Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tips for future leaders

There is a growing need for quality educational leaders in schools across the country. While the number of individuals enrolled in school administration programs has not decreased, the number of individuals putting those degrees to work has. Teachers have opted to earn a master’s degree in educational leadership and stay in the classroom and earn master level pay without some of the headaches and time commitments placed on administrators.

It is important for individuals that are pursuing a degree in educational leadership to know what to expect in the administrative position as well as how to make themselves marketable.

First of all, there are plenty of administrative jobs to be had. However, there is fierce competition for jobs in wealthy school districts and schools that have a good academic reputation. To get the jobs at these locations require you to separate yourself from the competition. The first way to do that is by having impeccable references. To do that you must do the right things in the classroom as well as during your internship. Throughout your Ed leadership program you should latch on to a principal or assistant principal and learn from them as much as possible. During this time you should make yourself available to do various administrative tasks that they can delegate to you. These hands on experiences will only help you in the future. Another way to stand out is by creating a portfolio with programs or experiences you have that show your leadership ability. For example, if you have implemented a program at your school or written a grant to start a program in your school you should detail this in your portfolio and emphasize this at your interview. You can also stand out by communicating with confidence what you feel are your strengths. I have found that persistence pays off when looking to get a specific job. Principals are often looking for individuals that blend in with the leaders they already have at the school. They want people with different strengths and abilities to create a complete administrative team to lead the school to success.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Is Size Crucial to School Improvement?

In today’s classrooms teachers are providing discipline, being a caregiver, and teaching citizenship and character education while covering the required state standard course of study to prepare students for standardized tests required by No Child Left Behind. All this is being done as the number of students that enter the classrooms is increasing. With all the demands placed on a teacher, does it matter the number of students that are in their class.
Leaders disagree with the effect class size has on school improvement. Some leaders feel that small class size helps improve student performance because the smaller class size helps teachers build significant relationships with their students, finding what learning styles work best for each student and implementing practices that will help each student succeed. During the 20th century, schools became increasingly larger in an attempt to provide more opportunities for students. While the average class size in a U.S. public high school is about 14 students, low performing students are usually grouped together in a larger classroom environment. By not reaching out to these lower performing students and finding ways to effectively meet their needs they will continue to perform below standard on state tests.
Some leaders think that by reducing class sizes, we are hurting the students by putting less qualified teachers in the classroom. Most leaders agree that while the laws are being put in place to reduce class size, large class sizes still remain in areas with a high percentage of minority, low income, or English as Second Language students.
In my experiences I have found students with the greatest needs are in larger classroom settings. Students that are academically gifted and taking advanced classes have much fewer students and receive much more individualized instruction. School enrollments are expected to increase, class size is expected to decrease, and the number of teachers will increase. My question is where will find qualified teachers to fill these growing classrooms? Will our students’ education continue to suffer because of inadequate teachers? With all of the demands put on teachers how are we going to get them to stay in the profession?

Gang problems

CK, BK, red, blue, throwing C’s, and hearts with pitchforks.

What do these things have in common? They are all gang symbols and can be seen on student notebooks, writings, and backpacks in schools throughout the country. Middle school students in particular are being targeted to join gangs and begin a lifestyle of drugs, sex, and money. The question is what can we do to stop this spread of violence and criminal activity that is sweeping the nation? One of the first things you can do as an educator is build a relationship with your students. An open relationship will allow a student to feel comfortable talking to you when they are confronted with a difficult situation or when they know a friend is in danger. The second thing that must be done is educators must be trained in how to recognize and deal with potential gang behaviors as this is not a phenomena that is going away. After training the teacher in what gang activity is, we must teach that individual on how to communicate this sensitive subject to the parents. Most parents are in denial when it comes to their child and a possible involvement in gang activity. However, if we can involve the parent, the child, and community services (such as police, churches, social services, etc.) in teaching the dangers of gangs and what positive alternatives to gang life are available we might have a chance in making an impact in some of these students lives.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

To suspend or not to suspend? That is the question!

What can we do with students that constantly receive office referrals?

The students that always seem to be in the administrators offices are the same students that perform below grade level on standardized tests. These students need to be in the classroom to get the information they need to be successful on those test, otherwise schools fall to the sanctions imposed by NCLB. However, when these students are in class they disrupt so that other students are not able to learn.

When administrators receive office referrals for students they have several options of what to do with the student. The popular choices seem to be OSS (out of school suspension) or ISS (In school suspension). The benefits of ISS include:
1. The student remains at school and is able to have an adult monitor them and ensure they understand the lessons.
2. The students can conference with a counselor or mentor during the day.
3. The student is out of the classroom not disrupting the other students
4. The student is not running the street.

When the student receives OSS:
1. They are not guaranteed getting the assignment, much less receiving help to understand the material.
2. Students are often left unattended at home and get into more trouble on the street.
3. The student is out of the classroom not disrupting the other students.
4. They fall into a cycle of missing school, falling behind in their academics, and not finding success.

Both options remove the student from the classroom where they are preventing other students from learning. But in both scenarios students are forced to learn without the benefit of their classroom teacher.

After deciding what type of punishment to deliver to the student, the administrator must then decide the number of days to put the student out of the class. Most administrators have the luxury of deciding between one and ten days ISS or OSS. Does it really make a difference in the students’ behavior if you remove them from class for one or two days verses five to ten days? Is it more beneficial to bring the parent in for conferences with the student in an attempt to correct the behavior? Finally, at what point do we permanently remove the student from school and suffer the consequences of NCLB?

Start em' off right

I am writing this entry at 4:00 in the morning at an all male lock-in for 6th grade students. We are using this lock-in as an introduction to our young knights on what it means to be a young man. Our goal, as teachers, is to introduce these young men to different members in the school and in the community that are concerned about them and want to teach them how to build a successful life and community. By starting with the 6th graders we are looking to develop characteristics in young men that will have a positive impact on the school in the coming years.
While at the lock in we have done some team building activities, as well as, allowed the students some free time to play basketball, football, ping-pong, cards, etc. We have fed the student’s supper and have educational sessions set up for them. The educational sessions include discussions about sexual harassment from the SRO, a lesson on etiquette by the Kappa Fraternity, and a goal setting session by a former student and pro football player in the community.
The first night was meet with some frustration by the adults because of the student’s behavior, however I think this is most of the young men’s first event like this and they were excited and did not mean to be disrespectful at times. The students did come around and got to participate with their teachers, administrators, and community members in a variety of activities that allowed them to see adults in a different light. Most of the adults took time in the various activities to teach students about teamwork and how to improve their skills.
With much work my colleagues and I will strive to make these 6th grade young men a positive force within the school community.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hands Off!!!

When is it alright for an educator to put their hands on a student? (I don’t mean shaking their hands as they enter the classroom as suggested by Harry Wong!) The blanket answer is never, especially when dealing with a situation where you are disciplining the student. However, in my years in education I have seen an administrator punched by a student, a student continue to go after another student in a fight, students blatantly ignore teachers directives, and other situations where you want to put your hands on a student, not in an aggressive manner, just to get their attention.

Training in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention teaches proper techniques in restraining and transporting students in a manner that will not cause harm to the student or the adult, but unless you practice these techniques to where they become second nature they are useless in a crisis situation. I have had the training and have abandoned it in times of need, relying on a good old fashioned bear hug. I have never hurt a student nor do I ever intend to, but shouldn’t educators be able to restrain a student to prevent them from doing harm to themselves or others? Should we be able to hold their arm to get their attention without fear of a lawsuit? Despite our best intentions the bottom line is HANDS OFF!!!!!!