Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my weekly Diigo links for educational leaders for the week of July 30th. I have gotten back into the nswing of things and done more tweeting of resources, which you can see below. Feel free to follow my Diigo account at diigo.com/user/tcmsprincipal. September is right around the corner!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Increasing Parental Engagement

Every summer, I spend some significant time looking back on the past year. I do my very best to determine what went well, and areas where I think we need to improve. I then try to chart the course for the upcoming year. Of course, I bring the outline of my ideas to my administrative team (usually during our annual retreat), where we dissect them, make adjustments (including adding some items and subtracting others) and come up with a more formal plan. The next step is to bring them to my Leadership Team, who in turn shares them with their various departments and teams for some feedback and final adjustments. I am sure this is very similar to how you operate in your building or other leadership position.

The reason I share this with you is that I am currently finishing up the first stage and I am coming up with a few areas where we need to improve. One of the biggest areas where I think we need some work is on parent engagement. Not parent involvement. These are two very separate things. We have tons of parent involvement, a great PTA, plenty of volunteers, awesome financial support (I know I am very lucky). ENGAGEMENT is an entirely different thing. I am currently reading Peter M. DeWitt’s book Collaborative Leadership: Six Influences that Matter Most, which is a great read. He states it like this:

“Too many times family engagement means to educators that parents should support what teachers want. This is very one-sided. Family engagement shouldn’t be about making sure the needs of the school are met. Family engagement is about a collaborative relationship between staff and parents with students at the center.”

THAT got me thinking about the role of our parents in our kids education. I started to think about how are parents are engaged, and I found that we were wanting. So, as I started to plan for next year, I came up with some ideas on how we can increase or parent ENGAGEMENT. Here is what I came up with:

Communication

I truly believe that we do a pretty good job with this one. We utilize a variety of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, weekly e-newsletter) and we have almost zero complaints from parents about information flowing from the school. Read that again…FROM the school. This year I want to work on information and communication flowing TO the school. We are going to work with parents to share great things their students are doing outside of the school walls. I am also going to encourage parents to utilize two-way communications on our social media networks.

Parent Advisory Committee

I already have an advisory council made up of students, but I am going to step out of my comfort zone and do the same thing for parents. Taking DeWitt’s comments to heart, I want parents on there that don’t necessarily agree with me. I see this as a win-win (even though it makes me terribly nervous). Parents win because they have a voice in the process that they made not have felt they had before. The school wins because we now have a group of parents who can act as ambassadors for the school in the community. Win-win.

School Environment

This year, to the best of our ability, we are going to make sure that parents feel welcome to the school. I’m not saying that we don’t already do this, because I think we do. But I want this to be a focus of our entire staff. There are parents out there (you can name them in your building) that no matter what you do, they are not going to be satisfied with our efforts. But that doesn’t mean we don’t make EVERY effort to welcoming every parent. Part of that welcoming every parent includes events that invite them in to be a part of the educational process. Not events where they sit and get talked to (we all know how that feels), but events where they can actually come in and be actively engaged in what their students are learning. If they understand

Parents as Partners

DeWitt talks about making parents partners in the process, and he is right. We met with our central office Family and Community Engagement department to come up with ways to encourage parents to become partners in the educational process. We are going to share a Google Doc with parents, asking them for ways that they can help us, engage with the school as a whole. This could be a business that will share resources or volunteers, individual parents who can contribute by acting as authentic audiences for our PBL lessons or be guest experts in the classroom for a lesson. We are going to do the same thing with staff (many of whom live in the community) to see if there are spouses or other people they know who can contribute.

There is a great PDF put out by the Virginia Department of Education that has some wonderful ideas on how to engage parents in your school. You can find it HERE. please feel free to share any ideas that your school uses to increase parental engagement as well.

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my Diigo posts for the week of July 23, 2018. I am putting the finishing touches on a post for tomorrow on parent engagement. It should be up in the morning. Enjoy these links!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my latest Diigo posts for the week of July 16, 2018. I had a new post last week, and have another almost ready to go. I am writing this week about our thoughts and plans for parent engagement (not involvement, which is different). Look for it tomorrow or Tuesday. I am up to #692 on the Teach100! My goal is to get into the top 100! Pass the site along to your PLN!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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School in the Summer Time

I am a middle school Principal. Have been now for 7 years. Before that I was an Assistant Principal who worked an extended contract (to do the master schedule) during the summer. My friends don’t get it. It’s not their fault, really, it’s not. Every summer, I get the same question every time I am visiting with my non-education friends. “So, what do you DO all summer long?”. Or, “how are you enjoying your summer vacation?”. To be fair (or snarky), these are the same ones who think teachers don’t work past 3:15 or during the summer months.

So, again, it’s not their fault. I patiently explain for the 17th time this summer that I am a 12 month employee. I work year round. We do things like plan for the upcoming year, finish the master schedule, hire new staff, and generally prepare for your students to arrive on the first Tuesday of September. Most of them are amazed when they hear this. Amazed.

But, truth be told, there are some real benefits of the summer months. Certainly, the pace is much slower than screaming through the hallways with your hair on fire (like most school days). The office is quiet, without a gajillion people circulating in and out for the entire day. I can actually sit at my desk and write a blog post (thanks for reading it, by the way). But what else can you do during the summer months? Here are some things I am going to put on my short list.

Organize

Everything. This is more than a cleaning of the office (which I also am getting done). I am going to spend some time reorganizing my Twitter followers, making sure they are all on the proper Twitter lists so that my PLN is more efficient and beneficial. I am going to do the same for my Google Drive. I take some time to look through every drawer and paper folder in my office. I throw out and shred what I don’t need and organize what is left.

Have Lunch with Your Mentor

During the school year, we barely have time to scarf down a sandwich in the cafeteria. Take some time while the pace i slower. Get back in touch with your mentor. Go out to lunch. Talk. ask questions. Reflect with him or her on the year that was. This is a great time to talk about your thoughts and plans for the upcoming year and get a different perspective.

Have a Retreat with Your Admin Team

Every year I take my admin team off campus for a focused day of planning. We always go off campus to minimize distractions. I include my School Counseling Coordinator and my Special Education Coordinator as part of the team. We discuss the previous year and do some in depth planning/discussion about the year coming up. I always post the agenda in advance so that people can add to it and prepare for the debates. And we always end in time for some adult beverages at a local establishment (I buy the first round) to celebrate and end on a positive note.

Catch Up on Your Reading

Over The course of the year, I accumulate tons of books, blogs and articles that I swear I am going to get to. Summer time is when I do that. I use Feedly to organize the blogs and websites I follow and spend some time each day looking through them. This summer I also updated my daily newsletters. There are so  many out there, but some of my favorites are morningannouncements.com, The Robb Review Daily and Education Dive. I spend 10 minutes each day looking for articles that are of interest and ones I can share with my admin team or faculty. I also schedule 30 minutes each day for whatever book I am reading at the time. Right now I am into “Culturize” by Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) and “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle.

Reconnect with Family

In our county, we work four 10 hour days, which means that I have three day weekends. While the 10 hour days can be brutal, the three day weekends more than make up for it. My wife and I try to plan a few day trips, spend some time with my oldest and his fiance, and we always find some time to hang out at our local pool each weekend, reading and chatting with friends. Use the summertime to reconnect and recharge before the hecticness begins in the fall.

Recharge and Refresh

Like most of you, by the time June rolls around I am exhausted. I love them, the students, parents and teachers. But in mid-June, I need a break. I need, no, I won’t survive, without a little downtime. It allows me to rejuvenate myself. It also allows me to reflect on the previous year, see where and what I need to improve, and generally take a deep breath. Make no mistake, I need this time. But by early August, I am bored, and I need them, all of them, back in the building.

Exercise

I am using this summer to re-establish my exercise routine. To say I had it let it “lapse” is like saying the North Pole is a “little cold”. My goal is to establish the routine, and then stick with it during the school year. I am fortunate that we have a great work out room in our Physical Education department. I plan my week out so that at least three times a week I head down there and get a work out in. it is starting SLOW, but I have set goals for my progress. You can do the same thing with your summer.

Use this summer to establish great routines and prepare for the new school year. Make it a great year!

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Return of the Principal

Now that summertime is here, I am determined to resurrect this blog that I have neglected terribly. I have a post almost ready for the site, and I will resume posting my Diigo links every Sunday, beginning July 22, 2018. If you see something you like, please help spread the word. I have to get my ranking higher than 805!

More to come!

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my weekly Diigo posts for March 4, 2018. I have neglected the blog. Things have been too busy (or so I keep telling myself). I need to do a better job of managing my time and working this blog.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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