Friday, August 29, 2014

First Week @RMSHanover

I can't believe my first week @RMSHanover is over.  I vividly remember my first visit to RMS last year.  When I came home from participating in Instructional Rounds, I said to my family, "I want to be a part of that school someday."  I didn't know I would be fortunate enough to achieve this goal so soon, but I am grateful for this opportunity to be a part of the RMS community.

This week was a flurry of new faces and visiting classes.  The pace of a middle school is constant motion and while it is important to continue to move forward, if I am not careful I will not take time to be mindful of working on the goals I set for this year.  I have a creative office space that looks out into a busy hallway.  From my desk I can watch students as they are passing through the hallways, but they can also see into my office.  I love the design, for when I am in my office I am still immersed in the energy of the students.  Starting next week, I am going to challenge myself to post a goal of mine for the week on my whiteboard as a reminder to focus my work towards my goals.  Posting my goals will also hold me accountable and hopefully maybe even encourage a conversation with the students about my goals.

We encouraged all of our students to take a moment at the beginning of this year to write a goal of theirs on a post-it note that we would then display in the cafeteria for the first few weeks of school.  The idea is that it is important to take a moment to acknowledge a beginning and to set goals.  The purpose of the goal wall is to help keep the goals present for the students, but also as a way for students to see what others might be working towards.  Our hope is that these visual goals can be a way to engage students and staff in conversation about different interests and focuses in our first few weeks at RMS. I heard great feedback from teachers this week that they enjoyed talking with their students about their goals.  My hope is that students will take time to read each other's goals and consider their role in working toward their own goal, but also how they might work within our RMS community to help others reach their goals. I would like to revisit these goals in a few weeks and do a reflection activity with the students.  I'll post a follow-up to this blog.

As I sit here on Friday evening, I am exhausted from this first week, but more importantly I am exhilarated.  This week I was able to meet some incredibly talented and kind students, connect with passionate and creative teachers and staff, and work with and learn from our considerate and forward-thinking principal @mlepene.  I am very lucky to be a member of the RMS community.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Understanding the Principalship with @jaynicholsfnesu (Class #1)

Today I traveled to Colchester, VT, for my first in a year-long series of classes titled, Understanding the Principalship taught by the Superintendent of Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union, Jay Nichols.  I am particularly interested in this course as this is my first year in an administrative role, and I am looking forward to developing relationships with other new and veteran principals whom I know I will learn so much from this year.

At the start of class we were asked to identify some of our hopes for this course in relationship to school leadership and challenges.  Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I hope to gain more exposure to supervision and evaluation models/methods
  • Ideas and examples on how to foster strong relationships in our school and our larger community
  • Tips and suggestions on how to have productive conversations
  • Ways to work with students and staff in viewing discipline as a learning opportunity

Some great resources that were mentioned today:
What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whittaker10 Minute In-Service by Todd WhittakerLeadership Wired Blog by John Maxwell
and we'll be reading Leaders of Learning by Richard DuFour and Robert J. Marzano

Each month I'll travel to Colchester to meet with this group to discuss different areas of the Principal position, and we will have the opportunity to hear from experts in various fields relating to education and leadership.  Next month, Vermont Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe, will visit our group.  This course will provide me with peer supports, resources, inspiration, and a chance each month to take a moment to process and reflect on our work at RMS.  I will continue to add my thoughts and reflections here on this blog.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Connecting with @InnovativeEd on our 1:1

Thanks to Marty's initiative, last week we traveled to Burlington to meet with John and Penny from UVM's Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education.  The Tarrant Institute has formed partnerships with schools to promote technology integration in middle schools-perfect for us! 

We spent two hours sharing our experience last year with our iPad 1:1 in the 8th grade, the successes, the challenges, and our hopes for this year.  As I am new to RMS, and didn't experience the 1:1 last year, getting a chance to dig into the details of the program was so helpful.  I was able to gain a sense of where I, as an administrator with Mike, can offer support this year.

Below are a few notes that I took that Marty, Mike and I will discuss when we debrief next week.

1) They encouraged us to revisit our teaming structure.  They pointed to many examples and research that shows effective teaming should be in much smaller groups than we currently operate.

2) They fully support the idea of a parent advisory committee, and also encouraged us to think of more ways to involve parents and the community, examples: family media contract, student-run tech sessions for parents and community members, involving parents on teams (I am sure there were more but these were the big ones for me).

3) More PD time.  They cited numerous studies that show that initiatives need at least 60 hours before real change will happen.  They shared their PD framework that they've used with other 1:1 rollouts.

They also suggested we look at participating in their their Middle Grades Institute next summer as this might be a great opportunity for some of our teams.

​There was much more, but these were some of the highlights that stuck out for me.  Thankfully, Penny and John offered to continue to serve as a resource for us as we move into year two.  

I'll continue to post on this blog as we move into our second year of our iPad 1:1 in the 8th grade.

Follow Tarrant on Twitter: @innovativeEd