The Principals' Office Blog

Ready, Set, Go!

Today is the first full day of the convention. I reviewed the itinerary that I created through the NAESP Web site to make sure that the sessions I had looked at earlier were still the ones that I wanted to attend today. Narrowing down the options has not been an easy task.
My first session was entitled “Get Smart: Tools for 21st Century Leaders.” I serve as the elementary principal for my school, but I am also the K-12 technology coordinator. I always try to find some sessions that will help me with that area of my responsibilities. A large part of the session dealt with SmartBoards and their use in the classroom. If you have a SmartBoard question, RoseAnne O’Brien Vojtek would be an awesome resource. The presenters also provided a list of helpful Web sites as well as some vendors that their schools use for technology needs that are high-quality, reputable, and very competitive. That information might end up being the most helpful from the whole session!  
The presenters also talked about the three R’s: rigor, relevance, and relationships. Because technology makes a lot of content available to all in a very quick manner, schools are challenged with applying the three R’s to that content in order to make their students productive citizens in this ever changing world.
The first general session was in the speaker’s phrase, “Info-Whelming.” Ian Jukes is a top ten education speaker who challenged the audience’s assumptions about education, especially when looking at how technology has affected it and will continue to affect it in the future. My “tech coordinator” mind was spinning at high speed as he shared all the changes that have come to pass and are coming at us like a freight train. The problem is that the speed at which change is taking place is exponentially accelerating and our ability to comprehend can not move that fast, hence the term: info-whelming.
I also attended the “Grand Opening” for the exhibit hall. It is really nice to have a lot of the top education vendors all under one roof. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather visit with someone face to face then over the phone or by e-mail. The vendors are of course a very important part of the national convention. Hopefully many of my peers will take advantage of the opportunity to visit the exhibits.
I did not attend a concurrent session this afternoon because I was scheduled to work at the North Dakota state booth. I have worked at the booth in previous years and have found it to be a lot of fun. We are sharing a booth with Minnesota (an attempt to be more fiscally responsible), and we appreciate their willingness to work cooperatively. I really enjoyed visiting with all the principals that came by to sign up for our prizes.  
The Welcome Reception will take place later tonight, but I wanted to mention it because it is a great time to see old friends and make new ones. If you can find friendlier folks than elementary principals, I would like to meet them. As I stated in my initial post, taking time to strengthen and create professional relationships is an important part of the national convention experience.
It has been another exciting and professionally stimulating day. My wish is that everyone would have the opportunity to attend at least one national convention during their tenure. If your school doesn’t support travel to a national convention, I would be more then glad to write your school board president or your superintendent to plead your case. That’s all for now; I look forward to reporting to you in the coming days.

Principals Proudly Give All to Serve NOLA Schools

My first day at this year’s national convention will be one that I will never forget. I was fortunate to be involved with NAESP’s service project. One hundred NAESP members loaded buses at 8 a.m. to head out to three schools and a park in New Orleans to help with a beautification project that the district has been trying to complete since Hurricane Katrina hit this community. 
When I arrived at my volunteer school, I was awestruck when the principal showed me the high water mark. He said that the water from that point on the wall to the street was five feet deep. I left a state that is battling flooding so this really hit home with me. 
My group worked to replace unattractive weeds with landscaping. When we left, there was new sod, trees and flower gardens that would make any school proud. I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to be part of this group.
The work was hard but despite rain “soaking to the bone,” the group kept at it. Nothing was going to keep us from finishing the task. One of the gentlemen that worked for the company that had been hired to oversee the project told me that he was not looking forward to “babysitting” a bunch of principals. By the end of the day, we had earned his admiration. We worked so fast that they added a project at the end because we still had time left. 
I worked with people from all over the United States. One gal told me that elementary and middle school principals only know one speed and that speed is “GO”. There were times that I think we made the folks from the management company dizzy. They thought we should all sign up for another day’s worth of work.
I think I can speak for most of the group: We were drained by the end. And although we are looking forward to the regular routine of speakers and break-out sessions, this day will always be one that we will remember. Hopefully, the kids and patrons of those schools will be reminded each time they look at the beautiful scenery and landscaping that caring principals helped make it happen.
I applaud NAESP for working to set up this important service project. I can’t remember a time that I have been more proud to be a NAESP member.
I’ll be back with another report soon!

New Orleans Convention Coverage Takes Over the Principals’ Office

NAESP’s 88th Convention & Exposition kicks off tomorrow, Thursday, April 2. Thousands of principals and educators from around the nation will be meeting in New Orleans to focus on leadership and professional development! The convention gives principals the tools to transform learning communities, and features dynamic speakers, a volunteer service day, and dozens of concurrent sessions.
To give you a firsthand account of these spectacular events, the Principals’ Office blog will feature guest blogger David M. Hanson. Follow David’s coverage of convention highlights, and don’t forget that you can ask him questions by leaving a comment at the end of the post.  
You can access more up-to-date convention coverage at the Convention News Online Web page, where you will find convention articles, Twitter updates, photos, and video.
Greetings from North Dakota      
My name is David M. Hanson and for the second year in a row I am going to be serving as NAESP’s blogger for the national convention. I am the elementary principal for the Wyndmere Public Schools in Wyndmere, North Dakota. We are a small rural, public K-12 school located in Southeast North Dakota.
I serve as the state editor for the North Dakota Association of Elementary School Principals (NDAESP). I have also served in most all of the NDAESP leadership chairs, which has allowed me to attend several national conventions and several national leaders’ conferences. I am involved with NAESP through the state editors group: I administrate a Web site for the state editors as well as a list-serve. 
If you have checked out the agenda for the conference, you will share my thoughts on the dilemma of picking just one speaker during each concurrent session. It appears that NAESP has done a wonderful job of preparing an awesome slate of speakers and sessions. I am looking forward to meeting with the state editors’ group as well as attending the National Distinguished Principals’ reunion. My advice is to take in as much as you can and to make sure to save some time to visit with your peers from across the nation. The networking opportunities at a national convention are top notch! 
I look forward to sharing my journey with you!David

Minority School Network Series Concludes

During the past few months, the Principals’ Office has featured the Minority School Network blog series, which focused on issues surrounding diverse student populations, such as ensuring a culturally diverse environment and how to leverage school leader and parent impact to sustain nurturing environments. Andre D. Spencer’s posting below will conclude the first installment of the Minority School Network blog series. But continue to check out the Principals’ Office blog for the upcoming coverage of NAESP’s 88th Convention & Exposition in New Orleans, April 2-6.
Communication Is KeyWe communicate with parents who speak English as a second language via translators from the district or local universities who are working on an internship. In addition, we have hired Spanish-speaking teachers to serve as translators if needed. When we send home documents, they are printed in both Spanish and English. In addition, when we send telephone messages home, we try to have a translator to speak in Spanish before or after the initial messages as we inform the parents that the next language will be spoken. 
To get parents to come to conferences, we solicit their participation with fliers in their language and send out telephone calls via a global connect system in their language. We also offer incentives for participation (food, door prizes, cash prizes, etc.).
What are your ideas for communicating with and engaging parents who speak little or no English?
Andre D. Spencer is principal of Brehms Lane Elementary School #231 in Baltimore.

Who Are Your Students?

Meeting the needs of diverse and changing student populations must be a priority for school  administrators and teacher leadership teams. This school year, our attendance zone changed after being the same for over 20 years! As a result, there are about 600 new students in our school who came from several schools in the district. Many of the new students were very disappointed to be forced to leave the schools they had previously attended. 
To better understand this issue and our new student population, our teacher leadership team planned a staff development day where every staff member—custodial, cafeteria, clerical, support staff, teacher assistants, faculty and school administrators—boarded three school busses and toured our new attendance zone. For all of us, it was a very beneficial experience that contributed to thoughtful dialogue on how we may have underestimated what our children are capable of doing. Perhaps staff expectations were lowered because of perceptions about socioeconomic class. We found out that most of our students live in nicely kept single-family dwellings that have been renovated following the devastation of a major hurricane. There are two trailer parks and one apartment complex that has been newly renovated. The activity was one of the best we have ever conducted on a staff development day.
What has your school done to get to find out more about students’ lives?
Jackie H. Daniilidis is principal of Estelle Elementary in Marrero, Louisiana. 

School Leaders and Parents Impact Diverse Environments

The Principals’ Office is continuing its discussion about how educators can ensure a culturally diverse environment that is accepting, supporting, and nurturing to all children. Nicole Nash Gales, principal of Springfield Ball Charter School in Springfield, Illinois, explains the significance of leaders in creating a successful culturally diverse environment. Such environments are “fostered by leadership that believes and expects all staff members to believe that ALL children are capable of learning at high levels,” writes Gales. “This high expectation extends to the expectation that staff build relationships with students and their families to learn their cultures, which are important to who they are as capable learners.”
Kenneth D. Burdette, academy director at Wyatt-Edison Charter School in Denver, Colorado, emphasizes the role of parents in developing a nurturing school climate. “What makes us unique and successful … is the manner in which we include the parents and families in the students’ education,” he says. “Parental involvement is invaluable to the success of a child. Through our home visit program, curriculum nights, and parent meetings we are able to work closely with our students and families on a daily basis.”
What impact do school leaders and parents have in your school’s quest for creating a nurturing environment?

What Would You Do With an Extra $100,000?

President Obama recently signed a multibillion-dollar stimulus package, so it seems so fitting that our My Two Cents question for this month is: If you had an extra $100,000 added to your budget, what would you do with it?
In addition to the responses printed in the March/April issue of Principal, here are what others had to say:
Tutors, additional teachers, and paraprofessionals have all served us well and they would be my number choice to add to our school. Number two would be high-quality staff development by professionals who are available for follow-up after the training. Catherine Prentis, PrincipalCockrill Elementary Nashville, Tennessee
Our school has attempted to consistently upgrade technology. I have heard and seen so many uses in the classroom for the new iPod touch. Since our building is wireless, I would purchase an iPod touch for students and staff. Knowing how to use the technology that is available is just as important as having it. I would also use a portion of the funds for staff professional development designed around the use of the iPod touch in the classroom.
Paul WengerPrincipalEdgewood-Colesburg ElementaryColesburg, Iowa
We are a small rural district in eastern Washington State, about 665 students K-12. Our special needs population continues to grow in number of students and severity of needs. Our staff would want to hire two paraprofessionals to provide greater support to our high-needs and medically fragile students. We’d also want to purchase smart boards, more digital cameras, and projectors. Dwight C. CooperPrincipal, Reardan Elementary Reardan, Washington
In what ways would your school benefit from an additional $100,000?

Are They Really Your Teachers?

The Speaking Out article from the March/April issue of Principal presents an interesting issue—referring to your school’s faculty as “my teachers.” Author Eric Glover contends that principals should move away from using the term because it is inappropriate in most cases. “‘My teachers’ is shorter and quicker to say than ‘the teachers with whom I work,’ or ‘the teachers in our school,’” Glover writes. “The problem is that rather than serving as a title of respect, ‘my teachers’ may be interpreted by teachers as a symbol of the power that a principal holds over them.”
Do you believe that using the term “my teachers” is condescending to your faculty? Are teachers being too sensitive, or is this a valid argument?

Creating a Culturally Diverse Environment—Part 2

How do you ensure a culturally diverse environment that is accepting, supporting, and nurturing to all children?
We try to meet the needs of all of our students and their families in a caring way by:

  • Making sure that children have clothes to wear, providing jackets for students who need them (we give out uniforms or sell them at a discounted rate). We also provide backpacks and school supplies to all who need them.
  • Providing students with breakfast and lunch, giving them food bags through our weekend hunger program if they do not have food on the weekends.
  • Providing after-school tutoring for some students and ensuring that others participate in the Boys and Girls Club down the street.
  • Distributing all announcements and newsletters to parents in Spanish and English.
  • We have a family resource support person on campus once a week to work with parents as needed. We have at least two parent meetings each month during the school day and have anywhere from six to 10 Saturday or after-school activities for parents and students (Literacy Night, Problem Solving Saturday, Mathopoly, Science Fair). At these activities we provide food, drinks, materials, and information.
  • We try to choose multicultural materials to give out along with the books we give away. We give away lots of books every year; at least three per child and in the early grades one per child each week.

Brenda Reeh is a behavior specialist at Quannah McCall Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada

Creating a Culturally Diverse Environment—Part 1

The Principals’ Office asked educators: How do you ensure a culturally diverse environment that is accepting, supporting, and nurturing to all children? Here is how one principal responded:
At Amerman Elementary School, I try to ensure a culturally diverse environment by exposing all students to many cultures. For example, we’ve started a school in Afghanistan, our Sharing the Dream grant will be with a Latino school, and I’ve sent three of my teachers to Japan with Fulbright scholarships.
An inherent part of our third-grade social studies curriculum is the study of our home town, a town in France, and a town in Japan. To expand upon the anthropological comparison, we use the Family of Man series to compare physical possessions and each class writes a book about a comparative topic. I enjoyed the class on pizzas from around the world, especially when the parents cooked the recipes for a taste test.
What steps have you taken to foster a nurturing and culturally diverse environment at your school?
Steve Anderson is principal at Amerman Elementary School in Northville, Michigan

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