Monday, April 27, 2015

"Choose Kind"

When I went into administration, I found myself reading more professional literature, and recently, I have my Personal Learning Network to provide me with blogs, articles, research, and suggestions about leadership, educational policy, and teaching and learning.  I found myself needing a balance, though, and my just-before-bedtime routine included reading books by Baldacci, Connelly, Child, and other favorite authors.

Recently, my grandson asked his dad for a boxed set of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series for his birthday.  His special day isn't until the end of May, but Grandma and Grandpa quickly went on Amazon and purchased the set for him. "Why wait?" we thought. "If he wants to read it now, we should get it for him now." Since so many of our students (especially boys) seem to love the Wimpy Kid series, I decided I should read the book. It took me a few days to get through it, but I can see its appeal for young boys.  It's easy to read, has cartoon-like illustrations, the number of words on a page aren't overwhelming, and the main character is pretty believable and amusing.

I realized that since my boys are grown and I am no longer in the classroom and my grandsons don't live here in Hawaii :-( , I really haven't kept up with too many of the recent books that have been published. So I resolved to visit our library more often to borrow some of those books that are popular with our students.

Two of the books I recently finished had a similar theme.  Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper and Wonder by R.J. Palacio made me feel so many different emotions - anger, sadness, joy.  Both of the main characters have challenges that they must overcome to be accepted by their peers.  In Out of My Mind, Melody has cerebral palsy and though she cannot speak, she has a curious mind and an amazing memory. Auggie, the main character in Wonder, has facial deformities but he is a bright, funny child who just wants to be accepted.  Both stories made me laugh sometimes, but it also made me upset to feel the cruelty of students towards  Melody and Auggie.

Our librarian shared that Wonder had been voted the winner of this year's Nene Award by the children on Hawaii, and she insisted that I read it. I'm so glad I did. There are lessons in this book about acceptance, overcoming adversity, resiliency, and kindness.  Yes, kindness.  Mr. Browne, Auggie's English teacher, shared one precept a month, and the precept for the first month of school was by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer:  "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."

Choose kind. Random acts of kindness.  Treating one another kindly.  I believe this is the mantra we need to live by.  We should all choose kind, and the world would definitely be a better place.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Are We Future Ready?

 When Eric Sheninger came to talk to our complex area school teams last summer, everyone was inspired and excited, but like other professional development sessions, there was no follow-up plan of action or requirements for schools. As a result, integrating technology got pushed to the side at many schools as the reality of Department mandates and requirements consumed a principal's day.

Today, Eric came for a full-day training with us, and the focus was on Future Ready. When I heard about the Future Ready initiative and read the State's plan,  I saw this as a way to get additional devices for our school.  I was ready to jump through hoops to get a piece of the pot, and I thought we had a pretty good chance to be one of the schools in the next phase. But wanting to be selected and being Future Ready are not one-and-the-same.

As we reflected on where we are and discussed the categories or gears of the Future Ready Framework, our complex principals realized that we are all at different places and that we have no common vision for 21st century teaching and learning in our complex.  The first task for us is to have a common K-12 vision for our students and teachers and to begin the discussions with our staff about what it means to be a Future Ready school.

I thought we were doing quite well at our school, but the questions on the self-assessment told me otherwise.  Frankly, I was a bit depressed after realizing that we are not as Future Ready as I thought. Yes, we have some areas that we are doing pretty well in, but there are other areas that are woefully dismal and that we may not have control over (such as funding).

So what are our next steps?  First, we need to come together as principals and have an honest discussion about our vision for the K-12 learner in our complex area and create a plan to address our priority areas.  Then as a principal group, we need to commit to learning together and growing professionally. If it's important to us, we need to make the time to support each other.

Now that I've had time to reflect on the day, I am feeling more hopeful. I truly enjoy working with my colleagues in the North Central Complex Area, and I know that Future Ready can take us to the next level where we are all working with a common vision for our students and our schools.

Thank you, Eric, for sharing about Future Ready with us. It is hard, and there are lots to think about, but you are right; it's not supposed to be easy, and we need to challenge ourselves to get better.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Proud of our Teacher Presenters

I've been suffering from blogger's block for the past month or so.  I've started several blogs but never quite finished them.  Well, tonight, I am determined to get this one done.  

This past weekend, several of our teachers and I attended the Moanalua High School Professional Development Conference with keynoter Eric Sheninger.  Last summer, Eric gave up part of his Hawaii vacation to speak to educators from our complex area, and he made quite an impression. This past week, Eric has been very busy, sharing about digital leadership not only at this conference but with teams from different complex areas on Oahu and the Big Island. 

But this blog is not about Eric; it's about our teachers and their willingness to share with others about what they have learned about the use of technology with students to explore, discover, create, and share.  At this latest conference, our teachers shared about a wide range of topics - Virtual Coaching, Google Sites, Kinder Creations, Google Presentations, Using Social Media to Grow Your PLN, and Tools and Tips for Integrating Technology. I was really proud of them all!

I believe that the strength of a school is in its staff and their willingness to try new ideas and share their successes and challenges. Our teachers have presented at various conferences on a variety of different topics.  Those that are hesitant have the opportunity to try presenting to their colleagues first at an afternoon Tech Tips session or at a faculty meeting.  When sharing with their colleagues,  our teachers can build their confidence, and if they are afraid to go solo, we encourage them to partner with someone else.  That usually works well.

It is rare for classroom teachers to have the opportunity to hear someone like Eric speak unless they attend a conference. Because they were presenters, our teachers' registration fees were waived. Eric's keynote validated that we are on the right path in creating a school - or classrooms - that work for students. It is about learning, and we need to prepare our students for the world they will live in. It is a work-in-progress, but Eric's keynote showed the teachers that with their leadership, we are moving forward in the right direction. 

Tomorrow, Eric will be working with our Central District principals; I look forward to learning more about digital leadership and Future Ready, and we will be reflecting on where we are as a school and as a complex and where we want to go in the future. 

Eric Sheninger with some of our Hale Kula staff