This is one of those posts that begins … “I don’t really know where to start!”   There are so many emotions that have been running through me the last few days; however, I am not going to talk about these emotions in this post.

For the last 10 years, I have been principal of Ore City High School, which has an excellent faculty and staff.  They have truly made my job easy.  We had a good system going and I would hope that it continues after my departure.  We all have grown in our roles as teachers and administrators (in the last few years especially).  We moved from a district-led staff development model to a campus-based, teacher-led model which has allowed for the emergence of new teacher leaders and also has allowed for a greater connection and cohesiveness among the teachers and staff.  I truly believe that OCHS is the best campus in the district.   We were the trendsetters, the risk takers, the trailblazers for OCISD.  The teachers are always open to new ideas and challenges and I encouraged them to take risks, use social media, connect and collaborate with each other as well as with other educators across the state of Texas, the United States and Canada, as well as across the entire globe.  I encouraged them to always look for ways to grow professionally.  They accepted this challenge!!  I am so proud to have been associated with the faculty and staff of Ore City High and I truly wish them much success in the future.

Now as I move into my new position as principal of Paul Pewitt High School, I am looking forward to new challenges, new teachers, new students, and a new community.  I am very excited about this opportunity and the feedback I have gotten so far has been very positive.  Together we will make a big impact on our students as well as on each other.  We will connect, learn, share, and grow.  It is going to be fun, and I can’t wait to get going.

Super Heroes

Posted: July 6, 2014 in Teachers
Tags: , ,

When I was a kid, it wasn’t like it is today …  I only had 3 channels on the TV (not over 500) and we had an antenna outside that we could turn to a certain spot and MAYBE get the 4th channel.  Cartoons only came on Saturday mornings and were only on only for a little while.  Today there are on entire channels, and they are on 24 hours a day.  And today there are so many different cartoon characters whereas back in the day it was Mickey Mouse and his friends, Bugs Bunny and his friends, Scooby Doo and his friends, and then there were the Super Friends … Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman & Robin, and Aquaman.

Super Hero -- All 4 together

They were a part of the Justice League that had its headquarters in the Hall of Justice.  If there was an emergency the Super Friends came to the rescue.  They all had very different powers, and they used their different powers toward the common goal.  They would always save the day.  They were able to resolve whatever conflict came there way.  They were individuals but they could work together.  They fought for the good and they won!

There are superheroes in every school, and they all have different powers and work toward the common goal.  They are teachers.    In every school in every city in every state, they use their super powers to help save the world.   They work hard everyday to make sure that the students have the knowledge and ability to think and solve problems.   They fight to save the day.   They haven’t won yet, but they are winning.

Each of our super heroes … the cartoon super heroes and the real super heroes in our schools … even though they all have different powers, there is still one super power they all have in common — COURAGE.

  • Courage to fight the fight!
  • Courage to face each day with its monumental obstacles and sometimes insurmountable odds!
  • Courage to accept the challenge!
  • Courage to win!

 

 

Super Hero -- Teacher

 

Aren’t we all lucky to have super heroes !!  

What do you think?  Leave a comment and let us know.

 

Fundamental Change witht he Fundamental 5

 

This is a review of my notes from my final session from this summer’s TASSP Summer Workshop in Austin. In this particular session, Sean Cain, one of the authors of The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction, gives some practical advice to administrators and teachers about how to increase student achievement by following each of the components he outlines in his book.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  It is an easy read with straight-forward, easy to follow and implement strategies.  This will not be a summary of the book only a summary of my notes from this particular session.  Notes that I took that will help me in my school as we work to increase student achievement.

I am not an advocate of teaching to the test, or CONSTANTLY verbalizing the importance of raising our scores.  My teachers know that we are judged by our scores and they don’t need to be constantly hounded about getting them up.  This is not to say that we “bury our heads in the sand” and do not talk about it.  What we do is work to improve instruction in every classroom every day.  When students know what they will be learning each day, when they exposed to higher-level instructional practices, and they are engaged daily, then our test scores will improve.

 

LESSON FRAME:

We will discuss how the Fundamental 5 transforms classroom instruction.  I will describe the relationship between the Fundamental 5 and improved student performance.

 

What does instruction look like now?  Mostly it is at the COMPREHENSION level.  There is lecture, students are taking notes, and they have homework .  Students are doing something.  Teachers are still teaching like they were back in the 1990′s.   At the best campuses, typical instruction is just under the APPLICATION level.

LOW-YIELD INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES

  • whole group instruction
  • lecture
  • worksheets

HIGH-YIELD TEACHER PRACTICES

  • teacher to student feedback
  • questions, cues, and organizers
  • reinforce effort

HIGH-YIELD STUDENT PRACTICES

  • written summarization
  • non-linguistic
  • generalize and test hypothesis
  • cooperative learning
  • student-to-student feedback
  • discussion groups

WRITE CRITICALLY = written similarities and differences, written summarization, note taking

SMALL GROUP, PURPOSEFUL TALK = cooperative learning, student-to-student feedback, discussion groups

If teachers teach the way they always have taught but recognize and reinforce (authentically) they can get up to a 30% increase in student performance.  This is a big increase just by doing this one thing.  It only make sense that when students are doing the right thing, they need to know.

If students are engaged in an academic task and if the teacher monitors and supports this by being in the Power Zone, student performance can also increase.  Teachers can now more easily recognize and reinforce.  All they have to do is start talking to their students.

Students need to write.  There is noting more powerful than writing critically.  This does not mean that students need to write research papers all the time.  They need to write in small to mid sized chunks.  They need to talk & write and write & talk.  If it doesn’t involve talking and writing, it is not a good instructional practice.  This purposeful talk can easily be managed by the teacher being in the power zone.

When the teachers don’t frame their lesson, they haven’t planned enough to know when and where to talk and write.

Here’s a simple solution to increased and improved student achievement:  Expose students to better instruction.  When students are exposed to better instruction, they will  out perform students who are not exposed to better instruction.

Math teachers can easily have students work at the application level if they “solve” problems BUT only if they are solving what they don’t already know.  Otherwise it is only “review”, which is only at the knowledge level.

If the teacher is talking it is only at the Knowledge level.

Fine Arts classes and science labs are at the Application level.  Most of the time the core classes are not at this level.

In order to get to the Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation levels, students must write and students must talk. (write critically, small group, purposeful talk).  The prompt is important and the teacher being in the power zone is vital for them to see and hear what is going on.

No matter how hard the teacher works, if the students are not talking purposefully and writing critically, their instruction will never be above the knowledge, comprehension, and application levels.

Rigor in the classroom is not driven by how hard the teacher works or talks.  Rigor only increases when students talk with a purpose and when they write critically.  They must Talk & Write, and Write & Talk.

The Good Ole Days are now and the Great Days are ahead of us.

 

The Fundamental 5

 

Relationships 3

 

Do relationships matter?  What do they have to do with the climate in your classroom or school?

Here are some reflective questions for you (and me, too) …

  1. What do students SEE in your classroom or school?  Why?
  2. What do students HEAR in your classroom or school?  Why?
  3. How do the students FEEL in your classroom or school?  Why?
  4. What do the students EXPERIENCE in your classroom or school?  Why?
  5. What is the CLIMATE of your classroom or school?  Why?

 

What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Last week at the #TASSP14 Summer Workshop for Texas Secondary School Principals, I was able to attend some very good classes each day and will be able to utilize many of the ideas immediately as well as for this upcoming school year.

In addition to the classes that were held throughout the day, I was able to hear three excellent keynote speakers — Kevin Honeycutt, Pedro Noguera, and Todd Whitaker.   Instead of taking noted during these sessions, I tweeted out my notes.  Here is what I tweeted …

Kevin Honeycutt

  1. Flipping classes can be easy.  You don’t have to be Spielberg to do it.
  2. Don’t judge your students too hard.  You never know what they are going through.
  3. Thank teachers who try new things.
  4. Be a “Funnel of Opportunity”
  5. Use Edmodo to post your student’s work
  6. A 3-fingered shop teacher talks about band saw safety !!! ( You can take this however you want to).
  7. The most dangerous place to be in school is … alone!  (for a student, but also for teachers.  Think about it).
  8. EMPOWERMENT comes from being trusted to attack learning according to your own strengths!
  9. “Digital Possibilities Group” — #GreatIdea
  10. The only one who can stop you is … you!
  11. This one I re-tweeted from @tjadams105  — Kids are playing on digital playgrounds and no one is on recess duty.  (We must teach and model digital citizenship!!)

I really enjoyed this guy.  He talked about his personal situations as a kid in and out of schools as well as what he is doing now as an educator and a school board member.  I would highly recommend looking him up on on twitter — @kevinhoneycutt and also on YouTube.

 

Pedro Noguera — You can follow him on Twitter @PedroANoguera

 

PNoguera

 

  • To move from good to great requires a different set of skills.
  • We need honest conversations about what we need to do.
  • Ask yourself — Where do we need ongoing growth?
  • The most important work in schools — teaching and learning in the classrooms.
  • ABT — “Ain’t Been Taught!!”
  • Ask your students about your school.
  • Culture matters!!  And, you can’t mandate the culture of your school.
  • The morale of your staff will affect the outcome of the students.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.
  • Poverty is not a learning disability!
  • Staff development for teachers must be differentiated.
  • Capacity building is a reflective process.
  • Homework is an equity issue!
  • We’ve got to build better partnerships with parents, despite all obstacles.
  • Great idea!! – Have parent meetings on Saturday mornings rather than at night during the week.
  • Be accountable to parents.
  • Be willing to empower parents.
  • Focus on getting kids excited about learning!  This will raise student achievement.
  • Re tweeted from Todd Nelsonsey (@TechNinjaTodd ) — If your school does just well with successful students , it’s like a doctor who’s just good with healthy patients.

I really liked his message.  And I also liked how straight-forward he was.  He didn’t hold anything back and was very thought-provoking.

 

Todd Whitaker — You can follow him on Twitter @ToddWhitaker.  (I can honestly say that I was completely surprised how funny this guy was.  I had seen some of his videos before and had read many of his books, and I knew he had some wit and humor; however; I was not expecting him to be so funny.  Still, within all of his humor, there was a great message.)

 

TASSP 7 - TODD WHITAKER

 

  • @ToddWhitaker is cracking me up!!
  • New principal advice from @ToddWhitaker — Blame your predecessor.  Blame the superintendent.  Prepare 3 envelopes.
  • Q -How’s your day?  A – Great!     Be positive!
  • Whiners whine because … It works!
  • Start treating people as if they are good.
  • Shift the Monkey — have crummy people do some work.
  • @ToddWhitaker is in the Power Zone!! @LYSNation
  • Don’t respond to serial pouters.  #ignore
  • It doesn’t make sense to treat all teachers the same.
  • Take care of the good people. #ShiftTheMonkey
  • You can’t mandate effectiveness!
  • Re-tweeted from Carrie Jackson (@jackson_carrie ) — Your worst teachers want to talk about hats, gum, cell phones, dress code … anything but teaching and learning.

 

These were three different speakers but had, at times, very similar messages.  I am glad I listened to these guys and was able to take away some valuable pieces of their wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TASSP 3

 

This is my second post as a review of the sessions I attended while at this year’s TASSP Summer Workshop in Austin, Texas.  I was fortunate to, once again, be able to attend this outstanding opportunity for professional development as well as get the opportunity to network with other principals and administrators from across the state.

The second session I attended was from Don Jacobs, an elementary principal from Royce City.  The title to his session was Effective Digital Leadership — Moving Our Schools Forward.  You can follow him on twitter @Don Jacobs.

This session was an excellent opportunity to get some solid information that we can all use immediately.  Here’s a summary of my notes:

  • If you are looking for a timer, just search YouTube.
  • Instead of sending your staff email after email, create a blog and compile all information in a single post and send it once a week.  This will prevent something from getting deleted or lost from all the email that you send.  Pluse each post is archived so you can find all information very easily.
  • If you do a “Teacher of the Month”, use a Google Doc to have everyone vote.  This will automatically tally all votes. (and you can send the link in your weekly blog)
  • Use videos instead of a lengthy email when you really want to explain something.  Post to YouTube and send the link.  This way everyone can watch it over and over if needed.
  • In place of having a parent meeting, make a video and post to YouTube.  Send the link to the parents.
  • Use a video to send to faculty and staff (and you can also have students watch it too) to explain all of the beginning of the year “stuff”
  • When you post videos on YouTube, you can make to where access can only come from a shared link.  You can also make your videos private.
  • Social Media is a great way to communicate with parents.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and also by text message (Remind 101).  Feedback says that this is what parents and kids want.
  • For a school Facebook — create a Page NOT a PROFILE.  go to yoru settings and turn off the page visibility while you are making this.  Set your profanity filter to STRONG.  In Page moderation you can set the list of words that Facebook will block automatically.  You are able to delete and post that is inappropriate.
  • You are able to link Facebook and Twitter together so all you have to do is post to one and it will automatically post to the other.
  • You can also use Remind 101, a free text messaging service that has recently updated the app to where you can tweet the message directly from the app.  If your Twitter is linked to your Facebook to post automatically, then is essence you posted once and it went to three different avenues for communication to parents.
  • Parents generally use on or the other — Facebook and Twitter.
  • Use QR codes for daily announcements.  Post them outside of each teacher’s classrooms as well as various places around campus.  Note:  by doing this you eliminate making announcements over the intercom which means that there can be no last minute announcements.  Everyone must prepare ahead of time.  I got this idea from Victor Sauceda from Granbury High School.  We were sitting next to each other and talking about how to save time during the school day.  You can follow him on twitter @VictorSauceda.
  • Make sure to have a #hashtag for your school and use it every time you tweet.
  • Use edweb.net for free webinars for professional development.
  • Photo Apps that are good…1.  Pic Collage,    2.  Pic Stitch,    3.  Blurr — this one allows you to blur out any student’s face and still be able to post the photo.
  • Presentation / Story Telling apps:  Chatter pix, Haiku Deck — this is a simple way to put a presentation together, Store House, PowToon (www.powtoon.com) — this website allows you to create professional looking presentations with animated videos.
  • Save all your documents to cloud storage like Google Drive, Evernote, Box,  and Dropbox.
  • Kids are fearless when using technology.  Teachers and administrators need to be this way too.

 

 

 

This post is a review of the sessions I attended while at this year’s TASSP Summer Workshop in Austin, Texas.  I was fortunate to, once again, be able to attend this outstanding opportunity for professional development as well as get the opportunity to network with other principals and administrators from across the state.  I was also able to listen to three great speakers in their keynote addresses.  During these three keynote addresses, I didn’t take any notes at all.  What I did, though, was tweet out what would have been what I would have written down if I did take notes.  I used the #hashtag — #TASSP14 .  You can go to that #hashtag and checkout all kinds of tweets from everybody who was tweeting at the summer workshop and get a lot of good information from a lot of different sources.  You can also go to my twitter feed @scot_wright and look at all of the tweets that I specifically tweeted out during this week using the hashtag — #tassp14.

 

TASSP 1

 

Day 1 — June 11 (Grand Opening General Session, First Morning Session)

 

Grand Opening General Session keynote speaker  — Kevin Honeycutt.  This was funny, thought-provoking and inspirational. 

You can follow him on twitter @KevingHoneycutt

TASSP 9 - KEVIN HONEYCUTT

Instead of taking noted during this session, I tweeted out my notes.  Here is what I tweeted …

  1. Flipping classes can be easy.  You don’t have to be Spielberg to do it.
  2. Don’t judge your students too hard.  You never know what they are going through.
  3. Thank teachers who try new things.
  4. Be a “Funnel of Opportunity”
  5. Use Edmodo (on Twitter @edmodo ) to post your student’s work
  6. A 3-fingered shop teacher talks about band saw safety !!! ( You can take this however you want to).
  7. The most dangerous place to be in school is … alone!  (for a student, but also for teachers.  Think about it).
  8. EMPOWERMENT comes from being trusted to attack learning according to your own strengths!
  9. “Digital Possibilities Group” — #GreatIdea
  10. The only one who can stop you is … you!
  11. This one I retweeted from @tjadams105  — Kids are playing on digital playgrounds and no one is on recess duty.  (We must teach and model digital citizenship!!).

I really enjoyed this guy.  He talked about his personal situations as a kid in and out of schools as well as what he is doing now as an educator and a school board member.  I would highly recommend looking him up on on twitter — @kevinhoneycutt and also on YouTube.

 

1st Session -

The Tipping Point:  The Need to Transform Teaching and Learning Environments. 

Presenter:  Wayne Morren, Principal from Floydada Jr. High/ High School in Floydada, Texas.

 

Their teachers had worked very hard but they didn’t transition well from TAKS to STAAR.  They didn’t want to change anything they were doing.  Their scores did not compare well to the state averages.  They are improving now though.  They are working hard to close the gaps.  It is critical that you look at your data.  You may have a great staff and great teachers, but if they are not working together then you will not get good results.  If the CULTURE is not positive, if PRACTICES are not shared, if DATA is ignored … you will not ever be successful.  Change doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of people.  It means that you have to play to people’s strengths.

Staff development must be on-going and embedded in daily practices.  You must follow up on it periodically.  Training must be in grades 7 – 12 — all teachers at the secondary level.  They give their teachers two conference periods.

He talked about 7 Critical Success Factors: 1.  Academic Performance, 2.  Use quality data to drive your instruction, 3.  School Climate,  4.   Leadership effectiveness,  5.  Increase learning time, 6.  Teacher quality, 7.  Family and community involvement.

1.  Academic Performance:

  • They use the TEKS Resource System (CSCOPE) –> YAG, IFD, and Unit Assessments
  • They have PLCs every Friday morning.
  • Teacher quality must be improved.
  • For their new teachers, they give them a week of professional development the week before everyone else comes back
  • Teachers get a minimum of 3 walk-throughs each six weeks
  • There is an Instructional Specialist on each campus to coach the teachers

2.  Data Driven Instruction:

  • Teachers must do a good job of using data.  They MUST know the students and the SPECIFIC problems they are having.
  • Teachers must be trained in DMAC and must be proficient in using it.
  • You must know where each student fits in the accountability system.
  • This is difficult for some people to take –> Data is available for all teachers to see the data from all teachers.
  • Use SE breakdowns to drive your interventions.  Have targeted tutorials and use peer-to-peer tutoring.

3.  School Climate:

  • Everyone must “buy in” to improve the school climate.
  • Shake hands with students everyday.  All teachers must do this.
  • Teachers must take advantage of screencasting apps and software.  This is a great way for students to get some instruction if they are absent
  • The BEST way to improve school discipline is to improve instructional practices.
  • Project-Based Learning has made the biggest difference in improving school discipline as well as in the overall school climate.  students are engaged and not bored.

4.  Leadership Effectiveness:

  • I must develop ALL teachers as leaders
  • Teachers are assigned as Lead Teachers
  • Teachers must visit other classrooms.  They need to go on walk-throughs with me.
  • Develop a checklist for teachers to see different instructional practices as they visit other classrooms.  Use the checklist to document as they see the other teachers using these different instructional practices.
  • Veteran teachers do not like other teachers to come into their classrooms.
  • Teachers must look at the TEKS and know what they are supposed to do.
  • All teachers must know the TEKS and make the language student-friendly.
  • How do you test?  Must test like on STAAR — both multiple choice and written.

5.  Increase the Learning Time:

  • Teachers need time.  Find it for them.
  • Use PBL
  • They extended their day until 4:30.  Athletic practices do not start until after 4:30
  • They have Science Saturdays periodically where students can work on their science projects.
  • They have what they call The Breakfast Club that starts at 7:00 am.  Some teachers get to school that early and work with students.
  • They communicate with parents regarding late work and missing assignments.  This helps a lot.

6.  Family Engagement:

  • They do WEEKLY progress reports.  Grades are due each Monday morning and progress reports go out each Wednesday.
  • Do a PGP Hamburger Supper to get parents to come to school.  They also use door prizes for both students and parents who come.
  • They do a lot of social events….tour colleges, go to football games and other sporting events.

Random notes:

Share Data.   Support and promote teacher growth.  Use the teacher’s strengths.  The adults must learn to listen to the students.

It’s about teacher/student relationships.  Learn from each other.

Be flexible — identify the needs and then be flexible in how to deal with those needs.

Use your data. Find out what the students need.

Support the teachers and their instruction.  Adults must learn too.  Ask the teachers what they think they are good at.  The teachers must be prepared EVERYDAY.

Model learning — learning doesn’t stop the moment you get the job.

Change before you have to.  Don’t ignore your problems.

Students are assigned to tutorials after school.  High School athletics don’t begin until after 4:15, MS until after 4:30 — MS also comes in at 7:00 am some days.

Night School at least one night a week.  This is so students and their parents can come in and get extra help.

Students that have to leave early for contests do not get go to electives that day.  They go to their CORE classes so they don’t get further behind.

The better teachers engage the students better which means the students will learn more.

They do Academic rewards every 3 weeks

FRIDAY SCHEDULE — take 5 minutes off of each class period (makes 40 minute class periods) and have 1 hour PLC periods.

Teachers must work together and help each other.

GRADING — must take a minimum of 2 grades each week.  Progress reports go out every Wednesday.  This eliminates teachers waiting until the end of the 6 weeks to put in their grades.  Parents know that the teachers will do this.  Printed report cards are sent home with the students each Wednesday.  Parents can also use the Parent Portal if they choose, but they still send progress reports home weekly.

They did well on TAKS but haven’t done so well on STAAR –

  • instruction must  improve or scores will suffer
  • must have engaging practices or will lose students and scores will suffer
  • engaging instruction = student success

This was a very good session.  I was able to get some good ideas that I have already gotten some good feedback about some of these ideas.  I will definitely be looking more into implementing some of these strategies into my school setting for this upcoming school year.  I was also fortunate enough to be able to talk to Wayne Morren one-on-one during a Peer-to-Peer learning session later on in the week.

 

Stay tuned.  More to come.