Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Vacation

Today is my last day of work because it is summer vacation time...or is it really?  At 3:30pm one of my second grade teachers came in to let me know that she wasn't planning on coming back next year.  I thought I was done hiring for the year and was looking forward to three uninterrupted weeks of relaxation, but instead I will be at school prescreening, interviewing, calling referencing and getting my mind wrapped around another new teacher.

With change comes change.  For the upcoming school year, I actually had to hire new teachers in Kindergarten, 3rd grade, 5th grade, Special Education and now a 2nd grade teacher to replace this one.  This much change could raise some red flags, but in my case...all of this change will be good!

With our new regime in administration, we will also have a mix of new teachers to add to our established teachers.  It will be a good mix of different experiences, various area school districts and upbeat personalities.  However, today...I know I will have to go back to work during my summer vacation time to find the perfect 2nd grade teacher in a very shallow pool.  I will do this so that my students start the year with someone amazing.  Sacrifice.


Monday, May 27, 2013


We'd known for months that "Lewis" was leaving.  His aunt worked with the pipeline and they were getting ready to head back home to Michigan in a few weeks when her work here was done.  He and his brother had been enrolled months after school started.  This was their third school in one year.  Lewis was in Kindergarten.  His brother was in first grade.

Within the first week of him being with us, Lewis' teacher shared concerns about him with me and our counselor.  He was very low (academically) coming in.  He didn't know how to write his name.  He only knew a few sounds.  He didn't know how to count.  More frightening was the fact that nothing seemed to "stick" with him.  Though she was very worried\, she was even more concerned about him leaving our school to return back to the school he had come from.

Lewis was a quiet little guy.  I don't think I've ever heard him speak.  From the time I greeted him on his first day of school to today (his last day,) he never uttered a word.  Keeping this in mind, I made a conscious decision to acknowledge him every time I saw him.  At lunch.  In the hallways.  When I picked up my child from after school care.  I made sure I always said hello to him.  I knew his situation was delicate and that he had been transient and probably would continue to be, but I wanted to make sure his time with us was special.  I wanted him to remember this school and our community no matter how many other schools he would attend after he left us.

The time came for Lewis to be withdrawn from our school.  I overheard his aunt talking to the ladies in the front office one Tuesday.  I came out  of my office to say my final goodbyes to him.  He wasn't in school that day, but he came up to get his supplies and visit his teachers one last time before heading out of state.

His teacher raced down to the office to see him.  He beamed with pride, the most emotion I've ever seen on his face, when she walked through the door.  I am not sure if the "fuss" being made over him caused this, or if he was just proud of his "regular clothes" that he had on (all of our students wear uniforms to school.)  His aunt mentioned that he had picked out his own clothes for the occassion.

Very quickly, all of his paperwork was finished and he was free to leave with is aunt.  His teacher got down on her knees, looked him in the eye and expressed to him how much she would miss him.   She gave him a few things to continue to work on when he got back "home" and reminded him to be a good boy.  She them hugged him really tight and became transparent.

Holding it together only long enough for him to exit the doors, she broke down.  She expressed how much progress he had made in the last couple of weeks and how worried she would be about him from this point on.  We talked about him for a few more minutes, just long enough for her to compose herself.

Every school should be filled with teachers who possess this type of passion.  Passion for what they do and passion for the students they serve.  Every student teacher should be placed with a cooperating teacher who still exudes this type of passion for teaching.  Passion of this degree has to become contagious, spilling over to teachers who have forgotten why they chose teaching as a career in the first place...spilling over to "neophyte" teachers who might be overwhelmed and on the verge of a breakdown.  This sort of passion must run rampant throughout all of our buildings.  Without it, we are merely executing a task.

I know Lewis is somewhere, in another state, still thinking about his teacher and his friends in Texas.  I also know his teacher probably never stopped thinking about him since he left.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I walked into my school one morning to find my daytime custodian not her usual self.  She typically greets me with a big, cheerful smile while she simultaneously is cleaning off tables that students have gotten up from after they have eaten breakfast...sticky syrup everywhere. She is always busy in the cafeteria when I arrive: cleaning tables, sweeping Lucky Charms off the floor, mopping up chocolate milk spills.  She then usally goes over to the gym to "tidy up" after all of the students have gone to class.  That is about 7:40am. I usually walk over there to check for backpacks, jackets and lunchkits left behind.  My job then is to return these items to their rightful owners (only if they are labeled, of course.)

It was 7:20am in the morning and she had already been called to the adult bathrooms in the Kindergarten hallway because there was no soap in the dispenser.  I would find out about it at 8:15am after she was called to the student bathrooms to fill the toilet paper dispenser.  To her, it just wasn't fair.  She took me to different dispensers to show me that they were not filled the night before.  I could tell, over time, she had become so frustrated at this.  I could also tell this was not the first time.  It probably wasn't the fifth time.  She probably had to attend to this 2-3 times a week.  I completely understood why she was so bothered.

You see, my daytime custodian is there by herself.  When I say "by herself" I mean there are no other custodians there while she is there.  The night time staff consists of four ladies who have divided the building into quadrants, each lady responsible for one.  My daytime custodian, however, is there during the day with 711 students, 60 faculty/staff members and however many other visitors and parents we have matriculating through our building that day.

Her responsibilities are many thoughout the day: breakfast clean up, lunch clean up, refilling soap/tissue/hand towels throughout the day, tidying restrooms throughout the day, and being pulled in 25 different directions to clean up spills, clean up vomit, and even to clean up feces on the wall (yes, we have that problem.)

She gets upset when the night ladies, who report to work after all the students are gone, don't do what they are supposed to do.  Rightfully so.  If they did what they were "supposed" to do, then she could come to work each morning and jump right to her responsibilities.  I get that.

As a third grade teacher, I remember going through the cumulative folders and "checking out" my students before ever laying eyes on them.  Something about knowing where they "came from" made it easy for me to formulate a plan for getting them where they needed to be by the end of their year with me.  I can't lie, by the time I had taught 3rd grade for the 2nd year, it was apparent what teachers before me didn't do such a good job of making sure my students were prepared for 3rd grade.  It was my goal not to be "that teacher" the 4th grade teachers would be "talking about" once they got their students for the year.  Teaching is completely interconnected.  As a teacher I completely depended on the teacher before me to fully equipt the students with the knowledge they needed to be successful with me.  When they left me...same thing.

After a few days, it hit me like a ton of bricks as I made the ultimate connection.  Her pain and disappointment was very much like my pain and disappointment back when I taught.  Plain and simple, if the person before you doesn't make sure that everything is done properly, then you will have more work to do.  I can't think of a better way to put that.  I also, before this day, would have never connected the two areas of responsibilities.  They are absolutely one in the same!  There is so much interconnectivity in many people depending on others to do the "right thing," to "complete their tasks," to "take care of business."  It won't be easy if "they" don't.

As building administrators, it is up to us to get everyone in our building to see the important part they play in the "big picture" of educating students and taking care of their needs while they are with us.  It can be best compared to a puzzle missing piece makes the whole "puzzle" incomplete.  Everyone (custodians included) plays an important part in the successful implementation of a campus vision.  Everyone.  Everyone has to pull their weight and everyone has to be on the same page.  Everyone has to contribute and give it their all.  If not, it falls on the shoulders of the next person, be that the next day or the next year.  It is very important that everyone understands that.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My road to the Principalship

For me, the road to the principalship was an eight year trip.  I was an Elementary Assistant Principal for 8 years...5 years in one distict, 3 years in my current district.  I refused to "fall between the cracks" in my old district, so I sought out an opportunity closer to home.  A fresh start.  This would be good for me.

I remember the conversation I had with my last Principal and the Director of Human Resources like it were yesterday:

"You have been an Assistant Principal for five years, why aren't you looking to become a Principal?"

My response:

"I began my administrative career under the leadership of an amazing Principal.  When he retired, things became disjointed for me (professionally.)  Though I have five years experience as an Assistant Principal, I feel as though I could use a few more years under the guidance of a strong Principal who can continue to mold me and truly prepare me for the Principalship.  I am willing to wait for the perfect position for me."

I meant that.

Fast forward three years, the perfect position would become available as my Principal would be named to the newest Elementary to be opened the following school year. 

My time had come.

It was mine to lose. 

There was no one else more perfect for this position. 

I had been at my school going on three years and I had learned so much, just as I was promised in my initial interview.  I remember preparing for my interview in a similar manner as I studied in undergrad:  Professional books scatterred on the floor, highlighters along with my favorite pens in close reach, my laptop and a composition notebook filled with all of my thoughts and things I would want to reveal.  For me, I wanted to be the perfect choice NOT because I was already there and it would be a smooth transition, but because I was impressive, knowledgeable and well prepared.

Nothing prepares you for a Principal interview better than experiences and exposure.  Up to this point, I had been a teacher for five years, a Specialist for one year and an Assistant Principal for eight years.  The one thing that prepared me the most for my interview was the single fact that I had been well mentored by three amazing Principals and that I had also been under the leadership of two not so great leaders (in my opinion.)  All I had to do was draw from ALL of those experiences.

The fact of the matter is I was an auto pilot Assistant Principal.  I had gotten to a point where I could do my job "in my sleep."  What made the last three years different and meaningful for me is the fact that my Principal gave me complete autonomy to implement ideas, spear head initiatives and she included me in on EVERY meeting, conversation, data team...everything.  We made an amazing team.

When I got the phone call stating I had been chosen as the new Principal of my school,  I felt an array of emotions:






Starting in the middle of a school year, though, would leave me with no time to second guess or bog myself down in the many emotions I am still experiencing.  My students need me to be 115% ready to continue the vision set forth at the beginning of the year.  My staff needs to continue to feel comfortable so that they could continue to do the amazing things they do to ensure student success.  My parents and the community would need to continue to feel comfortable entrusting us with their most prized possessions daily.  We would need to remain focused.

Hindsight is 20/20.  I wouldn't change a single twist or turn on the road to my Principalship.  However, it is now my turn to impact future administrators just as I was impacted.  Time to pay it forward...