Archive for November 3, 2014

#SAVMP – Admin Credibility

Image from Sales Force

Image from Sales Force

This months’ School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program blogging/discussion prompt is on admin credibility.

As the prompt states, “In any profession, if people feel you do not understand their work, your credibility lacks, often leading to a lack in leadership.”

When I became an administrator I made a personal commitment to not turn in to one that has no connection to what is happening in classrooms.  I know from experience how frustrating it can be as a teacher to have an administrator making decisions that feel like they have no idea about teaching, classroom dynamics, or even what time of year it is (i.e. an extra big task to do the same week report cards are due).  As an administrator I keep this in mind as I make decisions and see myself as a filter; rolling out initiatives in small steps to not overwhelm, only adding on what is absolutely required, and passing on requests to implement programs/trainings that I don’t believe will be the best use of our time. When there is a new tool that may be beneficial for teachers/students, I try to learn about it myself so that I can help share how and why. I try to make our staff meetings/professional development sessions engaging with strategies that teachers could implement in their classrooms the very next day.

I try to keep current in teaching, by being active in classrooms to help teachers implement new technology tools or to cover classes for teachers to observe each other or if we’re short of substitute teachers. I’ve previously written about No Office Day here and here. I have also previously written about Keeping in Touch with Teaching and Learning which also includes teaching a summer school class each year. I also believe it is essentially important as a building leader to be a Lead Learner, learning along with my teachers, not just directing them to learn/implement new strategies. What is a Lead Learner? I wrote about it HERE.

Most importantly, I make sure to stay connected to the people in our school…the staff, the students and the stakeholders.  I am not a supervisor sitting in an office doing paperwork, I am a leader that seeks to know everyone in our building, have a pulse on what is going on day to day and to help out in any way that I can to benefit the learners in our building.

Getting to Inbox Zero

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 8.56.22 AM

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.