Saturday, November 17, 2012

Giving Thanks

As we approach a three-day school week to celebrate Thanksgiving, this is a perfect opportunity to reflect on my principalship at Hale Kula and all that I am thankful for.  What makes a school special and unique is its people, and Hale Kula is no exception.

All of my schooling has been here in Hawaii, and I can't imagine being uprooted in the middle of the year and having to go to a new school, make new friends, learn new rules, procedures, and curriculum, and adjust to these new surroundings. Yet our Hale Kula students are asked to do this not once but multiple times in their school careers.  More often than not, this is occurring while a parent is attending training or is deployed.  Our students make the best of their situation even while they are missing a parent who may be off-island for training exercises or who may be deployed and in harm's way.  I marvel at their resilience, and my hope is that they will take what they've learned at Hale Kula about aloha, lokahi, kokua, `ohana, kuleana, and malama and share it with others when they leave Hawaii.

I am grateful to the Hale Kula parents who support our school and trust us with their children.  Military  parents' lives are so different from what I experienced as a young mom when I had family and friends to support me.  Being uprooted from their system of support is a challenge, and their confidence in our school to take care of their children is a responsibility we take seriously.  To the soldier parents who have committed to serving and protecting our nation, I send my heartfelt thanks.  And to the spouse who is left behind to take care of the home and the family while the soldier is deployed, you deserve kudos for all you do.  It takes a strong person to accept and adapt to military life and often, you turn every new change of duty station as an adventure and a learning opportunity for your family.  Mahalo for all you do.

I am so honored to be at a school with such a great staff.  I love going to work every day because I work with people who care about our school as much as I do.  Others may not realize the challenges of working with a highly transient military population, but your commitment and pride in your work is what makes our school so special.  I hope you realize the positive impact you have, long after the students and families have left Hale Kula and Hawaii.  I am truly proud to be part of our Hale Kula `ohana.

May all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Learning from Other Principals

When I decided to join Twitter, I had no idea that I was gaining a professional development opportunity. Originally, I joined to update our parents on activities or happenings at the school, but our librarian told me that I should/could follow respected educators, read posts and blogs and respond if I wish.  I have learned and been informed about much more than I ever thought possible through Twitter.  I can't possibly keep up with everything, so I pick and choose.  It gives me something to read when I have a few extra minutes, or the posts, blogs, and articles provide me with food for thought or validates my own experiences as a school principal.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit an elementary school in another state, and I spent nearly two hours with the principal.  We took a tour of the campus; we discussed funding and the challenges schools are facing as a result of the poor economy; we talked about data and high stakes testing; and we agreed that schools are being asked to do more with less funding.  I marveled at the curriculum the school offers its students despite decreased funding which includes:  learning a second language (they're an International School, and students will be literate in two languages by the end of third grade); music instruction which teaches content, culture, and performance; a Freedom Shrine with replicas of historical documents from American history; and a marine lab which integrates scientific inquiry and discovery as well as an awareness of different habitats.  Clearly, the school is committed to prepare its students to be well-rounded citizens, prepared to face the challenges of the future.

I believe most educators are optimists; we believe that things will get better, and we are committed to supporting our students so they can be successful.  As a classroom teacher and now as a principal, I have always believed that educators can learn so much from each other if we only had the opportunity to share best practices and articulate challenges and possible solutions.  Social media and the Internet provides us with the ability to connect with other educators around the world.  We say that we need to provide students with opportunities to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and create  As educators, we need to have those opportunities as well.  Now, if we just had more time during the day . . .