Sunday, December 1, 2013

On this rainy, dreary day . . .

Well, maybe winter is finally descending on us here in Hawaii.  It's December 1, and it's been raining steadily since early this morning with occasional claps of thunder and bolts of lightning.  Not a good day for our normal Sunday golf.  I guess that means there's no excuse for not updating my blog :-)

It's hard to believe, but the first semester for SY 2013-2014 is almost over.  Three more weeks, and it will be winter break.  This is the time of the year when we complete our Financial Plan for salaried employees for the following school year.  This coming year, due to a decline in our enrollment and the elimination of Junior Kindergarten by the State, we are losing a substantial amount of funding.  This means that we need to decrease the number of teaching positions for next school year, a very difficult task which will mean breaking up grade level teams that may be working well together.

Throughout this first semester, much of my time during the school day (and during non-school hours) has been spent on completing the required tasks for the Educator Effectiveness System, the new evaluation system for teachers.  We also have a new Principal Evaluation System, a new template for our Academic Plan, and a new Strive-HI system for evaluating schools.  Additionally, we are preparing teachers and students for a new assessment tool based on the Common Core State Standards.  So many new initiatives at once!

The other week, one of my principal mentees through #SAVMP shared that when the new principal evaluation tool was shared with them, he was initially anxious and had feelings of inadequacy.  After that first reaction, and after pondering the new system, however, he realized that this was a new beginning, an opportunity to grow as a leader.  I admire his positive attitude!

As for me, I must say that I have been pleased with the attitude of our teachers throughout the EES process.  The conversations about the lesson and teacher reflections about the observation have been positive and collaborative with teachers pointing out areas of strength and areas for growth.  Teachers are working together to develop their Student Learning Objectives and to discuss progress during their respective Data Team meetings.  Non-classroom teachers are focusing on a Working Portfolio which shares what they are focusing on to support teachers as they work with their students.  All of these collectively will improve teaching and learning, although I still question whether everything needed to be rolled out at once.  (FYI, this is a "practice" year as we learn the processes.)

As I reflect on all we've accomplished in these past few months, I am amazed.  The teachers have risen to the challenge and are invested in the EES process to improve teaching to positively impact their students' learning. Additionally, we have committed to implementing the use of technology and Web 2.0 tools so teachers and students can collaborate, communicate, think critically, and create.  We started a Google+ private community where teachers share, ask questions, and discuss education or teaching issues, and students in all grade levels are researching and using Web 2.0 tools to share their learning.

Moving forward, we need to keep our focus on what is important for our students. Teaching and learning must be relevant and challenging so that students have the tools and the desire to create their own future.  I believe that despite the sometimes-rough start, we are on-track to make a difference for our students and their teachers.

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