10 Ways Principals Can Use Twitter to Enhance Stakeholder Engagement

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

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

They Have A Voice

Vintage-Microphone-Wallpaper-music-28520386-1280-1024Students at Gahanna Lincoln High School never cease to amaze me. Last week, we held our second annual performance of, Diaspora: Voices of An Ever-Changing America. It’s a culmination of student talent, from monologues to spoken word and hip hop dancing. The purpose is to highlight the contributions African Americans have made to the culture of America.

Four staff members worked closely with students to organize the entire show: English teacher, Donja Bridges (@donjab); Dean of Curriculum, Tia Holliman (@Ms_Holliman); School Psychologist, Johnel Amerson; and Family Consumer Science teacher, Keah Germany. They collaborated with students to create a shared vision for the program, develop an action plan, and select the performances. They wanted to not only educate the audience, but to entertain. It’s awesome to see what students can do when they have an authentic audience, supportive staff members, constant feedback, and time to practice.

I was thoroughly impressed by all the presentations and asked two students to share their original poems with me so I could include them in this post. They have a voice. They have something to say, and they want to make a difference. The first poem is by senior, Cymone Turner, and it’s entitled, I’m A Beautiful Colored Girl:
I am beautiful
I am amazing
I am good enough

You think I’m being cocky no I’m just giving back the gallons of confidence I deserve being colored. What am I saying? We’ll let me break It down for you.

I look out into the world today
I see different colors races shades
All mixed together in this beautiful concoction we like to call the 21st century
Why is this such a big deal?
Ha well because back in the day my skin wasn’t right. It wasn’t acceptable.
I was nasty
I was disgusting
I was dirty
I was a foul beast
Now do I look like beast to you?
I mean I might bite but it won’t hurt for that long
Ha it wasn’t right to be Not white
Dark as night
Not shining bright
But your little chocolate bite
It was whack to be black
But I’m telling you it’s lame to be ashamed
I can’t help my skin I was born in
I can’t help that I am black
I’m happy to be Black
Matter fact I’m happy to be Cymone.

The second poem is by junior, Adam Davis, and it’s entitled, Real Life:

I’ve been thinking all day there’s a lot on my mind
And see I would rather say
It in the booth because in person I might hurt somebody’s feelings
And I’m not saying names I’m just speaking how I’m feeling
The truth hurts you can die if you lie
So I try not to reply
To those guys with wicked eyes
I can feel it when our hands shake
I’m not for you
If your man folds under pressure he’s not loyal
See he was just trying to make it to his house wearing a hood
But some how he is misunderstood
But July 13th the jury didn’t understand
That George Zimmerman was a grown man
And that Trayvon didn’t need any hands to help with his own plans
The sky’s the limit I am reaching for impossible
If Obama can be the president then anything is possible
And I’m just speaking for myself I know what I can do
But as long as you have God on your side there’s no stopping you
Young kid with a lot of heart
I was blinded by all of America but its ok because I hear them talk
I hear the whispers in the dark
And since they like to act they can play ground no park
When the sun shines that’s when the bees out
When it rains that when the killers and the thieves out
Blacks get treated like rats that’s why the Government throws cheese out
I was taught to rise above or he is out
And its a sad way of living
Some young brothers is dead some of them locked in prison
Some of them have jobs some of them don’t yet
Some of them still ride some of them switched sets
I’m just a diamond in the dirt
Forget all my people cause family comes first
I wish that was true
But that’s a lie too
Because I have a couple of cousins hating on what I do
How do you think that makes me feel?
Stuff real I have a lot of enemies I’m alone in this field
Death disrupts the streets so I’m thinking about my will
I am sitting at this table breaking bread into a meal
My mind is going crazy so I think that’s why I’m numb
And America being perfect is something its far from
I’m never happy cause I’m living in a stressed world
I’m from where people is dying and they stress girls
I wish I could bring Trayvon back
God if you listening run and tell that
And tell America that the justice system is all wrong
But life is like music its an end to all songs.

The audience was moved by Cymone and Adam’s words because they spoke with such confidence and authority. Their passion was evident and their message pierced our hearts. I am proud of the staff members for creating the conditions for not only Cymone and Adam to use their voices, but for all the participants in Diaspora. #glhsfamily

Be Great,

Dwight

GahannaThon: Bigger Than Ourselves. Bigger Than Before!

The students at Gahanna Lincoln High School are givers. They give of their time, their talent, and their treasure. Many of our clubs and extracurricular activities focus on making the lives of others a little easier, which makes our staff and community extremely proud.

Last year, members of Student Council wanted to start a new activity, called GahannaThon, to take the place of our Winter Formal Dance. After they presented their idea to the Administrative Team, we embraced it and watched something magical happen! The students tagged it, “Dancing With a Purpose” and raised a little more than $8,000! To say we were proud of them, is an understatement.

I’ve asked the GLHS Student Council President, Hannah Kesig, to explain what GahannaThon is and why we do it. Hannah is an amazing young lady. She has emerged into an energetic leader of her peers. She was on Student Council’s GahannaThon Committee last year and now has become so passionate about this event!

GahannaThon

GahannaThon is a 6 hour dance marathon that raises money for pediatric cancer. All proceeds go to Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Oncology and Hematology unit. The money will help pay for new medical equipment for treatment and fun activities hosted by the hospital that allow a kid to feel like a “normal” kid again. As a school, our goal is to raise $15,000 for this wonderful cause.

We do GahannaThon for the kids. GahannaThon celebrates life and our little heroes battling cancer. They are fighting for their lives, and we are here to help. GahannaThon is on February 22, 2014 from 6:00pm-12:00am. It is going to be quite the celebration with many student performances and activities hosted by clubs around the school. Donations can be given online at http://www.helpmakemiracles.org/event/gahannathon2014/ or by cash/check in the GLHS concession stand about two weeks before the event. GahannaThon is a great way to give back to the community!

Gahanna Lincoln students will unite as one for all the kids who have fought cancer, will fight cancer, or are currently battling cancer. When sharing the good news of GahannaThon, we will be using the hashtags #glhsftk and #GahannaThon2014 on social media. One day we will dance for joy, until then we dance for life!

We dance for the kids. Why do you dance?

Be Great,

Dwight

Among Experts

Professional-Learning-NetworkI attended the Ohio ASCD Conference on Tuesday, January 16th and heard former State Superintendent, Stan Heffner, deliver a compelling keynote presentation. He shared the three main correlates of successful schools: instructional leadership, a positive school climate and culture, and frequent monitoring. An example he gave of effective instructional leadership is when teachers share best practices. He said,

“The best professional development in the world is when teachers can collaborate and share ideas.”

I couldn’t agree more. For example, still to this day, the best professional development I ever experienced was being a facilitator for our school’s Critical Friends Group, which was a group of teachers who were given four periods a month to research curriculum, instruction, and assessment strategies, review lesson plans, and reflect on our daily work. It was energizing, relevant, and job-embedded professional learning. I’ve been able to recapture this through the use of social media, but it’s still not quite the same.

One of my goals as a building principal is to use our staff meetings as learning opportunities because it’s one of the few times we are all together at the same time. Admittedly, I have not been as successful with this as I want to be. However, the other day at our staff meeting, the teachers were engaged in meaningful conversations about their best lesson from first semester. Assistant Principal, Tim Gagliardo (@TimGagliardo1), did an outstanding job facilitating this activity. He used story, imagery, and video to introduce the activity. He shared a powerful scene from Dead Poet’s Society to set the stage.

Following the video and introduction, we divided the staff into groups of 8 and asked the following questions:

What was your best lesson/unit from first semester?
What did you enjoy most about it?
What did the students enjoy most about it?
What did the students learn and why?

Once the groups were created, a scribe was assigned per group, and questions posted, the room was energized by the examples being shared, questions asked, laughter, and positive reinforcement. Some examples shared by the scribes are:

Geometry teacher, Tyler Winner, uses Lesson Summary Sheets to increase students’ meta-cognition skills. These were created because numerous students and parents were unaware of their poor grades 2nd quarter. This Summary Sheet has increased attendance to the Pass Room as students can earn 1% on assessments if they get teacher help outside of class. This is helping students develop good study habits and helping the teacher to keep students more accountable.

A.P. Literature, Chris Wagner, helped students put their egos aside and avoid just looking at their essay grade by having students rank all the essays in class. Essays were listed by ID numbers instead of names to keep anonymity and help students to be more critical. Students were very engaged and paid attention to their peer feedback!

English teacher, Becky Rice, designed a lesson devoted to helping students find independent reading material in Honors English 10, which has led to a Google Doc the class uses to share book recommendations and a blog about favorite reads!

One teacher has implemented “Listening Quizzes” to help students pay attention better in class and not just regurgitate what’s in the book or notes, but participate in class discussions more.

Chinese teacher, Mike Kralovic, does a lesson on bargaining. The classroom is set up with little shops and the students are taught how to bargain for the items they want. This exposes them to the language and culture.  While they are doing this they call it “Barguing.”

During the Industrial Revolution unit, American History teachers had students look at an invention and figure out why that invention was needed, how it was inspired, and where will it be in the future.

Choir teacher, Jeremy Lahman, uses SoundCloud to record student performances and then posts it on Twitter. The students can assess themselves and this increases engagement because they have a large authentic audience.

There were many more examples shared and it was exciting to take some time to celebrate what is going on in classrooms every day at Gahanna Lincoln High School.

Be Great,



Dwight

Guest Post by English Teacher, Matt McGregor: The Best Meetings Ever

At Gahanna Lincoln High School, we’ve been moving towards becoming a Professional Learning Community and not just doing “PLCs”. It’s been a challenging process in that time is the obvious obstacle. However, a group of teachers has modeled exactly what we want to make happen systemically. I’ve asked English teacher and National Guard Veteran, Matt McGregor, to share his insight on why PLCs are effective for our English 9 teachers.

I believe people working together can solve problems, problems that would be insurmountable to individuals working alone. I have witnessed this phenomenon firsthand in wildly different careers in my life, from the battlefields of Iraq to public education. This idea, in education, is often expressed as Professional Learning Communities (PLC). I define PLCs simply as teachers working collaboratively in order to improve student learning. As with most ideas, one can find studies that support the idea of PLCs and studies that claim the opposite, but in my experience, PLCs are an extremely effective strategy for increasing student achievement.

I have been in the Ohio Army National Guard since 1998. The Army runs meetings very well. We had a meeting agenda and template for every meeting I attended. Entire Army manuals have been written to help in planning and running meetings. When I joined a PLC at our school in 2010, the group consisted of some of the most caring, talented teachers I’ve ever met. However, they did not have experience in how to run a successful meeting. These meetings were ineffective and didn’t accomplish much. I was in the midst of getting my Masters in Educational Leadership and was reading Creating Dynamic Schools Through Mentoring, Coaching, and Collaboration, by Judy Carr. Carr had an example agenda that was similar to some of the Army templates I’d used. I adapted it and created an agenda on a PowerPoint for our next PLC.

PLC1I showed up early for that next meeting, set up, and asked to run the meeting, and they humored me. We began by creating a goal for the PLC and then discussed ground rules for all of the meetings. After the ground rules were in place, we assigned roles and responsibilities, decided on when the first common assessment would take place and what it should focus on, and planned for the next meeting. At first this structure was uncomfortable for the group, but we agreed. This was all accomplished on time, and we were walking out the door at 50 minutes. One of my colleagues, who has taught at GLHS for eight years, informed me after the meeting that it was the most productive meeting she’d ever attended.
PLC2

Teachers were enthusiastic for the next meeting. This organization wasn’t anything I had invented; I simply implemented proven practices I’d learned.

We learned as a group that first year, not just about our teaching styles but about ourselves asPLC3 well. We had disagreements but always came to a consensus. As a group, we created four common assessments based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) from scratch. We collected and analyzed data from those assessments and then compared our data side-by-side with PowerPoint and a projector. Through the data, we discovered the strategies and curriculum that were most effective and replicated them, and as a result, our teaching changed. We were able to eliminate redundancy and focus on what students were and were not learning. We specifically and purposely addressed these issues. We also learned to trust each other.

I’ve found there is one question to ask in order to see how much a PLC is truly accomplishing: “What do you do for the students who have already learned the material?” As teachers, we all know it is very easy to focus on the students who aren’t achieving acceptable results. It is another beast entirely to design curriculum for students who already know the material and want to be challenged, and are sitting beside students who don’t. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, and that last question is an issue we will be addressing ad infinitum. But we are and will continue to address it. We have an amazing group of very smart teachers who truly care about students. We can accomplish anything.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

I couldn’t agree more.

Be Great,

Dwight

Who’s Responsible for Making Learning Relevant?

learnWe have some great teachers at Gahanna Lincoln High School. They are not only passionate about teaching and learning, they are committed to making GLHS a place where all students have a sense of belonging. Many of them use our Graduate Profile to plan units that stretch our students.

One of our classes is Senior Project Composition and I’ve asked the two teachers who teach the course, Danielle Morrison (@morrisondani) and Donja Bridges (@donjab), to share their experience of teaching the class.

When we were first approached about teaching Senior Project Composition, a project-based senior English course, we were immediately excited for the opportunity to try something new. We had seen the impact the class made on students, but what we didn’t realize was how much it would impact us as teachers. As a result, it changed the way we taught not only this course, but other courses as well. The following are three things we’ve learned as a result of teaching Senior Project Composition that we feel every teacher can implement.

1. The best method of instruction is oftentimes just getting out of the way.
Trying to teach a project-based course through direct instruction is nearly impossible. With each student doing a different project, most of the course is individualized and student-directed. When we began teaching the course, we had to eliminate the mindset that the only way to teach was to provide direct instruction. We had to begin to see ourselves as “project-managers”, meeting with the students on a regular basis to conduct check-ins, helping the students figure out what they needed to learn next, and providing guidance and support as needed. We no longer needed to be experts in teaching content area; we needed to be experts in teaching students how to self-direct learning. By shifting the focus to teaching students how to learn, rather than teaching content, students were able to learn far more. Getting out of the way doesn’t mean not getting involved; it means shifting from teaching in front of the class to teaching beside the student.

2. It’s not the teacher’s job to make lessons relevant.
In a traditional classroom setting, teachers work hard to ensure that each lesson is relevant to the students. However, with thirty different students in a classroom, it is nearly impossible to make a single lesson relevant to every student. With the increased amount of student choice, it’s the students’ job to make learning relevant. Because the students’ choice makes learning relevant, the teacher’s job is to help them(students) to help themselves tie their learning into the course content.

3. The process offers more than the product.
Students learn more in the process of developing their project than they do with the final product itself. We have had students create amazing products, but we have also had students create products that can be considered “failures”. What we have learned is that students learn just as much, if not more, from the failures as they do the successes. In other words, the quality of their product does not always reflect the level of learning. A major component in our course is students being able to display a “learning stretch”. When we ask our students what their learning stretch is, many of them respond that they have learned better time management skills, how to collaborate with others, and other skills needed to be successful in their futures. Isn’t that what we want students to learn? The process is where the learning takes place; the product is what the students get to do as a result of their learning.

I appreciate Danielle and Donja for giving us a glimpse of the learning process in Senior Project Composition!

Be Great,

Dwight

PLN Blogging Challenge: 11 Random Facts

Someone Gave Me Homework… Now It’s My Turn
A member of my PLN and friend, Patrick Larkin, challenged me to share 11 random facts about myself and to answer 11 questions as part of a chain-blogging task. I have great respect and admiration for Patrick, so I am glad to meet his challenge!

factMy 11 Random Facts
1. I am four minutes older than my twin brother, Dwayne Carter. Yep, that’s right.
2. I am a two-time NCAA Division III Track and Field All-American.
3. My older sister, Nicki, is the most creative person I know. She makes her own clothes, jewelry, and she paints.
4. I used to draw portraits.
5. I have no desire to drink coffee. None.
6. I took Ballroom and Latin dance lessons with my wife as one of her Christmas presents. 1-2-3, 4-5-6, 7-8. 1-2-3, 4-5-6, 7-8.
7. I didn’t attend the Ohio State University, but I get choked up when I hear Carmen Ohio live at an OSU football game. O-H-I-O!
8. I love old school hip hop (Run DMC, LL Cool J, Das Effect, EPMD, Tribe Called Quest, you get the picture).
9. Fred Hammond is my all-time favorite Gospel song artist. Period.
10. I am an HGTV addict.
11. I got braces when I was 22 years old and a first year teacher of 8th graders. Awkward!

My Responses to Patrick’s Questions
1. “Have you ever been to Massachusetts?” I can’t say that I have, but it’s now on my Bucket List.
2. “What is your favorite sports team?” The Ohio State University Buckeyes (I’m from Ohio and it’s kinda expected, you know?)
3. “Besides you, name a blogger that you would recommend to others.” Just one is tough… Justin Tarte is the man.
4. “When you were little, what did you dream of becoming?” A high school principal of one of the largest schools in Central Ohio! No seriously, I dreamt of becoming a teacher.
5. “How far away do you live from where you grew up?” About 20 minutes.
6. “What is your favorite meal?” Breakfast. It’s a must.
7. “If you were offered a free trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?” To the Mediterranean.
8. “Do you prefer Macs or PC’s?” Good question. I have to say PC.
9. “Other than the birth of your children and/or the day you were married or met your soul mate, what was the best day of your life?” The day my wife and I drove a Go Cart through the city of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was awesome!
10. “What is the best movie you’ve seen in the last year?” Best Man Holiday
11. “What is the last live concert you’ve attend?” Fred Hammond and Radicals For Christ. It was many years ago, but it was an amazing worship experience.

Now, For Your Homework Assignment
1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate and let the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
6. Post back here (in the comment section) with a link to your finished assignment.

My 11 Bloggers
1. Derek McCoy
2. Jeff Zoul
3. Kevin Dengel
4. Jeremy Lahman
5. Todd Keenan
6. Fred Donelson
7. Chuck Banks
8. Pernille Ripp
9. Jimmy Casas
10. Jose Vilson
11. Reed Gillespie

My 11 Questions for You
1. What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year?
2. What person in history would you want to have dinner with?
3. What’s the one thing you care about the most?
4. Who is your all time favorite cartoon character?
5. What was your favorite extracurricular activity in high school?
6. Growing up, were you a nerd, jock, teacher’s pet, loner, or extravert?
7. What’s your dream vacation?
8. What’s one thing you would invent that would positively change lives?
9. If you weren’t an educator, what would do for a living?
10. If you were to give a TED Talk, what would be your topic?
11. What’s your sentence?

Be Great,

Dwight

Connecting With New Teachers

connecting-with-othersA couple of years ago, a second year teacher stopped by my office after school and asked if we could talk. The look on her face had me concerned so, of course, I welcomed her to have a seat. I thought she was going to share her concerns about student behavior or wanted help to solve a problem. Man, was I was wrong. What she said to me made a lasting impression…

As soon as she started to talk, tears started to flow from her eyes and she apologetically said, “I accepted a position in another district.” I shallowed hard because I was completely shocked. I felt blindsided, and immediately started to ask myself where we went wrong, where I went wrong as the principal. She said she needed a change, that she didn’t always feel supported or heard. Her comments were difficult to hear, but I appreciated her honesty. It was at the point that I vowed to myself to do everything within my control to prevent this from happening again under my watch as building principal.

One of our goals at Gahanna Lincoln High School is for every student, teacher, and parent to have a sense of belonging. It’s a lofty goal and we take it seriously. Losing that young, promising, and passionate teacher showed me that I, we, needed to do a better job of connecting with our new teachers. We hired 17 new teachers this school year; some with zero years of experience and a few with 4-6 years of experience. Nevertheless, I decided to meet with them once a month in an informal setting to simply give us an opportunity to connect, share, reflect, learn from each other.

It’s key to keep these meetings informal. There is no agenda, the teachers don’t have to prepare anything, and they aren’t assigned anything to do. We just talk. We first met in our Library Media Center in September, but decided together to meet at Panera, which is on our campus, for the rest of the year.It’s been amazing to hear their stories, their reflective thoughts about their craft, their suggestions on how we can get better, and to see how they support each other.

Admittedly, not all of them come each month and I’m fine with that. It’s simply an invitation to attend, not a mandate. I have asked a few questions to guide our discussion, but most of the time we go where the conversation takes us. Some of the questions asked are as follows:

*What has been the most successful thing you’ve done so far?
*How are you taking care of yourself physically?
*What do you do for fun?
*Have we lived up to what we promised you?
*What’s one thing we can do differently?
*What are you planning to change second semester?

Once I ask a question, I simply sit and listen. It’s great to hear their responses and how they build on each other’s comments. Before we concluded our most recent meeting, I asked, “Are these meetings helpful?” Following are some of their responses:

*“I think they are fun. I look forward to them each month.”
*”It’s good to see and talk with people outside your department. It’s good to learn from others.”
*”You make us feel like we are important to you.”
*”It’s good to hear what the other new teachers are thinking.”

I appreciate their time, their honestly, and their commitment to the GLHS Family! I can only imagine how much better we will be as we progress through the second half of this school year. If you have any ideas of how you connect with new teachers or suggestions to make this process better, please feel free to comment.

Be Great,

Dwight

Photo credit: http://www.erelationshipcoaching.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/connecting-with-others.jpg

Characteristics Students Want in Teachers

I’ve been following the hashtag, #stuvoice, on Twitter for awhile and have been inspired by the tweets, links, and questions about providing a platform for students to share their thoughts about school. We have some very dynamic student leaders at Gahanna Lincoln High School and after reviewing some of the #stuvoice tweets, it dawned on me that It’s been several months since I’ve taken the time to talk with a group of students. So, I set up a meeting with members of my school’s Student Council a couple of weeks ago. We had a great conversation and I was enlightened by their insight!

I went into the conversation with two questions and ended up asking a third question based on their responses. Before I go on, I have to say how impressed I was with their candor, enthusiasm, and maturity! The three questions I asked them are as follows:

* What are the characteristics of a great teacher?
* What does learning look like at Gahanna Lincoln High School?
* What is missing in your school experience?

I will only focus on the first question in this post and will share the answers from the other two questions in a later post. Since it’s the hiring season and we are looking for the very best candidates, I wanted to know, from the student perspective, what characteristics make a great teacher. As an administrative team, we have a list of characteristics we look for, but it’s important to know what the students think.

Question: “What are the characteristics of a great teacher?”

Answers:
* Passionate and Enthusiastic about teaching
* Knowledgeable
* Cares about students
* Flexible
* Understanding
* Willing to work 1 on 1 with students
* Organized
* Shows one’s personality
* Personable/Approachable
* Willingness to connect with students beyond the classroom
* Optimistic
* Devoted
* Creative with school work and working with students
* Engaging
* Able to reflect and grow
* Involved with aspects of school outside of teaching
* Treats everyone equally
* Clear expectations
* Direct communication
* Respectable

As I previously stated, I appreciate their candor. They were really thoughtful with their answers, they added to each other’s responses, and were pretty much in agreement about these characteristics. The bottom line is they want teachers who take the time to get to know them, who will help them learn, and who care about them as people. I plan to share this list with my Administrative Team and Department Chairpersons so that we are better equipped to bring in the best candidates to be a part of Team GLHS!

Be Great,



Dwight