We are four weeks into our school year, and many wonderful things have already happened. I see students, staff and colleagues helping others and voluntarily giving of their time and talents to lift their peers. I see people pick up trash they don’t have to. I see people hold doors. I see people ask if someone is ok. I see people help clean up something they didn’t spill. I am so very impressed with the body of people I am working with.
Homecoming was this past week, and what a week it was! School spirit is on display wherever you go. Our homecoming parade, something that hasn’t been stopped since anyone can remember, was cancelled due to weather. The superintendent mobilized the participants and organized an impromptu pep rally that was well-attended by the community, students who had been originally dismissed that volunteered to come back, and our elementary and middle school students (who behaved incredibly well for all the chaos that was their Homecoming Friday.)
Something else that happened this week I was reminded of during tonight’s #iaedchat on commitment vs. compliance. (Check out the archive when it is posted later, search the hashtag to read more, or search out @jimmycasas and @danpbutler.) I had two classes struggling to succeed, needing a change. The students were frustrated and the teachers felt like their hands were tied. Everyone came together willingly to brainstorm solutions. We have a plan to move forward, but we also have hope to create a better educational experience for all involved.
I am thrilled to be in a place that has teachers working to serve student needs. I am thrilled to be in a place that has students concerned enough about their education to speak up when they have ideas. I am thrilled to be in a place where I can be a servant-leader, appreciate what is already happening, and grow right along with everyone else in the building. We have fantastic custodians, secretaries, cooks, and paraprofessionals. I am thrilled to call myself a Timberwolf!
Many of our school friends are just getting started in school this week; we are already three weeks into our year! I just enjoyed my first sip of coffee for the morning. This is the time where I reflect on what we have done, and dream about the opportunities that lie ahead; both this year and into the future.
The conversation I’ve had most with students these first few weeks is about communication. Many take the “do, then ask for forgiveness” approach to get what they want. In my first-day meeting with the students, I emphasized that if you need to do something, ask your teacher, and more than likely you will get what you want. I’m encouraged that the faculty reinforces that viewpoint when I ask what their policies are. I’m hopeful that laying this groundwork will begin building successful student/teacher relationships, making the little things no big thing at all.
Looking to the future, we will begin the journey toward standards-based education (SBE) at our first in-service. I’m excited that I have two years to lead this systemic change, but nervous that that time has already started. Teachers will receive introductory information in our first in-service, then it will quickly be on to the work of adopting the philosophy, adapting our practices, and rolling out the new reporting system in fall 2017. This is a big undertaking, but there are so many supports. Books, YouTube videos, and research articles abound. There are professional resources on social media, such as the Teachers Throwing Out Grades and Standards-Based Learning pages on Facebook. Twitter followers can check out authors like @Rickwormeli2 and @kenoconnor, and #sblchat on Wednesday nights led by @Drjolly and @garnet_hillman. I know as our building begins it’s journey toward SBE, these resources, along with local leaders @nvprincipal and @patrabbitt will be invaluable to our work.
Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. – Stephen Hawking
Before August 19th, I was a zombie. Staring at my computer screen for eight hours a day was about to make me climb the walls! I thought to myself, “I can’t wait until the teachers get here and the building becomes active again.” Teachers arrived August 19th, and my mantra became a play on the old deodorant slogan, “Never let ’em see you vomit.”
Students arrived August 24th. The building was bustling with activity as the kids met with their friends and discovered their way to the assembly with the new principal. They listened intently. Well, they sat quietly at least. We went through the handbook, lunch schedule, met the staff, and laid down the expectation for the year, “don’t forget to be awesome!”
Now that the schedules have been adjusted, and who goes to lunch when has been changed around a dozen times, we can get down to the business of education. Not that it hasn’t been happening already, with teachers checking for understanding and questioning from the first class period of class rules and expectations.
In my visits around the classrooms, I see exciting projects, informative lectures, and engagement throughout the curriculum. Our building lead team gathers this morning to start talking about teacher learning for the year in professional development. The great start we have had this year will only be intensified and magnified through new ideas and approaches to increase student achievement.
The house is rockin’, but I encourage you to come on in and see the great things that are happening at Southwest Valley High School. This is going to be an awesome year!