Seven Smiles from Street to Seat #L2IPA

A few weeks ago, the title of this post was revealed to me as a common practice Kevin Geer expects within his  organization. The contagious positive emotion a smile creates motivates us to share it and feel it.

The reality of this happening every day in a school setting made my heart burst with excitement and reflection. If a school fosters and maintains a positive culture you should feel the smile when you walk into the building!

Once our students meet their seats, how can we continue student smiles throughout the day? Below are five guidelines:

  1. SMILE- Show your students that you LOVE having them in your classroom.
  2. TRUST- Intentionally take time to develop meaningful relationships with a foundation of authentic trust.
  3. CELEBRATE- Focus on the positive and praise the behaviors you expect.
  4. COMMUNICATE- Post and explain learning goals guiding students to clearly understand essential standards.
  5.  COLLABORATE- Welcome parents as a part of the student, teacher, and parent team. Bring parents into the classroom everyday by sharing your story.

Below is a great example of what it takes to continue the positive emotion created from the seven initial smiles shared before students meet their seats!

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.

“Seek First To …

“Seek First To Understand; Then To Be Understood” Steven Covey’s – 5th Habit of Highly Effective People

As I reflect on the first year of my principalship, the words from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People run through my mind. When I entered the field of education in 1995, my mom recommended that I read Covey’s book.  During the early years in my career, I read and listened to his book several times.  Since that time I have relied on these habits to help me to be a better person and educator.

Habit 1: Be proactive

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

Habit 3: Put first things first

Habit 4: Think win-win

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, and then to be understood

Habit 6: Synergize

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

Although all of these habits were important during this school year, I believe #5 was the foundation for my leadership. I realized early on that it was essential to, first, be a listener and, second, share my thoughts and ideas. Authentic understanding, listening, and  communication were critical to developing and maintaining meaningful relationships and a healthy school culture.  I am grateful for my mom’s recommendation and for a great school year!

 *To prepare for the next school  year, I just downloaded the audible book so I can listen to it again (along with the #8: Habit From effectiveness to greatness), the book on tape won’t play in my car. 🙂


Every person wh…

Every person who enters the field of education has both the opportunity and the obligation to be a leader. #SVAMP

This quote is from page 1 in Marzano and Dufour’s 2011 book Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement. Reflecting on this fantastic book and the quote, I am grateful for the administrators who provided me with the opportunity to grow and lead beyond my classroom.  As a new administrator, it is empowering to open those same doors for others.  This year I have been inspired by so many teachers who have taken on the challenge of leading their colleagues.

This year, our staff has been working through changes with our school wide behavior system and the majority of the change has been led by the teachers. True teamwork feels good and is great for our students! Here is the link to the prezi created by our Montana Behavior Initiative Team (MBI): Hedges Collaborative Behavior System. This team has led our staff with a positive student focus!


Handwritten Communication #SAVMP

Image This week it was suggested by #SAVMP that our blog post is focused around our communication essentials. As I reflect on how I communicate with my school community, I get excited by the techie tools I use: Facebook, Remind 101, Instagram, our school website, and twitter.  It is fun to share consistent positive communication on a daily basis while ultimately building a welcoming school culture.   However, after reading a great post from Connected Principals by Amber Teamann, I am trying to also focus on less techie methods for communication and become more intentional with meaningful handwritten notes.  Over the years after I have sent post cards or letters to students, many of them (or their parents) have shared how much they loved receiving my snail mail. As a parent, my own children get so excited to receive mail from their teachers. Seeing their reactions has increased my motivation to focus on slowing down my communication and take the time to write an encouraging note or letter to staff members, students, and parents.

How will I keep track? I think I will use my Erin Condren Life Planner! Thank you to Melinda Miller for leading me to this fantastic tool!

Aligning Priorities: Collaboration #SAVMP

A couple of weeks ago, I had the awesome opportunity to travel with 8 administrators in Big Blue for a Solution Tree Professional Learning Community (PLC) conference.


Reflecting on the #SAVMP posts I have missed over the last three weeks, my learning from the leaders at Solution Tree related to each of them:

  • It is a priority to involve a parents and find outside of the box ways to do this.
  • Staff Development:  Find ways to work individually with staff members to increase learning.
  • What is school for?  What does this mean to our school?

All of these ideas were shared as essential areas of focus to increase student achievement.  When I reflect on how I am incorporating all of this into my school, I lean on developing effective Professional Learning Communities. When we Collaborate to increase parent involvement, emphasize the focus on staff professional development, and create our definition and desired outcomes for school, powerful learning occurs for all: students, families, and teachers.

To share my learning with my staff, I created  a Prezi:

IMG_2152 IMG_2167

“If you don’t h…

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” John Wooden #SAVMP

I tweeted this quote last week and for the first time, I had one of my tweets retweeted!!! As I reflected on why it was retweeted and selected as a favorite for some, I believe that so many of us struggle with how we use our time.  This week George Couros shared his beliefs on time management in schools:

  1. If it is important (priority), you will make time for it.
  2. You should never look at doing more, but doing things better.
  3. For every thing you are willing to “add” to your plate, you need to take something off.

As I journey through my first year as a principal, I have quickly realized that my relationships with teachers, students, and parents are my first priority. My time has to be spent building these relationships. However, I struggle with how to manage all of the information coming in and all the information that needs to be shared.  I have found that this time of day, the 6am hour, is a wonderful time to catch up with paperwork, research, and emails. When I start early, my time can be spent out of my office and in the classrooms, in the hallways, on the playgrounds, and meeting with parents.

Yesterday I spent a significant amount of my time talking with parents. Although some of the conversations may have presented challenging situations, I felt refreshed.  I could feel relationships building because I took the time to listen and they felt heard. We have amazing parents at our school and I look forward to my time with each of them!

My next adventure is to determine #3…what do I take off of my plate?

Catching Up…#SAVMP

I have found myself finally catching up today…I have had the opportunity to catch up on professional posts and reading the #SAVMP page.  Many of the posts I read were focused on effective communication with staff and families. As I reflect on my first full month of my principalship, communication has been my central focus. What is the best way to communicate?

I found that social media has been very effective to communicate events and happenings around the school.  However, the  best way to communicate has been to be an active listener… The following post from ALL THINGS PLC by Solution Tree summarizes key factors about being an effective listener: Communication truly starts by listening. Reflecting on the events during my first month as a principal, listening has been the most significant factor in decision making, having critical conversations, and professional development.  There is so much to learn and do well…so I better keep listening. 🙂

Building Trust…one day at a time #SAVMP

As a doctoral student, I have had the opportunity to begin to research the relationship between teacher trust and academic optimism.

“A school with academic optimism has a faculty that collectively believes it can make difference, all students can learn, and high academic performance can be achieved” (Hoy, 2012, p. 85).

This opportunity was empowering as the research was completed with a team of teachers, administrators, and academic coaches throughout the state of Montana. Each of us having a variety of prior teaching and leadership experiences, we focused on one question:

“What are the underlying dispositions/traits/factors of teachers who seem to have maintained academic optimism?”

Focusing on trust, we conducted a survey which included seventy-two teacher participants and a focus group of eleven teachers. One of the most important themes revealed to me was the need for collective trust with faculty and with students’ families.  As I begin the school year as a new principal, I rely on what I have experienced as a teacher, researched, and learned from mentors …teachers maintain academic optimism when there are opportunities for them to collaborate with other teachers and to communicate often with parents. With this in mind, to develop collective trust, I will:

1. Consistently provide time for teachers to collaborate within the school day.

2. Keep communication with parents current.

3. Listen and take time to build relationships.

This video helped me to reflect on the importance of our relationships with students:

My Leadership Philosophy: my vision for my school

As a elementary school principal, I believe:

  • I have a moral obligation to lead and support educators within a school community to provide high quality instruction that enables ALL students to make significant academic and social achievement gains, regardless of socio-economic background and learning differences.
  • The foundation of a school’s success is collective trust, collaboration, and shared leadership among administration, staff, and parents who work as a team with a laser-like focus and passion for the academic and social success of each student.

At the heart of my leadership is establishing authentic relationships. The vision for my school consists of a collective pursuit of maintaining a healthy school culture that consists of:

  • Genuine collaborative relationships
  • Clear communication
  • Clarity and coherence with universal beliefs and expectations
  • Collectively striving to intentionally guide each of OUR students toward high levels of academic and personal success
  • A pure focus on student learning, allowing formative data to drive instructional and behavioral decision-making

Establishing trust is the foundation for measuring my success as a principal. As trust is maintained, the climate and the culture are positive and collaboration to achieve the vision of  “Learning for ALL…No excuses, No Limits!” is possible.#SAVMP