The Principals' Office Blog

Houston, Here I Come

Melissa “Missie” Patschke, principal of Upper Providence Elementary School in Royersford, Pennsylvania, begins her convention coverage:
Happy spring to all my fellow NAESP colleagues!
I am eager to share my thoughts with everyone by serving as NAESP’s blogger for the 89th annual convention. As an elementary school principal for 14 years in southeastern Pennsylvania, I always look forward to the NAESP conventions. There are times on the job when I am confident and secure, and there certainly are still times when I feel that I have much to learn. NAESP conventions are the perfect place to do just that—learn. This year, I look forward to gathering new ideas, meeting new people, and exploring the city of Houston.
My goal as your convention blogger is to capture a few highlights of the experience through my own lens and share them with you. After reviewing the agenda, it’s clear that there are some truly great speakers and sessions to attend. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Bring business cards and preprinted address labels to share with colleagues and vendors. You’ll find many opportunities to use these cards and stickers.
  2. Read through all of the convention materials that you are given when you check in with NAESP. Highlight every session that interests you and find out where it is held.
  3. Be friendly and initiate conversations with fellow attendees. Whether you chat with other principals in the hotel, stay after a session to exchange ideas, or have dinner with a colleague, it’s all worth your time!

Friday morning, I know I want to hear Chris Gardner’s message at 10 a.m. His book, Start Where You Are was a great read! The text highlights many lessons learned from a lifetime of joys and struggles. After hearing Gardner, I’m heading to the exhibit hall to meet some of the vendors and see what new ideas I can find to support my school. I’m also curious about the NAESP Foundation’s silent auction. I definitely plan to check it out.  
I look forward to sharing more with you as the convention unfolds!

Pardon the Interruption

NAESP’s convention coverage is officially taking over the Principals’ Office. Check back daily to read convention blogger Melissa Patschke’s messages about what’s going on during the Association’s Annual Convention and Exposition, which takes place Thursday, April 8 through Sunday, April 11.
Also make sure to check out Convention News Online, where our team of writers will keep you updated on all the major events with daily articles. Whether or not you’re heading to Houston to attend convention later this week, you won’t want to miss the coverage we have in store for you.

On Globalization and Public Education

In an interview on NAESP Radio, Yong Zhao, distinguished professor at Michigan State University and founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology, says America’s public education system is well-positioned to produce students with the skills needed to compete in an era of increased technology and globalization. Zhao suggests that current reform efforts, such as calls for increased standardization and accountability, misinterpret the strengths of America’s public schools and fail to address the needs of students living in an era of globalization.
Zhao also says that to achieve meaningful school reforms, America needs a law or a political environment that will encourage education leaders to innovate rather than increase standardization, and elementary school principals play a critical role in ensuring that reform efforts meet the needs of America's students.
Research validates Zhao’s comments by indicating that elementary principals are catalysts for learning and for shaping the long-term impact of school reform, and it is imperative that principals’ voices and perspectives are included in the discussions about America’s public education system that are currently taking place at the federal level.
Listen to the full interview with Zhao on NAESP Radio. We invite you to leave any comments about the interview or education reform in general right here.

Mentor Center: Preparing for a Leave of Absence

NAESP’s Mentor Center principal continues to chronicle her year and needs your advice. Here’s her latest entry:
This has been quite an interesting and fast-paced year. I am excited to share that we will be adding to our family, with my due date in early May. While this is exciting, it is also very overwhelming, because planning for my maternity leave is not the same as when I was a classroom teacher.
Due to the small size of our district and the timing of my expected arrival, we will not be hiring anyone to fill my shoes. Instead, we are being creative with the people and resources we currently have. One benefit of having grades K-12 in one large building is that the middle/high school administrators and superintendent will be able to assist in the elementary division if a serious discipline or other incident should occur. I am also fortunate to have a teacher who is working on her administrative degree and completing her internship hours under my supervision this spring and summer. She has assisted me this past month with planning for summer school and end-of-year events. I will also be relying on her to check my phone messages each day during my absence and either return the phone calls or pass them on to an administrator.
There will be some tasks that I plan to complete by coming into the office on evenings or weekends during my maternity leave. I only live a mile from the school, so it will be easy for me to pop in and out as needed. I also hope to attend the end-of-year events for staff and students. I am only planning to take off five weeks for this maternity leave and then return during summer school.
Have any other administrators taken a maternity leave or other short-term leave of absence? What tips/advice can you offer?

Lessons Learned

The May/June My Two Cents question asks: What do you wish you had known about leading schools when you were a new principal?
As a new principal I thought leading schools/being the school leader was similar to reaching to top of a hill and the end to a lifelong goal. I quickly realized it wasn’t the end but the beginning of an ever-changing process that I work on each day. Being the leader of a school today just helps you get started on leading the school for tomorrow.
Andy Cox, PrincipalAbingdon Elementary SchoolAbingdon, Virginia
Never compromise on hiring the best people. Hire the best teachers, assistants, secretaries, custodians, instructional aides, etc. for your building. The best are always striving for improvement, and are exactly what you want and need for students in your building.
Carol Grace, Director of Elementary Schools Wise County SchoolsWise, Virginia
Think back to your first years as a principal and let us know what you wish you had known about leading schools when you were a new principal.

Bring on the Competition!

Here’s a question for you: Win or lose, it’s how you play the game—right? 
The authors of “It’s Time We Teach Competition” cite research that concludes, “Put groups in competition and you create tension, anger, and hostility.” However, this article’s authors say the “most profound” purpose of teaching competition to students “is to cultivate an appreciation for the positive role of contests in promoting excellence and enjoyment.”
Read this month’s Speaking Out article, then think about the spelling bees, baseball games, and science fairs at your school. Do you agree with the authors, who believe that competition should become a vital part of our educational mission? How have your students reacted to participating in your school’s various contests?

Calling All Writers!

The editors of Principal magazine, NAESP’s flagship publication, have finalized themes for the 2010-2011 editorial year and are seeking writers interested in submitting articles for publication:
Sept./Oct. 2010: School ManagementNov./Dec. 2010: MathJan./Feb. 2011: Building RelationshipsMarch/April 2011: Turnaround SchoolsMay/June 2011: Early Childhood
Our submission guidelines provide descriptions of each theme as well as deadlines and information on how to submit an article for consideration. Take this opportunity to share what you know about education and the principalship with our 25,000 readers.

2010 Census Under Way

Questionnaires for the 2010 census should reach every U.S. household in the coming days—and with billions of dollars of federal and local funding at stake, it’s important for principals and other educators to recognize the significance of this endeavor.
Now is the time to engage your students, staff, and parents in census-related activities to boost participation in your community. The Census Bureau’s Census in Schools program provides a wealth of free information, including student activity sheets in both English and Spanish, teaching guides, and take-home materials, to help students, teachers, and families to learn more about the census.

Federal Update: Weigh in on ESEA Blueprint

Today, the U.S. Department of Education released its blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to the U.S. Congress. This document serves as the Obama administration’s formal request for changes to the federal education law currently known as No Child Left Behind.
We encourage all principals to review this 35-page document. Congress is ultimately responsible for crafting and reauthorizing the ESEA, however the administration's blueprint serves as their formal request for substantive changes to the law and is therefore an important first step in what will likely be a lengthy reauthorization.
NAESP wants to hear from you! Please submit your comments either by e-mailing or leaving your comments below.

Unleashing the Extraordinary

NAESP and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) are united on two major issues that resonated throughout the NASSP convention, which was held March 12-14 in Phoenix:

  1. Principals’ voices must be heard as new policies are being formulated in Washington, D.C.  Principals must make a difference by being actively engaged in the wording of the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Principals should contact their congressional representatives to let their voices be heard.
  2. Principals are innovative and creative in raising student achievement and keeping their communities actively engaged in the learning process. NASSP’s convention speakers highlighted numerous examples of principals who are making a difference against incredible odds. For example, Pedro Noguera talked about P.S. #28 in New York City, which is a highly effective school in which more than 50 percent of the student population is homeless. Innovations that this school’s principal has tried include making available parent rooms and programs for parents to receive their GED and emphasizing the need to keep parents engaged in their children’s education. 

Dr. Benjamin Carson, a renowned surgeon, challenged principals to speak up for their rights, telling a story about a young man who had purchased expensive, exotic birds that could sing and talk. The young man sent two of the expensive birds to his mother and asked her what she thought of them. She proudly announced that they were good, as she had eaten them for dinner! The young man was astounded that she had eaten the birds. But his mother retorted, “If the birds were so smart and could talk, they should have said something.” His story made us laugh, but it also made us think. Unless we want to end up in a stew, we had better say something! Let your voice be heard!
    —Diane Cargile, NAESP President

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