Are you a Modern Day Principal?

The role of a principal is misunderstood by many non-educators.  For many years, the word "principal" was referred to as the disciplinarian or the manager of the school.  The role of the principal has changed.  We are now referred to as educational leaders.  I like the term educational leader, modern day principal and instructional leader.

Are you a modern day principal?  Well let's take a look and see...

The Modern Day Principal is defined by me as someone who builds and unites a team, inspires others, a coach, and a person determined to make a difference.  A modern day principal is decisive, insightful and constantly striving to be more innovative.  We are creative.  We are passionate.  We can face uncertainty because we are armed with the creativity, flexibility and a willingness to succeed.   We walk the walk.  We execute.  We keep learning.  

Schools, in which we lead and work, are being confronted with the most complex challenges of our time.  We are consumed with pressures to perform, the desire to implement the best instructional and innovative practices, all while staying tuned to student's academic, physical, emotional and social needs.  Sound familiar?

As a principal, we must juggle all of these demands all at the same time.  Leadership is the most important part of your job.  As we all face our challenges in today's schools, we can't model ourselves after leaders of the past.  In order to meet the challenges to today, we must be more of a modern day principal.

Even with the abundance of all the knowledge and skills for the position, implementing all of the plans and ideas can be laborious, difficult and often a time consuming process.

So how do you do it all?

Everything stems from leadership.  Servant leadership focuses on meeting the needs of the team members.  We seek to serve, rather than be served.  Servant leaders seek to inspire.  We trust the members of the team.  

From my experiences, the best leaders are not those who speak at me, but rather the ones who act in a way that inspires the best out of me and anyone following.  When that kind of action is taken by a leader, no words are necessary.

A lot can be learned from simply listening to the needs of the campus.  "The quieter you become, the more you can hear."

 In reality, we can't do it all. We need to develop leadership skills in teachers. We want a building full of leaders leading leaders.  Leadership is valued in schools of great principals. Power is greatest when we are all leading the way. 

Failure has a bad name.  It can cause so much shame.  We need to change our views on failure.  Great success is built on failure, frustration and hours of worry.  I have discovered some of the greatest ideas come out of a failing moment.  We can become very creative and innovative when the tough gets tougher.  We need to give ourselves permission to fail at things sometimes.  It's okay if our school day doesn't run smoothly.  It's okay if we have set backs.  Failures are simply stepping stones towards growth and success.

Let's move forward in our leadership.  Your only limit is you!


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STAAR Daily Workout-Getting our math Fitness On!

I love having resources that can be used in many ways.  I'm all about flexibility and creativity.
STAAR Daily Workout is a great resource that can just about be used any way you like.  The goal is to get mentally fit for the state assessment.  Let's take a look how we can use STAAR Daily Workout.

STAAR Daily Workout has 20 questions.  Each question is 1/2 page in size.  This is perfect to build a study book for each student.  The covers are gender specific.  This allows you to make all the girls a book and the boys their own books.  The booklet covers come in color and black/white for printing ease.

Other ideas:
  • Use each question as task cards.  Display the cards around the room and have student rotate to solve the problems.  A recording sheet is included.
  • Use in tutoring or small group instruction.  Pick a problem or two to focus on.  
  • Laminate and place in learning stations for students to work on in groups or with a partner.
  • Use as morning work or problem of the day.
  • Use as exit slips to end your class.
 Download- STAAR Daily Workout

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The Importance of Recess and Play for all Students

Recess is essential for students.  However, state curriculum requirements and pressures of state performance can shrink the time our students have to play. Recess has almost disappeared because of the push to perform better on standardized tests.  Some elementary schools do not have recess and some have less than 10 minutes recess. 

I understand the pressures to perform.  I understand the need for more instructional time.  Here is a way I helped give students both instructional time and play time too.

It's real simple.

Students had two recess times.  The first recess is linked to lunch.  As soon as students are finished eating, they get to play outside.  They leave the cafeteria and play until lunch time is over.  The only time this was removed from a student was because of some behavioral issues in the cafeteria.  For the most part, everyone had play time during the day. 

The second time is 30 minutes during the school day.  This time was for play or tutorials.  No tutorials began until the second six weeks of school or during the last six weeks of school.  With that being said, tutorials were 2 days for reading and 2 days for math.  Everyone receives recess on Fridays.  Students may not have tutorials for both subjects so that would give them extra recess days.  The tutorials are based on local benchmarks (checkpoints) or weekly assignments and assessments.  So students receiving tutorials were not necessarily in the classroom for several consecutive weeks.  The majority would only miss two days of play. 

As a principal, I understand the importance that students need to play and socialize.  It is also important to their parents and teachers that they get time to play.

The benefits of play:

1.  Children are less fidgety and more on task when they have recess.  Children with ADHD benefit the most from play.
2.  Research on memory and attention shows that recall was improved when learning is spaced out rather than concentrated.
3.  Physical activity helps build connections in the brain.  It fuels and feeds the brain.
4.  Attitudes improved when students are involved in nonacademic activities.
5.  Social benefits- learning to play together, resolve conflicts, build friendships
6.  Recess helps improve physical fitness in students.
7.  A study showed, "recess leads to improved focus and attention in the classroom.  Breaks in the day help students perform better."
8.  Not only do students perform better academically if they get outside to play, but they have fewer behavior problems too.  Recess motivates students!
9.  Recess reduces stress.  Recess is unstructured.  This allows students to be loud, messy and be in control of their situation.

Eric Jensen, author of many brain based learning, says, " remaining seated for periods longer than 10 minutes increases fatigue."  Demanding children move less and sit more is counterproductive. 

Let's let students play.  It will improve your students socially, emotionally and academically too.


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The Benefits of Student Engagement Activities

Keeping students engaged can be difficult.  It can be even more difficult to come up with unique and creative ways to keep the engagement going day after day.  However, student engagement activities are critical and a vital factor of every classroom.  There are so many benefits that come from simply implementing activities throughout the day.

I have shared these interactive engagement activity strips with you many, many months ago.  It never hurts to revisit them.

I laminated the engagement strips and placed them on a metal ring.  If you ever need a quick activity to spice up your lesson, just grab the 30 Interactive Engagement Activities on a ring.   All the activities are easy to use.   Hang them on your board or by your small group table for quick use.

The benefits:
If students are not paying attention and absorbed in the lesson, they will find some other things to be interested in.  We want students to be focused, eager and on task at all times.  But you know what?  That is so hard when the topic isn't so interesting.  Let's make those topics fun and engaging.  I have 30 ideas on a ring that will help your students be active participants in the lesson.  When students are engaged in the lesson and actively listening and actively learning, then students will be more apt to recall the information.  Students will store the information in their long term memory simply because they touched it, they experienced it and because they lived it.  

Other benefits:  Students with attention deficit disorders will be active.  This is just what they need.  They need to have opportunities to get up and move.  Students will look forward to your class and your activities.  We want students to enjoy school and enjoy learning.

Let's deliver the highest quality educational experience in the classroom.

Did you know this?  
Research shows that the average young adolescent's attention span is between 8 and 14 minutes.  Are you expecting your students to pay attention for 45-60 minutes without moving, talking and interacting?  It is possible they aren't retaining the information.

Let's create more active classrooms.

Download 30 Interactive Engagement Activities 


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The Strength of Your Team-Motivational Quote

If you call one wolf, you invite the pack.  I love this quote.  I has just seems to portray a message to all educators.  Let me explain how...
Let me begin by telling you a story I read one day about a pack of wolves.  Picture in your mind a large pack of wolves traveling in a single line, one behind the other, across a field.  The area is rocky and hilly.   Snow covers the area.

The pack is being lead by the alpha wolf.  The alpha wolf creates a path through the snow for the rest of the members.  He/she controls the whole group.  He sets the pace and anticipates any attacks.  The alpha wolf imposes the belief that no one will be left behind.  The other pack members respect the alpha position and follow the leadership. 

The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

This simple story reminded me of our role as campus leaders.  We are leaders of the pack.  We clear the path for others to follow.  Principals should have the belief to leave no one behind...teachers and students.  We are constantly strategizing our course to take.  We look ahead and prepare for situations that come our way.  We have a responsibility and commitment to our campus to deliver our best, every day, every time.

The quote above, "When you call one wolf, you invite the pack" can be applied to various topics.  However, it speaks to our ability to unite our teams.  The power of a team of people so tightly bonded can overcome and achieve just about anything.   It's an all for one, and one for all type play on words.  All members of the school support each other and each individual supports the entire group.

The strength of your team is each individual member, and the strength of each member is the team.


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The Art of Creating a Joyful School

Our schools should be filled with joy and happiness.  That is not always the case with the burdens of mandates, accountability and pressures from all directions.  However, it doesn't hurt to try and bring some happiness and joy in the midst of all the pressures.  Most of the time this is achieved by our attitude.  A positive attitude will bring positive outcomes.

A positive attitude will lead to postive outcomes.
 The Art of Creating a Joyful School is the topic for today.  I hope to give you a glimpse of how to create a little activity with your staff that helps them evaluate their attitude.  It's called the Balloon Toss and it's found in my Professional Development to do Throughout the Year packet.  Let's take a look at it below.

 Directions are inside the packet.  I began by talking about a good teammate.  "What are the qualities of a good teammate?"  The group had a balloon and a marker and began to write these qualities on the balloons.  We put the balloons in the trash bag and tossed it around in the air.  Next, I gave each group 1 water balloon.  I had them share the balloon and write qualities of a negative teammate.  They put this one balloon in the bag with all of the "positive balloons."  They sealed the bag and tossed it around.  I'm not going to spoil the ending.  You must see what happens with your own eyes when you add the water balloon to the bag. 

When our teachers are tightly-bonded and motivated, they are armed with energy and can just about conquer anything that comes their way.  Teaching is a challenge even in the best situations and circumstances.  Unmotivated, unhappy teachers are least likely to be effective.  Happiness brings success.  I'm not saying just because you are smiling and bubbly you will be effective.  I'm saying...If you are passionate and love what you do each day, you will most likely do whatever it takes to bring success.  If you don't love your job, it will show in your performance.

Morale boosters need to be a number one priority.  It doesn't hurt to boost morale every month.  But this time of the year it is especially needed.  Everyone feels the pressure.  We feel the anxiety.  We are pushed to our limits. 

Why is this so important?  We want our classrooms, school and district to be filled with happy children who love coming to school.  Happy students are better learners.  That's the bottomline. 
The teacher's attitude toward teaching and toward his/her students play a big impact on student achievement. 

The Art of Creating a Joyful School begins with a positive school culture and positive attitudes.  


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Build Better Readers

Strong readers practice active reading.  Rainbow comprehension uses reading passages to locate evidence in the text.  The more students are active in the reading process the more likely a student will understand the text.  Struggling readers tent not to ask questions about the text as they read.  Reading with a purpose increases comprehension.  Teachers using this model have seen an increase in students comprehension skills. 

Close reading, color coding comprehension with the young learners

Today, I'm sharing more about Rainbow Comprehension.  This is my spin-off the coined term Close Reading...Text Evidence...Color-Coding.  I created this before I had even heard about Close Reading.

How it works: (in a nutshell)

1.  Students read a text more than once.
2.  Students analyze the text for meaning.
3.  The student's comprehension of the text builds through multiple readings and re-readings.
4.  Students locate evidence in the text to answer questions. 

A major role for teachers is to provide support, guidance and provide a minimal amount of background knowledge to the students.  For example, pre-teach some vocabulary in the text or allow students to share an experience in the topic. 

Teachers also locate text or develop text passages for students to read.  These passages need to be age appropriate.  Teachers will also ask text-dependent questions to engage the students.  The students use markers, highlighters, colored-pencils, crayons, etc... to locate the evidence in the text. 

Let's take a look:

 Using the Life of Pigs reading selection:

Prior to reading:  The teacher discusses a little about pigs.  Students can share what they know about pigs.  Build background knowledge- Intentionally train your students in the habits of great discussion. 

Materials are gathered.  In this instance, markers are being used.

Students read the passage at least 3 times.  Comprehension and fluency increases with each reading.  They can record their readings by circling or checking the top part of each passage. 

The students are guided to locate the answer to each question.  They use evidence in the text to determine the answer.  Students read for meaning.  Good reading is active!  Students are active participants before, during and after the reading.  

 The passages provided to young students should be explicit.  This means all the information is "right there."  They should be able to look back in the text for the answers.  This allows you to assess their reading comprehension easily.  This has been proven effective when introducing this concept to the youngest learners.
It is age appropriate to teach first and second grade students this strategy.  Students enjoy this process.  They will love circling keywords, underline important information and using strategies while reading.  Active reading strategies make it more likely that a student will understand a text.

To help you improve your reading instruction, the bundle set is now available or you can still purchase these individually.


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Accommodation Training and National Counselor's Week

Last week was National School Counselor Week!  How did you show appreciation to your school counselor?  Take a look at a reception for some amazing ladies.

Counselors are an integral part of the entire school community.  Counselors make an impact on students and families in the community.  They work along side of the teachers, parents and administrators by providing support and various resources.  

National Counselor's Week is a great time to show them we support and appreciate their work. 

I hope you took a few minutes to show your appreciation to your school counselor.

Texas state testing is here...full force...ready or not.   I had a great time presenting this week.  The presentation was over accommodations for students with disabilities.  I used a program on my computer called Slidedog.  It allowed me to poll the audience.  The participants keyed in their answers using their phone or iPad.

I wanted to make sure the accommodations made sense to them.  Instead of just reading the accommodation forms provided by TEA, I created student scenario task cards.  The group walked around the room and read each task card.  They determined if the student was eligible for the accommodation with the information provided on the card.  During the presentation, I asked them to share their answers and support their decision using the TEA documentation.

I think it was a success.  I had wonderful feedback after the presentation.

Trying to understand all there is to know about accommodations is overwhelming.  I have learned a few shortcuts to keep it all straight in my head.  However, it never hurts to have resources right at your fingertips.  Here is a flipbook I created a few years back that has made my life so much better.


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