Friday, January 2, 2015

Checkin' under the hood - 15 point inspection for this principal

Flickr image credit
Happy 2015! The year is flying by. Recently, I read Joe Mazza’s post Principals’ 15 Point Winter Break Inspection and was inspired to use his post as a way to reflect on the first half of my second year as a K-5 principal. Time to check under the hood! Below, you'll find Joe's 15 point inspection as well as my reflections heading into the new year.

1. Get away from the office. Enjoy some quiet reflective solitude as spring break begins. You’ve earned it. Reflect on the first 5 months of the school year. 

This Christmas break, I really took this to heart. I did very little work, read a lot, blogged a lot, slept in, and just tried to relax. I took a few trips to Truckee to visit my family and even watched the fireworks in 9 degree weather with my sparkly friend and rocking principal Amy Fadeji. It was fabulous to get away.

2. Take your spouse/significant other out to dinner and enjoy some quality time without your mobile device. If you’re a connected principal, you’re probably used to checking your phone for work emails, phone calls or Tweets even at home. It’s time to take a little break. 

My husband Sam and I had our first date night in a long time the first Friday of vacation. We watched Foxcatcher and went out to dinner. We need to do that more often.

3. Read an unrelated magazine article, book, or anything that takes you away from “job-thoughts.” Watch a movie or go shopping. Find the time to get back to exercising and taking better care of yourself. What have I read this year? This break?

This break I tried desperately to read as much as I could because I was WAY behind on my Goodreads goal for the year. I didn't make it, but I did read 73 books in 2014. You can read all about it here.

4. Update your own leadership goals for the year. What have you accomplished? What is your next move? What resources do you need to get there? What will you focus on in 2015?

All year long, our school goals have been focused on the theme Seeking Treasure: Learn Like a Pirate. We're definitely making headway in this pirate-y voyage, but next year I will try to have fewer initiatives and just focus on one thing. This year, I've already pulled back a bit and refocused more on school climate and community. Less is more next year!

5. Pull out your staff roster. Go top to bottom. Who have you worked the most with this year. The least? Make some goals for the [rest] of the school year on how you can support your staff.

I'm definitely doing this starting Monday. I would like to do a better job of making sure I'm getting around to everyone and supporting their needs. I need to make a checklist and date... maybe a Google form would help me accomplish this?

6. Arrange a meeting with your office staff. How has the year progressed? Set goals for the new year. Talk to them about “PARTNER” and how you want to take your building to the next level in developing a family-friendly school – Share abbreviated research. Ask them to consider the following mnemonic when helping a parent who has come to the office:

P- Put a smile on your face
A- Attitude-LESS
R- Recognize ESL or other needs (engage Language Line/interpreter)
T- Talk to them. Engage in conversation that shows them you care about them as people, they’re more than guests.
N- Never be satisfied that you have addressed the needs they walked in with. We can always do more.
E- Engage building resources (principal/guidance/teacher etc) each time the need arises.
R- Revisit reasons for visit and verbally confirm needs were met.

I love this. Totally doing it!

7. Arrange a meeting with your head custodian. Reflect on the school year. Share any feedback from staff and your own personal input. When was the last time you provided the staff type opportunity to complete a quick school cleanliness survey?

We have had a bumpy road this year in the custodial department. I'm looking forward to getting feedback from our custodial team and creating a Google form to gather feedback on a more regular basis.

8. Take a walk around the exterior of the building. How does it look? Check for safety risks while making notes to continue building an inviting campus for your families.
Ugh. Our school is in a commercial building. Our classrooms have no windows. Our school has no grass. Having said that, I LOVE going there every day! We definitely try to make the best of a unique physical space by keeping it clean, displaying student work and painting in bright colors. You'll see me outside at drop off and pick up every day trying to keep kids safe and welcoming families to our school.

9. Pull out any walkthrough data and observations you’ve done on staff so far.  Send an email to 5 teachers and include a link to a related resource. Consider moving to a free online walkthrough form.

I love the idea of providing a resource after being in the classroom. I spend every Monday out of my office and in classrooms as part of No Office Day. You can read a post I co-wrote for EdWeek with Adam Welcome, Eric Saibel and Ken Durham to find out more about why school leaders should get out of the office! I created a Google form for walkthroughs last year and it worked well. This year, I'd like to work on adding a script to provide feedback in a more timely way.

10. Encourage a colleague to sign up for Twitter. Find new resources and give yourself some new things to try over the last few weeks and during the summer. If they are already on Twitter, join a hashtag chat and Tweet it Forward- help another educator in the family identify relevance in this amazing global resource and build their “PLN.” Consider using the great Twitter resources of Jerry Blumengarten or Steven Anderson or visiting the Learn Twitter page on this blog.

Love Twitter. Many of our teachers are on Twitter. It's the best professional development ever and you can do it in your pajamas! My new PLN love is Voxer. Being a principal can be lonely and I love being connected to inspiring and passionate leaders from across the country! Check out this post by Adam Welcome where he shares how educators are connecting with this tool.

11. Reflect upon the level of feedback and praise you have provided your staff. Teaching can be a thankless job at times. Have you recognized the people in the trenches each day…the ones who lay it on the line with students and parents and make your school what it is? Send a text or write a note to them with authentic thanks and praise. Start thinking about what you will do for Teacher Appreciation Week to make this year different.

I want to do this more. I do try to leave written notes whenenver I am in classrooms, but I want to do more.

12. Plan an agenda for the next Home & School Meeting that evidences any changes you’ve made in response to their feedback. Instill in them that you are serious about building partnerships with your families and meeting them where they are. Use research and some proven strategies.

We have bi-monthly parent meetings that we have switched to a more PD for parents format this year. Some meetings have focused on social-emotional learning and Google Apps and the Common Core. Coming up, we're planning an update on planning the building of our new campus scheduled to open in 2016, and a Common Core Math night. At each of these meetings, we revisit our pirate-y goals and share progress. One thing I'm excited about-- we've already met our $21,000 fundraising goal for the year which has provided STEAM and Maker Space materials, a new portable stage, and art program, musical instruments, and more books for our library!

13. Does your school truly integrate technology each day in classrooms and overall? Search #edtech and get some ideas together to compliment your curriculum. What traditional components of your school can go digital?

We love technology! Kids blog and our students have Google accounts starting in first grade. We have a Minecraft EDU server, Spheros and Bee-Bots. Here are just some of the digital tools we use to communicate with families and tell our school's story. Check out our school website to see what we are up to! I will say I am proud of the work our school does around educational technology and we are a leader in this area.

Google Sites- every class
Classroom blogs- every class
School blog
Facebook group for our families
Audio Boom
Author Skypes

14. Identify student leadership opportunities at your school. You can never have enough opportunities for students to take ownership of their school. Student council members, student bloggers, photographers, environmental club members, academic tutors, guest readers. How about student voice and how this differs from student council or government.

This is the first year our school has had 4th and 5th graders and I would love to get a leadership group going!

15. Pick up the phone and cold call 20 parents. Solicit feedback on how the year has gone. Thinking bigger? Develop a family engagement survey to help provide information on where your parents feel connected and where you need to differentiate further for them. Here’s one that is based upon the important work of Karen Mapp.

Thanks, Joe for your inspiring post! To all of my leader friends, how is your year going? I'd love to hear what's under your hood :)

No comments:

Post a Comment