Friday, September 7, 2012

What's with the tie?

Payday Tie Day

As we close out a terrific first week of school I thought I would post something quick and fun.

Longtime RMS Art teacher Janet Rae recently retired after over 30 years of teaching. Those who had the chance to experience her classroom knew her passion for art, for teaching, and for developing positive relationships with everyone around her. Janet reached out to me as a new staff member and instantly made me feel welcome, supported and valued. Throughout my first year we constantly joked with each other about how late we were working and encouraged each other to develop a healthy balance of trying to do the best we could with our mountains of work and and ensuring our own wellness. I'm thankful for all of the time I enjoyed working with Janet but most of all I am continually reminded of the impact she made on the lives of our students and her colleagues.

One example of Janet's constant efforts to make us all smile was her "Payday Friday" necktie tradition. Janet had a different tie (and then some!) for each pay day and she always proudly wore them around the halls of RMS. We all appreciated the reminder of that all important direct deposit. More importantly, the tradition and spirit of fun was infectious and constant. When Janet retired she left me her supply of ties and every few paydays I pull one out and wear it. For me, it serves as an important reminder that as we move forward with the evolution of education and all of the changes that have accompanied our move into the 21st century it is important that we also recognize the traditions and spirit of the past that have built the foundation for what we are as an organization today. Most of all, it just makes me smile.

Happy Payday Friday!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

RMS 2012-2013 Building Goals

RMS Building & District Goals for 2012-13

Curriculum: Ensure that the educational process, content, skills & dispositions are effectively accessible to ALL students.

Technology: Integrate technology into the fabric of the curriculum.

School Climate: Improve school climate as defined by both collegial relationships and student well being.
Professional Practice: Improve individual professional practice.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Reading #2 - The Literacy Principal

Summer Reading List #2
The Literacy PrincipalDavid Booth and Jennifer Rowsell

“There are ways of creating school communities where literacy is the bedrock of the curriculum - where children recognize it as necessary and integral to their participation in authentic language activities and events that require thoughtful and mindful reading and writing (p.10).”

“If you want teachers to become empowered then you have to trust them to make decisions wisely, to spend money wisely, to communicate with parents wisely. The fascinating thing is that when teachers take control they become more committed, they work harder, they become more knowledgeable (p.10).”

Two simple thoughts right from the first few pages of "The Literacy Principal". Our school literacy specialist (@kskinnershulman) left me a copy of this book at the end of the school year and suggested I might enjoy reading it. I expected and enjoyed the review of teaching and assessing literacy. Additionally, I found that the ideas transferred to much of what we are trying to do in terms of integrating technology in a meaningful way throughout our curriculum.

The Richmond Middle School mission includes the phrase, "Our broad goal during these three years is to ensure that our students are provided with the skills to become successful and thoughtful adults in a highly competitive and complex world."

Certainly, this mission would include guiding students as they develop the skills necessary to be literate participants in their world. We do this through direct instruction in English classes and by teaching reading and writing across the curriculum. Increasingly, students are experiencing their literacy development through the social media that they are immersed in throughout their day. Our teachers are utilizing blogs, social networks, and other online resources to target skills and engage students in both developing a greater understanding of how to be a responsible consumer and producer of information in this ever-evolving world. 

A couple other quotes from the book resonated with me as I thought about our efforts to address the ever-evolving technological literacy skills. 

“Principals, as well as teachers, can be models, in fact they ‘must’ be models. How can we ask students to lead literate lives if we don’t? Of course, I don’t take care of my own literacy because I’m trying to inspire anyone, I do it because reading and writing are two of life’s pleasures. I work hard; I deserve them (Booth, p. 122).”

One of my goals in creating and developing this blog and the expansion of my PLN on Twitter is to model a literate life as described by Booth. I hope to find opportunities to share opportunities and invite other members of our district to join me in this effort. Like Booth wrote, we deserve this.

“Welcoming, valuing and respecting the expertise and views of other educators - whether they are fellow teachers or administrators - maximizes the use of in-school knowledge and capacity (p.22).”

“Shared leadership is not about assigning power to a role; rather, people assume a leadership role through their actions and because of their background experience (p.30).”

Finally, utilizing additional means of publishing work and sharing ideas (especially through technology) seems like an important way to establish and encourage leadership and collegial relationships in our building and profession. With a functioning, respectful and collegial working environment being the foundation for much of school improvement work finding avenues for supporting and developing this spirit is crucial. I'm looking forward to seeing what develops!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Professional Goals for 2012-2013

Michael Lepene
Associate Principal
Richmond Middle School
2012-2013 Professional Goals

1.  Promote collaborative problem solving and open communication through all levels of our learning organization.
-Participate in school-wide efforts to improve problem solving and communication.
-Ensure actions, interventions and responses to issues are consistent with high standards of integrity, honesty and respect for all stakeholders.
-Share resources and activities with staff in variety of formats and meeting configurations.
-Develop and promote opportunities for staff leadership.

Supervision and Professional Development
2. Effectively supervise, support, and evaluate staff.
-Visit at least 3-5 classrooms each and every school day.
-Develop and utilize observation tools to improve quality and quantity of feedback following observations.
-Connect staff with high quality professional development and resources that furthers personal and organizational goals and initiatives.

Personal Growth
3. Pursue personal development opportunities specific to the principalship.
-Work with Principal Jim Nourse to further knowledge of budget process and procedures.
-Explore development of local peer group to engage in professional study and discussions.
-Continue development of PLC through Twitter, Blog and other online resources.
-Attend a national conference and post reflections and notes.
-Utilize a principal evaluation rubric or tool to focus efforts, improvement, and discussions with supervisor throughout the 12-13 school year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Reading - Shifting the Monkey

Summer Reading List #1
Shifting the Monkey - Todd Whitaker

“Monkeys are the responsibilities, obligations and problems everyone deals with every day. You can easily handle your share of normal monkeys, but you can just as easily be overwhelmed when you get stuck shouldering other people’s inappropriate monkeys (p. 3).”

It didn't take me long to be interested in "Shifting the Monkey" by Todd Whitaker. In a sense I view my role as an Assistant Principal to do whatever is needed to facilitate the day-to-day operations of our school while at the same time keeping an eye on the future and opportunities for us to grow and improve as an organization. That involves everything from observing and evaluating teachers, supporting and learning alongside students, facilitating and organizing initiatives and discussions, to managing the building use and calendar, and on and on. For a long time I have been working at finding the balance between being the person who makes things run by doing whatever needs to be done and also being the person in the position of leadership who helps facilitate the work that needs to be done. This quote resonated:

“Delegating is a major key to success. When used well, it ensures employees are doing what they are best at. Never do something someone else can do, because there are certain things only the leader can do, and that’s where you must focus your attention (p. 92).”

As I develop my professional goals this year I am focused on strengthening my skills in doing some of the things that only the leader can do. Delegation can easily become viewed as giving someone else the work that you could be doing. That is why I liked how Todd described it, "It ensures employees are doing what they are best at." This is a positive statement and approach that values the strengths, skills and backgrounds of each member of the organization.

“Treating everyone well validates the good, responsible, productive people and makes the irresponsible, lazy, unpleasant people feel uncomfortable (p. 34).”

“Telling people when they’re doing a good job spotlights the good employees, models good behavior, and gets the group in general to think about how they can prevent future problems (p. 61).”

I liked both of these ideas as they again focus on the power of being positive. Recognition is a crucial part of a successful organization but it should be given where appropriate and with consideration of how that recognition might meet a higher purpose in moving the organization as a whole forward. I feel that I do this well but after reading some of Todd's ideas I am both reaffirmed and inspired to make a more concerted effort to validate those who are making the mark.

Finally, I really liked this set of questions:

-Is your organization as a whole treating the customers and clients well, or behaving as if they were untrustworthy or guilty?
-Does management help all workers understand how they are coming across to others?
-Do the least-effective employees shoulder at least part of their own monkeys?
-Do the managers issue rules that make the good people resentful?
-Are your top performers forced to follow procedures that may be helpful for the so-so ones, but get in the way of the best people? (p. 27)

I hope to informally examine these questions with staff this fall as we get together to meet and talk about professional growth and goals for the year. The answers to these should greatly inform the work that we are undertaking as a staff to improve our professional learning community and also my own work in developing my skills as a leader.

Great first read of the summer with a ton of great quotes, thoughts, and ideas that I can't wait to implement. I will definitely be recommending this read to my leadership colleagues.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Reading

With a little time off I am finally getting around to some professional reading. I'll post some highlights here. The first three books I am reading:

-"Shifting the Monkey" by Todd Whitaker
How to turn an organization's focus from compensating for, excusing, and working around problem people to cultivating and rewarding excellence.

-"The Literacy Principal" by Booth and Rowsell
Background and effective strategies for building more literate students. How to evaluate and support literacy initiatives that create more successful learners.

-"When Teaching Gets Tough" by Allen Mendler
Practical strategies to address four core challenges: Managing difficult students, Working with unappreciative and irritating adults, Making the best of an imperfect environment, Finding time to take top-notch care of yourself.

I'll post my reflection in a top-ten style and invite your comments on the themes, topics, or your reactions.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

RMS Staff take No Homework Pledge for February Break

Following the very positive feedback after our December Break No Homework Pledge the RMS staff is pleased to extend that pledge to February Vacation. We received a large number of comments in support of this effort and hope that our students are able to use the time well. I've posted the message we sent out in December that outlines some of the potential benefits to taking a break from homework over vacation.

RMS Staff take No Homework Pledge for December Vacation.

We feel that taking this pledge is being consistent with our school mission and is supported by research such as the following described on the Race to Nowhere site:

Ensuring a homework free break provides more time for:

-Students who enjoy a balanced schedule that includes family, friendship, creative and imaginative pursuits, and community service and involvement.
-Students who have time to be passionate, curious, inventive, and creative.
-Students whose schedule includes time for physical and mental health - including sleep, healthy meals, physical activity, and down time.
-Students who have time to develop the skills that will prepare them for the 21st century.

We will be continuing our discussion around how homework fits into the balanced lives of our students. We welcome your feedback and questions and hope you enjoy your break!

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