A couple of summers ago I read The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, for a graduate class that I was taking. At the time I thought the book was an interesting perspective on the world and the way that things happen. Now, I find myself referencing it more and more. You see, I think we are at a Tipping Point at Stewartville Middle School.
I have spent the last three years at SMS and I have learned quite a bit. I have learned that there is an enormous amount that I still need to learn (yes, that becomes clearer and clearer each day). Cliche that it may be, it is true. I find myself constantly looking for new information, new ways to do things, the new option for trying to reach students, you name it, I try and learn about it. And I think that has been my problem and the problem for many other educational leaders. We spend so much time looking for the new thing, that we get lost in it all. In my three years in Stewartville we have had major initiatives started. We brought in Lee Jenkins to train the entire staff in the L to J process. We brought in Scott McLoed to talk about using data and Professional Learning Communities. We had a district book study about using the FISH! philosophy in schools. The list continues to grow: RTI, Constructed Response, Strategic Planning, Mental Health.
The problem does not lie in the search for knowledge. The problem has become that when we continue to search out answers to questions we have not formulated well, we will never know if we have the right answer. One of my colleagues quoted Tom Smothers, from the Smothers Brothers, the other day (honestly have no idea if this was him or not, which is why I am sure to give credit to my source), "When you do not know what you are trying to say, you will never know when to stop talking." Like so many others, we went out in search of the answer to the question, How can we help students improve achievement? It seems like a reasonable question for a school system, possibly the root question that all school systems should be asking. The problem is that the question is not formulated enough. Yes, we want all kids to achieve and improve. No duh! The question is too vague. There are millions of things that we could do to help students to achieve and you can see from the list above that we are trying lots of them. Yet, we cannot answer the question. Is what we are doing helping kids?
The last few weeks has led me to believe that there is a change underway. There is a change in the way we are thinking about things. We are rooting ourselves in our Strategic Plan. We are starting to refer back to this rooting when we make decisions. We also are rooting ourselves in data. We want to know if the things that we are doing is having an impact on what is happening in the classroom, with the students. How can we measure that? is a question I am hearing more and more. People are becoming excited. The tipping point is coming, I can feel it. We are the verge of having great things happen. I not only get a front row seat, I am smack dab in the middle of it. I cannot wait for next year to see if we can keep the momentum. Keep watching...
So here I am again. Finally, some might say, others may not have noticed. The posting had stopped, but I am back with a strong understanding that this is something which I want to make sure I keep up with again.
The year ended, without much issue, and the summer months are here. I need to ask for something to be done about blocking my access to the blog and then we will make sure that things are continuing for the next school year.
Be well and be safe this summer.
Posted on June 08, 2009 at 07:16 PM | Permalink
At an assembly earlier today, there were two big announcements that were made. At least I think they are both big, though I am sure the students will make one out to be bigger than the other.
The first announcement is that the Homework Club has returned to the middle school. The Homework Club will begin on Monday and will run Monday- Thursday from 3:15-4:15 pm. One of the middle school paraprofessionals will be supervising the students during this time.
The second announcement comes from the people at Best Buy. Best Buy is providing our students an opportunity that is unlike any other I have known. Two Best Buy Associates announced that beginning with the first quarter report cards, Best Buy will provide a $5 gift card for every A (A- A or A+) that the student receives on the report card! Students will need to bring in the official report card within 45 days of the end of the quarter to the Best Buy South Store (next to Lowe's) Customer Service Desk. I would like to thank Best Buy for offering this great opportunity to our students.
Hopefully the rest of the year can be filled with as much excitement as today!
Posted on September 05, 2008 at 05:27 PM | Permalink
Once again we have the beginning of the school year. For me, this is the 31st time I have started a school year in a public K-12 school. One of the nicest things for me this year is that I am very excited to get the year started, maybe more than I have been in a long time. With this my third year on the job, I feel like I am finally feeling comfortable with what is happening in the building. I know the staff and, in turn, they know me. We know what to expect from each other. The same is true for the students as well. The 8th grade students have had me as the principal the entire time they have been in the middle school. It is my hope that they know how much I want them to have a positive experience as a middle school student.
As we move through the year, please know that I am always interested to hear what you are thinking about what is happening in the building. You have a view that I am not always able to see from inside. I want to know what you think is working and what you think is not. It may not mean that I will take immediate action. However, I will always take your viewpoint into consideration.
It is my hope that the 2008-09 school year is the best in the history of Stewartville Middle School. Have a great school year!
Posted on September 04, 2008 at 09:32 PM | Permalink
It seems strange. I was speaking with a good friend of mine and he made the comment that I had not updated my blog lately. Well, he was a little more direct about it, as friends can be, asking if I still worked in Stewartville since the blog had not been updated since the beginning of the school year. To be honest, I could not recall the last time that I had updated it, and am surprised that it was September.
This made me begin to think about the reasons for this. The most significant reason for the lack of new information is that I did not think that anyone was reading it. This comment from my friend was the first one that referenced the lack of an update. I desperately want to have information in the hands of parents and other stakeholders of the middle school. However, I do not want to waste my time putting this information together if there is no one reading it (except my friend, of course). But at the same time, I have not done the job necessary to get people to use the blog as an information piece either. So, I am making a commitment to this blog and also at getting the information out about the blog, so people will use it.
With that in mind, I must say that I cannot believe the school year is over. It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in the PAC presenting information to the new students. And now, the halls and lockers are empty. I will be spending some time gathering my bearings after a long school year, and will then start planning for next year. Please check back soon as I will be adding information about the exciting changes in the school for the 2008-09 school year. And if you do check in, please let me know so I can know that you are reading this. Have a great summer!
Posted on June 09, 2008 at 08:49 PM | Permalink
School is off to a rousing success. I truly do mean that. I wanted to say a quick thank you to all of the students, parents and guardians for all of their help in making the beginning of the school year so great. The first week is often filled with missed buses, long lines at lunch and lots of running around. I did not get the same feeling this year. I felt like the students were more prepared, more calm and more ready for everything that was thrown at them this year.
Hopefully this is something that will continue for weeks and months, but I know the honeymoon will come to an end at some point.
As the new school year begins, I am filled with the same sense of anticipation, hope, fear and anxiety that fills our students as well. Even in this, my 31st year of public education I have these feelings. I took the time last night to go through my clothes and made sure I had the outfit that I wanted to wear on the first day... just like the kids do. Thankfully, I did not have to make any last second dashes to Walmart to finish the ensemble.
It is important to remember these feelings as the students come back to school. My daughter, a first grader this year, has always loved school from the moment she set foot in preschool. Yet, it happened that her anxiety about the start of school was palpable. It took many conversations and meeting the teacher for her to feel comfortable about getting started. The does not change when students hit the middle school and for some it is worse. In middle school all of the rules change and then change again. It is much different from elementary school and even the shift between the grades in the middle school are difficult.
Keep this in mind these first few weeks of school. Students may show this anxiety in many different ways. Talk to your students early and often about how school is going. As very open ended questions and do not take "Fine" as an answer. It may not appear as though your student wants to talk about what is happening, but the reality for most of them is that they would like to share about their first day of school. Take the time to find out about it.
If you are like me, the school year has already begun. Most of out students have gotten lockers, schedules and had a chance to meet the new HR teacher! For some, the thought of starting the school year is a difficult one. For me, it is exciting having the students back in the building. It gives me energy that I normally do not have. It makes me remember that I love what I do, even when the other parts of the job drive me crazy.
As mentioned above, there is a new method to our madness in running homeroom. We are trying to move to a Advisor/advisee model with the students having one advisor for all three years of the middle school. In order to accomplish this we have moved to multi-age homerooms. This is a significant change from what we have done in the past, but I think it will be one in which we see the results all over the building. In making the building more of a community, we need to have more interaction between the grades. We tried, in the past, to keep all of the grades rather separate from each other. While this allows us to help reduce the problems associated with some of the students interacting, it also polarizes the students. There is a feeling that the grade levels should not mix. Mixing the homerooms will allow the students from the different grades in HR will reduce that. We will continue to monitor this new program to make sure it is accomplishing what we really would like.
I am excited about the new school year and look forward to all of the positive things that will happen. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to help.
Posted on August 30, 2007 at 11:13 AM | Permalink
Well- I think I am finally caught back up and am running on Minnesota time once again. Of course, it is now two weeks later, so I guess that should have happened already. Sorry this post has taken so long to take place, but there was lots to do upon my return.
People have been very kind to me on my return to the states and have put up with me as I go on and on about the trip. Just this morning I was speaking with someone about it and could have gone on for hours. To say the trip had an impact on me would be an understatement. I think differently about the world after having completed this trip and that makes me think about the students with whom I work on a daily basis. I believe myself to be a person who is pretty thoughtful-- in the meaning that I think about things and can put myself in the position of others pretty well. Yet, this experience has made me understand so much more about the world, in general, and China specifically. It was through this experience that I began to see that we need to get to know each other so we can truly understand one another. I feel pretty well read, but it took me to travel there to truly know about others. This is something that we need to bring back to our students.
Another part of this, though, is something that Ray Clifford, one of the people in my small group, said in his speech to the group at the welcoming ceremony in the Hunan Province. He said that in order for us to understand, we need to be able to communicate with each other. This means that we need to speak the same language. This is something that we need to look at as a country and in my school. It is simply not enough for us to think this can be taken care of in high school. We need to have the options for our students as early as possible.
I am not going to take any more of your time here. If you would like to hear more about my trip, please let me know and I would be happy sit down with you.
Posted on July 17, 2007 at 12:29 PM | Permalink