Sunday, November 27, 2011

2011 Edublog Nominations

Almost everyone on twitter is talking about the Edublog Awards right now and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that with almost 3 years of being on twitter I've never paid attention to the Edublog Awards. I can recall seeing tweets about it and have seen Edublog Award badges on some blogs, but never stopped to find out what it was about. This weekend, someone from twitter nominated my blog in her Edublog Nominations post here. It was a nice little pat on the back for me, which my husband promptly told me not to let go to my head since "anyone can nominate anyone." I do have to side with my husband (rare occasion that shouldn't go to his head) that the award itself is a bit silly, but what I do find of value in the Edublog Awards is the opportunity it provides for educators to share the favorite blogs that they are learning from. In just 5 minutes of exploring the Edublog Awards page I found several great new blogs that I wasn't previously following and immediately added to my google reader.

So, now that I'm aware of The Edublog Awards this time around, I am posting my nominations in hopes that someone else finds a great blog that they haven't previously been following:

Best Group Blog: Connected Principals has been a great resource to me to follow posts from a variety of administrators. I have contributed to this group blog a couple of times, but benefit even more from what other administrators have to share in their posts.

Best New Blog: I've enjoyed reading It's All About Learning by @henriksent, a Canadian teacher/administrator that just recently began tweeting and blogging.

Best School Administrator's Blog: The Principal's Posts by @l_hilt is a blog I enjoy reading and learning from with each post she shares. She is a principal that challenges the status quo and is transparent about her learning.

Best Free Admin Resource: Eduleadership by @eduleadership started out as a blog, but now also contains podcasts, webinars, and iPad for administrator resources. Everything I've learned about organization/time management to become more effective as a principal, I've learned from Justin Baeder at Eduleadership.

Best Individual Blog: Since my school has gone school-wide with Daily 5/CAFE literacy framework, I have been following and learning from the Delightful Daily 5 Cafe Blog by @komos72, a 1st grade teacher implementing Daily 5/Cafe in her classroom and blogging about her experience and sharing her reflections to benefit other teachers. I have also enjoyed learning from her on twitter during the #d5chat (weekly daily 5 chats).

Best twitter hashtag: I have grown so much from what I have learned from others in the weekly #educoach chat, a chat for instructional coaches/leaders. I strongly believe that the principal role should be more of a coach than a manager/supervisor and have been improving in my role from the weeklky #educoach chat.

Best Free Web Resource: TeacherCast provides a variety of educational podcasts, screencasts, app reviews, etc.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why our school recognizes honor roll in school pride assemblies

Over the past 6 months I have read numerous tweets and blog posts from other principals and teachers regarding doing away with Honor Roll and school assemblies recognizing students for Honor Roll. I appreciated how this discussion challenged my thinking, but I never joined in the discussion, because I am the one that started the Honor Roll assembly at our school and decided it is time for me to explain why our school started this.

During my first year as principal in my current school I quickly learned that there was a common culture amongst students in our district that learning is "not cool". We are a unique school made up of students from surrounding small, rural communities and even though we have separate elementary, middle and high schools we are all in one large building. I heard many stories from teachers in upper grades describing examples in class in which students were embarrassed about the high grades they received. I heard about a school assembly recognizing older students for their achievements that didn't go well, because many students were laughing and teasing each other. The saddest story to me was of a senior receiving a National Merit Scholarship but she didn't want to be recognized publicly for it out of fear of peers finding out. When I heard this, I knew that we had to do something at the elementary level to change this culture in our building.

Our 4th/5th grade teachers had already begun the tradition years ago of recognizing students that made Honor Roll status of either having all A's, A's/B's or all B's on their report cards. Students names were written on Trojan Head cut-outs (our school mascot is the trojan) and displayed on the hallway. There were a few years that parents donated money for these students to receive special t-shirts at the end of the year.

At the beginning of my 2nd year as principal, I met with a committee of teachers to build on this current practice started by our 4/5th grade teachers. We decided to have quarterly Pride assemblies to recognize our students for their academic achievements and invite parents to these assemblies as well. We added 3rd graders to the list of students to be recognized for Honor Roll since they also received letter grades on their report cards. In addition, we allowed every teacher in the school (including special area teachers) to nominate one student to be recognized for being "On a Roll." This could be a student in any grade working hard to improve in any area.

This is now our 3rd year of having a quarterly pride assembly. Yesterday was our 1st Pride assembly for the year and here's how it went:
*I thanked parents for coming to show their support for their children. I then talked about how hard all of our students are working in every grade to become great readers/writers during Daily 5 time and had student participation to tell what Stamina is, why they need to read so much and how it helps them become great learners.
*I reviewed Pride Assembly behavior:
Used student volunteers to demonstrate the "wrong" way to receive an award (they exaggerated bragging to others, saying "haha you didn't get one", etc) and then students to demonstrate the "right" way to receive an award.
Also talked about what students should do if they don't receive an award (give a thumbs up or congratulate their peers; not pout)
*Presented certificates/pencils to the students for "On a Roll" reading the reason for each recognition (ex: "Johnny is On a Roll for working hard at building his stamina during Daily 5 and increasing his reading level." and "Suzie has been practicing her math facts and keeps moving up in Rocket Math").
*Presented certificates/pencils to students for:
3rd grade A/B's
3rd grade A's
4th grade A/B's
4th grade A's
5th grade A/B's
5th grade A's
*I closed the assembly by thanking our students for their outstanding behavior during the assembly and read to them 2 quotes from our guest teachers about why they love to be called to be guest teachers in our school, because our students are always so well behaved.

Each time we have this assembly I am amazed by our students' behavior of congratulating each other and being proud of their accomplishments. Our parent feedback has always been thankful for recognizing their children and that they are invited to attend these assemblies.

Despite this, I know that this practice may change in the future. Through implementing Daily5/Cafe and focusing on conferring with each student on their current level and their goals to focus on, we are building intrinsic motivation in all of our students. Even in the upper grades we are seeing students continue to love learning and enjoy sharing with each other what they have recently read or learned about during reflection time. We are beginning discussions on changing our grading process and I've even heard of some schools eliminating grades. I have no idea where this will take us, but for now, we continue to recognize students for honor roll.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Meeting an "Educational Celebrity"

One of the benefits of being on twitter is that you can tap into the minds of great educators and educational leaders. Even more so, you can connect with the gurus or "educational celebrities." One of the "greats" that I've been fortunate to connect with on Twitter is Todd Whitaker. I'd even like to say I helped get him on twitter, because about a year ago, someone tweeted that they were attending his conference (I can't remember who this was) and I replied that they need to tell him to get on twitter. OK, that's probably a stretch, but he's on twitter now, so that's what matters!

Anyhow, after years of reading Whitaker's books I have now been following him on twitter for almost a year. What is great about Todd is that he actually spends time connecting with educators on twitter and responds to our questions. He has been like a personal coach for me over the past few months, answering several questions through twitter, email and a phone call.

Last week while attending the AWSA Convention I got to hear Todd speak about Motivating Teachers during Difficult Times. I was more than excited that Todd recognized me when he saw me and chatted with me before/during/after his session. After his session, he gave me his speaker's badge (teachers in my building-you will find it proudly tacked up on the bulletin board in my office!) While Todd waited for his cab to pick him up Curt Rees (one of my co-presenters from the AWSA convention) and I talked with him further on educational issues for about 20 minutes.

My point for this blog post? Just that I'm bragging that I met Todd in person and got my picture taken with him! (That's ok for one post right?)

Pictured above: Myself, Todd Whitaker and Curt Rees