Monday, January 23, 2017

It's About Respect

After the Women's March on Saturday, I read a post on Facebook about someone's frightening experience. It appears that a group of high school students went on a trip to the nation's capital to witness the inauguration. The next day as they tried to get to a museum, the students were taunted by some of the participants in the march. Apparently, some of the kids were wearing caps or hats they had purchased at the inauguration, and some of the adults in the crowd heckled them. The adult chaperone shared that they were frightened and had to hold hands tightly so they would not lose each other in the crowd.

I empathize with the kids; no adults should have treated them in that way. What could have been a turning point in their lives is now a frightful memory.

At the same time, however, I wondered how this could have happened. As an educator, a principal, and a parent, safety is always our major concern. We make sure that our students are safe, and when they go on field trips, we ensure there is adequate supervision. What were the adults thinking? Why did they allow those students to wear their souvenir caps? Surely the adults should have known that doing so would cause the students to be targets. How would their experience be different if they didn't have their souvenir caps on? How could their viewpoint of that weekend be influenced if they had experienced the event through the eyes of the marchers?

Something special happened on Saturday in Washington D.C. and cities and countries around the world. What started as a simple idea quickly grew into a major event where women and men - millions of them - marched for their rights and the rights of others. The Women's March could have been a great learning experience for these high school students. They would have witnessed "civil disobedience" first-hand, and they could have interviewed those in attendance about why they marched or why they traveled to Washington D.C. from all over the country to be part of this event.

I think it all can be traced back to respect . . . or more accurately, a lack of respect. As parents, we teach our children to be respectful, and in school, mutual respect is expected. "Treat others the way you would like to be treated."  As school leaders, we have a responsibility to lead with respect. We know that a positive school culture is essential for student learning. We want our staff, our parents, and our students to feel that they can make suggestions or share their ideas. We know that listening to different viewpoints can only make the discussion richer and ideas to flow more readily. We value diversity of opinions, and we want students to ask tough questions because that can lead to deeper learning. Listening and respecting other viewpoints, elements in a positive school culture,  are essential if we want our students to learn and grow as informed and contributing citizens of this world.

That is why I am having difficulty understanding how someone who showed so little respect for women and other minority or marginalized groups could now be leading our great nation. I can only hope that he comes to realize his past indiscretions and changes the way he treats others. Until then, I am optimistic that the women and men of our nation will continue to make our voices heard. Our children are counting on us.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Staff Bulletin Blog - I Love Writing It!

When I began blogging several years ago, I struggled because I was not confident about sharing my ideas out in public. I've sort of gotten over that fear and now, I blog when I have something on my mind. Sometimes, I follow through and actually write and publish something, and other times, I start a blog and never finish it. I realize that's how writers are, and not everything is meant to be published.

At one time,  I had 3 blogs - one for our construction project which is now completed, this personal blog, and a staff blog which is private. The construction blog was pretty easy to do; I'd take photos and update our followers- usually weekly - about what was going on with the project and what they could expect in the next week or so. This was a great way to communicate with our school community, and I believe it helped to alleviate some of the complaints about the inconveniences (noise, dust, barricades, etc.) that we endured throughout the construction. I would highly recommend this for anyone going through a project like ours especially since most of the families who were at our school for the groundbreaking were not able to see the completion of the buildings due to their military reassignment.

Right now, my blogging focus has been on our weekly staff bulletin. We had always used our Lotus Notes for that purpose, but it was limited and frankly, quite dull reading. When we proposed doing a blog instead, we asked the staff for their input. Some were concerned about privacy issues, and to alleviate their fears, we did agree to make the blog private. That's actually been a positive thing as we can share concerns and problems and get feedback and input from our staff that would not be possible if the bulletin were public.

Our staff bulletin has evolved as we've added more weekly features. Presently, we include a Principal's Message, News (about our school, Department, or about education in general), Shout-Outs!, Reminders,  Meeting this Week, Student Work (photos or student samples), Resources (with links and reflection questions), and Photos from the Past Week. Our bulletin is a great way to let others know what is going on in other classrooms or grade levels, to keep our staff informed about happenings at the school, state, or national level that impact educators, and to provide opportunities to continue to grow professionally through meaningful conversations and reflections.

Someone asked me how long it takes for me to write a weekly staff bulletin blog, and I replied that it is a work-in-progress throughout the week, but overall, it takes about 2-3 hours. I have my phone with me whenever I walk around campus so I can take photos whenever I notice something that I'd like to share with our staff. I am constantly reading blogs and articles and when I find one that seems appropriate for our staff, I'll save the link until the time is "right" to share it. More recently, I've added reflection questions that go with the blog or article so our staff can think about how this applies to them or what they might change or try out as a result of their reading.

The benefit to me as a result of writing this staff bulletin blog has been immeasurable. I am more thoughtful about how I craft my Principal's Message to the staff, and being able to share photos as well as resources has allowed me to reflect on the impact of the principalship in truly communicating with our staff and sharing our vision for the school. It helps to have everything in one place, and our blog is a tool that captures and communicates a weekly history of our school year.  The real beauty, though, is that each of our staff only needs to sign up with an email address, and they will receive the bulletin whenever it is published. Now there's no excuse to not know what is happening at our school!

I encourage schools to try it!

This is an example of one of a Principal's Message for our staff bulletin.