Friday, Feb 2nd our school took the opportunity to take a great practice and make it better.
Every nine weeks, at the end of the reporting period, we have hosted a grade level awards assembly recognizing student achievements. We invite parents and community members to the ceremony. Its been a great connecting piece and has always been a great one of the better ‘feel good’ events of the year.
From group discussion and conversations and dreaming, we came up with notion to change this from small, separate celebrations to a big school wide recognition. After some mass reorganization and planning, we put this new plan in motion and enjoyed a tremendous celebration.
The crowd was entertained by our orchestra playing as the crowd entered along with performances by the band and chorus
The Chorus starts off by sharing what they believe..,
Chorus gets them standing
One change we were particularly proud of the addition of guest speaker Val Jones. Ms Jones is a local radio celebrity, speaker and motivator. Her topic fit squarely with our theme of achievement and students striving to get better. Below is a clip of her getting the crowd motivated by showing pride in your name. Val had a great, inspiring message for students and parents alike.
From this great experience we have really learned the value of ceasing every possible moment to connect with, share and educate students and parents alike. This was a great day of smiles and excitement for every person who entered our doors on this day.
One of the major shifts we’re making this year is our use of Google. Cumberland County Schools is a Google district was already a Google district before I joined July 2012. We have most of our functions tied into the Google Cloud or at least available in the cloud. I’ve only been with Cumberland, @cumberlandcosch, since July 2012 but I’ve been a fan of Google since I’ve started shifting my thinking and practice. You can see obvious efforts from county administrators make to utilize Google tools whenever possible to save on meetings and phone calls by using some tools like the chat, surveys and forms.
Specific for our school, we’ve had to make efforts to replace previous practices with Google tools. I haven’t approached this with a specific plan [which of course in hindsight would have helped the school more] but in my meeting groups, we have transitioned to some of these tools for production and archiving purposing. Our weekly Leadership meeting is great example. Every Monday, the school’s leadership team meets to discuss the upcoming week, set some expectations and plan for upcoming conversations and events. We created a meeting template in a shared folder on Drive and post our meeting notes including details discussed and persons responsible for activities. It is taking some time but the norm is slowly and steadily being built that Google is a part of this process.
Some of the benefits of integrating Google into our practices that I envision realizing include:
- Making the planning efforts of some of our groups more transparent
- Archiving talks and plans
- Flattening the administrative approach
- Creating a paperless environment
- Allowing the staff to participate in a collaborative process we need to create for students
Talks on Google+
I‘m proud to share that my admin team has began to use Google+ as a tools for pre-planning and communication. I don’t have to share with you all that there isn’t enough time of the day to get it all done. Getting the team together for a quick 15 minute meeting over the weekend to discuss an important item we missed or a last minute detail makes a huge difference in being prepared for the upcoming week. We stay in touch regularly with email and text messages but the planning platform of video and embedded Drive form when needed make a huge difference. 10 minutes of a Google+ chat eliminates 30+ minutes of text messages/emails.
I‘m fortunate that there are already experts in the building who can help with the training and understanding. We will begin developing and rolling out a plan specific to what types of information we will put on school wide and department drives and discuss the management of our plan. Getting organized from the beginning of the year will help with our school’s functions, efficiency and support to teachers.
When I first became principal of Spring Lake Middle, several people expressed a concern to me about the communication structure. I think it’s a common concern in most schools that teachers feel left out of the loop for a lot of decisions and planning that happen in a school. Schools are complex multi-layered environtments with a lot of moving parts. It’s takes years of commitment, planning and vision building to build and maintain any effective system and a good workable communication system is critical to the process.
Good school leaders want teachers involved and informed in all aspects of talks or planning. The best ideas come from group share and brainstorming. I’ve been fortunate that the last schools I’ve been an administrator in have had a core group of teachers who either implement great ideas or rally the troops to help drive school initiatives. We need that involvement.
To help create a more open, effective system, we’ve designed a meeting structure that will address the curricular and operational concerns.
- Mondays – School administration/leadership meetings [morning]
- Tuesdays – Grade level meetings [teachers meet with administrative rep]
- Wednesdays – Collaborative planning [facilitated by instructional coaches]
- Thursdays – Protected content planning
- Friday – Instructional/curriculum support training, bimonthly
Moving foward, we need to focus on several things:
- Formalize talks and planning – being more systemic about what we do and adding structure [agendas, products] to our meetings;
- Protect what we are implementing;
- Communicate the vision – I have to make it my mission to paint the picture of what our school will look like if we build and maintain a great communication structure using this plan.
It helps that we have a great staff! Once we lay out they need, they are all in for the good solution. Commitment to the vision and plan will be integral in moving us forward