The Night Before the First Day of School

As I watched the mountains shrink in my rear view mirror, my heart ached and my daughter’s tears grew larger and larger. Although we were excited for our journey, saying goodbye to friends and family in a community we cherished was painful. We had begun our move to Texas. During the three day car ride, we had many discussions about our next chapter and what life would be like…

On July 17th (my dad’s 75th birthday), I began my first day in Frisco ISD at Elliott Elementary. From the first moment I stepped on campus, I have been in awe of this community and their support of my transition into this position. Words cannot even begin to express how grateful I am for each person.

This school year marks my 20th year in education and I have had the privilege to work with public school educators in four different states: Indiana, California, Montana, and Texas. Having the opportunity to work alongside many different teachers across the country, I have realized five consistent and impressive characteristics about them:

  1. Teachers work tirelessly, working on the weekends and late into the evenings, to create lesson plans to meet the needs of each student and to collaborate with past and present teachers to learn everything they can about each child in order to lead them towards success.
  2. Teachers spend days creating the perfect classroom environment to ensure a high level of learning is accessible to ALL.
  3. Teachers intentionally build relationships with each student and their families to cultivate a trusting foundation.
  4. Teachers continue to read, research, blog, tweet, reflect and connect with educators across the world to learn and grow in their knowledge about how to better serve their students.
  5. Ultimately, teachers desire to positively change world.

The following video inspired me and led me to reflect on my above observations as I feel truly blessed to be an educator and to work with intentional teachers who are contagiously positive, changing the world – one student at a time.

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Articulated From Our Students’ Hearts #L2IPA

Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us and I am compelled to SHOUT OUT and CELEBRATE the most powerful moment I shared with a teacher on my team this school year.  The two of us were in my office processing a playground situation with a group of students. The situation among them was escalating outside on the playground and in the lunchroom; however, the disagreements and uncomfortableness among the peers were never represented in the classroom.

Both of us listened intently to the students, seeking first to understand all sides and perspectives… Then, we asked why do you feel this never happens in the classroom. Without hesitation, a student said, (with the others nodding in agreement)

“We always feel safe in our classroom. It is calm. We are relaxed. When we are in there, we don’t think about what else is happening.”

My heart jumped with utter excitement and my head turned immediately toward the teacher in complete admiration of what had been created within the classroom environment. Although we had to still make a plan for eliminating the problems within our common areas, I wanted to yell in celebration of this teacher, “You are a ROCK STAR!!! This is AMAZING and INCREDIBLE!!”

The #BookSnaps below from Principal Kafele’s, The Teacher 50: Critical Questions for Inspiring Classroom Excellence represent who this teacher is and many others are for all students!
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As I read and reflect on the powerful impact we have on our students each day, I am truly appreciative of the teams of teachers, principals, and district leaders with whom I have worked with across the country. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to be an educational leader! #JoyfulLeaders

Learning What To Do

I knew what to do.

As I finally stopped to sit down at my desk to reflect on what had just occurred, the words above continued to be repeated in my mind… I knew what to do, I can’t believe it- I knew what to do.

A student was brought to my office visibly upset due to an incident on the playground. At first the behavior was quiet as the student shared a few angry words about what happened. Then, without warning, unexpected behavior forced its way throughout my office as the student became physically escalated.  This usually smiley and quiet student became unreachable. Immediately, I focused on my past experiences of similar situations and the knowledge shared from our incredible school wide behavior team:

  1. Stop all noise/talking
  2. Back completely away from the behavior, reducing negative attention
  3. Allow the student to find a place within the room to cool down
  4. Know and be okay with the fact that there is more to this behavior and we are not going to solve this problem today

I am grateful for our school behavior experts! This team consists of our school psychologist, student and family advocate, counselor, social worker, mental health worker, and nurse. These highly skilled educators are leading our team to be trauma informed, empathetic and understanding of student behaviors, and to prevent negative behavior. Ultimately, this team is leading our school away from reactive band-aid solutions and towards the implementation of positive behavior interventions.

Our actions have the opportunity to demonstrate a quiet understanding, leading students to begin to trust.

What Is Your Four Minute Mile? #L2IPA

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing-that’s why we recommend it daily. -Zig Ziglar

Are you looking for consistent inspiration?  One of my favorite motivators is to listen to podcasts.  The episodes I choose provide the foundation for deep reflection on my current leadership practices.  These moments of reflection allow me to slow down and plan for personal and professional self-improvement, facilitating a transition to committing to new ideas and positive plans.

My daily goal is to be a consistently transparent and positive leader who inspires others to perform beyond their best expectations. As we move into a new school year, the podcast 413: Hostile takeover of your mind from Ziglar’s True Performance Show inspired me to implement new ideas to make positive leadership contagious! The host of the show, Kevin Miller, (along with an excerpt from Zig) discussed the impressive first sub-four-minute mile world record set by Roger Bannister.  Before Roger broke this record, it did not seem possible that someone could run a mile under four minutes… This incredible achievement demonstrated that anything is possible!  Learning about this record and the idea of success beyond expectations, the words of my parents echoed in my heart and mind.  They told me over and over again that I could do anything I set my mind to- I believed them and I want others to own this same belief!

As educators, we are in the business of inspiring and growing positive leaders. It is our job to show our students anything is possible! At the end of this podcast, Kevin asks, “What is your four-minute mile?”  I pass this question onto educators.

  • What goal(s) do you have for yourself and for your students as leaders?
  • With rigorous curriculum and the high expectations of standard mastery, how will you lead students to believe and know they can achieve high levels of success?
  • How will you build relationships with students so they trust you and take risks with their learning?

My four-minute mile goal: Facilitating leadership that guides each one of our school team members and students to see themselves as positive leaders and high achievers.

My current podcast playlist:

Ziglar’s True Performance Show
Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
Hack Learning Podcast
Principal Matters: The School Leader’s Podcast with William D. Parker

Positive Planning

 

It is summer and our Hedges Team is still working hard! Last week, our behavior and academic teams met to reflect on school wide student behavior expectations, communication, and celebrations.The keys to success are communication, reflection, and colla-2

Click here to view on Periscope!

After discussing what we learned at the MBI/PBIS Summer Institute/ MTSS training and reflecting on the 2016-2017 school year, we split into decision-making groups and divided up revising and enhancing current expectations. It was empowering to hear teacher leaders discussing and planning how to improve our practices for our students.

We began:

  1. Updating our Behavior Expectation T-Charts by adding visuals to provide a clearer understanding for our younger students. When school begins in August, we will add photos of our current students positively modeling the expectations.
  2. A collaborative plan for our Tier 1 (all students) classroom instruction. This will enable our teachers and our behavior support team to collectively communicate school wide behavior expectations, positive friendship strategies, and maintain a framework of instruction that prevents bullying.
  3. Developing a schedule to intentionally celebrate positive behavior and academic success. We will post our celebrations on our site each month!

As we look forward to the 2016-2017 school year, our team continues to be student-centered while reflecting on continuing and implementing best practices!

Silver Success!

Positive relationships are the foundation for leading students toward academic, behavioral, and social success.

During the last three years our team has dedicated a significant amount of time and effort into implementing the MBI/PBIS (Montana Behavior Initiative/ Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports) framework.  Our goals throughout this intentional endeavor have been to be proactive in meeting the needs of our students and to collectively and consistently increase positive school wide behavior. Yesterday, our team was recognized by the state of Montana as earning Silver MBI Status! It was an honor to be recognized by the Office of Public Instruction and our State Superintendent, Denise Juneau.

With the guidance of the MBI expectations, below are some of the protocols we have developed to support our school wide focus of effectively communicating, teaching, and maintaining a positive, safe, and nurturing environment.  Our team collaboration in following these protocols enables us to support our students in reaching high academic, behavioral, and social success.

School Wide Behavior Expectation Matrix

Classroom Lesson T-Charts

I Caught You Cards

Guidelines for Success, Bully Rules, Playground Expectations, and Games

Behavior Flow Chart

It was incredibly motivating to learn that over seventy schools received recognition yesterday. We are excited to implement what we learned from other schools and at the Summer Institute to continue to lead and grow in this process.

Statewide Support

The journey is the reward. – Chinese Proverb

I am grateful for the educators in Montana!  With their support, nearly 400 hundred teachers and administrators took the time to complete my online survey, while eight also participated in an additional interview protocol that was created for my dissertation research at Montana State University. As I reflect on this journey and my recent Dissertation Defense, I am humbled. When one of my committee members asked me how I felt after my research was complete, I immediately responded with positive tears. I have always respected my colleagues; however, after spending over a year investigating their knowledge about and perceptions of the formative reading assessment process, my respect has increased beyond measure!  I was continuously fascinated by their expertise in and passion for reading instruction as well as their commitment to developing trusting relationships with each one of their young scholars.

Our educators are truly dedicated to our students, as both teachers and administrators, they continue to also be students who are engaged in life-long learning about best practices. Our educators have a relentless focus on learning how to most effectively meet students individualized instructional needs! Below is a visual of the conceptual framework for my research. Please click here to view my findings.

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