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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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my weekly Diigo posts for educators. Hopefully you can find something you like. I am working on a post holiday post that I hope to have done this week, so stay tuned!

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

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‘Tis the Season

Maybe I am just getting old, or maybe I am old fashioned, but it seems that the holiday decorations and ads are coming earlier and earlier each year. Please understand that our house is decorated the day after Thanksgiving (which seems about right to me), and it stays up until the second week of January (maybe a hair longer than normal). And when I mean decorated I mean it looks like an airport runway. But I saw holiday decorations in stores BEFORE Halloween…that’s just not right (in my humble opinion). While not the point of this blog post, it helps to set the stage.

During these weeks of turkey dinners, holiday music, Macy’s Day parade and anticipation of some well deserved time off, our school focuses on community service and giving back to our community. We have conducted our annual Christmas Mother Sock Drive, we are in the midst of our Toys for Tots drive and we are just starting our Christmas Mother Book Drive. We concluded October with our annual Cancer Awareness basketball/soccer game, where we raised over $3200 for Catherine’s Fight, which benefited one of our families who has a student battling cancer. These are all outstanding events, and part of who we are as a school. But to me, there is more to it than that. When I watch our students dedicate themselves to making these events successful, I see so much more than pairs of socks, stacks of books and cash being donated. I see students who think about someone other than themselves. I see students who are grateful to be able to help others, and do it with a smile. I see students who put the needs of others before their own. I see hope and sacrifice and compassion and caring for others. I want to say that is what the holidays are all about, but that is wrong. It is the way we should treat each other all year long, and our students are wonderful examples of that.

We hear and read all the time about how this generation is so wrapped in their devices and screen time that they have no concept of human interaction. While there may be some truth in that, I also think we need to temper these types of remarks. We need to provide students opportunities to be contributing members of society, chances to see beyond themselves. When we do, they normally rise to the challenge. When they rise up like that, it give me hope for this generation. We should all be proud to be a part of that.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Weekly Education Links (weekly)

Here are my weekly Diigo bookmarks for November 6. I have had some issues that have prevented me from contributing as much as I would like, but I am hoping that I will get back into the routine this week!

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

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What I have Learned this Year (So Far)

I am 55 years old, and I am in middle school. Well, not IN middle school, but I have started my 30th year in a middle school. My wife would tell you I have always been a slow learner. But the beauty of it is that I am still learning, every day, about my job, my school, and the educational journey I have been on now for 33 years. Here is what I have learned this year, my 33 opening week of school.

I have learned that kids are remarkably resilient. Yes, they are nervous (so am I the first day of every year). Yes, they are unsure of themselves to varying degrees. Yes, they fumble their way through lockers, more freedom and responsibilities, and 1500 kids in the hallways. But you know what? They figure it out. Some quickly, some take more time, but the vast majority of them learn and grow and spread their wings to fly. It is quite remarkable to watch.

I have learned that it is not perfect. Nothing is. There are issues, there are problems, there are bumps and bruises along the way. But it almost always seems to work out. I look at it like a project you’re working on, like if you were building a table for your dining room. You put so much time and effort into it, and you see every little flaw. But those little flaws are not what everyone else sees. They see a beautiful product in your dining room. That is what I chose to focus on.

I learned that new people in new positions bring a whole different perspective to the work. And that is a good thing.

I have learned that a great administrative  team is more valuable than anyone can possibly know. I am fortunate to have a team this year that works together, has each others back and can laugh every single day. No words can express how much that means to me.

I have learned that having a staff that is dedicated to kids and flexible in their approach goes a long way to creating a positive school climate and culture. I have heard it said that starts from the top and goes down, but I will admit they are wrong. Anything I do or say means nothing if you do not have a committed group of educators that believe ion the school and support you.

What have you learned so far this year?

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