Welcome to my ramblings!

Welcome to my Blog. Here you can find the ramblings of a old high school principal. I've created a number of blogs over the years for a variety of reasons. A large number of them I use with my staff which are password protected from the outside world. This blog is for my fellow educators and anyone else who wants to read the ramblings. I guess my target would be building administrators, future administrators, teachers and educators in general.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Do They Need Us?

Why Do They Need Us?

Today I re-watched a Ted Talk by Diana Laufenberge: "How to learn? From mistakes." Her message about learning from failure is a powerful one. But I'd like to focus in on only a very small proportion of her presentation. At about the 5:45 minute mark she spoke about when her grandparents, parents and even when she was in school. She used the words "information shortage". Today, she added a new set of words "information surplus".  All of this lead to the following question, "Why do students need to come to school when they already have access to the information?"

Let's take a moment and take apart what I believe she meant.
  • When our grandparents and parents (maybe even us) went to school the information we needed to know was hard to come by. We had textbooks, library and encyclopedias. But for the most part we got a lot of our information from the teacher. Let's just say they became the parter of the information.
  • By "information surplus" I believe she's stating how easy it is for students to access information today. Let's be honest, how often have you Google or Youtube something you had no idea about? In a matter of minutes and even seconds the information was being provided.
  • So if we see the role of teachers to be the parter of information like we did decades ago, "why do our students really need us now"? They simply use their devices.
Yes, I know many of you have already jumped to some answers to why they need to come to school. But before we jump to soon let's take a moment on the message here. How many teachers still see their role as the provider of the information?  If you're reading this, your probably NOT one of those folks. But maybe if we all share Ms. Laufenberge point with those around us we could get a few more reflecting on the role they play. Maybe, even get a few to change.

Now, lets look at why they still need to come - IF we do our job.
  • Who's going to teach students on how they can quickly access this information on those devices?
  • Who's going to teach them to determine what is valuable or correct information vs. incorrect information?
  • Who's going to teach them to be critical thinkers about the information so they can form educated good decisions?
  • Who's going to get them excited about things they have no idea that they can be excited about?
  • Who's going to open up the world to them?
The role of the educator is changing and some of this change is being caused by the development of new technologies each day. If we don't adapt as educators we are not preparing our students for their future!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Spring Parent Teacher Conference - We Need to Think Different

Several years ago our district decided to reinstate our spring parent-teacher conferences. Our reason was at the high school we change courses at semester and a number of students end up having new teachers. Our parents need to have the opportunity to visit with this new teachers like they did at the start of the year.

So on Tuesday we have PTC 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and then on Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with Friday off. If you factor in 70 teachers and the cost to employ them for two days. You would expect a large turn out from 1200 student parents. 

Clearly, since I'm writing this you've already guessed our turn out is poor.  I believe PowerSchool (our parent notification system) helps keep parents more aware of their child's grades and less need to come see the teacher. Then many of the parents who do show are ones we really don't need to see. 

So, how can we use this time more productivity? You might think we just cancel our PTC but we are a district and our elementary schools feel the need for this time. Factor in the union we clearly can't have students here if others don't or professional development when again others are working with parents. 

Here are a few ideas I'm kicking around:

  • Train teachers to focus on student skills and how those skills prepare them for college, workplace or the military. Then our meetings are focus to help parents with their child's next step not the grade. I understand we do that but I'd like to create a building focus approach.
  • Look at our Career Planning program and setup meetings with parents and teachers to discuss their child's current plan and how they are progressing.
  • We currently do provide some guidance on next years enrollment we could expand that to incorporate more information. 

I'm sure some of you might be doing some different and I would love to hear from you. To comment just click on "comment" below. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Would I hire you?

Just wrapped up interviews for a teaching position and thought I would  share some thoughts. I'd also like to get some of your thoughts at the end.  

Those around me give me a hard time on how I interview future teachers. Before I tell you why they give me a hard time let me share our process.
  • We create a team which includes the Chair of the Department, Instructional Coach, Assistant Principal (if they are involved in the curriculum area), Associate Principal and myself. On rare occasions our superintendent and maybe our HR director will sit in. 
  • We go around the table asking questions like most. We are free to build on another's questions if we feel the need.
  • I rely on my team to ask the instructional and knowledge questions. 
  • At the end we give the individual a chance to ask us questions.
So here's the part that my team gives me a hard time about. I feel it is my duty to challenge the individual. I want to put them under pressure and see how they think. I want to see how they will handle difficult situations and/or students. Therefore, I role play couple of situations. 

Let me share couple. Understand that the power comes with the role play and I can't really give you a true experience in a blog. 

So I ask them, I'm a student in your class who is passing your test with A's and B's. However, I don't do your homework. Therefore, I assume I'm not passing your class? The standard answer is "yes" or on rare situations "you wouldn't be doing well". At this point I ask what will you do with me and the role play begins. Here are some standard actions:
  • They ask, "why don't you want to do the work" ... my response, "It's a waste of my time."
  • "Why is it a waste of time?" ... my response, "Why do I need to do it, I pass your test?"
  • Usually I start hearing about how important it is to do the work to help me learn which again leads me to say, "Why I pass your test!"
  • Then it normally turns to, well in life you need to do things you don't want to. Sometimes we hear this early but normally during all interviews this is statement that comes up. My response is "Why, if I felt it was really important I'd do it!" I might give an example on how I do things outside of school that I don't like to do but because I feel it's important get done. 
  • Often I hear "Well if you don't do the work your not going to get the points therefore your going to fail." My response "Then I will fail! Thats the problem with education your to worried about me wasting my time to do homework that serves no purpose - I hate school because of this!"
  • At this point we go all kinds of directions but normally it always comes back to "I need to do the homework" and I keep saying, "No I don't because I pass your test!" Bottom line - I continue to challenge them  why do I need to do homework if I'm passing their assessments? I only take them off the hook when I say, "Enough lets change the situation."
The new situation is a failing student who doesn't do any work or pass any test. Again I ask what will you do? Usually I get some standard actions:
  • "I'd talk to you" ... my response, "I don't care", "just leave me alone", "I plan on dropping out".
    • Usually the individual will say, "what do you like," "what are your plans after high school," etc. Which I say, "I don't care just leave me alone." I might tell them how I plan on working for my uncle who dropped out who owns a tow truck business.
  • Then comes, "I'd call your parents" ... my response, "We (parents) understand, his been like that since elementary and we've given up." I might add, "we plan on dropping him out at 16." 
  • "I'll talk to my peers" ... my response, "I have the same problem," "I've given up on him," and "good luck with that kid".
  • At this point I might get "I'll talk with the principal or counselor"  ... which again I would say, "Oh man, his a pain and I don't know what to do with him either."
  • Usually it always gets back to talking to the kid again which I reply, "if you just leave me alone we will be ok but if you keep bugging me there will be a problem." This situation continues to grow until again I say enough.
The blog doesn't allow for me to show you how I use tone and actions to add to the stress of the situations but believe me it does.

Now, I could let you in on what I'm looking for but that wouldn't be any fun. I will tell you I've seen individuals get mad, faces turn red, become speechless and I've even heard they cried after the interview (not my goal). 

I will tell you I've been very lucky and have hired a great number of good educators.  Not all have answered the role play the way I wanted but they show me insight of what I'm looking for. 

So, would I hire you? I would love to see some comments below on how you think you would handle my role play. I might even comment on your comments. 

If you like share what you think the goal is with the questions.

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