Friday, September 24, 2010

Change... why wait?

So, I am beginning to read "Learning by Doing" by the DuFours. After I read the first 2 pages.. this thought popped into my head. It's a longer thought, so Twitter wouldn't be the best place to post the question to get meaningful feedback, so I'm asking for your feedback.

Is one of the major reasons for a slowness of school change due to all people going through the system?  Let me clarify...

If I'm a doctor, I haven't spent 13 developmental years of my life at a hospital for 180 days a year...
As a teacher or principal, I have spent 13 developmental years of my life in a school for 180 days a year...

So, is that a hindrance? Is that a major reason for lack of school change?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meaningful work

I just recently read Dr. Scott McLeod's post: Our Students want better work, not less work and it really got me thinking. Our students today are viewed as lazy and lacking work ethic. I somewhat agree with that. In the view of previous generations, our current youth would be viewed as lazy. The days of working on the family farm and doing chores or working to help put food on the table are gone. (Although, being from Iowa, there are still some farm kids out there, just not as many as there used to be.)

Our students today struggle with doing mundane tasks such as worksheets with multiple problems over the same concept. The students who already understand an idea don't want to do 30 of the same type of problems. They also don't want to read a section of a textbook and answer questions about what they read.

I believe that we have smart kids. They don't see the value in doing those kind of tasks. They don't really see it as learning, but just doing work. So the question is.... What is meaningful work? How can we as educators provide meaningful work for our students?

I've got a couple ideas, so here we go...

1. Work that other students can see, evaluate, and provide feedback to.
    I am very impressed with student blogs. I'm working with a couple of our teachers to start a classroom blog where students can publish their work and receive feedback. I got the idea from both Russ Goerend and Becky Goerend.  They both (along with numerous others) have classroom blogs where students publish their work. One of our teachers and I are presenting at ITEC in October regarding this practice!

2. A video
    Kids love videos! Look at the number of YouTube hits each day. With the cost of a flip camera and a computer, kids can create some really cool and educational stuff. I've done this with my students when I was teaching and the kids had some great ideas and really came up with some quality products.

What other ways can we provide our students with meaningful work?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reflections after 2 weeks

Well, I'm closing in on two weeks with students as a building principal. It was been a great two weeks, a tiring two weeks, and an ever learning two weeks. I want to focus on two major learnings I've had in that time.

1. Relationships are oh so important.
   This is so true. I've already had some great conversations with people I was 'warned" about that would cause trouble. I tried to go into the relationship with an open mind and start fresh. We all at times need a fresh start. A change in leadership can be that time when parents, staff, or students get to start new.
   Along with this, positive relationships are great as they are usually returned. I've focused on greeting the students as much as I can. With our building set up, I can greet almost every student in the morning as they enter the building. What a great way to start the day, for both the student and myself. I have given and gotten more hi-fives in the first two weeks, than I ever have before. We've had very few discipline problems and I even have requests if I'll sit by students at lunch (I've made an effort to sit with a group of students while we eat this week)

2. Middle School students need time and directions on how to socialize.
  As I look around the lunch room, I see how important socialization is to students. When a friend approaches carrying a lunch tray, their eyes light up. If that friend passes by to a different table, you can see the disappointment on their face. How in our school can we help students socialize without the traditional "Well it's Middle School so...." Is there a place for helping students get along and teaching acceptance?

I think so, we've spent some quality time teaching about PBIS (positive behavior intervention supports). I believe we've seen gains in the time we've spent so far, but we have a ways to go. That is why I'm trying to build a positive relationship with as many students as I can. I am encouraging our staff to do the same. We need to model the social interaction we expect of them.