Posted in Cultural Competency, Education, Mindfulness, New Teachers, Teachers, Uncategorized

The Holidays Aren’t Always Happy

While you are on winter break, you will likely be someplace with heat, hot water and food… So. Much. Food. For the most part, so will your students. While the majority of our students will be thrilled for all the joys accompanying winter break, there are some not looking forward to this time of year.

Picture the child living in a motel, sharing cramped space with a sibling, extended family member, or perhaps the son or daughter of the person their parent is currently dating; not knowing where they will live at the beginning of the month.

Picture the child living in a large home opening all the presents they asked for as their parents are getting ready to separate from one another the week after Christmas.

Picture the child spending winter break taking care of their four younger siblings all day because there wasn’t enough money for gifts let alone childcare; and picture the child who is terrified because they remember what happened the last time uncle Mark came to visit…

While the holiday season is stressful for all of us, we as adults have some control on how we cope with that stress or remove ourselves from it altogether. Our students don’t always have that.

While we can’t solve all of the world’s problems, we can acknowledge those students who may be going home to less than ideal situations. Depending on the relationship you’ve built with the student, you may be able to help keep them from a dangerous situation. The best thing you can do to support your students is to keep doing what you have been: working on building relationships with your students, and continuing to ensure they feel safe and welcome into your learning environment on a daily basis. Not sure what else you need to do? Ask a member of your administrative team, or your school counselor.


One of My FAVORITE Books Right Now

Conscious Classroom Management So, this is my favorite book right now! I was at a conference last month, and I had the absolute PLEASURE of hearing Grace Dearborn speak, and everything she had to say resonated with me. When we share classroom management strategies with new teachers, we often provide strategies which will work with most of our students. However, our new teachers often don’t have issues with “most” of their students. This is why I LOVE this book. Rick Smith and Grace Dearborn provide concrete strategies and tools teachers can use to reach even the most difficult students. In my 20 years of working with students, mostly in “at-risk” settings, I’ve seen it all. This book pretty much has an answer for any classroom management situation.  If you want some tools to add to classroom management toolbox, get this book. It’s an easy read, and I guarantee you can take strategies you learn and apply them immediately.

To make it easy, I you can click on the link to visit the site to purchase, or you can click HERE.

Posted in Agile, Change Leadership, Innovation, Uncategorized

New Job, New Vocabulary

Sometimes I use this blog to reflect upon things I’ve learned about. One of the best ways I process information, especially information new to me is by summarizing what I’ve learned. This is why at the bottom of this document, you will see links to resources I used to write this.

One of the things I like about my new position is the feeling I have about being part of something innovative. I was lucky enough to move my stuff into my office the day before I officially started. People all around were in the process of transitioning. Some were transitioning to retirement, others were transitioning to a new position outside the department or building; and then there were those like me who were transitioning to a new position within this organization. There were boxes everywhere along with pieces of furniture in the process of being transported from one space to another. That afternoon, I got my space set up to be functional, and then wrapped things up for the day.

Walking in the following Monday morning, I felt as if I was in a completely new environment from the one I walked out of the Thursday before. Furniture was arranged in a collaborative fashion and the space was minimally, but tastefully decorated. What stood out to me the most, though was a sign on a small conference room which read “Scrum Room”. Scrum room? That sounded like a locker room for a rugby team. I didn’t think much else about it as I had a full schedule of activities for my first official day.

The next day, however, the word “Scrum” would have a whole new meaning. Our director had pushed out a series of Lynda.com videos. The first one was entitled: “Agile at Work: Building Your Agile Team”. There were also two other videos regarding the Agile framework we were asked to watch in preparation for a departmental retreat the following week. According to the videos and some side research I performed, Agile is a framework with roots in the software industry, developed for the purpose of streamlining the software development process to expedite the delivery process of a high quality product to the customer. The Agile philosophy, however, is not necessarily exclusive to the software industry.  The terms collaboration, self organization, and accountability are noted as best practices of those practicing Agile. Scrum and Scrum Master were brought up regularly in the introduction and discussion of this framework.

Scrum is basically a process which insures the most valuable components of a project get completed in a reasonable amount of time. Scrum also employs the best practices of Agile to assist in the completion of these projects. From a leadership perspective, the facilitator of this process, or the Scrum Master may serve as an administrator, coach or trainer. Most importantly, the Scrum Master works to facilitate the process by pulling together the right people needed to complete the project; and then eliminates any obstacles or distractions in the way of completing the task at hand.

What makes me excited about this whole process is when I research them they are not synonymous with the field of education; which makes this innovative and exciting all at once. What’s exciting to me is that I get to be part of it!!! Interestingly enough, I have found a correlation to the Scrum process in a change model I’m getting ready to share with students this week known as the ADKAR model.  ADKAR is basically an acronym facilitating the change process:

  • AWARENESS for change
  • DESIRE to support change
  • KNOWLEDGE of how and what to change
  • ABILITY to implement the change on a daily basis, and
  • REINFORCEMENT to keep the change in place.

Through this model, Scrum are part of the Action and Reinforcement stages. This is exciting to me because so often there are many obstacles which exist in the field of education. The leadership in this department has a strong desire to make a sustainable change, has the ability to implement those changes and the tools needed to keep that change in place, and I can’t wait to see how all of this unfolds!

Links to Resources:



In true form of most of my ideas, I am stealing another from a colleague of mine. This past weekend, she posted a picture of a sign she had placed on her door. It read like this:


I’d love formative feedback on three of my professional goals:

  • Do I keep student learning at the forefront of conversations?
  • Do I value staff and student opinions by actually listening?
  • Do my actions create a collaborative culture?

The sign also included a link to an observation tool individuals could use to provide feedback.

Upending some research, the idea comes from Robert Kaplinsky and he got the idea from a Tweet he came across.

To say the least, I AM ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE WITH THIS IDEA, AND WILL BE USING IT IMMEDIATELY! I’ve always found it very interesting we as administrators are so focused on giving feedback that we often forget to seek out feedback for our own growth. Consider a building principal who gets the majority of feedback from a superior who they see on a very infrequent basis.

If you want to participate, visit Kaplinsky’s website (Link Above) and post a sign outside your door. It’s an easy way to gain peer feedback and reflect on your practice!

Posted in Class Management, Education, Interventions, New Teachers, Teachers

New Year vs. New Semester

As you wrap up your lessons before heading off to winter break, be sure to take some time with colleagues to reflect on what went well, as well as what could just some “tweaking”. While you will have 17 days of winter break, your students will as well; and it’s likely there won’t be a whole lot of structure at home in the coming weeks. When your students return to you in January, they may not have forgotten all of the procedures and routines you worked so hard to establish, but they will CERTAINLY check to see if you have.

Luckily, just like many of us, your students will also have taken some time to reflect upon what went well this past year, and what they could resolve to do better. You may want to even ask them if they care to share their New Year’s Resolution. This is the perfect time to harness this commitment to change, no matter how short-lived and use it to your advantage!

In the first week back from winter break, the best thing you can do is to treat that first week like the first week of school all over again. Your students will need to be reminded of the procedures, routines, and expectations you taught them what seems like “forever” ago; and they will need to practice them as well!

What’s great about this first week back is it can also be seen as a blank slate. If you had something in place which wasn’t working for you and your students, this is the perfect time to throw it out, and establish a new procedure, a new routine! Not sure if this new procedure is going to work? No worries! The end of the semester is only a few weeks away, and with it, time for another clean slate. The great thing about teaching is the fact we get to show students the importance of learning from our mistakes, and that the world isn’t going to swallow them whole if they make one. The same goes for you. Don’t feel you have to live with a procedure, routine, or expectation until June. You can certainly change it; especially if your plan to improve supports your students and more important; your sanity!

Posted in Uncategorized

Navigating the Parent Conference

On conference day, organization and preparedness are going to be your best friend. As a conference is scheduled, set up a folder for each student which includes a current copy of the student’s grades, a log of any contacts you made with the parents, and some artifacts which can show some “glows” and “grows”. Many buildings also have a conference form which provides a place for notes and a follow-up plan with action steps for the teacher, parent, and student. Having a printed agenda to follow can also help keep things running on time. In addition, take some time to make sure your classroom is well organized, and that there is a comfortable place for parents to wait outside.

The meeting space in the classroom should also be comfortable for the parents. While a round table is best, a few desks pushed together works just fine. Just avoid sitting at your desk while your parents are sitting at desks which are way too small for them!

When the conference begins, be sure to greet your parents warmly, introduce yourself, and ask them to have a seat. Take a moment to review the agenda, remind them of the timeframe, but also be sure to inform them follow up at a later date can be scheduled if needed.

Once introductions take place, go down the agenda; reviewing grades, sharing artifacts, and providing recommendations and suggestions supportive of learning. The most important thing to remember is to make sure the parents feel they are part of the team. It should be a two-way conversation. Ask questions, get their input, address their concerns. At the end, fill out the conference form, and inform parents a copy will be sent home the next day.

There will be times when conferences don’t go as well. If you anticipate this, ask your building administrator to sit in. If you feel things didn’t go well, reach out to follow-up or schedule another conference, with an administrator if needed.

Parents can be your greatest allies in education. If they feel included in their child’s learning, the sky’s the limit when it comes to academic success.

Posted in Class Management, Educational LEadership, Interventions, Mindfulness, Parents, Teachers

A Few Thoughts About Halloween

In schools, the days surrounding Halloween will feel like Christmas, especially with it being on a Tuesday night this year. Kids will have spent the weekend getting excited and some may have even attended a Halloween party or fall festival. This will carry over into Monday when the candy begins to show up in the lunchbox. The excitement will continue through Tuesday afternoon as thoughts of dressing up cloud all academic thinking. There will be a little lull Wednesday morning – Prepare for irritability due to late bed times, followed by a sugar buzz around lunch time, which will continue through the rest of the day as students sneak candy they transferred from their lunchboxes to their pockets, pencil pouches, or binders. Student brains will continue to malfunction due to the lack of protein. You will experience papers smeared with chocolate, sticky computer keys, and an aversion to work requiring any degree of focus. Hands-on activities requiring collaboration will be your best friends during this time!

This week will feel like you’ve been through a battle, especially if you haven’t nailed down those procedures and routines. You do have an ally in this fight, though…the reminder to students report cards will be coming soon, and parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner. Stand firm, stay positive, and use your resources!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Importance of Parent Communication

So, in just a few short weeks, the marking period will end and report cards will go home. This happens right around the time parent teacher conferences are scheduled. Unless you are a parent, your experiences with parent teacher conferences are probably fairly limited. Sometimes, parent teacher conferences can be scary; especially when the “Apple” didn’t fall far from the tree…

The trick to having a successful parent conference comes down to one thing:


Yes, that sentence is in all caps and bolded for a reason. It truly takes a village to raise a child. This goes beyond simply keeping your gradebook up to date, or sending mass emails or phone calls home. In this day and age, these are baseline forms of communication.

Millennial parents especially demand personalized experiences for them and their child (think lattes, Netflix, iTunes). The relationship with you is no different. The key word for you is RELATIONSHIP! At this point in the year, you should have reached out to each of your parents, even if it was through a personal phone call home to introduce yourself. Emails are OK (not great) as long as you know the email belongs to the parent and you get a response.

When its getting close to conference time, your school, or at least your grade level or department should have some sort of system for setting up conferences, especially in environments when parents need to talk with more than one teacher. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out about this in case you need to schedule conferences on your own.

If that’s the case, don’t rely on a piece of paper going home to invite parents to a conference. Use your mass emails, phone calls, and even perhaps an online system like “Sign-Up” genius to get them on the schedule. If you can’t get them to come in, consider a phone conference instead. Whatever you do, never give up on communicating with the parent.