Tuesday, July 21, 2015

National Junk Food Day: Top 8 Things I'm Thankful For

Better than Christmas dinner or eating out for my birthday, definitely better than Thanksgiving turkey and dressing, today is my fav food day. The greatest day ever, it's National Junk Food Day.
Stop. Seriously, I love me some junk food. So today, I celebrate. Hey, CNN said it, so it's true.
Since I'm over 40 and eating all of this would completely derail my getting into work clothes next week, I decided to create My Top 8 Junk Foods list!
In no certain order:

1. My daddy taught me to eat these. I treat myself to a couple a year. The Orange Cake went away when Hostess went away; I bought every one Target had, then left a shrine in place of the empty Hostess shelves. Delicious!

2. Funnel Cakes. If there's a festival, get outta my way. I'm coming in for the funnel cake, and I'm not sharing. I don't particularly care that white powder is in my eyelashes. I love funnel cakes.

3. Cheese fries. If you know me well, you know that for many years a plain baby cheeseburger and fries from McDonald's was a staple in my diet for most of my 30's. Now, I'm old and I refrain, most of the time. I could actually eat my weight in french fries. So, this junk food treat is CHEESEFRIES WITH BACON! #snuffers #outback
4. Who knew that anyone could roll up the yummiest of greatness in a small ball and dip it in freaking chocolate and make something that I literally look between the seats of my car for change to buy? Thank God the local baker doesn't accept AmEx!

5. You call them gummy worms; I call them hummy gummies. I don't know why. It makes me happy. These little boogers make me happy too.

6.  Candy corn. These are a bit seasonal and I am prejudice to the original Halloween colored candy corns. Great thing about these is they are fat free. Really. No lie. FAT FREE! I carry them in my pockets; no one even knows. (Then I'd have to share.) Years ago, my students picked up on my love for candy corn, and it never fails, when October rolls around, someone will leave a bag in my box. This yearly treat never fails to make me smile!

7. There was a battle for this one. I struggled between the Zebra Cake and the Ding Dong. I had to go old school. My mom used to put these in my lunchbox in elementary school. These aren't quite the same as they used to be when they were wrapped delicately in foil, but a good, fresh Ding Dong, thanks Hostess, definitely makes my list.

8.  Finally, needing no introduction, Krispie freaking Kream donuts. I swear: I will wreck my car and take out pedestrians to slide into this drive thru when the HOT light is on. It's like Satan holding a flashing beacon calling my name, "Eat me."

So, whatever you enjoy, indulge yourself. Today is the day. Tomorrow, you can work it off. But today, enjoy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Peer Pressure, Professional Learning & the Principalship: They Got Me On Periscope!

I did it. It was peer pressure - even though deep down I really probably wanted to try it.  I wouldn't have. But, peer pressure got me.
That darn TPT conference and social media combined to rock my world.
See, I'm not a teacher, and TPT, well, I love to look at it, but it really hasn't completely embraced us administrators. My role seems to be more of a cheerleader for the amazing teachers with whom I work. They post and share; they blog and Instagram. They build and tweet. They have an entire professional learning community that I'm kinda left out of.    
When I taught, back in the day, I attended the conferences I was asked to attend; I presented the presentations I was asked to present. I remember being so jealous when our school counselor was talking about a True Colors Workshop she was going to attend. I was absolutely green. Apparently, it was obvious. Someone got sick and couldn't go the day of the conference, and suddenly, I was there! I'd have run over someone with my car to go. I was giddy.
Professional learning early in my career involved doing exactly as I was asked - anything more was done under the radar. You could never survive if you looked or acted like you wanted to be better or do more.
But, I'll admit it: I read a lot along the way. I ask tons of questions. And, fortunately, I married a co-worker - which meant I could bounce ideas and brainstorm in bed! (Maybe that should be another blog!) In all, I think I was pretty innovative for the 90's.
Fast forward. I have teachers at every grade level making money on TPT. I have bloggers and tweeters. I have presenters and curriculum writers. I don't HAVE to push them. They push me! Heck, I'm just trying to keep up with them!
I think I could keep up, but there are just so many of them. They're moving in so many directions. Then, Periscope. Darn TPT conference. Darn social media. In 24 hours, I had one texting me that it was the greatest thing ever and another sending me tutorials.Then, the #periscopeteacherchallenge came.
So, I did it. It was awful. (Well, don't tell but my first Periscope was actually just trying to figure out the logistics so it was actually about 2 minutes of our new kitten chasing a fishing lure. I earned some hearts and actually had 10 visitors!) Then, I actually completed the #periscopeteacherchallenge, thanks to one of my teachers, and it was pretty awful. Actually, it was terrible. I forgot to give it a title. Only 3 people joined me. It was bad. I deleted it. But, I did it.
I knew I had to do another one; my competitive nature kicked in. So, I had an epiphany as I was leaving work a couple of days ago. The sun was bright, and I immediately thought how thankful I was for my sunglasses. Then, I thought about how thankful I am for my real glasses. I know: I'm a dork. So, I was in the thankful thought process and from there, I thought about how thankful I am to have a wonderful custodian. She had just stopped in to say hello and see if I needed anything. She's truly invested in the school. Bam! That was my Periscope - 3 things for which I am thankful.
Every few months a different site will reuse this.
It's crazy seeing your daughter when you scroll
through your news feed.
Yes, even my mom has made her social media debut!
I have really been working on being thankful and showing gratitude more, so that's what I talked about in my Periscope. Long story short, I got totally nervous and talked about gratitude and graciousness synonymously with thankfulness. I came across as a complete moron. Nice.
So, 2 official Periscopes and 2 official epic fails.
I'll do it again. I think. Secretly, I'd love to taunt my daughters - one who has over 2 million loops on Vine Riley's Vine and the other who had a tweet go viral. I would love to taunt them with better ratios. :)
Staying ahead of two teenagers is hard enough. Now, I have an entire staff to try to stay ahead of.
I realized years ago with Instagram that I can't stay ahead of my girls, not possible. I have to trust that they've learned right and wrong, and they will do what is right.
Periscope taught me the same thing. I can't stay ahead of my teachers. It's impossible. I can only support them and encourage them to take risks and learn new things. The best I can do is maintain my own professional learning, watch for trends in data throughout grade levels and the school, and share! I can build relationships and listen. I can be available and provide support.
After 14 years in the same school, I am blessed my role as a principal continues to evolve and develop. I am not only thankful for a staff that is willing to think outside of the box and take risks, but I am also thankful for one that challenges me to continue to grow!
For now, I'll just listen for that Periscope alert! Maybe I'll see you there! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Putting My Teacher Hat to Good Use As Soccer Mom

I'm not the quintessential soccer mom - I don't drive a Suburban, I don't know all the players on the others teams, I have no concept of the national rankings (but we're good!) and I don't think my daughter is the greatest girl to hit the pitch since Mia Hamm.  :)

Even though I'm not in the classroom anymore, I still describe myself as a teacher. I hope my staff sees me as a teacher too.

So, while it's World Cup Soccer for the rest of the world, it's the National Playoffs for my daughter and her team. Here come the teacher skills: goody bags! I know, dorky. I enjoy it though, and it makes me part of her world even for a goofy minute.

Pinterest is the greatest for fun ideas on clever treats and witty sayings. I found some great ones, but the ones I used the most came from The Dating Divas.

I wanted to do more than one little thing, but of course, I didn't want to break the bank. Their site inspired me to find a few things around the house and put together a whole goodie bag!

A trip to the dollar store, thanks Dollar Tree, and I was set. Once I opened everything, I was a bit overwhelmed as to where to begin. After a few attempts, I trashed everything, opened Word and typed out a sentence for each item. Then, I moved them around, combined a few and wah-la! I had exactly what I needed.

I (mustache) you a question!
Are you ready to (ring) in a championship? This is (war)!
It's time to (POPcorn) to Seattle where you'll (BLOW pop) them up!
On Saturday, you'll (sock) it to TEAM A. They'll (bandage) their wounds.
On Sunday, you'll put a (fork) in TEAM B, because they'll be done.
You can (sidewalk CHALK) up another win to practice and team work.
You don't need (Lucky Charms). Take lots of (Nerf Bullets for shots) and score lots of goals!
Just show them all your (Twix for tricks) and skills. They'll need (tissue) for their tears.
(Hair BAND) together; you're ready to win!
The TEAM C will (pink hair roller for CURL UP) and roll on back to Cali.
When the final (whistle) blows, you'll be heading to Virginia.

Pretty simple and relatively inexpensive. It really took more time creating the note because every time I added pictures, it shifted everything. I ended up moving it to Powerpoint. That worked beautifully because the gallon zipper bags fit perfectly.

I printed the notes on the back side and made a graphic in one of my fav sites, Canva! It downloaded and printed on the opposite side super easily! I didn't waste one page!

Once all of the bags were stuffed, I stapled the topper on and they were done!

I am confident that I am way more excited than the girls will be, but that's not an atypical emotion for a teacher: you spend hours/days preparing something and the kids are like, "hmmmm, cool." Oh well, it made me happy, and it keeps me a part of her life. I'll trade in the Suburban for a goodie bag any day!

Good luck in Seattle girls!

Itemized list of Goody Bag
moustaches (7 for $1)
Lucky Charms (bought 2 large boxes and divided into smaller bags)
Ring Pops (4 for $1)
Army men (20 for $1)
Microwave popcorn (Wal-mart 22 bags for $4.50)
Socks ($1 for 3 at Dollar Tree)
Band-aids (under my sink!)
Bullets (15 for $1)
Pink Hair Curlers (10 for $1)
Whistles (Dollar Tree 10 for $1)
Tissues (my house!)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Teachers: They Aren't Lady Liberty

I am against SB 893/HB 2543 because it “allows for the use of STAAR test scores of the students of an individual teacher to be used to evaluate that teacher and to be used to determine employment and compensation of that teacher.”

I started building classes for next school year today. I really enjoy the process, talking about growth and who will be good with whom. The team talks about strengths and weaknesses, who would make great friendships, who should absolutely no matter what never EVER be in the same class, what streets they live on, what parents expect from their teacher, different communication preferences, how many boys and girls, if we have more than one Aiden, Ethan or Emma, reading levels, opportunities for remediation and enrichment, proximity to the restroom, and even, will that class have a copy mom and parent reader… along with many other things; I promise.

As we were making classes today, we did NOT talk about the teachers’ previous state mandated testing scores. We did NOT talk about her passing rate from the previous year; we did NOT talk about the number of benchmarks she gave or how much data she disaggregated with her previous class. We did NOT talk about putting all of the special needs students in one certain teacher’s class because we don’t like her. We did NOT talk about a teacher’s marital status and if she could afford a pay cut if her students did not perform well.

SB 893/HB 2543 erodes the basic foundations of the public school system. Sure, to business people who base their success on profits and dollars, I can actually see that it might sound reasonable. Guess what though: THIS ISN’T A BUSINESS! It’s a relationship. Public schools are about growing and supporting every child; they are about celebrating when my little friend finally learns to read in 4th grade. My job as a principal is to create a culture that incites a deep desire to create and explore. Bubbling a Scantron is not a hot topic of discussion – well, except for those few weeks before state testing when we quit teaching and, with great sorrow and anguish, line up the desks, break out the worksheets and put that copy mom to work.

I am against SB 893/HB 2543 because every child is different. Every group of children is different. How a teacher prepares one class is totally different than how she works with another. They’re children - individual, special, and unique.

If SB 893/HB 2543 passes, who will want the children who struggle? Who will get them? Great teachers often get the greatest challenges. Is that fair? Wouldn’t it be prudent to give the one teacher that you want to get rid of the lowest kids!? “Bam!  Your kids did poorly; you’re fired!” Or, “Hey! You won teacher of the year! Congratulations! You get 4 who speak no English, 3 who are hungry, 4 who are diagnosed ADHD and have no chance at sitting still ever – especially for a 4 hour test, 1 gymnast who spends 20+ hours in the gym every night, and 3 who have specific, identified learning disabilities that provide them with services more than 2 years behind their peers! You rock!”

Your teacher is not the Statue of Liberty; she is not saying, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” (Emma Lazarus' sonnet, New Colossus). With SB 893/HB 2543, your teachers, instead, would be begging for no discipline, English speaking, upper middle class high achievers who thrive on their round peg fitting into that round hole. The great teachers will go to work in the best schools with the best parents who have the highest standards; this will give those teachers the best chance at taking home a decent paycheck (hopefully more than the $27,000+ that our Legislatures who support SB 893/HB 2543 think teachers are worth.)

To our Legislatures, do not support SB 893/HB 2543. It is bad for children, bad for teachers and bad for Texas. Call your Legislature. Tell him/her not to support SB 893/HB 2543.

 And, please let me do my job. Let me build classes that are based on relationships – where kids are challenged and encouraged in meaningful, collaborative settings, facilitated by teachers who were paired with that child and the others in that class based on lengthy discussions of compatibility and opportunities for success.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I Was A Real Principal Today!

As ridiculous as it may sound, I was a real principal today - you know, the one I talked about being in my interview, the one I thought I was going to be every day. Yep, I actually sat with a teacher and talked about her future plans. I know. It sounds so ridiculous.

Of course, that's something I should do every day - mentor, lead, guide, share, encourage. But, over the past few years, I have been so focused on trying to make sure everyone was seamlessly integrating technology, following the district's strategic design, aligning 21st century skills, disaggregating data, attending the mandatory workshops, pulling apart the new state math standards, using balanced literacy, spending time in writer's workshops, meeting with design coaches to coordinate with the design team... Well, I guess you get my point.

Focus was lost of what my individual teachers want/need. I was too busy giving, well, shoving kinda - "building the plane while it's in the air."

Well, the partially-built plane has landed (safely I might add), and it's time to do some redesign. The new plane will be a hybrid fighter jet!

The new "plane" will still give professional learning opportunities and still align with state standards; however, this hybrid design will include a well-thought out plan that will allow for data collection and collaboration. It will allow for thoughtful planning AND risk-taking.

I am completely committed to 21st century learning. I am also committed to ensuring that all students master fundamental academic skills like reading and writing and number sense. Of course, that's an entirely different blog post. :)

So, today I talked to a teacher about her personal vision. As ridiculous as it sounds, I walked to my car today and smiled. I wasn't thinking about the benchmark scores or the kid who peed on the bathroom floor; I wasn't thinking about rescheduling Open House, updating the school's Facebook, Instagram, and website. I was thinking about the how excited I was to see a young teacher thinking about her future.

It was a good day. Now I just need to figure out who keeps peeing on the bathroom floor! ;)

photo rights to http://i.vimeocdn.com/video/351682061_640.jpg

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


No, not a wedding engagement. Highly engaged. Attentive. Excited. Enthralled. 

I work with amazing people, and I see great things in classes often. Yesterday, I walked through a 4th grade class reviewing poetry vocabulary. Hmmm. For most 9-10 year olds, poetry isn't much more than "I see London; I see France..." 

Not this time. There was yelling, high-fiving and smack talking - if you can smack talk poetry vocabulary. 

The class was using Kahoot (www.getkahoot.com). They competed against each other to recognize various poetry vocabulary like cinquin, free verse, and limerick. It was beyond the regurgitation level of understanding; it was actually the conversation and excitement that intrigued me. 

When students discuss - and even argue about meaning and use and provide examples, they are gaining an enormously deep connection and understanding of that concept. 

After they finished and the winner gloated in his glory momentarily, they asked to "play again." The teacher laughed and said there wasn't time and they'd already done it twice. 

Amidst the loud groaning and pleading, I heard a sweet girl in the back say, "we have 14 minutes." 

I laughed. Really? You're begging and whining to do poetry vocabulary?! Are you kidding? I laughed. Seriously. Who cares about iambic pentameter and AABBAA patterns? 

Apparently, when paired with a great 2.0 tool, 4th graders do. 

Now, if someone could find a tool to make paperwork more exciting....

Meanwhile, I think I'll just hangout in 4th grade and enjoy the excitement. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Field Trips

Field trips. I love them. I know they are a complete pain to put together: getting parents on board, jumping through the hoops of getting a P.O. together, making sure we know who takes what mess, double-checking background checks on volunteers, remembering who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, balloons, ants, soy, gluten oh, or the sun... Field trips are just daunting. 
However, once you're there, and students are making, building, experiencing life around them, the hours of preparation are forgotten. It's all about the eyes lighting up and the smiles filling the faces - and that's just on the adults! Watching the kids is way better! Their faces explode with excitement the gestures become huge and animated, and their voices boom with giddiness of their newfound knowledge! 
Our fifth graders recently spent the night at the Perot Museum in Dallas. Highly recommended. None of us will ever be able to walk the crowded halls of any museum and wait to see something or to try an interactive exhibit. We are spoiled. Each hour brought the moans of having to move to another floor. Museum officials swept behind the groups gathering the stragglers who needed "just one more minute" to complete their experience! 
That's highly engaged. 
After the last sweep was done, sleeping bags were rolled out & the lights were down, that's when real learning happened for me. Walking the floor, stepping over the little wild things, listening to them breathe quietly- still & silent for the first time, that was awesome.  Curled up in little balls in their sleeping bags, holding their favorite animal or hiding the blanket they didn't want their buddies to see, their innocence and potential revealed. 
They were little sponges - deserving the best, expecting to conquer the world, ready for the next big thing. 
How do we prepare them? What are we doing to build their confidence? How can we make sure we don't allow anything to stifle their creativity and enthusiasm? How do we protect them from drugs, alcohol and depression? 
Maybe just planning a field trip isn't so daunting. 
They were protected, at least for that one night, by the dinosaurs they could only envision from television, books, and their dreams.