Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Ten years later here our my memories of 9/11 and what has happened since...

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 took place about three weeks into my first year as an administrator at Ashbrook High School. My mom was up from Florida to watch my youngest daughter (at the time) while my mother-in-law was on her annual beach trip. My dad had called me after the first plane went into the first tower and told me to turn on the TV. At first I thought he was playing around because there was a history of plane crashes within a week of my mom flying. I went into the guidance office and couldn't believe what I saw. I called my mom to let her know what was going on because I knew with watching a one year old she would be watching cartoons. We then informed the teachers about what was going on. I could not believe the horror of the day. In addition to the images of the crashes, I will also remember videos of President Bush reading to elementary students in Florida when he got the news. I also remember how clear the skys were as all flights were cancelled.

The days following the attack brought fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. It also brought a country together. Patriotism was at an all time high. American flags were flying proud, you couldn't even find flags in the stores. Students were nicer to one another. We all wanted immediate retaliation, but that would come later.

To my 5 year old daughter the attacks messed her world up. My mom would fly up every 2 or 3 months to visit. My daughter was used to going back to the gate and watch grandma get on the plane and leave to the runway. After 9/11, airport security tightened up and going back to the terminal was no longer an option. She would cry for hours. I finally had to take her to the back road of the airport and make up a plane that grandma was on. Her flight wouldn't leave for an hour or so later. She hated Osama for taking this away from her.

In April of 2002, our school chorus went on a visit to NYC. The stories and the images they returned to Gastonia with will be with them forever.

For the year anniversary of 9/11 we honored those who gave there lives with a video tribute, with pictures taken by the chorus a year earlier. We also had a fly over scheduled over our football stadium. The band played, the chorus sang and USAF planes flew over the entire student body.

I was able to get to NYC about three years after the attacks. I was shocked at the damage that was still at ground zero. I will always remember the piece of the trade center towers that stood the made a cross. I was also moved by the Church that survived the attack and served as refuge for the volunteers that helped during the crisis.

Unfortunately, over the past ten years patriotism has seemed to fade. We are fighting among ourselves. Politics and the economy overwhelm our lives. Security at the airports has gotten even tighter. One positive is we have killed the Terrorist that masterminded the 9/11 plot.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Male Mentoring Program

I want to start a male mentoring program this year for 7th graders. I would like suggestions as to what you feel is most important in a successful male mentoring program to help these students be successful in and out of the classroom. I want to impact academics. But I also want to build character, work on behaviors, increase physical/mental health and prepare them for the future. I feel the group would need to meet once a month. While I would like to open it up to all students, it will probably be most effective if the focus is on 15-25 males. Any thoughts or suggestions you would like to share?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More things to do to support new teachers

Here are some more things you can do to support your new teachers:
  • Give new teachers “new stuff” as much as possible. Be sure they are adequately supplied with classroom materials, and check on their material needs often.
  • After the initial interviews and during the hiring process, maintain e-mail or phone contact.
  • Constantly ask new teachers for their input on key school issues. They likely come with new perspectives and have a lot to offer. Be sure to involve them in the decision making process, and invite them to share a new or innovative idea they learned in college or other careers.
  • Provide a “newcomer’s kit” including demographics of the town, places to go, places to live, coupons, and treats. Provide a map of the city marking important of interesting places such as the mall, library, teacher resource store, etc.
  • Before an observation, go over the process so the new teacher will know what you will be looking for.
  • Speak positively to each teacher daily.
  • Form a new teacher social group to meet outside the school setting.
  • Keep an idea box or “issue bin” available for comments and questions.
  • Hold grade level, team, or department meetings weekly to discuss team issues, but also to listen to issues of and give support to new teachers.
  • Conduct brief (5 minute) drop-in observations daily, but don’t write anything down. Talk to the teacher before the end of the day about what you saw. Tell them at the start of the school year that you are going to do this to “catch them doing good things!” This will get them used to you and observations so they will not feel under pressure on formal observations.
  • Assign a good, helpful teacher assistant – not the one nobody wants.
  • Accentuate any particular skill or knowledge the teacher brings to the school.
  • Have someone on the staff (facilitator, grade level member, mentor) call and welcome the new teacher to the school.
  • Help the new teacher with names of reputable contacts for car repair, housing repairs, physicians, dentists, etc. as needed.
  • Give new teachers a tour of local businesses they may desire for personal needs (barber, beautician, nails, hardware, etc.).
  • Provide a “buddy” that might be compatible with the teacher. Sometimes the trained mentor will not be the best buddy.
  • Call Welcome Wagon, or provide gift certificates from local businesses.
  • Place new teachers in a classroom that is already clean – but not stripped bare.
  • Have an afternoon “tea” for new teachers to discuss problems and successes, or just chat.

Monday, July 26, 2010

More ways to support new teachers

Here are more ways to support new teachers at your school.

Again, please feel free to add suggestions to the list.
  • Spend time with new teachers to go over evaluation process, Referral procedures, cumulative folders, etc.
  • Drop in on the new teacher daily, just to say “hello,” not for observation purposes. Offer frequent, positive feedback and little notes of praise in their boxes.
  • Do “snapshot assessments” on lesson plans at once a month, giving feedback on specific parts of their planning.
  • Have a local church’s women’s group to “adopt” the new teacher for a year. The group can provide a beginning of the year care package, and send encouraging cards or other small “thinking of you” tokens throughout the year.
  • Provide new teachers a gift certificate to a local teacher supply store – over and above what the rest of the staff may receive at the beginning of the year….take them shopping!
  • Provide an extra duty-free period.
  • Be sure to include the supply room, book room, clothes room, etc. on your tour of the building – places they may not encounter on their own.
  • Personally take them a yearbook so they can familiarize themselves with the staff.
  • Meet regularly with new teachers to “touch base” and determine possible supports.
  • Ensure some “R & R” by providing movie tickets.
  • Set up classroom visits for new teachers to observe more experienced teachers. Arrange coverage for their room if necessary. Do this a few times during the year.
  • Have their picture and a brief bio printed in the local newspaper.
  • Present a gift to the new teachers when introducing them to the staff.
  • Make sure new teachers know who is available for support (instructional specialists, Special Ed staff, support staff and other specialists within the school).
  • Send the new teacher to relevant off-campus staff development with a buddy.
  • Limit number of preparations (middle and high school).
  • Invite new teacher to lunch on teacher workdays (pay for it!)
  • Visit often and simply “chat.”
  • Support continuing staff development opportunities.
  • Holidays can be a very lonely when apart from families. If a new teacher is from out of town, encourage fellow staff members to invite them to family holiday gatherings.
  • Help out-off-town new teachers find an apartment
  • Include new teachers on key committees. This helps them feel more a part of the school.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The start of a new year

As the new school year comes upon us I thought I would post some items to help administrators and teachers have a successful school year. This will be a series of blogs. I am going to begin with suggestions on how to support the first year teacher. While these tips are for first year teachers, there are some things that the experienced teacher will enjoy as well.

  • Assign a “good” mentor, who is not only an excellent teacher with good interaction skills, but one who also has a positive attitude and a good relationship with the school community.
  • In addition to the mentor, try to find a “buddy” who is similar in age and/or experiences for the new teacher who is willing to be a friend even after school ours. Encourage social time to help new feel more at home.
  • Purchase a copy of The First Year Teacher, K-8 for new teachers, The First Days of School or other published or hand made resource to give ideas on setting up the classroom and getting the year off to a positive start.
  • Take new teachers out to eat periodically. Include local favorites to help support the community.
  • Help the new teacher unload / unpack / move into their new classroom.
  • Post a welcome message with new teachers’ names on the school sign before their first arrival.
  • In the “welcome back” letter mailed to your staff, be sure to introduce new teachers and what they will bring to the staff. Encourage staff to help you make them feel welcome.
  • It is a nice surprise for a new teacher to receive a care package in the mail from the principal containing a school shirt, coffee mug, grade level curriculum, student handbook, and an apartment finder book if from out of town.
  • Prepare welcome baskets to give to new teachers at the first faculty meeting containing everything they need to survive the first weeks in their new school: school t-shirt, Tylenol, coffee mug, CD of relaxing music, hand sanitizer, chocolate bars, band aids, tic-tacs, gum, etc.
  • Provide new teachers a supply of business cards complete with their name and school logo.
  • Provide time to get to know new teachers on a personal basis – not just during pre- post-observation conferences or staff meetings. Ex: Have a monthly “tea” just for new teachers. Use this time to discuss hobbies, interests, etc., not school stuff. It would be a good idea to do this away from school. We always have an ice cream social before the first day that teachers “officially” report. Many teachers come in for this and it allows new teachers to have met someone before going to that first faculty meeting.
  • Do not assign the new teacher to a floating position, or give them the worst group of students.
  • Give new teachers your home and cell phone number, or others they can call in an emergency, and let them know it is OK to call at any time.
  • Give new teachers a special orientation to the school to show them copiers, supply areas, storage areas, and where things are “tucked away.”

I will be adding more items to the list over the next several days. If you have suggestions to add please do so.

Kids Eat Free - York County

I know this has nothing to do with education leadership, but with the current economy and the furlough days teachers are taking I felt it was worth the post. Below is a list of places in York County where kids eat free. I am not getting any kickbacks from listing the names of the restaurants and I take no responsibility if the information is not 100% accurate.

If you know of other locations please add to the list or if you find anything inaccurate let me know.

Six Pence - Baxter Village - Sunday and Monday
Captain Steves - Fort Mill - Wednesday
Village Pizza - Fort Mill - Monday
Town Taverne - Fort Mill - Tuesday
Beef O Bradys - Tuesday
Sonnys Dutch Mill - Tuesday
Firebonz - Rock Hill - Monday through Friday from 4-7
Penn Station - Rock Hill - Tuesday
Earth Fare - Rock Hill - Thursday
Denny's - Rock Hill - Tuesday
Carolina BBQ - Fort Mill - Sunday and Monday
IHOP - Rock Hill - Monday through Thursday 4-8
Red Bowl - Fort Mill and Rock Hill - Monday and Saturday (Under 9 for 0.99)
Hooters - Rock Hill - Sunday

Friday, July 23, 2010

Music, Movement and Learning

This week I have had the opportunity to see several kids (ages 4-14) learn at an exceptionally fast pace by teachers that may not have had formal training. My oldest daughter was in cheer camp and was taught by teenagers. My two younger daughters were at vacation bible school and were taught by parents.

At cheer camp three teams of girls (about 60 cheerleaders in all) were taught by twelve varsity cheerleaders at the local high school. During a three day period all the girls learned four cheers, words and movements, and two dances. I saw them progress each day and watched them perform almost flawlessly on the third day. How were there girls able to learn so much so fast?

At vacation bible school I saw over 500 children learn five songs and movements over a five day period. These children started at the age of 4. Today they performed in front of all of their parents. How were all of these students able to learn so fast? How can we take this and use it in our schools and our classrooms?

The common strategy used in both locations was music and movement. Brain research indicates that movement helps in learning. These children were able to use music, chants, movement and repetition to learn a lot of material in a short amount of time.