All posts by mmpjamie

Principal at Southwest Valley HS in Corning, IA. Coffee aficionado, avid wannabe golfer, working hard on the journey toward optimal health.

Strong email communication skills are vital

@alanfeirer had a great blog post this week about leadership and working with others. Alan’s blog for his company, Group Dynamic, has many great insights and posts on leadership – check it out!

My post today focuses on thinking before crafting questions or requests. I realized yesterday that a request I made gave no indication of my true intent. I only made a request instead of laying out the idea I had to help in a rough situation for a student. I came off as only concerned about my subject and a specific instead of contributing to resolution of the student situation.

I learn a new lesson almost daily about electronic communication and how vital it is to think through all the factors before sending emails. Another email that I sent yesterday that explained my confusion about a question resulted in a quick, effective resolution through a short conversation this morning. I am hopeful that I can work to resolve the other situation, we’ll have to see how that goes.


19 years of relationships

The past 19 years have gotten me through becoming a teacher, discovering myself as a teacher, and learning how to best serve as a teacher. Along the way, I’ve had many relationships that either come and go or remain strong. Relationships are the key to success in education, and I believe they are the reason why I continue to teach and look to grow as an educator.

@ToddWhitaker said during #iaedchat, “You have to build relationships before you need relationships.” That couldn’t have been more true today, when I forgot to communicate with the PE teacher about needing the gym for concert practice this afternoon. I totally forgot about it. After 15 years of concerts in shared spaces, you would think it would be a natural part of the preparation process.

I was extremely nervous about approaching the PE teacher today, not because we don’t get along, but because I knew this was going to throw a wrench in her entire afternoon. It did, and she wasn’t happy about it, but because we had a relationship already in place it was easier to get through. Without that relationship, there’s a good chance I would not have been lucky enough to receive the cooperation I needed.

Relationships are important every minute of every day. There must be a mutual understanding that we do for each other because we care about each other and want for everyone to have the success they desire. There will be times when favors are called in, and favors given out. Do unto others with grace and kindness.

Power Standards – Focusing On Success

In our school’s professional development we are exploring standards-based grading. Currently our topic of conversation is power standards. One of the best “ahas” for me came from my collaboration group when they put together what we’re doing now and how it can fit in to the power standards concept.

We have some standards that are in classes by year, some by gradespan. There are some standards that are vital for students to be proficient at this year because they need that standard to be successful in the next class or after graduation. There are other standards that need to be addressed but proficiency doesn’t need to be displayed because students will continue to see those standards in another class later.

This blog by Elena Aguilar describes one approach to increasing student achievement through power standards. She encourages teachers to focus their work, pick their standards, create quality assessments, and watch the students soar. Sit down with a hot cup of joe and enjoy How to Focus Lessons and Learning Goals | Edutopia.

Waiting for a meeting to start

As I wait for a meeting to start this afternoon, I all of a sudden thought of one of my favorite topics. People.

Why is it that some people have to be spoken to before they will speak? Maybe I’m just overly sensitive (and my wife might tell you just that), but it seems that if we’re not in this together we’re not in it at all. Maybe it’s like the old adage, if you think everyone else is an a– maybe it’s you.

I sure hope it’s not me, but then again maybe I shouldn’t care. Maybe I need more to do. I’d sure be open to discussion if someone would entertain me.

Back to reality

The Thanksgiving break is over, and it’s back to reality this morning. There’s only three weeks to Christmas vacation, and it’s the busiest three weeks we have had all year so far:

~ Six performances including concerts and pep bands
~ assignments to finish and grade book to complete for semester
~ honor band auditions and nominations
~ meetings for professional development and negotiations

It all starts with a 30-minute bike ride each morning, a big cup of coffee, and hopefully now blogging about my education work and journey toward optimal health. I’m new to WordPress but have been blogging on blogger since the school year started. I know I feel good when I write, it gets my thoughts out on a screen, and keeps me reflective about my practice.

By starting the day with exercise, coffee, blogging, and a little twitter check I feel ready for the day. Especially the long ones that are ahead over the next three weeks. Hang in there everyone – the time will go quickly and it will be 2014 before we know it!

Nothing like a new can of coffee

As I open a new can of coffee this week I pause to think about the second quarter versus first quarter at school. The rich smell of the fresh grounds are invigorating, and a symbol of a new beginning; much the same way that new methods revive the classroom and student learning.

I tried to do too much with the high school band in the first quarter, giving them too difficult of music for the fall concert while trying to also provide a new form of Friday night entertainment via the raging success of our drumline. While I was very proud of the kids in their drumline performances, I was equally disappointed in myself that I didn’t program better for the fall concert. The new music for the winter concert has been much better for the group, and we have also worked on pep band for basketball season. There are new tunes in the pep band book this year; something the kids have wanted and I have been slow at doing (actually not doing at all) since I took the high school job.
The middle school band had a nice fall concert, and had a great performance at our Veterans’ Day program. They have progressed very well as a group this year, and are poised to have an incredibly good winter concert. Our experience with SmartMusic has been very discouraging over the past six weeks as we have not had access to the program. Now that it is working again, SmartMusic can continue to help the kids develop their skills while allowing the bands to maximize rehearsal and lesson time.
Our jazz band is off to a great start with a super set of music, kids working hard, and making the most of the rehearsal time we have. We have made great progress in only five rehearsals, and I can’t wait o hear what they sound like throughout the season.
The biggest difference for me is planning for rehearsal. I have a list of specific things that I want to address, warmup with scales in a manner to prepare for the rehearsal goals, and a timing schedule to keep on track. I have worked longer into the day and on weekends to prepare. I have taken time to get things done that I haven’t done in years. The kids have always worked hard, done whatever I have asked of them. I believe that I am starting to live up to what the kids’ efforts demand out of me. I’m not there yet, but just like pulling the seal off of a new can of coffee I am fresh, reenergized, and ready to make some great product for everyone to enjoy. Cheers!