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STAAR Organization- A Tool That Works!

I'm going to start off by prefacing STAAR testing is not fun for anyone.  I can't sugar coat it.  It is what it is.  If you are not familiar with Texas assessments, here is a quick introduction.  We have our own state standards called the TEKS.  We are not a common core state.  During each school year, our students take state assessments beginning in third grade.  The results of the tests will determine our campus and district accountability rating.  That's the basic explanation.

In order to state on top of all the requirements, I must stay organized.  I have found a few shortcuts over the years to help me.  One that is my go-to is the accommodations flipbook.  I have to admit I got smart this year and recreated it in Google.  Texas loves to change the rules of the game so much that making it in Google gave me the liberty to make a revision without redoing all the other pages in the process.



Printing and Assembly Recommendations

1.  Print on Astrobrite cardstock.
2.  Place in the order you want to assemble your own book.
3.  Cut tabs.


I take this accommodation book with me to meetings- ARD (special education), grade level, and RtI.  My counselor oversees 504, but if I need to attend this meeting I could bring the copy with me as well.  A copy is always on my desk.  I can quickly scan it to be sure the accommodation is allowable.  We want a fair advantage for our students, so it is important to me to stay organized.  

Would love to hear how you stay organized for state testing.

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Qualities Found in a Great Assistant Principal

If you are fortunate enough to have an assistant principal on your campus, you know all too well how important their role is on the campus.  You might take this person for granted until they miss a day or even a week of school.  That's the moment when it is all too clear how much you depend on them and how much they do to help the overall management of the campus.

If you are a principal and searching for your next assistant principal, let's talk about what qualities to look for in your next administrator.

In my observations, assistant principals typically have duties such as discipline, all things student-related and overall campus or facilities management.  The principal often handles instruction, public relations, and all things staff-related.  Before you begin to look for your next assistant principal, brainstorm the duties and responsibilities given to this administrator.

Since this administrator will be your right hand, I recommend finding someone you are compatible working beside.

Here is a list of qualities in a GREAT assistant principal.


Assistant principals will handle the majority of student discipline.  This involves communicating with teachers and parents.  Parents and teachers will expect students to be treated in a fair and consistent manner.  Look for candidates who can uphold the discipline policies without showing favoritism and/or fear of upsetting difficult parents or difficult teachers.  Dealing with tough situations involves courage.  Assistant principals must be willing to take risks and remain steadfast when challenged.  

Interview Question for AP Applicant: 

1.  How do you plan on building a positive relationship with students, teachers, and parents?  
2. Provide an example of a time when you handled a disciplinary issue that involved either a difficult teacher or a difficult parent.
3.  How will you ensure fair decisions are made?


It is so important that we all set the tone to be constant learners in our school.  We all have room to grow and learn.  A great assistant principal will actively seek ways to improve his/her position.  This can be accomplished through off-site professional development, book studies, and peer mentoring.  Since we are in the business to educate, it is critical that our actions reflect the need for all adults to be lead-learners and always willing to grow and learn.  Great Assistant Principals are curious and opportunistic. 

Interview Questions for AP Applicant: 

1.  Share examples of recent staff development you have either attended or conducted.  
2. Share a professional goal you wish to have completed within the next three years.


I recently attended a two-day workshop and this quote was stated both days.
 Students first. Students second.  Students third.
School leaders must be passionate about teaching and learning.  We must show a genuine commitment to children.  If it is right for kids, it is the right thing to do.  Great assistant principals are passionate about making a difference in the lives of students.  This often involves reaching tough students, motivating the unmotivated, and building authentic relationships with the disconnected.  Great Assistant Principals never give up.

Interview Questions for AP Applicant:

1.  In what ways will you inspire and motivate students?


Since your assistant principal will have authority to make decisions, effective decision-making skills seem fitting.  My assistants have always had authority to make decisions.  If he/she was unsure of the right call to make and the question did not fall within his/her responsibilities, he/she would say "let me find out and get back with you."  As a principal, I have always backed my assistant principal's decision regardless if I agreed with their decision.  Why?  Because it is very important that we show a supportive stance in front of our staff.  If we begin to set the tone of undermining, your assistant will not be treated as an effective administrator.  That is definitely not the tone we should ever set in front of parents, students, or teachers.  Handle all disagreements in the office.  Great assistant principals can think critically and problem solve.  All school leaders are expected to handle problems as they arise throughout the day.  While assistant principals can't be expected to resolve all of these, they can be expected to be involved in finding solutions to the problems.  

Interview Questions for AP Applicant:

1.  Describe a recent problem you encountered and how you went about creating a solution.
2.  Tell me about a situation in which you found a creative way to overcome an obstacle.
3.  Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.

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Understanding the RtI Principles

You might be thinking why is it that I'm just now talking about RtI to my school.  Well, I have accepted a principal position this school year in a new district.  It has taken me a few weeks to lay some foundation and understand their current process of Response to Intervention.  I absorbed all the facts and quickly began the journey to organize and simplify the process for the teachers.
Fast forward to the first week of November and here we are...rocking and rolling.

My presentation: Response to Intervention: Understanding the RtI Principles covers the basic information of the multi-tier system.  You can download my presentation here from my google drive.

I also created a guidebook for the teachers as a quick reference to all the information that was in the powerpoint.


The approach to RtI is preventative and intended to close learning gaps for all students.  It is also about every student making progress.  RtI focuses on the use of evidence or data to make decisions about students' response to instruction and the effectiveness of interventions in order to prevent significant learning gaps.  The keyword is preventive.  

I created a sample RtI folder for every teacher and shared a flowchart.  The flowchart was created by another principal and good friend of mine.  The forms for RtI are a mixture of materials from Mentoring Minds and our region shared services co-op.  I am unable to share these forms since they are not created by me.  I'm sure you can understand my reasons for not sharing copyrighted materials.  I'm always willing to share or link materials self-created though.


Providing quality classroom instruction can make a big difference for struggling readers.  The heart of RtI is found in core instruction.  We must give students the best opportunities to succeed at school. This begins with providing high-quality core instruction in the classroom.  We must be CORE STRONG.  The core instruction is critical to the prevention process.  

You can download the Flow Chart here.  The flowchart coordinates with the RtI forms we use in Google.


We meet every Wednesday for PLC.  We will use the student RtI folders to make instructional decisions, identify students who are in need of support, and provide immediate assistance.  

Professional Learning Communities - Who we are
Data Team, Data Driven Decisions- What we do
Response to Intervention - How we do it

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Principal as Instructional Leader

If you have been reading this blog for several years, I'm sure you already know my stance on how important it is for principals to be strong instructional leaders.  By no means am I naive enough to say I am a strong instructional leader.  However, I am growth-minded and a lead-learner.  I push myself to learn and stay current in my position.  I place student and teacher learning at the forefront of everything.

This quote keeps me grounded-


Here's a look back at my first couple of weeks of Professional Development for 2017-2018.

If you haven't read the book, One Thing, it is a must read.  It helped me take an idea and tweak it for a school setting.

 "When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small.

"Going small" is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It's recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It's a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It's realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.

The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go as small as possible...

When you go as small as possible, you'll be staring at one thing. And that's the point." ~ Gary Keller from The ONE Thing

After brainstorming with principal Jarett Kuhns, an activity called 10-10-10 was developed.  Directions are found here.


I knew at the beginning of the year we needed to set a goal or a few goals to direct us this year.  In order to accomplish our goals, we must know our direction.  I certainly didn't want to come in this year and have these goals already selected and our vision set.  That would be a big mistake.  Goals must be shared and collaborated, as well as, our vision for the year.  We must have a shared understanding of where we are, where we need to go, and how we should get there.

 The vision set by my teachers for this year is- to be a family of learners.  We want everyone to feel part of the team and part of the school family.  We will never stop learning this year.  We will hold each other accountable for learning.  Everyone has a voice.  Everyone is significant.  Everyone means- parents, students, teachers, custodians, paraprofessionals, etc...

I have to say my heart is full.  Just look at this amazing list teachers ask of me, their principal.   I love their list.  I gladly accepted it.

Amber Teamann is a Texas principal and blogger.  I follow her on social media, as well as, regularly read her blog.  On a recent post on Facebook, I found her idea of lighting a candle.  She had her staff light a candle.  I decided to just pass out this notecard.  Since it is my first PD in this school, I didn't want to chance burning down the school or setting off any fire alarms.  My luck just goes that way. (HA!)

Here's a glance at the data stations called DATA Carousel.  You can get the DATA Carousel headers below.  The purpose of this activity is to engage teachers in reading data- just locate the facts.  Each group was color-coded prior to starting.  When the music played, they moved to the next station.  When all stations were complete, we could do a Walk It Out.  A walk-it-out just means they rotate through all of the stations one last time and read the comments made by the other group members.  We were short on time so one of the co-presenters read the data findings to the entire group.

See collage image below:

Upper Left- Teachers worked in small groups and analyzed core subject area data from state testing results.  K-2 teachers looked at how their state standards led into the 3-5 grade levels.  Since grades 3-5 take state assessments, one goal is to vertically align our instruction to better prepare our students for state tests.

Lower Left- We are required to do a refresher training on classroom observations and walkthroughs.  The only way to get through T-TESS training is with a lovely scoop of ice cream.  You can grab this printable here.

Upper Right- T-TESS sign in and handouts were on the table outside the room.  In our training, we reviewed dimensions 2 and 3, watched a video of a lesson from Teach For Texas, rated the teacher in each area, and discussed how important it is to discuss the objective of the lesson.  TTESS flipbook

Lower Right- We did a little more team building and used balloons.  The activity can be found in the Professional Development Activities All Year Long packet.  The focus of this activity is to be a positive team member.  Negativity can weigh the campus down and limit us from reaching our goal.

One of my favorite videos from the week is What is Your Hope

Students will walk through the door of the school tomorrow to begin 2017.  

We plan on fighting like warriors and performing as champions. #gameon2017

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How to Digitize Your Notes

This post may include affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

This week while reading through the posts from over 3000 school leaders in my private Facebook group- Principal Principles Leadership, I noticed a principal shared a little about Rocketbook. Being that I love technology so much, I looked more into it.  Later that evening, I shared the information with the hubs and we decided to order two from Amazon that very night.

I am very excited to get this in hand.  A little side note: If ordering from Amazon, I had it within two days of ordering.  For someone who is so anxious, fast shipping is a big deal.

Let me share what Rocketbook can do for you.


- Use Rocketbook to organize your notes, lists, projects, or ideas.
- Use it as a sign in form to your next professional development session.  (Just pass the notebook around along with a special Rocketbook pen and have all staff sign in to your session.)
- Consolidate all of your notebooks into one notebook.  There is really no need for additional notebooks with this system.
- The Rocketbook allows you to digitize your notes without being in front of a computer screen.  It doesn't require wifi, cords, or any other complicated tools.
-Share your notes and sketches with your staff or colleagues.

Create. Scan. Erase.  Three simple steps.

The Rocketbook does require a special pen.  When you place your order, it comes with one.  I ordered a set of multi-colored ones too.

How It Works:

1.  Download the Rocketbook app on your phone, iPad, or digital device.
2.  Set up where you want your PDF's and images to be stored.  For example, I created a folder in my Google Drive.  All of my scans will go directly to a special folder in my Google Drive.
3.  The symbols in the book and along the bottom of the page are basically just a destination symbol of where you want your files to be stored.  I designated the rocket symbol (first one) to go to my google drive.  The second symbol (diamond) is designated to go to my email.  The apple symbol is designated to go to dropbox.

Take notes and sketches as you normally do with the special pen.  When you are ready to transfer your notes and save them digitally, place an X over the symbol of the location of where you want to store your notes.  Placing the X on the rocket symbol means it will go to my Google Drive folder.  This was determined when I installed the Rocketbook app.  Now, hold you phone or iPad over the page and scan it using the Rocketbook app.  The magic now happens and it will be stored for later use in your Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, Slack, iCloud, or Email.  

When you are finished with the page, just wipe it clean with a damp cloth.  The pages can be reused over and over again.

I ordered the EverLast notebook and cleaning it happens with a damp cloth.  The Wave notebook is cleaned using a microwave.

What to learn more?  Watch this video:

Order your Rocketbook here if you are interested in digitizing your notes.

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Back to School: The Principal's Office

The summer is extra busy for me this year.  Last year (2016-17 school year) I decided to be a "work- from-home-kind-of-girl."  I focused on Principal Principles through online mentoring, presenting, and consulting with schools.  I loved it, but I missed my calling.  I'm blessed to get to do what I love every day.  So therefore, I decided to return to the principalship.  I'm only a couple of weeks into the job, and it has been a big adjustment.  Fortunately, the former principal has been a wonderful asset and help to me as I transition to fill her shoes.

Here's a look at my first unofficial couple of weeks:


I decorated my office.  I had to get that done first so I can focus on all the rest.  I need to have a space that feels like home.  I don't spend a lot of time in the office during the year.  However, I wanted it to look inviting to all the staff and community who may enter.


I have started working on professional development powerpoints and activities.  I plan on sharing tons of pictures as soon as everything is ready.


The motto is You Matter: Every Child. Every Day.  I'm inspired by Angela Maiers and her message.  This was very easy to put up in the main entrance of the school.  I purchased the large YOU MATTER letters from Michaels and spray painted them- pink, blue, green, and purple.  The Every Child Every Day letters were already black.  I used adhesive to the back of the letters.  I'm crossing my fingers and hope they stay up all year.


I will be creating a Professional Development Calendar for the year and using anchors charts is top of the list.  I found these anchor charts from Hillary Kiser on TpT.  My training show how anchor charts can be used in all content areas and all grade levels too.

Other possible topics during the Professional Development week are: STEM/STEAM and Growth Mindset.  I'm still working on the PD plan.


Be The Change is a bulletin board I created in the main hall of the school.  It is actually the first bulletin board you see when you enter the building.  I wanted it to be bright with a positive message.  I purchased this bulletin board from Texas Lone Star Teacher on TpT.
On Facebook last week, I shared how I created a WELCOME wall.  This was very easy and inexpensive to create.  The letters are very light weight letters from Hobby Lobby.  I spray painted them black.  The colored backing is foam board.  I spray painted these in the same color as the You Matter bulletin board.  


Have you ever tried a Data Carousel?  I created a video to help explain how this works.  If you need extra information on how to get started, google data carousel.  Teacher Channel has a great video on it.


Teachers move around the room in groups and analyze data sources. Each group of teachers will have their color marker. For example, one group will have one red marker, another group will have a blue marker. This marker moves with the group. Groups will have a set amount of time to work together to analyze the data. When the group is finished at that station, one person from the group will write a narrative fact about their findings on the chart paper using their color marker.  At the end of the activity, you can see that all groups have finished by checking for all colored writings on the charts.

For my school, I will have 6 groups.  Therefore I will have 6 chart papers with the headers, 6 data printouts, and 6 different colored markers.  I picked six because I will be focusing on core subjects and state data reports which came to 6 different groups.  I will divide the groups into different grade level teams.

When all groups have completed all data stations, the facilitator will then look for similarities and discuss solutions. Take time to celebrate victories. There are always pockets of growth that we can celebrate. Do not focus on only the areas of improvement.

Prior to beginning this activity, discuss how this is not an activity to blame or point fingers. Data is not used in a negative way. No one is being judged by looking at the data. You can help eliminate this by telling the group to be thinking about our systems or our resources that might need to be changed. This will shift the focus from “people” blaming to a focus on our systems, our curriculum, or resources, etc… 

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Professional Development for Teachers: STEM

High-quality teaching is vital for student success.  We can all agree that quality professional development is essential to improving teaching.  When teaching improves, students will benefit.

I'm very passionate about providing quality professional development in our schools.  I think it is important for leaders to model the same kind of delivery as we expect from our very own teachers in the classrooms.


STEM is everywhere- all around us.  STEM must also be a strong force in our schools.  Did you know the fastest growing careers are in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math?  Exposure to STEM/STEAM is important in the 21st century learning as it allows our students to succeed in higher education, as well as, a variety of those career choices.  STEM isn't just for Career and Technology classes or for secondary students.  This is a vision that should begin in the early grades.

The benefits of STEM in the classroom builds many non-academic traits.  Students will build creativity, collaboration, communication, teamwork, critical thinking skills, confidence, perseverance, risk-taking, and so on...  Regardless of college or no college degree, every future career choice will require these skills.

With that all beginning said, I have decided to start sharing some PD resources with you.  I hope you find this as a big help to you as a school leader.  

How does this work?

Just download the Professional Development for Teachers:STEM resource and prepare an amazing day for your staff.  


Supplies - Needed (A shopping list provided. Most of the supplies you probably already have on campus.  All supplies very inexpensive.)

In the Professional Development for Teachers and Staff: STEM, I have included a traditional presentation, 6 hands-on learning stations for teachers, a planning and design sheet, STEM/STEAM Posters for the classroom, Engineering Design Posters, Informational Guide and STEM Station Table Tents.  

STEM Station Table Tents

If you are just starting out implementing STEM or any other new instructional endeavor, professional development (PD) is not a one time event. PD is a process that should be consistently scheduled throughout the year. Please do not make this STEM PD the only resource you use. It is meant to give your teachers an overview of it and experience hands-on learning. Use any part(s) or all of this resource. Try adding to it with your own ideas and creations.

Every school is unique. The teachers on your campus may have background in STEM and some may have little to no experience. I suggest using your teachers with experience to help lead this PD, as well as, any future trainings. I’m all for teacher leadership and empowering our own staff.

Prior to starting this training, set up your training room with the designated stations. Create additional stations, if you wish. Decide how you will group your staff and how many adults will be in each group.

Professional development should be experienced! It should be relevant, engaging, and practical. This should not be a SIT-AND-GET or a one-size-fits-all training. Have fun! Take pictures! Make classroom connections throughout the day by asking, “how and what will our students benefit from this?”

The bottom-line- Professional development is about increasing student achievement. This all starts with growing our staff. Make sure there is follow-up training and follow-through in the classroom. The learning doesn’t end in the training room.

Download Professional Development for Teachers and Staff: STEM

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