Archive for Organizational Management

The Email Monster

email

We all have it…that evil email monster that can clutter up our day, add to our to-do list, irritate us, and completely suck our time away from the work that we should be doing.  Conquering the email monster has been an evolving skill I have worked on over the past couple of years learning from tips in newsletters/training at The Principal Center, from David Allen’s Getting Things Done and from Curt Rees, my personal David Allen mentor.

For a tool that can expedite communication, what’s the problem with it? From what I’ve learned, in order to be productive, as you check each email you need to act on it.  You could delete it, reply to it, add to your to-do list email2of what you need to do as a result of the email and add it to your calendar, etc.  If you don’t do one of these then it clutters up your inbox (which I often find I then end up forgetting to act on later) and clutters up your mind.  Research found what is known as the Zeigarnik effect: “Uncompleted tasks and unmet goals tend to pop into one’s mind. Once the task is completed and the goal reached, however, this stream of reminders comes to a stop.” (Baumeiseter, p. 81)

What does this have to do with your email? If you read an email (even just skimming the little 1 sentence preview on your iPad) without doing something with it, it is still going to pop into your head, leaving you unable to focus on whatever else you are working on or enjoying your family time at home.

This past weekend I somehow got locked out of my school email.  It stopped working on my phone, my iPad and even logging into our email access through our school website.  I had a 3 day weekend with no email access.  What if a summer school teacher was emailing about not being able to find a substitute or some other summer school related issue?  What if my son’s baseball coach was emailing a schedule change?  Believe it or not, I got over these questions within a couple of hours and realized on Monday morning that I had the most relaxing weekend ever this summer!  Yes, I did a little bit of work at home, but the email monster had nothing on me!

I’d like to say that from now on I will never check email from home, because I already did that last night.  I will say, I’m going to make a more conscious effort to not check my emails from home unless I have the time to act on them, am waiting for an urgent response on something, and know that it won’t impact my family time.

 

Citation: Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength, 2011, R. Baumeister and J. Tierney

Starting the Year with a 1:1 iPad Initiative

In the current NAESP Principal Communicator online edition, you can find my article “Starting the Year with a 1:1 iPad Initiative” HERE.

#ASCD13 Post: Turn the Battleship on a Dime: Keys to Initiating Sustainable Change

One of the great sessions I attended at #ASCD13 was on sustainable change led by the great Eric Sheninger, or else known as @NMHS_Principal. Eric was a phenomenal speaker and I took copious notes in his session (that includes many audience responses) as follows:

Why Change? We need to, because the world has changed, it is fundamentally different, we are in a globally connected world. How can we say we are preparing our kids to be successful to do what they want to do if we don’t allow them to use the tools that eveyrone else uses to be successful?

Why doesn’t change work?
It is done to people, no buy-in, don’t support the rpocess, always changing from one thing to the next, we give up before the learning curve is experienced, overwelmed by number of things to change.

Why has it failed in your school?
It goes against tradition, people are not given a chance to fail or take risks

Why is change so hard? People are so comfortable bc they are not challenged to think differently. Status quo, if it isn’t broke why fixt it, this too shall pass.

Why is change so hard?
Fear, void of leadership, no vision, lack of knowledge

Why is change so hard?
Instability, too many initiatives at once, resistance, one size fits all initiatives.

It’s difficult to transition a school or district if it doesn’t make sense.

It’s important to identify the obstacles
1. This is too hard
Change is not easy. Requires work, risk-taking, learnign from mistakes, and committemtn, no fear of failure. “The price of change is measured by our will and courage, our persistence, in the face of difficulty.” -Peter Block

2. I don’t have time for this
-most common excuse
-in a profession focused on making a difference in the life of a child. “I don’t find the time to learn and get better. I make the time to learn and get better.”

3. Lack of Collaboration
We already know who on our staff don’t want to collaborate. How do we get them to intrinsically want to change, becuase they might be better for kids. We can’t go to a one-size fits all approach.

4. Directives and Mandates
“You can’t force committemnt, what you can do….You nudge a little here, insprie a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create” -Peter Senge

5. Hierarchy in Schools
Result-inflexible, lack of freedom/autonomy to take risks, ideas are squashed

6. No Support
Time, resources, money, pd, etc.

7. Fear of change
How do we as colleagues, administrators help each other overcome fear and get others to want to change?

8. The Resistance (Naysayers and antagonists)

9. Poor professional development

10. Frivolous purchases
It is the beahviors/practices that make the purchases relevant and applicable.

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Zigler

Change begins with us. “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

If you are doing something because you got a grant, can it be sustained? If not, then why are you doing it?

Change often fails if there’s not shared vision, or communication of the vision.

“Let the teachers decide what they need to get better.” @NMHS_Principal

The Sustainable Changes that have been made at Eric’s School:
grading (7 criteria to fail kids)
academies
teaching and learning web2.0
independet open courseware study
byod
professional growth period
AP culture
social media

Using the iPad to Increase my Productivity

Even though there are numerous other blog posts by principals using the iPad, I have said numerous times that my blog is a great place for me to reflect on my practice and seek the feedback of others. I have learned a great deal of iPad tips from other princpals, and I will list those blog posts/helpful sites below. I plan to use this post to explain how I am using my school issued iPad to increase my productivity and spend more time in classrooms (my ULTIMATE goal as a principal).

As basic as it sounds, the top 2 reasons I use the iPad more than anything else are to keep up with emails and my calendar. Since I spend more time out of my office than in it, I am able to quickly read emails while walking the hallway and delete, respond or file for action later. I have a busy schedule (what administrator doesn’t) so I love having my calendar right there with me. This year I am planning to switch to google calendar so that my secretary can add to my calendar during the day if I’m out and about.

When I am walking through classrooms, I have just used the Notes app on the iPad to quickly type feedback to teachers and email them. We do not have wifi throughout our building, but I could still use the email feature and have this sync when I went near the wifi hotspot. I also emailed these to myself and kept them all in a folder for teacher feedback. So here’s what you would actually see me doing when I’m making rounds-when I enter a classroom I would open up a new note and start typing “Dear Ms. Carson, When I visited your classroom…” I will either type one handed (I’m getting good at that) while in the classroom or wait until I get in the hallway if any students seem distracted by what I’m doing. Then I email the teacher the note right away. Then I open my Simple Goals app (see below) and tap on my classroom walkthroughs goal to add another one for the week. Then I go to my clipboard (here’s when I need a suggestion) to find my teacher spreadsheet and write the date of my walk through. I still do this because I like to visually see who I haven’t been to yet. I would love any app suggestions to still do this and get rid of my clipboard!

I have just begun to use Evernote in place of the Notes app. Since Evernote is a web based virtual cabinet, I love that I can access my notes on my iPad, iPod, or desktop. When typing up teacher feedback, I can also add a “tag” so it will organize my notes by teacher instead of having them all within one of my email folders. The only problem I’ve found is that when I email the note to a teacher, it goes straight to their junk mail file thanks to our web filter, so I don’t think I can use this for my walk throughs.

I keep track of my daily goals with the app “Simple Goals.” This is a simple free app that just lets you keep a running total of goals for each week. This is where I keep track of the number of classroom walkthroughs, 1:1 discussions with staff, if I leave my office with a clean desk, and if I exercise (that one is usually a low number!)

I used to be the queen of post-it notes of to-do lists each day, but I have now been using the app “Get it Done.” What I love about this app is that I can organize To Do folders and categorize them by when they’re do. It is easier on my eyes/brain to just see the list of what I need to do for the day and not my entire list of EVERYTHING! Every time I remember something I need to do, I just add it in there, put a date on it and add it to a special group/folder if I need to. Some of the group/folders I’ve had running for to-do lists include: staff evaluations, summer school preparation, To Learn, etc.

Those are the main apps I use each day, but I do also utilize the following apps:
-Twitter (only can use this at home, no twitter access at school)
-Google docs
-Google Reader
-Flipboard
-App Shopper (I love seeing when apps are down in price or FREE!)
-Various news apps
-Kindle (I also love that this syncs with the kindle reader on my iPod)
-PowerSchool shortcut (this is our student information system)

The Complete List of iPad Tips, Tricks and Tutorials

10 Ways to Work Smarter on Your iPad

iPad Resources for Administrators

Blog posts by other principals:
The 21st Century Principal

A Principal’s Reflections

Time Management 101

Here’s my December article from NAESP’s Communicator:
During my first year as principal, I got into classrooms as much as possible. In my building, there was no previous practice of a principal presence in the classrooms other than the formal teacher observation on a three-year cycle. I made it a priority to get into classrooms to get to know teaching styles and the students, often just leaving a positive message on a Post-it note.

I started this year with the best intentions of not only getting into classrooms more, but leaving more meaningful feedback for teachers to promote further reflection and dialogue to improve student learning. At the start of the year, I met with each teacher to find out what teaching standard he or she would like me to focus on when I come into the classroom so I can tailor my feedback to each teacher’s goals.

To plan for this, my secretary and I came up with a strategy for her to manage my schedule so that both meeting and classroom time are marked on my calendar. I thought the plan was brilliant. However, I also took on additional duties this year as the district assessment coordinator (part of being in a small district). My plan did not account for how much time my new duties require. I am now ashamed to admit that I’m rarely in classrooms, to the point that a few kindergartners have mistaken the recess monitor as the principal.

I’d like to hear any time-management/organization tips that other principals have to make time for the classrooms and not stay in the office until 10 p.m. with paperwork.

My summer to-do list

I have just completed my first year as a principal…WOO HOO!!! While I wish it was time to relax and reflect for next year, I am realizing now that I don’t have time for that, because there’s still so much to do. (Of course I spend time relaxing and reflecting, but I don’t have time to procrastinate on the rest) I am on a 225 day contract, but will definitely end up working more than my 225 days with summer school in session right now and my to-do list.

Here’s my to-do list as of now, please feel free to add anything I might be missing in the comments. I want to make sure that I don’t forget to do anything this summer. (They’re not in any particular order, just as I thought of them. Maybe I should get organized enough and put them in order of importance…maybe later)

-Summer book study ongoing with staff throughout June (10 volunteers participating!)
-Revise student/staff handbooks
-Prepare teacher/student resources for PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Support)
-Revise specials schedule
_Revies SIT (student intervention team) process
-Update school website/start a principal’s blog for parent communication
-Revise all staff info. for next year (duty schedules, calling tree, comiittees, etc.)
-Plan back to school in-service days
-Send out staff letter in July-Summer Leadership Team meeting
-Put together plan for new teacher support (in a small district, so there is no plan and I need to create one!)
-Check on summer maintenance work
-plan training for bus drivers
-Find better system for me to organize my documentation (or my entire office for that matter!)
-Start getting ideas ready for next year’s school-wide theme: “Learning…Capture the Adventure”

Help—am I forgetting anything?? Do you have any ideas to help me with any of these?