!  This work brings research and best practices to the forefront to inform policy makers on what is best for children and to keep principals informed so that they can lead schools that include quality instruction for all students, including their youngest learners.  I was astonished to learn that there are states that still do not have full day kindergarten or preschool opportunities.  For those that do, research is finding a lack of alignment between preschool, kindergarten and the primary grade levels.  In addition, research found lack of resources/support for these programs and that they are often the position that a principal may transfer an ineffective teacher to, which obviously means lack of quality instruction.  I didn’t realize the importance of the work NAESP was doing on the early learning competencies, because Wisconsin already has it right

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with 4 year-old kindergarten, full day Kindergarten and, speaking for my school, high quality instruction.  Most principals are licencesd preK-12th grade, yet don’t have the experience/training to be knowledgeable on what quality instruction looks like in prek/K grades.  You can read more by downloading the Leading PreK-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practices HERE.

 

And now, I just have to share some of my favorite pictures from the event!
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Press Panel: Kristie Kauerz, Steve Tozer, Libby Doggett, myself and Kimbrelle Lewis

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The amazing NAESP press crew!

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Finally got to meet Tony Sinanis in person!

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NAESP president Mark White and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Zone 6 Principals

Zone 6 Principals

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A 21st Century Souvenir for the NAESP NDPs

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This week I am humbled to have the opportunity to go to Washington DC for the NAESP National Distinguished Principals program.  This is a result of the amazing work that our school staff do each and every day to make our school the best place for our students!

One part of this event is the opportunity to bring back a momento/souvenir from every attendee’s state.  Since Tony Sinanis will also be attending as a NDP representative from New York, we decided to work together on a 21st Century Souvenir that we hope will continue long after this week’s event so we can continue learning from each other.  While I know that we should wait to share until the big day, we want to help get people connected now (and I was always the child that secretly snuck peaks at my presents before Christmas and nothing has changed!)

We will be bringing these postcards:

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You can watch our video here:

Special thanks to Jay Posick, Joe Sanfelippo, Matt Renwick,  Eric Sheninger, Don Gately, and Vicki Day for helping us promote the power of Twitter!

#principalpln podcast episode 6: Staying Healthy to Outlast the Marathon of the School Year

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Another crosspost from www.principalpln.com

We are the best at taking care of others, the worst at taking care of ourselves. In this episode we share tips to take care of yourself first so you can be the best principal you can be to last the whole school year long!
 
Spike’s book is out! Check it out: Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away

We Are All More than Just a Number!

Education is so consumed with testing, scores, school report cards, SLO’s and new evaluation systems. It has been interesting to see how mandates have been implemented differently across the country in this process and being able to read the honest reflections of educators from my PLN. For example, I’ve seen Tony Sinanis’s reflections on “his score” as an administrator which you can find HERE.  As I read posts like this, I am constantly reminded of why we are in education and that we need to continue to do the great work we are doing with students and not let ourselves get pulled into a test prep mentality. I am also thankful to be in a state that is not as dead set on numbers as other states are.  As I though about this, I decided to share the following message for my staff in my “Monday Musings” post:

We Are All More Than Just a Number!!

 

I know that many of you are already starting to think about your SLO and some are starting to stress that this year it “counts” for the state. I will have an email to all staff this week on SLO updates and then also in our EP refresher trainings, but the most important message I want you to receive is that the SLO rubric (“score”) does not just focus on the student outcome, but also the process…the process that you use to analyze your students, reflect, make goals, respond to their needs and continue to reflect again.  We are fortunate that Wisconsin has decided on a model that does not just look at numbers, as many other states do.

I am also thankful that we have a State Superintendent that also realizes this. Tony Evers recently posted this video to share his personal message about the school report cards coming out. He emphasizes that the report card only gives 1 measure, that is relatively narrow. Our report card doesn’t take into account everything that we have to offer and provide our students at Dodgeland.

Here is Mr. Evers’ message:

#PrincipalPLN Season 2 Episode 4: Twas the Night Before the First Day of School

If you haven’t checked out the new podcast yet, you can go to principalpln.com or download it on iTunes or Soundcloud.  As we add podcasts, I’ll also cross-post them here (although I missed the last couple of posts).

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In this episode we catch up on what we’ve each been working on, what we wish we would have done earlier so we aren’t stressed now (the story of principals’ lives!) and what is most important the first week of school.

Need some ideas on books to read in classrooms the first week of school? PrincipalJ shares ideas HERE.

Stay tuned for future podcasts on…

Staying Healthy to Outlast this School Year Marathon

Guest Hal Elrod, Author of The Miracle Morning

Series of podcasts on tips for being efficient

 

The Podcast is Back!

Many leaders in my PLN are writing outstanding blog posts for  #LeadershipDay14. I love this topic each year that it comes around, however, I’m feeling too busy to write a quality, reflective post in response to it (especially when incredible leaders like Curt Rees overachieve and create awesomeness like THIS!)

PrincipalPLNInstead, I’m just going to use this opportunity to say that my fellow podcasters, Dr. Spike CookTheresa Stager, and myself are excited to start another year of podcasting for principals.  We are rebranding ourselves this year as the PrincipalPLN, which I think fits #LeadershipDay14 well as we strive to have our podcast be a resource for school leaders.

Please check out episode 1 HERE.

 

Digital Student Portfolios

Over the years I have come to know Matt Renwick, fellow WI Principal known as @ReadbyExample on Twitter, as a wise literacy leader and tech guru that I love to learn from.  As our school continued to add technology and then implemented our 1:1 iPad program this year, he was a colleague that often shared resources with me; resources that he had created to help his teachers learn how to use their iPads for both teacher and student use.  So, when I heard that he was writing a book about their (school) experience of using Digital Portfolios I was ecstatic for him and eager to read the book to learn even more from him!

Digital Student Portfolios

I’m humbled to have been one of his first readers and even more so to have had the opportunity to co-write the forward to his book along with Curt Rees.  We both agreed that this book is a fantastic resource for teachers to utilize the power of the technology at hand to focus on documenting student learning in digital format as they focus on individual student progress and respond to their students’ needs.  In this book, Matt shares real examples of great learning among his teaching staff, along with steps they took that didn’t work, but they learned from them and moved forward.  What’s even better is there are several links to video clips throughout the book so you can learn from screencasts or see examples of digital/audio content of their students.  You can find some of these digital resources from his book HERE on his blog.

Where can you find Matt’s book? Go HERE to order his book.  Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Principal 2.0 Resources for #IPANewAdmin14

I’m excited to join forces again with Amber Teamann on July 25 as we spend a day with the new administrators in Illinois for #IPANewAdmin14.  Amber and I will be presenting:

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Within this full day workshop we will share the power of social media for school communication, social media for personal learning and web 2.0 tools to keep up with all the work!

You can find our slides HERE and all of other links of resources HERE.

And please help us welcome these administrators to the Twitter PLN as we get them connected while we use the #IPANewAdmin14 hashtag!