Are You Working On the Right Thing? #ModelSchools


I first saw this video at the 2005 Model Schools Conference when I was a high school Assistant Principal and it still resonates with me today. With so many mandates, directives, initiatives, and reforms, it can be quite the challenge to decide which ones to focus one to improve learner performance. Much like the gentleman in the video, we can exert our energy on the wrong thing and end up wasting precious time as we try to make progress for students and teachers.

If you need help narrowing your focus on what is best for your students in the midst of today’s education climate, then the 2015 Model Schools Conference is for you. This conference is rigorous and relevant adult learning that “fuels rigorous and relevant schools (Scheninger).” You will be exposed to a systemic approach to school change, Dr. Bill Daggett’s System for Effective Instruction, leadership development, and ways to identify the unique aspects of your school’s DNA. More importantly, you will be exposed to what Dr. Bill Daggett calls “Quadrant D learning,” which you will quickly see is what we are experiencing in our entire profession.
Rigor-Relevance_Framework

Not only you will be exposed to the Rigor/Relevance Framework, but you will be able to participate in hands-on experiences to identify with the work in quadrant D; you will be able to share your interests or expertise in an “unconference format” and you will be able to learn from other educational leaders who have successfully implemented the Rigor/Relevance Framework in their work to increase teacher and learner performance.

The bottom line is this: we need each other as we work to thrive in this most challenging of times. The gentleman in the video was acting alone with the wrong tools to complete the task. However, we don’t have to work in isolation to do the important work. There are hundreds of leaders, like you, who will attend the 2015 Model Schools Conference and the relationships that emerge from learning together, with and from one another, are a powerful force as we shift our focus from what is taught to what students are supposed to know and be able to do. A key component of successful leadership is one’s desire to continuously learn and this year’s Model Schools Conference will exceed your expectations in terms of learning practical, relevant, and research-based strategies to improving your school. I look forward to seeing you there!

Be Great,

Dwight

Today’s Professional Development

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http://groveland.spps.org/uploads/hanging_light_bulbs.jpg

Access to and opportunity for professional development for educators has grown exponentially due to the use of technology, the need for more relevant and timely learning, and a growing dissatisfaction with the traditional model of “sit and get.” There are more options besides attending professional conferences. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy attending quality professional conferences to listen to dynamic speakers, attend a variety of breakout sessions, present, and connect with other educators to discuss hot topics in education and share best practices. There are also many other ways we can engage in meaningful and relevant learning experiences on our own time, at our own pace, and in the place of our choosing. We have to come to accept that learning is a 24/7/365 endeavor not bound to traditional office hours. Technology has flattened the traditional professional development model by providing so many opportunities for those who want to take responsibility for their own growth and development. Following are six effective professional development strategies that are on the rise for educators.

1. Webinars- Webinars are web-based presentations where participants register for and login at a specific time to interact with a presenter and and other presenters. Edweb.net provides a variety of webinars four to five days a week and there is a list of communities educators can join that are relevant to them. Most of all, they are free and typically occur after the school day. I’ve facilitated a webinar for Edweb.net and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The moderator managed the questions so we were able to have an interactive and engaging dialogue about the topic. I encourage perusing this site and consider joining a community that interests you.
2. Podcasts- Podcasts are web-based interactive conversations about a particular topic. Most podcasts are recorded live and archived for future use. One that I enjoy is PrincipalCast, hosted by Dr. Spike Cook, Theresa Stagner, and Jessica Johnson. These are weekly podcasts that include guest presenters that provide their thoughts and best practices about topics such implementing Common Core State Standards, teacher evaluations, life after the principalship, pedagogical strategies, and so much more. I also recommend you read this article for a list of 51 podcasts for educators.
3. Twitter Chats- A Twitter chat is a topic-based discussion on Twitter that is curated using a specific hashtag. Thousands of educators participate in weekly chats and school districts are starting to host their own chats in order to continue conversations outside of the school day. If you are going to participate in a Twitter chat, I encourage you to use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to allow you to follow the thread of comments. Check out this calendar of the most popular Twitter chats, which was created by @cybraryman1.
4. Blogging- Blogging is a way to make one’s learning visible because it’s a reflective process about ones thoughts, ideas, successes, and struggles. There are many free blog sites, such as Edublogs, Blogger, and WordPress that many educators use for their own professional and personal growth. A few blogs I often read are:
a. A Principal’s Reflections by Eric Sheninger
b. Connected Principals: Sharing. Learning. Leading
c. DCulberhouse: Engaging in Conversation Around Education and Leadership by David Culberhouse
d. Leadership Freak by Dan Rockwell
e. Life of an Educator by Dr. Justin Tarte
f. RaFranz Davis: Social Learner. Tech Specialist. Digital Diva by RaFranz Davis
g. The Jose Vilson by Jose Vilson
h. The Principal of Change by George Couros
i. This Is Seth’s Blog by Seth Godin

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https://www.mnnonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/VictoriaEstrella.com_collaboration-10-01-14.jpg

5. YouTube- It is reported that YouTube is the third largest search engine in the world! Needless to say, if there is a topic you want to learn more about, search YouTube and I’m certain you will find a few videos that will increase your knowledge about a particular topic. Even better, you could create your own YouTube Channel to share your expertise with others.
6. Skype- Skype removes time and distance as barriers and provides a means to engage in a conversation with a group of people or individuals to discuss relevant topics. Additionally, it provides a simulated “face-to-face” interaction that is still important to have.
7. Google Hangout- Google is flattening the collaborative efforts by providing asynchronous means dialog, discuss, and communicate about topics of interest. Many schools have created Google Hangouts for teachers to continue relevant discussions and share best practices that improve student learning.
8. Voxer- Voxer is an app that is on the rise in the world of connected educators. It allows for the same type of connectivity as Twitter, but it allows uses to create groups for participants to actually chat live. The messages can be saved and archived for future reference. I’ve recently created a Voxer account and have joined the Digital Leadership and NASSP15 groups to keep in contact with other like-minded leaders. Other examples of how Voxer is used include book studies, interviews, and topic based discussions.

These are just a few examples of relevant professional development and you may notice that they are tech-based. However, these do not replace the importance and power of face-to-face collaborative learning among peers. Consider adding one or two to your toolbox as you continue along on your journey as a life-long learner!

Be Great,

Dwight

10 Ways Principals Can Use Twitter

twitter-apple-keyboardBefore I joined the Twitterverse, I was critical of its use and, quite frankly, was turned off by the concept all together. I often read and watched what seemed like ridiculous stories of what celebrities shared about their lives from the foods they ate, who they had lunch with, or whom they were dating. I saw no purpose for it all. However, all that changed about four years ago when my former district embarked on a digital journey.

I had the opportunity to participate in an intense, three-day social media boot camp facilitated by Debra Jasper and Betsy Hubbard, founders of Mindset Digital. They showed the participants a number of ways to harness the power of Web 2.0 tools to share stories, improve communication strategies, engage students, and improve instruction to meet the needs of today’s learners. What was even more significant is that they showed us how other educators were using these tools on a daily basis to make their teaching and learning visible to the world. It was overwhelming and exciting at the same time. I gravitated towards Twitter and have learned 10 ways I could use it as a building principal:

1. Visible Learning- Concise and thoughtful messages posted on Twitter in real-time about what teachers and students are experiencing in classrooms, in extracurricular activities, or in service-learning projects creates a window into the world of your school. It increases the level of transparency that removes the mystery of school.
2. Highlight teachers- What gets recognized gets repeated, so sending out tweets about the amazing lesson ideas that teachers come up with shines a much deserved light on those whom positively change lives and impact futures.
3. Storytelling- We learn best through story, and Twitter gives a principal a chance to tell brief stories about the activities that go on daily. To enhance visibility, simply create a hashtag for your school, encourage others to use it, and begin posting to Twitter.
4. Expand One’s Personal Learning Network- It is often said that, “The smartest person in the room is the room.” Twitter gives a principal the opportunity to connect with educators outside of the school to learn about pedagogical strategies, connect with educational thought leaders, and communicate with other principals who are doing similar work.
5. Participate in Twitter Chats- A Twitter chat is an easy way to engage a meaningful exchange of ideas, approaches, and hot topics in education. There are a number of chats nearly every day of the week!
6. Start a Twitter Chat For Your Building and/or District-Principals can set up a Twitter chat for his/her school or district as a way to extend staff meeting conversations, discuss relevant articles, or have a book study. The possibilities are endless! Ask a few teachers to join in and off you go!
7. Communicate/Interact With Students- Besides interacting with students in the hallways, classrooms, and events, sharing daily messages via Twitter is an easy way to connect with a large group of students in a short amount of time. Remember to pause before you post.
8. Share Daily Words of Wisdom- I start nearly every day with a brief tweet of words of wisdom. I get the daily messages from a book entitled, 8,789 Words of Wisdom. It starts the day on a positive note for me and for those who receive them.
9. Provide Extracurricular Updates- Principals attend many extra-curricular events and one of the best ways to promote your school is to tweet highlights while at a sporting event, Science Olympiad, etc. Students, parents, and other staff members appreciate the real-time updates. The participants in the activities really appreciate it as well!
10. Post Links To Articles/Blogs- Share articles and blogs that are aligned with building goals, professional goals, or that challenge your thinking. This is one the best ways to contribute to others’ learning as well because what you post may spark an idea, provide the support they need to press on, or launch a new initiative.

I didn’t begin by doing all 10 of the strategies listed, nor should you. Pick one and try it out. Over time, using Twitter will become a part of your daily routine because you will recognize the positive impact it has on creating a culture of learning, sharing, connecting, and story telling.

Be Great,

Dwight

My 2014 in Review: From FREE to FINISH

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https://s3.amazonaws.com/cache.salvationarmy.org/2c91fea2-8a57-4dde-873b-e8341d0177e8_freedom222.jpg

My One Word for 2014 was FREE. I allowed myself to be free to explore new professional opportunities. After much contemplation, I freed my mind to think about leaving a school and district I love to see if what I know about building leadership applies elsewhere. Coming to that decision was not only difficult, but it was the right decision. A man I have a great deal of respect for once said to me, “It is better to leave one year too early than one day too late.” In my mind and heart, I felt is was time to leave…

The hardest part was simply allowing myself the freedom to consider leaving because of the friendships established, what we accomplished together, my level of comfort, and fear of what I could potentially give up forever. Yet, I am okay and I’m being stretched as a leader in more ways than I could have imagined in the district I’m in now. By simply allowing myself to be FREE, I embrace the newness, the transition, and the lessons learned and yet to be learned. Additionally,

I allowed myself to be free to say, “Yes,” to many projects or possibilities.

I allowed myself to be free to not live up to what I perceived others expected of me.

I allowed myself to be free to put my immediate family first in many situations because it was the right thing to do and without the burden of trying to please others.

I allowed myself to be free to say, “No,” without guilt or shame.

I allowed myself to be proud of my personal and professional accomplishments I earned such as being named the 2014 Bammy Secondary Principal of the Year and being inducted in the Wittenberg University Athletic Hall of Honor. Yes, I am proud and these awards are prominently displayed in my office.

I allowed myself to be free to accept invitations to do more keynote presentations and other speaking engagements because others want to hear from me.

I’m allowing myself to be free to embrace the platform I’ve been given to positively change lives and impact futures.

Thank God for 2014 and I look forward to embracing my new word for 2015: FINISH!

http://michaelhyatt.com/crossing-daily-finish-lines.html

http://michaelhyatt.com/crossing-daily-finish-lines.html

Be Great,

Dwight

Leading Through Tough Times

My district has recently suffered a loss of an operating and permanent improvement levy of 8.9 mils. It was an uphill battle from the beginning and the cuts that resulted from this loss are deep. The greatest impact, as one might expect, is on personnel.

We had to institute a plan to eliminate nearly 100 positions from every area combined including our curriculum department, an assistant principal from three of the four buildings, reduce the number of custodians, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, and educational assistants. Our pay to participate fees also increased, which created a burden on families. Needless to say, it’s been a challenging month. This will inevitably impact students because we will have to fundamentally change the way we do business. Whether it’s a negative or positive impact remains to be seen.

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http://love.catchsmile.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Sun-Always-Shines.jpg

It’s been an emotionally and physically draining process to have to reduce staff. Inevitably there is a loss of a sense of security, fear and anxiety increase, people tend to feel less valued, and the natural response is to protect oneself. Isolation increases while collaboration and a desire to do anything “extra” seem burdensome. To help navigate staff through these tough times, I realize there are five things that leaders ought to do:

1. Be Compassionate- meet people where they are emotionally and seek to understand. Acknowledge their feelings, listen, console, and be there.

2. Communicate Concretely- during times of uncertainty, the people you serve need to hear a clear and concise message. No fluffy, vague, or ambiguous talk because it only increases doubts, a lack of trust, and anxiety. This may entail making decisions that are not going to be popular, but it’s a part of communicating specific and concrete information.

3. Re-examine Your Vision- start asking reflective questions about where you want your school to go and what you want your school to become. Then collaborate with others to seek their input, suggestions, and ideas. From there, refer back to #2.

4. Think Different- Leading through loss causes you to think creatively about how to do business with less, which is not always a bad thing. Identify the constraints and challenge yourself and others to share ideas about how to do business in a different, more productive manner because you now have a “new normal.”

5. Collaborate- Create and communicate a plan of action first with small groups, reshape it, and review it some more before sharing it with a broader audience. This also entails seeking input from others before making a decision, working with others to make a decision, or relying on others to make a decision. Either way, having some level of collaboration is important and make sure there is an operational definition of collaboration before moving forward. If not, you can cause more harm than good. Then, refer to #2 and #3.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I haven’t taken each step as much as I should’ve, especially #5. Leadership takes courage and leading through tough times only increases the need for courageous actions.

Be Great,

Dwight

Stop Thief!

OS20059Luckily, I can only count on one hand the number of times someone physically stole something from me. Regardless of the number of times it’s happened, I felt violated, frustrated, and angry. The nerve and audacity of someone to take something that doesn’t belong to them is baffling. While I’ve experienced this only a few times, others may have experienced this more often.

There is another type of thievery that exists by those who intentionally or unintentionally steal joy, happiness, or peace from others. They don’t just steal it, they rob it. The difference between a thief and a robber is proximity. Thieves take things when no one is around. They sneak around and look for opportunities to pounce so they can leave unseen or unheard. Robbers have little regard for the individual and take things by force, yielding their arrogance or greed and forcibly take what they believe they should have. Both are selfish acts.

These thieves disguise themselves as policy makers, concerned friends, concerned parents, naysayers, or so called “realists.” They lurk among us with a critical eye waiting to suck the life out of a well- thought out lesson plan, creatively designed unit, or a new idea, all in the name of preservation of the past or fear of change. They steal joy with words of doubt, critique in the form of unsolicited feedback, or a relentless list of questions. After too long it becomes more difficult to bounce back from such acts of thievery. It requires more energy to fend them off, energy that should be used on something much more productive or positive.

As educators, this can happen almost on a daily basis, yet there are four things we can do to positively respond to such acts:

1. Make sure you are not a thief. When others enthusiastically share ideas or take calculated risks by trying something new in the classroom, speak words of encouragement and support.
2. Daily recharge your battery. We have a finite amount of willpower each day. Focus on things that speak life to you each day and get the necessary rest to be able to face new challenges the next day.
3. Develop a Personal Learning Network of trusted colleagues who not only believe in you, but also will be a critical friend to help you become the best you can be.
4. Become a trusted and critical friend to a colleague in your building. Your experience can be a valuable resource for others and just the support they need to grow.

Stop the thief, but also make sure you are not the one who needs to be stopped. Note to self: don’t be “that guy.”

Be Great,

Dwight

Photo credit: http://www.movingtomerida.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/stop-thief.jpg

My Letter To My New Staff #NAHSeaglespride

July 30, 2014
NA LogoDear NAHS Team Member,

We are in one of the most exciting times to be an educator. We are facing many challenges, yet we have some of the best opportunities to engage learners, the community, and each other to continue to shape what teaching and learning can look like at New Albany High School.

New Albany High School: Over 130 Staff and Faculty (Staffulty), 1300 students, 2600 parents, and 1 focus: To be Great. What does greatness mean? Greatness is neither a destination, nor a moment in time, but it is a journey towards a consistent pattern of behavior that results in constant progress and achievement. We often celebrate great moments in our lives, like anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, victories, and other milestones. Schools should look for moments to celebrate students and Staffulty as often as we can with intentionality and purpose in order to create an environment where all have a sense of belonging.

I hope this letter finds you in good health, relaxed, and rejuvenated for a great year at NAHS. I appreciate your enthusiastic reception in April, as it was very welcoming. I enjoyed the Peace Week Kickoff ceremony and the other activities you invited me to in the spring! I am looking forward to getting to know you and learn more about the rich traditions and history of NAHS.

Meeting with the Principal
As the start of school is quickly approaching, I invite each departmentconversations-matter to meet with me, including Administrative Assistants/Secretaries, and Cafeteria Staff and Custodians, to discuss successes, your hopes and dreams for our future, and what steps we can take together to make NAHS even better. If you are able to attend, these will be informal conversations so there is no need to bring anything. I understand some of you may be on vacation during these times so if you can’t make it, we can meet at another time. Your family and personal time comes first.

Below is a list of dates and times that I have set aside for us to meet:
Friday, August 8th: 9:00-10:00 AM; 10:15-11:15 AM
Monday, August 11th: 10:15-11:15 AM; 1:00-2:00 PM
Tuesday, August 12th: 9:00-10:00 AM; 10:15-11:15 AM; 1:00-2:00 PM
Wednesday, August 13th, 9:00-10:00 AM; 10:15-11:15 AM; 1:00-2:00 PM
Thursday, August 14th: 9:00-10:00 AM; 10:15-11:15 AM; 1:00-2:00 PM
Friday, August 15th: 9:00-10:00 AM

Department Chairs, please call or email Sherrie Kauffman to set up an appointment. Again, this is not mandatory or an expectation, but simply an invitation for us to talk. Please let Sherrie know the room number where you want to meet.

Staff and Faculty Family Picnic!
Please mark your calendars and make plans to attend the 2014-2015 Staffulty Picnic on Sunday, August 17th at Jefferson Community Park in Gahanna from 4:30-8:30 PM! The building administrators will fire up the grill and provide the burgers, hotdogs, and brats, as well as the beverages and paper products. You will receive a Google Doc for you to RSVP and let us know what side dish you will bring. You are encouraged to bring your spouse or significant other and children for a fun and festive time together as a NAHS Family! If you have any games, such as Corn Hole, Badminton, or Volleyball, please bring it.

New Years in August!
Traditionally the start of a new year is celebrated on December 31. Many people spend that time either celebrating, praying, reflecting, and resolving to do things differently in the future. But, why wait until December?

We are ringing in the 2014-2015 school year with a “Happy New Year” celebration the first thing in the morning on August 25! To help welcome our students, you are invited to join us outside along the front sidewalk leading to the E Lobby and at the at entrance doors at the bus loop to enthusiastically greet students as they enter the building! If you are interested in joining us, we’ll gather at 7:15 AM. Together, we can make it a very memorable start to a new school year!

School Theme
NAHS You MatterIn order to foster an even greater sense of community and build upon the traditions of NAHS such as high academic honors, athletic championships, quality performance and visual arts, House, House Games, Peace Week, and Senior Seminar, I would like to introduce the use of an annual theme. The purpose of a theme is to convey a message within a story. The theme will be our annual mission in that it will highlight our approach to teaching, learning, school culture, and the celebration of our success. The stories we create and tell this year will focus on creating community.

This year’s theme is “YOU Matter.” Together, we will create a sense of oneness and make every effort to show each individual student and Staffulty member how important they are to the overall success of NAHS. “YOU Matter” focuses on the whole person, including academic success, attendance, attitude, participation in athletics, the arts, and school sponsored activities. More information will be coming throughout the year. In the meantime, I encourage you to spend some quality time the first week of school establishing positive relationships with students. The following are a few examples of how to incorporate our theme this year:

● Create a class blog and post a topic on the board for students to write about as a bell ringer. Sample topics include, “What is one challenge you have overcome in the last week?,” “What have you done to make someone else’s day?,” “What is one way you can make a positive difference at NAHS this week?,” and “Who are two students you have met this week and what did you learn about them?”

● Place a blank name tag on students’ desk and ask them to write an adjective of how they feel that day. For example, “Hello, I am grateful!” Then take a few minutes and ask for a few volunteers to share their adjective.

● Random Act of Kindness Cards can be distributed throughout the first quarter as a way to tangibly let someone know they made a difference.

I have a special request. It would be a welcoming sight as our students, parents, and guests entered the building if they were greeted by a large bulletin board of pictures of our Staffulty. However, instead of the standard school picture, you are invited to drop off to Sherrie a 3X5 or 4X6 picture of you and your family, or you doing your favorite hobby, to be added to our Staffulty collage. For example, I may submit a family photo we took for my daughter’s first birthday. Be creative and let your personality shine!

New Staffulty and Changes
We have added a few new members to the team and we are excited to have them with us!

Assistant Principal-Kristy Venne (former Dean of Students)
Dean of Students-Todd Keenan
Director of Special Ed-Sheila Saunders
Mandarin Chinese- Sammie Si Zhao
Receptionist-Lynn Guthrie (former Instructional Aide)
School Counselor Secretary- Shannon Gominez
Spanish-Hannah Macko
Special Ed-Dawn Psurny
Special Ed- Eric Jablonka
Wellness- Dominique Alexander
Welcome Center Registrar- Robin Davison (former School Counselor Secretary)

Important Dates
August 11th -New Student Orientation – Monday, August 11th 9:00-11:00 AM
August 17th- Staffulty and Family Picnic-Sunday, August 17th 4:30-8:30 PM at Jefferson Community Park in Gahanna
August 18th- Schedule Pick up for Seniors and Juniors: 9:00-Noon and 1:00-4:00 PM
August 19th- Schedule Pick up for Sophomores and Freshmen: 8:00-Noon and 1:00-4:00 PM
August 20th- Opening Convocation/District In-Service-no students
August 21st- Professional Learning
August 22nd- Staff Work Day
August 25th- First Day of School

I look forward to serving as your Principal!

Be Great,

Dwight

The Seven A’s of Successful High Schools

SuccessDefining what it means to have a “successful” high school is quite the challenge, with stakeholders often disagreeing on the approach to take. Some primarily focus on what’s easily quantifiable, such as standardized test schools, national normed tests, attendance data, grade point averages, and discipline data. While these data points are important, they don’t always tell the whole story or clearly define the success of a school.

When I became a high school principal seven years ago, I wanted to take a much broader approach to defining the success of my school and as I begin my first year in a new district and a new school, I am even more confident in what I call the seven A’s of successful high schools. These seven areas provide a framework for high schools to focus on the development of the whole child, which is a concept we cannot overlook in today’s high stress, high demand culture. Following, I’ve outlined each of the seven attributes I consider essential in a successful high school, as well as my rationale for selecting each.

Attendance-Students have to not only be in school, but they have to be on time every period, every day, and be present mentally. Presence matters and is an easily identifiable characteristic of successful schools. Successful schools create an environment where students want to be there and be engaged every day. For example, create multiple ways for a number of students to have their “names in lights”: either read over the announcements, posted in the local newspaper, their pictures on display on digital monitors throughout the building or tweeted out by school officials for demonstrating positive behavior. Find inexpensive and creative ways to establish levels and layers of recognition of progress and achievement. Check out www.jostens.com/renaissance for suggestions and ideas.

Academics- Schools that offer a variety of relevant course offerings not only meet the needs of students, but stretch them to experiment with unfamiliar content, encourage them to learn by doing, and solve local, state, national, and global problems in creative ways. This provides opportunities for teachers to connect with other educators beyond the school walls and model the collaborative learning process. I recommend that a school review its program of studies annually to ensure it’s providing the best opportunities for students. One of the most important things a principal can do is to support the development of new courses that meet the needs of today’s learners. Support teachers who create classes that tap into students’ passions.

Attitude- it’s important that school leaders create a culture that celebrates a positive attitude of students, staff, and parents. One’s attitude is reflected in one’s behavior. One’s attitude, be it negative or positive is contagious. So, creating a culture that eradicates negativity leads to a much more pleasant environment and place where there’s a sense of belonging. For example, at Gahanna Lincoln High School, we established the PRIDE Award, based upon our school motto: Personal Responsibility In Developing Excellence. The PRIDE award allowed staff to give the award to any student who demonstrated the character straits we deemed important. Each month, these students’ names would be scrolled on the morning announcements. Students would go to the lobby to receive a certificate and take a group photo that would be posted on the school’s Facebook and it would also be posted on Twitter. In addition, we invited the students and their parents to a quarterly morning breakfast to be celebrated even more! It was amazing to see so many parents attend a 6:45 AM breakfast with their cameras. I’m certain they went to work and showed off pictures of their “baby!”

Acts of Service- Community service is the norm in successful schools and it doesn’t always have to be large one-time events. Classes or entire grade levels can partner with a number of local organizations, such as the Ronald McDonald House, a local food bank, an animal shelter, the Red Cross, nursery homes, or assist neighbors with home projects. The possibilities are endless as long as there is a plan and desire to help others. This not only creates a sense of belonging for students who have the heart to serve others, but also establishes solid school-community partnerships. For example, students at Gahanna Lincoln would annually have a homeroom competition to provide canned goods to the local food pantry, Gahanna Residents in Need (GRIN). They would collect so much food that they satisfied the needs for many families throughout the winter and spring seasons. This also sparked other organizations to give. Another example is how students at New Albany High School collected coats during the winter months to give to children in need. Simply ask your students what they want to support and why, and help facilitate the action!

I have to share the story of a young woman named, Shayna Fowler, who attends the same church I go to. She just graduated from Pickerington High School Central and she is a difference maker! She has committed herself to a life of service and has helped hundreds of tween and teen girls through a program called, “The Butterfly Project.” She is headed to Kenya this summer to help orphan children. You can learn more about Shayna here.

Athletics-A solid athletic program provides an outlet for many students, creates opportunities for students to connect with each other around a common interest, and the focus they may need to perform academically. In addition, athletics foster positive relationships and increase school pride as the school community rallies around the teams that are in-season, providing weekly opportunities to celebrate students and the school.

The Arts-A robust performing and visual arts programs gives students the opportunity to stretch themselves, fulfill a passion, perform in front of authentic audiences, and immerse themselves into creative outlets. The Arts provide a showcase of the talent that exists within a school and brings the community to the school to see students in action. For example, high schools like Gahanna Lincoln and New Albany have a Fall play and Spring musical each year. Both performances involve a wide range of students, including those who want to perform on stage to those who work behind the scene by being a part of the build or stage crew, working the lighting, or playing music in the pit. Both schools earned an invitation to the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland for their outstanding theatre productions. Gahanna Lincoln High School, under the leadership of Cindi Macioce, attended the summers of 2005 and 2013. New Albany High School, under the leadership of Elliot Lemberg, will attend this summer.

Activities- Successful schools have a number of clubs and extra-curricular activities, such as a Gamers Club, Table Tennis, Japanese Anime, a Programming Club, Chess Club, or a Writers Club for students who express themselves through poetry and spoken word. It’s important to honor student voice by allowing them to decide which clubs they want to have at school. The only stipulation is that a school employee has to agree to be the club advisor. Use school announcements, social media, and other web 2.0 tools to share meeting times and dates as well as highlights from club meetings.

Focusing on the 7 A’s will lead to an overall successful school by giving every student the opportunity to thrive. The 7 A’s encompass areas that appeal to all stakeholders, finding a nitch for everyone to be a part of building a positive school culture. As a final step as a building principal, I track data and share results with students, staff, parents, and the community to ensure buy-in and continued school success.

Be Great,

Dwight

Thank You, Gahanna Jefferson Public Schools

Thank YouIt’s been two weeks since I officially began my new position and I’m still getting used to being a part of a different district, starting over, and finding my way. In mid-February, 2014, I announced to the staff, faculty, students and parents of Gahanna Lincoln High School that I accepted the Principal position at New Albany High School, in New Albany, OH. Their responses via email, phone calls, text messages, tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts, cards and letters over the next four months were overwhelming. The outpour of support and encouragement still bring tears to my eyes. I was able to remain relatively calm during that time; however, I became more anxious as graduation approached. What was I going to say? Would it even matter? Would I even be able to speak or would I be overcome with emotion? These and many other questions raced through my mind for what seemed like forever.

Following is my brief graduation speech and Parting Words of Wisdom to the GLHS Class of 2014. However, to me, it’s more than just a speech: It’s my way of putting into words my love for the people of Gahanna Jefferson Public Schools and the Gahanna community for helping me become the person I am today.

Five days before my college graduation in June, 1994, I received a phone call that completely changed my life. On the other end of the phone, I heard the familiar voice of the beloved Gahanna Middle School South principal, Denny Souder. He requested I come in for a second interview. However, it wasn’t a second interview, but a job offer to teach 8th grade American History. It was my chance to start my professional journey and to positively change lives and impact futures through the awesome career as an educator.

I could not have predicted that 20 years later, I would be blessed with the opportunity to stand before you in my final days as the Principal of Gahanna Lincoln High School; one the most authentic, progressive, and caring high schools in Central Ohio. I could not have predicted how the thousands of students who allowed me to play a smart part in their life journey would enrich my life. I could not have predicted the many friendships, life-changing experiences, and growth opportunities I would have as a part of the Gahanna Jefferson Public Schools community.

I am forever grateful to the Board of Education, past and current superintendents, staff, and Gahanna parents for embracing my vision to create a school where every student has a sense of belonging, where students can find their purpose, and have as many opportunities to find their niche in a safe, loving, yet challenging environment; and a place that challenges students to be better each and every day. I am a better man, husband, father, and leader by being a part of the Gahanna Community.

Seniors, on Tuesday, August 24th, 2010, you walked into GLHS as scared, apprehensive, nervous, and fascinated freshmen on Freshmen Welcome Day. You were greeted by over 100 cheering Link Crew leaders prepped to accept you as a part of the Gahanna Lincoln Family. The next morning, on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010, at the sound of the first period bell, you heard what would become a familiar start of the school day and it’s only fitting that you end your GLHS journey the way it began:

Good morning Gahanna Lincoln High School Class of 2014. This is Mr. Carter with a few parting words of wisdom.

• Don’t wish away what is NOW by focusing so much on what’s NEXT.

• Don’t be a victim of your circumstances, but be victorious in spite of your circumstances.

• Become the type of person who others are excited to see you come, and sad to see you go.

• Work to live, don’t live to work.

• There is no greater sound than the joy-filled laughter of a toddler.

• 80% of your joy or sorrow as an adult will come from the person you marry, so choose wisely.

• Give others the benefit of the doubt, just as much as you want to be afforded the same thing.

• Learn how to articulate how you feel. Use more words besides, “good,” “fine,” or “frustrated.”

• Use things, not people.

• It’s okay to love what you do as long as you love more the people whom you do it for.

• There are really only two things in life that you truly can control: your attitude and your actions.

• No matter how old you are, you will always be your parents’ baby.

• The more time you spend helping others, the less time you have to judge them.

• Your appearance, your words, and your behavior do matter. They always have and always will.

• No one can make you feel bad or guilty without your permission.

• “You have to teach others how to treat you.” -Samantha Carter

• Mind your manners. They are not old-fashioned or out of style. Simple phrases like, “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “sir,” “ma’am,” and “excuse me” go a long way.

• “Mind your business, so others won’t have to.” -David McGhee

• Your parents and guardians are much smarter than you think they are. You will soon find this out now that you are “grown.”

• If you have to ask if an article of clothing is too short, too high, too low, too tight, or too anything, then you probably shouldn’t wear it.

• Every aspect of your life doesn’t have to be shared on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Flicker, SnapChat, Kik or any other form of social media. Please Pause Before You Post.

• In all that you do, BE GREAT!

With something to think about, this is Mr. Carter. Make it a great life… or not. The choice is yours!

Be Great,

Dwight

Flipping, Follow Up, Modeling, and Reflection

Flipped-ClassroomAt Gahanna Lincoln High School, several teachers have implemented the Flipped Classroom model. They and Assistant Principal, Aaron Winner (@aaronwinner), shared their Flipped experiences at our January staff meeting and the response was very positive. Their presentation was well-organized, engaging, and reflective of their learning.

Whenever I get a chance, I ask staff about how things are going, especially during informal conversations. I’ve recently asked about professional development needs and a number of times I heard a similar response, “We love all the presentations at staff meetings, but there is no follow up. We get excited about what we see and hear, but we aren’t given any time to try it or to came back later to talk about it.” I appreciate their feedback because they expressed a desire to learn, so I need to provide the conditions for that to take place. This caused me to peruse my notes from the book, 10-Minute In-Service, by Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker) and Annette Breaux (@AnnetteBreaux). I knew I had to do something to address the concerns of a lack of time and a lack of follow up.

Follow-UpMy Dean of Curriculum, Tia Holliman (@Ms._Holliman) and I discussed this in great detail as our March staff meeting approached because I wanted to do more than just talk about the Flipped Classroom as an effective instructional strategy, I wanted to model it. I noticed there is a significant amount time that I or others talk at our staff during our meetings as opposed to us interacting, engaging each other in meaningful conversation, or participating in learning experiences that would excite them to teach the next day. Todd Whitaker and Annette Breaux put it this way, “Teachers should leave faculty meetings more excited about teaching tomorrow than they were today.”

As Tia and I planned the March staff meeting, my goals were to model my expectations for posting learning targets, model the flipped strategy, and model how to bring closure to a lesson with some type of formative assessment. I sent the following details to my staff a day or two before our March staff meeting:

Please take 6 minutes some time before the meeting on March 4th to watch the TEDTalk: 3 Rules to Spark Learning, and be prepared to discuss some of the following questions:
 
*How do you encourage students to ask questions in class?
*“Student questions are the seed to real learning.” What are the implications of this statement?
*How is “the messy process of trial and error” a part of the learning process in your class?
*How do you incorporate reflection in your class?
*Teachers are the “cultivators of curiosity and inquiry.” What are the implications of this statement?
 
You will have the opportunity to select as a group, 1 or 2 questions you want to discuss. Thanks in advance for being prepared.
 

I also shared the TEDTalk with my staff in my weekly Friday Focus blog, but they are not required watch the videos I share or the articles I include. However, as we continue to change instructional practices to transition to the New Learning Standards, it was important for us to discuss this TEDTalk since the presenter shares ways that will help us with this transition.

As the activity began, the following learning target was displayed on the screen:

I can identify two ways I spark student learning in my classroom.

We briefly discussed our target, I explained the directions, and they organized themselves into interdepartmental groups of 8-10 people. I displayed the questions on the screen that are mentioned above and the rich conversations began.

As I walked around the room, I was excited about what I heard. I was also impressed by those who were able to focus on what they could do as opposed to succumbing to discussing barriers to learning (perceived or real). After about 12 minutes, I distributed a 3×5 notecard and gave them two minutes to answer the following question:

What are two ways you spark learning in the classroom?

I collected the notecards and had the responses compiled into a word document, which I then shared with staff via Google Docs within a couple of days. They now have a list of over 100 different ways to spark learning in the classroom. It was a quick 15 minute in-service about effective instructional strategies that can be easily implemented on a regular basis.

Be Great,


Dwight

images:
follow up: http://www.vapartners.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Follow-Up.png
flipped classroom: http://podcast.teachercast.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Flipped-Classroom.jpg